Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Interview with John F.D. Taff

Full Name:
     John F.D. Taff.
     You can guess about the F and the D.  Fucking dumbass.  Frightfully droll.  Fracking demented.  Whatever.
     Seriously though, what does the “F.D.” stand for? Franklin Delano?
     I'll give ya one.  Damian.  Yes, really.

Do you have a nickname?

     St. Louis, MO 

Current hometown:
     Rural St. Louis, MO

Favorite city:
     New York City and Nashville
     What’s so great about New York City and Nashville?
     Hmmm…if I didn't have kids, I'd have moved to New York long ago.  I love the hustle and bustle of it, the bigness of it, the overwhelmingness of it.  It's like being in the center of everything.  Nashville reminds me of the better parts of St. Louis, with an extra heaping helping of Southern charm.

     Winter Solstice, 1963…Nearly 50

How would you describe yourself physically?
     Fat, fat, fatty, fat.

How would someone else describe you physically?
     Raymond Burr.  Orson Welles on a bad day.
     I just remember you being big.   Like a refrigerator big.   I guess the comparison is apt since both you and a refrigerator have a lot food in them.

The first thing people notice about you is…
     My bald head.

Hair Color/Eye Color/Race?
     None, Hazel, White to Nearly Transparent.

Sexual orientation?

Religion, if any?
     None.  Spiritual, believe in a God, just not a Christian/Hebrew/Islamic one.

Are you superstitious at all?   Do you smoke/drink?   If so, what?   Any bad habits?
     Superstitious?  No.  Regularly stitious?  Yes.  Smoke cigars sometimes, but cigarettes, no.  Never been into smoking all that much… legal or otherwise.  But really, it should all be legal.  Bad habits?  Eating.  Sarcasm.  I used to be addicted to Alka Seltzer… a quart of it a night.  And that's absolutely true.  But that's a lot of salt.
     Why Alka Seltzer? Indigestion?
     You know, the short answer is I don't know.  Early in my career, I worked at an ad/pr agency.  These places are well known chewers-up and spitters-out of young dreams.  I aged there, lost my hair, got an angry ulcerous stomach.  Probably started then, but then I got to like the taste or the non-taste of the stuff, and it became a whacky habit, good for cocktail party conversations and interviews like this.

Current occupation/Dream job:
     Unemployed, trying to make this writing thing pay off.  Unfortunately for my creditors, this is the dream job.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work? 
     Read.  Listen to music.  Hang out with my fiancée and the pugs.  Garden.

What is your zombie outbreak survival plan?

Weapon of choice:
     Automatic shotgun.
     Good choice.

Do you have any special skills?
     Ummm…I have a great voice.  Taking some voiceover classes this fall to see if I can put it work.
     Oh shit.   That’s great!   Might be able to line you up with some work.   I’ll keep you in mind and keep you posted.
     Whoo-hoo! Potential first clients!

Did you go to college and, if so, what for?
     Maryville here in St. Louis.  English major, writing and history minors.  Very useful in the real world, all that.
     Did you manage to pay off your student loans?
     Umm…without necessarily bragging, I did well in high school.  Well enough to secure a major national scholarship award…that I immediately turned down to stay at home and go to school here.  Girlfriend.  Regretful decision.  But I got all sorts of money thrown at me, and left school with only about $3k in loans, which I believe were paid off 25 or so years ago.

Any pets?   If so, what are they and what are their names?
     I have three pugs.  Sylvia, Sadie and Tovah.  They are all awesome.

What is your favorite animal?
     I'd love to get a bulldog.  But I am assured that three dogs is the current limit.
     Plus the big dog might eat the little ones.
     Perhaps.  Pugs look as if they might be delicious.
     I wouldn’t say in print that I always wondered what they might taste like, but…

Speaking of pets, any pet peeves?
     Douchebags of any type, color or persuasion.  People who treat other people in a way that they feel they can get away with.  Purposeful stupidity.  Reality TV.

Favorite/Least favorite Food: Favorite food:
     Fried Chicken.  The smell alone makes me drool.  Least favorite:  Peas. The smell alone makes me want to hurl.
     I love good fried chicken, but I can’t afford it very often so I usually buy frozen boxes of fried chicken from Banquet.   I buy the “skinless” variety because if you’re going to actually eat a frozen boxed fried chicken on purpose you may as well try to stay healthy.
     Excellent point.  Otherwise go for Popeye's.  Or KFC in a pinch.

