It's a real shame that I know Steven Rage. He wouldn't want you to know that it's all an act. I mean, I hear about this writer, and he's got the online persona of a sinister master of the macabre. Then to meet him...you realize he's kind of bubbly. Or, maybe that's the comfort lure. Maybe that's the way Rage draws you nigh so that he can feast on your soul. I'm not sure. And that's one of the genius things behind the Reverend Steven Rage.
Only once before have I seen an author so become a caricature of a character (that author was Robert Tacoma, who spent years online cultivating a following as "Taco Bob", the possum farmer. He wrote illiterate message board posts, and humorous stories of life on the South Florida roadkill farm.) and Rage does it masterfully. As mentioned, I've met Steven Rage and I like the guy, but he's still a mystery. I guess that's why I like his books. There's a very distinct vibe that accompanies them - if you like it dark, dirty and (in some cases) downright gross, Rage delivers.
I had not read Steven Rage's first book - PILATE: A Brutal Bible Tale - when I met him. Sadly, I'd not read any of his stuff. During the early days of Naked Metamorphosis Rage and I agreed to exchange manuscripts in a show of support. What an odd exchange. Rage had just released a hardcore, bizarro horror called You Morbid Westphal. Naked Metamorphosis was a dark comedy of Shakespearean proportions. What an odd combo.
I loved "You Morbid Westphal". It was a dark noir that involved a demon and a ghost in a hospital. It was gritty. It was good. I went back and read Pilate. If James Morrow was known for his Bible Tales for Adults and the Godhead Trilogy, then Steven Rage will be known for his Brutal Bible Tales. As brutal, in fact, as the Old Testament. Rage is all...well, the rage right now. I had the pleasure of speaking to the truly unique character.
Eric Mays: Steven Rage, thanks for taking the time to chat. Before I go any further is "Rage" something I should be worried about? I don't want to fall prey to a whirlwind, blindsided chopblock.
Steven Rage: Rage is the name the Reverend writes under. It was either Steven Rage, or Steven Joyfully Larks About. Rage has a more little more POW to it, I think. Eric, you have nothing to fear. The Reverend has had all his meds today with no flashbacks, so no worries, my friend. That being said, I am under court-ordered obligation to advise you NOT to turn your back on me and don’t make any sudden movements and everything’s going to be okay. It’s not a problem, really. It’s just that some days are saner than others. On that note, maybe we should just get started before the meds do wear off.
EM: Umm...okay. None of that worries me. Let's see, you like to go by the moniker "Reverend", right? Is it true ? Are you actually ordained, or is it more like the "Reverend" Horton Heat?
SR: Rage is a legally ordained minister, able to perform weddings, baptisms, as well as speaking directly to God. (by the way, Eric, the Big Kahuna’s not too tickled with you lately, so…)
Functionally, the Reverend sought to lend an air of legitimacy to his fiction, since it congregates (hey, that’s funny) in the realms of Bizarro-tainted Occult, Horror and Brutal Bible Tales. Rage settled on Reverend because the title he really wanted: “The God of Thunder and Rock n Roll” has already been taken. God damned Gene Simmons.
EM: Speaking of Gene Simmons (well, and the Rev. Horton Heat for that matter), the man swears he gets more Polaroids of naked people that any living person. I can see that. But, Rage, you've got to be rolling in fan mail of that ilk.
SR: Well, to tell the truth, it has been kind of dissapointing, thus far. The Reverend could have sworn that he would end up seeing more ass than a toilet seat at Lillith Fair. Sadly, that has not been the case. Mostly it has just been requests to intercede for readers with Satan, and/or writing advice. There have been a few marriage proposals. Mostly from women who are trying to emmigrate from former Soviet Bloc nations and lonely Grizzly bears who just want to cuddle and spoon the Reverend.
EM: Okay, getting down to business now. Your first book "Pilate: A Brutal Bible Tale". Sounds like a recipe for run-ins with those that take religion a little too serious. Regardless of the actual brutality within the actual Bible, people seem to see things like this as blasphemous and sacrilege. Any experience with lynch mobs?
