December 17, 2014

The Bizarre and the Unbridled: an interview with Scott Cole, author of "SuperGhost"

Scott Cole is an artist, graphic designer, and writer, all at the same time. His imagery has been seen in magazines and art galleries, as well as on that flyer you picked up at the coffee shop, and his short stories have appeared in a handful of anthologies, with many more publication credits coming soon. He lives in Philadelphia, listens to strange music, and loves cold weather. (source:

Scott's new book, SuperGhost, came out this fall and I had the chance to ask him a few questions about it and other bookish things. Enjoy.

Gef: What was the impetus for SuperGhost?

Scott: Well, for a long time, I considered myself to be strictly a short story writer. I definitely wanted to write something longer, but it never really seemed to work out. At the same time, I knew I needed to come up with something that was at least novella-length - if for no other reason than to stand a better shot at landing something with a reputable publisher.

Eventually it occurred to me that a couple of my short story ideas - one about a mad scientist fusing phantom limbs and another about something that happens in the second half of SuperGhost (which I won't spoil here) - would work really well together if I combined them.

Of course, this realization came to me just as the lights were going down at a film screening I was attending with a friend. I spent the entire movie half paying attention to the film, half shaking with excitement about these puzzle pieces fitting together. As soon as the movie was over, I pulled out my phone and started furiously typing notes.

Not long after that, I bounced the basic premise off my friend Adam Cesare. He liked the concept, which was encouraging. So I basically told him to nag me about it on a regular basis until I finished writing it. He did, and thankfully I finished it in time to submit to Eraserhead Press for their New Bizarro Author Series. A few rewrites and revisions later, here we are.

Gef: What kind of a gear shift is it when writing a bizarro story as opposed to something more conventional, assuming there is one?

Scott: For me, the Bizarro stuff comes much more naturally. I notice more of a shift, or at least more difficulty, when I try to write more conventional, straightforward horror.

Maybe it's just that there's so much freedom in Bizarro fiction. It's ridiculously fun to write. Not that there isn't freedom in other types of fiction - but with Bizarro, it's a bit more "anything goes".

Gef: What little tricks have you picked up with approaching your writing?

Scott: I don't know that I have any real tricks. Most of it comes through practice, and through reading a lot, I think.

I also think it's important to read one's writing out loud. There should be some sense of rhythm or music to the words.

One piece of advice that I always like to pass on is something I heard years ago, in a Q&A with comic book writer Brian Bendis, back when he was doing his indie crime comics. It's simply this: "Arrive late, leave early" - meaning that you don't have to write every scene from the very beginning to the very end. You don't have to write the part where the characters walk into a room. You can start the scene halfway into their conversation. And you don't have to watch them leave the room either.

The one trick I *want* to learn is how to get all these ideas down faster. There are so many things I want to write, but only so many hours in the day, and most of them get spent at the day job or asleep.

Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of bizarro fiction?

Scott: I've described Bizarro fiction in the past as being all about unbridled creativity. That's what drew me to it in the first place - the insane ideas, the twisted characters, the beautifully bizarre visuals.

Of course, a truly successful story is going to need plot and character too. But when you've got that substance and it's enrobed in a delightfully weird coating of Bizarro's so delicious.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Scott: That's a tough one, actually. I'm not sure I ever received any truly awful writing advice. If I did, I may have just ignored and forgotten about it.

That said, I think if anyone tells you that every element in your story must be fully explained, they're probably a pretty boring writer.

And I think when we tell kids in school that they need to write in complete sentences, we should maybe explain to them that that idea can flex a bit in fiction. Or maybe I'm just over-thinking the question.

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Scott: I don't really feel much guilt about loving the things I love. I mean, I think some people who read Bizarro fiction would consider it a guilty pleasure, embarrassing in some way because of how weird it can be, but I don't. I mean, there are certain things I won't pull up on my monitor at work, but that's for other peoples sake. As far as I'm concerned, weird is wonderful.
I love all kinds of stuff in all kinds of media - everything from film noir to '70s exploitation films and cheesy '80s slasher movies. I love graphic design and 1950s horror comics and public sculpture and old-time radio drama and live theater and vintage toys. Some of it is very serious stuff, some of it is totally silly, but I'm not really embarrassed about any of it. If I was, I guess I wouldn't mention it here.

Gef: We're coming up to the end of the year, which means everyone and their mama is writing a year-end lists. So what book, movie, game, show, song, or dirty limerick has found its way to the tippy-top of your favorites this year?

Scott: I feel like I'm perpetually a few years behind on new release stuff these days. But I do catch a few things.

My favorite movies of the year were probably SNOWPIERCER, UNDER THE SKIN, and the JODOROWSKY'S DUNE documentary. And I recently saw IT FOLLOWS at a film festival, which I thought was really kind of brilliant. THE TRIBE was really interesting too - it's a sort of crime story set at a school for the deaf. The film is done entirely in sign language with no subtitles or translations, and it's pretty powerful - especially the ending. THE BABADOOK will probably make my year's best list too. I want a copy of that pop-up book.

I've read a ton this year, but it's mostly been older stuff - some hardboiled crime novels, some classic horror, and a ton of recent-if-not-quite-new Bizarro. For some reason I've gotten a little obsessed with 1970s and '80s horror movie novelizations in the last few years too. So I'm chipping away at reading some of those here and there as well.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Scott: It's funny - now that I finally figured out how to write something longer than 3000 words, I've got a slew of ideas for longer-form fiction. I'm starting work on a couple more novellas now, but they're in the early stages, and I probably shouldn't say much about any of them just yet. Of course, whether they see the light of day or not will to some degree depend on people picking up SuperGhost, wink-wink...

I'll continue writing short stories and flash fiction too. I doubt that will ever stop.

People can find me on Twitter (@13visions) and Facebook (/scottcole13), and at my website (

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