I received the wonderful opportunity to “sit down” and talk with author and publisher Sam Richard. For those who don’t know him, Sam is the owner of Weirdpunk Books, which has produced some great anthologies lately that I thoroughly recommend (see below). He is also a talented author with stories in a variety of bizarro and horror publications. Recently, he has dealt with the early, unexpected passing of his wife, a tragedy he copes with through writing.
You can find my review of his collection To Wallow in Ash and Other Sorrows here.
ZÉ BURNS: When did you start writing?
SAM RICHARD: Pretty typical, I wrote some when I was a kid, but not with any regularity. This trend continued into high school. Around 20, or so, I started writing with more focus. This was both non-fiction music and politics zine stuff and trying my hand at writing 4 awful novels in my early 20s. Aside from continuing writing non-fic for punk/metal zines throughout my 20s, writing fiction for actual publication didn’t start until my early 30s.
ZB: Who are your influences?
SR: This is one of those questions that could go on forever. Some of my biggest influences are JG Ballard, Georges Bataille, Kathe Koja, William S. Burroughs, Kathy Acker, and Katherine Dunn. I love that transgressive lit stuff and it’s one of the biggest foundations for how and what I write. I’d like to call special attention to Koja, as she was one of the first, if not the first (and still one of only a few), who so seamlessly interjected that style and philosophy into horror, which is my absolute favorite thing. Other big influences are Joe Lansdale, Jack Ketchum, David J. Schow, and Poppy Z. Brite. Film plays a large role too, but that’s a whole other long-ass list.
ZB: What are you reading right now?
SR: I’m a few chapters into Adam Nevill’s The Reddening and so far it’s fantastic, which comes as no surprise. My reading has really waned the latter part of this year, so I’m going through it super slowly.
ZB: In the introduction of To Wallow in Ash, you said that writing helped you cope with the passing of your wife, but was it difficult to publish such personal stories?
SR: Immensely. Mostly the final story in the collection, Deathlike Love. That was the most difficult, painful story I’ve ever written. While I was in the midst of it, I wasn’t sleeping and I was barely eating. It was like an exorcism, a purge, and it took a lot out of me. Writing it was painful and left emotional scars, but I needed to write it so I just leaned into the pain and put it back into the story. When it was done, I passed it to Emma Alice Johnson to get some notes and feedback, and I was overcome with anxiety and dread at the thought of her reading it. I hadn’t anticipated feeling that way, but suddenly the idea of sharing it made me feel even worse. That anxiety isn’t as strong anymore, but I still feel weird about it. I may have been mildly anxious about a couple of the other stories, nothing compared to that one, though.
ZB: How do you feel your loss will influence your work from now on?
SR: I think it will be the major theme of my work for a long, long time. Even if the story isn’t as obviously influenced by my experience as a young widower, it will find its way in even when I’m not trying to put it there. But thinking more about the short-term as opposed to the long, several of the next few projects I have lined up are overtly related to loss and grief.
ZB: What can we expect to see from you in the future?
SR: Weirdpunk Books is starting a new chapter in 2020 where I am releasing some novellas. So far the release schedule is the debut novella of Jo Quenell, who is a close friend and amazing writer. The book is called The Mud Ballad and is all sorts of awesome. I’ll also be releasing my debut novella around the same time, a book called Sabbath of the Fox-Devils, which is what I was working on when Mo died. I set it aside to do other things but eventually came back to it and finished it. It’s my love-letter to small-creature horror movies of the 80s and an exploration of my experiences growing up in a cult-like religious organization. Those will both be out early 2020. I also have a grief memoir I am slowly working on for Clash Books, which I hope to finish early 2020. I’m in the middle of writing a sad horror novella and after that The New Flesh co-editor Brendan Vidito and I are going to be collaborating on a horror novel about childhood trauma. I think it’s gonna be a lot more fun than it sounds, haha.
Thank you to Sam Richard for his time! Check out these awesome books:
To Wallow in Ash and Other Sorrows, available from Nihilism Revised
The New Flesh: A Literary Tribute to David Cronenberg, available from Weirdpunk Books
You can find him on Twitter at @SammyTotep