It was a treat for us to do this interview and assign Greg F. Gifune’s long-time editor, Shane Staley, to be the interviewer. Their partnership as author and editor spanned 15+ years, as Shane was the original editor and publisher of Greg’s classic The Bleeding Season as well as most of his major releases from 2000-2016. We hope readers enjoy the insight. Special thanks to both Greg and Shane for doing this! —PZ
If there is one author I’d point to in the entire realm of dark fiction that epitomizes independence in writing, it would Greg F. Gifune. I know his history quite well. I was his main publisher for more than 15 years with Delirium Books and DarkFuse. Our days go back to writing alongside one another at the very beginning of his career in various fanzine publications. He was even my editor for a brief time when he picked up a story of mine for his zine The Edge: Tales of Suspense in the 1990s. This is an author who always stayed true to his craft and muse, never bowed to pressures to change his approach or play the game the way some corporate publishers expected him to, and always delivers top quality fiction with each new release
Gifune has been hailed as one of the best writers of his generation by many, including author Brian Keene and the Roswell Literary Review. As an author, he has garnered a growing readership all over the world.
For the first time in my life, I find myself being able to look at his career now from a fan’s perspective. As one of his readers, not as a business partner, whether it be his editor or publisher. Through this new lens, it’s even more of a treat…to get to read a master storyteller’s latest release without having to put all the work in to producing it behind-the-scenes. I get back to sit back and enjoy it solely as a reader and long-time fan.
We’re on the eve of his next major release, God Machine, which was just released in paperback by Crossroad Press/Macabre Ink and soon to be released in hardcover and eBook from Cemetery Dance. So I checked in on Greg, this time from a very different perspective of reader and fan.
IM: So we’ve been at this for a while now (laughs). 20+ years in fact! If we were to return to the beginning of your career, to those futile days when you were a new author desperately seeking publication, what would you say has driven you the most to continue as an author.
GFG: Yes, long time. When I started out it was something that I’d circled back to, in a sense. I’d always wanted to be a writer and had some formal education in that area, but my life veered off in other directions (and not always good ones). So when I had the chance to right my life, in a sense, I decided to go back to what I’d always wanted to do originally. So for me, in those early days, I had a very specific idea as to not only what I wanted to do, but how I wanted to do it. As you well know, I tend to march to my own drum, and always have, so when I began to pursue writing as a profession in the late 90s, it was no different. I never wanted my success as an author to be based on anything other than the quality of the work, so I followed a career path that focused on that. I let the work speak for itself and allowed it to draw attention to me rather than using other marketing methods many do. And I’m not down on that, by the way, it just wasn’t for me, I had no interest in it. What drove me in the beginning, and what has always driven me, is the desire to do good work, to be a good writer. The rest are extras, but for me, that’s always been the number one focus.
IM: In the past, you and I have talked many times about the ‘zine period we both grew up in as authors. Do you think your career would be any different if you started it now (in this day and age) instead of back in those ‘zine days? And, if so, how?
GFG: Probably, yes. What was so great about the zine culture back in the day was it was like a minor league system for writers. You did the work and learned the craft and hustled and really focused on getting better. You learned both the business and the business of writing, and you were able to showcase your talents and develop them so that when the call came to move up to the next level, you were ready. Now, with self-publishing being so easy and a lot of the barriers no longer existing, I suppose it’s easier in some sense (although I’ve never self-published and have no desire to, so I don’t know much about it, frankly), but I think it also removes the element of failure and struggle, both of which I believe are essential to development. Failure and rejection are good things for writers. They make you better. The zine culture may have been a minor league, in a sense, but it was an organized and legitimate league, and you had to bring the goods or you wouldn’t make it there. You had to work hard to get good enough to get into most of those zines, and that was a positive thing. It was also (generally) a very supportive culture, and that was something you don’t see as much now either, sadly. I think I’m definitely a better writer because of the zine days, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
IM: Asking authors to choose their favorite books is oftentimes like asking who their favorite child is. My favorite child of yours is The Bleeding Season. Which one is your favorite?
