Sadly, this is my last interview with some of the authors from Blood Bound Books’ latest anthology, Burnt Fur. It’s been great fun getting to know some authors I had never met before, and I hope that you have enjoyed these as much as I have.
Meghan: Hi, Troy. Welcome! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Troy Gardner: I’m a New Englander transplanted to Florida who writes, watches, and talks about horror. It’s the most expansive genre out there. I’m a cat dad and garage enthusiast.
Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?
Troy Gardner: Hmmmm, let’s see. 1- I’m color slow, 2- I never learned to drive, 3- I don’t have a sweet tooth, but I can’t turn down trail mix, 4- I don’t understand electricity, 5- I love music but I’m basically tone deaf.
Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?
Troy Gardner: The first novel was Jurassic Park. The movie came out when I was nine and I loved it so I read it.
Meghan: What are you reading now?
Troy Gardner: Shit Politicians Say by Governor Jesse Ventura. It was a Christmas gift. I enjoy outsider perspectives that poke fun at both parties.
Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?
Troy Gardner: Since most of what I talk about is horror-related, I’ll say Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. Such a beautiful book. I have a soft spot for Virginia Woolf so his fictionalization of her hits deep.
Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?
Troy Gardner: I’ve always been a writer. We got this Tandy-900 when I was a kid and I filled floppy disks with fiction stories when I was nine or ten.
Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?
Troy Gardner: I cleaned out my garage and put in my uncle’s old futon and built a four foot by four foot screen I hooked a projector to. It’s a great place to be isolated and write in the dark with some movie playing. Downside is it’s unusable during the peak summer.
Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?
Troy Gardner: I almost always have the TV on when I’m writing first or second drafts. Occasionally, if I need to focus, I listen to music. It’s extremely rare that I write in a quiet space.
Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?
Troy Gardner: Editing, in a good way. Revisions make the story stronger, but it’s far easier to say, “Act two needs to be strengthened” than to actually strengthen the act.
Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?
Troy Gardner: I lost someone very important to me to drugs and I wrote this long YA supernatural book about grief and magic and time travel and it’s all over the place and maybe some day it’ll find publication, but I didn’t write it to be published, I wrote it to process. And it did help.
Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?
Troy Gardner: Every single book I read inspires me. Everything. I’m the type of guy who watches a documentary, then wants to write a book about that topic. I read a murder mystery and it makes me want to write a murder mystery. Specific books, I’d say The Picture of Dorian Gray was a big influence. David Sedaris is up there. Christopher Rice.
Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?
Troy Gardner: Characters. There’s a famous quote (that’s been attributed to different people) that says there’s two types of stories: a man goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town. Characters are what makes narratives distinct and memorable.
Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?
Troy Gardner: I’d say relatability is pretty high on the scale. If a reader connects to a character, not necessarily even the protagonist, then the story becomes so much more than words on pages.
Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?
Troy Gardner: I have a project that my agent is currently querying that I can’t say too much about, but it’s about a young filmmaker who is a little too enthusiastic about movies. It’s a comedy/drama with a pinch of romance, and he’s me in many regards. I just tapped into my life when I built his backstory for how he fell in love with movies and the horror genre and gave him all my insecurities.
Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?
Troy Gardner: “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is one of the oldest sayings we’ve all heard, and it’s true, we can’t help it. If a cover looks cheap, there’s that gut instinct of “oh, the story is bad,” but logically I know that’s not true. I’ve had a lot of say with all the small publishers I’ve worked with, and none with the anthologies because usually an anthology cover is done before they even choose which stories will go in it. No complaints there.
Meghan: What have you learned throughout the process of creating your books?
Troy Gardner: I’m constantly learning as I write, edit, and publish work and beta read and edit other writers’ works, and read for pleasure and watch movies as a habit.
Characterizations, dialogue, plots, what to avoid, what techniques work. I have an obsessive personality, so I’m fairly good at deconstructing elements. You analyze art, you learn from it.
Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?
Troy Gardner: I can’t think of a specific scene, but generally the hardest parts of a manuscript to write are in revisions. When you realize a sub-plot is weak and needs something, but you’re not entirely sure what, and you spot a great place to hone in on it. So you sit there with the cursor blinking thinking, “Right here, this is the spot where I’ll make the whole sub-plot and side character worth it. Okay, so… what now?”
Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?
Troy Gardner: One thing is I can’t stick to one genre and I love blending them. And it’s rare that I don’t throw humor into even tense and frightening scenes.
Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours?
