When we have new contributing authors for Martinus Publishing anthologies, I always like to do basic introductory interviews. Today, I'm interviewing Philip Overby, a fascinating author who contributed three short stories to "Quests, Curses,& Vengeance." Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed, Philip.
Philip Overby: Thanks for the opportunity. I'm really excited about this anthology.
MTI: There’s a lot to be excited about. Starting off, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
PO: I'm 32. A Capricorn. I like short walks on the beach. That's the boring stuff, I suppose.
One of the most interesting aspects of my life was the fact that I used to be an independent pro-wrestler for about four years. That always seems to get the same response: “Really?” If you saw what I look like, then you'd know why. I spent most of my time getting battered by guys twice my size. For me, wrestling was a dream come true. Even though I wasn't selling out arenas, it was always awesome to see the faces in the crowd, whether they loved or hated me. I was cheered, booed, spit on, threatened, high-fived, pushed, and offered “a ride in a truck,” whatever that means. Those are some of the biggest rushes I've ever received in life.
Now, I live in Japan, where I teach English and also do some freelance writing. Moving to Japan was also a dream come true. I became interested in Japanese culture from a strange source: a game called “Nobunaga's Ambition.” I became really interested in ancient Asian history from games like it and “Romance of the Three Kingdoms.” As a fantasy writer, I try to shy away from always writing traditional European medieval fantasy. I'd love to see more Asian-inspired fantasy. Hell, I'd love to see more Native American, South American, African, and Antarctic -inspired fantasy as well.
My experiences with emergency management, both after Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill, have also heavily influenced my writing. I'm intrigued by rules, restrictions, and red tape. I love to see characters go up against systems that seem impossible to navigate, not because they're dangerous, but because they're so ridiculously complex. Perhaps I like an Orwellian flavor to some of my fiction because of these experiences.
MTI: Yes, I certainly got an Orwellian feeling from a couple of your stories. Good stuff. I remember Nobunaga’s Ambition, too. I still have the SNES cartridge kicking around somewhere.
Let’s get down to business. What first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?
Well, I've been writing for quite some time. I really got interested in writing in 8th grade. I mostly wrote poems for a long time, inspired by writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll, and Allen Ginsberg. I started writing stories when I was in community college and never looked back.
There have been many experiences that have molded the way I write. I'm really interested in combining modern conventions with fantasy worlds. I have an attraction to making the mundane fantastical. I also always like to have a good deal of humor injected into my writing. Sometimes it's dark, light, black, or slapstick.
Recently, I'm really obsessed with monster hunters. I've always found a fascination with bounty hunters, sellswords, and other mercenaries. There was even a part of my life where I seriously considered becoming a real-life bounty hunter. Alas, it wasn't to be.
I always tend to have some fantasy element to all my writing, regardless of the topic. If I was writing a story about an old blender, it would probably be the most magical old blender in existence.
MTI: Tell me, if you had to pick just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?
That's always a really difficult question for me to answer. If I have to pick one, I'd say Polish fantasy writer Andrzej Sapkowski, the author of the Witcher series of stories. They combine humor, grotesque monsters, magic, politics, and action all in a world that is at both times familiar and unique. Geralt of Rivia is one of the more intriguing characters I've come across in fiction. He doesn't always solve all his problems with a sword, which is refreshing for a monster hunter type character.
MTI: I’ll have to look up this Sapkowski fellow. Sounds like good reading.
Your stories, “Burn it Up, Burn it Down,” “The Dance of Five Hells,” and “Red Paint” all appear in Quests, Curses, & Vengeance, an eclectic collection of stories ranging from high fantasy to imaginative sci-fi adventures and even supernatural horror. You had the opportunity to read many of these stories in their original, rough draft form. If you could, point out a few of your favorites from your fellow authors.
PO: I really enjoyed Edmund Wells's stories, particularly “Poetic Justice.” He has a quirky sense of humor that I like in writing. His stories are always fun and easy to read, but they're not schlocky or poorly-written. If he had a collection of stories out, I'd most definitely buy it.
My favorite story included in this anthology would be “But I Know We'll Meet Again Some Sunny Day” by Lauren A. Forry. This story made me really depressed, but in a good way. That's really the job of all great fiction: to make readers feel some kind of emotion. This story definitely did that.
MTI: Shifting back to your own writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?
PO: I'm currently attempting a “52 Stories in 52 Weeks Challenge” that I found while scouring the internet. So far, I'm par for the course. I'm not posting any of the stories, but you can follow the progress on my blog: http://philipoverby1.blogspot.jp/2013/03/52-week-story-writing-challenge.html
My stories included in Quests, Curses, & Vengeance were actually part of this challenge.
I'm also working on a novel about a monster hunter who is responsible for causing the extinction of gryphons in her world. In return, she is cast out of her once posh circle of friends when the hunting of monsters becomes illegal. When monsters start to get more aggressive and attack villages, she decides to take up arms again to help the common people. I want this to be a light, fun novel with lots of humor, but also pretty dark. I guess that's my MO: dark comic fantasy. Maybe I can coin that term?
