Today we have a very special guest--author Joshua M. Reynolds! I first learned of Josh's writing when we shared page space in last year's occult detective anthology A Cat of Nine Tales. I read his story "An Ounce of Prevention" and was introduced to his delightful occult detective characters Charles St. Cyprian and plucky (and sometimes psychotic) sidekick Ebe Gallowglass. It was a rollicking good time that instantly reminded me of Robert Downey Jr.'s turn as Sherlock Holmes--only with monsters. I was hooked on St. Cyprian's stories and Josh's perfect blend of wit, thrills, and horror. I have stalked him on his site for awhile and have read through his Nightmare Men series of short essays that highlights occult detectives of the golden era of pulp fiction. Since meeting Josh, he has been very supportive of my own writing efforts, even letting me take the talking stick for a guest post at his blog, and it's a real treat to have him here.
Now, without further ado!
Greg Mitchell: Welcome to the blog, Josh! I look through your resume and you have quite the extensive one! Where did you get your start? Take me back to the beginning of your career.
Joshua M. Reynolds: The beginning of my career is lost in the mists of the distant past; like, Y2K-distant. The early entries on my resume are a sort of ‘best guess’ kind of thing. I wrote between twenty and thirty stories a year, and sold around half of them, but only bothered to keep track of about half of those.
I didn’t really intend to be a writer, y’see. At least not a professional one; so I didn’t think it mattered what I’d sold as long as the check cleared, or the contributor’s copy arrived. The idea of reprint rights, or collections or somesuch, just plain did not occur to me. I was a strict 9 to 5 man, paychecks and time-clocks and employee assessments.
It was a hobby at first. That’s my excuse. By the time I realized that I could do it for a living, that it was a viable career-choice, I had lost most of the floppy disks that held those first fifty or sixty stories. Somewhere, I imagine an ex-girlfriend has a set of floppies held together by rubber-bands, and labeled ‘My Stories’.
I don’t even remember the title of my first story…
GM: What were some of your inspirations growing up?
JR: Whatever I’d read or seen last, honestly; I was a bit of a sponge. If I’d read Chandler, it was Chandler. If I’d just finished Lovecraft, it was Lovecraft. If I’d been watching Thundercats, or Ducktales or reading comic books, that was the sort of thing I scribbled. But, the author who always inspired me--and still does when I need to refresh the well, so to speak—was Manly Wade Wellman.
Wellman wasn’t the writer who convinced me I could write, but he was the one who made me want to write. Whenever my drive to write begins to wane, I turn to Wellman. Whenever I’m having trouble with a story, or in danger of missing a deadline, I read Wellman.
GM: It’s easy to see from your non-fiction Nightmare Men series (which I adore), that you have a long standing fascination and appreciation of that loneliest of crime fighters: The occult detective. As a fan, what was your first exposure to that subgenre of horror?
I’m glad you enjoy reading the Nightmare Men. I enjoy writing them, myself. My first exposure to the concept was William Hope Hodgson’s “The Horse of the Invisible”, featuring Carnacki the Ghost-Finder, in a YA anthology called ‘Ghastly, Grim and Gruesome’. The idea of somebody investigating a haunting, Sherlock Holmes-style, was a bit of a revelation to my tender eight year old self.
I spent the next year hunting down the other Carnacki stories. And from there I hunted down Blackwood’s ‘John Silence’ stories, and, in a belated moment of revelation, realized that Manly Wade Wellman wrote stories about, like, five different occult detectives. By the time I stumbled on Seabury Quinn, I had become a fan of the subgenre in all of its diverse forms and variations.
GM: So, let’s get down to it. Charles St. Cyprian: The Royal Occultist. For those at home who don’t know who he is, who is he?
JR: Well, let’s see…simply, Charles St. Cyprian is Rudolph Valentino by way of Bertie Wooster, with a bit of Manly Wade Wellman’s suave occult investigator John Thunstone thrown in to spice things up. As the Royal Occultist, St. Cyprian, along with his (slightly murderous) assistant, Ebe Gallowglass, is the first, last, and only line of defense between England and various dangers of occult, demonic, divine or otherworldly nature.
GM: What was the inspiration for St. Cyprian? How did he come about?
JR: He had quite a few inspirations, as far as that goes. I’m a fan of characters like John Thunstone and Jules de Grandin, who tend to confront the supernatural with cold steel and hot lead, rather than magic or supernatural abilities. I’m also a Wodehouse fan, and I like the dynamic he perfected, with a semi-competent protagonist and his much more intelligent sidekick/servant. Combine all of that with an abiding love of the old Avengers television show (John Steed and Emma Peel, not Captain America) and stuff like Adam Adamant and the Wild, Wild West, and, hey, presto, you’ve got St. Cyprian and Gallowglass.
