Damnation Books Presents an Interview with Travis Heermann

Posted: August 23, 2011 by damnationbooks in Uncategorized

Please Welcome Travis Heermann.  He is about to tell us about Snakes.

1) Tell us a little about your book.

“Snakes” is the story of a young, down-on-her-luck
single mom who’s forced by circumstances to move back into the only home she
has, a run-down trailer in a crappy trailer court in the middle of Nowhere,
Arkansas. How far is she willing to go to make sure her little daughter Joy has
food to eat and a roof over her head? Joy is special, so special that even the
local snakes seem to recognize it. And then a charming stranger shows up who
seems to know a little too much.

This story was a ton of fun to write, and I love this story
for the characters, for the subject matter. It’s dark, gritty, and sexy all at
once.

2) What gave you the idea for this particular story?

This story came from a real event. Once upon a time, a
little girl about 3-4 years old walked up to her mama held up two fistfuls of
baby copperheads, and said, “Look, Mommy!
Worms!” As soon as I heard that story, I knew I had to use that as
the seed for a story.

3) Do you read widely?

I read tons of fiction of all genres, plus a lot of history
and creative non-fiction. All of it fuels the storytelling mill.

4) Who are your favorite authors?

There have been many over the years. I always look for new
ones and must inevitably leave others behind.
Nowadays I most enjoy George R.R. Martin, Charles Stross, Arthur C.
Clarke, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, Robert Heinlein, Harlan Ellison, Ray
Bradbury, Stephen King, William Shakespeare. I still have special places in my
heart for H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

5) Who influenced you most?

Shakespeare, King, Howard, Lovecraft, and Burroughs–hugely. I’m sure I’m influenced by
plenty of things. I find inspiration in songs, the larger world, science and
its advancements, people I see wandering through my scope of vision.

Two great quotes I carry around with me always, and
influence everything I write.  Horror
writer Jack Ketchum once told me, “In your writing, examine love always,
and binding.”

And another from film director Akira Kurosawa: “The
role of the artist is to not look away.”

6) What do you hope to accomplish with your writing? (ex:
entertain, bring awareness, touch someone’s heart, inform….)

My highest goal is to make readers feel something
powerfully, by examining the darker corners of human existence. If I can do
that, I am satisfied.

7) What scares you?

Some of my biggest personal fears: running into a bad cop on
a bad day (you ever read Stephen King’s Desperation?),
religious fervor of any stripe because it is an absolute brand of closed-minded
ignorance (perhaps you’ll see a shade of that in “Snakes”), anyone
who thinks he or she knows what is best for me,
the corporate homogeneity that turns employees into unthinking drones and
customers into mindless consumers represented only by numbers. So I guess you
might summarize my fears as “ignorance, and the willingness to impose your
ignorance on me.”

8) Where can we find you online?

I have a website and blog, www.travisheermann.com/blog. and
two podcasts that supplement my novels Heart
of the Ronin
and Rogues of the Black
Fury.
I’ve been using Facebook and Twitter for a while, but I’ve recently
dipped my toe into Google+. I may only have time for two, so we’ll see if one
of them has to go.

9) When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I read Swords of Mars by
Edgar Rice Burroughs when I was in sixth grade, and it blew me away. I
immediately borrowed my mom’s manual typewriter and started banging out my own
novel, a thinly veiled ripoff of course. Nevertheless I did finish it.  It came to about 250 pages, so I would say
that was the beginning.

11) Have you ever written something that you’re afraid to
let other people read? Why?

Oh, yes. I have thoughts like that fairly often, because the
stories I tend to write are often really dark
or highly sexual. My mom is forbidden from reading my story
“Punishment” in the Malicious
Deviance
anthology (about a guard in a strange prison who thinks he’s
really in Hell), and I don’t think I’ll want her to read “Legs” (an
drug-addled orgy, some amputations; you know, fun stuff), in the upcoming Nocturnal Emissions anthology.

I’ve also written some creative nonfiction, experimental
memoir-type stuff that helped me heal from some painful experiences; I hesitate
also to show this to people.

12) Why do you write the genre(s) you do?

