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Halloween is my favorite time of the year. It’s a day for candy, a day for kids, a day for going to overpriced junk stores peddling the foulest wretches of your secret, sexy-pizza nightmares. It’s the only day of the year when family movie night means Hellraiser and chocolate coated skulls of baby squirrels, instead of the usual Wall-E and veggie chips. Needless to say, as my first Interdimensional Interview proves, I take this holiday very seriously, so when it came time to pick a costume, I knew it had to be original — something truly unique — and I had the perfect idea.

I was to be Breaking Bad’s Walter White!

I didn’t need much to play the role: I already shaved my head, grew a goatee, and developed a bunch of lung cancer, so all that was left was a cheap, yellow hazmat suit. I would be the belle of the ball! Assuming, of course, I could find the costume.

I looked everywhere. I tried the local stores first, then set out on my travels to far and distant lands. On my way to Amityville, I took a left turn at Elm Street, got lost at Camp Crystal Lake, and stayed the next night at the Overlook hotel (where men in animal costumes fed me whiskey and demanded I tell them “What the fox say”). Continuing on, I somehow ended up in the small town of Moon Hill.

While I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, everything about Moon Hill felt a little off. One charming lad politely informed me that “There is no hope,” just as his eyes turned black and he vomited pea soup on my shirt. Another person turned out to be a tendinous, squirrely creature with fleshy nubs for teeth. He was nice enough to give me directions. But then I saw them: They were a moaning mass of bodies, lurching, shuffling, all twisty as their ravenous eyes fell my way. I ran, screaming, and they gave chase. Through the streets I went until at last I found the “Moon Hill Monster Closet” sign. I ducked in for safety.

So, here I am. The place is dark and full of ominous, mechanical laughter. Slowly, my eyes adjust, and I realize it isn’t a Halloween prop making the noise, it’s the man behind the counter. He stops laughing and glares through grim eyes, his goateed mouth chewing some unseen horror. Or, maybe just spaghetti. It’s hard to tell in the dim lighting.

“Excuse me,” I say. “I’m looking for a Walter White costume. The kind that he wears in the lab.”

The man stares and chews. Chews and stares.

Then comes the pounding at the doors. They’ve found me!

“Crap! Look, I’m in a hurry! Do you have the costume or not?”

“Who are they?” he asks, pointing a finger outside.

“Justin Bieber’s fans,” I gulp. “They always mistake me for him. But in a manly way!”

He nods, says, “Sure, sure. To answer your question, that’s a very popular costume, but we may still have one in stock.”

“Oh, it is?” I rub my arm. “Yeah, well, it’s, uh, for a friend. I’m doing something amazingly unique this year.”

He shrugs, then leads me deep into the labyrinthine store, past ghoulish grins and smoking-ape masks. That’s when we pass under a blazing black light and I see his face.

“Hey, you’re Anthony J. Rapino!” I cry. “Author of Welcome to Moon Hill, Soundtrack to the End of the World, and Exquisite Death! Your new audio book, Reality Engineers, literally just came out!”

He nods again. Wipes the red from his lips.

“So, yeah, uh, I’ll make a deal with you! If you maybe just let me slip out the back, I’ll interview you!”

Slowly turning, he hands over the last costume, and with a wide grin, says, “Hey, why not?”

So I say:

Great! Thanks for giving me the time to interview you, and for helping me escape Bieber’s army. Anyway, let’s get started: What is it about writing that draws you to the craft? What does it do for you, and what got you into it?

I’ve dabbled in nearly every creative art.  I enjoy creation.  I play guitar, draw, paint, build, photograph, design, you name it.  The thing is I’m not very good at most of those things.  Competent?  Sure.  Skilled?  Perhaps.  But I’d reached my peak, and I knew on some deep level there was no more ground to gain.

When I considered becoming a writer, it was different.  The sky opened and goblins rained down, soaking me in blue-green viscera as they exploded on the ground, expelling their essence.  I drank deeply of their dark waters.  I bathed in their juice.  I danced among the gore.

And when they released me from the asylum, I started writing.

I’ve dabbled in nearly every creative art.  I enjoy creation.

Sounds messy. So, what’s your writing process like? Do you have a ritual or habit, or is it more spontaneous? Does it involve subsisting on human guts and coffee?

I have always relied on ritual to focus my mind and energy on the task at hand.  This ritual has changed over the years, at different times involving things like donning special “writer’s hats,” saving a single cigarette for after I’ve completed my writing for the day, having a certain type of drink on hand (sometimes beer, sometimes Kool Aid), and sacrificing the grey spotting lily-licker to gods of old.

