Meet Mark Henry, author of the upcoming “zomedy” (zombie-comedy) novel Happy Hour of the Damned (Kensington Press: February 26th, 2008).* The book’s release may be five months away, so add it to your calendar now and get your money ready, because this sounds like a real treat. Mark was kind enough to be my début interviewee. Let’s learn…
Donuts are deadly. One minute you’re getting your binge on, the next, you’re slipping on the box, cracking your skull, and in the weirdest turn of events, rising as a zombie. That’s just for starters. Now, the recently deceased Amanda Feral is trying to make her way through Seattle’s undead scene with style (mortuary-grade makeup, six inch stilettos, bangin’ Balenciaga handbag) while satisfying a craving for decent vodkatinis and the occasional human flesh—Don’t judge. And no, not like chicken.
Navigating a dangerous world of cloud-doped bloodsuckers, reapers, horny and horned devils, celebrity blood donors, and PR-obsessed shapeshifters—not to mention an extremely hot bartender named Ricardo—isn’t easy. And the minute one of Amanda’s undead friends disappears after texting for “help” (the undead—so dramatic!) she knows the afterlife is about to get really ugly.
Something sinister is at hand. Someone or something is hellbent on turning Seattle’s supernatural underworld into a place of true terror. And this time, Amanda may meet a fate a lot worse than donuts…
Tez Miller: Does Amanda’s surname (Feral) say something about her personality?
Mark Henry: It sure does. What’s the last thing you want to do with a feral animal? Corner them. Amanda behaves similarly. People are going to be disturbed by the behaviour of the protagonists in this book. Some already are. It’s a comedy but not a cute one. Often, readers will be laughing through clenched teeth. I hope.
Yay, I get smirking time Amanda’s a flesh-eating ghoul, which is scary enough. But in her earlier incarnation, she was an ad exec. Which is more evil?
Oh, no question. Advertising executives are absolutely ruthless in the way they target social classes for financial gain, and they’ll do it with a smile. Although. My zombies also target specific social groups, and do it with a smile. So, ad execs and zombies are pretty much the same.
Amanda died from slipping on a doughnut box. Are you similarly accident-prone?
I’m not accident prone, actually, nor do I get sick with any regularity. I’m kind of boring like that.
Bugger (says perennially bruised Tez) Do you at least have any battle scars?
Now, I do have a scar on my knee from my childhood. I was leaving a public pool, this was in the Azores, and I tripped and landed on a broken bottle. That cut was a real gusher.
Ouchies. The novel’s copy mentions ‘cloud-doped bloodsuckers’. Excuse my unintelligence, but what does cloud-doped mean? Do the bloodsuckers get high on precipitation?
Cloud is a hallucinogenic paste that vampires spread on their arms to get high, man. There’re a lot of vampire addicts in Happy Hour. Don’t get me started on their use of Sesame Street band-aids as a junkie-aid.
On the cover, Amanda holds what seems to be a pimp cup. Is she a pimp, or just minding the cup for a friend?
You’d have to ask the art designer about that. I have no idea where that cup comes in. A martini glass, sure. I’ve resigned myself that it is a pimp cup, but merely for effect. Sadly, no pimps were harmed or utilised for effect in that making of Happy Hour. That’s not to say that I’m adverse to their presence in future instalments.
Yay! Pimps and their hos usually have fantastically amusing dialogue… You have an M.A. in Psychology (smartarse ), thus I assume you’re very much so a character writer. Do you come up with characters before plots?
I am far more interested in character than plot. I think that’s why I gravitate toward literary fiction when I sit down to read. Not that you can’t find amazing characterisation in genre novels, it’s just the explorative quality that feels comfortable to me. I guess it fits because of my training and years of psychotherapy sessions.
Are you an outliner or a seat-of-the-pants writer?
I’m totally a seat-of-the-pants kind of writer. Outlines are the Devil, they stunt me like nothing else. I’m finding that on book 2 Kensington requires approval on outlines. I should have written the book before the outline and then drafted it from the finished novel. That’s how I’m going to play it next time.
Ooh, you can make it up as you go along? You’d be an ace guest on Thank God You’re Here. (Aussie team Working Dog developed that concept, by the way.) So, do you write full-time, or have another job on the side?
I’m a full-time writer. I’m lucky, too, so few of us are able to manage it. My wife earns a good salary, so I need contribute very little to household expenses. I do keep house, cook, shop, manage expenses and all that, so that’s like another job.
You count Tori Amos and Goldfrapp among your favourite artists (and I very much approve of those two ). Do you need silence while writing, or does music help you along?
