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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

#27 Fred Venturini

20 Questions with Mourning Goats
Fred Venturini

A friend of mine told me about Fred and explained how nice of a guy he was and that not only that, he had a heck of a book out. Now that I've read the book and interviewed the author, I agree with both. Please read the interview and go pick up the book!

1. What comes to mind when you hear, “Mourning Goats?”

The Cubs have won the World Series, so a group of goats are standing around a flaming garbage can in a back alley, lamenting their fade into obscurity since no one will talk about the “Curse of the Billy Goat” anymore.

2. In a recent Facebook post you said that your new book is on pace to be four times longer than The Samaritan, can you tell us any more about it?

I’m jumping into a sandbox full of my favorite toys in the new book, that’s for sure. We have a young man, Ben, who is about to finish up college and has run into that “what am I going to do with my life” wall. Then he ends up becoming one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, but this doesn’t sit well with him because, by golly, he’s fallen in love. So he decides to stop the other three from unleashing the Beast and ending the world. I must add that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse do not sparkle, not ever.

3. At one point you had some traumatic spinal injury, what happened? Have you ever been inspired to write from an injury?

Oh yeah, I’ve had a ton of injuries. I’ve been in a truck that got rear-ended so hard, we ended up in some guy’s kitchen. Broke my neck in another car accident. Got burned when I was ten years old; a bully set me on fire. I’ve just had weird things happen to me—a can of corn exploded in a bonfire, hit me in the chest. Once, in high school, my desk just fell apart around me for no reason and I got skinned up pretty good. I do write from injury. For one thing, recovering from injury or being on painkillers is a great time to do some writing. And, I mean, if you’ve been on fire, you kind of owe it to your audience to write about it at some point.

4. You’re a big sports fan, who are your teams for this year?

I’m a Chicago sports guy, through and through. Upcoming NHL season, look out for the Hawks. They have a chance to get it done. There’s no NBA season so far, so I miss watching Derrick Rose play. NFL, the aging Bears are giving me a heart attack. I live in southern Illinois, so it’s St. Louis sports country, so believe me, I have a great time because these fans are passionate and they love any reason to hate on a Cubs fan. They also love squirrels.

5. I read The Samaritan on my Kindle 3, is that the same one your wife got you for your birthday? Do you love it?

I can’t believe how much I enjoy the Kindle. I never knew how much effort it took to turn pages, and it really does look like real paper. Kindle Fire is already out, so like any good electronic device, I guess our Kindle is obsolete already. But you know what? I don’t want movies or apps mixed with my books, so this Kindle shall serve me well for years to come, I’m sure.

6. What type of writing would you categorize yourself in, you hit on a lot of areas in your short stories?

I’m terrible at self-categorization, that’s for sure. I try to mix it up, stay uncomfortable, not do the same thing over and over. It’s tough because you want to revert into your comfort zone. Sometimes I pitch my stories or ideas to a friend and they’ll say, “You really are f’d up, you know?” So that’s a good category for me, “f’d up.”

7. A lot of our readers spend their time on The Cult (Chuck Palahniuk’s website) and The Velvet (Craig Clevenger, Will Christopher Baer, and Stephen Graham Jones’ site), do you think that these writing communities are changing literature?

Changing it, no. Improving the hell out of it, yes. I’ve been on those sites and talked to a lot of those writers, and quite simply, the creativity and drive is there whether or not the website or community is there—it’s just that having that outlet, that networking capacity, that feedback and support improves the work. For instance, I have no doubt that a guy like Richard Thomas (a talented guy I met via The Cult) is going to write his ass off and make good things happen, but when he has access to The Cult, it’s like literary steroids—he’s going to hit .300 because he’s a hard worker and has passion, but The Cult helps him hit .330 and slug a few more jacks.

8. What was it like doing a virtual tour? Will you do it for your next book?

I’d love to do it for my next book. One word to describe the experience—unpredictable. You never know what a certain audience is going to think of your work or how they’ll react to it, so you’ve got to be ready for anything. Be interactive, be gracious, have fun, and it’s a great experience. Can’t wait to do it again.

