Tag Archives: jack ketchum

A New Interview with Nicole Cushing

When the news broke last week that Nicole Cushing had been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award in two categories, for her Word Horde debut novel Mr. Suicide and her Cycatrix Press collection The Mirrors, we knew it was time for a new interview. So here’s Sean, talking to Nicole about transgressive horror, awards, writing one of the best books of 2015, and more…

Do you think that works of transgressive horror tend to get less acclaim due to their shocking elements?

It depends on who’s bestowing the accolades.

I think I’ve been given a fair shake by most of the reviewers who’ve chosen to talk about Mr. Suicide. Peter Tennant of Black Static, Frank Michaels Errington at Cemetery Dance, Nick Cato at The Horror Fiction Review, and George Anderson at Ginger Nuts of Horror all mentioned Mr. Suicide on their lists of the best books of 2015.

But sure, there will always be readers, reviewers, editors and critics who will clutch their proverbial pearls when faced with a book like Mr. Suicide. If everyone liked it, then–by definition–it wouldn’t be transgressive.

Mr. Suicide by Nicole Cushing

Do you think Mr. Suicide is too controversial for The Stokers?

There’s no way for me to answer that question impartially. That question is better answered by readers, reviewers, bloggers, and the voting membership of HWA.

I will say this, though. The very fact that the book garnered a nomination is encouraging. I also take heart from the fact that just last year, the HWA bestowed a lifetime achievement award on Jack Ketchum. So this is an organization that’s open to honoring controversial authors.

What do you think the role of genre is in fiction?

Genre labels are there to help readers find writers and vise-versa. And, if that’s how the labels are used, I’m cool with them.They only become a problem when they devolve into dismissive stereotypes.

Do you work slow or fast?

It depends on how we define the terms. On the one hand, I think I’ve managed to be reasonably prolific over the last year or two. On the other hand, I’ll likely never be one of those authors who can routinely write three thousand words a day.

I’m a little too obsessive for that. The words don’t have to sound pretty, but the sentences do (if that makes any sense). I want the sentences to have the right rhythm, and that takes time.

So I’m a tortoise, slow but steady. I usually can get in around 1200-1700 words a day, when things are going well. Towards the end of a project I find I build momentum and might routinely do 2,000 words a day. But sometimes I have to spend time on the business end of the job and I get very little written.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Rituals? No. Habits? Yes.

I’ve taken to writing on my laptop while slumped down in my comfy office chair with my feet propped up on a piece of luggage I use as a makeshift ottoman. I have terrible posture and probably look like a loon, while writing.

What do you hope to achieve with your fiction? What emotions do you want to elicit?

When someone reads one of my books, I want them to experience an altered state of consciousness. I want them to experience a waking nightmare that is both weird and utterly convincing. I obviously want this altered state of consciousness to be temporary and voluntary (the reader can always stop it by putting the book down). But I want the ride to be intense, because my life experiences have been intense and intensity seems more honest than coziness.

I’m a traumatized person. To some degree, an alienated person. I’ve had more than my share of intense emotional ups and downs. All of these facts shape how I look at the world. I suspect that the readers who feel a strong connection with my work are those who can relate to what it’s like to be traumatized, alienated, or intensely emotional. Either they’ve lived a life with similar issues, or they know people who have.

Quiet, subtle horror has its place, but I don’t want to write fiction that’s gentrified or predictable. I like juxtaposing stretches of quiet horror against moments of graphic horror and moments of graphic horror against moments of absurdity. I feel a novel is a large canvas, so there’s room for all of these approaches.

In that way, a horror novel can be a bit like a symphony. If you listen to a Shostakovich symphony, for example, you hear that his work isn’t all loud, or all quiet. He juxtaposes stretches of quiet, introspective strings against blasts of monstrous horns and the throbbing of monstrous drums. (A perfect example of this is the final six minutes of the Fourth.) I dedicated Mr. Suicide to another Russian composer, Alfred Schnittke, who possibly went even further than Shostakovich in advancing a so-called “polystylistic” approach. As ridiculous as it may sound to those who think transgressive horror is for boors, Schnittke’s Concerto Grosso No. 1 was an inspiration for the polystylism of Mr. Suicide.

