Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Interview with J. Lincoln Fenn.

Full Name:
J. Lincoln Fenn

Do you have a nickname or what do your friends call you?
I’ve been trying to get them to call me Master for years, no dice.  Fenn does for now, at least until I get through my 8 week “How to Hypnotize People Virtually And Get Them To Do Whatever You Want” online course.
Maybe you’re not trying hard enough.   TRY HARDER!  I’d say I’d call you “Master” for the purposes of this interview, but I bow to no man… or woman.  Ain’t no one put a leash on this tiger yet.  I believe the course you are referring to is called Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and even a cursory study of that makes you a God amongst men… or women.
Check your sent mail.  You’ll find that you subconsciously emailed me your banking information.  Enjoying my new $5000 cappuccino machine, thanks!
Listen, sister, if you managed to use my credit history to get approved for a $5000 credit line you deserve every cent.  I can’t even get approved for a Best Buy credit card.
You just don’t know the right hackers.
I am the one who knocks… I mean, “hacks”.

Dalton, MA. Home of money.

Current hometown:
Haiku, HI. Home of rain.
Aw, it must be hard living in a tropical paradise.
It’s been very cold lately though – dropped to 68 degrees.  Brrrr.
I’ll send you a sweater.
That’s okay, I already charged one on your credit card.
I hope it’s a nice one.   Actually, I hope it’s this one…

Favorite city and why?
If I don’t answer Boston, my pilgrim ancestors will hunt me down and force feed me baked beans.  So… Boston.  Although I have to admit, and this is serious, that Seattle impressed me with the sheer number of retail establishments selling zombie gear.  I snapped a picture of a sign outside a store featuring “Zombie Dolls, Hacky Sacks, Chile Pepper Lights, Folk Art.”

Birthday / Age:
Who are you, Mark Zuckerberg?  I only answer those kinds of questions on social media sites so they can sell my personal information to the NSA.
Hey, it’s just a question.  All of them are optional.  It’s not like I tried telling you that you won the UK lottery and all I need is all of your information ever and I’ll wire the money over.  Although I must admit that’s the most artful dodge I’ve received so far.
Artful Dodger – that’d be a great name for a character…
I’m glad we both get literary references.

How would you describe yourself physically?
5’4”, hazel eyes, brown hair, glasses.

How would someone else describe you physically?
Like a cross between Julia Roberts and Angelina Jolie, only BETTER looking.
I don’t fact check these interviews so I’ll have to take your word for it.
Heh, heh.

The first thing people notice about you is…
Generally they don’t.  I have an aversion to being noticed, unless there’s some particular reason I need to be.  You can’t really see people unless you’re flying under their radar of interest.
So pretty much you’re a she-ninja.
Funny because I did studyninjitsu.
Maybe I lied about not researching these interviews.  I’ll take credit for it either way.
As you should.

Religion, if any?
I see Buddhas.
Are you superstitious at all? Any phobias?
I’m not superstitious, but I do believe and have experienced more subtle phenomena, outside of what most people would call “natural.”  I really, really don’t like roller coasters. It’d be easier to get a cat to take a bath than to get me onto one.  I was scarred for life at a very young age by Disney’s “Space Mountain.”

Do you smoke / drink? If so, what? Any bad habits?
No smoking or drinking.  Not a judgment call on those who do, I just don’t like the smell or taste.  I cannot resist a fresh donut and most pies.
Geez!  Who would WANT to?
All the spelt-eaters.

Current occupation / Dream job:
Currently I work as a director of marketing, but my dream is to one day own an Airstream on a patch of land and write full-time.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
These days, if I’m not working, I’m writing.  Then there are these people called “family” who need things like cooked food, clean laundry, the occasional game of monopoly.  I don’t know how they got in.
Boo!  Are they saying “Boo” or “Boo-urns”?
When I forget the eggs that are boiling and the water completely evaporates until the eggs get so hot they explode, I’m sure they’re saying ‘boo’.  Nothing worse than scraping yolk off the ceiling.

What is your zombie outbreak survival plan?
It’s obvious that zombies can’t swim or operate airplanes, so I’m feeling pretty comfortable living on an island, although to a certain extent that depends on the length of incubation.  There is a greatisland for sale off the coast of Maine, complete with forts, but I’m about $5 million short.  Kickstarter campaign?
Someone needs to watch more Lucio Fulci films.
Kind sir, I humbly disagree.  First, a zombie would have to swim all the way from the mainland (over 2500 miles).  While a zombie, since they’re dead, wouldn’t have the breathing issue, they’d need a pretty stellar knowledge of either geography or navigation, and intelligence does not seem to be a zombie strong suit.  If, however, the incubation phase was long enough for someone exposed to fly on the plane, land, and then turn into a zombie, that would be concerning.
But a zombie vs. a shark?  No contest there – all a zombie has is human teeth, and a shark has many more that are much sharper.  I have a strong suspicion that the footage above may have been staged.  Can’t trust the internet these days.