9. Was being contacted about the TV and movie rights to your book a crazy experience? What went down?

Crazy, indeed. The big climax was, I ended up on the phone personally talking to a producer of a couple 100 million dollar films, and we talked hockey for about the first twenty minutes. Then it was an hour of insider film talk, just a treasure-trove of information, like getting a master’s degree in film over a one-hour phone call. I’ll never forget it, that’s for sure. I found out all the reasons my book would work as a film, who might make it, and what’s working against it being made, etc. The huge bonus was that he let me pitch all my other concepts (in a follow up call) and ideas and pointed out the ones that would be the most commercial. You don’t get a chance to do that too often. Let’s just say I’m trying to not waste the capital I built up in all these interactions.

10. The Samaritan is your fourth novel, are you doing anything with your first books? Do you think you ever will?

Right now, they are collecting virtual mold in some hidden folder. I’m not sure I’ll revisit them; sometimes what’s done is done. But it’s fun to look back at the writer you used to be, before your work took a leap, just to remind yourself that it may not feel like it sometimes, but you’re getting better with every page.

11. You mention your MFA in a lot of interviews. Where did you go? Would you do it again if given the chance?

I went to Lindenwood University, and yes, the MFA was lights out awesome. I know a lot of people are getting a similar experience for less in an online workshop, but let me tell you, the friends and contacts that I made, the leap my work took, the quality of the instructors I studied under, it was just an unbelievable experience and if you’re thinking of the MFA route, just do it. You won’t regret it.

12. In one interview you said that you’re now interacting with authors that you were previously a fan of. What’s it like to get praise from your own literary heroes?

Distilled down, the feeling I get is “I do not want to disappoint them; I do not want them to take back their praise.” Once you get by the “wow this is cool” reaction, that’s the feeling I’m left with. Quite motivating and scary at the same time. Never once does my mind allow me to put myself even close to their level. Fanboy for life, so to speak.

13. You did a visiting writer series Kaskaskia College, what was that like? What did you do?

That’s in November, but I’m excited for it and I’m pretty sure it’s another opportunity to swear in public.

14. Did you go to Bouchercon in October? How was it?

Different, for me, since I’m not a mystery guy. I was a little unfamiliar with the territory, but like any good writing convention, you meet some people, catch up with some people, have a beverage, read some stuff, and walk out with a stack of great books.

15. Who’s your first reader? What do you ask for on a first read?

This might be dodging the question, but I’m my first reader. You could say I’m really insecure with my early drafts. I have a group of writing friends that I’ll ask to take a look at stuff, my publisher reads stuff, I can always hit my online avenues, but usually they get a second draft. But when I do hand it off to someone, the answer is, whoever has the free time to take a peek. My trusted readers have busy lives as well, so I don’t like to burden them.

16. Do you enjoy reading in public? How do you prepare?

Once I start reading, I love it. I do get nervous during the run-up to the reading, but hey, if you don’t get nervous, where’s the excitement? I take a long time picking out stuff to read, practicing it, getting the rhythm down. First person is great in public; dark humor is great in public. I read perhaps my “sickest” story recently and the laughs didn’t stop.

17. You first considered yourself a writer when you wrote the poem, “The Midnight Walk,” was it about a girl? Do you still dabble in poetry?

No poetry for me. I’m officially retired. But no, it wasn’t about a girl, it was actually about a guy trying to convince a stranger that the USA is the best place to live, but the stranger is unconvinced and ends up being Satan. So when it came to horror stuff, I got an early start.

18. Do you enjoy working with a small press?

I can’t imagine what it’s like working with one of the huge publishing houses. Emails get returned, the attention to detail and outside-the-box thinking are just incredible. I love the support I get from Blank Slate Press. The Samaritan would never have been finished without them.

19. What’s one of the biggest things you’ve learned from publishing your first book?

A few things. One, it’s hard. Two, you can’t do it alone. Being a writer and an author are two different things; I’m grateful for the audience I’ve built with this first book and I hope to keep them as this ride continues.

20. What’s next for Fred Venturini?

In April, fatherhood, so I’m excited about a whole new chapter and challenge in my life. As for writing, my plan for the future is simple—stay humble, stay hungry, keep writing. Cream rises to the top so I’ll just keep my fingers crossed that I am actually creamy. Only one way to find out, and that’s to keep going . . .

Thank you!


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