Aurelio Voltaire Interview

I have been excited about this for weeks. I was given the opportunity by the amazing Spence City Publishing to interview Aurelio Voltaire about his new book Call of the Jersey Devil and I am finally able to share it with you all! Now as we know from my previous post, I am a huge Voltaire fan so I was ecstatic and freaking out all at once. Now, I don’t want my dreams crushed by the revelation that it was via email, and I probably wasn’t the only one, but I will not have these dreams squandered. So, as we get the air of faux professionalism about us we can stop reducing our minor credibility we inflict upon ourself and get on with it.

Call of the Jersey Devil is Voltaire’s first fiction novel, one which is classified as a horror/comedy style, and is filled with wonderful artwork and an entertaining story about a Goth singer, five teenagers, and a legendary figure from Jersey known as the Jersey Devil. This is the story of these five suburban mall rats and the washed up Goth singer who find themselves stranded in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey where they discover two horrifying truths: The Jersey Devil, hellspawn of folklore, is in fact real; and New Jersey is the gateway to Hell.

As a homage to 80s horror and genre films I think what I liked most was this book has been described as having “Frankensteined together elements of Evil Dead, The Breakfast Club, Poltergeist, and This is Spinal Tap”, and this creation has created something that is funny, as well as terrifying at the same time. Fans and followers of Voltaire have been kept updated on the novel’s development via Facebook, Twitter, as well as Voltaire’s Nooseletters and website, and those lucky enough to attend shows have already been privy to an author reading of a chapter or so. I myself have been awaiting its release and I am over the moon to be able to participate in its promotion.

Once again I thank Spence City for giving me this opportunity, and thank you Voltaire for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to reply to my questions.

Did any of your music or film history influence the way you wrote Call of the Jersey Devil?

V: Absolutely! For starters, the book is populated by a handful of Gothic mall rats and so there are many songs from the genre that are referenced. They have conversations about The Cure, Black Sabbath, Danny Elfman.. there’s lots of stuff like that. And in general, the book is really an homage to the films I grew up loving in the 80s. Films like Evil Dead, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Breakfast Club. I think that someone who is familiar with those references is going to get a big kick out of this book.

A few years ago your advice to aspiring authors was “First you have to create the art; once the art is created the rest will come.” Is this still the case?

V: Yes, it still holds true. LOL! Unfortunately, having written a couple of books, I get a non stop stream of aspiring writers asking me how to get published (and for the record, I still don’t really know the answer). The problem is that the great majority of these people have NOT YET WRITTEN A BOOK! It’s kind of crazy. It’s like calling NASA and asking them to tell you in full detail the correct way to exit a lunar lander. Why should they waste their time? First you have to put in the work and become an astronaut. Then you have to go out in space a few times and THEN.. maybe someday, you get to land on the moon. But many people are not really interested in putting in the work. Sometimes they are not even interested in the art form itself.. They have no passion for writing or storytelling, they just like the idea of being a published author. They romanticize the idea of it. Honestly, I can’t even wrap my brain around it. For me, the most basic part is that I like to create, I live to create. If I was homeless and had no occupation, I would still be creating. I know this to be true because I’ve been homeless and I’ve been unemployed and I spent my days creating! LOL! The concept of being successful at it, making a living from it, that needs to come AFTER the deep seated desire to… create. Of course this is just my personal opinion. There are many people who are very successful who see it as a formula. They consider what’s popular. They write something that fits comfortably into the current trend and they find out how to get it published quickly. Those people suck.

So many other authors tell aspiring writers that they must read in order to write. You’ve mentioned before that you are not a reader of books, and yet reading Slaughterhouse-Five made you want to begin writing yourself. Did you find it more of a challenge because you were not a reader, or do you think a good story can be written regardless if you work hard enough on it and have a great story to tell?

V: I think the easy to answer to that is that there is a difference between writing and storytelling. I’m a storyteller. I have always been one. I’ve told stories all of my life. In my songs, in my comic books, in my films. Being a writer is different. There are rules to being a writer that you must follow, trends in writing you should know and perhaps emulate. Taking my storytelling and turning it into what people think of as writing today was a challenge, but not a huge one. I had an amazing editor, Trisha Wooldridge who was stern but kind and she guided me. I learned a lot from her and her input made for a much better book.

The reason Slaughterhouse Five inspired me to write, in short, was because when I read it, I instantly thought.. hey, this is how I speak! I imagined that if I already speak in a similar tone, that I could write a book, too. I was not aware at the time that you have to be Kurt Vonnegut to get away with it! LOL!

I think the end result on Call of the Jersey Devil is a book that’s written in a way that won’t startle anyone but still has enough of my irreverence coming through to perhaps have a unique slant. That’s my hope, anyway.

You have another book in the works with Mezco Toys, The Legend of Candy Claws, what is it about legendary figures that appeals to you, if there is any appeal at all?

V: Well, I guess you’ll be the first to know, but that deal fell through. Apparently Mezco bit off more than they could chew this year and sadly, my book was one of the casualties of them scaling back. It simply means that I’m back to where I was in the start, which was having what I think is a really great story on my hands and needing to figure out how to bring it to the world. It’s nothing that doesn’t happen all of the time in the world of business and nothing I’m not accustomed to.

