Ghoulish: The Art of Gary Pullin
I want to thank you for the questions. I’ve followed this site for a while, especially the Debut Author interviews. It’s really exciting to be one of those writers.
You're very welcome. Glad to have you here. On with the interview! 😊
1- How did you get a book about Gary Pullin to come to life?
For Ghoulish, we were lucky enough to have a terrific publisher onboard before the first word was written. I’ve known Gary for years now—we met when I was writing for a magazine called Rue Morgue and Gary was its art director. Another member of the team back then was Dave Alexander, who was Rue Morgue’s editor-in-chief during my tenure there. All of us have since moved on, but we’ve maintained those friendships and we find our paths crossing pretty frequently. When Gary and Dave started talking to 1984 Publishing about a coffee table book of Gary’s art (Dave is Ghoulish’s editor), they asked me to come onboard to write it. I said yes immediately—I’m a poster collector and Gary is one of the foremost artists of the illustrated movie poster art revival, and I loved the idea of telling not only Gary’s story, but also the story of that art movement. So the project had a “getting the band back together” feel to it, and it was a delight to work with Gary and Dave again, and to find a great new partner in 1984 Publishing.
2- What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words
Curious, loyal, dedicated, perfectionist, hopeful
3- What ignited your passion for writing?
I was a pretty introverted kid (which makes sense, because I’m a pretty introverted adult), and I generally preferred to hang out by myself and read when other kids were doing sports or whatever kids do. I’ve always loved stories any way I could get them—books, movies, comics, TV, whatever—so I think this ‘writer’ thing was pretty much inevitable. I write full-time now, but there’ve been many jobs along the way—I’ve done everything from selling timeshares (don’t hate me) to building alternators on an assembly line. My first byline was a book review in a tiny newspaper in 2008, and one small thing has led to another slightly less-small thing ever since.
4- Who is your favorite character from The Facts of Life?
I have to go with Mrs. Garrett. She can solve everyone’s problems, bake a strudel, and rock a bouffant, so she’s pretty much perfect. We all need an Edna Garrett in our lives.
5- Would you share a picture with us of the book with your seven-foot animatronic werewolf named C. Thomas Howl?
6- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?
My short-term goal is to finish the YA novel I’m working on now, which is sort of a queer, feminist riff on Frankenstein—there’s mad science, monsters, and LGBT romance, so it’s a fun world to play in. Which leads me to my long-term goal, which is to focus more on my fiction. Right now nonfiction is my bread and butter, and it’s wonderful! But ultimately I’d like to spend more time telling my own stories.
7- What is your favorite book (by someone else), and what do you love most about that book?
I flirt with other favorites, but I always come back to Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. I love that it’s both creepy as hell (the Dust Witch still gives me chills) and a sweet, moving story about friendship and growing up. Also, no one has ever put October on the page as evocatively as Bradbury.
8- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most about your debut non-fiction book?
It’s a tossup between my mom and my wife, but when it comes to Ghoulish, I think my mom wins. She’s a big fan of classic horror cinema, and she loves that the book features art for films like Psycho, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, and Frankenstein.
9- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?
Working with great editors. I don’t have any formal writing training/education beyond studying screenwriting in film school, so working with experienced, talented newspaper and magazine editors is what taught me the craft of writing and the business of publishing. It’s been invaluable.
10- Could you give a tip to someone who wants to get in to selling ghoulish art, crafts, and stories?
Become an active part of the genre fan community, and get your work in front of people as often as you can. Engaging with creators and fans on social media is a great place to start, and if you can, go to a convention and talk to creators—most of them will be eager to talk about what they’re doing. Some of my coolest gigs came about that way.
11- https://diversebooks.org #WeNeedDiverseBooks What's your favorite book with a diverse main character?
A few come to mind by authors who aren’t with us anymore, but I love promoting writers who can still benefit from being discovered by new readers. So may I cheat and name mention a few recent favorites?
- Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country, which centers on a black family tackling cosmic horrors and racism during the Jim Crow era. I love that it doesn’t simply ignore or redact the racism inherent in Lovecraft’s work—it tackles it head-on.
- Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids, which is a really fun, completely bonkers twist on Scooby-Doo and other teen detective stories, with a queer MC and a really lovely queer romance at its center.
- Dawn Ius’s Lizzie, a contemporary, queer retelling of the Lizzie Borden story. It’s creepy, affecting, and heartbreaking.
12- Which of Gary's works is your favorite?
Probably the Scream poster he did for Mondo a couple of years ago. It’s a truly gorgeous piece of art, and it’s so clever—by referencing Roy Lichtenstein in such a fun way, it gives pop art the same meta treatment that Scream gave slasher movies.
13- Did you ever figure out what this is? (https://www.instagram.com/p/BdxkVrElHq5/?taken-by=aprilsnellings)
I’m told it’s a spiral slicer and that it’s used for garnishing things, but I remain skeptical. Don’t you just put some parsley on something and hello, it is garnished?
14- Does your book about Gary hold a mirror up to society, and in what way?
Maybe in a roundabout way. Horror is a social barometer—you can tell a lot about a culture’s anxieties by looking at the horror movies or books it’s producing. Ghoulish features art inspired by a wide range of horror films, from classic Universal monster movies to recent fare like The Babadook. I think it’s fascinating to see how horror has evolved over the decades and to consider what that tells us about ourselves.
15- Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to benefit hundreds of other authors or readers potentially?
Taking every opportunity to amplify the voices of other writers. Every month I volunteer my services to a writers’ organization that helps authors promote their new releases. Hopefully I’m helping writers get their work in front of people, and helping readers find new authors to support.
16- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?
I always pay attention to recommendations from trusted sources, whether it’s a friend or a reviewer, and I’m a sucker for a great cover. Once a title is on my radar I read the first couple of pages, either in the bookstore or via an online sample. I’m also a very loyal reader; once a writer has my heart, it’s hers forever.
17- How will you measure your publishing performance?
Wow, I need a better answer for this. At the moment I’m mostly thinking in terms of whether the publisher wants to work with me again. (They do, so yay!)
18- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?
I’m not sure I have it in me to self-publish—I do my best work as part of a team, and I thrive on collaboration and feedback from editors, artists, publishers, and other writers. As for this project landing at 1984 Publishing, there couldn’t have been a better fit. 1984’s founder, Matthew Chojnacki, is a writer, pop culture historian, and a collector, so he understands this stuff on a molecular level. He was always committed to making sure Ghoulish was something special.
19- What's the best book marketing strategy you've come across?
We’ve had a lot of success by engaging directly with fans, either on social media or at conventions and other events. Also, our publisher, 1984 Publishing, specializes in beautifully produced art books, and they turned Ghoulish into an event. For instance, they released two special 3D editions that came with branded 3D glasses and a limited edition 3D art print. (Both of those editions sold out!)
20- What is one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?
I’d love to talk about book covers! One of the topics that comes up in Ghoulish is the idea that a book cover or movie poster can become as iconic as the story it represents. An example is Jaws; most of us can’t hear that title without thinking of Roger Kastel’s terrifying cover illustration, which was also used on the movie poster. I’d love to hear readers’ thoughts on a book cover that made an indelible impression, whether it was 20 years ago or last week.
That's a great topic! I keep a Pinterest board for just such a reason.
21- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?
We have a fun blurb from Guillermo del Toro, writer/director of The Shape of Water and Pan’s Labyrinth, so I pretty much have to share it: “Like a modern Frankenstein, Gary reanimates nostalgia and unleashes it to bite your ass!” I’d also like to mention that the book has a beautiful introduction by filmmaker/Glass Eye Pix founder Larry Fessenden and a lovely foreword by Grammy-winning designer and Mondo co-founder Rob Jones. There’s even a very limited edition that comes with a 12-inch vinyl single by legendary soundtrack artists Goblin, who created the scores for Dawn of the Dead and Suspiria.
Finally, I love to connect with readers and other writers, so please get in touch via any of my social media things, or contact me anytime through my website.
Thanks for reading, and thanks again for the interview, J!
Ghoulish: The Art of Gary Pullin