Weapon of choice:

Do you have any special skills?
I make perfect grilled cheese sandwiches.  Always comes in handy.
With a slice of tomato in the middle?
I call it delicious.
Maybe with an heirloom tomato…

Did you go to college and, if so, what for?
I went to the University of New Hampshire, and that’s where I started to write.  I was fortunate to have John Yount as one of my fiction professors - he wrote Thief of Dreams and taught John Irving - and Charles Simic for poetry.  I majored in English, because I really enjoy the BBC and scones.  Turns out majoring in English means something entirely different.
Alright, I have to admit, props where props are due, you got me with that last one.
*takes bow*

If you went to college, did you manage to pay off your student loans?
This was back in the day when college was affordable and dinosaurs roamed the earth. My middle class parents were able to pay my tuition without becoming homeless.

Any pets?   If so, what are they and what are their names?

What is your favorite animal?

Speaking of pets, any pet peeves?
People who kill people is a big one.  That seems to be high on the ten commandments too, although apparently there’s a clause somewhere allowing for war and capital punishment.  But that’s in special invisible writing only a few select people are chosen to be able to read.

Favorite / Least favorite Food:
Favorite is chocolate marshmallow ice cream, and least favorite is liver and onions.

What is your favorite quotation / motto / saying?
“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.” Stephen King
That’s not a bad one.  I have a similar philosophy, in that I believe you have to give an audience three-parts truth to every one part lie if you expect them to suspend their disbelief and trust you with their time.  So, yeah, pretty much what he said.
I think too that within the horror/fantasy genre, we get to explore the dark things people don’t want to think/talk about. War of the Worlds had a lot to say about colonialism.

What is the best thing that ever happened to you?
Writing-wise, winning the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror.
No shit!  How did you pull that one off?  I mean, other than writing a good book.
There were different stages – first they cut based on the pitch, then the excerpt, then it went into quarterfinalist, semi-finalist, and finalist phases.  For people who are wondering if they should give it a shot, I say YES.  Spend some serious time on the pitch and excerpt – you’ll need these anyways to query agents later.  Because of the sheer volume of entries, there’s quite a bit of luck involved in the early stages, and I was also fortunate that they had a separate category for Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror.  Not sure if a story about spleen eating demons would have had the mass appeal to win a general fiction category.

What is the worst thing that ever happened to you?
The worst thing was losing my parents in a span of a couple months.  My mother had been sick with pancreatic cancer for about a year, then my father died of a heart attack, and then my mother died two months later right before Christmas.  The churn was truly, utterly, horrific - I poured what it felt like into Poe, and it created this dark, funny, snarky but vulnerable narrator.  And a lot of the details were cribbed right from my life – the five boxes he never opened for example.
Damn it!  Now I want to read your book to know what the hell you’re talking about with your “five boxes”.  You trickster!  Are you a witch?
All that’s standing between you and finding out is $4.99…
Maybe when Google finally approves my AdSense application.  I’ve been waiting a couple weeks and I have no idea how to expedite the process.  The blogs about to break 10,000 views, so that’s got to be worth something to someone.
Good luck trying to get them on the phone.  I think they’re all sequestered in Dick Cheney’s man safe.

Ever had your heart broken? Is there a story worth telling behind your answer?
I was generally the one with a broken heart wearing black and listening to Morrissey’s “There Is A Light And It Never Goes Out.”  Like many a smart teen, I chose to love the ones who would not possibly love me back.  Fortunately I’ve been married for quite a while, and those are distant memories.

Ever broken someone’s heart? Is there a story worth telling behind your answer?
I did, but in my defense I was still struggling with the whole ‘feelings’ thing.  In New England, we’re raised to believe they don’t exist, or if they do, should be ignored at all costs.

What is the best thing you’ve ever done?
I offered to quit my job and take care of my mother after my father died, but she wouldn’t hear of it.

What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?
I squashed a pollywog between my fingers sometime around middle school to show off, and never felt quite so sick or evil.  Spiders and mosquitos have it coming, but not an innocent pollywog.

