Atomic Interview #6: Talking GRAVEDIGGER with Barry Reese

Gravedigger Volume 1The Adventures of Gravedigger, Volume 1 (2013) – Written by Barry Reese – Published by Reese Unlimited / Pro Se Press.

Welcome to the sixth go-round of my new Atomic Interview series. I’m joined this time by Barry Reese. We’ll be primarily talking about Barry’s latest novel, THE ADVENTURES OF GRAVEDIGGER, VOLUME 1, but we’ll also touch on his award winning DIE GLOCKE novel and take a spin around the rest of the Barry Reese Universe: The Rook, The Family Grace, and Lazarus Gray. We talk about Barry’s adult novel RABBIT HEART and get his thoughts on podcasting the Shadow and why Robbie Williams hasn’t caught on with the American music buying audience.

For a complete list of past Atomic Interviews, head on over to the dedicated index page, and for a complete list of Barry’s available titles, check out his Amazon author page.

Before we get to the questions, here’s the full description for GRAVEDIGGER:

Her Life Began…The Day She Died. From Best Selling and Award Winning Author Barry Reese comes another fantastic creation from his action packed imagination! THE ADVENTURES OF GRAVEDIGGER VOLUME ONE from Reese Unlimited, Barry’s very own Author Imprint at Pro Se Productions features the debut of a different take on the concept of Hero in Pro Se’s Sovereign City Project! The Adventures of Gravedigger introduces the latest masked warrior to inherit the mantle of Gravedigger. A lost soul who has returned from the grave to take up a mission of justice and vengeance, Gravedigger stalks the streets of Sovereign City assisted by her faithful agents and surprising familiar allies! She is the last defense against the criminals, madmen, and bizarre creatures that prowl in the shadows! Featuring a stunning cover by award winning Pulp Artist George Sellas and mind blowing interiors by renowned artist Will Meugniot. THE ADVENTURES OF GRAVEDIGGER is a stunning, horrifying new addition to Pulp! From Author Barry Reese, Edited by David White, with Format and Design by Sean Ali! THE ADVENTURES OF GRAVEDIGGER VOLUME ONE from Reese Unlimited and Pro Se Productions!

And now on to the questions …

Mark Bousquet (MB): Thanks for joining me, Barry. Your latest novel, THE ADVENTURES OF GRAVEDIGGER, VOLUME 1 has just been released, and we’ll get to that in turn, but first I want to congratulate you on a novel you wrote last year, DIE GLOCKE, which recently won the 2013 Pulp Ark Award for Best Novel. DIE GLOCKE was published in the collection, THE ADVENTURES OF LAZARUS GRAY, VOLUME 2: DIE GLOCKE, which also netted George Sellas two Pulp Ark Awards: Best Cover Art and Best Interior Art. What does DIE GLOCKE mean to you, and why do you think the Reese/Sellas/DIE GLOCKE combination resonates so strongly with the New Pulp audience?

Barry Reese (BR): Thanks for having me! It’s been a very good year for me so far and winning Best Novel just makes it all the more so. I was thrilled to see George recognized, as well – he’s amazingly talented and brings so much to all of our projects.

As to why DIE GLOCKE proved so popular … I think it’s a combination of factors. The first book in the series proved to be a minor success, with a lot of people jumping on board in the months between its release and the arrival of DIE GLOCKE. George was more familiar with the characters, too, and I think the cover and the interior art that I teased on my blog and on Facebook really piqued a lot of people’s interest.

Plus, I like to think it was just a good book!

MB: George is also the cover artist for GRAVEDIGGER, the Special Edition of THE ROOK, VOLUME 1, THE FAMILY GRACE: AN EXTRAORDINARY HISTORY, and contributed interior art for TALES OF THE ROOK and the first volume of THE ADVENTURES OF LAZARUS GRAY. What is it about George’s work that makes him such a good fit with your stories?

BR: I found George through his DeviantArt site and fell in love with his work. He has such a wide range in his art … sometimes he can be really cartoony, sometimes he can be extremely realistic. Once we started working together, I think we both quickly realized that we had some similar sensibilities when it came to the presentation of the characters and I like to think that I give him a lot of freedom to come up with his own interpretations.

He’s just a remarkably easy person to work with – dependable, talented and very willing to take on new challenges. Really, he’s the best artist I’ve worked with and I’m very lucky to have him collaborating with me.

MB: THE ADVENTURES OF GRAVEDIGGER, VOLUME 1 is now available. Is this a novel? An anthology? What will people experience when they crack into this book?