Got any pluggy-wugs?

Four, but I’ll make them quick.

First, I want to encourage readers to check out my Youtube channel. I’ve recently started a series of brief (five minute long) videos called Forgotten Lore. Each week I discuss an unjustly-forgotten work of dark fiction from an author who is no longer with us. It’s a labor of love and I’m having a lot of fun with it.

Second, I want to mention that my short story collection, The Mirrors (Cycatrix Press), was also nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. It’s available at Amazon, directly through Cycatrix Press, and at a couple brick and mortar bookstores.

Third, I want to share the news that my next book, The Sadist’s Bible, will be coming out in April from 01 Publishing. You can pre-order from Amazon now.This is a novella weighing in at about 30,000 words. Readers who enjoyed Mr. Suicide will probably dig this one, as well.

And speaking of Mr. Suicide, I should mention that–to celebrate the Bram Stoker Award nomination–Word Horde is taking two bucks off the price of the Kindle edition. It was $4.99 and is now $2.99. It also appears (as I write this) that Amazon has taken ten percent off the price of the paperback So if you’ve been on the fence about buying it, now’s a good time to go ahead.

Still on the fence? Check out this recent review of Mr. Suicide at The Conqueror Weird, in which reviewer Brian O’Connell calls Mr. Suicide “…one of the greatest novels ever written.”

An Interview with Nicole Cushing, author of Mr. Suicide

Earlier this week, Sean M. Thompson sat down with Mr. Suicide author Nicole Cushing, to ask her a few questions. Here’s what Nicole had to say:

What made you want to join with Ross and the Word Horde?

Finding a publisher who is a good fit for you is somewhat analogous to dating: once you’ve been doing it awhile you know what you like, what you need, and what you should run from.

Ross is excited about books that take chances and don’t necessarily follow the conventions of the tentpole projects released by corporate publishing. So, artistically, we’re on the same wavelength.

At the same time, he struck me as someone who knew the business end of things pretty well and was committed to helping offbeat books maximize their audience. (That impression is, if anything, only reinforced by the work I’ve done with him since signing on.)

So, what’s not to love?

What do you feel the role of genre is in fiction?

Genre labels can help readers find books they may end up loving. They also help writers find publishers (and vice versa).

I know some people find genre labels to be limiting or even counterproductive, but I think genre (and subgenre) labels give us a helpful shorthand method of describing various types of fiction and the communities that love them.

Mr. Suicide by Nicole Cushing

Why is transgressive literature necessary?

Because it’s the only tool that can accurately communicate the emotional core of certain extreme experiences. In my opinion, conventional literary approaches fail when they attempt to depict trauma, poverty, addiction, underground subcultures, homelessness, violence, and certain varieties of mental illness.

At best, they can only get to the periphery of such experiences. Not the core. And so, they let down readers (particularly the readers who have lived through such extreme experiences and know their emotional textures). People who have lived through the worst that life can dish out deserve fiction that tells the truth about how the world (at its absolute worst) really works. So do people who haven’t lived through such experiences, but have curiosity about them.

Increasingly, American culture feels a need for all art to be created according to the polite, considerate, and safe dictates of the superego. But I suspect the best works of dark fiction come from the id.

What inspired you to start writing Mr. Suicide?

The short answer is…life. Mr. Suicide is a warped, funhouse mirror depiction of how I (and some of my classmates) grew up.

The main character is a composite. Some aspects of him are autobiographical, some are drawn from my memories of troubled family members, but others (including some of his most disturbing facets) come from a boy I knew in high school who said outrageous things that–even after all these years–I can’t forget.

It’s like I had a blister on my brain for the last twenty-five years. Mr. Suicide was one of the ways in which I lanced it.

