Back in the day, Kevin Strange was a filmmaker. He wrote and directed several indie pictures, like COLONEL KILL MOTHERFUCKERS, DEAD SHIT and COCKHAMMER. Now he’s writing books and publishing them through his own company, StrangeHouse Books. He’s the author of ROBAMAPOCALYPSE, VAMPIRE GUTS IN NUKE TOWN and THE LAST GIG ON PLANET EARTH AND OTHER STRANGE STORIES, among others. I’ve been lucky to be a part of his company. They published stories by me in ZOMBIE! ZOMBIE! BRAIN BANG! and STRANGE FUCKING STORIES, they published my second book TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE and we’re poised to do more business.
ME: After working in film for quite a while, you switched over to publishing. It’s easy to see why someone would want to publish their own work, but you’ve been encouraging a stable of writers for several years now. What drew you to championing other people’s work?
KEVIN STRANGE: Thanks for having me on your blog, John. You asked me this question a few months ago, and I’m still struggling with my answer. “Why did you choose to publish other authors?”
Why DID I choose to work with other authors? That’s a great question. And one of the hardest questions I’ve ever been asked. It’s a question I ask myself two or three times a week. I am constantly torn away from my own novels so that I can tend to and promote the needs and books of my fellow SHB authors. I’m always trying to find a balance between Kevin Strange the novelist and Kevin Strange the publisher.
Wouldn’t life be soooo much easier if I just wrote books?
Sure. And a lot less of a headache. And a lot less drama. But ultimately a lot less fulfilling. You see, when I wrote and directed feature films, I was surrounded by people. I had casts of actors who looked to me to direct them through their crazy dialogue and ridiculous scenes. I had the behind the scenes crew looking to me for guidance as they set up lighting and chose the angles and depth of their shots. I had musicians sculpting my soundtracks and editors putting all the footage together into a (mostly) cohesive whole. I was never alone in my creativity and yet, I was the driving force, the engine. The stop and the go. It was all up to me.
When I stepped away from that, there was a huge vacuum. I was now a guy alone in a room with a lap top. Sure I’d always pecked away at my own scripts, but not a single one of them was over 50 or 60 pages of mostly dialogue. My scripts were easy to write and basically just a reference for my actors to look at so they could memorize their lines. They took me a week each to write, once I sat down and did the job.
Writing fiction was hard as fuck. I had to write EVERYTHING and it took a long time. Days and nights turned into weeks and months for a few dozen pages. Each short story took a chunk of my being with it. My longer works felt like black holes, threatening to drag me down into myself forever.
It was like going from a brightly lit party with driving music, sexy girls, cool bros and lots of drugs and booze, to a pitch black locked basement.
It was a hard transition, one I’m not completely through. If I was, I’d have six books coming out this year instead of three. Sometimes, I still hide from my work because it’s too lonely, too quiet, too ME. The easiest way to overcome this shocking loneliness was to team up with a crew of like-minded weirdos and do this thing together. It didn’t feel so lonely when it was HEY GANG! STRANGEHOUSE BOOKS!!!!! instead of just Kevin and his computer.
But one thing I wasn’t ready for, after years of being THE GUY who controlled everything from how much toilet paper we brought to the set, to how long a beautiful woman had to stand in front of me with her tits out while talking about buttholes and huge dicks, was that my new author buddies who I teamed up with to fight the good fight with . . . well, they had egos of their own.
I didn’t write their books. I didn’t control their books. As their publisher, they saw me as the guy who magically made them money, and I could fuck myself if I had anything else to say about it. Those two things, the ego of a film maker and the ego of a writer are two things you never want to see clash.
It’s been over two years now, and I’ve learned to adjust. Some people still think I’m an ego maniac who steals all of authors’ money and jacks off with it. But anyone currently working with me knows I’ve mellowed out.
I’ve learned to deal with author egos, and how to keep my own bullshit in check. I had to lose a few books from my catalog, and let several talented authors (and a couple of business partners) walk on down the road before I figured out how to run my shit. But we’re good now.
Today? As 2014 grows its first boner, I couldn’t be happier to work with my team of authors, artists and our editor Sean Ferrari. I understand that our authors’ books belong to them, emotionally, and I’ve learned to feel people out before I sign them to contracts. I don’t let the cunts ruin the fun for the rest of us. I’ve learned that blindly accepting novel submissions is mostly a waste of time, and that helping an author build a book that both of us are happy with is the best way to do business.
I choose to work with other authors because I feel like I have something to offer them beyond writing them a check 4 times a year. I feel like our team compliments everyone on our roster and that as a whole, SHB is stronger, louder and more successful than any one of us would be without each other.
Working with authors like you, John Bruni, and author/artist Jesse Wheeler makes me excited to be an author, makes me proud to be a publisher. I don’t’ know if I’d still be a writer today if I hadn’t met you guys and helped bring your books to life. You guys make me want to be a better leader and a better author. Without you guys, I’m just the guy typing in the dark.
Thank you for making SHB what it is, and for making me who I am today. YOU are why I do what I do.