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Fortune. Hot groupies. Hair. Rick Gualtieri has none of these things, but what he does have is the highly beloved “Tome of Bill” series, which gives a shot of nerdy humor straight into the arm of the ever-so-played vampire genre.
I first heard of Rick when he was a guest on the Self-Publishing Podcast and he seemed like a nerd’s nerd, a geek’s geek, and a poindexter’s poindexter. I could be wrong, but he reminds me a little of myself, i.e. a nerd who is proud of his nerd-dom.
After all, the man maintains a priceless collection of vintage Transformers so he can’t be all that bad.
BQB = BOLD; RICK = ITALICS
QUESTION 1 – Rickster, let’s cut to the chase. Self-publishing. Writing advice. We’ll get to all that in due time but first, my 3.5 readers and I are dying to know…what’s the best piece in your vintage Transformers collection? Mine is a 1980s era Soundwave complete with one of those little cassette tapes that turns into a killer bird. Can you top that? Damnit, I know you probably can.
ANSWER: Color me jealous. I never did manage to add Soundwave to my collection. So it’s probably a good idea if you don’t turn your back on me down any dark alleys. Accidents happen and all that … just saying. As far as my own collection goes, my prized possessions are all five of the original Dinobots. Thirty or so years later, they still kick all sorts of ass.
BQB NOTE TO SELF – Please remember to make an addition to my Last Will and Testament, naming Rick as inheritor of my vintage Soundwave, provided that he promises to rub the toy with fine scented lotions for three hours a day, including all Federal holidays, and allows an inspector to be named by me to make monthly observations of this ritual to ensure that it is done.
QUESTION 2 – Are geeks born or are they made? Suppose my 3.5 readers are geeks who are just trying to figure out how to make it in a world full of people who scoff at their glasses and nerdyness and obsessions with 1980s action figures. What advice do you have for them?
ANSWER: Be you. The most liberating thing in the world is not giving a single crap what people think about you or what you like. Worry about making yourself happy, not the rest of the world. The rest of the world is mostly stupid. Don’t listen to them!
QUESTION 3 – “Tome of Bill.” Let’s get to it. What’s it all about? What does a newb to this series need to know before diving right in?
ANSWER: Tome of Bill is basically an epic-sized mockery of more serious vampire stories. It’s the story of a gamer / geek who gets bitten – due to his own lack of foresight in realizing that some women are out of his league. And when he wakes up, he’s still him. Despite all the weird and wonderful powers of the undead, he’s still a dork and happy with that fact. Pity that the rest of the vampires aren’t nearly as pleased with him.
There’s tons of snark, action, blood, bad jokes, cursing, more snark, and eventually a plot that revolves around Maple syrup. I like to think it’s got it all.
QUESTION 4 – Do your readers appreciate the humor/vampire combo? I dabble in humorous horror myself, but sometimes I fear that horror fans just come for the blood spatter and don’t want to laugh, and comedy fans come for the yuks but don’t want their mellows harshed with blood and guts. How do you keep both camps happy?
ANSWER: I think it’s all in the expectations. When you go into, say, Army of Darkness, you kind of know you’re getting a mix of gore and jokes. That’s why it works. Conversely, if you turn on the Exorcist and suddenly Max von Sydow’s character starts cracking one-liners, it’s going to be a bit of a WTF moment. I think horror comedy works best when you give people a hint up front as to what they’re getting into that way you don’t tick off the hardcore splatter crowd.
QUESTION 5 – As an author of vampiric fiction, I’m going to say you’re qualified to opine on all vampiric matters, so let me ask you a question that has plagued me for years.
Whenever you watch a serious vampire movie, why the hell are all the victims so scared of becoming a vampire? Seriously. You stay young forever. You never die. Sure, you have to murder people and drink their blood to survive which could get tedious but you don’t have a conscience anymore so really, it all comes out in the wash. You live forever so you can study and learn a lot. Travel the world. Learn all the different languages. Glamour hot chicks into being your love slaves (which my lawyer advises me to say in this highly sensitive climate we live in that this would be wrong, totally wrong!) Plus, if you live forever, you can save forever so really, become a Wal-Mart stock-boy for 100 years and by the end of the century you’ll be loaded.
Am I missing something? Is there a downside to becoming a vampire? I’m thinking about just lying around a cemetery with some hot sauce on my neck in the hopes I’ll become a vamp victim. Can you talk me out of it?
ANSWER: I personally think it’s more the fear of dying … and what happens if the process either doesn’t work or the vampire has no real intention of turning you. It’s like “Hey, congrats, sucker. Now you’re really dead.”
I mean, heck, otherwise it would be no different than going to the hospital for some minor surgery and waking up with superpowers (and maybe a sun allergy). There’s probably more that plays into it. Fear of never seeing a sunrise again maybe (not a big deal for those of us who avoid beach days), or possibly fear of losing our minds and slaughtering everyone we know. That last one is pretty much the only issue that kind of bugs Bill after he gets turned.
