Good evening and welcome to Part Two of Confessions of a Reviewer interviewing the wonderfully wacky Jasper Bark!
In Part Two of the interview, tonight, Jasper starts by answering some stuff on his last book, Run To Ground, gives us some more about himself, and tackles The Ten Confessions with some revealing answers done in a style that only Mr Bark could pull off!
It’s Tuesday go grab a coffee and a bun and sit back, and most of all…..enjoy!
Moving on to your newest releases, my friend and colleague, Chad Clark read The Final Cut and had a couple of questions for you:
CoaR – Chad – We live in a world in which social media and Internet news agencies seem to focus so much on the violence around us. When people ask why you choose to write horror in a world with so many real horrors already, what do you say?
JB – Y’know Chad, that’s a good question and it does seem that, as a horror writer, you are always called upon to answer for all the assumed excesses of the entire horror genre, not just your own work. More than that, you often feel like you’re being called to account for all the atrocities in the world too. “How can you write that stuff?” people outside of the horror community will often ask you. Even though they gladly dress up in horror costumes and festoon themselves with blood and gore every Halloween.
Sales of horror books and horror films always increase in times of economic disruption and social unrest. I think that’s because people need a safe place to put all their fears and anxieties. They also need a safe and controlled way of purging themselves of all the negative emotions they’re carrying around. Being too afraid, for too long, causes us to make bad decisions and to live unhappy lives. So, we need some way to get rid of those destructive emotions. Watching, or reading, a story of someone in peril, undergoing intense physical and emotional turmoil, and facing a very real destruction, is a good way of getting all the anger, hatred and terror, that the world inspires in us, out of our systems. It’s a way of bleeding off the poison. No different from watching a really weepy movie when we need a good cry.
CoaR – Chad – Are there any lines you won’t cross in terms of the content of your writing? Anything you steer clear of or wouldn’t want to take on?
Nev – (Grrrr I wanted to ask this.)
JB – I’ve asked this question myself, of many writers during interviews and panels that I’ve conducted. The usual response is: ‘no, anything is fair game’. But when I’ve pursued the matter a little bit more and suggested certain taboos, most of them admit that they do have limits and lines they won’t cross.
Having hit lines at certain times in my writing, and having decided not to cross them myself, I had always thought there were lines I wouldn’t cross. However, whenever I hit these lines in one story, I invariably encounter them in another, and then find myself, (often to my own horror) carrying on right over them to a place I’m very uncomfortable with. So, I’ve yet to actually encounter a taboo I won’t take on at some point, even if my first encounter with it leaves me running and screaming.
I think this also relates to another important role that horror plays in our lives, it allows us to disempower our taboos, so they have less control over us. Things we can never say, or think or do, are checks on our behaviour, which means they’re ways of controlling us. For instance, it would be very hard for any of us, in today’s climate to make a sympathetic argument in favour of terrorism, due to the huge impact it’s had on many people’s lives. This would be a taboo. However, this means that it is very difficult for us to understand and engage with the reasons why people would go to such terrifying lengths, and because we’re not allowed to attempt this – because of the taboo – we have to resort to measures that involve giving up a lot of our hard-won civil liberties in order to guard against it. I’m not saying the taboo alone is responsible for this, but it is a barrier to finding a positive and lasting solution to an unacceptable situation.
There’s a saying that: ‘if you can spot it, you’ve got it. If you can’t play with it, it’s got you’. That’s one thing that all horror readers and writers do at one time or another, we play with our taboos. It’s an essential part of being a horror writer. We dance with our dark-side, we acknowledge, recognise and allow it, in order that it doesn’t totally overwhelm us, as happened to poor Dr. Jekyll – a cautionary tale of which all horror fans are aware.
CoaR – Run to Ground. What was the idea behind this one as an individual story?
JB – The idea came from the strange fetish that the central character, Jim McLeod has. When the idea of this fetish occurred to me I was appalled, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind. One problem that comes with having an uncontrollable imagination, is where most people can think: ‘that’s horrible I don’t even want to think about that happening’ and put it from their minds, I can’t. I will live through the thing I don’t want to even conceive of, in intimate detail, because my imagination won’t leave it alone. This is one of the reasons I write horror stories, just to have something to do with these experiences.