I’m of two minds on that subject. Going in to book 2 of the Amanda Feral series, I had difficulty re-entering the character’s voice. Music helped with that. Particularly dark harsh music, Curve worked nicely. Plus, Amanda kind of resembles Toni Halliday, in my mind, at least.
It’s different when I’m in the middle of the book. I need silence. I also speed up a great deal. It’s not unheard of for me to write 5000 words in a sitting.
5000 words? (Tez has jealousy sequence.) Hmm. So, novelists seem to need vices to help them make their deadlines. Food, drink, debauchery… Name your poison.
I quit smoking a couple of years ago and I’ve never been much of a drinker. Mine’s going to be closely related to the second question. Food is my issue and always has been. When I diet, which I’m currently doing (I’m down 49 pounds since July), my vice is deprivation. I drink a lot of water and become militant about my intake of carbohydrates. I’m also exercising nearly every day and burning a minimum of 600 calories. I’m insane, is that a poison?
Well done. And no: you’re not insane, you’re a masochist (yes, there is a difference ). Word on the street is that you’ve created an “impotent incubus” series. That’s one of the best ideas I’ve heard of in a long time! Would Viagra work with an incubus, or would he need some kind of supernatural secksy drug?
The book is tentatively titled The Dark Rites of Joe Barkley, and the titular character happens to be an incubus with an erectile dysfunction who checks into a menacing sex rehab clinic, and has hell to pay getting out. I’m trying something new with this series. I’m going for a multiple narrative approach that is helping to create an atmosphere that is both comic and unsettling. It’s certainly some of the darkest stuff I’ve done.
Kind of like Girl, Interrupted but with more shagging?
Or like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest if it were directed by the guy that did Nine Inch Nails’ controversial ‘Happiness in Slavery’ video. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Which foreign countries/languages would you most like to be published in?
I’d love to pick up a UK rights deal, for sure, because that hits the biggest markets, including yours. (That’s Australia, for the uninitiated.) You’d be surprised how many questions I get about this from folks in Italy. Italy. I’d be happy to have the book published anywhere.
Hey, Italians are big on food. Dude, they invented tiramisu! What’s not to love… On a similar (or not) matter, would your agent object being referred to as your literary pimp?
Absolutely not. Nor do I have any difficulty selling his ass to prospective DGLM clients when they ask.
He pimp, you ho. Ah, good times… Rumour has it that your literary pimp sold film rights for the novel to Showtime.** Do they envision a telemovie or series for the concept?
Jim McCarthy is awesome. Happy Hour of the Damned was indeed optioned by Showtime for a possible series. It’s in the hands of the good people at Double Feature Films, right now. They’re the ones who brought you World Trade Centre, Reno 911: Miami, Freedom Writers and Garden State. The last time I heard anything, they were shopping for writers to develop the pilot episode. Keep your fingers crossed.
In April you’ll be in Pittsburgh for the Romantic Times convention. Do you see yourself as a romance writer?
Not per se, I have romantic ideas for my characters, and there is an element of sexuality and romance in each of the stories and plotlines, but no happily-ever-afters, I’m afraid.
As for the Romantic Times convention, it was a conscious decision to become involved with that. There’s a certain gender novelty to my attendance that may draw attention to Happy Hour of the Damned, and I’m all for attention. It seems that urban fantasy readers may not read Paranormal Romance, but most Paranormal Romance readers will read urban fantasy. Funny, that.
Good, I’m not much for HEAs. And ‘gender novelty’, that would be ladies, aye? So are you a romance reader?
I’m reading Jeaniene Frost’s Halfway to the Grave right now, and enjoying it, before that was Richelle Mead’s Succubus Blues, which is technically an urban fantasy but with a romantic edge. I did just receive a box from Amazon with Marjorie Liu and Nalini Singh in it, so I’m going to give those a shot. I certainly have nothing against the genre, or any genre (except westerns).
Really? But the filmclip for Muse’s ‘Knights of Cydonia’…you didn’t love that? Never mind… Your Blogspot is named ‘Burlesque of the Damned’. Was that inspired by a trip to Las Vegas?
About 2 years ago, a TV show premiered called Forty Deuce; it was about a burlesque club in LA that set up a new location in Vegas, a reality show, obviously. This was the ‘classy’ retro kind of burlesque, Dita Von Teese, champagne glasses and pasties, no nudity. The concept stuck in my head and when I set up the blog; the name popped out like a turkey timer.
Speaking of Ms Von Teese (well not really), Marilyn Manson and Goldfrapp have done a song together, ‘This Is the New Shit’. It’s pretty awesome. Anyway, your LiveJournal and MySpace blogs are named ‘Zombie Chow’ and ‘Brains Brulée’ respectively. Hungry much?
