Thursday, January 17, 2013
WITA #5: Al Sarrantonio
I am continuing to put these old interviews from my column We Interrupt This Author back on-line, courtesy of Cemetery Dance, on whose website this first appeared on August 3, 2010. I feel they may be of interest to some, although the material in them is obviously dated. Thanks to CD for allowing the re-publication of these pieces.
Dead In The South: Your latest book from Cemetery Dance is Halloween: New Poems. Tell us a little about it.
Al Sarrantonio: The goal with this one was simple: to put together a book of brand-new poems about Halloween, something that's never been done before. Luckily for me, everyone I asked came through. I even persuaded Joe Lansdale to write some poetry -- something he'd never done before! And, being Joe, he not only did a great job, but he managed to imbue his half-dozen contributions with the same edge he shows in his fiction. And the book ended up exceeding my hopes as far as format goes -- oversized, beautiful cover art by Alan Clark and magnificent interiors by Keith Minnion. These two guys never cease to amaze. I do think anyone who picks up this book will take it down and re-read it every October.
DITS: In addition to Halloween Poems, you are also the author of Halloween and Other Seasons, Hallows Eve, Halloweenland, and several other stories with a theme centered on the greatest of holidays. Other than the obvious, what is it about Halloween that attracts you as a writer?
AS: Halloween is an iconic time of year, a bridge between hot (summer) and cold (winter) and a hinge on which the entire calender turns. The present children's holiday is fascinating enough, but the ancients were very serious about this time of the year, and infused it with a lot of magic, religious significance, and mysticism. If that ain't fodder for a writer's imagination, I don't know what is.
DITS: You recently co-edited Stories with Neil Gaiman, and you are known as one of the best editors of anthologies in the field, with 999 being high on the list of indispensible horror anthologies. How do you go about making sure that your anthology will stand out from the crowd?
AS: I don't do anything but my job as an editor, which is to buy the best stories I can get my hands on, and then present them in an order which is pleasing to the reader. Everything else -- and I mean EVERYTHING -- is in the hands of the contributors. I've been extremely fortunate to work with some of the finest writers in the business, and they always seem to come through. Which makes me lucky and happy as hell.
DITS: You’ve also written several books in the science fiction field. How do you go about adjusting from a horror mindset to more scientific orientation?
AS: It's not much of an adjustment. All of my sf has been of the science fantasy kind, and I manage to mingle some horror elements with the rest of it. Science fiction was my first love, and I just can't let it go. I'm particularly proud of my Five Worlds trilogy, which had a LOT of horror in it. One of the main characters, the Machine Master of Mars, had his lips snipped off by his brother, whose essence is encased in a huge ant-like carapace!
DITS: In an age where the short story is increasingly rare compared to the more lucrative novel length, you are one of the few authors who is just as prolific writing short stories and novellas. Do you feel that one length or another better suits your style?
AS: I like 'em both, but approach them differently. To me, the short story is an art form with particular demands. Every word counts. Novels provide a broader landscape, and you can wander a bit and stretch out. I'm very serious with short stories. Novel-wise, I tend to smile a bit more.
DITS: Finally, what projects lie in the near future for you?
AS: Another anthology is in the works, as well as a new Novella Series book from Cemetery Dance (centered on Halloween, of course). New short stories will be popping up here and there, I can never stop writing those. Looks like my story "Pumpkin Head" will be made into a short film in the near future. Perhaps a new novel, which is just beginning to take shape. In other words, more of the same -- which I hope is a good thing!