We recently had the opportunity to have a proverbial sitdown with horror writer Steve Niles, best known for works such as Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem and Chin Music about Stephen King, the uncreativity of Hollywood, and dogs in capes.
AiPT: It’s cool to see you do a story set during WW2, incorporating a Golem into the mix. Would you ever consider writing another series with a real heavy tone, like Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem had? If so, would you like to give it a bit, so you can write something a little lighter in tone in between?
Steve: I write plenty of lighter tone stuff. I’ve been writing Cal McDonald for almost 30 years now, I consider that more of a humor book than horror. The next Criminal Macbare series is pretty light. It starts in September. I’m also taking over writing Army of Darkness which is straight up comedy.
AiPT: You seem to be a man that loves his cats. Have you ever owned a dog, or are you strictly a cat dude?
Steve: I have lots of animals. Right now, three cats, two dogs and two tortoises. When we get a place with land we plan on rescuing many more including goats and chickens.
AiPT: Simon Dark was one of my favorite series. Have you ever thought about going back to see what Simon is up to in Gotham? Would you like to work with Scott Hampton again (the artist on Simon Dark) even if it was for another series?
Steve: I’ve always wanted to do more Simon Dark but DC won’t let us doing anything with him. I made a big mistake trying to do a creator-owned book at DC. I’m afraid I’ve lost that character forever.
AiPT: Do you have any great drinking-with-Ben Templesmith stories you’d be willing to share? That is, unless they involve disposing of a body. Keep the legally incriminating stuff between you and Templesmith.
Steve: I don’t drink but I still have good stories. 🙂
AiPT: The episode you wrote of Fear Itself was rad. Do you miss horror anthology/sci-fi anthology shows? I mean no recurring character anthology shows, stuff like Tales From the Crypt, Tales From the Darkside, The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and The Outer Limits?
Steve: I have been trying to do an anthology show for years but I can’t get anybody interested. That’s one of my favorite formats.
AiPT: Are you friendly with Tom Jane? I know Bradstreet uses him a lot, and that he was on a few Criminal Macabre covers.
Steve: Tom and I did some work together years ago. I see him from time to time.
AiPT: How far into development purgatory is a Criminal Macabre movie? I won’t use the phrase “development Hell,” because I think a movie only achieves that when Ulli Lommel starts directing it.
Steve: I’ve taken a step back from the movie stuff. It’s a world I don’t have much interest in these days, as far as the pitching and writing. I’m content just working on my comics and if something happens great, if not, no big deal. CM is being shopped again right now. Some film talk, some TV talk. I’d love to see Cal as a series. We shall see.
AiPT: Have you ever had a Cal McDonald moment? Not literally (like, taking pills you found on the street) but rather a moment where you lived it and thought “gee, if I just made this crazier, this is a Cal McDonald scenario”?
Steve: I’m sober now so I can say it, but there’s A LOT of stuff in Cal that I pulled from reality. You’d be stunned. But even sober I have Cal McDonald moments. I’ve learned you don’t need drugs and alcohol to be a massive f--k up. 😉
AiPT: I recently saw that postcard you sent to Stephen King, and what he wrote back on it to you. If you could adapt any of King’s works into a comic, which one would you pick?
Steve: I think The Shining would make a great, long comic series. Also his Night Shift stories.
AiPT: What’s your writing routine? For me, it’s a cup of coffee, and either complete silence, or a movie soundtrack, or other form of ambient or instrumental music in the background. Do you usually have a preferred time to write, like in the morning, or late at night?
Steve: I start in the morning. I usually get distracted online or on the phone, then start writing around mid afternoon and keep going until 8-9 at night. I just sit, play music and work at writing all day.
AiPT: If you could be any monster, what kind would you want to be?
Steve: Most monsters are human, so I don’t wanna be a monster.
AiPT: What talent or superpower would you like to have (not including flight or invisibility)?
Steve: The ability to understand humans would be nice.
AiPT: What’s the last domestic horror film you’ve seen you really loved? Last foreign horror film you really loved?
Steve: I am woefully behind on films. I haven’t seen any foreign horror in a long time but I’d love to. Last horror film I saw was You’re Next and I thought it was fun.
AiPT: Who would you say draws the best gore? You can give a list, I know I can’t think of one artist in particular. You could say there’s a whole bloody mess of them.
Steve: Easy. Glenn Fabry.
AiPT: How hard was it to convince a publisher to do a black and white comic, like Frankenstien: Alive! Alive! Or your most current work, Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem?
Steve: Not hard at all with Frankenstein. It was clear from the start that Wrightson’s work would be too detailed to color. For Breath of Bones it was a tonal choice. It just fit the story better. I was thrilled DH made all the ads black and white too. I love B&W anyway. I wish more people did it.
AiPT: You seem to enjoy noir, based on all of the Criminal Macabre you’ve written, Dead, She Said, and most recently Chin Music. Have you ever written anything strictly noir without monsters or the supernatural? Would you ever like to work on something like that?
Steve: I have. A couple short stories here and there but mostly I like my horrors and monsters. Someday maybe.
AiPT: I’m sure you’ve been asked this a bunch, but what are your favorite horror authors? What are your favorite authors not known as “horror” writers? Anyone new you’ve read recently that’s blown your head off?
Steve: Richard Matheson. He’s not just a great genre writer, he was a great writer.
AiPT: What do you think of the concept of genre? Does it annoy you to have to label yourself as a writer, or do you not, and is that mainly the job of publishers and press people on your behalf?
Steve: People seem to need labels so I don’t mind. I like many things other than horror, it doesn’t define me, but that’s how I made my bones so I don’t mind being called a horror writer.
AiPT: If you can talk about it, how is the translation to film of your works other than Criminal Macabre and 30 Days of Night going?
Steve: It’s going. I don’t really pay attention anymore. Hollywood is run by non-creatives so it’s just an exercise in frustration to think about. I’m glad there’s a shift from film to TV series right now. I think most comic material and prose are better suited for TV.
AiPT: You seem to be a stubble, and or short beard kind of guy. Have you ever dared to try for the Warren Ellis length beard, or even more challenging, the Alan Moore beard?
Steve: No. I chew it short before it grows. I’m a tad anxious.
AiPT: Do you still talk to your former bandmates? Have you ever tried to get another band going, or do you still rock out with Gray Matter, or Three?
Steve: All the time. They are my best friends. We’re (Gray Matter) playing a 30 year reunion show September 13th at the Black Cat Club in DC.
AiPT: Do you have a most treasured piece of horror memorabilia in your home, such as an autograph, or full sized sculpture of Frankenstein?
Steve: Wrightson hand drew me a Christmas card. I’ll never part with that.
AiPT: Have you ever thought about releasing another prose collection, such as the Cal McDonald collections of short stories, and or a novel with a different character?
Steve: I have completed a novel called A World of Hurt which is due next year.
AiPT: Favorite Halloween memory?
Steve: Dressing up my dog Sonny as Krypto. He loves that cape.
AiPT: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Can you tell us what you have coming down the pipeline in the future?
[Rather than tell us, Niles elected to show us what he has coming up:]