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Welcome to day two of my interviews with the writers from Purgatorium. Today, I’m featuring Pat Flewwelling and Tobin Elliott. Together, with Connie Di Pietro and Dale Long, they make up the staff of ID PRESS. Pat had me laughing out loud in places. Especially when she spoke of her fear of flying and then let me know she was boarding a plane (sadly, I’m quite certain her fear amped up yesterday…as she experienced several delays at the airport prior to boarding said plane). What can I say about Tobin Elliott? Nobody makes me cry as often as Tobin does. He’s like that phone commercial that breaks you down and leaves you bawling and surprised that a 30-second vignette could cut you so close to the bone. He’s a funny guy…but he writes with an emotional poignancy I myself could only dream of owning. Even his Facebook updates often have me swallowing through the lump in my throat. Yes…a couple of his responses here left me in tears. Something in the way he writes…

The Proust Questionnaire was not penned by Proust, but rather made famous by him. It was a personality questionnaire that Proust famously answered in the most delightful of ways, and often. It was his answers to the question that caused the questionnaire to take off and become a favourite form of interview…it even had a life as a parlour game of sorts. I find that it reveals a lot about a person…it invokes personal insights as well as personality, sense of humour and one’s beliefs, etc. This questionnaire I composed is not entirely the same as the Proust version, but a lot of the original questions remain intact. Enjoy today’s insights into the minds of Pat and Tobin, two of the ten writers featured in PURGATORIUM!

Purgatorio Dialogues – III – Pat Flewwelling

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Pat Flewwelling

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Letting go.

2. What is your most preferred genre as a writer?

Anything but Westerns, Romance, and Poetry.

3. What is your greatest fear?

Flying. I go a little crazy before and during every flight. Like…I need to gnaw on people and scream and stuff, that kind of afraid. I hate flying.

4. What is your most preferred genre as a reader?

Non-fiction and mystery.

5. Which horror writer do you most admire and why?

Nancy Kilpatrick, because she’s not afraid to tell a new writer the painful, honest truth, without being discouraging – but as an editor, she is also willing to give new, unknown writers a chance.

6. What was your idea of horror prior to setting off on this adventure into Purgatorium?

That it was an easily maligned, but not easily defined, genre. It should, at the very least, make me shiver at the profoundness of the human soul – either as profoundly evil, or profoundly defiant in the face of utter horribleness.

7. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Temperance. All things in moderation, including moderation.

8. What is your idea of horror now that you’ve been to Purgatorium?

Horror doesn’t have to go to extremes – neither all-scary, nor all-gory, nor all-demonic/paranormal. Sometimes horror can use a soft touch.

9. What else have you written?

Three dark fiction novels (Helix: Blight of Exiles, Helix: Plague of Ghouls, and Helix: Scourge of Bones), two dieselpunk novels (The Fog of Dockside City series), a crime/biography (Judge Not), and a smattering of short stories. Those are the published ones, at least.

10. When and where were you most afraid?

Depends on your definition of “afraid”. If you mean anxious to the point of running away, the answer is “Any time I’m in Costco on a Saturday afternoon.” If you mean, jump-scared / ran away / screamed like a little girl, then it would be that time I tried to clean my first fish, and it wasn’t as dead as I’d thought it was, and it jumped clean off the plate, flapping tail-to-mouth in the air. If you mean “afraid for my safety”…that seems to be the times when I’m most focused and self-controlled, so I guess I would have to say, “n/a”…?

11. Which talent would you most like to have?

Is tact a talent? Because I’d like to have that. Mind you, I find talent overrated. If a talented gymnast won gold every year without hardly trying, and this other “talent-less” but hardworking gymnast won silver for the first time in sixteen years, I’d applaud the one who won silver.

12. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

I’d like to come back as the incarnation of bad luck. I don’t know why I said that. I blame the lack of coffee. But it’s amazing what bad luck can do for you sometimes. A flat tire could save you from a five car pile-up.

13. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Convincing yourself that you can’t – and don’t deserve to – change.

14. What are your three deserted island books?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (aka Blade Runner, Philip K. Dick); The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (Howard Pyle); The Hound of the Baskervilles (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).

15. Who are your favorite writers?

The ones I’ve met in person. Well, most of them, anyways. Also, Raymond Chandler, Sam Thomas, and Ellis Peters.

16. Who is your hero of fiction?

Brother Cadfael. Crusader turned sailor turned Benedictine monk / gardener and sometimes murder-solver. He’s completely anti-noir because he looks for the good in humanity, despite war, murder, profiteering, etc., and knows the value of a peaceful place.

17. What sound grates on you more than any other?

Power tools. Any power tool. Literally any. If they had faces, I would punch them.

18. How would you like to die?

Quickly, purposefully, and in saving someone else.

19. What sound brings you deep joy?

The overall harmony of nature in the morning, deep in the interior of Algonquin Park.

20. What is your motto?

Video et taceo. For the record, it was also Queen Elizabeth I’s motto, and it is not Latin for Netflix and tacos.

On the Web, PAT can be found:

Pat Flewwelling

TWITTER

Purgatorio Dialogues – IV – Tobin Elliott

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Tobin Elliott

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Perfect happiness is having my family around me, lots of books to read, good friends who love me unconditionally, and my pets. Preferably on a lovely fall day.

 

2. What is your most preferred genre as a writer?

I love the horror genre, but it’s finding the horror in the everyday things. To me, the monster isn’t scary unless it’s in a position to take something cherished away from my human characters. A realistic character reacting to the loss of a lover or child or parent is more terrifying than a monster that bites his neck or kills him.

