AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Andrew Robertson

For those of y’all who don’t know Andrew Robertson, you are sorely missing out. He is one of my most favorite people of all time. He’s super talented in everything he does – writes, musician, lots of other things – and passionate about life and his role in it. I highly suggest you take a look at his short stories.

Meghan: Hey, Andrew! Welcome back. And good luck with the anthology release today (UnBreakable Ink). Hamburger Lady is definitely a story I NEED to be reading. I know you’re busy today, so let’s get started. What is your favorite part of Halloween?

Andrew: I’ve always loved the fall months and the moodier days that come with them. I also think that cooler weather means a better wardrobe!

I was born in October near the spookiest day of the year, and I’m sure that contributes to how I’ve always been drawn to darkness and the most wonderful time of the year. As a kid, I would get spooky craft books from the Scholastic Book club and make paper spiders and masks and ask for Frankenstein and Dracula glow-in-the-dark models for my birthday.

When my family went to the Maritimes on a road trip, I asked them to stop at every roadside attraction once I realized they all had a wax museum with a House of Horrors.

I would say that most queer people also love Hallowe’en because dressing up gives you an opportunity to express yourself in ways you can’t any other day of the year. When you grow up queer with a bit of self-awareness, especially in the 80s, you realize the world is against you. Gay meant AIDS, and that only belonged to the queers then. You realize you’re a target almost every single day that you choose to shine, so you start to look for ways to express your true self in a subversive way.

So many movies in the 80s threw the word ‘faggot’ around without any concern for where it landed, or the violence it engendered, or the queer kids it affected. I took Hallowe’en as a chance to wear a ‘mask’, even metaphorically, and finally fit in. It was one of the few days I could be celebrated for my ‘creativity’ and not beat up for what I was wearing.

And in queer culture, Hallowe’en allows us to explore our identities. Lots of drag queens have tested their high heels for the first time on October 31st, and the whole art of creating a costume and exploring darker, deeper, or more revealing identities is very attractive to me as a queer person.

In my community, Hallowe’en is referred to as gay Christmas. The fact that I wasn’t born wearing black eyeliner is some kind of oversight. Essentially, everyday SHOULD be Hallowe’en.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?

Andrew: Scaring youngsters looking for candy.

It sounds mean, but hear me out – I don’t think that we need to sanitize Hallowe’en. It’s a pagan holiday that grew out of some really dark practices, and we don’t need to ignore that entirely. A little bit of fear is healthy. When I would go out as a kid, I’d be so disappointed when a house had all its lights on like a dentist’s office. I mean, that’s scary too, but it isn’t cool scary. Unless it’s Little Shop of Horrors, and then we can sing along to the pain!

For me, the night is not about the candy collection as much as the atmosphere and parading around in the dark as a little Dracula, a voodoo doll, or wee Witch. Even as a kid, I longed for the days when I would be old enough to spend Hallowe’en smoking darts, drinking rum, and looking tough in a graveyard by the full moon. I will tell you that the first time I did that, my friend Jessica and I almost ended up in an open grave running away from two giant poodles! Looking tough.

But Hallowe’en should be creepy and make you think about the necessary darker sides of existence. If you think your kid needs to be carried around on a pink cloud, take them for a happy meal. I’ll gladly take my kids to a haunted house or a corn maze one day.

When I was younger, my favourite part used to be dressing up and going to whatever haunted house was on the go. I love being scared and I love creating oogie boogie characters out of the make-up drawer and costume boxes Dinis and I have at home, but after we bought a house, my favourite part became giving out tons of candy and seeing what kids are dressing up as when they come to the door. Kids have this amazing ability to take an odd, creepy idea and translate it into a fun look. Halloween gives kids a reason to show their creativity instead of hiding it out of embarrassment or fear.

Dins and I also love decorating the porch with severed limbs, animated projections, dry ice and scary music, then watching some people avoid us on their candy crawl. That’s the best compliment a Hallowe’en House can get!

Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?