Because science fiction, dark fantasy, and horror absolutely
fascinate me.  I get to write about
things that don’t exist and think about “What if they did exist?” I
like looking under rocks, into the shadows, and seeing what’s in there.
Literary and mainstream stuff, with a few notable exceptions, I find
mind-numbingly dull.

13) What is the toughest part about being a writer and how
do you get past it?

The sense of writing and writing and writing and tossing my
stuff out into this black void where it gets rejected over and over and over
again. I’ve developed a pretty thick skin with regards to rejections, but every
time it does hurt a little, especially when I’m excited about something and I
feel in my heart that somebody might like this.
This is quickly followed by feelings of abject certainty that it is
awful and I should probably just give up, a sense that is reinforced by editors
more often than not.

I get past it by writing anyway, by telling stories, and
throwing them out there into the void anyway, hoping to get some faint echo
back from a reader.

14) How much is your protagonist like you? How different?

Considering that my protagonist in “Snakes” is
twenty-one, female, beautiful, and a mother, I would say that the most common
ground is that she has all her limbs and walks upright.  She does have that sense of desperation that
I remember when I was a dirt poor college student and eating ramen noodles and
off-brand mac and cheese for every meal, the kind of place emotionally where
you have no idea where you’re going to find the money to put gas in your car or
pay your phone bill or buy food.

15) I’ve heard it said that writers are the sanest people on
the planet because they get their daily stresses and problems out in a story.
What are your thoughts on this? Is writing therapy?

There have been times when writing helped me heal from real
trauma, creative nonfiction in particular. It really can be therapy. It can
also be exploratory, where you discover how you actually feel about something.

And there have been plenty of times when some idiot
douche-bag I just met shows up in a story and promptly gets his due
comeuppance.  A small way to bring
justice to the world.

16) Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you?
Why or why not?

Sometimes. It goes back to Kurosawa’s admonition; the writer
dare not look away. He has to go there.
If he doesn’t go there, he can’t take the reader there. Sometimes going there means violence, sometimes
sexual ickiness (and everyone has their unique boundaries), and sometimes the
sex and violence are intertwined, sex as violence or vice versa, as in
“Snakes”, and that is most disturbing.

18) What about your book makes it special?

Eddie is a great character. I think a lot of people can
relate to her.  And you’ve never seen
anyone like The Stranger before.

19) What are your thoughts on the future of books?

We are in the middle of the publishing revolution.  Books will never go away, but their forms may
evolve. Literacy itself is evolving.  Old
publishing houses will adapt to the changing marketplace, or they will
disappear, and likewise with professional authors.  A small handful of authors will find
tremendous success in this new e-marketplace. A vast majority of new authors
will continue to struggle in anonymity because their skills, or their work, or
their audience is simply not ready yet.

20) What are your hobbies? Do you ever work them into a
story?

One of my great hobbies is poker, and that did indeed find
its way into “Snakes.”  Hobbies
and other pursuits are part of what make that writer unique.  My martial arts experience goes into my Ronin novels.  My knowledge of history and mythology went
into Rogues of the Black Fury.  The best way to write about guys who use
muskets is to go shoot some black powder weapons.  The best way to write a sword fight is to
have studied it.

21) What are you passionate about?

Creativity, the eradication of religion as the single
greatest evil that humans have ever constructed, connecting with the divine
forces of the universe. And in the worldly sense: Texas Hold’em, my motorcycle,
my friends and family, and my freedom to go and do whatever I damn well please,
within the limits of doing no harm to anyone else.

22) How do you want to be remembered?

I would like to be remembered as a man, a storyteller, who
lived at full throttle, writing, creating, learning, pursuing, until someone
scatters my ashes. Perhaps I’ll have a long, distinguished career, perhaps I
won’t, but I want to have pursued it with passion every day I was alive.

24) Everyone has a quirk; what’s yours?

I actually have quite a number of quirks.  Do you want the little ones or the full-on
frontal eccentricities?

25) Tell us one thing about yourself that no one would guess
by just meeting you.

No one would ever know that I was an Executive Geek.

Buy a Copy of Snakes, today!

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