Once I’d conceived of the idea, and decided I needed to put it in a story, to get it out of my head, I began to think about the consequences of just such a fetish, if taken to their ultimate conclusion. When I thought about those consequences, I then thought about how they might come about and I was off and running with a story.
CoaR – It is full of familiar names from the social media world. Does it make it easier for you to write characters having names already, or more difficult because you know the person in real life?
JB – It didn’t actually affect me at all, because, while I borrowed the names of lots of individuals, specifically those who work for the Gingernuts of Horror, I didn’t base the characters on them in any way whatsoever at all. The story was originally written for a single copy anthology called Jim McLeod Must Die, put to together by a group of writers to honour Jim. The concept being that the lead character is called Jim and he dies at the end (although that may not happen in Run to Ground). I can assure you Jim doesn’t have the particular fetish his namesake has (at least I hope to God he doesn’t), and none of the other character’s act or look anything like their namesakes either. It’s just that they’re all associated with Jim.
CoaR – These stories are all part of The Heresy Series and in particular the Qu’rm Saddic Heresy. What is this all about and how did you get interested in it?
JB – The Qu’rm Saddic Heresy is an ancient set of blasphemous beliefs that date back to the earliest civilisations. Its followers apparently claimed that all other religions stem from their belief system, and are just bastardised versions of their truth. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why they were so persecuted, by just about every official religion, from Ancient Mesopotamia onwards. We mainly know about the Heresy from its detractors. It had a brief resurgence in the early Renaissance period, when Hermetic thought came back into fashion, but interest in it dwindled since then and it certainly wasn’t a part of the renewed interest in the occult that flourished in the 20th century. It seems to have been all but forgotten by only a handful of scholars, who study obscure subjects. To the best of my knowledge, there are no surviving manuscripts that outline the Qu’rm Saddic beliefs. You still hear rumours, now and again, of rare and exotic manuscripts collectors who’ve turned something up, none of these have ever been verified as far as I’m aware though.
I guess I’m drawn to the heresy for two reasons, the first being that I’m fascinated by forbidden knowledge and beliefs, and the second that I’m completely curious as to what was so terrifying about it, that it was outlawed by just about every society on record.
CoaR – The second story in this one, How The Dark Bleeds, is a totally different kettle of fish, in terms of style, but falls under the same series. Why put them together in one book?
JB – Partly because I wanted to give readers an extra little bit of value when they bought the book, and partly because it was a good plug for the previous collection, in which it first appeared Stuck On You and Other Prime Cuts. But mostly because How The Dark Bleeds was the first story in the Heresy Story Cycle and I wanted to keep up a continuity of theme, if not approach.
CoaR – What is the next in the series and when can we expect it?
JB – I have a novella in Black Shuck Books’ latest collection Great British Horror: Green and Pleasant Land called Quiet Places which is an integral part of the series and adds quite a bit to the lore. I’m hoping that we can release a slightly expanded version, next year as a stand-alone book with an entirely new short story, also from the series, plus extra material, to back it up.
I hope to write three further novels in the series, a sort of triptych building to a grand finale. I also hope to collect all the short stories and novellas into two collections to accompany the novels, but that’s all in the future.
CoaR – What would your ultimate wish be with your writing?
JB – I’d like to have a lasting impact on the fields in which I work, to blaze new trails and open up new territory for other writers to explore. It would be very cool to have an adjective named after me, such as Kafkaesque or Lovecraftian, I’m not sure if my work would be described as Barkian or Barkesque though – Barkish perhaps??? I guess it’s not for me to decide.
However, as a writer, I am, and have always been, an avid and voracious reader. So many books have meant so much to me at different times in my life, have had a huge impact on the way I see the world and how I look on my fellow human beings. So, I guess, if something I wrote, could mean that much, to even one person who reads my work, if I could give something like that back to the world of books, then I would die a happy man.
CoaR – What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
JB – I run a respite home for retired sex dwarfs and I’m a counsellor for recovering KY Jelly addicts, lube abuse is a far greater social problem than anyone’s willing to admit at the moment.
