Regular Hellnotes contributor Rick Hipson brings us an interview with author James Newman
HELL NOTES: First of all, congratulations on the newest release of ANIMOSITY, out now from Permuted Press. Seems like just yesterday when I had the honour of being an early reader even before Necessary Evil Press launched it as a signed limited back in 2011. What does it mean for you to see it re-launched almost exactly three years later?
JAMES NEWMAN It’s a great feeling, man. It’s always cool to see your work in a beautiful hardcover limited edition, and God knows that N.E.P. edition was about as good as it gets, but ultimately writers want to be read and those editions are primarily for collectors. It’s really nice to get my work out there in a more affordable edition, at which point I’ll almost immediately start getting feedback from readers, which proves that my novels are being read. Of course, that makes me happy.
HL I have a confession to make: I haven’t picked up Permuted’s edition. So I have to ask, where there many, if any, alterations a fan of the original might recognize? In other words, knowing what a perfectionist you are when it comes to your writing, how many changes did you have to will yourself not to make despite my humble opinion and most others remember ANIMOSITY being pretty damn perfect the first time around?
JN Good question! I didn’t do a lot of tinkering with the overall text — maybe a tiny bit of “cleaning up” since the manuscript was several years old at this point, but not much. There were two pretty big fixes within the plot itself, though, that I think made the novel much stronger . . .
First of all was the fact that Andy never owned a cellphone. Ummm . . . no. Who would believe such a thing, in this day and age? That really bothered me as I was going over the manuscript for the new edition and I didn’t think it rang true at all. Even folks who don’t necessarily like them own a cellphone. My grandpa owns a cellphone, for God’s sake.
Secondly was something that could be considered a spoiler so I won’t go into too much detail. Let’s just say that, when things start going bad, in this version we actually get to see Andy draw blood a little earlier. He does something which gives those want his head on a stick a more realistic reason not to just come in and get it. I’d better leave it at that, in respect for those who haven’t read the book. The new scene is brief, but I have Mark Steensland and Rick Hautala (R.I.P., my friend) to thank for it. At one time Mark and Rick optioned the film rights to Animosity and they wrote a fantastic screenplay. I asked their permission to include the scene in the new edition, because I was jealous that I hadn’t thought of it the first time around!
HL What do you think is so uniquely special about this particular tale that causes so many, myself included, to hail ANIMOSITY as your most intensely dark novel to date? Do you agree with readers who feel this way?
JN I absolutely agree. I think it speaks to readers because it’s real. The monsters in this story aren’t vampires or werewolves or zombies or even human serial killers. They’re our neighbors, people we thought were our friends. We’ve all known people we trusted, people we thought would stick with us through thick and thin, but then along came a tough situation — a time when you needed them most — and they showed their true colors.
In my novel it’s a greatly exaggerated scenario, but there are few things I can think of more terrifying than what happens in Animosity. To know that a child had been sexually assaulted and murdered in your neighborhood — that’s a parent’s worst nightmare. Now imagine for a second that the court of public opinion has branded YOU as the killer. Maybe it’s because of a mistake you made when you were younger; maybe it’s simply because you’re not like the “normal people”, dressing differently than everyone else or making your living by doing something most folks think is a little “weird”.
Here’s something I’ve told very few people, but I don’t have a problem sharing it with my readers all these years later: When I was much younger, I lived with a young lady for a while. Our relationship did not end amicably. I found out later that she went to the local magistrate after we broke up and tried to convince him that I had threatened her 2-year-old son. Thank God the magistrate didn’t believe her (unlike a good friend who had known me longer than he had known her, a guy who never spoke to me again after that) and he chose not to pursue the matter. In the decades since, I’ve thought more than once about what might have happened if that magistrate had believed her. Or what if she had concocted another story, something vile and unmentionable? Think about that for a moment. For a good man, an innocent man, the ramifications of such a thing are scarier than any horror story I’ve ever read.
HL Without revealing any spoilers, considering how this one ends, can we fans expect to see a follow-up or sequel of any sort?
JN I haven’t thought about that at all, to be honest. i doubt it. But observant readers will see Andrew Holland pop up here and there via little “Easter eggs”, if you will, in other works of mine. For example, in Shock Totem Publications’ paperback edition of my latest novel,Ugly As Sin, he interviews the main character in a bit of bonus material at the back of the book. That was a lot of fun. Holland’s name also pops up once or twice in the paperback edition of The Wicked(from the same publisher). I always love it when my favorite authors do that, creating worlds in which characters cross paths in some way, so hopefully my fans will get a kick out of it too.
HL As we’re talking about the release of this novel, I understand you’ve been really feeling the groove lately and have been busy working on some short stories that I can’t wait to read. Considering it wasn’t that long ago when you had a terrible accident and were almost killed from a falling tree branch which no doubt sent you through a roller coaster of hellish pain and emotions, if I may ask you, James, how did you manage to bring yourself back from the depths you were in to a point were your creative juices were given to flow once again?
JN I couldn’t have done it without folks like yourself. All of my family, friends, and peers have been so supportive throughout this whole thing. I can’t begin to tell you how much it’s meant to me. It would be so easy to just sit and wallow in depression while I was down for the count, wondering if it would matter if I wasn’t around anymore, but everyone sure showed me the answer to that question. Bigtime.
That said, I was more productive than ever during my downtime. Some of that, I’m sure, had to do with the fact that I was unable to make it to the day job for two-and-a-half months, but . . . yeah, man, the good news is, I was quite prolific during this time. Finished one novella, started another, got a good start on the follow-up to Ugly As Sin, and started a couple short stories. So there’s always a silver lining!
HL To change gears a bit, I hear your writing has been garnering some cinematic interest of late…
JN Yeah, via independent channels. “Your Cold Black Heart” was adapted as a short film not long ago, and I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out (especially since I would have considered that to be one of my least filmable stories — the whole thing is barely 2 pages long!). The director wants to do an anthology next — “Olden”, “Holy Rollers”, and a brand new original I’ll write specifically for the project. I’m pretty excited about that. Time’s running out, though, so if folks wanna hear more about The Rule of Three and find how they can be a part of it I’d recommend they go here for more info: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-rule-of-three-an-anthology
HL And now for probably my most important question yet: if ever you found yourself cast into a sort of redundancy limbo between heaven and hell were you were forced to pick only one food, one song, and one movie to experience over and over again for the rest of your days, what would they be?
JN One food: Raisinets. Man, I love those things.
One song: “Wild Hearted Son” by the Cult.
One movie: Wow . . . that’s tough. I’m gonna say Better Off Dead, ’cause if I have to watch one movie for all eternity I’d better pick something uplifting, something that keeps me laughing, right? I’m sure I’ll change my mind within the next minute or two.
HL Finally, what do you hope folks take away with them after the final, gut wrenching page is turned and ANIMOSITY is put down and dwelled upon?
JN Trust no one. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Don’t write horror, ’cause it could get you killed. (laughs)
James Newman is the author of the novels Midnight Rain, The Wicked, Animosity, the short-story collection People Are Strange, and the novellas The Forum, Olden, Revenge Flick!, and fan favorite Holy Rollers.