If you could kill one person, who would it be, and why?
Voldemort, obviously.  I’m not convinced he’s been defeated entirely.
I worked for a lady that got a brain tumor and called it Voldemort.  She was a total condescending jerk to me, and my job was totally paid for since I was on work-study over the summer.  I was FREE LABOR and they still treated me like an illiterate janitor on a parolee work-release program.  So, yeah, I was kind of rooting for Voldemort.
I had a stint in theater, and there was always this tension between the actors and the stagehands (actors thinking they were more important).  So one of the stagehands painted a sign over a set entrance that said, “The wise paratrooper smiles at his packer.”  I’m a big believer in that.
That’s a weird coincidence, because I was working at an independent theater for the purposes of the preceding anecdote.  I also minored in tech theater.  My favorite joke was, “Now that we have intelligent lighting, all we need is intelligent actors.”
Ah, theater people.

What do you?
A good question for Freud.  But I write because if I don’t, there’s this constant nagging voice in my head telling me too.  Even answering these questions the voice is saying, “You should be working on your next novel – hurry up.”
I was never one of those writers until last October.  I wrote a book seven years ago and it kind of knocked the taste for book-length projects out of my mouth.  Every now and then the topic of writing would come up and I’d mention I’d written a book and I’d get invited to contribute stories to anthologies.  I’d knock them off in a day because writing is easy for me while other people would labor a month on their story.  I’d never really call myself an “author”.  I wrote a book, big deal.  If I’m so smart why aren’t I rich?  Most of my friends didn’t even know that I had written a book.  Then I started writing paragraphs in the world that I had created for a short story, on my cell phone, as a Facebook thread, because I was bored at work, and I realized that I was writing a story.  I figured I’d finish that sample chapter and run a crowd-funding campaign and if it was successful, I’d write the book, if not, fuck it.  It was marginally successful, but by then I wanted to write the book anyway.  I started it in October, and I’ve got about 60K towards it.  I’m shooting for 400K.  I dusted off a novel I had been trying to get people to read for five years and published it and published two collections of interviews from the blog.  So I published three books since last October.  I put together a collection of all of my anthology stories and sample chapters from stuff I’m working on and I ended up with another novel-length book.  Took a screenplay I wrote to try to sell and novelized it.  I should be publishing it this week.  My goal is to go twelve for twelve in 2014.  Twelve months. Twelve novels.
Before digital publishing that’d be an insane thing to do, but now volume seems to be the name of the game.  Plus you have the blog and social media thing rolling – very smart.
Thanks!  The interview blog came about because I couldn’t get anyone to interview me about a book project I was promoting, so I decided to start a blog where anyone can get interviewed to promote their projects.  As long as they don’t mind participating in the interview process.  I make my interviewees earn their free promotion.
Start charging and you could be the next Google AdWords.

How did you get started doing what you do?
I started writing in college, quit for a few years, then that nagging voice wouldn’t stop, so I started again and tried different genres.  Basically I wrote what was selling at the moment, which I discovered is a bad proposition.  Newsflash: it takes a long time to write a book.  And by the time you finish writing what’s selling at the moment, the trend has shifted.  So then I just decided ‘screw it’, wrote what I wanted, then won a contest 10,000 other writers entered and now that novel is published. Totally weird.
You won the book lottery!  Not that you didn’t earn it.  But that’s what I tell people that want to be the next Stephen King or J. K. Rowling or whomever.  Those mega-famous authors are like people that won the lottery… then won another lottery that only other lottery winners are allowed to participate in.  I always say that if you’re writing to try to get rich… don’t.  There are a lot of other easier paths to fame and fortune.  If they say, “Screw you, asshole!  I’m going to write anyway!” then they’ll probably be okay.
Yeah – if you want to be well paid, major in Engineering, a much surer bet.  I saw this great documentary about screenwriters who’d become successful, and one of them was talking about how as a struggling writer trying to break in, you keep feeling for cracks, and eventually if you’re persistent something will allow you ‘in’, but the way you got in will never work for another writer.  Each path is completely different.

What is your advice to other people that want to get started doing what you do?
Start.  Don’t stop.  Finish.  Get better.  Repeat.

