by Ben Arzate
Garrett Cook is the author of several strange, entertaining and, at times, downright disturbing books. He also works as an editor for Eraserhead Press as well as a freelancer. When he’s not writing or editing, he teaches online writing workshops. A quick disclaimer: I’ve taken some of his workshops and he’s done some editing work for me.
Ben Arzate: Introduce yourself. What is Garrett Cook?
Garrett Cook: I teach and implement directed dreaming. Whether it’s through helping develop books or turning my own nightmares into fiction, I work with dreams and the molding of the subconscious into something expressive. So, I think I’m someone skilled with and sustained by dreams.
Ben: Is getting your inspiration from dreams what attracted you to Bizarro and horror fiction?
Garrett: Part of it. What mostly attracted me to it was that it allows people to create a profoundly personal aesthetic and cosmology. I’ve always felt that realism didn’t explore reality or get to the nature or heart of situations as well as horror and allegory. My nightmares and dreams have always had really visceral and meaningful symbology in them and I’ve learned a lot from them. I feel that kind of storytelling is more personal and expressive then exploring what lit fic and Fox Searchlight have said are relevant situations. 90s TV was loaded with “relevance.” I had enough of that growing up.
Ben: How would you describe your style of writing to someone who hasn’t read any?
Garrett: I would say sparse but rhythmic. I prefer to let a few set pieces or a character set the scene over creating a firm sense of place. I kind of prefer moods and textures over concrete objects and sometimes those happen through rhythm, repetition or omission.
Ben: A God of Hungry Walls is one of the most intense horror novels I’ve read. What was the inspiration behind it?
Garrett: A feeling of separation from the idea of home and the idea of family and the impossibility of them. I saw a lot of people in my generation torn from and separated from those possibilities. It’s literally a house that trauma built and one that deals with the idea of an acquisitive and hateful society eating us alive.
Ben: Crisis Boy is the latest book you’ve had published. Can you tell us a little about it?
Garrett: It’s essentially a cosmic horror novel where instead of Cthulhu or something, the existential threat is a world that runs on bullshit. The main character is an invincible teenager whose job is to be seen getting killed in violent atrocities. He decides that he’s tired of this and he’s afraid of a girl he likes being killed in a school shooting so he teams up with the only person unhinged enough to believe in the conspiracy that spawned him. It’s a vicious mockery of right-wing conspiracy culture and our indifference to kids getting murdered in shootings.
Ben: When you’re not working on your own writing, you’re often running writing workshops. What got you into doing that? How has the experience been?
Garrett: I was starting to get more and more editing clients and several of them had questions about process, questions about writing in the genre, or wanted guidance developing stuff. I thought it would be a good idea to bring these people together, make some extra money and use what I’ve learned working in writing and publishing to help make more work happen. It’s a great experience because as a writer and editor, you don’t get a lot of instant validation. When you get a chance to see a win happen or see someone grow, that’s a good, strong hit of morale and morale matters.
Ben: Which book that you’ve written so far is your favorite and why?
Garrett: I would say A God of Hungry Walls. It gave me a chance to speak from the mouth of a lot of demons and explore toxicity in ways that I think have made me a better person for it.
Ben: What are you currently working on?
Garrett: I’m doing a book called Charcoal for Clash. It’s kind of an arthouse Queer extreme horror take on The Picture of Dorian Grey. I’m also working on a Sword and Sorcery Mythos novel with lesbian heroines taking on the Elder Gods in a Lovecraft/Smith/Howard infused 17th Century Earth. They’re both very much about fighting off trauma and the power the past holds over us.
Ben: What’s the story behind the purple hat? Or do you just wear it because it looks cool?
Garrett: Purple is a color that in Vodou is associated with the dead and that which came before us but at the same time, in death, there is raucous celebration, ecstatic heat, and joie de vivre. I gave Time Pimp a purple hat because of that. A few weeks before the Bizarrocon where I had a big Time Pimp reading, I saw a purple fedora from a pimp costume on sale for $3.50 at CVS. It had a leopard hat band that I took off it but the hat made me feel good and people on the street said nice things about it. I keep it with me everywhere ever since.
Ben: Any links or anything else to plug?
Garrett: Still space in May and June’s workshops. Anyone can hit me up on Facebook if they want to do some fun exercises or develop a novella. It’s always a blast. Also, Anna Suarez’s new poetry book Papi Doesn’t Love Me No More from Clash is amazing and deserves all the love and attention in the world. It’s up for pre-order now: https://www.amazon.com/Papi-Doesnt-Love-Me-More/dp/1944866396/
Ben: Thanks so much for your time, Garrett!
Garrett: You are most welcome. Thanks for the ink.