Originally published 2002 at Creature Corner.
Creature-Corner: When did you first get the idea for ‘When Graveyards Yawn’ and the ‘Apocalypse Trilogy’ (which we’ll get to shortly) and how did it progress from an idea into three novels? The history of the world you’ve opened up in ‘Graveyards’ comes off as pretty expansive and in depth…
G. Wells Taylor: In 1989 or so, I was trying to come up with a new take on the detective genre. I’d always been a fan of Raymond Chandler and his prose style. I also liked his view of Los Angeles of the thirties and forties. It was dark and dangerous, and intrinsically horrible and corrupt. But, that was then. I lived in a town at the time where an Apocalyptic cult had its home base. The congregation would appear on the street dressed as the grim reaper and chant slogans about the end of the world. So I had already posed the question to myself. What would that be like? The dead would rise, all hell would break loose… The way this congregation talked, we’d all be radioactive zombies being chased by the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Really rich imagery. I soon imagined a place very much like the world of Change in my novels. Then, I began to see parallels with Chandler’s corrupt and fallen Los Angeles, and I knew that only a Philip Marlowe-like character would be able to survive in such a world. Chandler’s detective was able to remain fairly clean despite the fact that everyone else was dirty.
I took a lot of time to develop the history for the world of Change because I needed a rich texture for the backdrop. I’ve always felt that the best novels come with a firm grasp upon their own histories. It was while developing the history for the world in When Graveyards Yawn that I also created the larger story that requires three books to tell.
CC: Concentrating on ‘Graveyards,’ what came first: the horror theme or the mystery theme? What made you decide to mix two fairly different elements like horror and noir-ish mystery?
GWT: I felt that the dark images and shadows that recur in each genre easily translated across. And the villains too. Wrap a city in fog and have a gangster walk out. So I’ve got a dead gangster. I found it an easy leap.
CC: Keeping in mind the question above; ‘When Graveyards Yawn’ leans more in the direction of a detective novel, how did you keep track of where you were headed with the theme (i.e. was it difficult to keep from straying into one genre too much or was that not a concern)?
GWT: I found that the genres mixed so naturally that it really wasn’t a problem. Of course, I did have to keep a lid on the level of supernatural occurrences. A detective needs something concrete to work with in order to solve a case. Too much magic and the mixture would become unmanageable.
CC: Are you familiar with the two Showtime movies ‘Cast a Deadly Spell’ and ‘Witch Hunt’? They’re quite similar to ‘Graveyards’ as far as the mix of noir and supernatural…I’m sure there have been other instances of the detective/horror story but none that I could really compare (my reading habits have dwindled sadly and I’ve probably missed some good stuff), these two films really spring to mind when I think about ‘Graveyards’.
GWT: I’m unfamiliar with the movies you mention, but a series from the 70’s comes to mind, Kolchak the Nightstalker starring Darren McGavin. McGavin played a reporter who investigated stories with a supernatural twist. He was always digging up dirt on a case that looked like a werewolf attack or a vampire murder. It was an excellent series. It seemed that Kolchak lived on the edge of a supernatural world-like he inhabited some borderland where dark things crept across into the real world. That series was certainly a precursor to the X-files. Anyway, I sort of just shoved the Wildclown Detective character completely over the border into the shadows.
CC: What kind of response have you gotten from readers; have you noticed more or less feedback about the book’s appeal from fans of one genre or the other?
GWT: It is still early, but readers who downloaded the samples from the books or the complete Wildclown short stories seem to like it without breaking it into genres. It is interesting for that. When Graveyards Yawn seems to perform in a space between. But I should mention that there has been interest in this type of mixture of these specific genres for some time. The X-files has enjoyed the mainstream audience-though it has relied on hard core fans for its longevity.
CC: Does the possible pigeonholing of the book by a category concern you? Especially considering the trend that bookstores have been taking where they downsize the horror section, which could possibly affect fans of the horror genre from discovering your work.
GWT: I think the fact that it mixes genres may give it a little more play. It runs the risk of being difficult to categorize, but that also means it is a fresh take-something new. I think that the mainstream is desperately looking for new things. Currently the book is listed under Mystery, Horror and Fantasy on my publisher’s web site. That makes it a triple threat from my perspective.
CC: The internet marketing blitz known as Wildclown.com is a huge undertaking. How did the website come to life, from conception to what we can all see now? It’s nice to see all the extras you worked on.
GWT: The Book Launch Project was a massive undertaking, but a simple idea. The tough part was all the design work. It’s a huge web site, and then I threw the Wildclown Chronicle ezine on top of things to help promote the book and web site. I’ll tell you as a one-person operation it is the most demanding project I’ve ever been involved in. The simple part was the notion of pulling my manuscripts out of the slush piles and exposing them on the net. One difficulty in being a writer is that our art form requires evaluation of a more personal sort. If anyone is to know that you’ve got what it takes, a commitment of time and effort to read the piece is required. It’s not like photography or other visual art. Reading demands a whole other level of involvement. So, the net gave me a place where I was able to display my books and people who viewed it and downloaded the samples were already committing time to their net surfing. I took it to the readers first. The traditional methods of publishing work but they’re overtaxed by the sheer volume of work out there. And, if you throw in the unusual nature of W.G.Y., it is easy for a busy editor to overlook something that is hard to categorize.
