KAS INTERVIEWS – BERNARD SCHAFFER – AKA EL PRESIDENTE AKA BOSS
For those not in the know, how did the Kindle AllStars come about?
> Purely by accident. I began to accumulate a large following of authors on Twitter who seemed interesting and serious about their work. I put the word out that I was considering doing an anthology and within days I started receiving stories. People were hungry to participate.
The choice to do it as a charity actually came about because the idea of paying so many different people their portion of the profits seemed like a nightmare. Also, once I decided which charity we were going to support, my motivation skyrocketed.
The entire reason heavy-hitters like Harlan Ellison and Alan Dean Foster opted to pitch in was because of the connection to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It certainly wasn’t because of me.
Tell us a little bit about your own work outside of the Kindle All-Stars.
> I’m an apprentice renegade air conditioning specialist under Harry Tuttle. Oh, and I write a bit.
Your Superbia novel was a smash hit. And you wrote a sequel shortly after. Is there a third in the works? You spoke about writing 4 novels this year, is Superbia 3 one of them?
>Well, there’s eight folders on my desktop containing information for upcoming projects, and S3 is one of those folders. What order they all get done in, I’m not certain.
Without wanting to retread your revealing interview with Matt Posner, how do you think your experience with Harlan Ellison has changed the way you write?
>Harlan told me my writing was flat and had no color. His rewrite of my first page was this soaring, musical piece and it really showed me what could be done. My editor at the time had a solid basis in business writing and really encouraged technical perfection, and I think I became this machine of punctuation and restriction.
When I met Karen, she dragged me out of the blog-writing, comic book mentality I was locked in and taught me the mechanics of it all.
When I worked with Bill Thompson (Stephen King and John Grisham’s former editor) he taught me how to write a novel.
Finally, Harlan showed me how to use my voice. He taught me that there comes a time when you crumple up everything that’s right and proper and throw it out the damn window. There comes a time when you just have to tell a story, rules be damned.
Do you regret that you couldn’t continue your communication with him?
>I regret how it ended. That being said, I’m not here to Harlan Ellison 2.0, or Christopher Tolkien Ellison. I’ll write what I know to be true, in the way that I’m moved to do it. I’ll always be grateful to him for the time he gave me, but I certainly don’t need my hand held.
Is there a particular work of Ellison’s you hold in high regard?
> Stalking the Nightmare was the first thing I’d ever read by him, so it will always have a special place in my heart. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream is a particularly strong effort.
For me it was such a thrill to be in a book alongside Alan Dean Foster. I’ve had contact with him over the years, and always found him approachable and pleasant. He was one of my favorite authors growing up, and I have 2 shelves of his books. As a fellow Star Trek fan, it thrilled me to bits to think that Resistance Front had 2 Trek talents in it. Of course, Ellison wrote City On The Edge Of Forever, and Foster wrote the treatment for Star Trek The Motion Picture, and numerous Trek novelisations. Did you consider approaching similar talent when it came to this second anthology?
>Nope. I like our line-up just fine. Vitka and I were talking about various “famous” people last time around who promised to help promote or do this or that, and then when the time came, they just didn’t respond to anything. I don’t have time for that. I’ll take a hungry, hard-working, dedicated author over some spoiled dilettante anytime.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know I’m not afraid to call out names. When they respond it kind of freaks me out a little, but hey, I’ll get down with anybody.
With your successes on Amazon, have you considered approaching a publisher and seeing if you can get a deal?
>Nope. I’ve got zero interest in making a publisher rich. Even less in playing by their rules. To me, the only reason people still seek out agents and traditional publishers is that they need some kind of validation. Some kind of legitimization of themselves as an author. To me, it’s sad.
There is a genre I’ve not seen you tackle directly, as in a full-blown novel, and that’s horror. Will we ever see a Bernard Schaffer horror novel in the King-vein?
>I never thought I’d be tackling the romance adventure genre, but here we go. At this point, I’m going to challenge Asimov for his claim that he’s the only author to have written a book in every category of the Dewey Decimal system.
Moving back to CARNIVAL OF CRYPTIDS, what’s your favorite cryptid?
> I really do like all of them to some extent. Loch Ness seems so majestic and Sasquatch would simply be wonderful to finally find. But I think if I had to pick, my favorite would be the old Sea Serpents of sailing lore. The idea of being out in the middle of the sea and you suddenly feel something rock against your boat. You look down and see a massive snake’s hide coming up out of the water. That’s cool.
You wrote the interconnecting links in-between each story. What made you decide to do that?
> I’d never intended to write anything for the project. I was simply too busy. As I started to read everyone’s stories, it was kind of like offering to referee a game of basketball with all of your friends playing and they’re all showing off and having fun. It didn’t take long before I felt the urge to lace up my sneakers and try to posterize somebody.
Truthfully, I was thinking of Twilight Zone and Harlan Ellison’s Dream Corridor when I wrote the interstitial sequences. Some kind of guide leading the reader through the book, connecting everything together.
I’d never written anything in second person before. In fact, I don’t know that I’ve ever even read anything in second person before, aside from Neil Gaiman’s funeral issue of Sandman. It felt right though, and it felt true, so I gave it a shot.
What made you settle on the theme of cryptids this time around?
> I wanted a central theme that would both stand out from the swarms of all-purpose fantasy and horror, etc, and I wanted it to make sure we only received original stories.
A lot of the first book was reprints of already published material. I wanted KAS 2 to go to the next level.
Moving on from CARNIVAL OF CRYPTIDS, what are you working on now for a future release?
> Right now, I’m in the midst of something completely new and foreign to me. The dreaded romantic adventure novel. The Billionaire’s Apprentice is going to flip that genre on its head and play the mambo by the time I’m done with it.
If you had one shot at selling this collection to a stranger in the street, what would you say?
> You know, the obvious choice would be to appeal to their sense of charity toward the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, but I don’t think I’d go there. I’m more excited about the quality of work in this anthology and I think it stands on its own as a work of genre-fiction.
So listen up, stranger on the street. The nine stories in this book contain the mysteries of the world, the dark and unexplored places that are only whispered about. Read it if you’re brave enough and leave the light on by your bed. Cue: Maniacal laugh.
And because I can, one last question as a fan of your work: when will we get to see “The Widow Sword?”
> Honestly, I’m not sure. It may or may not be this year. It’s actually a harder question than it sounds.
Do I simply scrub the existing manuscript and release it, knowing it’s something I wrote years ago that I’ve since evolved from?
Do I try and rewrite it paragraph by paragraph, infusing it with new language while adhering to my old plot devices?
Or do I scrap the original and start all over again?
The hardest, most time consuming answer is the last one. It’s also the right one, unfortunately.
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