Crossroads favorite Barry Reese is a writer’s writer. Not only is he the dedicated author of pulp favorites The Rook Chronicles, Lazarus Gray and Rabbit Heart (the latter of which earned him the 2011 Pulp Ark Award for Best Author), but he also spends his days as a librarian. And did we mention, he has written for Marvel Comics, Moonstone, West End Games, Pro Se Press and others? He’s also a co-creator on the “Pulped!” podcast and the Ubergeeks podcast.
Writer Rachel Helie caught up with Barry to give us a little insight to what he’ll be telling writers at this year’s Crossroads. He will be discussing his stories and craft at “Making The Most Out of Murder and Mayhem,” taking place on Saturday at 11:30 a.m.
Q: How do you do it? The sheer volume of work that you produce is amazing! Does it help to operate on an assigned character, knowing that character’s back-story and building on the pulp’s oeuvre? Share your secrets, Reese!
BR: Classic pulp authors wrote thousands of words a month because they had to – they were paid pennies for each word so in order to live, you had to produce. I take a lot of inspiration from that. I believe that what you produce under a strict schedule may be less polished but it’s a lot more intense and true. It’s a pure vision that hasn’t been meticulously scrubbed by revision. I write. Then I write some more. I never stop. I never worry about the last story because I have another one to focus on. You read my stuff, you get that frenetic pace and enthusiasm.
People who talk too much about writing rarely have time to produce. They need to sit their butts down and type. You have the ideas in your head, just cut it open and let it bleed out on the page.
Q: You have won many Pulp Ark awards over the years and are highly recognized in the field of this sort of stylized writing, adventure tomes, and mystery stories. Do you have a special process of preparing yourself to dive into each new character’s world? When you write Lazarus Gray, is it a different experience than writing The Rook?
BR: I usually flip through some of the old stories if it’s an established character, just to remind myself of the “feel” of the character’s voice and setting. If it’s something new, I just dive right in after thinking it over for awhile. Each character is a different entity so the biggest difference is just putting yourself into that character’s head. Gravedigger, for instance, is likely to see a problem and think to herself, “How can I get close to that criminal so I can kill him and stop him from murdering more?” whereas someone like Lazarus would see that viewpoint as being criminal in and of itself. Killing is a last result for him. How they view the world is different and that impacts their personalities and their motives.
Q: You are known for writing works of reference in the Marvel Universe, namely The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Does the reference work inspire new stories through research? Does that sort of writing aide the production and inspiration of your own works?
BR: Oh, sure. Reading through things for reference always provides a springboard for my own ideas. People ask, “Where do your ideas come from?” and I always want to say, “Everywhere!” because it’s true.
The best thing about working on the Official Handbook was that I was being paid to read comic books. How wonderful was that? Pretty damned wonderful.
Q: What was the spark that gave birth to Rabbit Heart, the story that won you a nomination for Georgia Writer of the Year?
BR: I had been writing The Rook and its related properties for several years and I was chafing under the constraints I had set for myself. I wanted to carve away all of that and do something that hit the bone. I wanted to be visceral and dark, I wanted to drop the f-bombs and slide off the pants. I wanted to be nasty, sick, and warped. It was cathartic.
Rabbit Heart is unlike anything else I’ve ever written. It’s the most personal work, featuring all the nasty little secrets that I usually don’t share with the world. Super hardcore in both violence and sex, it allowed me to depart from my mostly PG-13 pulp adventure stories and do something that truly frightened my friends and family. I have fans of this book who wouldn’t touch pulp with a ten-foot pole and I think it shows the world that I choose to write New Pulp… but it’s by no means the only thing I can do.
Q: What can we expect to see soon or do we have to wait for all of the secrets to be revealed?
BR: A new edition of Rabbit Heart should be out in time for Halloween, freshly scrubbed and ready for a new audience. I’m also slowly rolling out Special Editions of the entire Rook saga, with new packaging and special treats.
Beyond that, I have a Liberty Girl book dropping soon – that one was an odd project for me. I adapted a previously published graphic novel into prose. Then the fourth book in the Lazarus Gray series and the second Gravedigger novel will both be published in the early part of 2014. I also have short stories featuring Doctor Darkness, G-8 and His Battle Aces, Johnny Dollar, and Sherlock Holmes on the way from various publishers.