By Steven Rage
Pilate: A Brutal Bible Tale
You Morbid Westphal
The Reverend Steven Rage maintains that the hospital his alter-ego works night-shifts for is haunted. However, so many years of working in the dark with the sick and dying has skewed his reality in such a perverse way that even the brightness of day has become frightening to him. He probably thinks that's haunted. The Reverend further asserts that his writing of such bizarre, bloody and extreme fiction is conducive to his and everyone else’s well-being. Everyone should encourage him. And there is no proof Rage sleeps upside down in a sealed closet. Absolutely no proof at all.
Praise for The Place In Between:
"Sick? Absolutely. Genius? Perhaps. Rage? All the way. Go ahead and order it, folks. But be warned: this book is disgusting. You'll need a strong stomach to handle it. But the reward and payoff is huge. It's not gross for the sake of gross. It's dark fiction at it's finest."
-Eric Mays from The Authors Speak
"THE PLACE IN BETWEEN is gross, disgusting, funny, horrific, and disturbing, yet at the same time it's quite entertaining. Rage writes with his conscience thrown out the window (that is, if he had one to begin with), yet unlike some more extreme stuff I've read, he actually knows how to WRITE a story around the grue. I'm keeping my eye on this guy as he truly lives up to his last name. "
-Nick Cato from the Horror Fiction Review
Interview conducted by R. Frederick Hamilton
Hello Mr Rage. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.
My pleasure. Sorry about all the blood here. I’ve been working, you know. The rent flesh of humans is much more pliable than one might think. I use the skin to write on ... and other things...
Let's kick things off by talking about your influences. Who are some of the authors and artists who have influenced your writing? Who are some who continue to do so today?
Hunter Thompson, Irvine Welsh, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury and Ernest Hemingway for his tight sentence structure. For inspiration I listen to Bone Thugs, Cypress Hill, DMX, A Perfect Circle, Tool, Black Sabbath, Alice in Chains. You know the music that’s the darker and harder shit. The two newer writers I love most today have got to be Jordan Krall and Garrett Cook. Super weird and fun and just balls-out cool. Their work is outstanding. As far as the ‘straights’ go, The Reverend digs John Grisham, Paul Erdman and Walter Mosley. Stephanie Myers and Dean Koontz should be drawn and quartered in the town square at high noon. Maybe Jordan Krall could pen the epitaph. The Reverend gets dibs on their skin.
How does the writing process work for Steven Rage? Are you a planner or a seat of the pantser? A scribbler or a typer? Any particular writing rituals you adhere to? Or are you a write anywhere, any time kind of guy?
Usually I’ll just be putzing around, minding my own business when a basic ‘what if’ question will occur to me. Something such as: “What if Jonah from the Old Testament attempts to run from god and finds himself trapped in the BELLY of the famed tanker ship: ‘The Edmund Fitzgerald’, instead of a leviathan or a whale. That’s how the deal went down in the follow-up Brutal Bible Tale to PILATE. After that start, I will usually walk around with the idea of a story for a good while to let it percolate, fester, get gamey, and develop. That has got to be my favourite aspect of writing... DISCOVERY! I love the times before I am writing anything but notes, when the story is so fresh and still unknown to me. I wonder which directions the story will traverse and how it will all play out. That is just the very best! It is during this phase of the RWP (Rage Writing Process) that I feel as though I am more like ‘uncovering’ the story, rather than just creating it. When I have got more than just the basic ‘bones’ going on, I’ll place it in a background (almost always The Harbor) and add to the gumbo the characters and their back story. I’m kind of obsessive about these details. I will go to extraordinary lengths on ordinary elements. I am really as neurotic as a motherfucker, you know. Sometimes, these tiny nuggets won’t even make it in the story proper, but rather just add layers to the motivations of the characters. This I believe comes out in the depth of my characters. I always write just a shit-ton of notes for my stories, and one holy hell of a lot of research. Then I outline. Once I have the outline I will write ‘scenes’ as they come to me in whatever array gives me the most amusement. It usually goes something like this here: I start in at just after the beginning of the tale. Next, I’ll do most of the middle, then the very end, back to the climax (this takes the most time...everything’s gotta ‘click’), back to the rest of the middle, then the near end. Then I’ll hit the whole thing again to sprinkle some more hot sauce on the fictional gumbo. Finally, I finish with the very beginning, with heavy, heavy emphasis on the first page. For me, if the first page doesn’t work, you might as well throw out the bath water and the baby because you’ve already lost most readers. And this is kind of strange: I always start the first draft in pencil and it has to be written on unlined paper (not human skin like I said earlier. I was lying to you. Sorry). Mrs. Rev. Rage has an interesting theory about this. You see, she feels I need to write on unlined ‘scroll-like’ paper because she’s under the impression that I was a Knights Templer in a previous life. Realistically, if I had lived before, I’m sure I was simply a much-maligned court jester, or some other type of mouthy, lower level asshole. I can’t really say why I have to write on ‘scrolls’. However, Mrs. Rage’s theory sounds about as good a reason as any. It’s better than ‘Rage is just fucking weird’. Although, just being plain ‘off’ may be more in truth.
