December 27, 2013

Dead and Breakfast: an interview with Adam Cesare, author of "The Summer Job"

Adam Cesare is the author a new horror novel out through Samhain Publishing, called The Summer Job. I had the chance to ask Adam a few questions about the book, his writing career thus far, and about the horror genre in general. Enjoy!

Gef: It seems like you hit the ground running with Tribesmen not that long ago, and since then you've been steadily carving out a path in the horror field. How has it been for you the last couple of years in establishing yourself as a name in the genre, with Tribesmen, Bone Meal Broth, Video Night, and now The Summer Job?

Adam: I had to look up when Tribesmen came out to answer this question, February 2012, so not even two years yet. Yeah, in some ways it feels like no time at all and in some ways it feels like forever. I’ve put out a good amount of stuff since then, like you said (the Sam Truman novella Bound By Jade, too, and a collaborative collection with Matt Serafini) and, because of the way that publishing moves, I’ve got lots of material that’s written but not out yet and will be in 2014.

It’s been a fun two years, hustling, and I feel like I might be getting some traction, if not now, soon. The best part of the whole experience has been connecting with people I otherwise never would have. For example Cameron Pierce invited me to collaborate on a book with him and Shane Mckenzie, not exactly something I had to think about. I love their work, so it was kind of surreal to be invited in.

I’m proud of everything I’ve put out, but The Summer Job is the most special child, right now. She’s pulling straight A’s, is the head of debate club.

Gef: Samhain is trying like heck to become the go-to destination for horror readers jilted by the sad, sordid Dorchester fiasco. How have you found the working relationship with them thus far, and how do like their chances of carrying the baton as the anchor in the horror genre?

Adam: I love working with them. It sounds really lame, but the proof is in the pudding. They’ve got some choice Leisure alums (with some more coming, if you look far enough ahead on the release lineup), a really strong stable of newer guys and gals, and the man himself, Don D’Auria, kicking ass and taking names.

I think it’s important to note that Leisure may have been the “anchor” of the horror genre, certainly they were the most visible, most reliable when it came to straight-up genre, but I think horror has been and will continue to be alive in both the small press and to some extent the big New York houses, too. There are just too many good authors writing in all shades of the genre, and when you couple that knowledge with the fact that horror is hot right now and that it’s chic to be literate again (or e-literate, I love my Kindle, and wordplay): we all win, readers and writers.

I mean, Stephen Graham Jones has a book coming out with them, the same day as The Summer Job drops. It’s called The Gospel of Z and it’s great, like intimidating-ly good.

Don’s not only bringing in heavy-hitters all the time, but unique voices that long time Dorchester readers might not expect. I can’t speak for him and I’m not, but I’d guess that Gospel is something he NEVER would have been able to publish with Dorchester. It’s too risky, I think the attitude from them would have been that you couldn’t sell it as a mass market paperback (where you’re printing up thousands of copies and sending them to bookstores and Walmarts) and not alienate some people who buy it expecting a more vanilla kind of zombie book.

So is Samhain the new Dorchester? No, it’s better.

Gef: I read The Summer Job around the same time I read Stephen King's Doctor Sleep, and one thing I picked up on between the two books was an almost equal time in the limelight between protagonists and antagonists. The point of view would offer not just glimpses, but deeply contextualized portraits of the villains. Where sticking strictly to Claire's point of view would have offered one kind of story, you opted for more of an ensemble approach to drive the story. Was that something you decided from the outset or was it something that kind of developed as you wrote?

Adam: I haven’t gotten to Doctor Sleep yet, I’m always playing catch-up with King. I have Joyland, so by the time I get to that one the price will have probably dropped on Sleep. Looking forward to it even more now, though, I love his bad guys.

Originally I had the book structured a bit differently, it was going to be exclusively “strapped” to Claire for the first half of the book, then switch perspectives for maybe a quarter of the book (giving us chapters from all the secondary characters perspectives), then go back to Claire for the finale. But as I was writing that felt too rigid, like you said, we didn’t get enough context to place our antagonist(s)’s actions. Not to give too much away but there are secrets and twists in this book, so the hard part was developing those antagonist(s), giving them a distinctive voice, but not ruining the suspense of the central mystery. Likewise, we should always know more than Claire but at the same time she should still be a strong character with a ton of agency.

The result is that the plot’s WAY denser than anything I’d written up to that point, but it shouldn’t feel like that for the reader, it should be easy to keep everything straight. I think I did it right.

Gef: Is it just me or are Bed & Breakfasts inherently evil?

Adam: I’ve never stayed in one, but the first time I do I fully expect to be brutally murdered.

Gef: For decades, small towns have been a go-to backdrop for horror. I've seen old B-movies from the 60s about city-dwelling twenty-somethings becoming stranded in seemingly cozy small towns, only to wind up running afoul of someone or something. Is this just playing on the classic rural vs. urban tug-of-war that takes place in the economy and culture, or is there some other angle to it I'm not seeing?

Adam: I think it’s a trope that probably will be less and less effective in the coming decades.

Everyone’s connected. You have to go really far out to the boonies to get “off the grid” and I think eventually you won’t be able to at all. I tried to play with that here, in this book. When Claire first gets to the town, Mission, she misreads the folksiness of the hotel as a post-college kid who’s been living in Boston probably would: “Oh these people are hicks, life is simple here and I’ll be able to relax.” But then she meets the town’s young people and their parties are maybe exactly like the ragers she was trying to get away from. She finds the place through Craigslist, everyone’s savvy, even the people who traditionally aren’t supposed to be. So people are the same all over, except in a small town maybe it’s easier to get away with stuff.

Gef: So, with The Summer Job being released in the middle of winter, do you by any chance have a Christmas story set for release this summer? If not, what is next on the slate?

Adam: Ha! I hadn’t even thought of that, but now maybe I would.

My next book will be pretty soon after The Summer Job, which is awesome because I hate waiting. It’s a crime novella called The First One You Expect and it’s about a micro-budget horror filmmaker who gets caught up in a murder. It’s a bleak noir (oxymoron, I know, but I want to stress the bleakness) and it’ll be coming out from J. David Osborne’s Broken River Books in February. They’re a new publishing outfit, but jeez do they have some strong authors, simply ridiculous that I snuck in there. The covers are all by Matthew Revert.

Gef: Well, a big thanks to Adam for stopping by the blog. As for the rest of you, you can find out more about The Summer Job by visiting Samhain Publishing, or check out Adam's blog, or just head on over to and order a copy right now.

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