Max Booth III is a very interesting figure in the speculative fiction world. He’s a person of many faces, a publisher, an editor, a very talented author, and a columnist for multiple publications. In addition to all that, he holds down a full time regular job as a hotel night auditor. In a nutshell, he’s out of his fucking mind. He’s a highly intelligent, original thinker who’s work, that he’s written and that he’s published, defies categorization and is not just outside the box, it’s never even seen the damn thing. So I was delighted recently when he offered me a fifth of whiskey and a pack of Pall Malls in exchange for a dishonest review of his newest book, HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY KIDNAP STRANGERS. I’ll be reviewing that book in a few days so keep an eye out for that. All kidding–and lying–aside, it’s a damn good book. In the meantime, I had a conversation with the man himself the other day and I want to share that with you today. Max is a bluntly honest and frequently funny guy and I hope you enjoy this Q&A as much as I did.
SL: For those readers who don’t know you, please tell us a little about yourself.
MB: I’m a 22-year-old writer currently living in a small town outside San Antonio, Texas. I am the co-founder of Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, the assistant editor of Dark Moon Digest, and a regular columnist for LitReactor.com. I also work as a hotel night auditor for a hotel designed to devour my soul.
SL: What made you decide to pursue writing as a profession? Any particular events that spurred that decision?
MB: When I was younger, before I could spell, my father would listen to my stories and transcribe it all into the computer for me. Then after we were finished, I’d go over everything he had typed, and copy it down into a notebook then retype it all again. Eventually the whole spelling thing caught on, and I was unstoppable.
But from ages 12-16, I was living in a hotel. I wasn’t going to school, I no longer had any friends as they all lived too far away. I shared a room with my parents, but I did have a laptop, and that’s when I seriously began writing like a motherfucker. All day long, all I did was write. It passed the time, sure, but it also excited me like nothing else ever had, and probably ever will.
Eventually, though, I got sick of having nobody to really share my writing with, so I searched online and found a good writing community. One of those sites where you post your writing and others leave feedback in the comments. The site no longer exists now, so there’s no point in naming it. I gained a lot of friends on this site–hell, it’s even how I met my girlfriend. It was through the feedback I gained from this community that I found the courage and confidence to seek out writing professionally.
And boy, what a dumb fucking idea that was.
SL: As an editor, what are some of your pet peeves?
MB: Stories with false beginnings. Often, something will begin far too early than when the story ought to actually begin. Many submissions I review would improve by chopping off the first couple thousand words.
SL: What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever heard?
MB: I’ve lost count of how many times some asshole’s gone on about how “said” is a boring dialogue tag, then goes on to offer a massive list of alternatives. This is terrible advice. You should almost never use a dialogue tag other than said. Anything else is too distracting. Craig Clevenger once told me that dialogue tags are meant to be punctuation–it serves its purpose without interrupting the flow. If you notice it, then it hasn’t done its job. I would even say that most of the time, “said” is redundant. Dialogue tags are sloppy. Have more faith in your prose and trust your character actions hold enough substance to guide the readers through the dialogue.
SL: If you could give one piece of advice to a new writer, what would it be?
MB: Don’t settle for non-paying markets. Your writing is worth more than that. If it’s not, then keep working at it until it is. And if it never is, it’s perfectly okay to give up. Not everybody is a writer.
SL: What is your philosophy as a publisher of speculative fiction? What do you look for when considering a proposal or manuscript?
MB: I don’t really have a philosophy. I like cool shit, so that’s what I publish. I have a terrible attention span, so if a book can grab me from beginning to end, then it’s already something special. I look for everything that makes a good book good: smart premises, exciting characters, etc. Mainly I’m searching for potential. I’ll take on a book that doesn’t blow me away if I see potential for it to be great. Great premise, but written poorly? That’s fixable. That’s where I come in. An editor’s job is to find gold in a mountain of shit. Sometimes those gold bricks are brown until you give them a good wipe-down.
SL: Name some of your major influences as a writer, literary, cinematic or otherwise.
MB: My family is pretty fucked-up, so I feel like, above everything, our dysfunctions have helped influence my writing the most. I also grew up on a healthy dose of horror films, so that definitely was a factor. Other writers and artists: Joe Lansdale, Quentin Tarantino, Stephen King, David Cronenberg, Elmore Leonard, Christopher Moore, David Wong, Chuck Palahniuk, Louis CK, The Coen Brothers, Paul Thomas Anderson, Modest Mouse, Breaking Bad, The Wire, empty deserts, and lightning bright enough to reveal what’s hiding in the darkness.
SL: Coffee or tea?
MB: Coffee. I’ve tried tea on a few occasions. it’s all right, but not strong enough. I’m not even sure I like coffee, either. But that doesn’t stop me from drinking it like some kind of asshole.
SL: If you had to choose any other profession (other than the hundred or so that you’re already involved in) what would it be?
MB: A botanist.
SL: When you aren’t writing or editing, what other sorts of things do you like to do?
MB: I watch a lot of Netflix/Hulu with my girlfriend and her daughter. Lately we’ve been plowing through Gilmore Girls and loving the hell out of it. I also take my girlfriend’s son to the park a lot. I don’t seem to have a ton of free time, though. We’re a one-car household
at the moment, and I work a night shift, so once I get home in the morning I have to drive my girlfriend to work, come home, sleep my regular five hours, wake up, pick up the kids from school, pick up my girlfriend from work, and by the time that’s all finished we start making dinner and watch an episode or two or something and holy shit, it’s time to go back to work.
SL: Do you have a regular writing routine you adhere to? Any specific location you prefer to write in?