Andrew: Hallowe’en is the best day of the year for so many reasons. In the month of October, there are suddenly horror movie marathons on every channel, ghost stories become the norm, you get to decorate with skulls and ghosts, eat small versions of candy and pretend 10 isn’t too many ‘cause they are so tiny, and I love to be scared. All these haunted attractions open up…it’s heaven.

I just wish people would stop trying to make it all cutesy and spoopy or whatever that ridiculous term is. I know I’ll get some hate for saying it but, when someone says something is spoopy I assume they mean a diaper. Don’t @ me!

Meghan: What are you superstitious about?

Andrew: I really believe in karma. I think every shit thing you do to someone else will come back to you, and even if it doesn’t, you know what you did and that makes it so much worse. Each nasty thing you do, every time you leave a friend hanging, that’s your own picture of Dorian Gray.

One of my favourite films of all time is A Christmas Carol. The Alastair Sim version. Back in Dickens time and long before it, ghost stories were a Christmas Eve tradition, something that is slowly making its way back into popular culture, and I’m glad for it. That story is the perfect example of what was and continues to be everything that is wrong with the world, and even though we have all seen the story in some form, we continue to reproduce the very conditions that the story condemns. We really are an awful species, with no regard for our own future or sustainability or each other, even though we can’t do it all on our own. Weird, right?

I try and be genuine with people, follow through on what I say I will do, and apologize for what I can’t. It’s the best way to not haunt yourself.

Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?

Andrew: My absolute favourite is Pinhead, a.k.a the Hell Priest from Hellraiser. I remember the very first time I saw Doug Bradley as Pinhead. I was at the Eaton Centre in Toronto going to see some awful comedy as a tween, and there was a standup of Pinhead holding the Lament Configuration and I was just in love. The nails, the sneer, the outfit…I was a future goth at that exact moment, and I’ve worn a few cassocks since, but nothing like that. There is something about the character that Doug Bradley created and the way he voices the lines that is just perfectly evil.

I had the absolute fanboy pleasure of meeting him a few years back at Frightmare in the Falls at Niagara Falls, which is an incredible horror convention, and we took a pic, then I got his book signed. He was so awesome!

Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?

Andrew: This is a tie between ‘Salem’s Lot and The Haunting of Hill House.

I never understood what it meant to be really, really unsettled until I read the Shirley Jackson classic. Her writing just prints itself right into your brain with heated keys. Everything I have read by her has the same effect. It’s like the characters are right there, whispering the story behind you, warm breath on your neck as you turn the pages, and you just have to believe every word they tell you.

Stephen King has the same gift. Something about expertly creating the slow build and getting into the readers mind, that’s a gift. Then the author can use the simplest thing, the sound of walls settling, for example, to make you certain there’s a horrific vampire scratching away behind your favourite poster of Siouxsie and the Banshees. ‘Salem’s Lot was the first book I read that had me up all night waiting for someone to be floating outside my window.

Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?

Andrew: Hostel.

I had no idea what I was in for with that one, but it is absolutely relentless. I don’t want to say all that much because of spoilers but at one point my ankles turned to water, at another point, I wanted armour for my eyes. I haven’t ever done a rewatch. I felt polluted.

That movie hits on so many vicious things, but somewhere in there, I believe it’s a comment on capitalism, race, and our disregard for anyone else, much like The Purge. That’s the real horror in the world. I also want to point out that The Purge made the issue of race and systemic racism in politics, government and policing very clear, and it was a very important statement even if you don’t agree with the medium.

There’s very little empathy left in the world at this point, and to me both Hostel and The Purge are the platinum standard of what happens when people only want laws when the laws agree with their desires, and serve their gods, in place of what’s just and equitable, and we’ve seen a lot of that during COVID-19.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?

Andrew: So, this is as far from scary as it can get, but I want to tell you about my GAYEST costume ever. When the musical Cats closed in Toronto, they auctioned of all the costumes and props to benefit Casey House, which at the time was an AIDS hospice in Toronto (and continues to be Canada’s first and only hospital for people living with HIV/AIDS).

