Today, the Grim Reader welcomes BP Gregory to beavisthebookhead.com. She talks writing, books, puns, influences and more. Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy your stay.
TGR: Where did your love of reading and writing come from?
BG: My folks read to me from day one, but instead of Spot Goes Quantity Surveying Dad would just whip out whatever he was into. My cradle rocked to a lot of Lord of the Rings, James Herbert, Dennis Wheately, etc.
Then when I got older it was all about the libraries. I pursued the mobile book van the way other kids’d chase a Mr Whippy. The library was a place for my parents to step outside their own bookcases and ask in hushed concern, “Is there an upper limit?” The answer, of course, being nope!
Like those rats who starve to death pressing buttons for orgasms, I’ll happily read ‘til the sun turns black.
TGR: What are some of the books/writers that had an impact on you and inspired you to write?
BG: It feels like I’ve always been writing but the dry, wry internal lives of my characters owe a lot to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Michel Houellebecq’s The Elementary Particles, and Hermann Hess’ Steppenwolf. My fascination with how characters inhabit and determine space stems from Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, which a housemate introduced me to over vodka martinis. Frank Herbert’s Dune and Stephen King’s The Gunslinger (1982 edition of which I have a treasured typo-ridden copy, not the re-write) taught me a lot about the wonder and awe of archetypes.
TGR: What does a typical day look like for you?
BG: Well, the most important thing is to get hot black coffee in my face hole as quickly as possible. Then I go for a nice long walk to ease my body into this new concept of no longer being asleep. If I’m coming down from an especially vivid nightmare a walk also helps dispel the vapours.
After I’m warmed up if it’s a writing day I write, and if it’s a working day I work.
TGR: How much research do you do before you begin writing?
BG: It’s crazy how often “research” falls under the broad banner of “Hey, I’ve always wanted to try this …”
Currently, my partner and I are slaving over a VR horror game set in a stormwater drain so we got in touch with a friendly urban explorer group for a bit of spelunking. The Town required looking into bushfire management, cottage ceramics, some very interesting lectures on the revivification of Australian Aboriginal languages by local Aboriginal groups, Porton Down, and the excessively gross world of ergotism. I still haven’t been able to choke down rye bread after that last one.
I’m working on Flora & Jim right now, and luckily I was already set for the frozen apocalypse aspects from field testing a “hot suit” I built to protect a scantily clad actor frolicking in the snow on a film shoot. The only food source in the novel’s world is insects so I ordered myself up a surprisingly tasty edible bugs pack.
TGR: What genres are you comfortable writing in and is there any other(s) you would like to write in?
BG: I don’t make a conscious effort to stick in a genre but my interests lend themselves to horror, science fiction, and urban fiction. I like to show my audience a character and then squeeze that character through the trauma that’ll dismantle them, piece by piece, revealing their makeup. Do we each treasure some inviolate core, kept safe from our actions and choices?
That said, I’d love to give thrillers or crime a try someday.
TGR: What is the most important aspect of your writing? Is it character, plot, tone, or something else?
BG: Puns. Puns, innuendo and wordplay, definitely.
TGR: What writing lessons have you learnt from your first publication to your most recent?
BG: I had two big takeaways from my first publication, a horror novella which was a big messy love letter to life in the city:
- It’s never gonna come out as pants-splittingly wonderful as it seemed in my head; but also
- A story locked up in my skull is no good to anyone. If I fail to write and publish I’m missing that process of evolution and growth.
Right up to the most recent, I’ve two new lessons I wish I could go back and teach myself:
- It’s ok to suck.
- Trust yourself. This one’s the biggest and only comes with a couple of finished pieces under your belt. Things can look pretty scary when you’re sitting down to start a whole new novel, that blank paper glaring up at you accusingly; just trust yourself. You’ve done this before. You can do it again.
TGR: I’m a big fan of ambiguity in stories. Particularly with short stories, I like to be made to think about the story and its meaning long after I have finished reading. What are your thoughts on ambiguous stories? Is ambiguity something you incorporate into your stories?
BG: Me too! There’s this Laird Barron short I’d been digesting over a couple of days when finally I GOT it and shouted “OH MY GOD!” which really frightened other people minding their beeswax on the footpath. It was such an ultimately satisfying experience. Rather than being spoon-fed, as a reader, I’d been given enough clues to waltz myself down the garden path.
I’d love to gift that experience to others with my own work, but try to use it sparingly and encode at multiple levels so as to provide a bit of something for everyone. When there are enough hooks for readers to hang their own emotions on ambiguity can foster a really polarised audience: happy ending versus terrible. The best bit about that is with a big enough cage you can get them to fight Thunderdome-style.