What are some of the projects you’ve worked on/finished in the past?
Give us a little history if you will.
A collection of short stories, two screenplays, two half-finished novels (one when I was in my literary ‘I’m going to write the next Bel Canto phase’ and one when I was in my ‘I’m going to write the next Harry Potter’ phase) and the obligatory memoir (from my ‘I’m going to write the next Running with Scissors’ phase).
Ha!   It’s like you read my mind!  If it’s any consolation EVERY author has to go through that phase.  The good ones move past it and find their own voice.  You like Stephen King?  You try to write like him.  It’s a common trap that hack authors fall into.  Parroting as parody, and imitation being the sincerest form of flattery.  I don’t want to be the next Stephen King.  I want to be the first Scott Lefebvre.  Or at least the best one.  There’s a dozen people that have the same first and last name as I do, and as long as when I vanity surf my name and I’m the whole first page of results on Google I think I’m doing an okay job.  I want to be the best Scott Lefebvre I can be… and obviously talk about myself in the third person a lot.
There’s good stuff to learn by deconstructing the work of successful writers, and even writing in their style as an exercise can be useful, but copies of copies don’t grab readers or agents.   That said, bucking trends isn’t easy either.  Poe was the book I didn’t see out there that I would read, but while it got a lot of interest from agents, they didn’t think they could sell a horror/funny/coming-of-age/paranormal mystery.  It was too much of a genre-blend.  Entering the Amazon Breakthough Novel Award was my last best chance.
See note above about Engineering.
That’s why I’m working on the post-apocalyptic zombie epidemic book project I’m working on now, in addition to the ten other books I’m working on now.  I just haven’t read the zombie-genre book I’ve always wanted to read, so I’m writing it.
Go for it!  And send me a note, I’ll buy it.
WOO!  I’ll send you a free PDF version first.  Friends don’t make friends buy their books, friend.

What projects are you working on now?
A sequel to Poe, a dark, sci-fi/NA novel, and I blew some vacation days writing a screenplay and TV pilot for Poe.  Really learned a lot about structure in the process.
Oh, I LOVE playing with other formats.  Before I decided to start going for mine, I did some ghost-writing.  Wrote a book on “mergers & acquisitions” for an international patent lawyer, and four or five screenplays.  It’s great practice and the pay’s not bad if you know how to milk your cows, I mean, work with your clients.  I had to give up ghost-writing because my last client had an awful idea and every sentence was like trying to push water uphill.  She didn’t want to work on the project but did so begrudgingly and wouldn’t let me just go off and write it and kick her back a first draft to play with.  She paid me by the hour, one hour at a time, in advance, but it was only $10/hr. and it wasn’t worth it.  Some of the hardest money I ever earned.  I had to tell her that she should call me when she actually wanted to work on the project because I wasn’t really helping her.  It was like breaking up with someone long-distance that I had never met.
Writing outside your comfort zone can be a great experience – you start to find out it’s a learnable skill and a craft, not a mystery.

What are you watching?
I’m sad that I’ve finally completed the remaining season of BBC’s Being Human. Also enjoy Misfits and what Daniel Knauf is doing with Dracula.  Obviously I’m a Whovian.

What are you listening to?
Radiohead always, but also Spiritualized’s “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space”, My Morning Jacket’s “The Bear”, and White Rabbits “Percussion Gun.” If you’re on Spotify,I’ve got a playlist.

What are you reading?
Right now I’m reading an ARC of The Vanishing, but I’m too early into it to comment yet, and I just finished Snowblind which comes out late January.  Highly recommend it for a good King-esque monster book, but probably not the best thing to read if you’re currently snowed in by a blizzard.

Favorite author / book?
Oh come on, like that’s even possible to answer.   I can say I’m a huge Margaret Atwood fan – anything that comes out I must have, immediately, or I’m impossible to live with.  I read Gone Girl, and had to read everything by Gillian Flynn, and I found myself completely captivated by Cloud Atlas.
It’s not impossible.  You just don’t have a favorite book.  It’s okay.  No love lost.

Favorite band / song?
There we go again. If I had to pick one, and only one band, it’d be U2.  I get to say that because I was a fan before anyone knew who they were.  No way to pick one song, so I’ll use these 5 seconds of fame to throw out “Start Wearing Purple” by Gogol Bordello. Russian gypsy punk should be out there more.
One of my room-mates was WAY into Gogol Bordello as a phase.  I can see the attraction.  They’re like a more popular Už Jsme Doma.

Least favorite band / song?
Air Supply.  Everything.
I had just been dumped, a week before Valentines Day, and I went to a Walgreens, and while waiting in line to buy cigarettes surrounded by heart candy and heart balloons and cupids and flowers and all that shit, “I Can’t Live (Without You)” comes on over the overhead in-store speakers.  All I could do was laugh and yell “Are you fucking KIDDING me?”  Sometimes life is weirder than fiction.
I am so sorry.  The only purpose I can see for Air Supply is as a supplemental torture device.

