Award winning author Jasper Bark is a strange, twisted man and one suspects that is just how he likes it. Recently, Crystal Lake Publishing managed to get their hands on this dangerous and quite certainly deranged fellow in order to wring some answers out of him regarding his many heinous deeds and his upcoming release Stuck on You. Let’s check out some of what the reprobate had to say right here.
How do your two innocent daughters cope with having someone like you for a father?
Thankfully they’re not entirely traumatised by having me as their father – just yet. They tend to use humour as a way of coping with me. I was hoovering a little while ago when my youngest Ishara looked at me askance and asked: “Dad are you gay?” To which I said: “I’m married to your mother and I have two children, what does that tell you?”
“That we’re adopted?” replied Freya my eldest.
On another occasion Ishara was dragging her feet on the way to school. I told her to pick her feet up and stop being such a pain in the backside. She started to sing: “Pain in the backside/Pain in the front/Mummy is a slack bride/ Daddy is … Daddy is … Daddy, what rhymes with front?”
You also spent some time as a music and film journalist, who was the biggest douche you had to interview?
That’s a difficult question as there were rather a lot. Fame and money do not bring out the best in a person’s character.
I did interview Marshal Mathers when he first came to Britain to promote his first album. A female colleague and I went to meet him in a suite at the Dorchester hotel. His six foot eight, African American minder showed us in and for some reason I still can’t explain, we did the interview in the bathroom.
My colleague was perched on the side of the bath, while I squatted over the bidet under the disapproving scowl of the minder. Mr Eminem sat on the toilet and stared at the floor, answering our questions with monosyllabic grunts.
About ten minutes in to the interview my colleague asked him about the number of his lyrics that dealt with violence against women. “Alright, I see where this is going,” said his minder. “Don’t you answer that Marshal.” Then he picked me up by the scruff of my neck so that my feet were dangling above the floor and marched me and my colleague out of the bathroom and threw us into the corridor.
My write up, as you can imagine, was quite cutting and filled with invective, but my editors had a failure of nerve and printed a bowdlerised, sycophantic version of the interview instead. That same week the NME, who’d conducted a perfectly cordial interview, led with the heading ‘Meet Slim Shady – He’s an Asshole’ and completely trumped us.
About a year later I was given his second album ‘The Marshal Mathers LP’ to review. I sat down, sharpened my knives and put it on the stereo. You can imagine my disappointment when I found out it was brilliant. Oh well.
What is a day in your life like? Can you walk us through the minefield?
I tend to wake fairly early when the blunt object my wife has thrown connects with my head. Usually this is either because the kids are driving her psychotic, or she’s found the writer with his throat torn out that I left in the middle of the lawn the previous night (when the cats do this with their prey it’s considered cute, but apparently when I do it, it’s psychopathic – double standard anyone???).
When the kids are safely delivered to school or, if it’s the weekend, safely locked in the basement with the power tools and the matches where they can’t distract me, I’ll settle down in my office to work. I tend to begin my day by writing a list. Lists are great ways of pretending to work without actually doing anything and they bring a completely unearned sense of achievement. I’ll start with a ‘to do’ list to which I’ll subsequently pay no further attention, then, if I’m about to embark on a new endeavor, like a short story or a script, I’ll write an ideas list like this one:
LIST OF IDEAS …
1) Erm ….
2) Err ….
3) How about …. no that’s a bit obvious …
4) Well I could always … no I couldn’t – God what was I thinking!
5) There’s always the old one about …. no, everyone’s used that …
6) Does an inappropriate thought about the Creature from the Black Lagoon actually count as an idea???
Once that’s successfully accomplished I may even write another list as a direct consequence of the last list. Such as this one:
LIST OF POSSIBLE REASONS WHY I’M GOING TO MISS THE DEADLINE:
1) I’m on the run from the CIA – again! (this has possibilities).
2) Look, it’s women’s problems alright! You wouldn’t understand. (not sure if I can pull this one off – fnarr, pull this off, snerk).
3) I’ve just suffered a rectal prolapse due to a civil war between the microscopic alien races inhabiting my lower colon. (might need to work on this one, fnarr – work on this … oh wait that’s not an innuendo).
Once the serious business of list making is out of the way, along with other important admin tasks such as ‘liking’ every lame picture of a cat that I can find on Facebook, it’s time to settle down to some serious writing. First I open a new document. Next I spend two or three hours staring alternately out of the window and at the blank screen of my laptop. At some point during this vital stage in the process, my wife will walk in and say something devastatingly witty like: “working hard are we?” I’ll then spend half an hour contemplating whether I should draw up a list of snappy comebacks for the next time she cracks this particular howler, but failing to come up with anything in the least bit ‘snappy’ or ‘comebackable’ (yes that is a word) I’ll abandon the idea.
After eating a light lunch I’ll return to my desk for a concerted hour of weeping tears of bitter frustration, interspersed with kicking my desk and weeping tears of pain from the injury I’ve done to my foot. Then I’ll lie on the floor, stare at the ceiling and bemoan the fact that I was stupid enough to enter a profession for which I obviously have no talent and my children will undoubtedly starve as a consequence.
Remembering that my children will soon have to be picked up from school (or released from the basement) finally spurs me into action and, fueled by sheer panic, I manage to rattle off a thousand words or more before I have to down tools and resume my role as a parent. In the 30s and 40s at the Disney Studios, the sixty minutes before the animators would clock off for the day at 5pm was known as the ‘golden hour’. This was the time when all the guys in the studio would stop giving each other hot foots, or drawing penises on each other’s cells when they weren’t looking, and knuckle down and do some serious work. It was estimated that the majority of work that you see on the screen from that period was drawn in this single hour.
That’s how it is for me too. I’d like to say that all the preamble leading up to this hour or so is an integral part of the process, but even I’m not that self deluding. In fact one of the main reasons for having a routine is not so much to encourage myself to write, but rather to avoid all those things that stop me writing (namely just about everything). Don DeLillo said: “A writer takes earnest measures to ensure his solitude and then finds endless ways to squander it.” Which effectively says in seventeen words what’s taken me nearly a thousand.
What first attracted you to horror writing?
The fact that it’s the genre you go to when you want to think the unthinkable. The genre where all our worst fears and neuroses bubble up to the surface. What if my child doesn’t come home one night? What if my home, my body or my mind is invaded and I’m powerless to stop it? What if consensus reality is just a cosy fiction that masks a deeper more irrational universe than we can ever understand?
This last fear is probably what attracts me the most. Horror stories are where I first learned about people who held heretical beliefs and practiced unthinkable acts in the name of both science and religion. Who had the balls to lift what Shelley called “the painted veil that those who live call life” and peer at what lies behind it. Granted they usually came to a bad end because of it, but in the brief moments before their fall I always thrilled to their Faustian excitement, drunk on the power of forbidden knowledge.
The Gnostics used to believe that fearsome angels, known as Archons, patrolled the outer limits of reality to terrify and attack all but the bravest and most dedicated seeker after the truth from venturing into the unknown. Sometimes the deepest and most profound truths lie beyond a howling chasm of fear. To experience those truths we have to leap blindly into that chasm with no guarantee that we will get to the other side.
That moment of electrifying, near hysterical terror, when we leave behind everything we know to be true, and hurtle towards a new reality, that’s the note of cosmic terror that I love the best.
Why should people read Stuck On You?
Because it’s the sickest, filthiest and most inexcusable thing you’ll read all year. If you think you’ve read everything in horror think again this will take you to an all time low. It’s the ultimate guilty pleasure, the sort of book you have to read with one hand free, partly to hide behind and partly to do other things with.