Today I am interviewing L. Andrew Cooper, author of the new horror collection, Peritoneum.
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DJ: Hey Andrew! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
L. Andrew Cooper: Thanks for having me here! My partner and I recently finished playing the Assassin’s Creed game where you kill your way through the French Revolution. I love being able to run around through combinations of gorgeous and savage imagery, like the game’s hi-def rendering of bright Paris streets lined with guillotined heads. I revel in peculiar details and enjoy sorting through convoluted conspiracies. My genre is horror, so my conspiracies are darker, and guillotines seem mercifully quick by comparison. I’m a bit of an egghead and am prone to let characters wax philosophical, but eggheads roll and splatter, too.
DJ: What is Peritoneum?
LAC: The peritoneum is a membrane that covers our intestines and other viscera. I think of it kind of like a bag for our guts, but as a character in one of Peritoneum’s stories observes, it doesn’t really work that way when you cut a person open. Anyway, Peritoneum is a collection of interrelated short horror stories, and the conceit is that a membrane of ideas connects all the stories to each other. Often stories share characters, but sometimes they share images, events, or phrases. The horror differs from story to story, but it is always visceral.
DJ: What types of stories can readers expect?
LAC: I don’t follow any of the established subgenres, but I’d say all the stories are psychological, most are very violent (often gory), and many are surreal. They range from drop-jaw serious (such as “Prologue: The Family Pet”) to utterly silly (“Jar of Evil”). A couple of stories riff on traditional motifs: “Year of the Wolf” has a narrator who insists he hasn’t become a werewolf, but he’s like one, and “David Langley and the Burglar” might be a ghost story. For folks who follow horror, I’m in the neighborhood of bizarro and extreme.
DJ: What were some of your influences for the stories in Peritoneum?
LAC: Too many influences to count! Some are easy to name. “The Long Flight of Charlotte Radcliffe,” for example, refers to Charlotte Bronte and Ann Radcliffe in the title (I previewed the story on my website with pictures of the great ladies, so I wasn’t trying to be subtle). The story takes classic “female gothic” elements I love, puts them on an airplane, and sends them elsewhere. As for the stories’ common ground, that is what the “peritoneum” refers to. In addition to the repeated elements I mentioned before, two large story arcs lurk beneath Peritoneum, one related to the basement called TR4B and the other related to the group of characters known as The Consortium. These two story arcs begin in the first two stories, “Prologue: The Family Pet” and “Blood and Feathers,” and converge in the final story, “The Broom Closet Where Everything Dies.” You could read Peritoneum without following the larger story arcs. They’re very disjointed.
DJ: Are there perhaps a few stories that stick out as favorites that you wrote? What are those about?
LAC: Of course I love all my children equally, but I’ll pick three…
- “Lizard Chrome.” Supernatural lizards invade Fourth Street Live, a nightspot in Louisville, Kentucky. They incite chaos as they drain color from all they touch.
- “Eternal Recurrence of Suburban Abortion.” A young woman goes to the suburbs for a medical procedure in an infamous basement. She ends up on a surreal journey between lives.
- “The Birds of St. Francis.” Oscar visits his Consortium colleagues in New York, where he performs murderous miracles with birds.
DJ: How about some of your characters too; could you briefly tell us a little about them? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
LAC: My coolest characters are probably the ones most people would call villains, who are variously associated with Dr. Allen Victor Fincher in what a friend dubbed my “Fincherverse.” Dr. Fincher was a Harvard scientist who died circa 1900 after publishing his scandalous second book, The Alchemy of Will, which reduces world religions and mysticism to a how-to guide for using willpower to change reality. Fincher mostly lurks in the background while people wreak havoc using his writings, but he shows up in “Blood and Feathers,” set just prior to his death, and he speaks inside Oscar’s head in “The Birds of St. Francis,” set more than a century after his death. Oscar’s pretty cool, too. Unlike Fincher’s other associates, he didn’t learn his best tricks from The Alchemy: he’s what they call a “wild talent.” He doesn’t move linearly in time, so when people look at him, he seems to grow older and younger at random. A Consortium member from Peritoneum not in my other books is Melia, a woman who combines traits from Aphrodite and Ares, garnering adoration as she plans strategic engagements.
DJ: Let’s move on to the setting of these stories now. Do you have any particularly creepy, scary, or favorite locations that some of the stories in Peritoneum take place in?
LAC: I’ve mentioned an infamous basement, TR4B. The murders that occurred there received a lot of coverage because they involved children, and photos from the scene leaked online. The name “TR4B” came from the internet, but it means different things—usually something like “Teenage Rapeboy Butcher Bludgeon Bonus Basement.” TR4B appears in “Family Pet,” “Eternal Recurrence,” “TR4B,” “Door Poison,” and “Broom Closet.”
Another important and creepy location is Whispering River, a mental institution with connections to Dr. Fincher and The Consortium. Doctors and patients both do odd experiments there. Whispering River appears in “Leer Reel,” “Year of the Wolf,” “Patrick’s Luck,” and possibly others.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Peritoneum?
LAC: I’ve written a blog post about the ideal day in my writing life, but I wasn’t having many days like that when I was writing most of the stories in Peritoneum. I was having a lot of really, really crappy days, so some nights I sat down and drafted stories the way I wanted to write them, as bizarre and violent as imagination could suggest, in full affront to the rules writers regularly teach in workshops. My favorite part was the freedom to say f**k it all!
