An Interview with Duncan P. Bradshaw
Having donned a crucifix, ingested garlic, and loaded our potato-gun with silverbeet; we headed into the strange world of Duncan P. Bradshaw to find out what makes him tick. The survivors of this experience were able to render the following account.
For the record, and in your own words, what is bizarro fiction?
It’s a genre which spawned in Portland, OR, and is loosely defined as the videos in the cult section of the store. For me, you need to make the distinction between bizarro and weird fiction, as they are two different beasts. Weird fiction tends to make one or two things peculiar in a story, whereas bizarro creates an entire world of weirdness.
I’d say (as with most things) I’ve taken elements from it and integrate them into my writing. In a bizarro book, you could end up reading about people whose faces explode when they go to a Dairy Queen, or someone trying to survive under a 4×4 with a bear trying to eat them, it’s right at the edge of imagination.
Beer or Cider?
Beer, easily. Cider was my go-to drink as a teenager, and after one too many times of throwing up in a variety of places, I’m not that fussed with it anymore. I managed to have a couple of pints a few years back at a comedy festival sponsored by a cider company, and I think I’ve had my lot now.
Tell us about Class Three / Class Four… these are the books that landed you in front of the world and they have been received adoringly by the fans…
A lot of people say, “I want to write a book,” but never get round to it. I was one of those people once. A few chums of mine announced one day that they had done just that, and it gave me the kick up my arse that I needed. I didn’t know if I’d ever write another book again, so wanted to do something that I’d always wanted to.
I LOVE zombies (not in that way), so figured I’d do something along those lines. One thing that you rarely see is the start of an outbreak, so I wrote Class Three on the morning that the world goes to shit. I wrote it as I would tell the story to someone in a pub, and it is a mix of gore and humour, which kinda sums up most of my literary output.
Given that you’ve overflowed genre fiction into popular film and pop-culture, is there any corner of genre fiction that you aren’t planning to probe or defile? Is there something that you just wouldn’t touch? (so we’ve checked off sci-fi, zombie, horror, detective… is there a Western coming, or a Romance novel?!!)
I’m firmly in the camp of never say never. I’ve written a zombie western short story that I really liked, it’s in my undead collection, Chump. But the way I work is that something just pops into my brain, and if it doesn’t get dislodged by all of the other nonsense in there, then I’ll probably end up writing it. Ideas compete with a lot of background noise in my brain, so if they survive all that, I’ll see if it turns into something.
I have ditched a lot of projects though, some a thousand or so words in, a few were 60k+ before they got the boot.
Is there music in your head when you write? Are your crazy fight scenes backed with epic soundtracks?
Music has provided such a key part to my life, that it flows into my writing. When I’m putting new words down I tend to listen to instrumental stuff, otherwise lyrics can throw me out of what I’m doing. When I’m editing, I tend to put on albums that fit the moment, or ones that I’ve bought for one song but never really listened to them fully. The instrumental music needs to fit the mood too.
When I was writing the zombie western story, for example, the Red Dead Redemption soundtrack was perfect for getting into that mood and slinging the words down.
Tell us about your short stories… you’ve written from a multitude of collections… what is different when you’re writing the short stories as opposed to novellas and novels?
My biggest problem is that I’m a waffler. Not a blue one mind, but I do tend to go on a bit. So, for short stories, I’m trying to be more focused with what I’m trying to convey. It’s weird actually; I’ve discovered recently that a few books I’ve written, the initial ideas or concepts I’ve trialled in short stories.
I’ve got a style of writing first person stories, for example, where the main character almost invites replies from the reader, I’ve used that a few times and it’s been fun. My main love is writing longer fiction though, so I only pen short stories when asked to, or on the odd chance I’ll see a submission that really piques my interest.
What the heck is going on with politics right now? Trump. Johnson. Are we stuck in a bizarro political novel?
Man, the world is one messed up cookie at the moment. If it was a flavour, it would be Savlon and anchovy. I realise these things are cyclical, and we’ve moved past the point where serious politicians have had their chance to do us over, so now we get these pricks that think they’re men of the people. They’re not. It’s hugely troubling though, as these people have the ability to completely shift the countries they lead, and everyone needs to be on guard in case this escalates into something far more worrying.
Tell us about Cannibal Nuns from Outer Space… it seems inspired by nightmarish dreams from your childhood? The chest mouth concept… where did that come from?
I woke up one morning at my mum’s house, and for the few days beforehand had been thinking about my next project, and wanted it to be a b-movie.I had set my brain the task of coming up with a mad title. The first thing it said to me that morning was Cannibal Nuns.
Pfft, I replied. Is that the best you can come up with?
They’re from outer space, it said.