You currently have the tag of the most depraved author in print. You seem a friendly enough chap. Where does the darkness come from? And, out of curiosity, is this a tag that you find difficult to live up to? Do you feel that people now have certain expectations when they read your work and are you ever tempted to subvert your image?
Oh, I am quite friendly in real life. So, I would have to say that at least part of the darkness is born out of my two and a half decades of being involved with Critical Care. I cannot tell you how many traumas, respiratory failure and cardiac arrest events I have attended. Hospital work brings you into intimate contact with people in the very worst of conditions and situations, as well as the very worst in attitudes and behaviours. It can be violent, sometimes, and is always stressful. I have had weapons brandished on me; my person threatened. I also have been exposed to nearly every one of the deadly contagious contagions available. You never know what deadly bug is floating around. Most of the time, I don’t even find out what I was exposed to until much later because I am a ‘first responder’. Tough shit, oh well, you know? That’s my gig. It is how The Reverend earns his daily bread. That coupled with Rage having had no appropriate outlet for all the ugly I’ve witnessed and experienced. There is also the disturbing fact (this is a secret so don’t blab it) that I cannot dream. Seriously, dude, not at all. Because of this, ‘shit’ builds up and backs up and I start feeling really squirrely and Rage-y. That’s when I know that I HAVE to write to purge. Otherwise some motherfucker that sorely deserves it will get a chair busted over their hump, you feel me? So, basically, my readers are enjoying the depraved fruits of my dark, emotional vomitus. I’m pretty convinced I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and that little gem seems to feed my dark imagination even more. Here is a little known Rev. Rage fact you might dig: when Rage is working on a story, I know that I have succeeded in crafting the violence ‘just so’, and I’ve ‘hit it out of the park’, with a particularly creepy and fluid-drenched bit when the work makes me throw my head back and laugh aloud. When the gruesome giggle-fit happens, I know my readers will feel sick and/or have trouble sleeping that night. Success! So far I have not had any trouble living up to diabolical image of The Grim Reverend and if there is anyone, anywhere, that believes they can top my fictional depravity I would love to meet them. I don’t think of myself as limited by the image of The Grim Reverend, but at the same time I am still currently writing a medical suspense novel under my given moniker and credentials. Also, I am seriously considering writing future stories in the ‘first person’ where the pen name is the same as the main character or ‘voice’ of the story. Something like “Slammington Gets Ass-Pummelled All Silly-Style” by Phister Slammington. I think that is going to be fun.
Your book, The Place in Between, is a collection of three tales. Can you run us through some of the inspiration for the tales? What were some of the themes you were hoping to explore?
In general, I’ve noticed just recently that my stories all seem to encircle the basic theme of: ‘every motherfucker gets their comeuppance’. As far as details on individual tales go ...
