Friday, January 3, 2014

Interview with Sylvan Kills.

Full Name:
Sylvan Kills

Do you have a nickname or what do your friends call you?
My given name is Joseph Casrell Douglas Jr.  A lot of my friends call me Joe.  I had my name legally changed to Sylvan Kills this past year, but it’s a hard change for people who have known you for a long time as a different name.  I answer to Joe, Joseph, Sylvan, or Syl.
So, forgive if I offend, but the obvious question is “Why did you change your name to Sylvan Kills?”  It shouldn’t come as a surprise.  You really should’ve seen that question coming.  And, as a second question, is it hard getting your name legally changed?  Do you get a new social security number?  Do your driving record and your criminal history disappear?
I feel like the name better suits my personality.  Additionally, I feel like the person who writes my books is a different person than what people see in my everyday life.  Over time, feel like the writer in me has become the larger part of my personality, and as such I wanted him to have his own identity.  I don’t like the idea of having someone else’s name, since I was a Junior.  I want to have my own legacy and to create my own story.
Yes, it is very difficult to get your name legally changed.  You have to write up your own legal documents after spending hours researching.  They don’t provide any application or instructions for it.  You have to get your fingerprints done at the police station, and pay a fee.  You then have to order state and federal background checks, and pay for those.  Next, you have to petition the court, and pay a fee.  At the same time you have to post a notice of intent at the court house.  You have to get an original copy of your birth certificate, and pay a fee.  After 14 days you go back and submit more information.  After about a month or so a decision is made; so you then go back again to pick up the paperwork.  Then you have to change your birth certificate, and pay a fee.  Then you change your social security card, which is the only free part.  Then change your driver’s license, and pay a fee.  It has been almost a year and I’m just now finishing up the process.  Every step has tons of paperwork, and a lot of it has to be done in person.  You keep the same social security number, and all of your driving and criminal history stay the same.  It is the biggest pain in the ass I’ve ever experienced, and very expensive.
I admire your perseverance and I truly hope it was worth it.
Totally worth it.

Greensboro, North Carolina

Current hometown:
Greensboro, NC

Favorite city and why?
Charleston, SC.  Good food, strong drinks, great atmosphere and music… and did I mention really, really good food?  Go check out the Tattooed Moose.
Next time I’m around those parts I’ll make a point to.

Birthday / Age:
April 28th, 1982

How would you describe yourself physically?
Super-Hot and Sexy.

How would someone else describe you physically?
Hairy and in need of some Cardio.

The first thing people notice about you is… 
Probably my tattoos, I have a lot.  Full left arm sleeve dedicated to “The Raven” by Poe, half right leg sleeve (Buddhist Theme), full back piece (Raging Bull Head), and a couple others.  I also have uniquely shaped eyes, and large gauges in my ears.
Do people ask you if you’re Asian?
Nah, but I’ve been accused of being high many times when I was totally sober, even by my parents when I was younger.
That’s hilarious!
Your parents: “Are you high?”
You: “Are you serious?  Have you been paying attention?  This is how my eyes have always been.”
Yep, pretty much.   When I was high they just thought I was sleepy.  *laughs*

Sexual orientation?
I love the ladies. I’m straight.  I like everybody though.  I think all people are great.  People should have sex with whoever they want.  I’ve gone to gay clubs with gay friends in the past.  It was a blast.  I don’t want to have sex with a dude, but that doesn’t mean you can’t dance and have fun with a group of friends. As long as it’s consensual it’s all good in my opinion.
I totally agree.  And people can say what they want about the gays, but they can’t say they don’t know how to party.  Because gays really know how to party.
Gay people are awesome to party with.  There is rarely any drama or bullshit, just dancing, drinking, and fun.

Religion, if any?
None.  I sometimes reply Atheist, and that I study Buddhist philosophy.  Many people are uneducated about what that means though, and they assume it is bad or that I’m “evil.”  I’ve learned to avoid that topic for the most part in random conversation.  I just believe in being good to people.

