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Greg F. Gifune Interview

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    Posted: Mar-10-2015 at 7:03am

THIRTEEN QUESTIONS
with Greg F. Gifune
an interview by Daniel E. Blackston and Lady E.

We were lucky enough to catch up with one of SF/Horror's most promising rising stars, Mr. Greg F. Gifune.  Recently signed to a three book deal with Delirium Books, Greg has attracted attention from some impressive sources, including nominations for the Bram Stoker Award, the International Horror Guild, and the British Fantasy Award.  His collection of short stories, "Heretics" ranks as one of the best horror collections we've read in years.  With over 100 stories in print, plus collections of short works, and novels, we find it hard to believe Mr. Gifune has enough time left over to run two excellent pubs: "Burning  Sky" and "The Edge" both published through his company, Theivin' Kitty Productions.

Mr. Gifune's literary prowess is matched by his gracious personality and we thank him for providing an honest and very compelling discussion.

Okay Greg.  Let's get something straight right off the bat.  Are you essentially an optimist or a pessimist?

That's a great question.  I'm a fairly cynical person and can often be pessimistic, but at heart, I'm an eternal optimist.

Like Hemingway, you write with creative ambiguity, also with a clear, distinctive voice.  There are recurring motifs in your works; they seem linked in both action and theme, and often end tragically.  Was Hemingway an influence for you?  Or were your influences more genre-specific?

I'm flattered by the comparison, thank you.  Honestly, though, while I respect Hemingway and think he penned a few absolute masterpieces, I don't count myself as an enormous fan of his work.  I respect it, and certainly he influenced me somewhat, but I wouldn't count him as a major influence.  Steinbeck, definitely.  Tennessee Williams, James Dickey, William Golding, Truman Capote, James Leo Herlihy, Vincent Patrick, Jim Thompson, Richard Matheson, Patricia Highsmith, and Raymond Chandler -- among others, were all big influences on me.

One powerful aspect of your writing is your control and focus of character.  What is the key to writing convincing characters?

Honesty.  I think if you approach them honestly, the process of creating three-dimensional characters with depth is easier.  I also think understanding and studying human nature, the human condition, and human psychology is important.

Why do people do what they do?  Why do they believe what they believe?  Why do they behave in a certain manner?  If you know your characters inside and out, and create and treat them more like people and less like "characters", and you're willing to approach the entire process with complete honesty, you'll be on the right track to creating convincing characters.  Drawing aspects from real people helps, too.  You can't create good characters in a void, so as a writer, like any artist, I think studying people and their behavior-and being able to not only recognize the diversity in people but to embrace that and use it in your art-is very important.

How much of your writing is autobiographical?

There are sprinklings of that in most of my work, so I'd say it's certainly a part of my process.  When I write I definitely exorcise a lot of my own personal demons, and I use writing as a catharsis-no question, but also as a means of discovery and learning, so there's a definite aspect of that in what I do.  But I try as best I can to do it in a very subtle or vague way so that it hopefully holds some power, but isn't intrusive.

People may not realize that you used to promote Professional Wrestling events.  Or are we dreaming again?  What was that subculture like?

I did work in the wrestling business back in the 80s and early 90s, and it certainly is a subculture.  I wrote a crime novel a few years ago called Night Work, which is a fictional piece very loosely based on some of my experiences in the business.  It had been scheduled for release last year but the deal fell through so I'm in the process of marketing it again.  My experiences were on the independent circuit several years ago, and it was a
very interesting time, if not always a pleasant one.

You've recently signed a three-book deal with Delerium Books.  An exciting prospect -- has the opportunity sparked new ideas?  

I'm very excited about the deal and I'm looking forward to working with Shane Ryan Staley and everyone at Delirium Books for years to come.  My experience with Delirium has been nothing but positive, and I could not be happier with my association with them at this point.  Delirium is really on the cutting edge of the small press, and Shane's a man of integrity and vision who knows what he's doing.  I respect him a great deal.  I think the deal with Delirium will be a very positive experience all the way around.

How important is the "splatter" aspect of horror?

I don't know that it's important at all, as an individual entity, if you know what I mean.  I don't think the horror or dark genres are any different than any other avenues of literature.  To me, if something is graphic just for the sake of being graphic, well then so what? Who cares?  Anyone can write a bloody or graphic scene, that doesn't take any special talent, in my opinion.  It's like writing sex scenes-anyone can do that-the key is not in writing a scene that showcases the mechanics, but rather the essence of it, and the same is true with violence and gore.  I don't shy away from either, but I try to treat them the same as I do any other aspect of my writing.  If it's necessary to be graphic, then I'm graphic.  If it's not, then I'm not.  Those who have read my work know that at times it can be graphic in terms of violence and sex, but I don't think that's necessarily a staple of it, and I don't ever use either in a gratuitous way.  

