There are many voices in contemporary horror fiction today, but none as blunt as Vince Churchill. The “DEAD SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH” scribe is as subtle as a blunt instrument to the head, with a writing style straight out of a 70’s exploitation flick that is equal parts unflinching and daring in its portrayal of the horrors that humanity is capable of. The perfect example of this is Vince’s newest offering, “THE BUTCHER BRIDE”, which is a guaranteed guilty pleasure for those fans of the grindhouse era exploitation flicks. I had the opportunity to sit and talk to Vince about his work exclusively for Bloody-Disgusting.
TD: Ok well thank you for your time and being so gracious about doing this. The first thing I want to ask you is how did you get started writing? What is your body of work for the readers who might not be familiar with it?
VC: My mom raised me in the public library so I’ve been a reader from early on. My 2nd grade teacher noted on a report card that I’d started writing stories, so…I think I was just trying to imitate the stories I really enjoyed and I’ve just been writing ever since. Early on, I wrote a series of Star Trek like stories featuring characters based on my friends. After reading the stories of Stephen King’s Nightshift collection and absorbing many of the great drive-in horror movie classics of the ’70’s, I started writing scarier stuff. But it was really Clive Barker’s Books of Blood that influenced and freed me to write a more adult combination of horror and sexuality. That vein of creativity has continued to stay with me.
Well, The Butcher Bride is my third novel. The first was an outer space/action/horror book called The Dead Shall Inherit The Earth. And yeah, zombies are featured in the final third of the story! My second book was The Blackest Heart, which is my sci-fi ode to great revenge thrillers like The Crow, Spawn, and High Plains Drifter.
I recently had a horror novella based on the Rapture called “Condemned” published in The Butcher Shop Quartet II by Cutting Block Press.
I’ve also had short stories published in Midnight Walk, The Beast Within, The Horror Library Volume 1, and the first two Undead zombie anthos from
Permuted Press. I was also fortunate enough to have a list featured in the Book of Lists: Horror collection from HarperCollins.
TD: So published writing is nothing new to you obviously. How did you get into writing? Did you self publish, or did you find a break with a publisher right out of the gate?
VC: Well, I’d been writing most my life but I didn’t get serious until 2000. I re-worked The Dead Shall Inherit The Earth, then got it rejected by a half dozen publishers before I self published it through Booklocker.com, which is a great outfit. One of my favorite authors, Robert Devereaux, recently did a book with them.
The timing was extremely fortunate for me. The Dead came out about 16 months prior to 28 Days Later, which jump started the zombie subgenre, and then I just rode the wave Brian Keene’s The Rising created another 6 months later. The Dead Shall Inherit The Earth sold very well, and last
year was listed among the Top 37 Zombie Triumphs in a special Zombie issue of X-Box Magazine.
TD: I actually own that copy of X-Box magazine, that’s quite the honor, especially for having been a self-published effort. So onto ‘THE BUTCHER BRIDE’, tell the readers who aren’t aware, what’s the story?
VC: Well, The Butcher Bride is an old-school, 70’s vibe haunted house tale inspired by classics such as The Legend of Hell House & The Entity.
The basic story goes like this: a young woman is assaulted at a Halloween party, which sends her into a murderous rage. She kills many of the guests before being gunned down by her lover. Her spirit haunts the house, continuing to kill those who dare to enter. The murders have made the town famous, and an annual Halloween festival is held. A couple set up a Halloween weekend stay in the infamous murder house, and their presence sets off a series of horrific deaths as the legendary Butcher Bride looks to settle the score from her death decades before.
It’s certainly an adult read, with violence and sexuality throughout. And there are more than its share of perverse twists, which readers have responded well too.
TD: The book sure is an adult read, I will give it that. But I think that that is what made it such a thrilling read is that it obviously does not pull any punches. The things that are done to “The Butcher Bride” make her a very sympathetic character, and you feel absolutely awful for her, and almost root for her. It reminded me of a good old school exploitation flick in the vein of “The Last House on The Left” or “I Spit On Your Grave” in that way. You just do not see that sort of horrific trauma done in such a real world way these days in horror literature. Do you think that that sort of no holds barred approach to horror is sort of avoided these days by most contemporary authors?