But heck yeah. Aside from that, sign me up for a couple hundred years of compounded interest.
QUESTION 6 – Vampires. Zombies. What’s the next horror monster craze? I’m betting chupacabras. Lots of angsty teen dramas about goth kids who give their teachers plenty of guff by day and sneak onto a farmer’s ranch by night to eat all of his goats.
ANSWER: Personally, I’m all about killer sasquatches myself. But those have limited terror appeal in a city setting. Whatever it is, I want to be at the crest of that wave. Maybe a story about C.H.U.D.s … our hero wakes up one night with an insane urge to live in the sewers and dine on human flesh. Hilarity ensues.
Hmm, let me go write that one down now, while it’s fresh in my head.
BQB EDITORIAL NOTE: And here I thought I was the only one talking about C.H.U.D.s.
QUESTION 7 – The self-publishing game. Is it worth it? I know for me, there are times when it feels like its just one giant hamster wheel and I’m a furry little rodent just waiting for a piece of cheese that will never come. Are there times when you just want to say “screw it” and go take a nap and/or eat cookies and/or watch TV? If you never feel like that, what keeps you going strong? If there are times when you feel like that, what helps you get past it?
ANSWER: I won’t lie. The self-publishing game is only going to get tougher because we’re in a maturing market. The boom days are ending. There’s a lot of people making short term bank right now via a variety of ways (ie. churning out books faster than a puppy mill), but I try to view it from the long term. My goal has been and continues to be writing (hopefully) good stories that people will want to read today, tomorrow, or years from now. Even then, it’s a tough business to be in.
There are always going to be times when I get discouraged, want to walk away, don’t want to do something et cetera. But realistically that’s not any different than any other job I’ve had. What keeps me going is that I really love doing this. It just feels right.
And even if somewhere down the road I have to hang up my hat and move on, I can do so with my head held high. I’ve done far more than I ever thought possible. Nobody can take that away from me.
QUESTION 8 – You’ll never believe this. One of my 3.5 readers just told me she wants to begin a journey towards a self-publishing career TOMORROW! Note that I said this person is a she because #2018 and I’m trying my best to stop being a knuckle driving caveman but it’s really hard sometime because I was alive during the 1980s. What advice do you have for this person? What is the very first thing this person should do?
ANSWER: Despite all the advice on building a platform, creating a marketing machine, or owning social media, she has to have a good product first. Make sure that book is the very best she can make it. Seek advice and honest opinions. Polish it up. And while she’s doing that, take some time and study the market. Explore the covers, blurbs, et cetera of those who are selling well. Then try to do what they do, but better.
QUESTION 9 – Bram Stroker comes back to life tomorrow. Is he surprised to see what the vampire genre he invented has become? Is he happy about it? Sad? Are vampires as cool as they used to be?
First I laugh, because you called him, “Bram Stroker.” That is definitely my new porn name. After that, I stake the bastard before he can suck my blood! Okay, fine. I’m not that tasty.
Seriously, I’d like to hope he’d be flattered in some ways, although, I wouldn’t blame him at being a little horrified either. We’re sort of coming down from a bit of a high in the vampire craze. He’d probably wish he’d come back when Buffy was still on the air. I know I would.
BQB EDITORIAL NOTE: That’s the last time I hire a chimpanzee to proofread my questions.
QUESTION 10 – A maniacal supervillain has locked you in his secret lair. You are surrounded by hideous, bloodsucking vampires. Like seriously, not the hot “True Blood” kind but the ugly kind, the ones that have gone all pointy eared and feral.
There are three and only three items in the room. A lasso. An album autographed by 1990s hip hop group Bell Biv Devoe and a taco seasoning packet.
How will you use these items to save your neck?
ANSWER: This one is easy. I pull out the album and fling it at one vamp like it’s a ninja star … then watch in horror as I completely miss and it shatters against the wall. But at least I’ve spared myself from listening to it.
So then … I hook one of the vampires with the lasso, drag him in, and then pour the taco seasoning in his ear in the hope of totally frying his brain. In the chaos, I whisper to him that he’s actually a horse and together we ride off into the sunset, or at least as far as I can get in the sunset before he dissolves into goo.
It’s that or I die horribly, realizing that I should have watched a lot more MacGyver growing up. Damn you, Richard Dean Anderson!!!!
BQB EDITORIAL NOTE: Everyone should watch more “MacGyver.” The old one, not the reboot. I’ve run it past my advisors and they all remarked this escape plan sounds valid, though they note that while Bell Biv Devoe may not be for everyone, everyone can always benefit from the key piece of advice these noble philosopher poets offered to the world, namely, to “never trust a big butt and a smile.”
Wise words indeed. Thank you, Rick. May your All-Spark never dim.