I had the absolute… pleasure?… of sitting down with Rebecca Rowland’s character Daniel (the press owner AND yara-ma-yha-who/boogeyman) from Shagging the Boss, a weird horror novelette published by Filthy Loot Press (June 2022). It made me completely look at Daniel in a different way, and made me enjoy his story even more. (Review coming soon.)
“Lesson number one: don’t get attached to anyone. Being a cannibal is the only way to truly succeed in this business.” He placed one hand on the door handle, then thought a moment and smiled to himself. “The problem is, once you take a bite, it will never be enough.”
After a fortuitous encounter at a local book convention, a liberal arts graduate accepts a position at a flashy publishing company under the tutelage of its charismatic owner only to learn that the press is led, and fed, by a rapacious boogeyman.
Meghan: What is one word you would use to define yourself?
Daniel: One of the other characters in the book calls me a “collector.” I rather prefer the term “collaborator.” I never take anything that isn’t offered readily.
Meghan: Do you see yourself as the “good guy” or the “bad guy”?
Daniel: I don’t think such dichotomies really exist, do you? Everything I consume benefits my authors as well: we have true symbiotic relationships. I take a bit of them and they receive a bit of… immortality, shall we say.
Meghan: What does the plot require you to be? How does this requirement limit you?
Daniel: Rowland paints me as the villain, and I think that is quite unfair. A villain has evil intentions and commits evil acts. My ingénue needed a foothold in the publishing community, and that is what I offered, no strings attached. But no, I don’t think I’ve been limited by that portrayal at all. I ask you: is an alligator limited by those perky “warning” signs posted all about the Florida swamplands? Of course not. It knows that sooner or later, someone is going to traipse through the area, whether out of curiosity or stupidity or because they need a… service done (can you imagine how many bodies have been neatly disposed of that way?). The humans have a need, and the gator has to feed. It’s mutual beneficial. There’s nothing evil about that at all.
Meghan: What is your quest? What do you hope to accomplish, find, or become during the course of your book/series?
Daniel: I perform a service for which I am richly rewarded. I have little need for anything material and I rarely travel: my office is within walking distance from my home. (To be perfectly honest, I’ve become a bit of a shut-in, really. The damn pandemic didn’t help the matter). I can’t imagine I will ever find myself starving: everyone wants to outlive their natural lives, don’t they? And the celebrities… their narcissism alone keeps me more than satiated (rubs his stomach). I just keep on keeping on: isn’t that what you Americans say?
Meghan: When was the last time you lied? What made you do it?
Daniel: I don’t lie to anyone. What people assume on their own is out of my control. It’s always interesting to see how humans rationalize a flexibility in their moral code when they want something badly enough. Youth, beauty, power, importance…they are all bargaining chips in the game. I’ve never needed to lie. My clients lie to themselves all on their own.
Meghan: Who have you betrayed lately? What happened?
Daniel: I don’t believe there is such a thing as betrayal. People go into relationships with their eyes wide open. If they choose to shut them from time to time because they don’t enjoy the view, that is on their own conscience. I was very open with the book’s narrator from the get go: I explained exactly what I was and what I needed in an employee. What occurred later on…well, we’ll leave that to the reader to interpret.
Meghan: Would you say that you are an optimist or a pessimist?
Daniel: I’m a realist. You don’t succeed in this business without first coming to terms with how the world really works. Everything is give and take. It’s the people who don’t like what they must give in return who frame interactions in a negative light. Sour grapes, perhaps.
Meghan: What is your superpower?
Daniel: I am a yara-ma-yha-who. Stories about my kind have lurked about Aboriginal mythology since the beginning of time. I can consume my victims in one gulp, make them shiny and new—make them relevant again. Isn’t that what every author wants, to be seen, read, remembered? I’m also able to pass along my—what did you call it? superpower to others, but you’ll have to read the book to learn how that works. Humans never learn, though: once one develops the hunger, there is no way to satisfy it, not completely. In that sense, being a boogeyman, even a successful one, is not so much a gift as it is a curse.
Meghan: What is your biggest secret?
Daniel: My company publishes a variety of books, but truth be told, I’ve never been fond of erotica. The authors are much too salty. (winks)
Meghan: Do you live in the right world? How necessary are you to your world? What is your role in this setting?
Daniel: As I mention in the book, most of my kind reside on the west coast: Hollywood, it seems, is a never-ending factory of needy children, jumping and screaming for perpetual attention, so there is always work to be had. Boston has a terrible winter season. The wind chill keeps most of the other boogeymen from settling here. I’m in constant demand, so I’ve never… gone hungry, so to speak.
Meghan: Did you turn out the way you expected?
Daniel: That, I’m afraid, you’d have to learn by reading the story. (winks)
Meghan: How do you feel about your author?
Daniel: Oh, Rowland seems liked she’d be quite tasty. ‘Needs a bit more experience, though. Too many empty calories aren’t good for the digestion, I always say. She’s had a bit of a successful run this year: two books released along with three collections curated, and a few more on the way for 2023. (Pauses to consider) I may have to invite her for dinner one of these nights after all.
Meghan: If the two of you got together for coffee, what would you want to say to them?
Daniel: You couldn’t have titled the book something better? People might pass on giving it a look because they think it’s one of those god-awful workplace soap operas and not the transgressive weird horror it is. Rethink your branding, my ingénue.
Boo-graphy: Rebecca Rowland is the dark fiction author of The Horrors Hiding in Plain Sight, Pieces, Shagging the Boss, Optic Nerve, and the upcoming White Trash & Recycled Nightmares and is the curator of seven horror anthologies. Her short fiction, critical essays, and book reviews regularly appear in a variety of online and print venues. She is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association and lives in a chilly corner of New England with her family. To surreptitiously stalk her, visit her website. To take a peek at what shiny object she’s fixating on these days, follow her on Instagram.