Wow. Your writing journay started young from age 8 to 14 when you caught your first big break with a profile in the NYT. Did you always know you’d become published someday? What made you keep trying?
Oh no, no no I did not. No idea. Plus, I should emphasize the quality of my writing at 8 years old was questionable. No one was going around saying: “this dude is an 8-year-old Cormac McCarthy, watch out.” I would write intensely for periods of my life and then I would stop. I started out as a playwright, out of college, but I wasn’t much of a playwright, I think. I went to grad school for acting and just stopped writing for a few years. I think I needed a break. I started writing YA a few years ago because I had a story idea I couldn’t shake, and felt maybe I had developed my voice, and actually had stuff to say. Fiction freed me in a way; I wasn’t constrained as much by the structure of writing works for film, or the stage. There was lots of rejection at first. It was a long road for me.
I also have to ask… did you keep any of your underground humor magazine? Will it ever see the light of day again?
I was told recently one of my younger brother’s friends, this kid I grew up with, had a copy, and he showed my brother and my sister-in-law. I wasn’t there. Apparently it was all wrapped up in plastic and protective paper like it was the dead sea scrolls. Maybe he thought it would be worth something one day? Maybe it will! Some people say it was THE WORLD’S FIRST ZINE. Who am I to argue with that? I think my parents maybe kept a few copies–in storage somewhere or something, wherever people’s parents store things.
I think it is safe to say your experience in acting shaped your debut novel Scream All Night? Primarily since Scream All Night is about a young actor struggling with his past. Did anything that happened in real life make its way into the novel in some way?
Oh, absolutely, more than people could ever guess. Definitely meeting certain writers and directors while working on TV shows, or in plays. Most are fine, actually. A few are bullies. But I guess a lot of what seeped into my novel was my time at Yale Drama; we were living a very unnatural existence–this extended family constantly performing for each other, pretending to be other people. It was a strange, insular world that no one can really understand unless you’ve been through the experience yourself. The infamous Yale Cabaret, where we’d meet once a week to regroup and perform for each other in this underground theater, definitely helped inspire the Crepuscular Dusk scene in Scream All Night–although if you haven’t read the book yet you probably have no idea what I’m talking about.
Don’t laugh… because you probably get asked this a lot. But, what is your favorite element of B-horror and cult films?
Probably the sheer weirdness factor of cult films, and how things could fail on all cylinders, but at the same time there was a group of people–the investors, the producers, the creatives, who all agreed this was a good idea. I think that’s pretty fascinating. Maybe it’s just collective hope. But some of these low budget films are beautiful in their own right. Night of the Living Dead, which is a quintessential B-horror, pretty much changed the world. No one had heard of zombies before. Nothing was the same after Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which I think is a work of art.
Let’s finish with something fun. If Dario Heyward found himself stuck on an island for a month what would he smuggle with him?
Dario’s most valuable possession at the beginning of the novel is a smashed iPhone 6. He doesn’t have a cell phone plan, but he downloads Miles Davis records. He’s really into jazz, and Miles. So I’ll go with that.
Is there anything else you’d like to share or say?
People keep asking me if Scream All Night is scary, if it’s actually a horror novel. Nope! The backdrop of the story takes place at a B-horror movie studio, but the story is really a dark comedy. There are creepy elements here and there (how could there not be?), but the beating heart of the story is Dario (my MC) and his relationship with what’s left of his family, his family legacy, and the people he once loved and lost, with everyone living in unnatural seclusion, in a place that really shouldn’t exist, but somehow still does.