As to how he came about, well, originally he was a secondary character in an early draft manuscript that eventually went on to become my 2010 novel, DRACULA LIVES (which is still available from Pulpwork Press, btw). The novel, as originally conceived took place in the 1920s, and saw St. Cyprian confronting a resurrected Dracula and the satanic cult that had done said resurrecting in a Sax Rohmer-esque sort of story that culminated in an extended homage to the film ‘Horror Express’, set on the Orient Express. The book changed between that draft and the final published version, becoming less Sax Rohmer and more John le Carre, and St. Cyprian got cut out entirely as the novel moved from the 20’s to the 90’s.
That same year, I was approached by an editor to propose a series of 10,000 word stories for a new magazine. I dug the character back up, proposed the concept, and wrote a few stories and then, after the first one had been published, the magazines changed direction, and the series was put on hiatus. But, by then, I’d managed to sell a few shorter stories with the characters to other markets, and…well, a few more since. People seem to like the character, and I enjoy writing stories about him, so it’s worked out for the best, I’d say.
GM: You have over a dozen St. Cyprian stories in print through various anthologies. What was the first St. Cyprian story you wrote?
JR: The first St. Cyprian story I wrote was “Sign of the Salamander”, but the first one that people read was “Krampusnacht”. You can read an excerpt from the former here: http://royaloccultist.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/sign-of-the-salamander-excerpt/ and the latter, in its entirety, starting here: http://royaloccultist.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/krampusnacht/
GM: What keeps you coming back to the character and his mythology?
JR: I’m a big fan of series characters, occult detectives or otherwise. I like the idea of multiple, one-off stories, featuring the same character, scattered across anthologies and magazines, like a bread crumb trail for intrigued readers. That sort of thing just appeals to me—I can’t say why. It’s simultaneously formulaic and yet, somehow, exciting.
Too, there’s the whole ‘occult detective’ thing. And, over the course of fourteen or fifteen odd stories I’ve become fond of St. Cyprian and Gallowglass. I *enjoy* writing them—their banter, their mishaps, the inevitable, yet sudden way they wreck their car or burn down a house. I get a kick out of St. Cyprian going head-to-head with cosmic horrors armed only with pluck and an erroneous belief that the mystic sigil he’s carrying will protect him, and Gallowglass’ brave (yet terrifying) assumption that if you fill something with enough bullets, it’ll pack its bags and go bother the French.
GM: Any long term plans for St. Cyprian’s future, or are you taking the series one story at a time?
It’s a little from Column A, and a little from Column B. I take the series one story at a time; it’d be easy to give in to my urge to capitalize on a good thing and write dozens of stories, but unless there’s a market for them, or a commission, there’s not a lot of point.
BUT, I do have long-term plans. There’s a hub-site: http://royaloccultist.wordpress.com/ and the requisite Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RoyalOccultist. There might be a print collection in the works and some of the earlier stories are getting reprinted this year as well. Too, I’m pondering offering e-book mini-collections (consisting of, say two or three stories) at a later date through the site.
I got plans, basically. Not good ones, or even effective ones, but I got ‘em.
GM: Do I have any hope of reading a full length St. Cyprian novel in the future? If not, lie to me anyway.
JR: Actually, there is. I’m working on the (hopefully) first St. Cyprian novel, tentatively titled BEASTS OF BLACKHEATH. It’s a bit of an origin story, with added were-panthers.
GM: Hey, you had me at were-panthers.
JR: I talk more about it here, if anyone’s interested: http://joshuamreynolds.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/the-next-big-thing-or-blame-jonathan-green/
GM: What’s next for you?
JR: Well, right now I’m hard at work on my next book for Black Library, and then, I’ve got to write something-something and after that it’s something else. Oh, and more St. Cyprian stories, of course!
GM: Certainly! Thanks for taking the time to hang out. Any parting words? Where can people find you and throw large sums of money at you for your books?
JR: Thank you for having me! As to parting words—I hear that ‘Coming Evil’ series is pretty awesome. Y’all should get that.
GM: I heartily agree. There are links to your immediate right. Hurry.
JR: The easiest place to find me is http://joshuamreynolds.wordpress.com/ where you can find an up-to-date list of my works, with handy-dandy links to where they can be purchased for monies.
And if you’re interested in learning more about St. Cyprian and Gallowglass, you could always check out http://royaloccultist.wordpress.com/, which features links to available stories, news about forthcoming ones and even some free fiction!
Special thanks to Josh for stopping by and thanks to you all for reading!