Screaming Spotlight On: ANDRE DUZA (Part 1)
ANDRE DUZA is a talented writer of horror and bizarro fiction, who is probably best known for his novel DEAD BITCH ARMY, which was also recently spun off into a graphic novel called HOLLOW-EYED MARY. His other books include JESUS FREAKS, NECO SEX MACHINE, and the upcoming BIG DADDY NOFACE.
I recently sat down with him to talk about horror, bizarro fiction, and just life in general. Here’s the interview.
Okay, let’s start out with your titles, like DEAD BITCH ARMY and NECRO SEX MACHINE. Where do you come up with these great titles?
I’ve always had a thing for titles that convey the vibe of the story in a way that they almost become characters in themselves. Like, without the title, the short story/book/movie, whatever, just wouldn’t be the same.
Having said that, there’s no real process that I go through. Sometimes the title leaps out of the story as I’m writing it, and sometimes the story flows from the title. Dead Bitch Army came from a slanderous term that survivors of the war used to defame Mary and deface her army’s propaganda posters.
The title became sort of a polarizing thing where people automatically assumed that I was some kind of misogynistic asshole. But then, one of the themes of the book was the effect of baseless, knee-jerk assumptions toward that which we don’t understand, so it kind of worked out perfectly.
What made you want to become a writer? How early did you start writing?
I was sketching and painting as far back as I can remember, so I was working the creative motor early. When I was eight, I was abducted by a child molester. I came from a religious family who liked to brush things under the rug, so there was no real outlet for the horrible shit that was swirling around my head for the few years after that. I was in and out of therapy, during which time I began acting out. Things got so bad that I attacked one of my teachers with a meat cleaver and another one with a hockey stick. One of the therapists suggested that I write my thoughts down in a journal, and that’s how it all started.
What was your first professional sale?
Years ago I was hired to write an urban, coming-of-age script, entitled Throwdown, for a production company here in Philly. The story, which was based on their treatment, was set against the backdrop of high-school basketball.
Do you consider yourself primarily a horror writer or a bizarro writer? Is there a distinction? What do you enjoy writing more?
Labels schmabels, man. I just write what comes. Because we writers are forced into categories, I guess I would say that I consider myself a bizarro writer with a fondness for horror… or a horror writer with a fondness for the bizarre.
What authors influenced you growing up? Which writers do you enjoy most now?
I’d say that H.G. Wells, Octavia Butler, Joe R. Landsdale, Elmore Leonard, Hunter S. Thompson, and Ni Kuang were big inspirations. I loved Gary Brandner’s Howling novels, and William Blatty’s The Exorcist was the first book to really scare the shit out of me. But the main influences in shaping my style of writing come more from journalistic storytelling than fiction. I went through a period where I was a sucker for “strange-but-true” news stories and paranormal books presented as fact-based (ghosts, UFOs, cryptozoology, etc.). Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror was a perfect sort of bridge between reality and fiction for me. Of course, the Lutz’s story turned out to be utter bullshit, but at the time I read it, I thought it was real.
When I do find time to read anymore, I’ve been getting into Ed Lee and Wrath James White’s work. One of my current faves is a book called The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry by Legs McNeil and Jennifer Osborne.
Tell us something about each of your novels.
Dead Bitch Army – People often refer to it as a zombie novel, but I never saw it that way. To me, it was more of an origin story of a supervillain wrapped in a twisted grindhouse fairytale. The fact that Mary is essentially a living corpse is just a result of her pure, undying rage. Although the cult that she was raised in did practice cannibalism, she’s more concerned with revenge, and fulfilling her destiny than munching on human flesh. And despite her physical limitations, she’s still as cunning and devious as she ever was in life.
There were actually two versions of the novel: the original version, which was not professionally edited, and the revised edition that is currently available.
Jesus Freaks – This was my zombie novel. I wanted to approach the genre from a different angle, focusing on the biblical end-times scenario as the impetus for the zombie outbreak. Once I started down that path, the “two Jesus” subplot began to materialize on its own.
Necro Sex Machine – A post-apocalyptic free-for-all. This was to Dead Bitch Army what Aliens was to Alien.
Bands of organized militias battle for what’s left of America after the third world war. Mary’s Revenant Clan is one of the few dominant armies to rise from the ashes of the war-torn wasteland. But there is a new challenger to the throne, an army that is systematically laying waste to everything in its path. Like Mary, her soldiers are impervious to the toxic atmosphere that has forced everyone else to hide beneath gas masks and protective clothing.
This was my homage to post-apocalyptic films like The Road Warrior and the 1984 animated Fist of the North Star film (in all its disjointed glory), and to the writing team of Ni Kuang and director Chang Cheh.
Hollow-Eyed Mary Graphic Novel (See Dead Bitch Army) – Despite all the problems I went through with this, I was really proud of the finished product. Rudolf Montemayor’s artwork literally jumped off of the page with the help of Juanmar’s brilliant colors. As a team, I felt that they perfectly captured the novel’s raw intensity. I look forward to working with those guys again in the future.
Big Daddy NoFace (upcoming) – Probably my most straightforward book to date in terms of narrative and story structure¾as straightforward as my mind would allow, anyway.
A college student struggles to put her life back together after she is saved from an attempted rape by a good Samaritan who turns out to be a blind, sword-wielding assassin with ties to clandestine government experimentation.
I wrote it as I was going through the nightmare with Hollow-Eyed Mary (it’s a long story, concerning the publisher – LL), so some of those feelings made their way into the story. The killer is blind and has a special way of incapacitating his victims. The feelings of helplessness that I experienced during that whole debacle fed into the peculiar aspects of the story.
(PART TWO WILL BE POSTED TOMORROW)