Entry 66 in the Short Sharp Shocks! series is Let Me Take You Down by Marc Shapiro. The book is out on the 31st December but is currently available for pre-sales. The cover is by Adrian Baldwin. Recently Dean and Marc talked about it…
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hi Marc, hope you’re doing as best as you can during this difficult period. For those readers who aren’t yet familiar with you or your work, can you tell them about yourself?
MARC SHAPIRO: Hi, yes of course: Born in Boyle Heights, California. Grew up in Monterey Park on a steady diet of Saturday matinees and old pulps and paperbacks. Graduated from high school. Only a so so student. Spent two years in the army. Went to college. Got a degree in journalism. Freelanced for underground newspapers, music magazines and horror film publications like The Los Angeles Free Press, Zoo World and Fangoria. Started writing books. Wrote a shitload of books and still do. Happily married for better than 40 years. One daughter. One granddaughter. Film rights available.
DP: Excellent! Fangoria is brilliant isn’t it – one off my bucket-list was when Barbie Wilde interviewed me a couple of years back – we had a fab time doing the interview and when it was published…still makes my heart beat a bit faster now…anyway, why did you become a writer…
MS: I was always kind of introverted but had a creative outlook on things so, by the time I was thirteen, I figured writing was the way to go. I love the freedom that writing brings. I also love the idea of making a living doing what I love to do and proving decades of doubters wrong.
DP: Without a doubt and good for you. What would you say was your first introduction to the Horror genre?
MS: Too many to remember but some faves growing up were Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury. Movies like Frankenstein, Dracula, The Blob, The Wolfman, Attack Of The Puppet People, Them. You get the picture. Toss a dart in any direction in my world and you’ll hit an influence.
DP: Which is exactly the way it should be – I know that certainly when I was younger and just starting out, though Horror was my be all and end all, my actually influences were far more ‘literary fiction’ – it all goes into the mix…so let’s talk about your Short Sharp Shocks! Let Me Take You Down.
MS: It’s horror but I like to think of it as something more cerebral, something that makes its points without the necessity of exploding in your face. I had recently read the autobiography of Miles Davis and I found myself immersed in the culture of jazz and the collective tenor of the times. I knew there had to be a sense of menace and encroaching unease which is how I developed the sense of evil that had more on its mind than cheap booze and good music. It had to be a sense of something engrained in the culture. And for my money, there’s an underpinning to The Twilight Zone connected to it, something with a message or a philosophy that emerges in all the weird and erotic happenings as an ultimate truth.
DP: I loved your approach and definitely agree that it is something ‘cerebral’ – here at DEMAIN we treat Horror as a very broad church, there’s room for all believers but I personally love something that really makes me think – so well done. What does Horror mean to Marc Shapiro?
MS: Horror is an escape, just like any form of literature, at its core, is. Going to an unsettling place where evil or the personification of evil dwells and dealing with it is cathartic. It scares. It enlightens. Like all good literature, Horror is an escape.
DP: Exactly – so what are you afraid of?
MS: In real world terms just about anything on the 6 O’clock news these days is pretty frightening. Getting a job done to everybody’s satisfaction makes me uneasy a lot. Nobody is perfect but I think creative people in general, carry around a lot of emotional baggage and insecurities that cause them to lose a lot of sleep. My demons usually arrive around 3 a.m. and that’s usually the end of any hope for a good night’s sleep.
DP: Yeah, and it’s been getting a lot worse for me this year – not getting much sleep at all and always feeling that there’s not enough hours in the day, worried a bit about the next ‘crisis’ coming down the road…it’s been quite depressing…did you find Let Me Take You Down difficult to write?
MS: When I’m writing non-fiction I’m very focused on the manuscript and the deadline and that makes the process fairly stress free. My philosophy when it comes to writing fiction is that if an idea has been kicking around in my head for more than a couple of days, it’s worth writing. When that happens, I tend to write fairly quickly usually a day or two for the first draft of a short story, then a couple of passes through to self-edit and polish. I try real hard to finish something even if it means taking another look somewhere down the road.
DP: That’s a good philosophy – I’ve personally got two story commissions on the go right now, need to get the first one finished before I can really work on the second…never suffered from writer’s block before but for some reason I’m really having an issue with the last few paragraphs…it’ll come I know but it’s been a pain in the proverbial these last couple of weeks…anyway, considering what we’ve been talking about (or perhaps it’s just the elephant in the room) – would you say that the Horror genre is affected by world events?
MS: Certainly. You’re going to see tons of books with variations on the current pandemic in the coming years. The mess that our current political system is will be ripe with different takes on 1984. The Horror genre is like a sponge. Turn on the television, radio or read a newspaper and ideas are everywhere.
DP: Ha! You’re so right – I’m working on a tv project with another writer - it’s period drama / sci-fi – and we were clear that though it’s going to be about the pandemic it’s got to be as far as away from current times as possible because we know it could just get rejected out of hand as “just another covid story” – which it isn’t really, that was just our way in. There’s also a French period history idea I’ve been trying to crystallize recently and found my angle and then realized that it could be viewed as being about covid which it definitely isn’t…with regards to yourself I would say that writing is a long term career?
MS: Let me see. I’ve been writing professionally for more than fifty years which makes me older than dirt. I’d say I’m definitely in this for the long haul.
DP: Good for you – okay, two quick questions. First, what is something your readers might be surprised to find out about you?
MS: I once had an editor wave a loaded pistol in my face because I was hounding him for the $20 he owed me. I roadied for the band Blue Oyster Cult for a night while researching a magazine article. I was an extra for three days in a truly awful martial arts movie called Force Five, playing a Mexican prisoner who gets the shit beat out of him. But when the writing wasn’t paying the bills and you’ve got a family, you do what you’ve gotta do.
DP: You definitely do – will have to check out that movie if I can – and finally then Marc, what, creatively, has been your biggest success to date?
MS: I’ve had books on the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Canadian Bestseller Lists. When you’re recognized, that’s definitely a plus in your heart and soul. But at the end of the day, it’s as simple as writing the best books you possibly can and finding out that people are reading them and enjoying them. That makes it all worthwhile.
Doesn’t it just!
Marc thanks for your time. Best of luck with your Short Sharp Shocks!
More about Marc can be found at:
Goodreads: Marc Shapiro (Author of J. K. Rowling) | Goodreads
And: Marc Shapiro | Authors | Macmillan