An Interview with author Ennis Drake

Near the end of Ennis Drake’s debut novel, “28 Teeth Of Rage”, imagery overflows on every page. It’s like a film from inside the skull of a demented precog. All his thoughts are transcribed for us, the readers, to experience.

Rage…a possessed saw…the Kill Saw, drives this story. At first, there are two distinct periods of War, where one wonders where the adventure is leading. There are explicit, realistic interludes of modern war juxtaposed with domestic police squads. Things become super violent.

This leads us toward a strange and breathless last act, one I will not forget.

There is a new world of Fever Dream Horror Fiction at play here, where reality melts around us and reveals states of being and place, usually much darker than we’ve previously imagined, blend and twist. A creative paradox where the norms and social okays need to be murdered, violently, swiftly, to regain entry to the Dream. This collective has been bubbling up at the surface with writers such as Michael Louis Calvillo, Ben Ethridge, Lisa Morton, Michael Bailey, Cody Goodfellow, and others.

These works owe much to William S. Burroughs and the Beat scene, only these are draped in body parts, transformations, and a healthy stew of gore.

Oddly spiritual in quest, as the violent acts often lead to awakenings and arrivals in ‘better’ places where humanity has evolved, although into something much different than we probably ever expected.

Which leads me to Ennis.

Can you tell me a little bit about how ’28 Teeth Of Rage’ came to be?

The genesis of the story was simple enough–I wanted to experiment with a genre trope. I wanted to test thresholds and I wanted to tell a captivating story. I still couldn’t tell you if I succeeded or not, but, to me, it was the attempt that mattered. In that regard, I have found myself in a harrowing new place as a writer.

The story itself is what it claims to be: pure rage. A vitrine in which humanity at its most base–the ugly need and desperation of the id–is showcased for all to see.

How long did it take you to write it?

The better part of a year, I’d say. It began as a much shorter piece, evolving into the short novel it is now only after Kate Jonez at Omnium Gatherum Media took an interest in it.

What was its journey to publication like?

It was like Providence. 

I spent two years writing (and for all intents and purposes, immediately drawering) a series of novelettes and novellas. I wrote a few short stories, as well, but most of my focus was reserved for the longer works. Unfortunately, those are the stories hardest to sell by a relative unknown. I probably could have given them away to token markets, but that’s pretty shitty, in my opinion, so far as “options” go. But I didn’t know what else to do, so I held on to them, and kept writing. The last of these was “28 Teeth of Rage”. I sent it to a few people and the consensus seemed to be that I should self-publish due to the length. This was something I didn’t want to do. For me, publishing the book myself would have been the ultimate failure. I’m a writer, not a publisher. I think, if I’d come to the point where self-publishing was my only “option”, I would have given up the craft. I’d already spent two years (and countless hours) honing these works, after all. The responsibility for marketing would already be mine to bear (with the market being what it is in this “revolutionary” new publishing world)and that was on the slim chance I sold the book. . .did I really want to take on the added work, and expense, of publishing it, too? Enter Providence. I’d recently read an ARC of  “Idols & Cons” I’d received from Omnium Gatherum Media, and it was a fast, remarkable read, and well put-together to boot. On a whim I e-mailed the publisher and asked if she’d be interested in looking at a novella of mine. To my surprise, and delight, she was. In the end, the story had to be expanded, but I did it on contract and, best of all, I’d found someone who saw the value in what I was doing and wasn’t afraid to take a few risks. 

What do you think of this new blood—this Fever Dream Horror collective that’s brewing?

If we aren’t willing to experiment with and push the limits of the collective oeuvre, it will become stagnant. Thomas Ligotti said, “. . .the supernatural is the metaphysical counterpart of insanity–the best possible vehicle for conveying the uncanny nightmare of a conscious mind marooned for a brief while in this haunted house of a world and being slowly driven mad by the ghastliness of it all.” If there was a clear starting point where I began, it was here. And his is only one of the many way marker that’s been beaten into the earth for us to follow. . .if we are to follow the path of postmodern horror.

What do you want to do as a storyteller that you haven’t?

To create an entirely new form. That’s the harrowing place I’ve found myself;it’s all been done. The mode itself makes it unoriginal. Without gimmicks, how do we continue? There is no answer without another medium, so we are shackled. Which means, to write, to be original, we must create the illusion of being free.

I will say, in this shrinking, global community, I’d still like to write “The Great American Novel”. I don’t know what that is anymore, but if there’s any goal, for me, that’s it.

Your book pushes a lot of boundaries. There’s some neat twists of grammar and structure that reminded me of some of Charles Bukowski’s poems. Did this come naturally? What are some of your influences?

I love Bukowski. I like to think my fictionalization of Lake County was written with the same mindset and experience from which he wrote about L.A.. Cities are like stones; you have to crawl underneath them, into the uncertain dark, to know what’s really going on. I wish I could believe my approaches to form and structure were my own, but there’s nothing truly original, is there? There’s deliberate and inadvertent mimesis. Lately I’ve drawn from Machen, Blackwood, even Tolstoy. 

In this modern age, with swarms of self-published books flooding the market, and with authors paying for reviews on Amazon and such, where do you think it will be in five years? Ten? How does a new author stand out amongst this tide?

Unless you’re an established author taking advantage of an existing fan base, self-publishing is vanity publishing. Nothing more, nothing less. While a few self-published authors have managed to secure traditional contracts by taking advantage of the upheaval the e-reader, and Amazon, particularly, have caused in the last few years, the rest are simply ensuring a future where no one gets paid. Really, it’s happening already. Market trends have forced small press publishers into a place where it’s seen as necessary to give away hundreds of books in order to compete with the “Indie revolution”. How can anything good possibly come of it?  

What else have you written?

I’ve sold a handful of short fiction since I began writing for publication. Most notably, “Love: The Breath of Eagleray”, “The Dark That Keeps Her”, and “The Fishing of Dahlia”.

Readers should see the publication of my novelette, “The Day & The Hour”, later this year, with another novella and a full-length novel to follow sometime in 2013.

Where can readers find your work?

“Love: The Breath of Eagleray” can be read here:

http://www.underlandpress.com/uploads/Love.pdf

“The Horror Library, Vol.4”, which contains my short, “The Fishing of Dahlia”, can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/Horror-Library-Volume/dp/0977826260/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1346699232&sr=8-7&keywords=ennis+drake

And, my novel, “28 Teeth of Rage” can be purchased here:

http://www.amazon.com/28-Teeth-Rage-Ennis-Drake/dp/0615645291/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346699425&sr=8-1&keywords=ennis+drake

Any final words before the Great Nothing swoops down and cuts off this communication?

Well, first, thanks for having me, John. It’s been a pleasure. And I’d like to take the opportunity to, once again, thank everyone who’s supported the book. My readers, in particular; guys and gals, you’re the best.

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