by Richard Vasseur
Michael Vance newest novel, Weird Horror Tales – The Feasting has just been released by Cornerstone Book Publishers. The novel is a braided collection of fifteen gripping, horrific and deeply moving stories of people caught in unimaginable horror in the tradition of Ray Bradbury, H. P. Lovecraft and William Faulkner. These tales center around the eldritch town of Light’s End, Maine, a remote and isolated little corner of New England where dark secrets haunt the streets and homes of this quaint, supposedly innocent setting. Douse the lights, bolt the doors and get ready to be frightened by a true master of the genre.
The book’s haunting illustrations are by fantasy artist Earl Geier, features a macabre cover by Christophe Dessaigne, is edited by Ron Fortier, and designed by Rob Davis.
Weird Horror Tales – The Feasting is pulp horror at its finest. The first novel in the trilogy, Weird Horror Tales, is still available as well.
Vance is the author of three books, hundreds of articles and interviews, several comic book titles, and two comic strips. He founded the Oklahoma Comics Collection in Paul’s Valley, Oklahoma, and helped create the “Okie Cartoonists” Exhibit at the Oklahoma Museum of History in Oklahoma City.
What attracts you to writing horror stories?
Vance: Initially, it was the fear of death that paradoxically terrified and fascinated me that led to my love of the horror genre.
When I was very young, possibly seven or eight years old, my great grandmother died, and my parents took me to the open coffin funeral. Her lifeless body left me with a horror of death that only increased when I understood its inevitability. It was many, many years before I overcame my terror of mortality.
It didn’t help that most people thought there was a good chance we’d all die in a nuclear holocost.
At about the same time, I was allowed to watch the original King Kong movie on television, shown in Oklahoma in the ‘50s each Halloween, and several movies that influenced me to eventually write in the genre. The most powerful of these was Hitchcock’s Psycho which I saw during its original run in, I believe, 1960.
A little later on, Ray Bradbury became a major influence on my work as well; he is a master of the short story. H. P. Lovecraft is a creative influence as well, although I only discovered his work later in life.
Can you give us an idea of what we will find in the pages of Weird Horror Tales – The Feasting?
Vance: A reader will find a small town on the coast of Maine named Light’s End that hides filth, decadence, and madness behind its respectable white picket fences. These stories are told in the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror genres, and span many years. The first two novels in the trilogy are braided; that means each chapter is also a stand-alone short story. The last novel of the trilogy will be a traditional novel.
Why do people love a good horror story?
Vance: Through catharsis, horror fans escape the certain and very real horrors of mundane life without any real chance of injury or death to themselves.
What scares you the most?
Vance: What terrifies me most is the misguided belief that the world is without rhyme or reason. This life philosophy is a self-fulfilling prophecy that only leads to chaos and arbitrariness that destroy reason and order.
What is “Holiday Out” and who would enjoy it?
Vance: Holiday Out was a comic strip I wrote for five years that, for half its run, parodied the Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery, Horror, Detective, Western genres, and more. In its second two-and-a-half years, it became a “funny animal” strip still focused on parody and satire. Some of the artists who worked with me on Holiday Out were Duane Hanson, C. T. Smith, Richard “Grass” Green, and Wayne Truman.
During its time, it was syndicated by two small companies and ran in around forty newspapers, and many more fanzines. Some of it was also republished in four or five comic books, including a three-issue run by Renegade Press. The Complete Holiday Out is now being reprinted by Main Enterprises.”
You were first published at age eleven do you remember how that felt?
Vance: First publication was an emotional high unparalleled by almost anything else in my life.
Why are you associated with the Tulsa Boys Home?
Vance: For fourteen years, I have been the Communications Director of Oklahoma’s largest residential treatment facility for troubled boys. That means I am their writer and graphic designer, in charge of all publicity including radio, television, and newspaper, the production of a quarterly newsletter and website, and the writing of all of their grant requests. I am very proud of the work done for troubled boys at Tulsa Boys’ Home, and am honored to play a small part in their mission.
Why did you decide to write “Forbidden Adventure: The History of the American Comics Group?”
Vance: I wrote the book because of my love for comics and history. I chose the American Comics Group as my subject because I read them as a boy, and it had been overlooked by most everyone else who was writing comics history at the time.
You have worked as an editor, writer and advertising manager for newspapers and newspaper magazines. How is that different than working on a comic book?
Vance: My first love is writing fiction; my nonfiction pays the bills.
Why did you want William Windom to narrate your audiotapes of Light’s End?
Vance: Windom and I were doing a signing together. I had been looking for an actor to record my Light’s End stories for several years, and was a big fan of his work. I grew up on his television appearances and in movies like To Kill a Mockingbird. I think he is an amazing actor. I asked, and, lo and behold, he said yes.
What comics besides your own would you recommend?
Vance: Some of my favorites remain Popeye by Segar, Pogo by Walt Kelly, Calvin and Hobbes, the EC horror and SF titles, Alan Moore’s and Neil Gaiman’s work, and more than can listed here. I must not leave out most anything by Will Eisner, and the early work of Harvey Kurtzman. I am ‘republishing’ more than 1,040 comics reviews I wrote over twenty years under the title of Suspended Animation on my Flickr site, adding one review a day. Just go to Flickr and type in Michael Vance. A more comprehensive answer can be found there.
Any words for the fans of your work?
Vance: I have finished writing the third book of the Weird Horror Tales trilogy, to be called Weird Horror Tales: Light’s End. I ask fans to anticipate its publication probably around September of 2011. I would also ask them to spread the word among their friends and acquaintances about the trilogy if they enjoy it. My publisher is a small, niche company, and the success of the series really lies in word-of-mouth recommendation.
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