Film for a Friday: Viy

Get spooky with this adaptation of a Gogol story:

Advertisements

Interview: Dana Fredsti, Murder for Hire

mfh-195x300Connie Garrett knows that a trenchcoat and a fedora don’t make a detective. She’s the co-founder of Murder for Hire, an acting troupe that specializes in spoofing, not sleuthing. When MFH performs at a sleepy coastal community’s mystery gala, celebrating the works of a famous hard-boiled mystery writer, the bodies start stacking up, and Connie finds herself on the case whether she likes it or not. Now Connie is committed to solving the murders while trying to keep both the show-and her love life-afloat.

Was this story inspired by your own acting experiences?

Murder for Hire was definitely inspired by real life events. My best friend and I had a murder mystery oriented theater troupe in San Diego many years ago (I will not say how many, other than to admit that I had to actually add cell phones in by the time the book was first published). Many things in MFH actually happened, including a confrontation with a truly horrible woman who tried to get us fired from one of our jobs. She actually said that we’d ‘never work in this town again.’ She caused a lot of stress for us and our actors, so we decided to kill her. In a book, of course! So we wrote the first draft of MFH, which was rewritten several times over the years before actual publication fifteen years later.
God, I feel old now…

Is acting a good preparation for writing?

For those of us that like to write, I think it gives much experience to draw from. But I don’t think the crossover works for everyone because there are plenty of actors with no interest in writing and vice versa. Where I think acting experience really helps a writer is prepping them for public speaking and publicity. So many authors are introverts and find the whole process of promoting themselves and their works to be akin to torture. I personally love it, but when I first started acting I was a lot more self-conscious than I am now.

 What skills are similar?


Hmmm… the ability and delight in stepping away from the real world for a while and making it as real as possible to the readers/audience.

 So, are there any characters based on real experiences?

Well, see above for the woman who inspired MFH in the first place. Her name and appearance were changed to protect the innocent (that would be me), but at least one of her scenes pretty much followed the true to life version of it. A lot of the characters in MFH are based on real people. Some are conglomerations of two or more people. Some are completely made up. The two main characters, Connie and Daphne, were definitely inspired by me and Maureen (my best friend), but the difference between the first and final draft is very noticeable because I’d managed to achieve distance and perspective. Which made for a better book.

How would you compare writing this novel to writing the Ashley Parker novels?


Oh jeez… There’s no way to really compare because MFH was so closely based on real life events (and wish fulfillment ’cause killing off people who have been total asshats without fear of being arrested is AWESOME) that writing it was… well, it was easy. Mind you, it needed the rewrites it eventually got, but that first draft… I think it was a three-week process.

Come to think about it, I still kill off people who piss me off in real life in my novels… So as far as that goes, I enjoy it as much in my Ashley Parker novels as I did writing Murder for Hire.

Do you always start out with a clear plan or do you feel your way along with a story?

First draft of MFH was outlined. The murderer, though, did not cooperate and ended up being changed after the first draft was finished. That made for a better book because there were all these built in red herrings pointing to the character who was originally the villain. The first Ashley Parker book was not outlined beyond a page of ‘this happens and there are these characters and, and, and… zombies!’ Now that I’m working with Steve Saffel at Titan Books, everything has at least a basic outline. I still find some of the best ideas happen when I’m doing research and something will spark an idea that leads me down a completely different path than expected.

 Will there be more novels in this vein? 


I really want to finish the sequel to MFH. I started it quite a while ago and have three chapters waiting for me to get on with it.

What’s next for you?











I’m currently working on the first in new urban fantasy trilogy based on the Lilith mythos for Titan Books (which is, btw, a UK publisher), which is going to be released next year. I’m also working the first of a science fiction trilogy with my husband David Fitzgerald (an awesome writer!) that’s also being published by Titan Books. It’s called TimeShards. I’m stoked (that’s my Southern Cal surfer gal coming out there) about both series. Additionally I’ve got a story coming out in the latest V-Wars anthology, edited by Jonathan Maberry (he also writes the wraparound stories for the books), as well as a story in the upcoming Joe Ledger crossover anthology Joe Ledger: Unstoppable, which is being edited by Jonathan and Bryan Thomas Schmidt, and features characters from various authors’ universes interacting with characters in the world Joe Ledger.

What are some of your favourite crime stories or writers? Films that inspire? 

Not so much into crime stories as I am mysteries, really. Favorite authors off the bat: Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels, Marlys Millhiser, Juliet Blackwell, Terry Shames, Susan Shea, Lisa Brackmann… that’s just a start. As far as films? Classic film noir for the win as far as inspiring MFH!

 
Is writing better than acting?

And yes, writing is MUCH better than acting. I can wear pajamas and don’t need a boob job to do it!!!

Dana Fredsti is a novelist and screenwriter, B-movie actress, zombie aficionado, exotic and domestic feline advocate, swordfighter, wine lover and beach glass junkie. She writes the best-selling Ashley Parker series: Plague World, the sequel to Plague Town and Plague Nation, is available now from Titan. Murder for Hire is out now from Fox Spirit Books.

Win a copy of SATAN’S SORORITY!

