David W. Barbee is the author of many books like Jimbo Yojimbo and the Wonderland Award nominated A Town Called Suckhole. His stories have been published in print and digital, every one of them cartoonish, deranged, and twisted with southern flavor. He lives with his wife and kids in central Georgia, but can be found online like everyone else.
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a pretty regular dude. Though my upbringing was kind of gritty, I’ve managed to become an extremely normal person living an extremely normal life. Job, family, house, pay some bills, build things out of wood. And in my spare time, I like to write stories. Maybe it’s a holdover from my childhood. I spent a lot of time alone and would make up worlds and write stories, draw maps and alien creatures. I grew up consuming a ton of content from an era that was already heavily saturated with pop culture, and like a lot of people these days, I’m trying to contribute my own content. Things I haven’t seen yet, and hopefully things readers would like to see. Weird things.
2. Us writers with kids know how difficult it can be to work with little ones running around. Can you take us through a typical writing session? Do you lock yourself in a basement or closet for complete piece and quiet?
I write late at night after my kids have gone to sleep, or in the early morning before they wake up. In between those times I try to get some sleep, so exhaustion is the true enemy. The key to victory is constant energy and effort. I sometimes get a rare moment to myself, but I’m usually juggling life during the day. You’d think I’d have plenty of time to write since it’s a desk job. Sure, it’s quiet and generally peaceful, but my coworkers are energy vampires who bore me nearly to death. Some people call them librarians.
3. You were in The New Bizarro Author Series from Eraserhead Press. I know at the time they only took unpublished writers, so you removed your self published books from Amazon. How do you feel about those books today? Have you looked at them and thought about trying to re-release them?
It’s crazy to me that there’s so much interest for those stories. I didn’t like self-publishing much, so I never had a problem taking them out of print, but I never disliked those stories. I actually dislike my NBAS book more than those books. My original idea was for Carnageland to be the first part of a trilogy starring Invader 898, where he goes to a cartoon world and then a horror world and gets into shenanigans while trying to escape punishment for being a defective/horny alien. The Superior I won’t revisit because some of those ideas are going to be used for a much bigger future project. So that leaves Butcherface. It could be rereleased if enough people want to see a three hour heavy metal music video in book form.
4. As a NBAS author you had to impress Eraserhead Press with sales and promotion to get a contract with them. Was it difficult trying to meet their sales requirements? What have you learned about promoting your work since then?
It was difficult in the same way that selling any book is difficult. It’s strange, because I had a ton of energy back then, but very little in the way of a product to sell and even less knowledge on how to use that energy. I succeeded there because I kept working and trying, not necessarily because I met a certain goal. In the time since then, I’ve learned that the majority of the indie publishing business is based around relationships and communication. Your social circles are the real tools. You can’t afford to be shy. There’s barely any room for humility. I have to talk about myself and my work constantly, even if (or maybe because) my personality isn’t suited for it. I’m shy as hell. Even doing this interview is giving me hives.
5. What has been your biggest struggle with writing? Is there a book or story of yours that was more difficult to finish than any other?
I’ve never struggled too much with any one book. I think that will change when I start writing longer and more complex novels. My biggest struggle has been finding my own path. Being an author is a weird racket. You take something you love doing and try to leverage it into some kind of business model, and nobody has a universal blueprint for it. Each individual must figure out what works for them and walk their own path. And then you have to forge some kind of network with the people involved in all these social circles, and some of those people can be shitty. It is often a screw job to the mind, heart, and soul, all for this activity that you’re supposed to love.
6. Who are your literary influences? What books are your favorite? Are there any books or authors that you repeatedly re-read?
I have a ton of influences, which I think is good, because I’m trying to synergize my influences into work that is new and weird and pays homage to its inspirations while not blatantly ripping them off. I grew up on Frank Miller comic books and Joe Lansdale stories. I think of Lansdale the way a lot of people think of Stephen King. He’s my bedrock. For a while I read a lot of British writers, mostly because they were good for weird, surreal stuff. China Mieville, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman. My barriers got pushed wider when I discovered indie horror and the bizarro genre, which could be weird and surreal, but also pulpy and extreme. Authors like Cody Goodfellow, Jeremy Robert Johnson, and Carlton Mellick III are just a few writers I look up to and read just about anything they put out. And since I still read a ton of comics, Jason Aaron and Rick Remender are worth mentioning.
7. When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? Were there any books that were the catalyst to starting you on this path?
I was a weird kid. A weird, lonely kid. A weird, lonely, sad little sumbitch. With all that free time I was usually drawing stuff, writing things, or just imagining something for no reason at all. I wanted to be creative almost right away, and eventually I settled on writing prose. My talents as a kid were limited to spelling and literature. I not only remembered the stories they made us read in literature class, I was interested in what they meant. I had that talent only because it came naturally, I didn’t even know enough to nurture it at that point. I was raised on television and movies (like a lot of folks of my generation) but stories had a way of touching my soul the way all those sugary 80’s franchises never could. Of Mice and Men taught me about America. I’ve never been religious, but Flannery O’Connor’s stories taught me about God, or at least a God I might be able to believe in. Maybe the first book that impacted me, and made me see how important books were, was The Whipping Boy. Maybe every boy feels that way, but I know I did.
8. How did you get into Bizarro fiction? What book was your introduction?
My intro to the bizarro genre was probably Satan Burger. That was a crazy book, with the kind of absurd science fictional setting where nothing makes any sense, but that was okay. Hyper-futuristic stories like that are my personal favorite brand of bizarro.
9. What is going on with David Barbee? You recently released Taterskinheads through Bizarro Pulp Press, and Laser House on The Prarie is coming out through Excession Press. Do you have another book ready to put out into the world or are you finishing something up? Are you gonna make us wait awhile for the next one?
First, thank you for noticing. My current state as an indie author revolves around producing even more work and spreading it out farther than ever. It’s like being a drug dealer in that way. The plan is to not make you wait awhile for any of them. Keep a steady stream of content flowing out to the readers. So I’m working on multiple books and short stories at all times for that very purpose. You want details? Okay. My current WIP is a post apocalyptic survival tale set in a world ravaged by creatures that aren’t quite zombies, because zombies aren’t close to being weird enough. Behind that I have an epic horror/fantasy adventure about the afterlife and a body horror story that’s one part Dracula and one part Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? I’m also teamed up with a buddy to write something we’re tentatively calling “Shroom Cops,” which will be more gritty and heartbreaking than it sounds.
10. Tell us about your most recent release. How has it been received compared to previous releases? What’s the buzz like for the new one getting ready to come out?
My latest is Laser House on the Prairie. As of this writing, it isn’t out for release yet, but I’ve spent a good deal of time talking about it with the folks at Excession Press. It’s definitely the sort of action-packed pulp fiction that I usually write, with tons of weird characters and worldbuilding, but it’s also a commentary on the nature of fandom. I’ve observed it mostly through geek/nerd culture, but people can obsess over anything, and through that obsession comes toxic fandom. At the root of it is all-consuming devotion to the property being obsessed over, almost like a religious faith. They ravenously consume any and all data they can find on the property. They develop an encyclopedic knowledge of the property. They debate endlessly over their subtle opinions regarding the property. Eventually, these sorts of fans develop problems like arrogance, stubbornness, entitlement, elitism, sexism, racism, and straight-up abusive behavior. All for some piece of entertainment. That’s fascinating to me, how some geeky and useless cultural symbol (whatever it may be) can invoke these intense feelings in the people who love them. Basically, what I’m saying is, if there’s ever another Spanish Inquisition, it’ll be spearheaded by some damn dorks.