BR: It’s a novel – the events within jump around a bit, though. We spend a good bit of time looking at the founding of Sovereign City and the dark mysteries that have contributed to its current state as home to corruption and evil magic. A lot of that information came straight from Sovereign creator Tommy Hancock, who graciously gave me tons of information when I asked him if he’d ever given any thought to the city’s founding. The bulk of the novel is set in 1937 where a young woman named Charity Grace makes the last in a long line of bad decisions – she breaks into the home of a man named Josef Goldstein. Killed in the attempt at thievery, she reawakens inside her own grave. A mysterious Voice echoes in her mind, giving her an ultimatum – become its champion or have her soul cast into Hell. The deal is this: she’ll have three years to redeem her soul. If it’s found wanting at the end, she’ll suffer eternal damnation. If she succeeds, though, a grand triumph awaits.

What we have, then, is a vigilante with a schedule to keep. As we go on, she begins to wonder: is killing villains really enough to prove she’s a better person? Or does she need to change more than that?

MB: Gravedigger is not just a new hero to Sovereign City, but the latest in a line of Gravediggers. Who is the Gravedigger? What role do they play in Sovereign City? Are the citizens of the city aware that the current Gravedigger is new?

BR: Charity isn’t the first person to have been resurrected by The Voice. In fact, Josef Goldstein himself is a former Gravedigger who succeeded in his role. What The Voice actually is, no one knows … nor do they know why it chooses this method of obtaining its champions.

Most people are unaware of The Gravediggers – not all of them have operated in the public eye and fewer still left anyone standing who would know that they called themselves Gravedigger. Charity is the first female Gravedigger and she’ll become the most well known of them – at least to this point.

MB: GRAVEDIGGER takes place in the same universe as THE ROOK, THE FAMILY GRACE, and LAZARUS GRAY. Talk a little, if you would, about your reasons for creating such a vast universe. And, as a reader, let me assure you that I enjoy the “Universe According to Barry Reese” timeline included in your books.

I grew up as a comic book fan and I loved the deep continuity that DC and Marvel used to have. As such, I can’t help but find enjoyment in drawing connections between my characters. For a long time, I just did this in the form of Easter eggs for fans and myself but lately, I’ve been more overt about it.

The timeline became a necessity for me as a writer and I figured it would be useful to readers, as well – especially as the universe has grown more complex over time.

MB: What makes each of these characters unique? Do you look to create characters who uncover a new aspect of the universe for your readers? How did Gravedigger evolve?

I definitely created Gravedigger with the intention of adding some spice. I wanted a female character to complete the ‘trinity’ that I wanted as the centerpieces of my pulp universe. She’s connected directly to the Grace family and to Samantha Grace specifically (of Lazarus Gray), she receives some training from The Rook, etc. So I’ll admit that some aspects of her back-story were not organic but rather by design.

With Lazarus Gray, I did try to select some elements that would set him apart from The Rook. I wanted his series to be more of a “team book” and I think my decision to give him a ready-made set of enemies in the form of The Illuminati was an inspired one.

Basically, I’ve taken what I’ve learned with each earlier creation and refined it for the later ones. For that reason, I think Gravedigger is the purest distillation of my pulp ideals yet.

MB: From a writing standpoint, how do you balance writing in your universe? Is it a matter of taking them in turn (write a Rook story, then a Gray story, etc.) or do you sit down at the computer and write in whichever direction the spirit moves you?

BR: Mostly it’s a case of wherever the muse takes me. I do try to balance my projects just so I’m not away from one of them for so long that I lose that sense of connection. Recently, I wrote half of the Lazarus Gray Volume 4 book, then wrote Gravedigger, then went back and finished Lazarus.

For the most part, I write what I love and if I’m feeling a certain character, I’ll stick with that, barring deadlines on other things. For instance, I wrote volumes 2 & 3 of Lazarus Gray back-to-back, with only brief interruptions to work on things for Moonstone.

Rabbit HeartMB: Let’s jump in the Wayback Machine for a minute and talk about RABBIT HEART, which is a much more adult-themed book than your other work. I remember before the book came out that you had some concerns about this shift in style. I thought of this at times when I was writing The Haunting of Kraken Moor – I’ve written two kid’s books, after all, so do I really want to include a scene where a squid demon is having sex with a seemingly never-ending group of women? Can you talk a bit about the experience of writing RABBIT HEART? What kind of response did you get from it? Do you regret publishing a Mature Audiences book? Is this a character or style we’ll see from you again?

BR: When I wrote RABBIT HEART, I was feeling a desire to do something different – I’d been working for Marvel Comics and on The Rook for quite a while. I loved doing all that but at the same time, I was chafing under the constraints of doing PG-13 work. I wanted to go all out with the sex and the violence … and I certainly did that! I’ve never really met anybody who disliked that book – it’s the favorite of several, in fact. But I do know that it was shocking to quite a few, despite my warnings.