I did receive support from numerous friends and family members in terms of materials and time to pull it off and I’ll never be able to thank them enough. The Book Launch Project is a much larger thing than I just described. Anyone who’s curious can find the whole project documented on site in the news stand section.
CC: What made you take that route of promotion and how long before it started to take off? I know at the time you started out it was a fairly new approach to marketing that’s since been used by the likes of Artisan Entertainment for the Blair Witch sequel. I know you were sending out emails to lists of people who might be interested (myself included), but once the link was sent out, what was the response like, especially to the artwork and flash animation?
GWT: Well, I’m sure that being naïve helped. Honestly, I thought the Internet was this wide-open space, and in many ways it was and remains; but, there is a very powerful censoring entity out there that restricts the flow of information and diminishes the effectiveness of this fantastic communications tool for the small operator while promoting the big ones. Nothing new, I said I was naive, but I had no idea how much control was already in place by the time I opened shop in 2000. I was so new to the net that I thought everyone would love to hear about the world’s first virtual book launch party. In fact, most people that I contacted enjoyed the party or deleted my invitation. Only 5 of the 25,000 that I sent the invitation complained (officially). And that was enough to get me pulled off the net for 24 hours. I know that unsolicited email (and yes some of mine could have been termed as such-but all email can…) is the bane of Internet traffic, but so far, all this censoring has made sure that I only hear from large companies selling insurance, Viagra and pornography. I have not heard about the opening of an independent Internet art gallery or book shop or image bank in years. So lesson learned, I’ve found other more focussed methods of telling people about the book. God, I got a little preachy there…
Let’s say that those who have visited the site understand the Internet’s worth to us all as a communications tool and voice of freedom. They enjoy the artwork and animation as the expression of entertainment that it was designed. I started searching for a publisher and had one in eight months.
CC: For our aspiring writers out there, what was the publishing process like? From finding an interested publishing house to getting the cover art and so on? I understand that at first, you were planning an online publication rather than the traditional bound book…if that’s the case, what made you change your mind?
GWT: I took a look at online publishing, but found there was not the same interest as the traditional bound book. The technology is just coming into place, and I’m sure the future holds the electric book; but it will be a long time before the majority of people turn on to them. There’s something about an actual book. People like them. It’s a comfort thing I guess, that comes from chewing on books in our cribs. So, I put the pressure on to find a publisher. When I found one, it was a thrilling experience tinged with deep apprehension. I once had a movie script make it to second reading before the producer spent all the money on fun things other than movie making, so while I waited through stages of the book’s development, I was always anxious that the plug would be pulled.
CC: Now on to the future: ‘When Graveyards Yawn’ is Book One in a series you call the “Apocalypse Trilogy”. What can you tell us about the next two books ‘The Forsaken’ and ‘The Fifth Horseman?’
GWT: The sequels leap ahead in the future by some years and follow a character introduced in When Graveyards Yawn. The second book, The Forsaken, is kind of “Pulp Fiction” meets “Revelations.” I wanted it to be grittier than W.G.Y. because it deals with a pivotal and extremely violent period of the world of Change. All I can tell you is that it answers big questions from W.G.Y. and begins to solve the riddle of the world of Change. It follows an assassin who is traveling to the City of Light (five hour drive north of Greasetown). His job is to kill an Angel. The last book, The Fifth Horseman, is a twist of “The Magnificent Seven” and “Paradise Lost.” This book is set much farther in the future after survivors have made it back from the brink. They’re pre-industrial homesteaders on the frontier of this damaged world. Things look bright but the evil lingers. There is a legend that four riders will come to burn the earth and one will come to save it. It’s got gunslingers in it.
CC: How did you write them all? As one lump story or were they three separate stories from the start?
GWT: They started as one large narrative, the history I spoke of earlier and then as I was writing W.G.Y. parts of the larger trilogy kept coming to me, and I started slotting them into these other story lines. I just created too many questions in W.G.Y. that had to be answered. At a certain point, the setting and the Change became a character with a story to tell.
CC: Have the next two books been signed for publication as well…?
GWT: Not as yet. I’m treading water with them, as I wait to see the response to W.G.Y. But I’m confident they’re on the horizon.
CC: Lastly, now that you’ve accomplished so much thus far, I’m sure you’re not planning on drawing the curtains anytime soon. What are your plans for future works outside the ‘Apocalypse Trilogy’ and the growing Wildclown Chronicles?
GWT: I would like to see what I can do with the Wildclown Detective. He is an interesting sort, and I would like to expand on some of his exploits outside his work in When Graveyards Yawn. After all, that is just one case in an otherwise strange and unusual career. There are short Wildclown adventures on my web site. [Now available with an original novella in the paperback collection Wildclown HARD-BOILED.] I am also interested in doing a downloadable radio play of one of his adventures and we’re currently doing live action pictorial and video work for him.
After the Apocalypse trilogy I would like to start pushing a series of books about genetically enhanced children. The first is ready to go, a rip-roaring adventure entitled: 6 - Portrait of a 21ST Century Snuff Fighter. There are others in that group in various states of preparedness. As I mentioned earlier I also have horror and comedy screenplays that I would like to shop around.
Frankly, I see a lot of work ahead of me.