Welcome to the final part of the Hero’s Best Friend roundtable interview with the authors of the anthology. Sitting at the table tonight are Ian Hunter, Sheila Deeth, Douglas J. Ogurek, and Steven Donahue. Enjoy! J
This is Ian Hunter from Scotland who wrote the story “Scarhead in the Glisting”. I’m the author of three children’s novels, a humourous guide to Glasgow called “Fantastic Glasgow”. More recently my stories and poems have appeared in “Space and Time”, “The Tenth Black Book of Horror” (and the story in there appears in the very first “Best British Horror 2014”) and “The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes 2”.I’m poetry editor for the British Fantasy Society, book reviewer for “Interzone” and a member of the Glasgow Science Fiction Writers Circle. I write a very infrequent blog at www.ian-hunter.co.uk
Name: Sheila Deeth
Douglas J. Ogurek
Fiction published in The Literary Review, the British Fantasy Society Journal, Morpheus Tales, Gone Lawn, and several anthologies
Horror, fantasy, sci-fi blogger/film reviewer at Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction (http://theakersquarterly.blogspot.com/)
Written over one hundred articles about architectural planning and design
Steven Donahue was a copywriter for TV Guide magazine for 14 years. His first novel, Amanda Rio, was published in 2004. He released three novels in 2013: The Manila Strangler (Rainstorm Press), Amy the Astronaut and the Flight for Freedom (Hydra Publications), and Comet and Cupid’s Christmas Adventure (Createspace). His short story Grit was also included in the anthology Hero’s Best Friend by Seventh Star Press in 2014.
Tell us a little about your story in Hero’s Best Friend.
Ian Hunter: I’ve written contemporary Highland Seer stories, almost with the seer as a psychic detective fighting evil, but because I had to have an animal companion, I’ve set this story in the past in the time of the Highland Clearances and have my seer encounter a Scottish Wildcat, which sadly nowadays is almost extinct – the true purebloods, that is, due to loss of habitat and breeding with feral cats, although there is seemingly a family up the road from where I live in Cartland Crags where William Wallace hid from the English after killing the Sheriff of Lanark. It is pretty wild and some of it is hard to get to, so maybe a family of purebloods still survive there, hope so.
Sheila Deeth: “Passage” is a prequel to a series of middle-grade fantasies, centered on an Irish-American teen who lives in fairly ordinary town called Hemlock Edge, near a slightly less ordinary forest. The teens of Hemlock Edge discover they can change reality in dreams, but I’d often wondered where their skills came from. The convenient juxtaposition of a call for submissions to Hero’s Best Friend, with a (human best) friend loaning me a book about her ancestors traveling from Ireland, offered me a happy chance to explore Siobhan’s ancestry through the eyes of a slightly magical Irish cat.
Douglas J. Ogurek: When their squigglybounce (public transportation vehicle) breaks down, a female dink (double income no kids) and her pet gilpan (a kind of bird) Yourkidsabrat get stuck with a drug addict and the status-obsessed Mommy Wifey. The dink discovers the addict is former children’s entertainment icon Wedge Medge, disgraced for his brutal treatment of gilpans, one of which was Yourkidsabrat (before she adopted him).
The dink protagonist, encumbered by a society that relegates dinks to the bottom of the socio-economic ladder, tries to convince Mommy Wifey to grant her access to Wedge Medge’s chamber so that Yourkidsabrat can use his deadly orbs to exact revenge on his tormentor.
The story was inspired by my love for animals and my ongoing struggle to find the humanity in those who abuse animals for profit.
Steven Donahue: Grit tells the story of a dog with telekinetic powers who aids a brave prince on a dangerous quest. The prince seeks exotic ingredients from faraway lands to create a mythical cure for his poisoned wife. Grit uses his powers and courage to help the prince on the perilous quest, where the duo face challenges from man, beast and nature.
What animal characters in fiction are your favorite?
Ian Hunter: Polar bears. I’ve adopted one through the WWF and he writes to me regularly saying he’s hoping to come and visit and eat – sorry, meet – the dog.