VC: Well, I have to tell you Theo – when I started the book I told everyone I was going to turn off the “self-edit” button in my head so I could tell the story straight full-out 70’s style, which completely fits the tone of the movies you mentioned, and which are two of my guiltiest pleasure horror flicks. I think there may be publishers that shy away from The Butcher Bride sort of horror because they feel it doesn’t offer itself to the widest audience like the fluff Twilight books. I think there are plenty of readers out there that would like to read a “strong” horror book, but you have to be careful on the publicity front. I also think writers want to write what they can sell, and we both know many more PG-13 type books get done than NC-17 types, so they do what they have to…*shrug* I’m try to enjoy myself, so I write what I like to read & hope there are a lot of other people out there like me…ha ha ha.
TD: So how long did it take to come up with the story of ‘The Butcher Bride’ and then get it into reader’s hands? Give us a little insight into the creative process behind a book like this?
VC: Well, believe it or not, I actually dreamed (had a nightmare) that was the basic Butcher Bride story. A good friend and editor of mine, Anne Madden, teamed up with me to do the story as a screenplay back in 2004. We went through several drafts but couldn’t quite get the story where we wanted it. I’d always liked the story, but I think the limitations of a screenplay hindered it. When I decided to try it as a novel, it was a very easy transition. I was able push the boundaries and tell the story as ugly as I wanted without the restraints Anne and I had to deal with. With the scripts as a guide, I got through the first draft of the book in just a few months. I was also very fortunate on the timing front because Nick Grabowsky had just started up Black Bed Sheet Books. When we decided to partner up for The Butcher Bride, the creative fire was stoked even more. I had the first draft of the book completed late last spring, and it sold out in its debut at Baltimore’s Horrorfind Convention in September. It’s done very well so far, and a big part of that success lies with the fantastic cover image created by Ken Collison. He captured the essence of the story perfectly, and the idea of using a white cover instead of the traditional horror red and black was a master stroke. I couldn’t have been more fired up after seeing his drawing. Other key contributors were my screenwriter buddy Angel Orona and writer extraordinaire Lisa Morton, both of who’s input and assistance was vital. So, putting together a good book is certainly a collaborative effort, and I couldn’t be more proud of how The Butcher Bride turned out.
TD: It really sounds like you put a lot into this novel, along with many other people. Obviously people still want to read these stories, which is obvious from how well it has done for you. I’d like to talk about ‘The Dead Shall Inherit The Earth’ I little. Thus far the book has been your most successful. What do you think made that story stand out in such a glutted market like the zombie sub-genre?
VC: Yeah, so far, so good with The Dead Shall Inherit The Earth. Well, the timing was great for me. It was actually published before 28 Days Later and Keene’s The Rising, so I really just rode the gigantic wave as zombies burst back on the scene. The market was so glutted back in 2003, so it was sort of a novelty. Now, there are a gazillion zombie books out there, so it’s dog eat dog, but a great zombie book will certainly still sell like crazy.
Also, I think the outer space/action angle helped. Truthfully, The Dead isn’t an all-out zombie book. When I wrote it I considered it an outer space thriller that had zombies in it, considering that zombies don’t appear until the last 1/3 of the book, but as zombies became super popular, readers just gobbled it up.
And to all those zombie fans out there, I do have plans for an all-out zombie epic in the next couple of years, so I will repay those readers who felt gipped by a lack of zombies in The Dead.
TD: Well then I’m looking very forward to reading it. So in closing is there anything that you would like to say to the readers regarding “The Butcher Bride” or any of your future endeavors?
VC: If you’re into old school horror, I believe you’ll really dig The Butcher Bride. And there is more of that kind of horror on the horizon. Next up for me is an end-of-the-world thriller called Good Night My Sweet, and I’ve begun working on a dark superhero novel called Open Casket. After that will be a kick-ass zombie epic. I’m as big a horror fan as anyone, be it books or film, so expect to see horror and dark sci-fi projects from me until they can’t find a pulse.
Also, I love getting straight dope feedback from readers, so please reach
out to me through my website, www.vincechurchill.com.
And a big thanks to Bloody-Disgusting for having me.
My thanks to Vince for the interview as always. If you haven’t done so yet go to Vince’s website, read an excerpt, and then get yourselves a copy of “THE BUTCHERS BRIDE” or “THE DEAD SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH” now, both are great reads that you won’t be disappointed in. Also keep it locked here to Bloody-Disgusting for my review of “THE BUTCHER BRIDE” tomorrow.