Are you superstitious at all? Any phobias?
I’m not superstitious, but I do believe in karma to some extent.  I don’t care for spiders and maggots.  I also don’t like sharks, but I still swim in the ocean anyway.
Statistically speaking, you’re more likely to die from being bitten by a cow or being struck by frozen waste falling from a plane.  You might as well enjoy the ocean.  Whatever’s gonna happen’s gonna happen.

I study statistics a lot.  I know that a fear of sharks is silly, but that’s why it’s a phobia.  It’s totally irrational, but it’s still there.  The rational part of my brain overrides though, because I love swimming in the ocean so much.  If a shark eats me, oh well.  I hope I taste bad.

Do you smoke/drink? If so, what? Any bad habits? 
Yes.  I enjoy wine and beer a lot, and I smoke cigarettes (Although my new year’s resolution will be to quit the cigs).  I don’t do any drugs. I have done more than my fair share in my 20’s.  I don’t care if people do drugs though, as long as they don’t hurt anyone while they are on them.  I’m not saying that drugs are “good,” but rather that people should be free to decide what they do with their own bodies, as long as they don’t hurt other people.
The key to quitting smoking is replacing it with something else, and drinking a lot of water.  My advice is, every time you want a cigarette, do ten push-ups.  Twenty if ten’s too easy.  It’s good for you, and you’re building upper body strength and if you do enough push-ups it tires you out, and you get a little shot of endorphins which is really what you’re looking for when you smoke.
That’s good advice.  I’m going to try that.

Current occupation / Dream job: 
Full time writer… this is my current job, and my dream job.
How did you pull it off?  Was it a certain number of books or a certain monthly royalty that made you decide, “Well, this is what I do now.”?
I started a writing and editing company named Whatta Production LLC.  When I got to the point that I had so many contracts that I was actually losing money by going to my day job, I decided it was time to start writing full time.  Unfortunately, a lot of the writing is ghost writing, web content, marketing material, or editing work.  I get very little if any recognition for that stuff.  I recently converted Whatta Production LLC into a publishing company.  I have only released one novel, Rotten Legend, at this point.  However I have another novel that will be released in the next 6 months, along with a variety of other projects.
That’s interesting.  I do a fair amount of ghost writing too, when I can strike up the work.  I’ve taken a break from that kind of work because my last ghost writing client was impossible to work with.  She wouldn’t just let me take her screenplay outline and just go off and write it so we’d spend hours on the phone with her writing over my shoulder.  It was an awful idea, and she didn’t really want to work on it.  Every page was like wringing blood from a stone.  When I couldn’t take it any more I told her that I didn’t think I was really helping her and that if she didn’t want to work on the project she should take some time off and contact me when she felt like working on the project again.  It was like I was breaking up with someone I’d never met in person.  That was the hardest ten dollars an hour I ever earned.
A lot of people seem to not understand that a writer has to be paid for their interactions, their research, etc.  It's not just the physical typing part.  I've had some pretty difficult clients as well.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work? 
Write…LOL….I love my job.  I am also a big movie buff.  I watch a movie when I am burned out from writing almost every day.  It’s relaxing to me.
I like to watch films or listen to music while writing.  For films, it has to be something I’ve seen a hundred times before and know by heart or in a foreign language I don’t know with the subtitles off.  For music it has to be instrumental or with the vocals so fucked up that it’s practically instrumental.  Unfamiliar movies that I have to pay attention to or music with lyrics distracts me, but I need something to take my mind off of the claustrophobia of being locked into a writing bender every now and then or I freak out and have to go for a walk just to get some fresh air and see something natural after staring at my laptop screen for the better part of the day.
I do that sometimes too.  A lot of times I’ll put Family guy on streaming netflix, and just let it be background noise.  I’ve seen all the episodes dozens of times, so I’m not really paying attention, but I know what you mean.  I frequently get up from the computer and walk around the house for no reason, just to end up sitting back down again.  I just have to break up staring at the screen all day.  I’ll walk outside sometimes and smoke a few puffs of a cigarette, just as an excuse to go outside, then put it out and go back to writing.

