It was my pleasure to interview the comic horror author and goggled ghoul Isaac Thorne. You can find him at his website, where you can check out his works, or by following him on Twitter.
You say you write tales of “dark comic horror”. Is this your favourite genre to write in? What do you like most about the genre? Why do you think these seemingly opposing genres – comedy and horror – go so well together, and are so popular?
Interesting question. Right now, it’s really the only genre I write in. I don’t think comedy and horror are entirely opposites. Comedy is one way people have learned to cope with real life horror. I grew up in the 1980s, so one of the examples I often cite of how horror and comedy can dovetail as a coping mechanism is from 1986, when Space Shuttle Challenger exploded. It was a horribly tragic event. All the same, when I arrived at school the next day my classmates were already cracking crude jokes about it. Is that insensitive? Yes. It’s also an extreme example. I suppose there are limits to how horror and comedy entwine. Even so, I do generally agree with that old Jimmy Buffett line: “If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.”
What do you find inspires you most for writing horror? Do you find the real world has more inspiration to offer than your own imagination?
I think real-world experiences inform the imagination. Without life experience, you don’t have a frame of reference for telling a story because you don’t have a true grasp of how the circumstances you’re imagining would realistically unfold.
What piece of writing of yours are you most proud of? What can you tell us about it?
Right now that would be my newest one: DIGGUM. It’s probably the darkest piece I’ve turned out so far. Most of my earlier work was designed with an approximately equal amount of horror and funny. DIGGUM still has some of my dark humor in it, but the character himself is probably the darkest and least buffoonish of any I’ve written so far.
Following on from the last question, are there any stories of yours that you are displeased with, that you would like to one day rewrite?
There are some pieces of stories that I would rewrite if I felt okay about rewriting something after release. However, I believe rewrites should be considered complete once a work is out the door and in the reader’s hands. Unless you’re fixing a punctuation error or misspelling somewhere, changing the way the story is told after that point is unfair to the audience because you are ultimately changing the original experience.
There are exceptions, of course. I read and loved both versions of Stephen King’s THE STAND. But I was not happy when he went back and rewrote portions of THE GUNSLINGER to force-fit plot points that occurred much later in THE DARK TOWER series. Not that I want to identify with King’s Annie Wilkes, but to me that felt like cheating.
Do you most enjoy books and films similar to the genre you write, or do you have a favourite genre that has little to do with horror?
I watch a little of everything, but I primarily read horror. It’s the priority for me in terms of my own personal entertainment. I also like sci-fi, action, and some westerns on film. I’ll read some fantasy, but a lot of that genre is much too epic for my personal tastes.
What are your favourite movies? Favourite director?
I have many favorites. Among horror movies, that includes FRIGHT NIGHT (1985) and HALLOWEEN (1978). Coincidentally, my favorite directors for many years were Tom Holland and John Carpenter. I’m also a big fan of Richard Donner’s directorial work. I have tremendous respect for the way Mary Lambert handled PET SEMATARY (1989) as well. There’s also Stephen Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, and John Landis from that decade, of course. Looking back over that list, it looks like I’m kind of stuck in the late 70s and 80s. There are modern works and directors I like as well, but the ones I just listed usually end up at the top of my mind. Rob Zombie’s own original stuff is awesome. Also, Gadi Harel’s DEADGIRL disturbed the hell out of me.
What are your favourite ever books (of any genre)? Favourite author?
I’m a huge Stephen King fan, naturally. I think my favorite Stephen King novel is PET SEMATARY. I also really enjoyed the first three books in Anne Rice’s VAMPIRE CHRONICLES, although that entire series tends to veer more toward fantasy than horror after INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE. Other than those, I tend to enjoy tight, really well choreographed work, like the stuff John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow write. I adored the hell out of SPORE.
A friend is choosing a horror film for you to watch. What’s your preference: slasher, b-movie, comedy-horror, supernatural thriller, gothic horror, classic black-and-white, gorefest or just utterly weird? Or no horror at all!
In order: B-movie, slasher, comedy-horror, just utterly weird, classic black-and-white, gothic horror. The primary reason I rank them that way is that I’ve seen most of the classic black-and-white a thousand times over. I also think gothic horror is really difficult to create effectively. I’m not sure I would trust a friend to reliably pick anything for me except a B-movie or a slasher flick.
Your last published story was Diggum, about a graveyard caretaker. What can you tell us about it, and who should be excited to read it?