I also should acknowledge the influence of a brief talk given by Jack Ketchum called “Writing from the Wound”. (You can find it on YouTube or in the archives of the Odyssey Writing Workshop podcast.) After listening to Jack’s talk, I felt I had no choice but to “go there”.

What are some of your favorite transgressive novels?

Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr., The Maimed by Hermann Ungar, Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite, The Folks (a novella) by Ray Garton, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen (a story collection) by Tadeusz Borowski, Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller, and Excrement (a memoir) by Crad Kilodney.

What have you been working on lately?

I’ve been working on the last bit of polishing of my story collection The Mirrors (in preparation for its impending, official release). I’ve sold a novella called The Sadist’s Bible (which I can’t say much about, until the contract is signed). Speaking of contracts, I just signed one with Dark Regions Press to provide a novella (as yet untitled) for their forthcoming anthology I Am the Abyss.

I continue to write nonfiction articles for the UK-based horror film magazine Scream.

Also, I’m working on a novel tentatively called Knife & Wound and I’ll be contributing short stories to a number of anthologies in the coming months.

It’s a full plate, but I’m excited and grateful to have so much work.

What scares you?

I have the same fears everyone else does. I pride myself on my ability to look my own mortality in the eye (without resorting to belief in an afterlife). But the truth is I’m just as scared of dying as anyone else. I’m also scared of the inevitable death of my loved ones. I’m not crazy about heights. Hell, I’m even scared of the possibility that one day I’ll face financial struggle again.

Nothing too noteworthy, there.

But I do have my oddball (perhaps irrational) fears, too. For example, I’m scared of the U.S. falling into an economic or political crisis during my lifetime. I also have a variety of strange, entirely irrational, idiosyncratic anxieties that have sometimes made my life a bit difficult. And I’m scared of things no self-respecting horror author should admit they’re scared of. My hubbie and I once had a skink in our basement that scared the shit out of me. Loud, sudden noises have sometimes gotten to me, too.

I hate to admit these things. It makes me sound like such a wimp. It makes it sound like I can dish out fear but I can’t take it. So I’ll finish this interview by talking about something that highlights my status as a badass. I’m not afraid to be rude to door-to-door salesmen, religious proselytizers, or politicians. I once told a group of political canvassers who defied the “no soliciting” sign on my door that I would make sure to vote against their candidate simply because they bugged me. (I wouldn’t really vote on that basis, but it was worth saying it just to see the expression on their faces!)

Ask for Mr. Suicide where better books are sold, or order Mr. Suicide direct from Word Horde.

If you’re in the Indianapolis area, catch Nicole when she reads and signs copies of Mr. Suicide at Indy Reads Books on Thursday, October 29 at 6:00 p.m. Details here: http://indyreadsbooks.org/

Now Available: Mr. Suicide

Remember when horror fiction actually felt transgressive? Like it was something dangerous, something that had the potential do damage. A sort of literary hand grenade, pin pulled, primed and ready to go off. And in exploding, maybe change the world. I do. Once upon a time, horror was ripe with a sense of palpable risk. I felt that sense of danger the first time I read Poppy Z. Brite’s Exquisite Corpse, and in Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, and in Ray Garton’s Live Girls. I’ve felt it in King and Keene and Barker and Kiernan. Lately, however, too much horror plays it safe. Warmed-over tropes and familiar monsters. Stories without any real sense of risk, or danger, or transgression. It’s enough to make the genre feel almost… cozy.

It’s about time someone take you out of your comfort zone. It’s about time someone publishes a horror novel that actually aims to horrify. Which is why I’ve come to you today, to tell you about the debut novel from Nicole Cushing, Mr. Suicide, which Word Horde releases today.

