Q&A: Steven Shrewsbury

Q: Why did you start writing?

SS: I’ve been telling stories since I was about 3. I listened to what they called Talking Tapes in the early 70s due to my eye troubles. My mother got me the Bible and Tarzan which probably explains my storytelling stance a lot. I started writing and telling tales as I grew older because I felt a need to tell stories not told by my fave authors or stuff history left out. I guess I was compelled. 

Q: What was your first paid published work?

SS: Wow, in a poetry rag when I was 19. It was a five-dollar check, in Poetry Motel, I think. I recall cracking up and showing that to my dad. 

Q: What inspired the idea for your current project?

SS: The one with (Brian) Keene was inspired by his trip to the boyhood home of Hunter S. Thompson and some punk in the street not giving a dang or caring who that was…l eading Keene to wonder how folks will recall him. I placed this emotion and experience in the Rogan Bastard realm and…well. Things happen. However, my current work is as close to a barbarian romance as I’ll ever get. That was inspired by a great many things and a lot of heartache. 

Q: What’s your daily writing ritual?

SS: I work a great deal. I rise early, shower, lots of coffee and let it roll. At times, I write in strange places.

Q: Do you do research for your books? If so, what’s your favorite resource besides Google?

SS: I actually look stuff up in real books and go to the library. The ladies there assisted me greatly in the creation of Philistine, because books on those folks are rare. I also draw on a lifetime of reading bios and others works that usually accumulate into a work. 

Q: Who are your favorite writers?

SS: Robert E. Howard, Karl Edward Wagner, H.P. Lovecraft, Harlan Ellison, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Manly Wade Wellman…oh, some live folks? Joe Abecrombie. 

Q: Do you listen to music when you write? What kind?

SS: Sometimes. Johnny Cash, Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Queen, Hank Williams Sr, Jr and III, old Metallica, Alice Cooper, AC/DC, Waylon Jennings, Rob Zombie, Creedance Clearwater Revival

Q: How do you balance being a writer with your day job/family/secret identity as a superhero?

SS: It can be a real female dog of a time. At times, there ain’t much left of me at the end of the day. Still, one strives on. Just gotta pick yer spots.

Q: What was the most useful advice you got as a beginning writer? And the most useless?

SS: Karl Edward Wagner encouraged me to read other genres to expand my mind. Good advice. More good advice from Harlan Ellison was to not be a phony bastard like many are… that all being PC is just lying. Bad advice? A schmuck in NYC told me never to try and get paid to write as it was a danger to the purity of “the craft.” Meh. 

Q: What’s the weirdest/funniest/coolest letter or comment you ever got from a reader?

SS: I was offered oral sex from a guy in exchange for a book. Not my thing. Another thought my name was a pen name and demanded I reveal myself. Another had all of my books and just wanted to say thanks. That was cool. 

Q: How do you handle a bad review?

SS: Water on a duck’s ass; but see if it is really valid or if they really as just jealous I cockblocked them at a Con somewhere. There is a pub that will not even look at me because of that, but I digress. Gotta take the rough with the smooth. 

Q: Do you write happy endings? Why or why not?

SS: I’m always happy when it ends, ha ha … but the story tells itself. I suppose a few of mine have a grim or TWILIGHT ZONE ending, but there’s usually hope. I like to think folks are left entertained. 

Q: You’ve finished your book! What do you do after writing “The End”?

SS: I used to have a drink and smoke a cigar, but life moves too fast for me now to have such a perfect ritual. But having a beer & cigar isn’t so rare so I have to find a new ritual. I’d say I run through the yard naked, but I live way out in the country and no one would see anyhow. 

Q: If you won the lottery, would you keep on writing?

SS: Of course. I write because I HAVE to, not WANT to. It has to come out. 

Q: If you could advise a beginning writer, what would you suggest?

SS: DON’T. Naw, just kidding. Read. Read everything, all genres and keep trying. It is gonna suck at first. Keep trying and find your voice. Last summer, my eldest son was talking comic books with Brian Keene at SCARES THAT CARE. John then talked of fan fiction he wrote for Marvel, DC and Star Wars. Keene was surprised at a few characters John knew and as I laughed, Brian reminded me, “That’s how we both started, doing that, but it wasn’t called fanfic then.” True. I used to write mean Battlestar Galactica and Avengers fics in junior high. 

Q: What are you doing next?

SS: Writer wise? Trying to rework that fantasy novel, next draft of a suspense thriller, and overdraft of another fantasy work… and possible submit another Joel Stuart novel where he is 94 years old. Then, I might write some new stuff. 

Steven L. Shrewsbury lives, works, and writes in rural Illinois. More than 360 of his short stories have appeared in print or electronic media, along with more than 100 poems. His novels run from sword & sorcery (Overkill, Thrall, Bedlam Unleashed) to historical fantasy (Godforsaken) to extreme horror (Hawg, Tormentor, Stronger Than Death) to horror-westerns (Hell Billy, Bad Magick, Last Man Screaming). He loves books, British TV, guns, movies, politics, sports and hanging out with his sons. He’s frequently outdoors, looking for brightness wherever it may hide.