Chris Lawrence, D.B. Tarpley, Fiction, Germinal Press, Interview, J. Chris Lawrence, Lick the Razor, Lovecraftian, Short Stories, Splatterpunk
Once upon a time, it was a dark night and stormy night, I wrote. Leaning back, I glanced out the window at the gleeful puppy playing in the sunlight. It wagged its tale and hopped around a tree.
“I just don’t get it!” I cried, slamming my laptop shut.
I had been reading a lot of DB Tarpley lately, and in light of the release of “Lick the Razor” (Germinal Press), his new fifteen-story collection of anus fracturing, Lovecraftian evil, I was determined to grasp his gift for the visceral brutality of Splatterpunk.
I sighed. There could be only one way into Tarpley’s brain, and that would require a private room, a hand saw, and some Mentos.
The plan was simple: I’d break into his house, kidnap him, stop for some Taco Bell, and then carve his skull like a cantaloupe. Simple, sure. So, why am I now strapped onto a chair with my eye’s taped open, in a room of infinite shadows that’s broken only by a single shaft of light?
“I hope the Slobberdobber didn’t hurt you…much,” he says. He’s nude as he stands at a table, eyeing a plethora of dull surgery tools.
“It was…er…licky,” I say, testing my bonds.
“So, what brings you here?” He’s brushing a thumb along the blade of a rusty straight razor now.
“I, um, wanted to interview you!”
D.B. stops, turns my way. He doesn’t look insane. If anything, he looks bored. But there’s genius behind that steady gaze. Then he nods, says, “Alright. Why didn’t you say so?”
With that, he pulls a stool from the darkness and sits his bare, hairy ass down in front of me.
“So, what would you like to know?”
That’s when I say:
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to pick your brain, and without even having to remove any flesh! So, let’s start simple: What is it about writing that draws you to the craft? What does it do for you, and what got you into it?
I think that a true writer isn’t really drawn to the craft they are more or less shoved toward it on a daily basis. We have all these stories and ideas inside us which scream to get out and we are not satisfied unless we can get them out of our head and breathe life into the corpsified words. The craft comes in translating that to the fullest extent of your satisfaction. I can’t tell you how many times I have had a great idea fly south once I attempt to express it on the paper. The more you write though, the easier it is to catch the damn thing and pin its bloody wings to the page. It is a catharsis. I got into writing because I was an extreme social introvert with a near terminal case of social anxiety disorder growing up and it became a way for my voice to be heard, even by myself. Sometimes I don’t know how I feel about a subject until I write it down and re-read it. I am often surprised.
When that switch is flipped on it is like I have a virus and I can’t feel whole again until the entire thing has been completed.
What is your writing process like? Do you have a ritual or habit, or is it more spontaneous?
The nearest thing I have to a ritual is I listen to music as I write. It keeps me entertained when I hit a wall which is often. I write in spurts. I can stop and not write anything for like a year; then I sit down one day and spill it out for months on end. I become feverish about it sometimes. When that switch is flipped on it is like I have a virus and I can’t feel whole again until the entire thing has been completed.
So, tell me about Lick the Razor. What inspired this collection?
The collection was initially called ‘The Devil’s Teat’ and contained twice as many stories. I can be quite prolific when I am in one of my moods. My publisher and I agreed that the old title was a bit clunky on the brain so I re-titled the collection after one of the included stories. The collection for me was thematic, dealing mostly with the concept of where inspiration comes from for the writer… i.e., the devil’s teat. Many of the stories play with the concepts of ideas and inspiration and the power we give ideas. Of course they scare the shit out of you while discussing these themes. For me, story always comes first. I like to experiment with style and utilize a unique methodology from tale to tale, but in the end without story you have nothing. This collection was very personal to me as I abstractly discussed and developed my style as a writer. Though I have been writing for approximately 25 years I still feel I am a relatively young writer and I am proud to have developed a sense of ‘voice’ at this early stage in the game.
For me, story always comes first. I like to experiment with style and utilize a unique methodology from tale to tale, but in the end without story you have nothing.
What would you say was the most difficult part of writing this book?
I had, well I suppose I always have a self-imposed deadline when I write. I am all about order, even though the nut of how I write is spontaneous flow. I usually allow one word to dictate the next and often do not have any idea how a story will end once it is begun. But I still have a deadline for the book, and this often weighs heavy on my brain. In the case of this book in particular, I had a very specific number of tales I wanted to tell and I was behind at the end. This caused a flurry of writing which turned out to produce the best stories I had written to date. I was very surprised. I guess there is a place you can tap into sometimes and when you do it is a beautiful thing. I think most of the time, as writers, we all are trying to reach this place… like a drug addict perpetually attempting to achieve that first high.
Are there any stories in the collection that really stand out for you? Any that rise above the rest?
Well you have to remember that for this collection, my publisher and I cut the story count down from 37 to 15. Not that the other stories were necessarily waste, we just wanted a reasonable book for the format and picked the best of the best. So all the stories in this collection rock balls. There is not a weak one in the lot. Still, there is one story which I think has come closer than anything I have written before to satisfying me, ‘Everyone Knows’. I just think it is a very mature piece of writing which most encapsulates the ‘Splatterpunk’ movement I strive to be identified with. It is the story that I finished and read and just sat back going, “Yes.”
Inquiring minds must know: Boxers or briefs?
I have a custom designed codpiece constructed of old rusty cheese graters. It is welded shut so I never have to worry about dirty laundry.
Sorry about that. Not sure where that came from. So, anyway, how about your future works? A little bird told me you’re working on a novel. Can you tell us anything about that, or anything else you got going on? Also, should I see a shrink because birds talk to me?
I am in fact working on a larger piece. I have primarily worked on short fiction to date so I am finally taking the plunge into the long form. Btu I figure go big or go home so I am working on a trilogy. They are all outlined and that is as far as I will go into regarding the specifics of the story. I will just say that they are extremely bloody with just the right amount of humor, action, and social commentary. The titles are: THE DEATH OF FEAR, THE DEATH OF LOVE, and THE DEATH OF DEATH.
I just go for it. I don’t try to offend; I just say what I think.
Who or what are some of your biggest influences?
Growing up, I read King exclusively. I consumed everything he put out. And when I read hacks like Koontz I quickly realized they were just pretenders to the throne, Radiohead/ Coldplay and all that. I later became fascinated with Howard and Lovecraft and other pulp writers of the day. Then Kesey blew me away with his raw open naked honesty and I strive to achieve even a tenth of that in my writing. But what really opened my eyes, I mean what really blew me away and made me want to spill my life essence out onto the paper were a pair of anthologies called ‘Splatterpunks’, and ‘Splatterpunks 2’. It was a brutal introduction to a movement I had not previously been privy to which seemed to throw out all the rules and just go for it. That is what I try to do when I write. I just go for it. I don’t try to offend; I just say what I think. And anyone who says what they think will inevitably offend in a society where we speak in repetitive social niceties on a daily basis.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Just write. Write as often as you can until you find your own voice. And reread your words often. Rewriting is the soul of any good piece. Read it over and over again until the words make sense to you… until every syllable is in the right place. And if you like what you read… then fuck everyone else. Always write for yourself. I write the stories I want to read.
Okay, final question: Is there any hope for my survival after finishing this interview?
What do you think?
That I will, and you’ll give me cookies and wish me the best as you send me on my way!
Anyway, thanks again for giving me the opportunity to ask some question, D.B. And to the readers: Be sure to check out Lick the Razor available now from Germinal Press.