What is your zombie outbreak survival plan?
Run faster than them and drive to the mountains.  I don’t think you can really have a “plan.”  I know that’s contrary to a lot of zombie thought, but I think you just have to be smart and not take unnecessary risks.  You have to be able to adapt to any environment, because you never know what is going to happen.  Hand to hand combat should be a last resort, not a preference.  Viruses spread way too easy to be bashing skulls with a baseball bat and splattering bodily fluids everywhere.  Having clean bottled water is top priority for any survival situation.  After that, I think owning a gun and ammo is the best preparation.  Next would be have a good gutting/fillet knife, a backpack with some non-perishable food, first-aid kit and antibiotics, waterproof lighter, flashlight, really just lightweight common sense stuff like if you were to be lost in the wilderness.  If you’ve got those basics you can get out of town quick, and then scavenge/hunt for whatever else you need once you are out of the city.
You and my room-mate would get along famously when the shit hits the fan.
Send him my way when it does.  Ha ha!

Weapon of choice:
1911 .45 ACP handgun with hollow-point bullets.  I also like a 30.06 rifle with a scope for those far away shots.

Do you have any special skills?
I have played the fiddle since I was 8 years old.  I also play guitar, bass guitar, and drums (poorly).  In terms of survival I have trained to a moderate level in Tae Kwon Do and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and I am a pretty good marksman with both handguns and rifles.  I’ve also studied and read a lot of wilderness survival techniques.  That has intrigued me since I was a little kid.
I always tried to get into survival stuff.  I used to buy guidebooks for identifying edible and poisonous plants but I was always rubbish at it.  Always meaning to get out there and hike and practice identifying plants and trees but never seeming to find the time for it.  I’ve always been jealous of people that know how to identify birds and trees and plants and I think that if I lie long enough to retire, that’s what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.

Did you go to college and, if so, what for? 
University of North Carolina Greensboro – BA in Humanities (Literature Concentration) and a minor in Business Management.

If you went to college, did you manage to pay off your student loans? 
I’m 2 classes short of graduating, so it’s not an issue yet.  I had a scholarship that paid for most of my college education.

Any pets?   If so, what are they and what are their names? 
I have a pet Uromaxtyx lizard named Atticus who has lived with me for over 10 years now.
Named after Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird?
Yes.  That is also the name of a very essential character in my Novel.

What is your favorite animal?
Atticus the lizard, of course.  I love elephants as well.

Speaking of pets, any pet peeves?
I despise when people give me life advice when their own lives are shitty.  Also, financial advice from people who are bankrupt or can’t pay their own bills.
Coincidentally, I am totally one of those people.  Although my advice about how to quit cigarettes is pretty sound.  I’ve kicked the habit for years at a time, but always returned to it when my life got too shitty.
I quit smoking 7 years ago, but picked it up again this past year for the same reason.  My life took a bad turn, and for some reason cigarettes became appealing again.
It’s because it’s a little self-destructive boost.  It also helps to re-balance the equilibrium of your neurochemistry.  That’s why it’s so hard to quit for some people.  If you’re predisposed to becoming addicted to smoking, you’ll become addicted.  Same thing with alcohol or marijuana.  Everyone finds the drug that works for them.

Favorite / Least favorite Food:
Favorite would be Maine Lobster, fresh off the boat at a Lobster Pound in Maine.  Tied with that would probably be either salmon roe or Uni.  Least favorite would be olives…they make me gag.

What is the best thing that ever happened to you? 
I met my best friend and editor, Bonnie Glenn.  She has been a constant source of advice and support over the past two years as I wrote Rotten Legend.

What is the worst thing that ever happened to you? 
There are too many to pick just one.  I’ve had some really tough times and been really poor.  I remember having to eat stale hotdog buns with Italian dressing for dinner because I couldn’t even afford Ramen noodles.  Having to skip multiple meals, or having to cook improvised soup from leftovers outside on a fire because of nowhere to stay when the power went out.  Most of them are related to being really poor and working really long hours at horrendous jobs, and still not being able to pay the bills.
I’ve been homeless a couple times, so I can definitely relate.  I don’t trust anyone that doesn’t have a favorite flavor of ramen noodles and that’s a fact.
I’ve told people that I’ve been poor and most people say they have too, or they have struggled.  I ask them if they ever had to wonder if they would be able to eat the next day, and they say no.  They haven’t been poor.