If you could do anything other than what you do now, what would you do?
I’d be a travel writer – see a little more of the world.  As long as I don’t have to eat anything like “Bizarre Foods.”  That’d be a dealbreaker.
Yeah most of that “food” is not “food”.  No one should be eating scorpions… ever.
Did you see the khili episode?  No way that guy is paid enough.
No.  I hate to say it, but I’m one of those “I don’t watch TV.” people.  *winces anticipating incoming revilement*  I do watch a lot of films though, so I’m not completely weaned off of the plasma tit.
You no watch shiny box with talking pictures? Me like shiny box. Make me smart.

Who would you want to meet that you haven’t met?
You get three choices: Alive. Dead. Fictional.
Alive – Dalai Lama.
Dead – Roger Ebert.
Fictional – Fox Mulder.

What’s the best and worst job you’ve ever had?
Best job is motherhood (yes, it’s a job folks).  Worst job was working behind the fish counter at a natural foods market in high school.  Really, don’t ask someone under 18 whether the fish is sushi quality.  It will never turn out well.

Are there any questions that I didn’t ask that you wished I had asked that you would like to answer now?
Well, the secret to world peace would have been a good question, but since you didn’t ask, everything that happens from now on is your fault.
No!  Wait!  What is the secret to world peace?
I’d tell you but then I’d have to kill you.  That’s why it really hasn’t taken off yet.
If I had a dollar for every time an interview contained a death threat, I’d have, like, fifty bucks.  If I ever turn up missing, the investigation is going to be quite an interesting one.
There’s a title in there somewhere…A Dollar for Every Death Threat
You can run with it, I’m too busy living it.  Although I am working on a project called “A Hundred Shitty Jobs” where I talk about my awesome employment history.

Anyone you recommend I interview that you can put me in touch with?
Hmmm, not really.

Got any questions for me?
When’s my check coming?
Sometimes I put out print-on-demand collections of interviews from the site.  I always say, and mean what I say, that if it sells a hundred copies I’m mailing all of the contributors a print copy.  If it sells a thousand copies, then I share the wealth and everyone gets a check.  Those collections sell themselves… so get out there and promote it!  In the meantime, everyone gets a free PDF copy as a consolation prize and whatever marginal bump in sales that the interview provides.  YOU’RE WELCOME!
That’s okay.  The cappuccino machine is fine for now.
And on that note…

Thanks for letting me subject you to being interviewed!

Pitch parade:
Give me all of your links for things you want to promote.   All of them.

About the Interviewee:

J. Lincoln Fenn began her horror career in the 7th grade when she entertained her friends at a sleepover by telling them the mysterious clanking noise (created by the baseboard heater) was in fact the ghost of a woman who had once lived in the farmhouse, forced to cannibalize her ten children during a particularly bad winter.  Strangely, it was the last slumber party she was allowed to have.  The author graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of New Hampshire, and lives in Hawaii with her family.

About the Interviewer:
Scott Lefebvre can write about whatever you want him to write about.
Mostly because when he was grounded for his outlandish behavior as a hyperactive school child, the only place he was allowed to go was the public library.
His literary tastes were forged by the works of Helen Hoke, Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, and H. P. Lovecraft.
He is the author of Spooky Creepy Long Island, and a contributing author to Forrest J. Ackerman’s Anthology of the Living Dead, Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction, The Call of Lovecraft, and Cashiers du Cinemart.
He is currently working on ten novel-length book projects which will be released in 2014.
He also publishes themed collections of interviews from his interview blog You Are Entitled To My Opinion.
His reviews have been published by a variety of in print and online media including Scars Magazine, Icons of Fright, Fatally Yours and Screams of Terror, and he has appeared in Fangoria, Rue Morgue and HorrorHound Magazine.
He is the Assistant Program Director for The Arkham Film Society and produces electronic music under the names Master Control and LOVECRAFTWORK.
He is currently working on a novel-length expansion of a short-story titled, "The End Of The World Is Nigh", a crowd-funded, crowd-sourced, post-apocalyptic, zombie epidemic project.
Check out the blog for the book here:
Check out the Facebook Fan Page for the project here:
Check his author profile at:
Follow him at GoodReads here:
Check out his publishing imprint Burnt Offerings Books here:
And here:
Check out his electronic music here:
And here:
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Check out his IMDB profile here:
Follow his Twitter here: or @TheLefebvre
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Join the group for The Arkham Film Society here:
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