I bought Demeter’s outfit, a spandex one piece that was painted in various stripes and had crunchy bits of ‘fur’ on the shoulders. It was $20 so a twelve-year old could afford it.

I tried to recreate the look from the musical then wore it to school. I guess I could have said I was a werewolf, but I didn’t. It still remains one of the most unapologetically queer things I have ever done, but I didn’t look at it that way back then. I just really loved that show as a tween, and figured every else would think it was cool too. #mixedreaction

Since then, I’ve lent the costume to a few people for a variety of functions, and as is often the case, the last one I lent it to never gave it back, so now it’s just a memory, all alone in the moonlight. I can dream of the old days, life was beautiful then.

But I shouldn’t dwell on that right meow.

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?

Andrew: I regularly listen to Elvira’s theme song, especially when I’m walking at night. I also love the Lydia Lunch version of Spooky. Her album Queen of Siam has a carnivalesque darkness to it, and I think her version of Spooky is the cutest love song ever for the maladjusted (by now the people who hated the spoopy comment are really vexed. I’m not sporry about it).

Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?

Andrew: A lot of people don’t like them, but I love the molasses kiss. It is a classic, and it’s comes back from the dead each year without fail. This is the candy in white, orange and black wrapper, printed with witches and owls and scary moons. They are my number one must have Halloween candy.

The most disappointing treats would be the ones with razors in them.

Andrew Robertson is an award-winning queer horror writer and future spaceman. In December 2021, his short story Sick is the New Black will appear in the gay-themed, multi-genre anthology Pink Triangle Rhapsody: Volume 1 from Lycan Valley Press. He is currently working on a novelization of the same story, exploring themes of queerness, addiction, fame, anti-vaxxers and the toxic nature of post-pandemic life in a culture locked in the thrall of social media. Feel free to be his agent.

He recently launched his first monstrous children’s book and sticker set, And Then The Fart Happened, on the Great Lakes Horror Company Kids imprint with illustrations by LiZzDom, and colour and layout by his partner Dinis Freitas, the Most Handsome Man in All of Puppetland®. People seem to love putting the Fart sticker on their butts, which checks out.

He is also headed to the Moon, or at least his writing is! In 2022, his short story Sundowning from Klarissa Dreams Redux will be headed to Lacus Mortis with the Peregrine Collection as a part of the ULA/Astrobotic Peregrine launch. In 2023, Hamburger Lady from UnBreakable Ink will be headed to the Lunar South Pole with the Polaris Collection as a part of the SpaceX/NASA-VIPER/Astrobotic Griffin launch. These stories will be part of the largest single collection of contemporary artwork ever put on the Moon, and will fly there on the first commercial lunar flights in history.

Back here on Earth, Andrew’s fiction has appeared in literary magazines and quarterlies such as Stitched Smile Publications Magazine, Deadman’s Tome, Undertow, and katalogue. His work has also appeared in anthologies including Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, A Tribute Anthology to Deadworld, and the Group Hex series.

UnBreakable Ink
Travel to the furthest reaches of space, traverse time, delve into the darkest parts of the mind and beyond in this collection of speculative fiction shorts.

Curated by Shebat Legion and presented by Indomitable Ink, Unbreakable Ink boasts twenty-nine stories and is the first installment in a series of anthologies designed to provoke the unbreakable imaginations in us all.

Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Andrew Robertson

Meghan: Welcome back, Andrew! It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

Andrew Robertson: First, it’s great to be back, especially on your fresh, new, updated blog!

Since the last time we spoke, the anthology I edited, Dark Rainbow: Queer Erotic Horror was released by Riverdale Avenue Books and landed a #1 spot on a few of Amazon’s LGBTQ+ charts which was great to see. I also published a short story titled Her Royal Counsel in Colleen Anderson’s Alice Unbound anthology from Exile Editions and placed my story Sick is the New Black in the Pink Triangle Rhapsody anthology from Lycan Valley Press. That one launches Winter 2019 and contains horror, sci-fi, fantasy, thriller, and pulp mystery stories written exclusively by gay men. I fell in love with the characters in Sick is the New Black and have started a book-length version to further explore the dark and fashionable social media cult that their lives revolve around.