Ever had your heart broken? Is there a story worth telling behind your answer? Yes, and it’s a story I don’t tell.

Ever broken someone’s heart? Is there a story worth telling behind your answer? Yes, and that’s also a closely related story that I also don’t tell.

What is the best thing you’ve ever done? 
Finish my novel, Rotten Legend.

What is the worst thing you’ve ever done? 
I don’t want to go to prison…so I’ll pass on that one.
Pleading the fifth?   That’s fair, and a popular answer.
The fifth it is.

If you could kill one person, consequence free, who would it be and why?
I don’t want to kill anyone.  There some people that I think need a punch in the nose on occasion though.  There are even some people that I feel deserve to die, like rapists, murderers, and child molesters.  However, I don’t feel that I am the person to make that decision or to take action, unless I am defending myself or my family/friends.

What do you do?
I write primarily psychological horror fiction, with a genre-bending twist of sci-fi and thriller elements.  I focus on writing very realistic and scientifically plausible horror so that the reader goes to bed believing it might really happen.
That’s my favorite kind, at least the last part.  I managed to get out from under most of my childhood bogeymen by convincing myself that falling prey to them wasn’t likely.  I don’t live near Camp Crystal Lake, so I don’t have to worry about Jason Voorhees.  That’s why  also like to write realistic psychological horror.  Vampires and werewolves and creatures from the black lagoon are fun and hold a special place in my heart, but I can’t say that I’ve ever really been scared by any films of that genre.
Yeah I agree.  Even as a child the monsters weren’t what scared me.  It was serial killers, house fires, drowning, animal attacks, etc.  Those are seriously scary things.

How did you get started doing what you do? 
I started writing to create song lyrics to go with music I was writing when I was a kid.  It eventually transitioned from lyrics to poetry, and then later into short stories, then finally full length fiction novels.  I’ve always liked horror, so I just naturally leaned in that direction with my writing.
Same thing for me!  I used to write awful gothic poetry, then songs for the bands I was in, learning to play with rhythm and feet and rhyming, then I got invited to submit short stories to a few anthologies.  Then a book.  Now I’m writing for myself and hoping to self-publish my way into gaining the attention of an editor so I can get a decent book deal.   Actually, now that I think of it, I wrote a full-length book before I wrote the short stories, but I guess I was lucky that way.  If my publisher was a bit more generous about sharing the wealth as opposed to keeping a stable of authors and using them as book-whores I’d probably be happily pumping out regional paranormal books at about the rate of one a month to this day, but I definitely got the short end of the stick on that deal.  But it got my name into print, and I made a little money so I got to call myself a “professional” author, I learned how to write a book, and it opened a lot of doors so I’m not really that bitter about the whole thing.

What is your advice to other people that want to get started doing what you do? 
Just keep writing no matter what, if you love doing it.  Don’t get discouraged and don’t give up.  Listen to constructive criticism, and use what is helpful, but don’t think that everyone is right either.  There will always be someone who thinks you should be doing something better with your life.  Tell them to go fuck themselves.  The more you write, the better you will get.  The more you read, the better you will write.  It is a lifestyle choice that you have to really dedicate yourself to if you want to be good.
I always say that constructive criticism is more valuable than complementary compliments.
That being said, I never really understand “aspiring” authors.
If you want to be an author, write a fucking book.
It’s the first and only step but also the most difficult one, but no one said it was easy.
If it was easy, everyone would do it, and they do, but usually don’t do it well.
I feel like everything I write is a little better than the one before.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be a “great” writer.  I do know that if I give up on it, I’ll never find out.  Maybe I will be great one day.  I know that people enjoy my writing, enough that they will spend their hard-earned money on it, so that is encouraging.

What are some of the projects you’ve worked on/finished in the past? Give us a little history if you will. 
Of course I recently completed Rotten Legend. I also completed a short mystery story titled Living in Style, and a short Sci-fi / Horror story titled Worm.  Both of the latter have been sent for publication in magazines recently, but have not yet been released. 
Cool!  Keep me posted and I’ll check ‘em out.

