Peter Giglio is a Pushcart Prize nominee, as well as a screenwriter, novelist, and anthologist. He has contributed short stories to several anthologies and edited “Help! Wanted: Tales of On-the-Job Terror.” As Executive Editor of Evil Jester Press and a member of HWA (Horror Writers’ Association), he is a new voice on the rise in the genre. He is the author of three long works of fiction: Anon, Beyond Anon, novellas, and the novel The Dark (with Scott Bradley).
Pete is pushing the horror envelope. Witness his two novellas: “A Spark in the Darkness” and “Balance.” The first novella deals with vampires; “Balance,” just out, focuses on zombies.
Pete’s first novella, “A Spark in the Darkness,” was a lyrically-written vampire tale from Etopia Press that profiled Edie Novak, a lost woman on a picaresque journey. Divorced from Colin Novak, on a cross-country hike she meets her destiny in the person of Randy Facinelli, a kind truck driver who gives her a lift at a roadside cafe. As the plot progresses, we learn that Randy is a vampire, turned in 1921 during the Prohibition era. His bite transforms Edie into a goddess of sorts—although goddesses are near-prisoners in this new world. Edie tries to escape from Randy and is also affected by her separation from her young daughter, Gail.
In “Balance,” by contrast, the balance of the entire world seems to be shifting as a virus known as the Blast Flu lays waste to humanity and zombies attack humans. The basement scenes will satisfy those with a taste for the gruesome, with horrifying scenes like the one where Giglio tells us about creatures with “eyes milky white, maw lined with serrated teeth, skin ashen gray…”
Here are 10 questions answered by this new rising voice in horror fiction:
Q1) You worked at other jobs for 15 years in what you refer to as “corporate America.” Tell us about some of them.
A1) “I worked mostly in the financial sector as a mid-level sales manager. I worked out my feelings of corporate America in ‘Anon.’ Now I’ve moved on.”
Q2) Your father is also a writer and has published a new book. His focus, however, is different from your own. Give Dad a free plug. Tell us about him and his new book.
A2) “Dad’s latest book is ‘Call Me Tom: The Life of Thomas F. Eagleton.’ Dad is a respected historian, and his other books include ‘The Presidency of John F. Kennedy,’ ‘Musial: From Stash to Stan the Man,’ and ‘Truman in Cartoon and Caricature’”
Q3) In “Balance,” your newest novella, you ask the question, “Does love have to die? If it’s strong enough, does it have to die when we die?” Can you expand on that thought? What made you include it as a dominant theme in this zombie novel?
A3) “Geoff is consumed, to the point of obsession, by feelings of love. We’ve all probably been there before, right? Well, I have. It was a matter of channeling the intensity of that feeling into a character who thinks he’s noble when, for the most part, he’s really being an idiot. His words in that scene are less important that Cass’s actions. She’s really the hero of ‘Balance’. To expand on those lines of dialogue: Geoff is in pain and doesn’t want his pain to end. If his pain endures, his love endures. If his love endures, he’s validated. Cass is the embodiment of his validation, a corpse who still loves. But it’s Geoff’s situation that makes her realize how wrong she is to continue loving someone who doesn’t love her. Balance is the theme of the novella: The balance of love; the balance of nature; the balance of the psyche; and the balance of POV in a zombie story. My mission was to tie these four things together, and to do it in a novella rather than a novel.”
Q4) Missouri is one of the settings for Balance. Tell us about your Missouri roots
A4) “I was born in Springfield, Missouri, and I lived in Kansas City and Saint Louis for a few years apiece. Missouri is an interesting state, half-south, half-north. Springfield is in the southern half, that which is commonly referred to as ‘Missour-ah’ by natives. Several other residents refer to the Show-Me State as ‘Misery.’ Love it or hate it, Missouri is a strange place, the center of the United States, a conglomeration of our best and worst angels.”
Q5) When you were in school, like all of us, you had good teachers and bad teachers, no doubt. Tell us, in particular, about one specific example (no names necessary) of a teacher who influenced you, either for better or for worse.
