That chill in the air isn’t just the sense of impending winter. It’s time for another featured author to step into the Bloodlight!
Throughout December, we will be shining the spotlight on one author, through a series of reviews, interviews and special features.
One cannot discuss the Canadian horror scene without making mention of Ian Rogers. From his impressive and highly-touted Felix Renn chapbook series to his dabblings in the Weird West, Ian is quickly making a name for himself.
In this interview, Ian shares the inside scoop on this “supernoirtural” series, as well as his other literary offerings.
Can you start off by telling everyone about your background – when you first started writing and what you write.
I started writing seriously in my teens, when I realized my dream of becoming Canada’s answer to David Lynch wasn’t going to happen.
I tend to write a bit of everything. Probably because I read a bit of everything. I’ve written comedies (“Camp Zombie”), supernatural detective stories (the Felix Renn series), and Weird Westerns (Deadstock). I’d probably write a romance novel if I had a good enough idea for one.
For those who have not yet read your chapbooks, how would you describe the stories and in what way do they differ from one another?
I think of the Felix Renn stories as supernatural noirs, or “supernoirturals” if I may use a cutesy neologism. I’ve always been a fan of detective fiction, especially stories featuring occult detectives, but when I started writing my Felix Renn stories, I knew I wanted to branch out beyond the typical detective fare. That’s part of the reason why the first two novellas in the series are so different in terms of tone and feel. “Temporary Monsters” is an action-horror romp, while “The Ash Angels” is a quieter, more atmospheric ghost story. “Black-Eyed Kids,” the third chapbook in the series, is a combination of the two.
The Black Lands are only hinted at in Temporary Monsters. Were you worried that readers would feel cheated at only getting tidbits to the true nature of this other realm?
It wasn’t a huge worry, but I knew for people who didn’t know that this was only the first story in an ongoing series, it might seem like a tease. Frankly I was more concerned with showing too much of the Black Lands. The most powerful fear is the fear of the unknown, and I knew the Black Lands would lose its power as a storytelling device if I revealed too much too soon.
I write these stories very much in mind of the characters who are living in a world where the supernatural exists. Despite all the things they know about this other dimension and the creatures that reside there, there’s so much more that they don’t know. If I had Felix gallivanting back and forth to the Black Lands, the stories wouldn’t be as realistic, and I feel it would take away from the mystique and the danger of the place.
Do you feel each story set in the Felix Renn universe can stand on its own without readers feeling lost?
Definitely. I set out from the beginning to make sure each story functioned both as a standalone piece and as part of an ongoing series. I suspect this will be harder to do as time goes by, but I think you reach a point in a series where it’s easier to start at the beginning than, say, with Book 10 or 15 (if I should be so lucky to write that many books, ha!).
When you look at Robert B. Parker’s Spenser books, or Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer books, you can read them in pretty much any order. But that’s because the recurring plot elements and continuity is fairly minimal. I’m trying to find a happy medium with the Felix Renn stories, satisfying both the casual reader and the serious fan. It’s not easy, but I like the challenge.
When did you know Felix Renn would be the star of multiple short stories, novellas and a novel?
I had notes for a couple more Felix Renn stories after I wrote “Temporary Monsters,” but I didn’t know if they’d ever get written. It wasn’t until the reviews of TM started coming out that I realized I might be onto something big here. I really enjoyed writing “Temporary Monsters,” and I thought it had serious potential, but you can never predict how the readers are going to react.
Of course, having written a few more Felix Renn novellas and short stories, I know what people really want is a novel. All I can say is that I’m working on it. In fact, I’ve got the first three Felix Renn novels outlined and ready to go. I just need to find the time to write them!
Do you see Felix Renn being available in any other mediums, such as a comic book or film?
I’m certainly open to taking Felix Renn and the Black Lands into other mediums if the opportunity presented itself. I see a lot of potential with this concept, even beyond Felix Renn and his supernatural cases in Toronto. There’s a whole world dealing with the existence of the Black Lands, and plenty of stories to tell.
In Deadstock, you tackle the Weird West filtered through the lenses of science fiction and horror. Tell readers what the book is about.
