Dear Dabbers, please welcome author Ashley Franz Holzmann to the blog today. We chat about classics, running obstacle courses, warning labels, and plenty more! If you’re interested in the giveaway, then check out the awesome audiobook giveaway at the bottom of the post.
What now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?
I don’t think I would enjoy interviewing any author, but I would love to get a beer with Edgar Allen Poe. Poe went to West Point for a few months and when I attended the academy we heard a few stories about a rowdy Poe who didn’t like following the establishment. He led such a rough life. I bet he had just as many stories that he didn’t tell as he did stories that he left us to read.
If you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?
Cowboy Bebop. Hands down. Talk about a genre defining experience. I had watched a couple of animes growing up, but Bebop showed me that any art form has as much potential as the next. Bebop is what I show friends who tell me they hate anime. It has everything and the storytelling is so tight. The action has reason and the characters are all flawed with human traits we all can empathize with. That’s how you write a TV show. To me, Bebop is the definition of cool.
How does modern culture influence your work? Do modern cultural references date a piece or add touchstones for the reader?
I soaked up entertainment as a kid. I watched tons of TV and played tons of games in the 90s. I was unstoppable until I went to college. I read a lot more these days. I think my writing is a combination of all of my experiences in life and all of the things I’ve allowed myself to be exposed to. Bob Dylan wrote in his biography about how he would read anything he could when he was younger. He read On War and poetry and all sorts of stuff that eventually influenced his song writing. Maybe not directly, but at least indirectly. I believe in getting inspiration from everywhere. So, I would say that I have been influenced by modern culture. I insert themes about gender in my writing, and I indirectly and directly talk about parts of my life growing up. I do attempt to shy away from direct cultural references, because I enjoy the timelessness of storytelling and references to ebaumsworld.com aren’t going to hold up for the younger crowds. I like the idea of writing stories intentionally in different decades (I can be a history nerd at times), but that’s looking back in time and picking and choosing what you know the audience will understand as cultural references.
Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?
I actually really enjoy inserting reality as often as I can. My current book is horror, so there’s moments that could absolutely not happen. But there’s so much we don’t talk about in our societies that I think are fine to talk about within the pages of a book. That’s one of the best parts of writing stories. Books are read alone and digested in a more intimate fashion than a movie in a movie theater gets to accomplish. I majored in sociology in college, and one of the things we studied was how societies always have the double standards of what is socially acceptable on paper (what we like to think is our reality) and what is truly socially acceptable. The concept of taboos fascinate me, and I enjoy trying to be honest in my writing when I can be.
What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?
So I’m an officer in the army. I’ve met quite a few people who don’t realize just how much the jobs within the military vary. Army officers change jobs about every year, and we move to a new post every three years or so. So we’re constantly learning and adapting to new environments. All that aside, I was selected to be an Aide-de-Camp to a Brigadier General back when I was a young Lieutenant. That was my most difficult job. Some work days were 20 hours long. It’s like being the right hand of a fortune 300 company CEO. I saw a world I would not have otherwise known of. It’s a long story, but to keep it short and answer the question: it taught me how to really watch my words. Every word matters, and concisely conveying intent is very important. I enjoy reading Mark Twain and Hemingway and Vonnegut and Palahniuk, but it was the General who taught me to use my words precisely. He was hard on me because he was developing me professionally and personally. It’s easy to see now, but that was a long 14 months.
More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend? Any plans to take your works in the multimedia realm?
I grew up on all those formats. I’m still a comic nerd at times (I can’t say I’m super hardcore, as I have to admit that I’m the guy who buys trades and graphic novels), and I love that the film industry has finally realized the potential of the comics that all of us comic book nerds have known for years. Man, if they can figure out how to make Kingdom Come… that will be awesome.