A5) “I had a high school English teacher who was very mean. She was the type of teacher who shot down her student’s ideas and interpretations with anger. She frequently made me feel stupid, even though I loved reading and writing more than anything. She never found my opinions interesting, never encouraged me, never had a nice word to say, never gave me a grade greater than ‘C.’ My first English professor in college handed my first story back with a big red ‘A’ on it, and several comments like ‘Yes!’ and ‘Brilliant!’ I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.”
Q6) You work with time in your novellas in unusual ways….ways different from other writers like Stephen King, who spell out the day of the week, the month, the year, even the time of day. Explain your method of placing a story in time (always a chore for a novelist). Was this a conscious decision, or is it a somewhat new, experimental technique you are attempting to bring into the mainstream?
A6) “Novellas are different than novels. I’m more traditional when it comes to novels. ‘The Dark,’ for instance, spells out time of day at the beginning of each chapter, and the book takes place entirely over one night. With ‘A Spark in the Darkness’ and ‘Balance,’ I thought I could tell the story more effectively if I lost the adornments of a novel. I took out all the working parts that, in my estimation, were prosaic and had little impact. My goal was to tell a novel size story in about 20K words. I think I succeeded both times out. Both books are pure story with no filler. Dates and times can be important to a story, they certainly are in ‘The Dark,’ but they aren’t in ‘Spark’ or ‘Balance.’ I went with a cinematic structure for both. ‘Spark’ has a non-linear, Tarantinoesque delivery system, which makes it punctuate effectively. ‘Balance’ is far more linear—a true exercise in concision.
Q7) Your first novella, “A Spark in the Dark” was about vampires. “Balance,” on the other hand, is about zombies. Pete’s personal preference: Vampires or zombies? Why?
A7) “Vampires have cognitive reasoning; therefore, they are evil. Zombies, most of the time, are things with no choice, generally obstacles rather than forces of true malice. I have no preference, but I do take issue with the rampant lack of originality in much zombie and vampire fiction. With ‘Spark’ and ‘Balance’ I wanted to stir the pot, take vamps back to monster status and humanize the zombies a bit. But I also wanted to respect both subgenres.”
Q8) You and your frequent collaborator Scott Bradley are shopping a screenplay, “The Night They Missed The Horror Show.” Writing a screenplay is quite a bit different from writing “long,” as with a novel like “The Dark” that you are currently working on with Scott Bradley or your somewhat shorter novellas “A Spark in the Dark” and “Balance.” (January, 2012). Which format do you prefer and why?
A8) “I have no preference. The processes are different, sure. But writing is writing. You work with what you have until it works. Screenwriting is very freeing because you don’t have to worry about prose. Movie scripts are pure story. That energizes me. But I love, love, love prose. Painting a picture with words really turns me on.”
9Q) You like cats. Scott likes cats. I like cats. Why do you like cats, and do you prefer them, as pets, to dogs or other animals? Do you have a cat now?
9A) “I have three cats. I prefer them to other animals—hell, I prefer them to humans most of the time! But I love dogs. I even love humans most of the time.”
Q10) Tell us about your next project and your longer-term goals and aspirations.
A10) “I have two novels coming out in June: ‘Beyond Anon’ (the sequel to my first novel) and ‘The Dark’ (with Scott Bradley). Several short stories that Scott and I wrote are coming out soon: ‘Angela & the Angel’ in Trent Zelazny’s ‘A Splintered Mirage’; ‘Eyeballs and Assholes in El Paso’ in Alvaro Rodriguez’s ‘Border Noir’; and ‘Straycation’ in John Skipp’s ‘Psychos’ I’m currently in development on several things with Scott Bradley, Eric Shapiro, as well as a multitude of solo projects. I work 60-70 hours a week. My goal is to be a ‘New York Times’ Bestselling novelist and a respected, go-to screenwriter. I’m not shooting for the mid-list, but if I end up there I’ll be happy.”