Absolutely starving (probably due to my constant state of dieting). It’s why I’m drawn to zombies, they’re food related monsters. If there’s one thing I understand, it’s a compulsion to eat, even when you’re not hungry. In my previous career, I was a psychotherapist and I worked with a great number of eating disordered individuals. In a sense, all these monsters that we write about can be diagnosed. Vampires are the alcoholics; werewolves have anger management issues. Zombies are the eating disordered alternative in urban fantasy. There’s the link.
I’ve always seen vampires as being emo. Your bio claims that you’ve survived earthquakes, typhoons and two volcanic eruptions. What countries have you been to/lived in?
Those aren’t just claims, although the biggest event was the eruption of Mt Pinatubo, which coincided with a typhoon, and created a constant earthquake. I was among the evacuees. That’s a story for another time. It’s just too long and depressing.
I’ve been to and/or lived in 48 of the United States, Canada, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Antigua, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and Guam.
Crikey. You live in Seattle (well, Washington state, anyway). What natural disasters occur there?
Two, that I’ve experienced. Mt St Helens erupted when I was in grade school, and we had an earthquake that rattled the area quite a bit about 7 years ago. In this house, it’s a disaster when the TV breaks, and while ours didn’t a friend’s did, and that’s horrific any way you slice it.
What’re the best and worst things about living in WA?
The weather is the best thing. It’s rainy, dark, dreary, and the perfect atmosphere for writing dark fantasy (I think that’s why so much of it is set in this area). The best thing is the proximity to friends and family.
Come on, what’s the worst thing?
All right. All right. The bad drivers are breeding here like rabbits, and traffic is getting to be a pain in my ass.
You are a member of the five-person squad League of Reluctant Adults. What sucks about being an adult?
What doesn’t? Bills, traffic, rude service staff and bad TV, they all contribute to a sucky adulthood. Of course, I was a reluctant child as well. Overall, I’m reluctant as a rule. Hesitant. So they were the perfect group for me. Right now, things are going well, bills are paid, foods on the table, so I can’t complain, too much. By the way, Anton came up with the title; mine were a little less benign.
What’s the best thing about being a kid?
Hanging around adults, learning curse words and harvesting information from sex manuals to disturb your peers. I was precocious, an only child and pretty smart. A dangerous combination.
You’re a member of the Summer Heights High Facebook group. What Australian television programmes are shown in the U.S.?
I love Summer Heights High! Though my favourite character is Mr G. He’s so extremely self-centred. I love it. They used to show Kath & Kim (and I understand it’s being remade into an American version, so that’s sure to be God-awful), John Safran v God has recently turned up. Australia’s Next Top Model played for a while and then was dropped the episode before the finale. Damn them.
Mr G was first introduced to the world on a short-lived sketch show called Big Bite. He was working on the musical VietWOW, about the war. Trivia: On John Safran’s Music Jamboree, there was a segment testing the theory that everyone is better looking than Joey Fatone. (The theory was proven.) Now Mr Fatone hosts the Aussie version of The Singing Bee. I wonder if he knows… What are your favourite Australian shows?
My favourite so far is The Nominees (which I know is called something else in Australia [We Can Be Heroes: Finding the Australian of the Year]). Chris Lilley is a genius. Really, we don’t get a whole lot of Australian programming. The BBC runs a network here so we get all their shows. There are multiple Mexican channels and tons of Spanish influence, telenovelas and such. In the Pacific Northwest, there are quite a few Asian TV shows, which aren’t subtitled so I couldn’t tell you if they were any good.
Kind sir, thank you for your time.
Do you trust Jackie Kessler, Richelle Mead and David Sosnowski’s taste? If you do, you’re in luck:
“Gruesome, ghoulish and utterly groundbreaking. Mark Henry is daring and scathingly funny.”
–Jackie Kessler, author of Hell’s Belles
“Sexy, funny, and twisted. You’ve never read anything like this!”
–Richelle Mead, author of Succubus Blues
“Call them the splatterati—werewolves who always know what to wear, zombies with bodies to die for, and vampires who know their fang shui—just don’t call them late when it comes to happy hour, or the drinks might be on you.”
–David Sosnowksi, author of Vamped
*John Scognamiglio at Kensington purchased world rights to Mark Henry’s zombie comedy, Happy Hour of the Damned, along with two sequels, from Jim McCarthy. Article.
**An option to Mark Henry’s Happy Hour of the Damned went to Showtime. Article.