Monday, February 7, 2011

A Chat With Mark Allan Gunnells

Today we're lucky enough to interview author Mark Allan Gunnells whose new zombie novella ASYLUM has recently been released from The Zombie Feed.  I thoroughly enjoyed ASYLUM and was excited to be able to chat with Mark and find out more about the man behind the story...

Hello Mark, it's a pleasure to have you here on Betwixt! Can you give the readers who may be unfamiliar with you and your work a brief introduction of yourself?

Well, I wish I had something very interesting to tell about myself. I’m actually kind of a boring guy. I work, I read, I write, I watch Buffy on DVD…rinse and repeat. However, a lot of interesting things are always happening in my imagination, resulting in what I hope are some entertaining stories.

Your new novella ASYLUM just got released by The Zombie Feed; I thought it was fantastic! Where did you get the idea for this story? Did you have any trepidations about the gay angle of your story? Was it harder to publish it?

I’ve long been a fan of the Romero zombie films, that formula of a disparate group of people barricaded together against an onslaught of the undead. It’s a great way to explore characters, friction between different types of people, the power dynamics. To me, that’s the interesting part of those kinds of stories. As a gay man, however, I used to watch these movies and think, “Why are there never any gay survivors?” That really stuck out to me, how we were never represented in such tales. So I wanted to write a story with the familiar formula but introduce characters that readers might not used to be seeing.

As for whether or not I had any trepidations about the gay angle of the story…truth is, I don’t write that way. When I’m in the midst of creating a story, I rarely give a thought to publication. So I’m not worried about how publishers will view it or readers. I basically write whatever the hell it occurs to me to write then try to entertain myself. Only when I’m done do I start pondering markets and publishers and things like that.

I did have a hard time getting this one published. I actually had almost given up on ever finding a home for it. It wasn’t just the gay aspect that made it had to place, although I’m sure there were some publishers that shied away from that. For some publishers it was too traditional, even with the inclusion of the nontraditional characters. For others, it focused a little too much on character and not enough on horror. These were all things I understood, but I still felt passionately about the tale and was so happy Jason Sizemore at The Zombie Feed accepted it.

I’m glad they accepted it, too or we all would have missed out on a great tale! And I for one loved that it was so character driven... so you’ve always been a horror fan from way back; do you only write in the horror genre? How has your road to publication been as a gay man?

Horror has always been my genre, from a very young age. I was walking down to the local one-screen theater to see the newest Halloween, Nightmare, and Friday films long before I should have actually been allowed in. I’ve been reading horror fiction from a young age as well. Now horror isn’t all I enjoy, and I do write outside the genre, but horror is my first love and my truest passion, and I keep returning to it.

The road to publication has been rough, but I think it is for most, and I don’t think my being gay had anything to do with it. Honestly, at least half the stories I write don’t even feature gay characters, and those that do often treat the sexuality of the characters as merely a mundane trait like eye color or height. ASYLUM is one of the few that really delves deeply into gay issues.

Who has been an influence on you as a writer?

That’s a hard question. I try not to emulate anyone really, but there are many writers I admire and in some cases envy. If I had an idol it would be Joe R. Lansdale, who shows such an eclectic mix of interests, crosses genres with ease, shows how powerful simplicity can be, and seems adept at both shorts and novels. As someone who loves short stories, Clive Barker is someone I admire because he came to prominence for collections before he started putting out novels; also as a gay man I admire his openness. It may be cliché, but King is someone whose talent I respect and who seems to have maintained a genuine passion for storytelling despite all the fortune and fame.

Those are all amazing storytellers and Clive Barker is just...WOW!

How has it been working with the team at The Zombie Feed? It must be exciting to be the FIRST author published by this new imprint!

The team at TZF have been absolutely terrific. They took a chance on this novella and have worked tirelessly to promote it. My experience with them has been a dream and I hope to work with them again in the future. And I was quite honored to be the first TZF release. Honored and humbled.

What else do our readers have to look forward from you?

Yes, I currently have a book, WHISONANT/CREATURES OF THE LIGHT, out from Sideshow Press that features two novellas and is designed as a flipbook, one story with its own cover on one side then flip it upside down and turn it over and you have the second story with its own cover.  My short story collection TALES FROM THE MIDNIGHT SHIFT VOL. I will also be out from Sideshow this winter. And finally, I have a digital short entitled “Dancing in the Dark” available from Darkside Digital.

They both sound great, Mark; I can’t wait to read them! Thank you for taking the time to sit down with me here in my lil’ ol’ piece of the blogosphere and I look forward to more awesome reads from you!

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