Mr Bizzaro [2012-07-31]Carlton Mellick III is one of the most known & respected names in the Bizzaro literary genre. He writes trashy squishy child-like novels set in surreal fantasy versions of consumer America, with an emphasis on nightmarish absurdities, punk perversions, and social satire. In only a few short years, his surreal counterculture novels have drawn an international cult following despite the fact that they have been shunned by most libraries and corporate bookstores.. I first came across his work at the start of this year, and I was blown away by his imagination, his love of strange & often disturbing imagery, and his ability to write wild & enchanting fiction that reads quite unlike anyone else. Carlton very kindly agreed to give M[m] an email interview
m[m]:Tell us a bit about what first got you started writing?, you started at the age of 9 or 10 didnít you?Carlton When youíre 10 years old, you are constantly asked what you want to be when you grow up. I used to always tell people that I wanted to be a writer, but I wasnít going to wait until I grew up. I wanted to be a bestselling author that year, while I was still 10 years old. So I worked my ass off. I wrote at least one full-length novel a year since then. Some books were 100 page novellas others were 1000 page epics. I thought everything I wrote was genius back then, but of course it was all crap. Still, it was good practice. I was learning through doing. Because I was so dedicated as a kid it made it possible for me to make a living as a writer in my early twenties. Most writers arenít able to accomplish this until at least their thirties. I wasnít able to be the 10 year old bestselling author I thought I was going to be as a kid, but all the hard work paid off in the end.
m[m]:A new tenth anniversary edition of your first novel Satan Burgers is coming out soon- why have you decided to reissue it & what can we expect from this new edition? Carlton Originally, Satan Burger was to be reissued because amazon.com deleted the listing. This was a huge problem because most copies of my books sell through amazon and Satan Burger was one of my best sellers. We assumed that it had to have been because they found the cover offensive. It was around the same time that they rejected the kindle edition of Kobold Wizardís Dildo of Enlightenment +2 for being too obscene. So a new version of the book with a new cover was put into works. About five months later the original version of Satan Burger was available on amazon again with no explanation as to why it was removed. So the reissue was put on hold.
This year the tenth anniversary edition will still be released with a new cover, new introduction, many illustrations, and other bonus material, perhaps even a new bonus chapter. I wonít know the final details until later this year.
m[m]:Where you surprised at the success of Satan Burger when it first came out? Carlton I really didnít think Satan Burger had a chance in hell of making it. The book was written when I was twenty. It was just a side project book I wrote for fun. I never planned on ever getting it published, because I assumed nobody would ever want to read it. But then I came up with the idea of the Eraserhead Collective, which was a publishing concept of getting 6 like-minded writers together to edit, publish, and promote each otherís books. All 6 authors would own the company cooperatively and make money off of each otherís books. After a year these 6 writers would choose a worthy new writer to succeed them who would then edit, publish, and promote their books. This way the company could go on forever without ever having a true owner running the show. Well, Satan Burger was the book I submitted to the collective. I chose this book because I didnít care if it succeeded or failed. I was more interested in seeing if the publishing collective concept would succeed.
But the collective began to fail within its first year, when none of the books were selling and the other authors were getting discouraged. I had a lot of promotion techniques that I knew would work very well with our style of fiction if we tried them, but none of the other authors believed they could possibly work (which is understandable, they were discouraged by this point). So I used these methods to promote my own book and it quickly became a success as I predicted it would. Unfortunately, by that point the collective was too late to save. So I failed at my publishing experiment yet accidentally succeeded at launching a writing career.
So to answer your question: I was surprised that Satan Burger was successful, but I was not surprised that my promotion techniques worked.
m[m]:In 2005 Satan Burger got in the news when Jared Armstrong of Girdwood , Alaska was incarcerated. The charges, giving/showing indecent material to a minor, were dismissed by the prosecutor four months later. Where you surprised when this case came about & where you ask to give evidence in the case, or did you attend any of the hearings? Carlton I think it was bullshit what happened to the guy. It really messed up his life. He lost his job over it and a lot of his property was impounded by the police (including his car, gun collection, and book collection). Why they took all of his books as evidence is beyond me. William Burroughs, Anthony Burgess, and bizarro fiction books must have been confused with terrorist manifestos.
And all he did was give a copy of my book to some teenager, as if my book was pornography. I guess they thought the guy was a pervert or something, probably due to the fact that the cover of the novel features a womanís naked butt squatting over a dinner plate.