SR: The Reverend has been threatened plenty, that’s true . Oh, hell, some people just don’t have a sense of humor. Granted, seeing Jesus of Nazareth re-incarnated as a 23 year old Latin female isn’t everyone’s cup of orange pekoe, but isn’t that the point? To write something few have seen before. Rage thinks so. Fortunately, the Reverend has only been crucified on threads, so far. Time will tell. But it’s all just tongue-in-cheek and devil-may-care, so fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.
EM: Are you a Catholic? Did you first start toying with this idea while sitting through mass?
SR: Rage was baptised and raised by Lutherans. The followers of Martin Luther maintain a number of similarities to the Catholics, but it is more like Catholic Lite. A few less rituals that the original flavor. The Reverend was Born Again and baptised a second time. This time by the Southern Baptists. The first baptism, maybe it didn’t take, don’t know… not too sure about the second one either, come to think of it.
Anywho, since that time Rage has read the Holy Bible cover to cover at least five times and has studied the different philosopies and practices of Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Green Magic, Black Magick, Satanism, Tao de Ching, Astrology, Yoga and The Secret. Rage is still searching for answers.
As far as the idea behind PILATE and other Brutal bible Tales, Rage always felt that the Bible has a wealth of incredible stories, but they were written, sorry to say, like shit. Boring as all get-out. So the Reverend thought he could do better, giving the stories some much needed teeth.
At this time I have re-written in modern times the fictional setting of The Harbor and placed there the stories of Jesus Christ, Pontius Pilate, Jonah, Job, Herod (several of those fuckers) Judas, Simon Peter, John the Baptist and Mary Magdalene. Rage is proud of these works. Sad to say, he does not expect his writing to be the topic of Sunday School or church lectures anytime soon.
EM: A year, or so, later, you put out "You Morbid Westphal". Now, this is reads like M. Night Shymalan on pure meth - it's an extreme ghost story with twists and turns aplenty, just cranked up to eleven. You've got ghosts and you've got demons and you've got hospitals - three of the things that freak people out. I'm assuming you're not serving as a volunteer up at the local Pediatrics wing, right?
SR: Rage is also Registered Respiratory Therapist and Instructor. The Reverend has been working in hospitals and teaching RT forever. That’s probably the reason why the violence and carnage have such a visceral reality to it. Rage knows what death looks like. Dying is never pretty when seeing it up close. It’s never like in the movies, never nice.
That being said, the Reverend kind of tumbled into all this. He doesn’t really want to work in critical care, or be a minister, or even write. What he really wants to do is direct. Amateur porno would be fine.
Or maybe a game show host.
Maybe work with Lepers, blind kids, things like that.
Rage originally wanted to be a showgirl, but he was cursed with freakishly narrow ankles.
EM: I'm sure your ankles are fine. You would have made a fine showgirl. Your medical knwledge, though, is interesting. You have an intriguing take on demon birth (I'm not sure if I'm holding back because I didn't use the words SPOILER ALERT or if I'm just trying to keep things cleanish). Do you really think that's where demons come from?
SR: Well, it’s not called the Demon Hole for nothing, mi amigo. The Reverend can show you, if you’d like.
EM: That's okay. When you were writing "You Morbid Westphal" what kind of cult like following were you envisioning for yourself. Let's face it, Rage, your name lends itself to a cult following.
SR: Nothing too grandiose. The Reverend was thinking of a more simplified existence as the Undisputed Heavyweight Prophet of the Compound (let’s get it on!). The tax-exempt church shall be dubbed: “Our Eternal Lady of Perpetual Pain, Suffering, Problem Gambling and Skin Disorders-(Reformed)”.
We shall be housed deep inside a de-comissioned missile silo in the Dakota wilds. It will be so much fun! There will be all sorts of activities, besides the televangilism that will pay the bills. Oh, yes! We’ll have skin-branding, blood-letting and animal sacrifices. Tuesday Evenings with Satan, taffee-pulls, Prairie Dress Modeling Thursdays and chili cook-offs. Lesbian Mystery Swap Saturdays, Yahtzee and Scrabble tournaments. There will even be classes on how to fashion a hash-pipe out of the human skulls of heretics. More fun than you can shake a dead-cat-on-a-crucifix at!