What is your favorite quotation/motto/saying?
     "I am a part of everything that I have read." - Theodore Roosevelt

What is the best thing that ever happened to you?
     Meeting my fiancée, Deb.  Awww, isn't that sweet?
     That is sweet.   I’m jealous.   She have a sister?
     Yes, married.  And she is sweet.  Very supportive of the writing thing, which Evil Wife #1 wasn't.  So that's a big plus.  Having someone who believes in you and is willing to back that up is powerful.
     That’s really what I’m looking for in a woman. There’s nothing like having someone you know will always be on your side unless you completely fuck them over.

What is the worst thing that ever happened to you?
     Meeting—and then marrying—my first wife.  Bitter?  Yes.
     Why did you end up getting divorced?   If you’re bitter, vent.   It’s cathartic.
     Oh, too much to go into here.  Let's just say some people turn very vindictive.

Ever had your heart broken?
     Sure, who hasn't?
     Kind of looking for a story here.   Care to elaborate?
     Well, unrequited love is a current that runs through a lot of my writing.  I mean, there's no one story here, sorry, but I think it's hard to feel as if you've loved someone who didn't love you back enough.  In a way, that's worse than loving someone and not having the feelings returned at all.
     Not to be cliché and I can’t remember where I read it, but “There’s two tragedies in life. Not getting what you always wanted and the other is getting it.” or something like that.

Ever broken someone’s heart?
     Sure, who hasn't?
     Again, kind of looking for a story here.   Care to elaborate?
     Hell, I don't know.  I'm guessing that I have, but who knows?  If I did, it was totally not on purpose.  I mean, who doesn't love to be loved?

What is the best thing you’ve ever done?
     I dunno…I suppose it's not for me to judge.

What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?
     Hmmm…probably being douchey myself the first half of my life.

If you could kill one person, consequence free, who would it be?
     Why give the state advance evidence?
     Elegant dodge.
And masterful, should certain people start turning up all dead and shit.

How did you get started doing what you do?
     I used to write little mystery stories back in grade school.  I then wrote little scifi pastiches in high school, starring my friends…and enemies.  That ultimately led to me writing short stories, which I then submitted, which brings us to this lovely interview.
     Indeed it does.

What is your advice to other people that want to get started doing what you do?
     Write.  Quitcher bitching and write. Every day.  Show it to people.  Edit it.  Submit it.  Get frustrated.  Learn your craft.  Write some more.  Edit some more.  Submit some more.  And read…always read.  Read the kind of stuff you want to write, but read way beyond that, too.
    Good advice.   That’s my advice for people that ask me how to get their work in print too.
     Yeah, unfortunately, it falls into the area of advice that people don't want to hear.  Like just stop eating and exercise to lose weight.  Well, who wants to do that shit?  I had an interview last year where I put out there that talent… at least a modicum of talent… was necessary to succeed at any skill—baseball, playing the cello, fleecing people on Wall Street.  Whatever.  You can't imagine the outrage—THE OUTRAGE!!—elicited by that comment.  Whaddaya mean, talent?  Hard work and persistence is enough to make it work.  Umm… yes, this is important, vital I might say.  But if you can't play the cello, really have no talent at it, all the persistence and hard work aren't going to get you far.  And there's really little that can be done about talent or the lack thereof.

What projects are you working on?
     I've got a collection of novellas I'm working on right now with a well-known industry editor.  I'm also about 40% done with a new novel.  And short stories…all the time short stories.
     All the time.   All day, every day!
     24-7 man…well, at least it feels like it.  I've really had good luck with my shorts, to the point where I'm constantly selling out of them.  Then, I have to stop what I'm doing and write a few more.  I know, it's a great problem to have, in the realm of writer's little problems.
     “Aw, boo hoo! My name is John Taff and I’m constantly selling all of the stuff I write!” *laughs*

What are you watching?
     I don't have a TV.  Not because I'm a dirty hippy or too hip for TV, just live where I'd have to have cable, and it's a bill I can do without right now.  Besides, as far as I can see, there's nothing on I'd be interested in, especially with the end of Breaking Bad.

What are you listening to?
     When I write, I listen to classical, instrumental music.  Lyrics screw me up when I'm trying to write.  Otherwise, I'm really into Guster right now.  And, as always, much to the consternation of the fiancée, The Alan Parsons Project.
     I like to listen to instrumental music too.   Usually of a variety that compliments the theme of the work I’m working on.   I wrote a whole novel listening to Through Silver In Blood by Neurosis.
     Yeah, something that sets the mood for me.  We met at Contamination here in St. Louis, what, 4 or 5 years ago.  I remember you let me download some of your music library, and I found a few pieces I really like to write to, like the soundtrack to Hell House.
     I’m always down for sharing music. Glad that some of the stuff I dumped on you helped!