I don’t see the publishing industry going farther than where it currently is. Amazon still sells paperback novels. I think that will keep being a thing. When I read to my sons, they like books. They want to hold them in their hands and help me turn the pages. There’s something about that experience. You have to teach a child to enjoy an eReader. They understand the book that they can hold way sooner than they understand the screen with the pictures on it. I don’t think we’ll ever move away from physical books. Not completely. I still buy books. I can’t use Kindles or iPads. I’ve tried. Maybe it’s a nostalgia thing and I’m wrong and 100 years from now we’ll all be doing the eBook thing. I suppose we’ll have to see. I do like how audiobooks have made the transition to the modern formats. They’re so accessible and it totally breathes life into a project. I know I had a great experience with Mr. Creepy Pasta, my audiobook reader. He has a YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/MrCreepyPasta) that’s rather popular and he’s a cool guy. You should check him out.
Which ancient or historical works have you not read and periodically kick yourself for not having made time for them yet?
I’ve read the Iliad but I still have to read the Odyssey. Which I know I need to get around to. Everyone tells me the Odyssey is the better book. I have a whole list of books that I need to catch up on. Mostly literature. The older I get (I’m only a year away from 30) the more I realize there’s so little time. I really like reading to my sons. So I figure I’ll just instill a love of books with them and read a lot of books to them while they grow up. If a few of those books happen to be literature that I still want to read off my list, then I get to educate my kids while also continuing to read the things I wish to read before I die.
Do you have any superstitions? How about phobias?
I have fears, but no superstitions or phobias. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff and give ourselves reasons to be walk on eggshells. Maybe that’s the army talking and I’ve been in the system too long, but I really enjoy soaking in as much life as I can whenever I get the opportunity. I believe in traveling and learning and trying to understand all I can about the world and the variety of people that live on it.
My fears are mostly realistic. I don’t like the idea of being in deep water, but I try to be rational about it. My fears haven’t stopped me from snorkeling in some really awesome places like Australia or the Red Sea. I do admit that I can be paranoid at times, but I try to rationalize that as me being careful. I’ve seen parts of the world that a lot of Americans will never see, so I’ve seen aspects of human nature that I try to be aware of.
If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?
Caution: this may get confusing.
You have to run an obstacle course. Who do you invite along (living or dead, real or fictional)? Will there be a tasty libation involved?
I’ve had to run my fare share of obstacles. I would take one of my army battle buddies with me, because I’m not going to finish that thing last and a good battle buddy gets you through events like that. We’d finish together and kick everyone’s ass. Beer would be involved afterwards. Always celebrate your accomplishments. You earned them.
There is a dark side to human nature that can be neither wished away nor completely mitigated. Ashley Franz Holzmann details just several of these laws in his introduction to The Laws of Nature: A Collection of Short Stories of Horror, Anxiety, Tragedy and Loss before taking his readers on a journey through the bizarre, the terrifying, and, ultimately, the disturbingly real truths that underlie much of modern American life. Ashley makes his debut into the horror genre with “The Stump”, a story about an afternoon trot through the woods that quickly becomes a bloodbath, and, much as it does for that story’s monster, the scent of fear will only lure veteran horror readers further through the forest. A teenager’s vanity will likely cause his town to be consumed by a roaming swarm of insects that burst forth from his acne-riddled skin in “White Heads”; entire populations vanish into the void of the Alaskan tundra in “Glass Houses”; and superiority takes the form of a murdering, sadistic woman in “Lady Macbeth”. But Ashley’s best retellings focus less on gore and adrenaline and instead take human psychology as their medium, as demonstrated in “Plastic Glasses”, where readers are brought into a world of disturbing personality and mental disorders. Ashley’s work abounds with stories in this vein, stories that grab a hold of a common failing, such as marital friction in “Hush” or American male frustration in “Orpheus’s Lot”, and take it to an extreme that is nevertheless not inconceivable for most people. Coming from the mind of a man who has experienced more than his fair share of humanity, The Laws of Nature is, at its finest, a description of universal emotions of loss, nostalgia, anxiety, and soul-penetrating terror. Ashley’s stories elicit empathy from his readers and draw them into worlds where they both acknowledge and cuddle with their fears and that leave them, ultimately, more human.
Places to Stalk Ashley Franz Holzmann
For the giveaway, Ashley is generously offering up 5 Audible.com downloads of his book The Laws of Nature. To enter, do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer the following in the comments: 1) Do you have an Audible.com account? 2) Please leave contact info 3) If you came with a warning label, what would it say? Giveaway ends September 30th, 2015, midnight.