In-Depth Interview - Craig Spector Talks Screenwriting, Splatterpunk, and More!
DC: Where did you and John Skipp meet?
CS: We met as little refugee weirdo teenaged delinquents at a private school -- York Country Day School in York PA – after having quit our respective public school systems, much to the horror of our families. I was fresh up from Virginia Beach, VA; John had come from Washington DC and Brazil, I believe. It was 1972, we met in the junior/senior SMOKING LOUNGE. King Crimson was playing on the stereo. It was a kinder, gentler time. The only “helicopter parents” were guys in Vietnam who had kids.
DC: You guys, along with writers like David Schow, were considered founding fathers of the whole “Splatterpunk” literary movement. Did that label ever become limiting?
CS: For me, after a while, hell yes. I mean don’t get me wrong, I loved the Splatterpunk thing… at first. It was fun. Then it became, not fun. Then I withdrew from the scene almost entirely, and it shambled off to have a life of its own. Like Frankenstein’s monster rampaging the countryside. All that’s missing is the peasants with torches, but there were a few of those around at the time. We called them “critics.”
We hit the scene in the big horror boom of the mid-80s and just kinda of kicked the door in, swaggered in, and crashed the party. And none of us – Schow, Barker, Matheson, etc. – even knew each other at the time. We met as it was happening and all became friends. It was just cool to see all this fresh new work that felt kinda, kindred. Like a flash in the zeitgeist or something. It was never a “movement” per se. It was a spontaneous occurrence in the culture, that became very marketable and fashionable for a brief while, and then got all the fun sucked out of it by idiots.
DC: Tell me a little about where THE LIGHT AT THE END came from.
CS: It started somewhere in my twisted brainpan and migrated over to John’s. One of my favorite vampire movies, which I saw when I was eight, all by myself in a movie theater in Norfolk VA, was Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers. Just blew me away – funny, scary, very twisted for its time and an eight year old’s mind.
So flash forward 14 years, and there I am in Boston, riding the T with my girlfriend over the Charles River Bridge, on our way from Boston to Harvard Square to see a feel good double feature of The Deer Hunter and Taxi Driver – you know, five hours or so of light, family entertainment. We were in the last car, it was packed, and I was watching the train exit the tunnel up over the bridge. I turned to my girlfriend and said, what if there was a vampire in the subways?
She looked at me like, uh-huhhh? But I explained – instantly transposing it to NYC – 1) if he was a native born New Yorker, he wouldn’t need a coffin, because in the subways he’s perpetually buried in his native soil. 2) it’s always night in the subways, so he can kill 24 hours a day and no one will think “vampire”, they’ll think “serial killer.” 3) if he’s really nasty about it and just tears his victims apart, they’ll DEFINITELY think “Subway Psycho.” And…… 4) if he’s a punk, he already looks like he’s dead, so no one will notice the transformation!
My girlfriend went, uh-huhhhhh…. And that was it, until we got back from the movies that night, and I immediately called Skipp, who had recently sold two short stories to Twilight Zone magazine. I told him dude, I got this great idea for a vampire story, let’s write it sell it to Twilight Zone, make a couple of hundred bucks, it’ll be fun.
John’s first reaction, as I recall, was, I’m busy. But I kept bugging him relentlessly, and I think he finally agreed just to get me out of his face. And it kind of went from there…
DC: Describe your writing process.
CS: Um, weird. I scan constantly, like an inner radar patrolling the zeitgeist, looking for a ping. Sometimes I find it and hone in on it. Sometimes it fucking blindsides me, like, BOOM. My newest novel, TURNAROUND, hit me while I was at a taco stand in LA. It was like, a flash going off in a room full of stuff, and I could see everything in the room…. Then the flash faded, I was in the dark, feeling my way through by Braille. But I knew what was in there. I knew the title. I knew the whole fucking story. I called my longtime editor and friend in NYC, Patrick LoBrutto, and told him. He thought for a moment, and said, I think that’s the best idea you’ve ever had.
Coming from Pat, that’s meaningful. I started working on it immediately – outline, book and screenplay. And it’s not horror per se, it’s Meta -- a twisted dark comic meta-thriller love story set in Hollywood. But there I go, breaking the rules again. Fuck, I’ll never learn to behave.
After I scope lock an idea I start beating it out, kind of the aerial view, and flesh out the outline, coming closer to earth as I go, until I’ve got it completely beaten out and I’m on the ground. Then I go on the journey and write. For me, the writing part has never been that hard – I pretty much write as I speak, and anyone who knows me knows how hard it is to get me to just shut the fuck up. It’s the seeing it clearly that takes the time. That’s a very inner mental emotional process, and a discipline. But then, I’m a professional weirdo. I turned my personality defects into career skills.