Let’s welcome DM Guay (“Denise”), author of the wildly inventive “24/7 Demon Mart” series as first official participant in what I’m calling “Out of State Weird.”
In this new series of blog posts I’ll be interviewing upcoming and established indie authors on their Urban Fantasy and Horror Comedy series.
Denise was kind enough to be the willing Guinea Pig in what I hope is a successful addition to the site. Thanks, Denise!
First, let’s start by talking about the new series, “24/7 Demon Mart” and the inaugural volume, “The Graveyard Shift.” I’ll let Denise explain it to you.
Martin: What’s your latest book about? Tell us all about it.
Denise: One loser, one karate-shopping bombshell, and one talking cockroach are all that stand between you and hell on earth. That’s the tagline for 24/7 Demon Mart: The Graveyard Shift and that pretty much sums it up.
It’s a horror comedy novel in the spirit of Shaun of the Dead and Evil Dead 2. I definitely wrote it for geeks like me who enjoy lots of laughs alongside their demon vomit and Lovecraftian beast battles.
Our hero is the hapless Lloyd Wallace, who is a lovable loser in all respects. He’s young, broke, in debt, and has made a lot of questionable decisions that have landed him back at home, living with his (very concerned) parents. He takes a job at the 24/7 Dairy Mart, which transforms into the 24/7 Demon Mart at midnight. He doesn’t really understand that the beer cave is the gateway in and out of hell, or that he isn’t there to stock beer. He’s now part of the border patrol between hell and earth.
So is DeeDee, the goth girl of Lloyd’s dreams, who is a total karate-kicking badass. And so is Kevin, the night manager. Kevin is a talking cockroach who is also happens to be a huge Ronnie James Dio fan.
The burning question is will Lloyd—with the help of DeeDee, Kevin, and his guardian angel, who works via Magic 8-ball—choose to be a hero and save the world? Or…not. With Lloyd, it really could go either way!
Martin: This sounds like my kind of story. Are you sure Lloyd doesn’t live in Weird Florida? So, do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Denise: Uh, of course. Hello Easter eggs! Don’t we all?
Demon Mart is also a tribute to horror comedy and absurdist fiction geeks like me, so there are a ton of subtle and not so subtle references to horror and fantasy movies, video games and books. The story still works if you aren’t into those things, but if you are, it adds a whole other level of comedy to the experience. I’ve sprinkled in bits of Evil Dead 2, Lovecraft, Fido (The Zombie comedy), and of course, Kafka’s Metamorphosis.
But, it’s also got a lot of very personal jokes. The 24/7 Demon Mart series sprang, in part, from the six months I spent working the graveyard shift alone at a Plaid Pantry convenience store in Portland, Oregon, in the late 1990s. Dude. You see some weird stuff out there, working the retail front lines from midnight to six a.m. If a demon had popped out of my beer cave? I’m not sure it would have fazed me, because it wouldn’t have been much weirder than the actual humans in the store every night. (I tell some of the wacky real stories in the “Book Sausage” section at the end of every book.)
I can’t help it. There are a ton of my own personal jokes in every story I write. Like, a friend and I have been debating the merits of Ronnie James Dio for about fifteen years now, so that argument was the basis for Kevin’s running commentary about Dio in the book. Pretty much if it makes me laugh out loud? I find a way to put it in there. (Sorry Michael Bolton…)
Because we all need more laughing and silliness in our lives. Real life can be such a downer sometimes, right?
Martin: Lloyd sounds like my kind of guy. Speaking of guys, what’s the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?
Denise: You honestly stumped me with this one. Because, I’m not sure? Lloyd was a natural voice for me, even though I’m clearly not a 21-year old man. (I think I nailed it, but of course, I could be wrong.)
Lloyd didn’t feel like a stretch for me because I worked in the service industry for most of my teens and early twenties, and I met a lot of Lloyds. (Many of whom are still close friends.) Heck. I have been or felt like Lloyd at different times in my own life.
At the same time, I definitely don’t think I could write a story from the perspective of an old, grumpy, high-class rich man. But a twenty-something broke guy? Yeah. I’ve been twenty and broke before, and I’ve been around plenty of other people who were twenty and broke. I can relate.
I’ve also benefited from a lifetime of deep, meaningful friendships with a lot of people who are very different than me. Older. Younger. Richer. Poorer. Urban and rural. Gay, straight and other. The whole spectrum. I tend to be friends with people who have no filter. We say exactly what we think about everything all the time and why. It’s refreshing, and it’s extra great in my line of work. You get an insight into how people think and feel, which can serve you well not just in writing fiction, but in all parts of your life. It’s all about empathy, right?
Martin: You certainly appear to have everything under control, but I’m guessing like all of us you’ve got your strengths and your weaknesses. What would you say your writer Kryptonite is?