The thing is the teenager could have bought the book himself anywhere. He could have checked it out of the library, bought it at the bookstore, ordered it online, or asked Santa Claus to put a fucking copy in his stocking at Christmas. How can they arrest somebody for giving a kid something the kid could have bought himself? I think people are just way too insane when it comes to protecting children and this guy got screwed for it.
m[m]:You mention that Amazon is one of the few places that sell yours & other Bizarro authors work- do you find it frustrating your work isnít available in mainstream bookshops & libraries? Carlton Actually, my work is available in bookshops and libraries all over the world but itís rare to find them. You canít go into a store looking for my work and expect theyíll have it. Iíve only found my books on the shelves of a barnes and noble a couple of times. But a lot of people have discovered my work through bookstores and libraries. Amazon is a lot better for selling bizarre fiction though. Anyone looking for weird underground fiction doesnít shop at bookstore chains. Also, amazon doesnít take as big a cut. In fact, I wouldnít have been able to make a living as a writer if it werenít for amazon.
m[m]:A lot of your work is in novellaís form- why do you like this shorter form more? Carlton Personally, I like books that can be read in a single sitting, like watching a movie. All of my books are about the length of a feature film. In fact, many of my first drafts start out as screenplays.
I also think novellas are the perfect length for bizarro fiction. Since bizarro tends to be about weird characters in weird worlds with weird problems, most readers couldnít handle reading bizarro for longer than 100 pages. But bizarro doesnít work in the short story form and either because usually a lot goes into the worlds and characters in bizarro fiction. So novellas are the perfect length.
Another reason I prefer novellas is that I have ideas for thousands of books that I want to write. If I focus on novellas I will be able to write a lot more books in my lifetime.
Though despite all that Iíve just said Iíve lately found it difficult to be satisfied with the novella length. Most of my books these days tend to be 40,000 words rather than 20,000 words. And Iíve also got a few epic (100,000+ words) novels out for the first time in over a decade.
m[m]:You mention that a lot of your stories start off as screenplays- which one of your books would you most like to see made into a film & why? Carlton I would love to see my work adapted on the screen, but it would be a difficult thing to do due to budget issues. The reason I chose to write novels instead of screenplays was because I didnít want to be restricted by budget. A bizarro movie is not likely to get much funding and thereís only so much you can do with low budget indie filmmaking. So I write books instead. There is no budget on the imagination. I can write about a world where people ride giant robotic dinosaurs instead of cars without worry. In fact, it is also a huge advantage for me. The film industry doesnít produce ďbig budget weirdĒ so if anyone wants anything like that theyíll have to read my books. Outside of other bizarro writers, I have no competition.
But to answer your question: all of them. Really, theyíd all make awesome movies if you ask me. Iíd love to see Armadillo Fists as an anime, Zombies and Shit as a 20 episode television series, and Warrior Wolf Women of the Wasteland as a big budget summer blockbuster. Some of my books have already been optioned for film and I am excited to see what comes of that. One of them might even get a pretty big budget.
m[m]:Tell us a little bit about your writing process & how long does it take for you to finish a book? Carlton Iím not the kind of writer who writes a little a day. If I start a book Iím not going to do anything else but eat and sleep until it is finished. I usually check into a hotel to write. I tend to average 6,000 words a day in a hotel (about 500 words per hour). So it takes me anywhere between 3-10 days. Some people think Iím some kind of superhuman writing a novel in under a week, but really anyone can do it. Iím actually a very slow writer compared to most. But thereís something about paying a hotel money every day just so you can write that motivates you to accomplish what you set out to accomplish.
I always challenge myself to check into a hotel every single month to write something new, but Iíve never been able to accomplish more than 7 writing marathons in a year. Plus, Iím not sure what I would do if I wrote 12 books in a year anyway.
Regards you writing books in a hotel room- what type of hotel do you pick up market or down market? & do you just lock yourself in for the whole writing process?
Yeah, I lock myself away until the book is done, only leaving for food every few days. I stay in anything from upscale suites with full kitchens and living rooms to rundown ghetto hotels with shared bathrooms to beach houses on the coast. But I find the best are the blandest, least interesting hotels in boring areas with nothing interesting to distract me, because the point is to forget about the outside world and become completely absorbed into the storyís world.
m[m]:Music is often mentioned in your stories mainly in the form of punk rock, do you only enjoy punk or do have quite wide musical tastes? Carlton You know, I grow out of styles of music pretty easily. I still like punk, ska, and a little metal. But these days I seem to mostly listen to Asian pop music. I think the reason I listen to that now is because itís completely the opposite of everything else I used to listen to. Or maybe having the musical taste of a thirteen year old Japanese school girl is what I consider punk as fuck.