GFG: Of mine? I can’t really answer that. Everything I do I’m connected to personally in some way, shape or form, or I don’t write it, so it’s impossible to say which one is a favorite. Certainly The Bleeding Season put me on the map professionally and is considered by many to be one of the best horror novels of its time—and I’m very proud of that—it has a rather rabid cult following here and all over the world. It’s still in print and has enjoyed, and continues to enjoy, success in Germany and at AST, a major Russian house that I work with there, so it holds a special place in my heart, for sure.
IM: So God Machine is about to release in all editions. As an author, you have a myriad of ideas and stories to tell. So why God Machine and why now?
GFG: God Machine was a concept I’d been playing with for a while. The backstory of the machine itself and its origins are based on a true story and real people, and they were fascinating to me. The more I researched it all, the more fascinated I became, and I had a story in my head for the characters that became the characters in God Machine, this couple that had lost a child to war, and it all fit together once I had it in my head. So I felt like it was timely as well. Like everything else, the work lets me know when to write it, not the other way around. I listen to the characters and the stories in my head and when they’re ready, they’re ready. It’s usually a long time from idea or concept to writing for me, I like to let things nest for a while so that when I sit down to write it, I’m ready, and it’s coming out because it has to, because I need it out of my head.
IM: As your former editor, I always wondered how many readers actually noticed that there is quite a symbolic undercurrent that runs through most of your works. You might say that even the stories that are released as standalone novels, novellas, etc. aren’t truly on their own, but connected to your greater bibliography. For readers who have read maybe only a few of your titles, or to the longtime readers who may not see that recurring link between each of your works, can you explain a little to what connects each?
GFG: No. (laughs) But I’ll say this. There is a code in my work that reveals larger things and answers certain questions, and it runs throughout my work because I’ve placed it there purposely. For years I never even admitted that was the case, until a reader a few years ago asked me about it and had hit on it partially. I don’t know if anyone will ever find or decipher it in its entirety, but if they do, they’ll see a larger picture and some answers to some things that relate to what I’ve written about all these years. I’ve lived a varied life, most of which, few people (even many close to me) know anything about, and this is how I’ve chosen to put some of that on paper. Hidden in plain sight, you might say.
IM: Can you share something with our readers about God Machine that isn’t in the marketing copy or blurbs?
GFG: The dog is the most important character in the book.
IM: What is your favorite independently released book you’ve read in the past 12 months? And why?
GFG: I don’t know what independently released means these days, but I can tell you the last book I read that really blew me away was Jeffrey Thomas’s The American, which is published by Journalstone, a company I work for as well. It’s not the easiest read in terms of some of the content, and it’s very unsettling in parts, but very well done and expertly written. Jeffrey and that novel deserve lots of attention.
IM: As a veteran author, what is the most important advice you can offer aspiring authors?
GFG: Do something else. If you absolutely can’t, then learn the craft. Being a good writer is more than just the basics, there’s a craft to it, there’s a skill, much of which is learned and needs to be honed over a long period of time. Just like anything else. Focus on the work, on making it the absolute best you can, knowing none of us ever reach that pinnacle we strive for, because a writer should always be learning, always be striving to get better, regardless of resume or accomplishments. Focus on the work and the rest will eventually come. And especially early on, embrace failure, embrace rejection. You can either let it kill you or make you stronger, it’s up to you. And while I know how hard it can be, use it to make you a better writer and when the smoke clears, you’ll be glad you did.
IM: Can you give us any details about what your next major writing project might be?
GFG: Lots of things going on, including some new novels, a novella I co-authored with Sandy DeLuca for Journalstone called Blue Hell which will be out everywhere in March, and a new crime novel coming from Down & Out Books called Velvet Elvis which will be out this year as well. Some movie and TV news is on the horizon too, so stay tuned.
IM: At the end of your days, what would you like readers to remember most about you as an author?
GFG: That I was a good writer and did my best. That I created a strong body of work that survived the test of time. I hope my work is good enough that people will continue to read it, discover it, appreciate it, and get something out of it even long after I’m gone.
For IndieMuse’s thoughts on Greg’s latest novel, God Machine, check out Richard Martin’s review!
Also, check out Greg’s author page at IndieMuse!