What are you reading?
     Right now, Dr. Sleep by somebody or another.
     I hope it’s worth the effort.   I’ve been waiting for somebody or another to write another good book for a while.
     It's…ummm…well, a little slow for being about 200 pages in, but that's OK so far, as long as there's some payoff.  I like King, a lot, but he's hit and miss, at least for me.
     He was the figurative king for me until after his accident. I think that maybe some of the writing got knocked out of him for a while there but I enjoyed Cell.

Favorite author/book?
     Peter Straub and Stephen R. Donaldson are my favorites.  The Throat is my favorite novel, with the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant coming in second.  I also like King, Robert Silverberg, Clive Barker, Jack Vance, Neil Gaiman, and Tolkien.

Favorite band/song?
     The Alan Parsons Project, Tom Petty, Oingo Boingo, Guster among others.  Favorite song?  Shit, I dunno.  There are quite a few.

Least favorite band/song?
     Don't like Disco or dance music.  I guess the BeeGees would be right up there as sonic poison to me.  Most current music—Britney, Gaga, Kanye, Bieber, Beyonce, Swift, Cyrus, etc.—is awful, truly awful.

Desert Island Music/Movies/Books: You know the deal. Five of each.
     OK.  Music:  Eve by Alan Parsons, Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, Wildflowers by Tom Petty, Dark at the End of the Tunnel by Oingo Boingo, Keep it Together, Guster.  Books:  The Throat by Peter Straub, Night Shift by Stephen King, Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, The Face of the Waters by Robert Silverberg, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson.  Movies:  La Belle et le Bête by Jean Cocteau, Sideways, Blazing Saddles, Monty Python & the Holy Grail, Wyatt Earp by Kevin Costner.

If you could do anything other than what you do now, what would you do?
     I'd probably be a vet or something.  I love animals. They're often better than people.
     Totally eye-to-eye on that one.

Who would you want to meet that you haven’t met?
     Love to meet Peter Straub or Stephen King or Stephen R. Donaldson or Robert Silverberg.  Love to meet Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill.

You get three choices:  Alive.   Dead.    Fictional.
     Fictional.  And I hope for a good author who has my best intentions at heart.
     I have to work on that question as it was supposed to read, “Who would you want to meet that you haven’t met? You get three choices: Alive.   Dead.    Fictional.” But you answered it well and I think I fixed it.
     Ahhh, well, it reads OK to me, even though I didn’t immediately discern your intent.

What’s the best and worst job you’ve ever had?
     Best is writing…so far.  Worst…umm, well, I had to sweep a plant out at night for about a year.  Just monotonous, nothing too dreadful.  And I fear I didn't do a great job.
     What do you like about writing?
     It's god-like, at its essence, isn't it?  I mean, you're the little god of your writing, creating worlds, making people, putting them in situations, seeing how they react.  Making them fall in love, hurt, die.  It's the ultimate for a control freak.  Aside from that, which is very real for me, I love the solitude of it, the me-ness of it.  I mean, too many things these days are created by committee.  Coming from corporate America where I worked for many years, it's rare that anything really good comes out of a committee.  So, it's trite, I suppose, to think of the lonely writer scribbling away in his garret, but there it is.  I kinda like that.  And I really get jazzed when people tell me they like what I've written, that they get it.  That it moved them or entertained them or whatever.  Getting that kind of feedback is wonderful.

Anyone you recommend I interview that you can put me in touch with?
     Erik T. Johnson is one of my favorite peers.  A hella good writer and a nice guy.
     Cool!   Send me his contact info and let him know I’m coming.   Introduce us or what have you.
     I will do that in a separate e-mail.  He's cool.  You'll like him.
     Looking forward to it.