I don’t regret having done it but it’s not something I’m looking to repeat. I wrote one not long after called THE DAMNED THING that was somewhere in-between RABBIT HEART and my usual stuff, in terms of tone and style. I may venture back into DAMNED territory at some point.

I did start a sequel to RABBIT HEART entitled STARSTRUCK. I wrote about 12,000 words before I shelved it – it was far more intense than even RABBIT HEART and to be honest, it kind of bummed me out. I felt very dark while writing those stories and I’m not at a place where I want to live that for six months or a year.

MB: In addition to all of your fine work in your own universe, your short stories are in demand for anthologies. In 2012, you contributed stories to MONSTER ACES, THE AVENGER: JUSTICE, INC., THE NEW ADVENTURES OF THUNDER JIM WADE, THE GREEN HORNET CASE FILES, and THE NEW ADVENTURES OF RICHARD KNIGHT. What attracted you to these projects? What role do short stories have in your work, given that you have a whole universe of your own to create in?

BR: For the most part, I do those projects to keep my name out there and to attract new readers. In some cases, like with The Avenger, I’m a huge fan of that character so I’d do that for free … but with The Green Hornet or Thunder Jim Wade, it’s really just about reaching new markets and testing my own limits. It’s fun sometimes to learn a new character or a new genre and then see if I can find my own spin on it. When it works well, I find a new favorite – I loved Thunder Jim Wade, for instance, and he pops up in Lazarus Gray Volume 4.

I find that I do prefer working with my own creations but that sometimes working within the confines of a licensed character can stimulate creativity and keep me fresh.

MB: In addition to your writing, you also host THE SHADOW FAN podcast. What’s your approach to podcasting? What’s your goal for the show?

BR: I love The Shadow and do the show just because I have all these things that I want to talk about … but nobody in my “real life” shares my appreciation of the character. When I found out that there was no podcast devoted to him, I decided to do it myself. I just shoot the breeze for a half hour each week, talking about what Shadow books I’m reading and what I think about different aspects of the mythos. It’s fun and it’s brought me into contact with a whole different group of fans than the ones that hang out in New Pulp circles.

MB: Now let’s get to the really important stuff. Why doesn’t America love Robbie Williams the way you and I love Robbie Williams?

BR: You know, I’ve often wondered that!

Honestly, I think a big part of it is that the Brits (and the rest of the world) have a lot more tolerance for cheekiness than America does. We want our pop stars to be very serious people – even the folks who do bubble gum music are expected to take their work very seriously and to walk out on stage with their costumes and special effects, sing their songs, take a bow and then get the hell off stage. Robbie doesn’t do that. He comes from a very cabaret style of performance – lots of playing to the crowd and general silliness. People don’t know what to make of him here whereas overseas, he’s applauded for having so much personality.

Plus, I think he’s never been willing to focus his efforts on breaking the market here. It takes time and a lot of effort – and I think he’s never committed to doing that.

MB: What’s life like for Barry Reese when he’s not writing?

BR: I’m the Director for the Twin Lakes Library System in Baldwin County, Georgia, so I stay pretty busy. We’re hosting the 2013 Georgia Literary Festival and I made sure to invite a number of my New Pulp buddies.

I’m also happily married to my high school sweetheart and we have a precocious six-year-old son named Julian.

I spend way too much time on the Internet, too.

MB: What’s next for you? What are you working on? What’s next to hit the shelves?

BR: Lots of stuff on the way! Sometime in April you should see The Avenger: Roaring Heart of the Crucible from Moonstone, which has my second Avenger story in it. You’ll also get The Rook Volume Two – Special Edition, which will feature a full re-edit, as well as a new cover & interior art by George Sellas. Then in May, you’ll see Lazarus Gray Volume Three.

At some point, I also have a G-8 story that’s coming from Moonstone but I don’t know the date on that one!

MB: And finally, where can people go to learn more about you and your work?

BR: I’m all over the place – the best place to keep track of me is my blog, located at I’m also on Twitter (@barryreesepulp) and I have a Facebook fan page.

Thanks for having me, Mark! It was, as always, a pleasure!


And that’s a wrap for this installment. I want to thank Barry for agreeing to do the interview and for providing such thoughtful and honest answers. I’m well aware that every time an author agrees to answer my questions that’s taking time away from their fiction writing, so it’s always appreciated when they agree to chat.

Haunting of Kraken Moor CoverWhen he’s not talking to other writers, Mark Bousquet is doing some writing himself. He is the author of multiple novels and collections, including the recently released The Haunting of Kraken MoorGunfighter GothicStuffed Animals for HireDreamer’s SyndromeHarpsichord and the Wormhole Witches, and Adventures of the Five. He has also published a review collection entitled Marvel Comics on Film, which covers every cinematic and TV movie based on a superhero from the House of Ideas. A complete listing of all his work can be found at his Amazon author page.

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