Also, with the holidays right around the corner, readers can pick up O Unholy Night in Deathlehem: An Anthology of Holiday Horrors for Charity from Grinning Skull Press that was published earlier this year. I have a creepy little tale in there called Jason’s Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, and all proceeds from the book go to benefit The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

Andrew Robertson: That’s hard to answer. I feel like I’ve changed a lot in the past three years, but it’s been more about returning to someone I used to be before I started looking for what was already there. Sometimes we think we need to ‘grow up’ and develop a mature, adult identity by burying parts of ourselves that made us who we were in high school or university, but I’ve realized that those pieces weren’t temporary. So I put on some black nail polish, sat down to write horror stories without caring what anyone else thought, and got tattoos of Siouxsie Sioux and Lydia Lunch. It all felt right.

I guess I’m a bit introspective – I like exploring ideas and art and love new (and scary) experiences most of all. It always surprises people how easily scared I get but I like it a lot. My partner Dinis refuses to go to haunted houses with me because I push him in first. But I don’t even need the haunted house. I can even scare myself just by thinking. I was in a canoe on Lower Buckhorn Lake in Ontario and I envisioned a cold pale arm reaching out of the underwater reeds and that was it. I paddled for shore like an outboard motor.

Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

Andrew Robertson: I think that one is tricky for anyone that doesn’t write cozy thrillers. My very first piece of writing published in an anthology was called Not Just a Fuck, a hell of a title. Of course, I was really excited about it, especially because Margaret Atwood was in the same book, so I wanted to show my parents but my content was a bit… personal as you can imagine. I bit the bullet and showed them all the same. I figured they might as well get used to it because I have never been one to self-edit!

The other concern for many writers is your family or friends ‘seeing’ themselves in the characters or situations you write about. Sometimes I’ll use friend’s names in stories just to mess with them. That way, when they ask why ‘their’ character was killed off, you know that they actually read your work.

Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Andrew Robertson: I think being able to tell a story is a gift, and if it means something to a reader, that is a perfect gift. The curse is writing the story.

Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?

Andrew Robertson: I’ve researched Sokushinbutsu, or the self-mummifying practice of certain Buddhist monks, for Miira in Group Hex Vol 1. They enter mummification while they are still alive which was so horrifying to me that I had to write about it. That was when I learned about Portuguese sailors selling Egyptian mummies to the Japanese to turn into a powder that was believed to have curative powers.

I’m also currently researching a lot of diseases that have obvious and visible symptoms for a WIP. That makes me feel pretty itchy.

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

Andrew Robertson: I have a giant stack of books to get through, and I usually have a few on the go at the same time. Sometimes it’s to try and grow or learn as a writer. For example, I will read a thriller to see how the author sets the pace. I really enjoy Shari Lapena’s work in that way. There are so many twists and turns that she stitches together, and we live in the same city so maybe one day I can tell her how much I enjoy her work in person!

I’ve just read Bedfellow by Jeremy C. Shipp and it was fantastic. The way he writes is so surreal you feel like you are losing your mind along with the family at the core of the tale, and the progression of the plot reveals a nefarious otherworldly gaslighting at its finest.

I’ve also recently finished Danger Slater’s I Will Rot Without You and the level of horrific imagination he displays while telling what is at its most basic level a love story with a total disregard for whether something needs to make sense is inspiring. I think it’s important for a writer to stop asking if something could happen and just make it happen.

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

Andrew Robertson: Maybe. That’s all I’ll say.

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Andrew Robertson: As a huge fan of the Hellraiser films, my formative years were spent watching characters suffer. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Andrew Robertson: I’m on Facebook and twitter for all your stalking needs.

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 or the last?

Andrew Robertson: I just want to thank you for your passion in keeping this blog going, for supporting indie authors, and for helping spread the word about genre books. A few years ago I never would have thought that I would have work out by publishers I admire, alongside other writers I read and love, or that anyone would want to interview me never mind twice, so thanks for being a part of this crazy ride Meghan!