In The Place in Between, I took a hospital version of an Urban Legend as the kernel of the story. I added a ‘Faustian’ element and then I ‘gruesomed’ it up about ten notches to get your attention. I hope it worked. I was seeking to explore the limits (physical, spiritual, etc.) a human being can endure before succumbing to the eventual loss of their immortal soul. I wrote this loss as an inevitability, which led to the rather bloody and shitty consequences that unfolded as the sordid tale progressed.
In Bad Notion Traveling Potion I wanted to accomplish, really, a couple of different things. I wanted to write a protag/antag combo that was non-living and make it slowly come to self-awareness. Also, I needed the ‘awakening’ of the organic narcotic to follow ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’. Then, if that was enough of a challenge, I was curious if I could pull off writing a novella that is devoid of expletives. You know, just to see if I could. Usually I can’t write a fucking sentence without throwing in a fucking bunch of fucking cuss words. You dig what the fuck I’m saying? I purposefully put one in at the very end as a de-facto exclamation point.
As for Blood and Bubblegum, I wanted to combine some of the characters that came from my other tales. Toss them all together in a post-apocalyptic environment underground and see what would happen. I think it is creepy as all get-out.
The title story of the collection is particularly brutal. Had any strange reactions from people who know you that have read it – or any of your other work? Any hate mail from strangers?
Folks that know my alter-ego always seem so surprised at my writing. They are surprised at the extreme levels of violence, surprised at the use of religious elements without regard of consequences, and surprised that they like the writing so much. Well, most of the time they dig it. Hell, every now and again they will just stare open-mouthed at me and not say a word. There is someone at work like that. They read me once, and then never mentioned it again. And sometimes they look at me strangely...
As well as the Place in Between you have a few other projects floating around. Primarily Pilate A Brutal Bible Tale - which you self published - and You Morbid Westphal – which was published by Evil Nerd Empire. But also a few others currently floating around on Kindle. Care to give us a definitive list and a bit of a spiel on each?
RAGE PRIMER (promotional): Through the sheer shock of his presentation of Short Stories and Novel Excerpts, Rage Primer forces readers to consider the alternatives, to look at the garbage in the streets, to see what is swept into the gutters at night right before all decent people awake to see another cleaned up version of the day.
BELLY (novel): This one is the follow-up novel to PILATE. Immanuel the Christ has some nerve. Jonah has already lost everyone he loves to Pilate the vampire and his Harbor drug violence. Jonah now trudges through his days staying as high on Plata as possible. He just wants to be left alone while he waits for his turn to die. The Christ has other plans for him. She sends Her messenger, Pedro, to assign Jonah the very dangerous task of ordering the Herod to dismantle the Harbor's Plata trade. Jonah has a choice: fight or flight. He decides to run. But you can't run from God forever. As Jonah learns the hard way when the 'Edmund Fitzgerald' founders and goes down in rough seas, with the reluctant prophet on board. Job is Satan's Chosen One and he doesn't take kindly to orders from some upstart prophet. Rather than acquiescing, Job thinks caving Jonah's head in with a tire iron is the best bet. Jonah finds himself out of the frying pan, but firmly fixed in the fire. Then the Lord Herself starts dispatching Job's children. One at a time, until the Herod of The Harbor finally obeys.
FOR ALL THE MARBLES (collection): Dark and twisted tales of exquisite violence, rough tricks, narcotics consumption, evil ghosts and drug-snuffling demons. Five Short stories from the Most Depraved Writer in Print.
YOU MORBID WESTPHAL (novella): WELCOME TO HARBORSIDE DISTRICT HOSPITAL... ..where three of a kind have come to live, work and kill. Born whole from the rectum of a dying patient, Morbid silently stalks the hospital's hallways, heinously dispatching the most helpless of patients and in the most painfully repulsive of manners. In the meantime, in order to pay for his family and home that includes his ghost step-father Sammy and his pet aborted fetus Chip, Westphal has to ingest mounds of dangerous narcotics to get through his night shifts. Barely hanging on to his Care Tech gig by his fingernails, the last thing Westphal needs is to be accused of Morbid's evil deeds. You, on the other hand, simply want to find some solace. Terminally ill from a virulent infection, and dependent on Life Support, all You beg for a peaceful and dignified demise. Shirk has other plans for You. The ancient drug-snuffling demon makes You relive all of your deadly and venial sins as he tortures You. Night after night. Until eternal Damnation begins for YOU MORBID WESTPHAL, yet again.