A lot of the main beats popped into my head quite quickly, and when it came to the nuns I wanted them to look normal, but have this monstrous quality to them. It was only when I looked at their habits that the chest mouths came into existence. They look like lips and it fit in perfectly.
I wanted that book to be pure entertainment, the peak of pop culture references, blood, gore, one-liners and ridiculously OTT characters. I think I managed it.
What’s your view on literary fiction? Is it just a bunch of stuck-up pretentious wordsketeers writing self-congratulating pomp?
I dunno…it’s not my bag, that’s for certain. I’ve read a selection of books and I just find it dull. Most tend to forget that you need to end a book so that the reader feels a degree of satisfaction. But… the joy of reading means that there is so much choice out there, that I can stick to what I like or try out something new. I know plenty of people that love a good literary book, it’s just not for me. I think it’s because as people don’t talk like that, it throws me out.
You have two short stories and a brace of novels in flight. How do you divide your time between them? Flicking between them as inspiration strikes, or organised into a stack-ranked list with deadlines? Do we know any of the characters? Where does it start, with the title, or something else?
I’ve given up trying to juggle numerous projects now as I was finding that I was losing interest in things that I had high hopes for, and not finishing anything. So now, I stick to one thing at a time.
This year has been about me trying to finish projects that I’d started but not finished up. I’m currently writing a new book with the previous one back from my editor and the changes not even started yet. I’m easily distracted by the latest shiny thing, or idea, so am trying to find some discipline and work on one thing at a time.
The latest thing came about when I finished up the last book which had taken me over a year to write. That’s really slow for me, and I could see that I was losing interest. So I ditched everything that I’d started and hadn’t completed. One problem though was that I’d bought a cover for a potential book that I’d now sacked off. Not wanting to lose it, I used it as a writing prompt. That’s how that one started off.
For me, I can have all the ideas in the world, I just need a starting line and a rough plan of what will happen.
Are you trying to startle readers by wading knee deep into monstrous blood, guts, and puke? What reaction would you like to your most gruesome moments?
Ha! Man, this may sound weird but I’m not that into horror. There are friends of mine that watch all the films, read all the books and it’s their life. For me, not so much. I’m one of those people in life that tend to dip into a lot of things, and only focus on certain things that interest me. Like zombies! So when I write books, I tend to veer towards the OTT blood and gore.
Making someone laugh is hard, making someone feel queasy because of a scene you’ve written is just as hard, so I try to do both, usually within a few paragraphs of each other.
My wife reads a lot of my early drafts, and there are some chapters in books that she refuses to read because they’re too nasty. The supermarket scene in Class Three is one such thing. I like that. It’s caused a reaction in someone, and that’s what any writer wants to achieve.
Readers go through a lot of books, so you have to do something which still plays on their minds a few weeks or months later.
Bloody love them! Though my editor pointed out first off that my comma usage was more alike William Shatner.
Will characters from your different works ever meet, or are they effectively different universes? Will Father Flynn ever be called upon to fight a zombie outbreak or a killer hoover?
Ooohhh, I’m not sure I should say this, but hey, you’ve pried me open like a pomegranate. All my books are kind of in the same universe. The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that Quantico is a staple of my books, usually popping up as a supermarket.
I mean, they may not all live in the same universe as a lot of my books are on the upper end of the apocalyptic scale, but they definitely share a lot of things.
If someone wrote a book about Duncan P. Bradshaw, what’s the synopsis and do you survive?
Man alive, I think the problem with that is that I’ve never really stuck to one genre or even style of book so far. One thing though, for an atheist a LOT of my books use religion as a foundation. I suppose it would be something like this:
It was Monday, around lunchtime, when the monsters that had been living inside of the cavity walls of new builds up and down the land finally burst free from their pods. Then came the great feasting. With every person consumed, the beasts would spawn more and more of their kind. Only one man can stop them, but he’s grown apathetic to the plight of the world. Can a one-legged cheerleader, a megalomaniac who needs people to rule over and a maverick rabbit convince him, the writer of this madness, to come to his senses and save the world?
Where do people go to find more bizarro and oddball horror? Do you have mailing lists, or somewhere to keep up to date with Bradshawery?
My website is usually updated quite regularly (Official Duncan P. Bradshaw website), and it has a link to sign up for my newsletter, if I actually manage to get it done. Otherwise, hit me up on Facebook for the latest news, and I’m on Twitter too, though not a huge fan of it. I’m also at the odd convention or two around the UK, where you can pester me for sweets and see if it’s my real face or not.
So, there you have it. A dazzling insight into the mind of a unique author, whose prolific works you can seek out and consume with all the ravenous fury of an alien Nun. Expect lashings of gore and humour in equal measure and a series of characters with more flaws than a certifiable genius president. View a collection of works by Duncan P Bradshaw on Wordery.
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