While I do still have a ritual, it has been simplified.  No longer do I perform the stump-handed box step atop the eviscerated.  Nor do I paint my body in the eight signs of Sargozath, bringer of meal worms.

I sit at my computer, get a nice cup of coffee (it must be a nice cup; grumpy cups will not do), put on some instrumental music, and write.  And sometimes I’ll rub my Poe head for luck.  That’s not a euphemism.

I do the same thing, only I rub D.B. Tarpley’s head. His actual head, of course, not some doll or bobble-head. Sometimes it talks to me, tells me to do things… Anyway, tell me about Reality Engineers!

Reality Engineers is a new audio novella about residents of Moon Hill who unwittingly discover a way to manipulate reality.  These various skills, however, come at a price that no one is ready to pay.  As eldritch and benevolent creatures materialize, the Moon Hill crew must choose sides and attempt to save not only themselves, but the entire town.

For anyone who has followed my work, Reality Engineers will have many “Easter eggs” throughout the narrative, which relate back to my short story collection, Welcome to Moon Hill.  In fact, I consider this audio book to be the unofficial sequel in the Moon Hill Trilogy.  The books are all standalone, but the characters and settings often cross over.

Why release Reality Engineers as an audiobook as opposed to print?

My decision [to] work towards an audio release is simple:  It’s mind-numbingly amazing!  There are simply not enough audio books available, and releasing these things in a digital-dominated market makes too much sense not to do it.

I used to listen to audio books on tape when I worked in retail, and the fact will forever remain, when you don’t have the ability to read (because you’re driving, or doing some kind of physical labor, or shopping, or running, or a million others examples), you can still listen to an audio book.  And besides, the voice actors Mark employs (Ian Baldwin being the one who reads Reality Engineers) breathe new life into the characters and the work itself.

Let me put it this way:  I wrote the damn thing, I’ve read it more times than I can count, I’ve edited it, I’ve revised it…I should be SICK TO DEATH of it by now.  But when I listen to the recording, I find myself engaged, laughing like I’m batshit crazy, and simply LOVING the story all over again.  I’m not trying to blow smoke up my own ass.  It has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Ian’s performance, and Mark’s team over at In Ear transforming my story.

Although I have no immediate plans, I may still release Reality Engineers in print as well, but that won’t be for a while, if ever.

There are simply not enough audio books available, and releasing these things in a digital-dominated market makes too much sense not to do it.

What is it about horror fiction that speaks to you? Were you raised by eyeless dolls?

I’m currently staring at a human skull named Sunshine that I have mounted in my office.  You tell me.

We’re in a costume store. But good point all the same! Moving on: I like that your work revolves around a single location, called Moon Hill. Wait a minute, we’re in Moon Hill! What a coinkidink! Anyway, do you have more works planned for this universe? 

Yes, I’m working on a full length novel that takes place in Moon Hill (which will be the third installment of the unofficial Moon Hill Trilogy).  I’ve spent a long time fleshing out the town and its inhabitants, and I simply love revisiting this place.

I’ve spent a long time fleshing out the town and its inhabitants, and I simply love revisiting this place.

How about outside of Moon Hill? 

Most of my work does take place outside of Moon Hill. My first novel, for example, is not in the Moon Hill universe.  And once I complete this novel, I’m going to focus on other locations and storylines for a while.  Though, I fear I may never be too far away from Moon Hill.

Okay, you’re in a horror movie: Who would you cast for yourself and why?

This is probably going to sound conceited, but I’ve been told I can sometimes look like Johnny Depp.  Personally, I think it all has to do with the facial hair.  I do like most of his movies, though, so I think he’s a damn fine choice. 

Yeah, I’d peg myself as Brad Pitt, or maybe 50 Cent. It’s hard to choose. So, who or what are some of your biggest influences? 

Food.  It influences me daily.  Halloween occupies my mind on most days as well.  Some literary influences are Edgar Allan Poe, Chuck Palahniuk, Ernest Hemingway, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

I do.  You should read all of my books and pay careful attention to all of the marketing strategies I employ, then do the complete opposite!  Similarly, if you ever catch me trying to give you advice, ignore everything I say.  I’ve caused too many people to become imprisoned already.

Similarly, if you ever catch me trying to give you advice, ignore everything I say.  I’ve caused too many people to become imprisoned already.

Noted. Okay, final question: If you were a–Oh my God, what the hell is that hideous thing behind you?!

A mirror.

Oh, right! What I meant to say was, who is that handsome devil with the bald head behind you!

Well, thanks again Mr. Rapino for chatting with me and for letting me out the backdoor! For the readers, you can follow Anthony on Facebook and Twitter, and be sure to check out “Reality Engineers” available now through In Ear Entertainment. 

 

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