I can tell you that Mr. Diggum is a man who has a grudge. I think it would appeal to anyone who likes to see a person who thinks they’ve been wronged try to get justice. Diggum is angry at God for allowing his wife and son to burn to death. In his mind and faith, that accidental cremation means that they can’t be resurrected when judgement arrives. So he decides to get back at God by ensuring that every dead person he can get his hands on is burned up as well. It’s a bit of a “if I can’t have them, you can’t have them either” tale.
I see you made Diggum into a short movie! That’s brilliant. What was your experience creating this?
The dramatic version of DIGGUM is right now an audio piece in which I play the title character. What I originally wanted to do with that was get an animator to take that narration and create a black-and-white line-drawn animation as the visual component. While I was recording the audio, I discussed the visual component with some talented people I know. It turned out that there was a lot standing in the way of getting the visuals done at the time. So I just decided to go ahead and put the audio for it out there by itself. I don’t know if the visuals will come to fruition, but I’d love to see it happen.
On a more recent note, I was approached a few weeks back by My Little Rascal Film Productions about doing three short films based on other stories. We’re looking at 2017 for short film adaptations of NOBODY WAS HERE, BECAUSE REASONS, and a work called THE ROAD, which is based on HOPPERS. I’m excited to be collaborating with them on these projects. They seem to have a real passion for it.
What would you say is the biggest struggle with being a self-published author?
Getting noticed. For good or ill, the self-published market is flooded with authors screaming at readers and other authors to read and review their work. The awesome thing about that is the variety of voices and choices for people who like to read for entertainment. The down side is that those same choices are overwhelming in volume and readers have financial resource limits. That makes readers more likely to look for big names they recognize than take a chance on a self-published author they might or might not enjoy. I should point out that I’ll be publishing these stories as long as I can continue writing them and have the platform to put them out there, even if they aren’t noticed or picked up by hordes of readers.
What is a passion of yours that has absolutely nothing to do with horror?
Running. I love my cardio.
What do you think the most important thing to remember is when making comic writing actually funny?
The visual. For me, a line of words on a page can only be funny if it conjures a funny image in my head. You can tell me that a man slips and falls down a set of stairs, but that by itself isn’t going to make me laugh. Describe the process in a funny way. Have him slip on a roller skate at the top of two flights of stairs and pinwheel his arms down to the mid-landing. Have him stand up, dust himself off, breath a sigh of relief about not actually being hurt, and then slip on the skate again as he tries to navigate the next flight. Done properly, I’d laugh at that.
Do you think horror can ever go ‘too far’? Whether in movies or books. Do you try and push against boundaries yourself? And have you ever held back?
I think pushing boundaries is part of what horror is supposed to be about. I keep that in mind while I’m writing. There’s always some point in a story that I’ll hover over and think “am I going too far?” I kind of like pushing myself beyond my own comfort zone, though.
That said, yes, anything can go too far. In movies, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST is probably the most famous example of that. They actually slaughtered animals for that one. When your efforts at bloody realism do not stop with what you are able to do with your special effects, you’ve probably gone too far.
I think it’s a bit more difficult to go too far in literature. I should make clear that by “going too far” I do not mean just offending someone or some particular community standard. Going too far in literature would have to be something you write that actually creates a moral black hole, like the gentleman in Stephen King’s short story WORD PROCESSOR OF THE GODS. He finds he is capable of erasing his wife and kid and changing his own life circumstances by just writing about it.
If you had to be one of the classic Universal monsters for the rest of your life – The Mummy, Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolf-Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon etc. – which would you be?
Definitely Dracula. The Universal version of him is pretty much the James Bond of the classic monsters, forever young and suave. Really, the only down side to being Dracula is that you sunburn too easily and your food source might try to kill you by damaging your heart. Is that much different from sitting on the beach without sunscreen and living an all-bacon lifestyle?
Why do you think people like scaring themselves? Guillermo del Toro described horror movies as “roller coasters of the soul”. Would you agree with this when it comes down to scary stories (in whatever medium )?
I think it’s an apt description. For me it’s always been a bit of a test. How much can I take? How long can I stand against this without backing down? Perhaps it’s part of some evolutionary survival mechanism. You won’t fight and defeat the tiger unless you properly fear the tiger.
Zombie survival situation. You get a ranged weapon and a melee weapon – what do you choose?
Are grenades range weapons or melee weapons? Grenades. More grenades.
Thanks for the interview Isaac!
Thanks for the opportunity.
Isaac Thorne is a nice man who has, over the course of his life, developed a modest ability to spin a good yarn. Really. He promises. He also avoids public men’s restrooms at all costs. He considers himself a lover of books, music, movies, and other forms of pop culture phenomenon. His philosophy on his life is that it’s all one giant experiment.