TGR: Social media is a tool for getting yourself noticed. Do you think it is easier or more difficult these days to get your work noticed? Why?
BG: My first short (What a View in Cardigan Press’ awesome anthology All Change Please) was only published in 2004, and a novella in 2012, so I haven’t been doing this that long. I don’t think anyone would argue that building an audience is a long game. You can’t just snap your fingers (or in this case, your wallet) and purchase a thousand Twitter followers – you have to reach one enthused reader at a time and that’s how it’s always been.
TGR: As a writer, what do you consider to be the do’s and the don’ts of self-promotion?
BG: I’m not anybody’s mum or the boss of them. I might suggest that the niche for slagging other people’s work to make oneself look clever is pretty well catered for on the internet already.
When promoting we don’t all want to be screaming about our books into an uncaring void; so maybe approach it as a reader first. Study the habits of those you find engaging. Are they genuine? Kind? Funny? Do they make themselves and their opinions relevant? Caesar cannot be all things to all men but could try starting with not being an asshat and grow from there.
TGR: Tell us about your work. What does your back catalogue consist of and what is your most recent release?
BG: I’ve got four novels ranging from space madness, untouchable lusty Surgeons, vengeful ghosts, jars of wet clotted hair, giant roaming machine cities, murderous AI, toilet humour, scorched deserts, trash vortexes, good dogs, bad dogs, and oppressive governments who want your emotions loud and proud. Two collections of short stories are a stroll down life’s eerie back alleys, and my first novella which is a red hot mess but I keep it up because my Dad loves it.
My most recent release was The Town last year, a horror novel about a woman who sees the burnt out remains of a town on satellite images. But she’s a drunk, the evidence vanishes and nobody believes her. I started writing it while on a road trip through country Victorian towns.
TGR: You’ve been invited to contribute a story to an anthology! If you could choose 5 other writers (living or deceased), who would they be and why?
BG: Narrowing it down to five I’d love to rub shoulders with is tricky. I’d have to say Sybil Lamb on the basis of the crazy high-octane trash-cyberpunk of Cybervania in Meanwhile, Elsewhere. Definitely, SE Casey, I love Black Lung Hay Fever so much. G Wells Taylor, he’s got this series called The Variant Effect and the characters are all killers. I’d never get him but if you’ve read The Hole Behind Midnight you’ll know Clinton J Boomer is amazing. And Tristan Nieto, her short Imago is one of the most beautiful things I’ve read, and I know she knows what terrifies me.
TGR: Your latest book is being turned into a movie! Well done you! Who stars in it and who directs it?
Me: It’s going to have to be Jeff Goldblum. That’s not negotiable, and our society’s come around to the point where just being Jeff Goldblum is awesome again. Did you see that shot in Thor: Ragnarok that they just held forever to give him as much time as he needed to do his thing?
For directors, I’d really like Tim Egan director of Curve but I’ve a bad feeling that trying to work together creatively might result in a double homicide. My alternate favourites would have to be Lars von Trier, David Lynch, or Danny Boyle.
TGR: What are you working on now (apart from these questions) and where can we stalk find you on the World Wide Web.
BG: I love telling people my new novel Flora & Jim will be Moby Dick come The Road because I’m terrible and think innuendo’s funny. It’s set in a frozen post-apocalyptic world: Jim obsessively pursues “the other father” while trying to keep his own daughter alive. I’ve a sneak preview on bpgregory.com where people are always welcome to come find me. Sign up for the mailing list if you’d like me to chase after you when something interesting happens.
Author and avid reader BP Gregory brings monsters, machines and roaming cities, insanity, betrayal and lust! With such tales you shouldn’t always feel comfortable or safe.
Hailing from sober corporate beginnings she’s been an archaeology student and a dilettante of biology, psychology, and apocalypse prepping. However, her love of frogmarching hapless characters through hell drew her to science fiction, horror and urban fantasy: all vehicles for peeling screaming layers to discover what, if anything, lurks within. Do we each treasure some inviolate core of self, kept safe from our actions and choices? Would it matter if nobody saw it?
BP Gregory is the author of four novels including the recently released outback horror The Town, about a mysterious hidden town and those desperate souls who vanish seeking it. A stroll down life’s eerie back alleys with a few fistfuls of short stories, and a novelette which was a messy love letter to her adolescence in the city round out the piece.
She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and is currently working on Flora & Jim, the frozen post-apocalyptic tragedy she’s always wanted to write. For sneak peeks, more stories, reviews and recommendations as she ploughs through her to-read pile visit bpgregory.com.