There are 13 Blocks down Choate Road and Greg Hall stands on the corner of each, welcoming you. You’ll find special guest writers, a running series or two, and advice columns such as Ask a Splatterpunk. Be brave. Explore. Don’t be afraid to click on anything and everything. Sometimes a hidden link pops up. Sometimes nothing happens at all. And sometimes a chupracabra flies out of your computer and gnaws on your face.
HN: Okay, Greg, looks like your plate is stacked high. Why don’t we start with a little bit about your background?
GH: Well, not much to say. I’m just a steel town girl on a Saturday night, looking for the fight of my life. But I’m a maniac, maniac on the floor. Other than that, I guess I’m much like every other kid who grew up in rural USA in the 60/70’s. Always loved writing and creating. I made the choice to be some kind of entertainer early on. Fifth grade I think. We had to do oral reports but I insisted in doing mine through interpretive dance. Took the F like a man because it was worth it.
Somehow through all the bad life choices I built a decent career in theatre and comedy, lots of writing. Spent a couple decades doing standup and improv and that opened up doors into teaching, which I really enjoy. And I found a lady who actually kind of likes me and we have two beautifully twisted boys. That tends to stabilize a guy. And now we’re up to 2010.
HN: What brought you to horror?
GH: Oh man, I’ve always loved horror. I remember being six or seven and my aunt would let us watch the local TV horror host. I got hooked on all the old black & white Universal films and shows like Twilight Zone and Kolchak the Nightstalker. But horror was a guilty pleasure. I found out early I had a knack for comedy and they were willing to pay me far more than I earned so that became the focus. It wasn’t until about 25 years later when I was burned out on performing and cranking out the latest stage show that I needed a new creative outlet. My wife talked me into pursuing my love for horror.
HN: On the Choate Road website, it says Choate Road is a fellowship of horror writers dedicated to bringing a fresh fun spin to a classic genre. The classic genre is horror, of course, but tell us a little about the fellowship and how you’re going about the fresh, fun spin.
GH: We have a team of fun yet highly unstable people. When I first got into horror fiction I saw too many sites and forums where people were always upset about rejections or inner politics or the general lack of support. It’s a tough gig. Sometimes there was just plain nasty trash talk. People publicly ripping apart each other’s work. That didn’t make sense to me. Horror gets such a negative reaction from everyday fiction readers and often other genres. We need all the support we can get. So why tear us down from the inside out?
Anyway, long story even longer, the fresh spin was we wanted to create a place that was like Cheers. Everybody knows your name and there’s always a cold beer waiting for you, no matter who you were. Choate Road is where horror fiction can go to laugh and network and just forget about the latest rejection notice.
HN: And The Funky Werepig is part of the fun, right? Tell us what it’s all about and what you have planned for the future of the Werepig.
GH: The Werepig is actually part of my prison release program. I am mandated by the State to do it for another 4 years, unless paroled early. It’s actually an extension of Choate Road that wound up taking on a life of its own. I had a plan of attack when I launched Choate and hitting a radio talk show was Phase 2. I never predicted it would explode to what it is now. The fans are loyal and rabid. The guests we’ve had are incredible and when we started landing interviews with Joe Lansdale and Robert McCammon and Peter Straub – guys I’ve always thought of as heroes – I threw away my original notes for Werepig goals. I never dreamed I would go places and people would say ‘You’re the Werepig!’ Knowing it was just a catchy title for the show, I’m never sure if I should take it as a compliment now that it’s my actual name. Although it is hard to deny I am both funky and werepig-ish.
As far as the future, we’re leaving our weekly Sunday slot for more of a party atmosphere on Friday nights. We’ll hit our 100th episode at the end of the year. That’ll be wild. And here’s where I throw out the teaser … The Werepig may be entering a more um, visual stage.
HN: You’ve also got a section on the site called The Spotlight Scribe, which I thought was a very cool idea. What’s your goal there and will you be doing more of these down the road?
GH: I love the Spotlight Scribe. It was one of our first ideas and we’ll run it until we drop. Choate Road is nothing if not Amish and what better way to support fiction than to put a huge spotlight on a talent we love. Once a month we dedicate the page to another kick-bahookie writer. We post up their bio and site info, a photo and a book cover and ask the Spotlight Scribe to give us a story they think fans would really dig. And then we whorror the hell out of them for the entire month. I don’t know how much it increases their sales or fan mail but our hit numbers tell us it’s one of our most popular pages.
HN: You’re celebrating your third birthday in August. So how is today’s website different from your original vision? And what are the changes you envision over the next three years?
GH: When we started Choate we had a simple goal – to be a party place – with maybe a handful of informational pages to click on. As time goes by, we’ve found out some of those stops didn’t hit the mark as much as we hoped or were too much work to maintain effectively. I don’t think the original vision has ever changed but I do think the site always evolves for the better. I’m very excited about what we’re bringing in for our next year. The biggest change is in the team itself. I’m bringing in some young blood with sharp minds and fresh ideas that are truly passionate about horror. We’re expanding our avenues. And if it all goes according to plan, I will be retired in Cancun with a roller derby trained maid/handler by summer 2011.
HN: Belfire Press released your novel, At the End of Church Street in May. Tell us about the story, why you wrote, and what you hope readers will take away from it.
GH: Church Street was a helluva journey. I actually had it in one form or another for years. I wrote it back when I lived in Orlando. A friend challenged me to write horror but I couldn’t find anything I thought would be original enough. It seemed like it had all been pretty much done. Then I met these homeless goth kids who thought they were vampires. Kind of a joke really, they got absolutely no respect. And yet they all had these really intense stories of how they came from broken homes and abusive parents. They fell into trouble early and wound up on the streets, acting like vampires because it made them special.
One night it occurred to me ‘What if someone actually did believe these kids were real vampires? And what if this person was a vampire killer? What a looney bastard that would be.’ And the story took off. I mean who’s going to help these ignored goth punks once the bodies start dropping? They’re on their own. So I combined what I thought was a unique twist on the typical vampire tale and tried to make it very human by telling the story through the eyes of each of these kids. I’m pretty proud with how it turned out. A modern vampire Neverland with sex, blood and fangs wrapped around a twisted and demented thriller. And I hope I didn’t lose the underlying theme of how screwed society is to put these kids in this place to begin with.
HN: Anything you’d like to add, now’s the time to do it.
GH: No, man, I think you covered it all. Thanks so much for this opportunity to chat with all the cool Hellnotes people. I enjoy what you’re doing with your site and stop by often in sober moments. If you’re ever in town, I’ll buy you a cold one. And if I’m ever in town, I hope that you’ll let me crash on your couch for a month or more.
Editor’s Note: You can catch up on the past episodes of indepth interviews, classic stories and comical conversation with Hall here: Funky Werepig