It’s kind of funny how I wrote “Deadstock” because I was a fan of the genre even before I knew what a Weird Western really was. I enjoyed films like “High Plains Drifter” and “From Dusk Till Dawn,” but I never really thought of them as belonging to the same genre. I eventually found out there were all kinds of stories – books, movies, comic books – that mixed Westerns with horror and/or science fiction.
I’d written a few ordinary Western stories, but they didn’t really pop. Then I started throwing in ghosts and demons, and I realized this is what my Western stories were missing. I came up with a couple of characters and kind of fell in love with them. I didn’t intend to create another series, because frankly I’ve got my hands full with Felix Renn and the Black Lands, but I think it’s nice to have another place to go when I need a break from one set of stories or the other.
What made you decide to break from supernatural noir to tell this tale?
If memory serves, I think I actually wrote “Deadstock” before “Temporary Monsters,” but Weird Westerns are kind of a niche market, and it was also a novella, which are also hard to sell, so it took some time for that particular story to find a home. In fact, the publisher, Stonebunny Press, came to me and asked if I had anything they might be interested in. So if they hadn’t approached me, “Deadstock” may never have seen the light of day.
With past appearances at the Chilling Tales launch, WHC2011, and The Word On The Street, what advice would you give to new authors or those inexperienced in hitting the convention circuit to promote their works?
First and foremost, don’t look at conventions as something that will make your career. Networking is important, but there are just as many authors who have “made it” who never went to conventions, for one reason or another. Conventions are simply another tool of the trade. Some people love ’em, others don’t.
I typically attend two or three conventions a year, although this year I did six or seven, which is a crazy amount for me. The conventions themselves are fairly inexpensive, but the travel costs (air fare, hotel rooms, etc.) can add up. Still, it’s worth it to meet with writers whose work I admire as well as those I talk to via e-mail and social media.
I think if you attend conventions with strictly business on your mind, people will pick up on that and be less receptive to talk to you. You need to show some class and professionalism. It’s like people who friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter. If the first thing you do is spam me about your self-published book, I’m probably going to ignore you.
It’s important to be serious about your craft and to sell yourself, but conventions tend to have a fairly laid back atmosphere. I don’t know that I’ve done much wheeling and dealing at the conventions I’ve attended, but I always have a good time.
What do you think the future holds for the horror/dark fiction genre?
I’m not so good at predicting things, especially business trends. I hope that horror/dark fiction continues to be popular. I think it will. People like scary stories, and even when a particular genre falls out of vogue for a time, it tends to come back stronger than ever.
So I’m not too worried about the future of the horror/dark fiction genre. I just hope I can be a part of it.
How would you describe the ‘local’ horror/dark fiction community? Do you feel it is lacking in any way (in terms of visibility, promotion, awareness, resources for writers/readers etc.)
The Toronto area horror/dark fiction community is incredible. On a personal level, I’ve met a number of writers who I’m fortunate enough to call my friends. There are plenty of great area events like Ad Astra, SFContario, DarkLit Fest of Durham, the Toronto SpecFic Colloquium, and the Chiaroscuro Reading Series. And of course, the World Fantasy Convention is coming to Richmond Hill in 2012.
Tell our readers a bit about your upcoming adventures, places to find you (website/blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc), and any parting words you are itching to share.
In terms of appearances, I have a signing coming up in Peterborough for my Weird Western release, Deadstock. The final date hasn’t been determined, but once it has I’ll be posting it on my website, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
I’m one of the organizers of this year’s DarkLit Fest of Durham, taking place at the Oshawa Public Library on December 3rd.
In April 2012, I’ll be a guest at Toronto Comic Con, and later in the fall, ChiZine Publications will be launching my first book, a short story collection called Every House Is Haunted.
Want to know more about Ian? December’s Bloodlight will return with 3 more featured posts, including a fantastic (no…seriously), FANTASTIC giveaway next week where you can win the ENTIRE SET of Felix Renn chapbooks.
Have you read any of Ian’s books? How would you describe his writing? Which book was your favorite and why? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.