THE FALL OF A BLOOD DRINKING DRUG DEALER (novella re-write): Re-written from "PILATE" in the re-incarnated vampire's POV. This is where is where the Brutal Bible Tales truly begins: Pontius Pilate is cursed to be a vampire: Life after life after life. PILATE is a drug lord vampire in this re-telling of Christ's final days. When given yet another chance to save the Earth's latest Christ, will the re-incarnated Pilate choose to protect Her. Or, will he wash his hands once again .. This version has been EDITED for a leaner and cleaner Harbor experience.
With the Harbor, you've constructed a fantastically vivid post apocalyptic society for your fiction. How long has the idea of the Harbor been with you? And is it something you'd planned in advance or has the mythology grown as you've set more stories there?
The Harbor has been my go-to background environment from the very beginning. I recall a reviewer a while back stating that The Harbor was more than a place, that it is a character in and of itself. I would have to agree with that. The Harbor is based on a real place here in the U.S., and it has since evolved into (thus far) three distinctly different realities. The first would be the early to mid 1990s Harbor that Westphal from You Morbid Westphal was set in. The next is the either side of ‘Y2K’ Harbor we see PILATE and BELLY placed in. Finally the third setting takes place in a Harbor that is set a good sixty, or seventy years in the future. A series of cataclysmic events have forced the world’s drastically diminished populace underground to escape the ravages of a new Ice Age. This is the setting for both Bad Notion Traveling Potion and Blood and Bubblegum. I’ve had so much fun with the post apocalyptic version of The Harbor that I definitely will revisit it with new tales from Rage in the future.
The Place in Between novella was written with the 1980s North Carolina seaboard as a setting instead of The Harbor because the main character is on active duty in the US Navy and that happens on the Eastern seaboard, or the West coast. Otherwise, I probably would have set that in The Harbor, as well.
Hypothetical. You are Nord Coxcomb, the rugged boson of the Good ship Dandelion, a merchant sloop trawling the “Saucy Nook” run between the sweltering sin dens of Port Felch and the towering crags of the Island of Munt. The deck crew begrudge your firm handed approach to discipline, but there is universal recognition regarding your heart of gold beneath your stern exterior. A week into your four hundred and thirty fourth voyage, on the return leg of the trip, a commotion from within the captain's cabin brings you upon a strange scene. Jimmy Sparklehorse, the flamboyant purser, the Captain himself and the third mate, Mrs Nub, all gathered around the Captain's favourite trunk, cooing and exclaiming worriedly. Your keen eye, which has caught many a deckhand at shenanigans, spies a smallish hole in it's bottom right corner of the trunk but beyond that there are no clues as to the cause of their concern. You query the congregated players and a short interpretive dance later, the Purser has explained all. A bashful vole that had stowed away had been mid rendition of a shanty medley when the Captain had returned, startling the beast during a particularly bawdy verse. Whether shamed by the nature of the shanty – a particularly torrid affair involving a camel and a gravy douche – or by the admittedly poor falsetto it affected, the vole had hastily retired to within the trunk upon the Captain's intrusion. There it had remained despite the Captain's fervent efforts to coax it back out – being a enthusiastic gravy douche fetishist, he was more than keen to hear the shanty's conclusion – and Jimmy and Mrs Nubs' arrival had done little to help matters. Now, throughout your seafaring career, you've garnered a reputation as a bit of a dab hand at convincing animals to emerge from hiding – a reputation built primarily on the deblocking job you did on Jaunty Babs when his fish colon lured one too many walri into his back passage. The congregated moon eyes make a request unnecessary. You know what is required. After a quick trip to your quarters to retrieve your “inducing” tights, you return, enter a deeply powerful squat and scan the cabin for items that may assist your cause. Your quandary immediately becomes clear. The chief's quarters are spartan to say the least. Apart from his bunk and the aforementioned trunk, the only other objects are a bowl of lozenges atop the captain's pillow – whose colour suggests they are of the vinegar variety – and a family pack of bangers and schnitzel that hangs defrosting from a hook in the roof, another clear indication that the captain does not understand the basic concept of lanterns. A decision must be made. Under normal situations it would be a no brainer. Schnitzel and bangers is a far more palatable treat to the average vole. HOWEVER, you know only too well that the wrangler is currently laid low below decks with a horrid case of doffed bowel, and in his absence there is no one truly capable of handling the sausages in a safe manner. What do you do? Do you risk robbing the captain of the intense gratification that the shanty's conclusion would bring him by luring the Vole with the lozenges - knowing that, due to the high bi carb content of the common Vole, this is a potentially devastating course of action if they are, in fact, vinegar? Or do you instead use the bangers and schnitzel unsupervised and risk a sausage infestation that will be the scourge of the remainder of the voyage? (You're well aware that since the wrangler came onboard, the crew had allowed their piano wire to fall into disrepair, content that their usual breakfast garrotings were a thing of the past) What course of action would you take? And what words of justification would you offer the gathered Captain, Purser and third mate for your decision?