Audaciously written in the second person, Mr. Suicide puts you in the driver’s seat as an abused young man is pushed to the breaking point. And Nicole Cushing is the perfect storyteller for this unrelentingly transgressive tale, as evidenced by her 2013 Shirley Jackson Award nomination for her novella Children of No One. Here are just a few of the raves (and warnings) Mr. Suicide has received so far:

“…a work of brutal and extreme horror… disturbingly graphic content…” —Publishers Weekly

“This tale of a damaged and murderous child is the most original horror novel I’ve read in years. Cushing’s prose is rapidfire, grisly, and passionate.” —Poppy Z. Brite, author of Exquisite Corpse and Lost Souls

“Novels don’t come much more transgressive than this one, folks. Got a taboo? Watch Nicole Cushing grin while she dances all over it. In other hands that might be reason enough for the witty Mr. Suicide to exist. But this is more and better than that—a truly nightmare world, richly imagined, told to us in a canny, subversive second-person voice that makes you, the reader, the hero of this tale, like it or not. That it also manages to be ultimately life-affirming is yet another wonder.” —Jack Ketchum, award-winning author of Off Season and The Girl Next Door

“Nicole Cushing uses her sharp and confident prose like a surgical instrument to dissect both her characters and our emotions. Mr. Suicide is horrifying and harrowing, but just as much for the emotional devastation it causes in the reader as for the violence and depravity—as well as the twisted humor—it portrays. This is horror fiction that leaves marks.” —Ray Garton, author of Live Girls and Sex and Violence in Hollywood

Mr. Suicide by Nicole Cushing

Like everyone else in the world, you’ve wanted to do things people say you shouldn’t do.

How many times in your life have you wanted to slap someone? Really, literally strike them? You can’t even begin to count the times. Hundreds. Thousands. You’re not exaggerating. You’re not engaging in… whatchamacallit? Hyperbole? You’re not engaging in hyperbole.

Maybe the impulse flashed through your brain for only a moment, like lightning, when someone tried to skip ahead of you in line at the cafeteria. Hell, at more than one point in your life you’ve wanted to kill someone; really, literally kill someone. That’s not just an expression. Not hyperbole. Then it was gone and replaced by the civilized thought: You can’t do that. Not out in public.

But you’ve had the thought…

Order from Word Horde, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Ziesings, and wherever better books are sold. Ask for Mr. Suicide by name.

Cover reveal (and praise from Jack Ketchum) for Nicole Cushing’s debut novel Mr. Suicide

Coming in July from Word Horde: Mr. Suicide, the debut novel from Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author Nicole Cushing. Here’s your first peek at the cover and the teaser:

MrSuicide_Cover_small

Like everyone else in the world, you’ve wanted to do things people say you shouldn’t do.

How many times in your life have you wanted to slap someone? Really, literally strike them? You can’t even begin to count the times. Hundreds. Thousands. You’re not exaggerating. You’re not engaging in… whatchamacallit? Hyperbole? You’re not engaging in hyperbole.

Maybe the impulse flashed through your brain for only a moment, like lightning, when someone tried to skip ahead of you in line at the cafeteria. Hell, at more than one point in your life you’ve wanted to kill someone; really, literally kill someone. That’s not just an expression. Not hyperbole. Then it was gone and replaced by the civilized thought: You can’t do that. Not out in public.

But you’ve had the thought…

From Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author Nicole Cushing comes Mr. Suicide, a novel of the Great Dark Mouth.

Mr. Suicide

Cover Art and Design by Zach McCain

Pub Date: July 15, 2015

Format: Trade Paperback, 224pp
ISBN-13: 978-1-939905-11-6

Format: eBook
ISBN-13: 978-1-939905-12-3

Jack Ketchum, award winning author of Off Season and The Girl Next Door, has this to say about Mr. Suicide:

Novels don’t come much more transgressive than this one, folks. Got a taboo? Watch Nicole Cushing grin while she dances all over it. In other hands that might be reason enough for the witty Mr. Suicide to exist. But this is more and better than that — a truly nightmare world, richly imagined, told to us in a canny, subversive second-person voice that makes you, the reader, the hero of this tale, like it or not. That it also manages to be ultimately life-affirming is yet another wonder.

Mr. Suicide: A Novel of the Great Dark Mouth. Preorder now from Word Horde.