Pledging Sigma Tau NuI am giving away a prize package of ONE print copy of SATAN’S SORORITY plus one “I’m pledging Sigma Tau Nu” promo badge and a couple of little surprises to some lucky winner here at the blog on Halloween (Saturday, 31 October 2015).

Enter to win by posting here (or on my Facebook page) with your name and the declaration: “I’m pledging Sigma Tau Nu!” The winner will be chosen by random. Be sure to include your email or I’ll choose the person via random lottery.

Deadline: noon (GMT) on Halloween.

Big thanks to Lys Guillorn for making the swanky badges.

Listen to a snippet of the novella read by Darren Sant of Near 2 the Knuckle. They’re going to have a big Halloween extravaganza that includes my story ‘Masquerade’ that’s a kind of prequel to Satan’s Sorority.

Out Now: Neon Boneyard

The hits just keep on coming — out now and FREE for 48 hours, more adventures from your favourite werewolf PI: The Neon Boneyard.

Neon Boneyard

‘In the neon-soaked, blood-spattered hell-hole they call The City, Roman Dalton struggles to fight the forces of darkness, even when he becomes a creature of the night. Werewolves, vampires, zombies: they’re all just amateurs when it come to the real menace who haunts the streets. Let Brazill take you on a grim dark journey to hell and back. Bring lots of whisky: it’s a rough ride.’ K A Laity, author of White Rabbit.

Saturday Swank: Screaming Mimi

2015-03-27 11.04.22 2015-03-27 11.04.36

Frederic Brown’s novel The Screaming Mimi provided the jumping off point for Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, but there was also a 1958 film noir version with Anita Ekberg and Gypsy Rose Lee. I paid Hal the Bookie far too much for this years back, but I just had to have it.

TOA/V: Home (J. G. Ballard’s The Enormous Space)

HOME (2003)

An adaptation of JG Ballard‘s “The Enormous Space,” written and directed by Richard Curson Smith, with Antony Sher. A disturbing, darkly comic tale of a man who attempts to sever all contact with the outside world, by simply staying at home. As Gerald Ballantyne rids himself of the surface clutter in his life he is lead to a startling discovery; a mystery about the house begins to reveal itself, though possibly only in his fevered mind. The changes begin to obsess and take control of Ballantyne, bring his experiment to a chilling climax.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper immediately comes to mind on seeing this; her protagonist gets forced into isolation while Ballard’s seems to choose his, but both suffer peculiar and disorienting effects of it. Both stories also illuminate the effects of gender on perceptions of isolation. Gilman’s narrator suffers from having her agency (and creativity) denied. Expressing herself is bad! Ballard’s modern man Ballantyne (a banker in the short story, an advertising creative in the film) ‘chooses’ to cut himself off instead of returning to work after a traumatic crash and the departure of his wife.

Ballantyne’s reaction to the implicit failure in the loss of control of his car and his wife is to try to maintain total control over his environment. So he stays home, the front door the absolute limit of his world. The thing is no one questions him much. The neighbour who notices his car running unattended, the wife who needs his signature on forms, the co-worker who covers for his lengthening absence — none of them really feel as if they have any right to tell this man what to do. No one questions him. And he goes slowly mad — or madder.When your home is your world, it expands to hold all your interest.

I’d love to see close-ups of the pictures/charts/psychotic art on the walls.

Because resources are limited, he has to get creative with his ‘experiment’ and of course this eventually leads to crime of various kinds as we plunge into the world of horror. The assurance of the credits that “no animals were harmed in the making of this film” may not be enough for more sensitive folks. Really good work on sets and design!

It’s a little bit long. I think it could have had the same impact if trimmed a little. There’s a strong supporting cast especially Mathilda Ziegler as Paula, his co-worker, but this is pretty much Antony Sher’s show and he’s mesmerising.

Here’s a music compilation inspired by the story.

Check out Todd’s blog for all your overlooked A/V gems.

Review: Guns of Brixton

gunsofbrixtonGUNS OF BRIXTON
Paul. D. Brazill
Byker Books
July 2013

Blurb:

When the simple task of collecting a briefcase from a Northern courier in his London lock-up results in a dead Geordie gangster there’s only one thing that Kenny Rogan can do…dress up in drag and rob a jewellers with ‘Big’ Jim and hope everything turns out okay!

From the pen of Paul D Brazill comes a whole host of larger-than-life characters, a sharp plot and the kind of humour you wouldn’t let your granny read…but don’t just take our word for it.

Review:

I was a big fan of the short story this novella sprang from — it may have been one of the first things I read by Brazill, though at this point is difficult to tell as I pretty much read everything Mr B publishes. What can I say? He makes me laugh. And wince at the same time: there’s a lot of blackly comic moments that involve some outlandish violence and horror. Along the way Brazil name checks a plethora of pop culture riffs, everything from cheesy pop songs to well-trod bad jokes and weird-but-true trivia about the Old Smoke. At heart it’s an interlace of heists-gone-wrong with unexpected twists that prove satisfying.

You may want a score card to keep track of the widening cast of characters, but it’s a helluva ride through some fascinating locations with memorable creations who feel implausibly vivid. Gratuitous Bobby Goldsboro, but that’s life.