Sheila Deeth: I’m writing a story about dogs at the moment, but they do have a friend who is a cat. Truth is, I just like animals; but my favorite fictional ones are those that combine a hint of wildness with the gift of companionship.
Douglas J. Ogurek:Jaws – Though I’d rather see Peter Benchley’s iconic great white attacking those who exploit sharks for shark fin soup.
Marley – Journalist John Grogan’s troublesome yet lovable Labrador Retriever. The conclusion of Marley & Me offers a moving description of the impact a dog can have on humans and the lessons that dogs teach us.
Aslan – C.S. Lewis’s anthropomorphic Christ
Speaker-to-Animals/Chmeee – A giant upright alien cat who resists his species’ penchant for violence in Larry Niven’s Ringworld.
Bori – The initially burdensome bird that a musician grows to love in Ha Jin’s “A Composer and His Parakeets.” One of the best short stories I’ve read in recent years. The ending is reminiscent of short story master Raymond Carver at his best.
Steven Donahue: I always admired the loyalty of Boxer from George Orwell’s Animal Farm. He lived to selflessly serve those around him, and he had the heart of a hero.
Have you ever used music to help you write?
Ian Hunter: Yes, mainly jazz, or possibly instrumental proggy stuff.
Sheila Deeth: I get too caught up in the music if I try to listen to something while I write. Sometimes my characters sing in the back of my head though—a noisy and very confusing place.
Douglas J. Ogurek:Always. Death metal with Christian themes. Also known as white metal (as opposed to the notorious black metal). Variations within the white metal subgenre include Christian technical/ progressive/ melodic death metal (e.g., Becoming the Archetype, Renascent), Christian doom metal (e.g., Paramecium), Christian symphonic metal (e.g., Sympathy, Virgin Black), or, in its most extreme form, unblack metal (e.g., Frost Like Ashes, Horde).
I like power. I like talent. I like nonconformity. I like a positive message. White metal combines all of that.
Steven Donahue: I prefer a quiet environment to write in, which is a challenge in the small apartment that I share with my wife, our chubby cat, and our three energetic dogs.
Has music ever been an inspiration for a story or scene?
Ian Hunter: I wrote a horror story called “Fearwheeling” set at the North Sea Jazz festival which was published in “Fear” magazine. When I feel the need to write a poem, but don’t know what to right about I sometimes flick through the pages of “Kerrang” magazine and pick on a song title, or album title or maybe lyric and use that as inspiration, but since I’m totally in love with PJ Harvey, I have a whole load of poems inspired by her album covers, song titles, album titles and lyrics, some of which, I’m pleased to say have been published in the UK, USA and Canada, and will probably be used as evidence against me.
Steven Donahue: I use music to inspire me before I start a writing session. Music from the Rocky movies are my favorite, but I’m not sure if they’ve ever influenced something I’ve written.
Douglas J. Ogurek:Yes. Christian death metal influences every one of my stories. I admire this subgenre’s ability to package themes of compassion and empathy in what sounds like the opposite. This music epitomizes the adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Like white metal, my stories offer positive messages shrouded in a disturbing, juvenile, or even vile container. For instance, in “Stuck on the Squigglybounce,” the Mommy Wifey character projects images of her husband’s income, her children’s accomplishments, and her possessions on the breast and butt screens embedded in her clothing. I want her juxtaposition with the dink protagonist to throw into question the values and roles that society imposes on the contemporary woman.
Additionally, some have praised or derided my stories as trippy, enigmatic, or even inaccessible. Again, that’s a lot like the music from which I find inspiration.
Sheila Deeth: Would the howling of dogs count?
Last but not least: Benji vs. Cujo. Who’d win?
Ian Hunter: Benji, on points.
Sheila Deeth: Benji’s gaze would remind Cujo of his true nature, leaving him open to the killing blow that allows him to choose death over causing more injury to those he loves.
Steven Donahue: I would root for Benji, but I think Cujo would have him for lunch.
Douglas J. Ogurek:Neither. I would first bring to justice the individuals responsible for instigating the dogfight. Then I would force those individuals to donate time and/or money to help abused or abandoned dogs.
I’d also try to show the instigators the kindness that was probably absent during their lives.