I do not have a specific writing routine, and I think those who do are setting themselves up to fail. Once you start depending on a writing routine, then you cannot write in any other circumstances. I try to write whenever I get a few minutes of free time, and I don’t have any other editing or publishing projects in the way. Sometimes I blissfully ignore those other projects and write, anyway.
SL: Do you prefer some kind of background noise when you write, music or otherwise? And if so, what do you like to listen to?
MB: I love to listen to music as I write. Some people cannot listen to music with lyrics as they write, but I find that doesn’t bother me too much. It’s easier if I listen to music I’ve already listened to a thousand times before, because my brain isn’t attempting to decipher new lyrics. Although I can’t edit when listening to lyrical music—post-rock is best for editing. My go-to band for writing is Modest Mouse, especially their albums The Moon & Antarctica and The Lonesome Crowded West. Other bands and albums I love for writing: The Eels, Explosions in the Sky, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Against Me!, John Carpenter’s Lost Themes, It Follows’s soundtrack, Creepshow’s soundtrack, Phantasm’s soundtrack, Drive’s soundtrack, The Guest’s soundtrack, and too many more to name here.
SL: Bourbon or scotch?
SL: You are, among other things: an author, publisher and editor at Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing (PMMP), editor at Dark Moon Digest, columnist at LitReactor, and soon to be a columnist at Gamut. Plus, you hold down a regular job. How the fuck do you manage all that?
MB: Very poorly. I’m always fucking up and missing deadlines. I’m also exhausted every minute I am awake. I expect any moment now for everything to crash and burn.
SL: Your book, HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY KIDNAP STRANGERS runs the gamut from funny to—quite often—raucously hilarious. What have been some of your major comedic influences?
MB: Louis CK is at the top of the list. I think he might be the greatest comedian to have ever lived. Other funny things/people that’s influenced me: Mitch Hedberg, Robin Williams, Dan Harmon, Sarah Silverman, Bill Burr, Andy Kaufman, Bill Hicks, Tina Fey,
Douglas Adams, Kevin Smith, Edgar Wright, Amy Poehler, Judd Apatow, Carl Hiaasen, Joe Lansdale, David Wong, Christopher Moore, The Coen Brothers (they seem to come up often when I speak of influences), Arrested Development, Futurama, Rick & Morty, Bob’s Burgers, Snatch, In Bruges, Black Books, and, uh, uh…MONTY PYTHON. Fuck. I got carried away there.
SL: HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY KIDNAP STRANGERS is obviously heavily influenced by the indie publishing industry. How much of that is autobiographical?
MB: Absolutely everything, except for the parts that aren’t.
SL: The parts that aren’t being those spots where people get kidnapped or get violently and hilariously dead?
MB: [answer redacted as requested by the NSA]
SL: The books you’ve written to date all fall into different genres, insomuch as they can be categorized at all. The same can be said of the titles PMMP has published. From the point of view of publisher and author, how important is genre to you?
MB: Genre can be limiting to a writer in the process of the creation, as they can potentially feel trapped into writing about only certain subjects. I feel it is important to think of genre as a form of marketing, and to worry about it once the book is complete.
SL: Boxers or Briefs? Or your girlfriend’s panties?
MB: Whatever feels the most like dead skin.
SL: What are your goals as an author and publisher? Where do you see yourself in five years? (we can split this into two questions if that ends up being necessary)
MB: I often feel too busy to even consider my goals. I guess I’d like to be able to do all of this shit and have it support me enough so I can quit the hotel job. I’m not meant to deal with those guests. They’re killing me. I am very fragile. In five years, I see myself frantically attempting to meet deadlines. Unless Trump is president. Then I see myself as a pile of ash.
SL: Let’s talk some about your other work. Any new or exciting projects that you want to talk about?
MB: I’ve edited a horror anthology about radiotelegraphy called Lost Signals that’ll be coming out later this summer. Scott Nicolay is not only writing the introduction to the anthology, but he’s also announcing a new name on the table of contents every week in his podcast, The Outer Dark. You can pre-order Lost Signals here. hyperlink: http://perpetualpublishing.com/product/lost-signals-pre-order/
I also have a new novel completed about a hotel night auditor who loses his fucking mind. I’m currently shopping it around to potential agents and publishers.
SL: If there were one question you wish interviewers would ask but never do, what would it be? And what would the answer be?
MB: Weirdly enough, the one question I always wish interviewers would ask me is the above question you just asked, which would make the sentence you’re currently reading the answer to this hypothetical question.
SL: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about before we wrap this up?
MB: THE WICKER MAN REMAKE STARRING OUR LORD AND SAVIOR NICOLAS CAGE IS BETTER THAN THE ORIGINAL MOVIE.
And with that bold and risky statement we’ll close this out. Thank you to Max Booth III for taking the time to share with us. Keep an eye out for my review of HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY KIDNAP STRANGERS on Friday and follow those links below to get your hands on Max Booth III’s genre-shredding fiction.
Buy a copy of TOXICITY here
Buy a copy of THE MIND IS A RAZORBLADE here
Buy a copy of HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY KIDNAP STRANGERS here
Buy a copy of ESCAPE FROM DINOSAURIA here (co-written with Vincenzo Bilof)
Check out Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing here
About Max Booth III: Max Booth III is the author of four novels. His mom has read at least one of them. He’s the Editor-in-Chief of Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and an ongoing columnist at Litreactor.com. He works as a hotel night auditor in a small town outside San Antonio, TX. Follow him on Twitter @GiveMeYourTeeth and visit him at http://www.talesfromthebooth.com.