I was a founder member of the South West Naked Sky Diving Team, but I had to retire a few years ago, when I went off course and accidentally landed in the octopus’ tank of the local outdoor aquarium. It took them four hours to pull me out and it was touch and go for a while. I walked funny for several weeks afterwards, but I still get postcards from some of the tanks residents, so it’s not all bad.
CoaR – What’s coming in the future from Jasper Bark?
JB – I have, as they say in hell, such sights to show you …
Markosia, who published my last graphic novel Bloodfellas, are releasing the collected edition of Parassassin, the on-going series I wrote for David Lloyd’s award winning Aces Weekly. It will have extra material and should be out at the beginning of 2017.
I have lots of other projects slated to be written and published, but I have to remain annoyingly vague about them, due to contractual reasons. Keep your eyes glued to this space though!!!
THE TEN CONFESSIONS
1 Who would you view as your main competitor in the writing world?
The great thing about our genre is that every rival is actually a potential ally and advocate for your work. We’re all in this together and the more we help each other, the better we all do.
2 What book or author have you read that you think should never have been published?
There are quite a lot, but I would consider it unprofessional, and unfair of me, to publicly name and shame. Look me up in the bar of a con, when I’ve had a few, and we’ll talk
3 Are any of the things your characters have experienced in your books been based on something that has actually happened to you? What was it?
I’m afraid my lawyer has advised not to answer this one.. for, err y’know… reasons and stuff. And those freshly dug mounds in my back yard, they’re for… trees, that’s right trees. I’m planting trees, lots of them, no, really…
4 Have you ever blatantly stolen an idea or scene and adapted it for one of your own books? If so, care to share?
I’ve reverse engineered ideas, then refitted them for purpose, so that you would never know where they came from, but there’s no point in blatantly stealing, why bother to write if you’re only going to repeat someone else’s story?
5 Have you ever anonymously left a bad review for someone else’s book? If so, care to share?
No, that’s something I would never do.
6 What’s the one thing you are least proud of doing in your life and why?
Lying to the people I love, it was craven and it diminished me as a person.
7 What’s the one thing you are MOST proud of doing in your life and why?
Being the father of two daughters because they are two of my favourite people and some of the most awesome people on the planet.
8 What’s your biggest fault?
Not remembering what my biggest fault is.
9 What is your biggest fear?
Remembering what my biggest fault is.
10 If you had to go to confession now, what would be the one thing you would need to get off your chest?
The Siamese twin brother who lives in my ribcage and whispers such terrible things to me as I drift off to sleep. I would definitely have to get him off my chest and out of my body, if ever I entered a confessional booth, he’s allergic to God.
Well, we are very, very sad to say that is your lot for the Confessions interview with Jasper Bark.
This one has been a huge pleasure for us to do and we want to personally thank Jasper for taking the time out to answer the questions and for making it happen.
I know that right in the middle of this process, Jasper had quite a hard time with various things and we are forever indebted to him for his time and patience in making this possible.
I sincerely hope that this will not be the last time we interview Mr Bark. Maybe next time we can try a video one! That opens all sorts of avenues and we reckon we may need to speak to our lawyers first!
Anyone interested in seeing that one?
Don’t forget to pop into Confessions tomorrow night for the first review of Run To Ground!
Thanks again for visiting Confessions of a Reviewer!
CONFESSIONS REVIEWS JASPER BARK
Jasper Bark is infectious – and there’s no known cure. If you’re reading this then you’re already at risk of contamination. The symptoms will begin to manifest any moment now. There’s nothing you can do about it. There’s no itching or unfortunate rashes, but you’ll become obsessed with his books, from the award winning collections ‘Dead Air’ and ‘Stuck on You and Other Prime Cuts’, to cult novels like ‘The Final Cut’ and acclaimed graphic novels such as ‘Bloodfellas’ and ‘Beyond Lovecraft’.
Soon you’ll want to tweet, post and blog about his work until thousands of others fall under its viral spell. We’re afraid there’s no way to avoid this, these words contain a power you are hopeless to resist. You’re already in their thrall and have been since you began reading this bio. Even now you find yourself itching to read the whole of his work. Don’t fight it, embrace the urge and wear your obsession with pride!
And for more about Jasper, visit his site or find him on social media: