Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.
Sabitha: Tim Lieder is an expert in the weird and scary, as well as a good friend and great author. Today he’s here to talk about his collection of his Christmas themed horror stories, Sugarplum Zombie Motherfuckers. Tim, can you tell us a bit about this book?
Tim: There are three short stories in this book. The Xmas Video was a story about zombie porn that was directly inspired by Michael Hemmingson’s “Hardboiled Stiff” which I had published in Badass Horror. “Santa Claus Dies” was the kind of story I used to love when I first edited anthologies, the kind of hard-drinking loser stories that filled up Teddy Bear Cannibal Massacre.
Sabitha: What made you decide to self publish Sugarplum Zombie Motherfuckers?
Tim: The reason why I chose to self-publish was because of “The Man in the Red Suit”. This story was originally inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “The Sandman”, particularly the beginning when the narrator talks about his father telling him horrifying stories about a Sandman who steals children’s eyes. I had written one story in this vein and it amused me to write another one, only to make it about Santa Claus, whose mouth stunk of spoiled milk and sucked the life out of reindeer to make them fly. The second inspiration for “The Man in the Red Suit” was the Serbian genocide and the banality of evil. For some reason, I was having trouble selling it to the better horror magazines.
Sabitha: We have a lot of writers in our community. What’s your writing process?
Tim: I revise, give up, dig up an old story, try to revise that one. Sometimes I rip pages out of a public domain book of classic literature and steal phrases. If I’m getting confused about a story, I go back and revise it again to remember who is doing what. If I really hate an old story, I replace every “t” with a “g” and then run an autocorrect. Then I see what can come out of that. Basically, I am never going to give a word count because a productive day might involve getting rid of 1200 words as much as it would involve typing 320 words.
Sabitha: Do you have a “fan-cast” – do you have actors you’d cast as your main characters?
Tim: My favorite story in this collection is about a girl who grows up hearing horror stories about Santa Claus and when she’s an adult, joins a Serbian militia and helps to commit genocide. I’m not sure anyone would want to adapt it.
Sabitha: What book do you tell all your friends to read?
Tim: There are a lot of books that I tell my friends to read, but I am China by Xiaolu Guo is a beautiful work about expatriates, world politics and the ways that privilege informs political stances. I also love everything I read by Junji Ito. He’s either the scariest or the funniest manga artist working today, depending on your mood.
Sabitha: Does the location the story takes place mean something to you or to the work?
Tim: “The Xmas Video” takes place in an apartment in the 1980s and the college is the University of Minnesota. “The Man in the Red Suit” takes place in 1990s Bosnia where militias were murdering Muslims while the rest of the world ignored the genocide. I’m obsessed with the ways that humanity can justify and ignore its atrocities. Whether Florida is trying to censor all African-American studies or Poland criminalizing suggestions that it was in any way complicit in the Holocaust, we love to forget just how evil we are. In the case of the Serbian (and Rwandan) genocides, America didn’t even have to forget. Americans were too busy paying attention to Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan to bother about mass graves. Even today, the main takeaway from Bosnia is that it’s just another reason to hate Tony Blair for his interventionist policies.
Sabitha: These stories sound like they draw on some of the richest traditions of horror, where the greatest threat isn’t the monster outside the walls, it’s the monster within our hearts. Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?
Tim: You can find me on Tumblr, Dreamwidth, and Facebook. If you want to read Sugarplum Zombie Motherfuckers, you can find the e-book here and audiobook here, or look wherever books are sold online.