Wanna join? It’s easy! All’s it takes is a few drops of your blood and your undying loyalty. Oh, yeah, and Beelzebub will have to mount you at some point. Rage won’t lie: that shit hurts.
By the way, how are y’all fixed with modern weaponry? You pretty savvy around semi-autos, shoulder mounted missile launchers, infra-red binocs, motion detectors and such?
Just planning ahead, just planning ahead.
Can anyone run a still?
We’ll need baby-sitters, too.
EM: Nobody likes to be mounted by Beelzebub. It's true , as for the rest...well, I guess only time will tell.
I'm not going to sugar-coat it, Rage. You are knee deep in depravity. I'm joking, of course. Because you are the sick man you are, I'm curious, what do you read that scares you? Or are you going to try and pass of that you're a Jodi Picoult or Nora Roberts fan.
SR: When the Reverend reads for pleasure, which is as often as possible, he is always craving that BAD-ASS factor. That’s the goal. That and getting elbows deep in depravity. Reading horror is difficult because, sorry to say, nothing scares Rage as much as his next thought. Therefore reading for him is a relentless quest for stories that will make the goose bumps rise. Simple as that. That goes for music and film as well.
When craving a hot shot of depravity, the Reverend melts a big, bent spoonful of Jordan Krall’s fiction.
That shit makes Rage happy.
EM: Jordan Krall does, obviously, rock! So, what's next? I feel we've got to keep this cult alive, man! I hear you've gotten in with Buckets O' Guts press, right? I think I heard that you're also writing a little something about quadriplegics and dancing, or something of the sort. Tell me a little more about the future.
SR: Rage is hoping to get in good with several different presses, Buckets O' Guts being one. The Reverend is really quite insecure and requires constant validation from a variety of sources. There’s a couple dark and depraved novellas being shopped around currently. We’ll see.
What Rage is truly jazzed about is “LegumeMan Books”, a newer press out of Australia. This house is being gracious and ballsy enough to publish “The Place in Between” and “Blood and Bubblegum” together come Fall 2010. It will be, hands down, the craziest shit in print, Rage kids you not. Now the cult of Rageosity will be below the equator as well as above. Frightening, yes?
The Reverend is also working on some short Bizarro-esque fiction and will be continuing his work on a more traditional full-length novel of medical suspense titled: “PHARMACIDE”. There’s hope to being done with that big bastard in about a year. It will be 4 to 5 times the size of “You Morbid Westphal”. Looking forward to where that takes us.
Then it will be back to the well (or cesspool). Penning gruesome Bizarro horror occult novellas and Brutal Bible Tales are the Reverend’s first loves. Rage does what he can, but the Dark will remain placid for only so long. It must be fed the blood of the Innocents! (maniacal laughter).
Oh, Cheese-n-Rice! Did the Reverend say that last part out loud? Truly sorry, Believers. He has got to get this shit straight. When sound comes out, Rage is talking. When it’s not, he’s thinking…
The Reverend is a fun guy to chat with. And, if you're ever in the wild and you bump into him, please give him a drink. He's an even better drinking buddy. Hands down, this was a fun one.
You may think that the Reverend Rage is a little out there and too good to be true (or too bad, depending on perception). He's real and he's closer than you think. For example, he's one of those authors who loves to chat with readers (of all genres) online. You can visit Steven Rage at his page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Steven-Rage/e/B002BLNAEO/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0. The Rage loves getting suggestions and seeing reader feedback. Actually, that's a challenge for you Authors Speak readers. Read Pilate or You Morbid Westphal and then zip to the Rage Page and tell the Reverend what you thought.
You can also visit Rage at: http://www.authorsden.com/stevenrage. By the way, the Reverend has an excellent promotion ongoing through June 7th. Purchase "You Morbid Westphal" and get a free copy of his three novella set - "Brutal Bible Tales".