Beasts, balls and bromance: 3 Qs for comic horror author Jeff Strand

On a recent flight back to Houston, I was abruptly shushed by the Gare Bear, who was deeply engrossed in a bizarre book about a boy named Toby and his pal...killer humanoid beast monster, Owen. Bram Stoker nom Jeff Strand's Dweller is part Sendak, part Lassie, part Fangoria. Bromance meets bloodbath. It's gotten glowing reviews from publications like Hellnotes, CultureGeek and Dread Central. I had to ask.

Jeff, thanks for joining us. So where in the demented mind of Jeff Strand did Dweller come from? Allegory much?
Oh, I’m all about the allegory. (There’s an Amazon review for Dweller that calls it “very DEEP and SYMBOLIC” and when I first read it I thought the guy was being sarcastic!) There really isn’t a fascinating story about the origin of the idea. I was basically just brainstorming a bunch of ideas for my next book, and trying to figure out what twists I could put on standard horror tropes. “Lonely kid feeds bullies to pet monster” has been done before, but I’d never seen it done with an epic timeframe, and that idea very quickly evolved into Dweller.

Try as I might, I can't begin to envision how you pitched this book. Do you usually sell on a full manuscript or a proposal?
All of my books after The Sinister Mr. Corpse in 2007 were sold on proposal, which is good for a slacker like me who needs a deadline to get anything done. The pitch for Dweller was pretty straightforward: kid becomes best friends with a monster, and the book follows them for their entire lifetime, from childhood to old age. Leisure had no problems with the “best friends with a monster” part, but they were hesitant about the idea that the story took place over five or six decades. That to me was the whole selling point, but it’s also a difficult trick to pull off—it’s not a concept where you go “Wow! That’ll practically write itself!” So I did a full outline, went back and forth a few times with my editor, and he unleashed me to write it.

Okay, I'm fairly certain I'm going to regret asking this, but...Two Twisted Nuts: A Chapbook of Testicular Terror. Whaa...?
This cautionary tale goes back to 2005. Nick Cato, editor of The Horror Fiction Review, really liked my work and wrote horror/comedy stuff himself, so he said that someday we should do a joint collection of short stories called Two Twisted Nuts. What he meant was “two wacky guys,” but I e-mailed him back and said “What is that? A chapbook of testicular terror?”

A few weeks later, Nick sent me his short story “Ball Breaker” and said that Two Twisted Nuts: A Chapbook of Testicular Terror was going to be the debut publication of his new company, Novello Publishers...with or without me! So I wrote my own balls-themed tale, “Mr. Sensitive,” and literary history was made. I should probably be a little embarrassed by the project now, but I can’t help but love that shamelessly silly yet moderately disturbing book.

Bonus Q, if I might: What are you reading?
Cosmic Forces by Greg Lamberson.

Click here to visit Jeff's Gleefully Macabre blog.


Two Twisted Nuts... laughing my, um, head off! Thanks for sharing your story. The boy and his monster book sounds great!

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