Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Interview with Author/Artist Bob Freeman!

Today we're continuing our coverage of The Coming Evil tie-in tale, Lengthening Shadows, the all-new e-novella that sets up my upcoming novel Dark Hour. Last week, I talked a bit about the thoughts that went into writing Shadows, but today I'm turning the spotlight on author/artist/paranormal investigator Bob Freeman. Bob's been by the blog before. I'm a huge fan of his work and he's been gracious enough to provide two covers for me: the first being my zombie short story Flowers for Shelly, and the recently released Lengthening Shadows. Last time Bob was here, we talked at great lengths about his writing, but Bob's wearing his artist hat today as we talk about comics, art...and, well, some more writing :p

Greg Mitchell:  Welcome back, Bob! You’ve been busy since the last time you stopped by the blog, having released not one, but two Occult Detective comic book issues, worked on A Cat of Nine Tales anthology from Rookhaven and, last but not least, started your own publishing imprint with Caliburn House! What all have you been up to?

Bob Freeman: Too much, I dare say. As you mentioned I recently started my own publishing arm, Caliburn House, where I’ll be releasing my back catalogue of novels (Descendant, Shadows Over Somerset, Keepers of the Dead) as well as new material soon after. It’s been a lot of work, and there have been some missteps along the way, but it’s exciting to be in the driver’s seat of my career as opposed to feeling like a passenger for the past few years.

My primary focus will be occult detective stories, especially those concerning Dr. Landon Connors, but I also have a sword and sorcery novel in the works (albeit with an occult detective slant). Truth be told, I’m leaning toward a different approach to my writing, shifting to a greater emphasis on short stories and novellas, but with a serial mindset — stand alone stories that have subplots that connect to a larger narrative and mythology.

I’m also dabbling in tabletop board games and pen and paper RPGs, and some paranormal non-fiction.

Like they say, there’s no rest for the wicked, and I’m more wicked than most ;)...

GM: I am forever grateful to you for providing some killer cover art for two of my projects, now. As long as I’ve known you, art has been a part of your storytelling magic bag. I gotta ask, what came first? Drawing or writing? For me, I had hopes of being a comic book illustrator for the longest time before I realized that the breadth of my stories exceeded my rather limited drawing ability.

BF: I’m a storyteller, be it through words or pictures. I think that’s the deep root of it. My passion lies in writing, though. The art thing is a hobby, something I like to do. Writing is more of a have to proposition.

GM: What were your biggest art influences as a kid? Any particular imagery that stands out as a “I must devote my life to this” kind of moment?

Bob's art from Occult Detective Illustrated, on sale now!

BF: I was (and am) really into comics. The first artist that jumped out at me was John Byrne, whose career I’ve followed since Charlton’s Doomsday +1. I spent a lot of hours tracing his stuff. I especially loved his work on Iron Fist, his runs on X-Men and the Avengers, and his Fantastic Four was really mind-blowing.

But the artist that punched me right in the face and who I credit with being the single greatest influence on me, in many ways both as a writer and artist, was Frank Frazetta. Frank poured so much emotion into his paintings and his draftsmanship was really unparalleled. I cannot impress upon you how much his work meant to me, how much it still does.

GM: What comics are you reading nowadays? And, dare I ask…Marvel or DC?

BF: Hellblazer is my favorite book right now. Of course it’s being canceled in favor of a new Constantine series beginning soon. I’m a big fan of the entire Hellboy Universe of books from Dark Horse, particularly B.P.R.D. IDW’s Locke & Key is phenomenal. Will be sad to see it go. I’ve been picking up several of the Marvel NOW relaunch, even though I feel burned by the DC New 52 line. It’s a rough time to be a comics fan in a lot of ways these days. I was primarily a Marvel kid growing up, but the industry has changed so much. Sales are abysmal and everything is event driven. Thankfully I have a huge personal collection and I can sink into nostalgia, revisiting stuff like Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf by Night, or Son of Satan whenever the mood strikes me.

I will say this though, I will buy anything written by Cullen Bunn. His Oni Press book The Sixth Gun with Brian Hurtt is spectacular and I’ve really enjoyed his work for the book two as well. I can’t recommend his books highly enough.

GM: No doubt! I just discovered The Sixth Gun last November and have been picking up the trades. It's a great, fun monster book. 

Let’s take a look at your own comic featuring Landon Connors. I’ve very much enjoyed his previous outings in comic book form. Any projection date on the next issue of either Connors series?

BF: Occult Detective Illustrated was something I put together while waiting for pages from Chris Wilson, my collaborator on Oddfellows Serenade. I had thought of making it an ongoing series, but unfortunately the sales don’t really warrant it. It’s kind of a niche thing, so instead I’m going to publish it online as a series of serials on my website once The Parker Brothers: Father Knows Best serial is complete.

 Page 16, Oddfellows Serenade Issue 1

I really wish I could give you a firm date on the Oddfellows Serenade graphic novel. The artist is working on the final pages and then I have to format and letter them. I’m hoping we’ll have it ready by October, but I’ve had similar thoughts before. We’ve been at this for over three years now. There’s an old saying, “Some spells when cast take their dear sweet time to become manifest, and wizards are seldom known for their patience.” Well, this is one wizard whose patience is wearing mighty thin. 

GM: I subscribe to your blog and it’s always a treat to find a new post in my Inbox. One of the things I love most about your posts is your frequent trips down Memory Lane. As do most monster fans, I’m sure, my strongest monster memories are firmly rooted in my childhood. I love experiencing your childhood—and others—and find a deep kinship in hearing about what it was like for others who first discovered the macabre at a young age. I’ve often reflected on why I love monsters and the like so much—often on this very blog. But now I turn the tables on you. What drew you to writing and drawing your monstrous tales? What lured you to studying real-world occult and lore? What’s the draw for you?

BF: The heart of it, I suppose, lies in my Arkansas roots, and the folk tales and legends my family brought from there and elsewhere, and those discovered in my native Indiana. I loved to hear scary stories as a little guy, and some of my earliest (and fondest) memories are of me hiding behind my dad’s recliner while he watched late night horror movies hosted by the incomparable Sammy Terry.

I was not your “normal” child. I stumbled upon magical tracts that had belonged to my great grandmother, most notably Unseen Forces by Manly Palmer Hall, and had a firm belief in the supernatural at an extremely young age. By nine years old I was sneaking out of the house and spending the night in the cemetery just up the road from where we lived.

When other kids were reading James and the Giant Peach, I was reading books like Sybil Leek’s Book of Curses, Hans Holzers’ Ghosts I’ve Met, and Francis King’s Ritual Magic. When they were playing Mouse Trap at sleepovers, I was pulling out the Ouija Board.

GM: Thanks for stopping by to hang out. Always a pleasure. Any parting words?

BF: There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t feel truly blessed. I have a wonderful family, the best friends a guy could hope for, and an outlet to express myself creatively. We live in an age undreamed of. Our only limits are those we set upon ourselves.

In closing, I want to thank you for being such a huge supporter of my work. I have become a huge fan of yours and I wish you continued success. You’re a breath of fresh air, my friend. It has been an honor and a privilege to know you and I look forward to us working together again in the near future.

GM: Thank you so much, Bob. That means a lot :)

That does it for another interview. Next up in the queue, we'll have another author familiar to occult detective fans--Joshua M. Reynolds, who will stop by for an insightful talk. In the meantime, drop some dollars and pick up one of Bob's books, will ya? We writers got families to feed!

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