Denise: Well, this could go several different ways.
If it’s something that stops me dead in my tracks from writing and throws my world into a tailspin, it’s noise. Okay, that sounds weird, but hear me out. I believe, truly, that every person has at least one legit super power. Mine are 1. the ability to fill out forms that make other people’s heads spin. And 2. I have super sonic hearing. As in, I can hear someone breathing two rooms over through a closed door. I’m not even joking. I hear every little noise. So does my Mom. So did her Mom. I think it’s a real, genetic thing. And that would be great if the real world weren’t so effing loud. And if loud noises didn’t rip me right out of the story mid sentence while I’m writing. So yeah… noise. I wear noise-canceling headphones, that aren’t plugged into anything, all day every day. And I can still hear you breathing….
Wait. I should probably be a super villain by this point, because the super hearing is a curse, not a gift.
Now, if it’s something that trips me up in the writing process, it’s the F bombs. Dude. I curse like a sailor. On paper and in real life. I had to remove fifty extra F bombs from the book in the final round of editing. No joke. There’s a point where, if your grammar checker puts “F*ck” as one of your top ten most used words, you have to ask yourself if you’ve sprinkled them in a little too liberally.
Don’t worry. I did leave a few in there, because if a thousand-eyed beastie from beyond popped out from behind the Pabst Blue Ribbon in your corner store, I doubt you’d choose the polite way to express your fear! But I do have to stop and remind myself that not everybody is as cool with the F bombs as I am.
Martin: Remind me to visit your corner store next time I’m in town. Now, do you have a favorite novel that might be considered under-appreciated, if so, what is it?
Denise: Oh geesh. There are so many gems out there. SO MANY!!
But, my favorite writer right now is Michael McDowell. He died young, sadly, but left behind a body of horror fiction that is amazing. Like ahhhh-mazing. He wrote mass market horror paperbacks in the 1980s. My favorites are the Blackwater Saga, The Elementals, and Cold Moon Over Babylon.
This man can seriously write. He was even Stephen King’s favorite writer. McDowell grew up gay in Alabama in the 1950s. He really hits the Deep South out of the park. The settings. Yes. So much yes. He definitely belongs in the ranks of Great Southern Writers.
His books really capture the subtle social relationships between economic classes, races, and inside Deep South families as well. His monsters are also brilliant. Even if you know who and what the monster is, you can’t ever predict what it will do. Heck, part of the time you’re even rooting for the monsters! He can write a Gothic haunted house story that works on a bright hot sunny beach without a cobweb or stormy night. And, he also wrote the screenplays for Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas, so what’s not to love?
Martin: Deep South? Let me get my banjo and play you the song of my people! As a fellow supernatural writer, what would you consider your spirit animal or mascot and why?
Denise: Oh, boy. Spirit animals. This is the part where most normal humans pick something awesome, like a tiger or a panther or something, because they want people to believe that they are as awesome as those majestic beasts. But let’s be honest here. Most of us are sloths and golden retrievers. Which is great! Don’t hate on the sloths, y’all. There’s no shame in going at your own pace. Own it.
This question also brings up things like who we want to be versus who we are deep down, even if it isn’t glamorous. So here’s the deal: I’ll tell you who I am deep down, even though it isn’t always the spirit creature I wish I was deep down.
I have several spirit creatures.
My spirit muppet is Dr. Teeth because he’s relaxed and chill, but on top of things. He does his own thing, follows his own groove, but when it comes down to it, he’s always got a philosophical answer. Of course, I wish I was as naive and energetic as Gonzo, but no way. I think way too much. Sad but true. So Dr. Teeth it is.
If I were reincarnated, I would choose to be a sea dragon. Because dude, bobbing with the current, chilling out in a kelp forest all day, is my jam. Plus, the boys have the babies, so I’d never have to be pregnant again. Seriously. Birth is like the chest burster scene in Alien. And, once your belly button pops out like a turkey timer, you’re never getting your abs back. Trust me on this.
But if I had to pick an animal to represent my current self, it would definitely be a domestic cat. I am so much a cat it isn’t even funny. I love naps and lying in strips of sunlight. I don’t like people messing with me, unless I’m in the mood to be messed with, and then I’ll seek them out. I would totally sleep all day and stay up all night banging around the house if life would let me. And, I like to prowl around the neighborhood, running, taking walks, being in nature. Checking out the birds, bees and butterflies. So yeah. I’m pretty much a house cat. Plus, I like tuna, especially if it’s on a tuna melt.
Martin: Denise, you have been such a fun guest to have on “Out of State Weird.” Thank you for answering my questions.
Denise: Thanks so so much for having me!
You can find DM Guay’s inaugural entry in the wildly inventive “24/7 Demon Mart” series, “The Graveyard Shift” on Amazon.