 

3. What is your greatest fear?

Not being able to be there for those I love. Whether that’s due to a debilitating terminal illness, or death, or just not being available when one of my kids or my wife really needs me. I never want to let down those that need me most.

 

4. What is your most preferred genre as a reader?

Oh damn. That’s tough. I love good horror, probably because I find it so rarely. But I also can say the same for good science fiction, or thriller, or crime drama, or mystery, or non-fiction books. I read constantly and widely, so for me it’s less about genre and more about the quality of the experience.

 

5. Which horror writer do you most admire and why?

Also a tough one. I admire Stephen King simply because he’s bucked the odds and become not only the most popular modern author, but he did it writing a much-frowned upon genre. But I also have great admiration for Jack Ketchum because no one—absolutely no one—has affected me like he did with some of his writing, particularly The Girl Next Door.

 

6. What was your idea of horror prior to setting off on this adventure into Purgatorium?

From a reading standpoint, usually something involving a supernatural element. I love my vampires and werewolves and demons. From a personal standpoint, it was—and remains—the answer to #3. Our greatest fear is always that thing that inspires the greatest horror.

 

7. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Physical beauty. Yes, I like attractive looks, just like everyone else, but I despise how they often give the person a pass to be an absolutely deplorable person and get away with it. I’m looking at you, Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton. Beauty fades, but the ability to be empathetic and honest and funny and loyal are forever.

 

8. What is your idea of horror now that you’ve been to Purgatorium?

Finding the horror in the everyday. As I said above, I love my vampires and werewolves and demons, but nothing matches the horror of a parent or role model who is more of a monster than any of them could ever hope to be. So, a bit more of a dovetailing of greatest fear and horror.

 

9. What else have you written?

I’ve written some ugly stories about awful people doing terrible things. I’ve had three novellas published through small presses, as well as a couple of short stories in anthologies. All are horror. But I’ve also written three interconnected horror novels and collaborated on a dark fantasy novel involving the Four Horsemen, a God who is mad (and angry) and the Biblical Apocalypse. Oh, and some blogs that made people laugh.

 

10. When and where were you most afraid?

Well, there was a time in Algonquin Park when a bear attacked our camp for about an hour and the only thing between it and my twelve-year-old tasty flesh was tent fabric. But I think the most terrified I’ve been…well, to be honest, I can’t even talk about it. That’s not a cop out, it’s the truth.

 

11. Which talent would you most like to have?

The power of persuasiveness. I’d love to be able to guide people to make better choices. From small things like helping my kids, to larger issues like preventing things like gun violence, racial crimes, sexual attacks, and better leadership for the countries of the world. As the old Coke commercial said, I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.

 

12. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

Probably a cat that my daughter would own, because I know I’d live like a freaking king.

 

13. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Losing a loved one. No question. Because there is no lowest depth when it comes to that.

 

14. What are your three deserted island books?

I hate this question. Still, I’ll play your silly reindeer game…

The Shining – Stephen King

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle – David Wroblewski

Boy’s Life – Robert R. McCammon

 

15. Who are your favorite writers?

Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Dennis Lehane, Robert E. Howard, Elmore Leonard, John Skipp & Craig Spector (when they collaborated), Douglas Adams, Harlan Ellison, Harper Lee, Ray Bradbury, J.K. Rowling, Carsten Stroud, David Wroblewski, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Chris Claremont, Warren Ellis, Terry Moore, Brian Michael Bendis, Garth Ennis, . And a bunch of others that I likely can’t think of off the top of my head.

 

16. Who is your hero of fiction?

You’re killing me here. Sorry, I’m going to have to stray from books because I tend to default to a character in a television series. Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce as played by Alan Alda in M*A*S*H always wins for me.

If I need to go from the written word, I’d likely choose Danny Torrance, the young boy from The Shining. There’s a lot that I can identify with in him: an abusive, alcoholic father who could never say no to his demons, a mother who desperately tries to swim the current of her husband’s madness and keep both her own and her child’s head afloat, and Danny himself, walking through the corridors of a manmade hell, doing all he can to understand and navigate away from the horrors…

 

17. What sound grates on you more than any other?

Anyone whining. Drives me absolutely batshit.

 

18. How would you like to die?

That’s an odd question. Would anyone really like to die? Not so much. Nor do I, and as I get older, the thought intrudes more and more as my mortality makes itself known. But if I have to go, I want to go out with those I love around me, and everyone laughing and joking and telling their most embarrassing or stupid stories about me…god knows there’s a lot of them.

 

19. What sound brings you deep joy?

The sound of my wife or kids saying they love me. The purring of my cats. My dog’s yipping in his sleep as he dreams. Wind through the leaves. Rain. The strange muffled silence after a snowfall. The Beatles. Pink Floyd. Heart. Boston. David Bowie. Cheap Trick. The Eagles. Steely Dan. Billy Joel. Elton John. Tom Petty. The Electric friggin’ Light Orchestra. And…absolute silence.

 

20. What is your motto?

I have a few…

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you would not fail?” – Robert Schuller

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

“Mommy’s all right, daddy’s all right, they just seem a little weird.” – Cheap Trick

“Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three lefts do.” – Unknown

“And, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” – The Beatles

 On the Web, TOBIN can be found:

Tobin Elliott

TWITTER

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Watch this blog for more Purgatorio Dialogues! Six more to go!