Troy Gardner: Oh, my God, I HATE coming up with titles! That’s the absolute worst. I’ve written a few things and worked with my friend Josh Winning (check out his YA fantasy action SENTINEL series) and he’s blessed with the ability to create titles. I am not. I slave over them. With the Burnt Fur anthology, I just named the story after the central figure, “Randall Rabbit,” because alliteration is fun.
Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?
Troy Gardner: Oh, tough one. I’d say short story only because I can write ten shorts in the time it would take me to write one novel, so that feels like I’ve done more. But that one novel might be greater than all the shorts, so it’s a tough call. I do think that shorts don’t get the respect they should in some literary circles (or all film circles).
Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.
Troy Gardner: My target audience is me. I write stories I’d like to read. And hopefully, other people, too. I don’t read one genre, so I don’t write in one genre, and I often blend them. I like quirky, out there, queer stories. I like to be surprised. These are the things I strive to write.
Meghan: I am always excited to get my hands on anthologies, especially ones from publishers that I have grown to trust. Tell us about Burnt Fur and your story in it.
Troy Gardner: I love anthologies, too. Ever since I was a kid watching Are You Afraid of the Dark? on Saturday nights. A fur-themed, extreme horror anthology just sounded fun, so I came up with this story about a young hustler with a client dressed up in a rabbit costume that reminds him of a stuffed animal that crossed his path a few years back. I’d been writing a lot of YA, and Middle Grade, so it’s always fun to change tracks and write something more extreme once in a while.
Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?
Troy Gardner: That’s funny you ask that, because this is the first short I’ve published in which I ended up totally changing the ending. There’s always an editing phase to make the story stronger. I cut quite a bit of fat out of “Randall Rabbit” which I’m happy to do to make it a leaner, more effective read. I’m happy to trim stories to make them stronger. I’ve had publishers and editors compliment me on being enthusiastic to edit and rework pieces, and this was the most major change I’ve made. My original idea was to focus on psychological terror, but we ended up going with a shorter, more physical ending. The Burnt Fur team’s been wonderful to work with and I’m very happy with the changes we made.
Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?
Troy Gardner: Not sure if you’d call it my trunk because I devote a LOT of free time to it, but I’m working on making a no-budget horror movie anthology. I had the idea last June and I already have seven segments done totalling eighty minutes. I don’t know what shape the final project’s going to take, but it’s been fun, it’s been challenging, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with an audience in the next year.
Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?
Troy Gardner: Besides my film opus 🙂 , I’d love to write some more extreme horror. I’ve got a short coming out on the Monsters Out of the Closet podcast and I write reviews and random articles for Gayly Dreadful.
Meghan: Where can we find you?
Troy Gardner: I wrote “Randall Rabbit” for Burnt Fur with my Elliot Arthur Cross pseudonym, but I’m on Twitter under my real name and I post Are You Afraid of the Dark? fan art every week on Instagram.
Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?
Troy Gardner: Thank you for reading. As a writer, I sit alone in a room typing on a laptop and it always amazes me that someone somewhere will read that story and (hopefully) enjoy it.
About the Book:
Sit. Roll over. Who’s a Good Boy?
There are no good boys in in this anthology, only twisted, deviant, and burnt encounters with pets, people in costume, animals who behave like humans, and creatures who blur the line between the three. Violent pigs, killer ducks, horny bees, a naughty rabbit, and many more fill these pages with tale after tail of hair-raising horror.
Don your Fursuit, slip into your Fursona, and ride the dark wave of horror that is Burnt Fur. You may never go back to wearing your normal skin again.
The Moon in Her Eyes by Sarah Hans
Mallard’s Maze by Joseph Sale
Salivation by Theodore Deadrat
The Hamford Pigs by N. Rose
The Willingness of Prey by Paul Allih
6 Dicks by Rachel Lee Weist
The Others by C.M. Saunders
Randall Rabbit by Elliot Arthur Cross
A Concubine for the Hive by Rue K. Poe
Five Nights with Teddy by Thurston Howl
Oh Piggy, My Piggy by Matt Scott
Ware the Deep by Stephanie Park
The Molt of a Diminishing Light by Michelle F. Goddard
The Victims by James L. Steele
About the Author:
Troy H. Gardner was born in Florida but left at the ripe age of six months. He grew up and earned his Bachelor’s Degree in New England before returning to the Sunshine State just in time for Hurricane Irma.
He started writing stories on his Tandy Personal Computer as a child in the ’90s after devouring the works of Stephen King in elementary school.
Red is his favorite color, but blue hasn’t gotten the memo yet. He doesn’t understand why fans can’t equally love Star Wars and Star Trek (they’re different genres, people!). When Troy isn’t writing, or talking about writing, he enjoys killing hours on his PlayStation or watching horror movies (both really great and incredibly bad are his jam).