What projects are you working on now?
I’m working on my second novel, titled Dormant.  It will be a Horror / Sci-fi and should be released mid-2014.  I am also working on a compilation of poetry, a collection of short stories, two children’s books, and a sequel for Rotten Legend.

What are you watching?
I love standup-comedy, cartoons like South Park, Family Guy, and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and of course good quality psychological Horror flicks.
Favorite stand-up comics?
I really like shocking/foul comedy.  I’d have to say Josh Blue, Daniel Tosh, Robin Williams, Aziz Ansari, Louis C.K., Richard Pryor, George Carlin, and many others.  That is one artistic venue that seems to be really surging with great performers lately.

What are you listening to?
I listen to a little bit of everything.  Mostly Hip-Hop/Rap, Grunge Rock, and folk/bluegrass.

What are you reading? 
I’m currently reading “Central Outbreak Response: Genesis - A Tale of the Zombie Apocalypse.”  It is the first novel from an indie author named RJ Kennett with whom I recently became friends.
Weird.  He said that he’s reading your book.  Do you two have some kind of cross-promotional pact?
Lol!  Nah.  We just happened to meet online when we were discussing our experiences with indie writing and publishing.  He has become a friend, and so we exchanged books about the same time in order to critique one another and give advice about what we learn about book promotion.  It’s fun to have someone who can relate to the process, and share advice.

Favorite author / book?
Edgar Allen Poe.
A man after my own tell-tale heart.

Favorite band / song?

Least favorite band / song? 
I don’t like to call out people, because music is subjective.  There are bands that I hate listening to, but I still know they are talented musicians.  My tastes have also changed over the years.  Because of that I can’t really say. 

If you could do anything other than what you do now, what would you do?
Be a professional alcoholic beverage taster on a beach in Hawaii.
I’m not sure that’s a thing.
Hey, probably not.  But if somebody will pay me to do it then I’m down.
In that case I want to be in charge of quality control at The Bunny Ranch.
I didn’t think about that one.  You might have chosen a better job than me.

Who would you want to meet that you haven’t met? You get three choices:
Alive. Dead. Fictional.
Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Dalai Lama

What’s the best and worst job you’ve ever had?
The best is writing fiction, the worst was sewage cleanup.

Are there any questions that I didn’t ask that you wished I had asked that you would like to answer now?
Anyone you recommend I interview that you can put me in touch with?
RJ Kennett.  You can contact him on Facebook.
I’ve got an interview from him on my desktop waiting for a second pass edit but thanks for the recommendation nonetheless!

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:
Sylvan Kills was born in rural North Carolina in the spring of 1982. He grew up on a small farm in Julian NC, where he learned at an early age the beauty of life and death from the animals his family raised. He soon grew to see them as both friends and food. His family's farm bordered a now well-known local dairy farm which soon became a creamery. These were simpler times when you could ride up to the nearest gas station and choose your cuts of local meat from the butcher right there in the station. It was a town where you could purchase fresh milk, cream, butter, and eggs. It was an idyllic setting for a child to flourish.
Sylvan was an introspective and independent child. He enjoyed his time alone, creating. By the age of eight he was an accomplished fiddle player; having been taught by one of the masters in the style of old time music. He toured the surrounding areas, winning competitions and performing. It was then, through his love of the fiddle and music in general, that he began writing. He first began composing music with accompanying lyrics, then later developed a unique writing style that lent well to poetry, short stories, and his desire to one day complete a novel. Throughout his 20's Sylvan explored his love of writing through his studies at UNCG, along with starting his own writing and editing company, Whatta Production LLC.
He drew further inspiration from delving deep into the meaning of his wildly vibrant and often horrific nightly dreams. Always drawn towards the darker sides of literature along the lines of Edgar Allan Poe, he plunged into the murky waters of writing a horror novel. With the release of Rotten Legend, that boyhood dream has come true.

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:
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Check out his publishing imprint Burnt Offerings Books here:
And here:
Check out his electronic music here:
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Follow his Twitter here: or @TheLefebvre
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