Meghan: Aww shucks! Thanks for all that! And you are truly welcome. It’s been wonderful meeting you and every other cool author I’ve met along the way. It more than makes up for the handful who have been… dramatic (and not in a good way) haha.

Andrew Robertson is an award-winning queer writer and journalist. He has published articles in Xtra!, fab magazine, ICON, Gasoline, Samaritan Magazine, neksis, and Shameless. His fiction has appeared in literary magazines and quarterlies such as Stitched Smile Publications Magazine Vol 1, Deadman’s Tome, Undertow, and katalogue and in anthologies including Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, A Tribute Anthology to Deadworld, Group Hex Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, and Pink Triangle Rhapsody from Lycan Valley Press. He is also the editor of Dark Rainbow: Queer Erotic Horror, a bestselling anthology from Riverdale Avenue Books. A lifelong fan of horror, he is the founder and co-host of The Great Lakes Horror Company Podcast, official podcast to Library of the Damned, and a member of the Horror Writer’s Association.

Pink Triangle Rhapsody – Coming Winter 2019

Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland

Lewis Carroll explored childlike wonder and the bewildering realm of adult rules and status, which clashed in bizarre ways. And although it seems we all know something about Alice and Wonderland, we—like Alice herself upon her first reading of Jabberwocky—find “It fills my head with ideas, but I don’t know what they are.” So as each new generation falls under Carroll’s word spells, each in turn must attempt to understand what Alice and Wonderland might mean in the context of their world and in their time.

This collection of twenty-first century speculative fiction stories is inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice Through the Looking Glass, The Hunting of the Snark, and to some degree, aspects of the life of the author, Charles Dodgson, and the real-life Alice (Liddell).

Enjoy our wild ride down into and back up out of the rabbit hole!

Preface by David Day

Authors: Patrick Bollivar, Mark Charke, Christine Daigle, Robert Dawson, Linda DeMeulemeester, Pat Flewwelling, Geoff Gander and Fiona Plunkett, Cait Gordon, Costi Gurgu, Kate Heartfield, Elizabeth Hosang, Nicole Iversen, J.Y.T. Kennedy, Danica Lorer, Catherine MacLeod, Bruce Meyer, Dominik Parisien, Alexandra Renwick, Andrew Robertson, Lisa Smedman, Sara C. Walker, James Wood

Dark Rainbow: Queer Erotic Horror

There has always been a special relationship between queer culture and horror. Horror is a genre about the ‘other’ and being a part of queer culture often comes with feelings of ‘otherness’ or being an outsider based on your desires…maybe you see a freak onscreen during a midnight madness screening and you think to yourself, Well, I feel like a freak too. Maybe the monster is just misunderstood…we all hunger for something, right?Dark Rainbow: Queer Erotic Horror is the first volume of a short fiction anthology series edited by award-wining queer writer and editor Andrew Robertson. Published under Riverdale Avenue Books’ Afraid imprint, it features many members of the Horror Writers Association along with writers from all over the world. Dark Rainbow contains 15 tales of dark appetites, hidden fantasies, sex and slashers including new work from Angel Leigh McCoy, Jeff C. Stevenson, Sèphera Girón, Julianne Snow, Derek Clendening, Spinster Eskie, Lindsay King-Miller and many more.

O Unholy Night in Deathlehem

Said the little child to his mother dear, 
do you hear what I hear 
Shrieking through the night, father dear, 
And do you see what I see 
A cry, a scream, blood coloring the snow 
And a laugh as evil as sin 
And a laugh as evil as sin 

Well, folks, looks like we’re back in Deathlehem, where…
Santa’s gift turns a mindless horde of bargain-hungry shoppers into…well… a horde of hungry shoppers… 
defective toys aren’t just dangerous; they’re deadly… 
holiday ornaments prove to be absolutely captivating—permanently… 
those ugly Christmas sweaters are to die for… 

Twenty-five more tales of holiday horror to benefit The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.