Pretty fucking gay, dude. That being said, the depravity in your story is both cheeky and apparent. Therefore, I think that they all should be secured with their very own entrails. Then they shall be fisted with a length of knotted rope, repeatedly, until they agree to purchase LegumeMan’s entire catalogue in both print and Kindle forms. The scurvy bastards. They deserve to pay.
What's next for Steven Rage? Any upcoming releases that you're at liberty to discuss? Any works in progress? Any other artistic endeavors in process or is it all about the writing at the moment?
I have been using 2011 to catch my ass up on my writing inventory. I’ve been messing with a ‘National Lampoon/Reader’s Digest/Heavy Metal’ political satire/humour periodical I have dubbed: THE SPUN MONKEY’S DIGEST. Also, I will be adding two more titles by the end of this year: PILATE: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT and PHARMACIDE. Both are full length novels, which is somewhat of a departure for me. I usually do novellas. So, once I have all of the titles up and running (should be 9 or 10), I hope to use 2012 as an all out Rev. Rage promo bonanza. I really need to take a longish break from writing. My brain hurts. And I realized that Kindle kind of sells itself, but if I want to have more success with my print titles, I’ll have to put my smiling mug out in front of my potential fan base. I’m going to try use a vendor table to showcase my work, as well as myself. I’m kind of nervous about it, but shit, that’s what sedatives are for, true ? I need to take advantage of Phoenix’s impressive size to launch my promo year. This will include the monthly Phoenix Art Walk and/or the Mesa Art Walk. I should also secure a table at the quarterly Fetish Proms and maybe at All-Girl No Rules Roller Derby, and maybe even round it out by attending KillerCon or BizarroCon. Pretty much anywhere the deviants will have me. I have got to get out from behind my computer screen and hit those streets...
What is a book everyone should read and why?
Something Wicked This Way Comes. Why? I just love the language and flow of this amazing book by one of the true greats.
What is a movie that everyone should see and why?
The Ninth Configuration. Why? Stacey Keach and Harry Dean Stanton are the psychiatrist and his astronaut patient. Together they travel around the depths of insanity, as well as an exploration of existence when devoid of a Higher Power. It is set in a castle in the American northwest during the Vietnam War. Cool as shit.
What is a song that everyone should listen to and why?
Eye of the Pig by Cypress Hill. Why? This is a hip-hop classic from the glory days at the apex of ‘gangster rap’. The song is sung in first person. It is a tale about a dirty cop as he slides down the slippery slope:
“Go home, take a drink, and think about my abrupt change out of the clean to the corrupt. Looking through the eye of the pig I’m all fucked-up. I cannot determine: who’s the criminal, from the innocent man down to the paedophile. No one gives a fuck about me. I’m slippin’ in the darkness, coming to grips and feeling heartless...”
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.
You are most welcome. Now don’t make eye contact with The Reverend as you leave. Hey, what did I just tell you, man... ;)