As to the second part of your question… what’s not to love about legends? There is an inherent epic quality to legendary creatures and hey, when you can invent one of your own… it’s even better! I think Candy Claws or ‘Hargoyle the Christmas bat’ as he’s known to his friends, will see the light of day one way or the other and I think there will be people in the world who will fall in love with this giant, black furry bat the way I have.

 Despite your music typically being categorised as “dark cabaret”, you recently said your music does not have any particular style, is this true of your writing as well or is there a general dark humour similar to that of your albums?

V: My writing, like my music is, I like to think, multi-faceted. There is definitely going to be dark humor, there is going to be pathos, there are going to be moments of true terror, moments of levity, moments of tenderness. I don’t find any of this odd. This is how life is and for one to ONLY write comedy or only write tragedy, to me, seems alien and strange. For me, realism and truth is found in a place where comedy and tragedy live side by side at all times.

 You are very interactive with your fans on YouTube, as well as on Facebook and Twitter, do you look for inspiration from them in your work or is any inspiration you get from them purely serendipitous?

V: My fans play a big part in what I do. I mean, I talk to them pretty much all day long on the internet and all night long at the shows. They tell me what they like, what they don’t like. As I converse with them I learn about the things that move them, the things that bother them, etc… Now, consciously, when it comes time to make art, whether it be music, writing, films, etc… I am in my own head. My philosophy is that if I’m true to myself, if I write something that makes ME laugh or makes ME cry, there will be people in the world who will get the same thing out of the work. I really believe that. I think nothing resonates more strongly with people than honesty. But I’d be a fool to believe that all of the things I’ve experienced with my fans don’t trickle in. No man is an island. We are, in the end, subconsciously if nothing else, a product of our experiences, our interactions and conversations with the world around us.

You mentioned recently that a song on your upcoming album refers to one mentioned in Call of the Jersey Devil, did you plan the entire album based on the story, or was the new album written into the narrative?  

V: It’s a symbiotic relationship. When I set out to write a book about a washed up Goth singer, I drew from some of the early songs I wrote, ironically, songs from a decade before I started recording music. Primarily, because back then I actually wrote what one might call “Goth” music (as opposed to the dark folk/cabaret sound I eventually became known for). However, writing a book is a very time consuming process and in the months it took to write Call of the Jersey Devil, I spent a lot of time thinking about those early songs. Somewhere along the line, I got really excited about the idea of making the only album Raised By Bats (the band in the book) had ever released. And so… that’s the album I’m making. And I have to tell you, giving myself a reason to record and release the songs I wrote when I was seventeen years old has been one of the most surprisingly beautiful turn of events in my life. I have truly revisited all of the pain and hope from that time in my life. It’s been like finding an old scrap book from high school. It’s been… an experience.

What made you move to novels from graphic novels and nonfiction? Was it a natural progression?

V: Well, while it wasn’t really a conscious decision, I do have to point out that my experience is that no one cares about comic books! My graphic novels rank right up there with the most labor intensive and ironically thankless endeavors in my life. I worked for no less than eight hours a day (above and beyond what I was doing to pay the rent) to draw the pages of my Chi-chian then Oh My Goth! then Deady graphic novels. As far as I could tell, based on sales, people really didn’t care that much for them. However, I could never keep the toys in stock! Eventually, I stopped making comic books and only made the toys of the characters. To this day, I can’t keep the toys in stock. They are always the first things to sell out. I honestly don’t even want to think about it because I will get very misanthropic if I let myself believe that people don’t appreciate the thousands of hours that go into telling the stories and drawing the pages, but go bananas to get their hands on a plush toy that took ten minutes to design. LOL! Okay, yeah, let’s just stop talking about it.

You are a dedicated fan of Star Trek and Star Wars, do you read or secretly write any fan fiction about either franchise?

V: Nope. An ex-girlfriend bought me a Deep Space Nine novel as a joke from the gift shop of a hotel at which we stayed when we were on some tropical island many years ago. And when a monsoon hit, I did actually read it. It was… pretty bad. LOL! But no, I can’t see myself investing time in writing fan fiction. I have far too many ideas of my own and if I live to be a hundred, I will not have anywhere near enough time to bring them all to light.

How is your other story The Nothing going?

V: Terribly! LOL! I’m presently writing an album, touring, promoting Call of the Jersey Devil, preparing five different toy releases for this year, wrapping up my children’s book, writing a script for a feature film and doing another dozen things I can’t even think of right now. So, sadly The Nothing has really fallen behind. I don’t even have a full chapter written yet. But like everything else in the pipeline, I will eventually get to it and I will eventually finish it.
It’s just a matter of… time.

You can find out more about Aurelio Voltaire, his other equally amazing works, and any additional antics by visiting his website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads profile, or his Youtube channel: The Lair of Voltaire

You also still have time for pre-orders before Call of the Jersey Devil is released on May 28th, 2013.

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