Iím often inspired by music as I write. Armadillo Fists was heavily influenced by early Moon Kana. The only way I could think of to get into the head of a mentally disturbed boxer with armadillos for hands was to listen to a lot of music by a mentally disturbed Japanese gothic lolita.
m[m]:One of the many things that are distinctive about your books are the kinky & sometime disturbing cover illustrations by Ed Mironiuk - how did you first come across his work & how does it work when you need a new cover picture from him? Carlton He was a fan of one of my books, I think Satan Burger or Punk Land, and volunteered to do a cover for a book. His first was the cover of Sex and Death in Television Town and heís been doing most of my covers since then.
I love when an author pairs up with an artist for all of that authorís book covers. When readers see that art they always think of that author and vice versa. It also makes collecting an authorís books more fun. So Ed has become my signature cover artist. These days Ed does cover art before I even write the books. I tell him what books I plan to write in the future and he creates cover images based on the ideas. So now I have book covers for about a dozen books I havenít even started yet. This helps inspire me to write the books as well. When I see an amazing image for a future book it makes me want to finish my current project as soon as I can. Warrior Wolf Women of the Wasteland, Armadillo Fists, I Knocked Up Satanís Daughter, Barbarian Beast Bitches of the Badlands, Tumor Fruit, The Handsome Squirm and Crab Town all had cover art before the books were written. I love it. The one downside is that Iíll never write a book that I donít think would make a good Ed Mironiuk cover. This means every book I write must have a weird sexy female character in an important role. It hasnít been restrictive at all, but it usually requires a bit of foresight.
m[m]:Your books often have a very shocking scenes dealing with rather taboo subjects, is there anything you wouldnít cover in your books? Carlton I probably wouldnít shy away from any subject if I thought it would make a good story. The thing is I donít actually want to write shocking material. Whatever I write I go into it believing that nothing is taboo anymore. Itís weird when people assume Iím trying to shock or offend readers. Iím shooting for being interesting or funny. Iím also trying to write stories that have never been written before. The reason why I might sometimes journey into taboo territory at times is because itís territory thatís mostly unexplored. The easiest way to write something that nobody else has written before would be to write something that nobody else would dare write. Thatís why Iím mostly known for books like Baby Jesus Butt Plug, The Haunted Vagina, and Adolf in WonderlandÖ even though those are only 3 out of 36 books Iíve written.
m[m]:Tell us a little bit about your release schedule for the next 12 or so months? Carlton Well, my next big release will be Tumor Fruit, which is a supernatural island survival story in the tradition of Lost, Mysterious Island, or Uninhabited Planet Survive. A group of people crash on an island with no food, water, or chance of rescue. In order to survive, they must eat the mysterious tumors that grow all over one womanís body like fruit.
Other than that, there will be a lot of re-issues of old books. Ugly Heaven is one that has just become available today, which should be good news to those who didnít get a chance to buy it before it went out of print a couple of years ago.
Iím sure Iíll be writing plenty of more books this year but I wonít know anything about release dates until after theyíre finished. I have no idea what Iíll be writing but I have many possibilities on the table, from a post-apocalyptic parody of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to a bizarro outer space horror novel to another sequel to Warrior Wolf Women of the Wasteland. It all depends on what I feel like writing when I check into the next hotel.
m[m]:Coming up in November of this year in Portland is the 5th annual Bizarro convention- how much are you involved with this years convention & what can people expect in genreal from it? Carlton Itís basically a 4-day writerís meet-up at a hotel/brewery outside of Portland. Lots of drinking and planning and organizing and readings and parties and workshops and networking and things like that. Around 100 people come each year, all people involved with the bizarro fiction scene. I recommend all bizarro writers go to this if youíre serious about being a part of the scene. Bizarro fans probably wonít get a lot out of it outside of hanging out with bizarro writers for a weekend.
Thanks to Calton for his time & efforts with interview. Carlton website can be found here, and most of his in-print books are available through any of the Amazon sites.Roger Batty