Care to discuss the role of women in your fiction?  Any plans to deepen your portrayals in this area?  Catching any flak about their roles as femme fatales?

Actually, I think my portrayals of female characters are very deep, particularly for the horror and dark genres.  I do tend to lean toward femme fatales, but I think my take on that tends to be different than the traditional interpretation.  Most of the female characters in my work are strong and smart and fully realized human beings, and I've gotten some very positive feedback from a lot of female readers regarding my female characters, which always makes my day.

My characters, male or female, tend to be pained, they tend to be people injured by life, scarred by it in some way, because as wonderful as life can be at times, it also does that to people, it damages us, and The Damaged make for good drama and good characters.  It's true that a lot of my female characters are victims or former victims of various things, but often their male counterparts are as well, and it's also true that they're generally intelligent and independent and strong-they tend to be survivors.

What's important to me, whether a character is male or female, is that they be as real and three-dimensional as possible, that's what I strive for.  I honestly haven't caught any flak at all regarding my female characters.  In fact, as I say, I've gotten just the opposite.  The female readers I've heard from have a very positive reaction to them.

We love the "theatrical" element of your writing, how the characters and the settings recall a cinematic or theatrical technique and flow.  We weren't surprised at all to find that you had studied acting.  Any movie deals in the works for "Heretics"?   Any plans to trod the boards yourself?

Thanks, I try to inject a theatrical element without being melodramatic, and I do try to use something of a theatrical flow as well.  At this point there haven't been any film offers for Heretics, but who knows?  As for trodding the boards myself, if you mean to sell the film rights, no.  If someone was interested in the rights I'd be open to discussing it but I have no plans to peddle it around.  If you mean do I have plans to trod the boards as an actor again, no, that was a long time ago and I haven't worked as an actor in years.  I'd always be open to returning to it if the right opportunity came along, but I'm not exactly holding my breath.  I have an interest in film, and would like to eventually get involved in independent film, but first and foremost, I'm a writer and editor, and always will be.

Where do you hope to be in ten years, this exact day and time?

Alive, well and relatively happy.

What's the best book you've read lately?

The Cement Garden, by Ian McEwan.  Terrific book.  McEwan is a master of subtlety.  Also just read Capote's Music for Chameleons for the first time-I had read a lot of his other work but hadn't read that-and it's terrific. Truly great writing.  On the genre side, I also just read Kurt Newton's new collection, Dark Demons, and Mike Laimo's, Dregs of Society.  Both are very well done and a lot of fun.  I'd definitely suggest checking both collections out.

How important of a role does Catholicism or organized religion play in your work?  Are you a religious man?  Do you believe in a literal Hell?

Sometimes I use religious themes in my work and sometimes I don't.  It really depends on what I'm working on and whether I feel those themes fit what I'm trying to accomplish.  I'd say I'm more a spiritual person than a specifically religious one, but I was raised Catholic and I'm a Christian -- the liberal kind, not the Moral Majority kind.

As for whether I believe in a literal Hell or not, I don't believe or disbelieve, because I don't know.   The whole spiritual thing is interesting, but whether I utilize it in a piece of work or not, I just do what I do and am grateful anyone gives a damn about it one way or the other.  The fact that a lot of people enjoy what I do and maybe can draw something from it is wonderfully flattering and fulfilling, but interpretation is up to the individual.  And while I do leave a lot open to interpretation, no artist can ever fully control how other people do or do not interpret their work.  I just do what I do to the best of my ability, let the rest fall where it falls and hope people enjoy my work.

Talk a little about your pubs "Burning Sky" and "The Edge".

Both are published through our company, Thievin' Kitty Publications.  In May we'll be releasing the 5th Year Anniversary Issue of THE EDGE with an all-star lineup and some terrific cover art from Keith Minnion.  THE EDGE is a magazine we started to hopefully fill a void and provide readers and writers with a venue where they could get a cross-section of dark, thrilling and thought-provoking genre fiction.  It's a digest size magazine and features both established and newer writers.  BURNING SKY is more genre-specific, in that we only publish Science Fiction and Horror blends in that magazine.

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