March 9, 2016

Blood Drive: an interview with David Bernstein, author of "A Mixed Bag of Blood"

by David Bernstein

From a man seeking vengeance for a dead loved one, to a monster lodged in a person’s nose, to starving vampires and samurai battling zombies, a bully meeting his gruesome demise, along with prostitutes being sacrificed, a boy who refuses to stop swearing, and the consequences of one man’s night of unprotected sex comes a dark and disturbing collection of sinister tales filled with dread, bloodshed, humor and the bizarre.

This is a Mixed Bag of Blood.

Gef: So how did the creation of this new collection come about? Was A Mixed Bag of Blood something you'd been shopping around, or something that kind of came up in conversations with your publisher?

Dave: The wonderful John Foley from Thunderstorm Books contacted me. He’d been a fan of my work and wanted to know if I had a novella or short story collection that I’d like to submit to Thunderstorm Books. (Of course I was thrilled as I’ve been a huge fan of Thunderstorm). I started out my career writing short stories, then moved on to novels and novellas, so I had quite a few shorts published over the years. I sent him a number of tales, and he and Paul Goblirsch, the owner of the company, sent me the contract. It’s my first official collection and I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out. I like to write a variety of “horror” or “dark fiction,” so this collection ranges from subtle horror to flat out weird and gross.

Gef: How much of a gearshift is it for you going from working on a novel to a short story? Do you have to approach the story differently when you only have a few thousand words to work with, or is the story length something you figure out later as you're writing?

Dave: I don’t really get all artsy with my writing, even my short stories. With short stories, I feel as if I can jump right in and get to it. My short stories are like shrunken versions of my longer works. This might make them appear rushed to some. Short stories need to get to the point, so I try to do that. With a novel there is a grand journey ahead, planning to a degree, and details to reveal. Major character development and pages to fill. Writing shorter lengths has never been a problem for me. I struggle more with longer works.

Gef: How have you found your progression as a writer thus far?

Dave: I hope I’ve improved! Lol. Stories I wrote years ago are so awful. I think with any craft, the crafter improves over time. And not just with writing, but with reading. Reading a variety of authors and genres helps with this. It allows the writer to see different styles, learn rules and have questions answered. Some “rules” are not even concrete. Different places say different things. Different publishers require different ways of how they want things done. For example: Spell out a number instead of using actual numbers. Samhain wanted numbers written out, while Severed Press didn’t care how I wrote them.

All in all, I’d like to believe I am improving my craft with each book I read and each word I put down.

Gef: When it comes to putting together a collection, how much thought are you putting into which stories to include and in what order, or is that something left best to the editor?

Dave: I worked with the publisher on the order, but how I had it was fine. No changes. As far as content, there was only one story taken out for another because the stories were too similar. I also consider myself very easy to work with. Laid back. I am the writer. I like to let the “seller of books,” the PUBLISHER, decide what they think might work best, including the cover art. Almost all the publishers I’ve worked with have been more of a partnership when it came to all that. I have my input, but it’s ultimately up to them. Of course, this isn’t with all authors. Some like to have a lot of input, and that’s fine too.

Gef: Where do you think the horror genre shines more: in novels or in short stories?

Dave: Novels. No doubt. Short stories aren’t for everyone. Sales prove it.

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

Dave: I hate to say it, (because so many people do say it) but Stephen King. His novel, It, got me into reading. That’s where it all started. From there, hell, pick a former Leisure author. But I’ve always been creative. Wrote horror stories when I was in elementary school. Besides television, like the Alfred Hitchcock Hour, I had no influences that I am aware of back then. But if we’re talking more recently, like during the last 20 years to present time: Jack Ketchum, Simon Clark, Joe McKinney, Robert McCammon, Ray Garton, Edward Lee, Preston and Child, Tim Waggoner, Douglas Clegg, Michael Crichton, David Morrell, James Herbert, Tim Curran, etc. I could go on.

Gef: How much emphasis do you place on setting as character?

Dave: I am more of a story-first writer. I start there. Take an idea and develop it. I have to work extra hard on characters. I like their actions to show who and what they are, and not worry too much about what they look like or what they are wearing. I like to leave it up to the reader as to how the characters appear, but I know people want descriptions. The story and action come so naturally to me.

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

Dave: I completed a B-movie kind of horror/crime novella that involves toxic waste, protected forest land, a bank robbery and young adults camping out in the woods with a nasty monster lurking about. That’s coming from Great Old Ones Publishing. The fantastic reissue of Fecal Terror from Bizarro Pulp Press (WOW, what a cover!) and a new novella with them called Retch. I’m finishing up a new novel called Episodes of Violence for Sinister Grin Press and working on Jackpot 2 for them as well. I have a couple of short stories in anthos.

Twitter: @bernsteinauthor

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