Got any questions for me?
     Yeah, what the hell are you writing these days?
     A lot.   Primarily I’m working on a novel-length expansion of my post-apocalyptic zombie epidemic short story “Whimper: A story about the birds and the bees and zombies and the end of the world as we know it.” from Forrest J Ackerman's The Anthology of the Living Dead [ / ].   When I gave a copy to Jerry Chandler from Synapse Films [ ] he read it that night and the next day he asked me where the rest of it was.   I didn’t know what he meant as I had never thought about writing a novel-length expansion of the world I had described as I was pretty happy with it as a stand-alone story, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea about writing a novel-length project in that world.   I liked the world as it existed in my mind.   It’s taken me around six years to get around to getting started on the project, but now that I’ve decided to run with it, I want to do an end-run around the usual “submit to a publisher and wait” process and try to get the book directly to the potential fan base through print-on-demand and viral promotion through social networking.   I’ve also been less than impressed with the back-end compensation I’ve received from publishers for the work I have in print.   I know that no one’s getting rich, but it would be nice to be able to support myself by writing.   For my four anthology contributions I received author copies as compensation for three of them and a $25 check for the fourth.   For my first book, Spooky Creepy Long Island, I received an initial royalty pay-out for around $800, which the publisher sent me as a receipt for in exchange for the case of my books I picked up from their warehouse, but all told I’ve received about $1,200 for my first book.   Not bad.   But $1,200 for six months of work isn’t a living wage.   That’s why I’m trying to use crowd-funding to put a little money behind the project before I’m all in and spend the time to write the whole thing and deal with the frustration of trying to pitch the finished project to a publisher.   Additionally I’m offering contributors to the crowd-funding campaign the opportunity to be written in as principal characters so there’s a crowd-sourcing element to it to.   Response to the campaign has been decent but I still have a while to go before I meet my goal.   I’m shooting for $2,500 which is completely attainable if I can get fifty people to contribute at the character level at fifty bucks a piece.   You can check out the links to the blog and the campaign including sample chapters in my “About the Interviewer” section at the end.
     As a paying gig, writing sucks.  I'm eking—and I do mean eking—out a substandard living from the modest success I'm having, but it's tough.  I'm very interested in crowd sourcing.  A number of authors I know are trying it out, with some success.  So I'll be interested to see where you go with it.  I very much liked your story in The Anthology of the Living Dead, and see clearly how it could be a fleshed out into a longer work…so to speak.  Good luck with it!  And let me know.

Pitch parade: Give me all of your links for things you want to promote.   All of them.
Twitter: @johnfdtaff
Little Deaths, my collection of short horror fiction,
The Bell Witch, my latest historical ghost story novel,
Kill/Off, a thriller, will be out in November 2013.

     Tell me more about Little Deaths and The Bell Witch.
     Can send you copies so that I can review them for my book review site?
     Little Deaths was my first short story collection in 20+ years of writing.  I sold it to Books of the Dead, and they did a great job of producing a first-rate book.  It features 19 stories, some new, some reprints, with a fantastic cover.  It's been extremely well-reviewed; one reviewer with HorrorTalk named it the No. 1 horror collection of 2012.  It made it to the Stoker Recommended Reading List, and has gone on to be a bestseller for Books of the Dead.
     This year, I signed a two-book deal with Books of the Dead.  The first book, The Bell Witch, came out in August to some terrific reviews.  It's basically a fictionalized account of a poltergeist case that happened here in America in Tennessee during the 1820s.
     I will send e-books, if you'd like.  I'm out of copies of Little Deaths, and The Bell Witch isn't out in paperback yet…probably in the next week or two.
     Sweet! Looking forward to reading them! Thanks!

     Always nice having the chance to chat with you.
     We’ll have to do it in person next time I’m out your way or you’re out mine.
     Thanks for being the first interviewee to test drive this weird new machine.
     Tell Heather I say “Hello.” and send my regards.

     Great talking with you, too, Scott.  Best of luck with your endeavors.  Stay in touch.  And I will pass along your regards to Heather.  She just got engaged and is getting married next year…on Halloween I believe.  As if you couldn't have guessed that.
     Of course she is. She’s a good kid and deserves good things in this life.

About the Interviewee:
     John F.D. Taff has more than 70 stories in publication in such markets as Cemetery Dance, Deathrealm, Big Pulp, One Buck Horror, Hot Blood: Fear the Fever, Hot Blood: Seeds of Fear, and Shock Rock II.  Six of my shorts have been selected as honorable mentions in Ellen Datlow's Year’s Best anthologies over the years.  Recent sales have been to Postscripts to Darkness, Shades of Blue & Gray, Edge of Sundown and Horror Library V.  My collection of short stories, Little Deaths, has been well reviewed, made it to the Stoker Reading List and managed to crack the Top 100 Paid Kindle at Amazon. My latest novel, The Bell Witch, was just released by Books of the Dead Press. A thriller, Kill/Off, is coming in October.

About the Interviewer:
     Scott Lefebvre has probably read everything you've read and 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.
     His reviews have been published by a variety of in print and online media including Scars Magazine, Icons of Fright, Fatally Yours and Scream 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.
     You can check out the blog for the book here:
     You can check out the Facebook Fan Page for the project here:
     You can check his author profile at:
     You can follow him at GoodReads here:
     You can check out his electronic music here:
     You can check out his videos at:
     You can check out his IMDB profile here:
     You can follow his Twitter here:
     You can follow his Tumblr here:
     You can check out his Etsy here:
     You can join the group for The Arkham Film Society here:
     You can stalk his Facebook at:
     You can contact him at:

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