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
LAC: I love this collection, but I don’t think it’s easy to love. I imagine people wondering, “What the heck did I just read?” and then—“What does it mean if I liked it?” Beyond that, I’m always a little surprised by what captures people’s attention. For instance, readers have responded especially well to “Year of the Wolf,” my only flirtation with military history to date. I look forward to hearing from more people!
DJ: What is it about the short fiction format that you like? Do you feel there is a particular advantage to telling your stories that way over the novel?
LAC: I’ve published novels, and I like aspects of both forms. I think the advantages are pretty much the same for writers and readers. The short story takes less commitment. You go in, get to know people and places, get a taste of the experience, and get out. The more you put in, the more you get out, but only so much fits in the short-story word count. The novel is a longer commitment. Unless you’re in really experimental territory, you get to know people and places well, and the experience develops through distinct phases. The commitment for a penny dreadful isn’t the same as for a triple-decker, but either way, you’re investing by volume, so everybody better put in enough for a big payoff. Ultimately, I think you can put more in and get more out of a novel, so if I had to choose, I’d choose novels. Since I have more ideas than time for novels, I’m glad to have both formats. I tried to have a little of both in Peritoneum: twenty different stories allowed me to explore a huge range of ideas, but reusing characters, settings, and other elements across the stories allowed greater depth of development.
DJ: What was your goal when you began writing Peritoneum? Is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across to readers when the whole collection is read?
LAC: Although I did have this collection in mind when writing many of the stories, I didn’t intend a singular message or meaning. I did want the stories united in refusing rationality. Even though a few flirt with science fiction—Oscar manipulates air molecules to various effects in “Interview with ‘Oscar,’” and “Door Poison” contains a sustained reference to Schrodinger’s cat—all of the stories share roots in the inexplicable. Explanation is comforting. My job as a horror writer isn’t to be comforting.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Peritoneum that you can share with us?
LAC: You asked a horror writer for a quote and combined funny with foodie. In the story “Leer Reel,” an associate of Dr. Fincher, Louis Jardin, reflects on the time he bit off a nipple from Matilda Roan, another of Dr. Fincher’s associates. He pretended to like it: “If you’re going to be eaten anyway, wouldn’t you rather be delicious?
DJ: Now that Peritoneum is released, what is next for you?
LAC: Nothing is signed yet, but things look good for my first poetry project, The Great Sonnet Plot of Anton Tick, which is a horror-adventure-superhero story about depression and anxiety disorder written across one hundred sonnets. My novel The Blue Jacket Conspiracy is on the market, and I recently completed a new novel, Crazy Time, which has me quietly excited.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/landrewcooper
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Peritoneum that we haven’t talked about yet?
LAC: Going back to video games—I like the open-world games where you can wander around finding secrets, but if you don’t find them all, you can still win. I bury a lot of stuff in my stories, so I like to think they reward all kinds of play. You win just for reading!
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add?
LAC: Special shout-out to Aaron Drown, http://www.aarondrowndesign.com/, for doing such a great job on the grisly cover.
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
LAC: THANK YOU!!!
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*** Peritoneum is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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About the Book:
Snaking through history–from the early-1900s cannibal axe-murderer of “Blood and Feathers,” to the monster hunting on the 1943 Pacific front in “Year of the Wolf,” through the files of J. Edgar Hoover for an “Interview with ‘Oscar,’” and into “The Broom Closet Where Everything Dies” for a finale in the year 2050–Peritoneum winds up your guts to assault your brain. Hallucinatory experiences redefine nightmare in “Patrick’s Luck” and “The Eternal Recurrence of Suburban Abortion.” Strange visions of colors and insects spill through the basements of hospitals and houses, especially the basement that provides the title for “TR4B,” which causes visitors to suffer from “Door Poison.” Settings, characters, and details recur not only in these tales but throughout Peritoneum, connecting all its stories in oblique but organic ways. Freud, borrowing from Virgil, promised to unlock dreams not by bending higher powers but by moving infernal regions. Welcome to a vivisection. Come dream with the insides.
About the Book:
Leaping at Thorns arranges eighteen of L. Andrew Cooper’s experimental short horror stories into a triptych of themes–complicity, entrapment, and conspiracy–elements that run throughout the collection. The stories span from the emotionally-centered to the unthinkably horrific; from psychosexual grossness to absurd violence; from dark extremes to brain-and-tongue twister. These standalone stories add important details to the fictional world and grand scheme of Dr. Allen Fincher, who also lurks in the background of Cooper’s novels Burning the Middle Ground and Descending Lines.
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*** Leaping at Thorns is available TODAY for a limited time price of only 99 cents!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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L. Andrew Cooper scribbles horror: novels Burning the Middle Ground and Descending Lines as well as anthologies of experimental shorts Leaping at Thorns (2014 /2016) and Peritoneum (2016). He also co-edited the anthology Imagination Reimagined (2014). His book Dario Argento (2012) examines the maestro’s movies from the 70s to the present. Cooper’s other works on horror include his non-fiction study Gothic Realities (2010), a co-edited textbook, Monsters (2012), and recent essays that discuss 2012’s Cabin in the Woods (2014) and 2010’s A Serbian Film (2015). His B.A. is from Harvard, Ph.D. from Princeton. Louisville locals might recognize him from his year-long stint as WDRB-TV’s “movie guy.” Find him at amazon.com/author/landrewcooper, facebook.com/landrewcooper, and landrewcooper.com.
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