I have several other novel ideas brewing in my head and I have to re-write a novel I wrote about a sword swallower. It just was too serious. I can't stand when I'm too serious!
MTI: Of everything you’ve written thus far, do you happen to have a “favorite” piece of fiction?
PO: I have a story I wrote recently called “The Beast of the Lost Son” that I really like. It's still in rough draft form, but it involves two bounty hunters looking to get paid after a wizard skips town with their payment for killing some wyverns. They go looking for the wizard and find more than they expected. I always enjoy stories with a good twist, but don't seem completely out of left field. I feel like this story has a good, rational twist.
MTI: Other than your three pieces appearing in Quests, Curses, & Vengeance, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?
PO: I just recently had a story published on the front page of Fantasy-Faction.com, one of the premier fantasy sites in the genre. You can check it out here: http://fantasy-faction.com/2013/winner-of-the-march-2013-writing-contest. Other than that, I'm mostly working on my novel, so I haven't been sending any stories out. I plan to submit to some more anthologies soon though.
MTI: On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?
PO: I'm not a big TV guy recently, but when I get hooked on a show, I really get hooked. Game of Thrones is excellent. One of my favorite shows in a long, long time. I'm a huge George R.R. Martin fan, and I didn't think a TV show could be done of his A Song of Ice and Fire series, but they've really nailed it. Breaking Bad is also one I really love. It's got a great mix of humor and drama that is pitch-perfect. I just wrapped up Desperate Housewives not that long ago as well. Awesome show. I really thought, “Boy, this is totally not my kind of show,” when I first started watching it. It's really brilliant though. I've scrutinized and analyzed some of the characters and episodes to a pretty remarkable degree. Call me a “Desperate Housewives scholar.” I'd actually love to write something in the fantasy vein that resembled that show.
MTI: A mystical desperate housewives? That could sell! Hey, it would be better than “Sharknado,” which Syfy recently aired (of course, almost anything would be better than that).
So, what sort of music do you like?
PO: Recently, my tastes have changed a lot. I used to listen to lots of heavy metal, industrial, hip-hop, and mainstream pop. Now I listen to a lot of K-Pop (Korean pop). It's sort of my guilty pleasure. When I'm writing, I tend to listen to dubstep or drum and bass. I find music with no lyrics helps me the most. Sometimes I like to listen to ambient techno if I'm in a calmer mood. Maybe I'm part robot because I just love electronic music.
MTI: And if you would, name three movies that you could watch over and over again and not be bored?
PO: “The Thing” is my all-time favorite movie. It's got terror, paranoia, constant dread, grotesque imagery, all the things that make a great horror movie. I could actually watch a lot of John Carpenter movies over and over. “A Christmas Story” is another one. It's a nostalgia thing mostly. I actually tear up sometimes when watching it, just because it reminds me of my childhood. Not because I almost shot my eye out or anything, just because Christmas Day was “A Christmas Story” marathon day as well. “Clue” would be my final choice, if I have to pick three. I've seen that movie at least fifty times, no exaggeration. That's probably where I get my sense of dark humor from. That's like my “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” I can quote whole lines from that movie. Coincidentally, both movies have Tim Curry in them.
MTI: I like Tim Curry. He’s pretty underrated as an actor, I think. I remember seeing “The Thing” when I was a little kid, and it scared the hell out of me (hey, I think I was 5—my parents let me watch some really age-inappropriate movies when I was growing up).
You’ve got the attention of potential readers. Is there anything you’d like to say to them, perhaps something to pique their interest in your work?
PO: I would hope when readers finish one of my stories they'd never say “That was boring.” That's one thing I strive for—to not be mediocre. I'm used to polarized opinions for the most part. Some people love my style and others think it's too weird or not their sense of humor. My stories can sometimes be off-the-wall or verge on absurd. I like weird, outside the box fiction, and I hope that mine comes off that way. If you want to read something that makes you say “What the hell?” or makes you spit your Cheerios all over yourself, then look no further than me, Philip Overby!
I'm also currently an article writer for MythicScribes.com. You can check out plenty of great articles about fantasy writing there. Join the forum as well!
If you want to tell me how funny, disturbed, bizarre, awesome, stupid, awesomely stupid, or insane I am, you can follow me on Twitter @Philip_Overby. I guarantee I'll follow you back and tell you how equally funny, disturbed, bizarre, awesome, stupid, awesomely stupid, or insane you are. Let's be friends!
MTI: As we wrap up this interview, do you happen to have a short sample for our readers? Nothing too long, but maybe a few fresh paragraphs?
PO: Here's a short sample of something I've been working on this week. It's tentatively called “Exterminators.”
“Did you have to burn the tavern down? I kinda liked it.” Wurly dusted ashes off his iron shoulder plates.
“Especially the tavern. That’s where most of the roaches were, dipshit.” Glover slipped his hardened amber blade back into his belt, the bits of thousand year old mosquitoes glistening in the sun.
“We could’ve took some of the liquor.” Wurly sneered, his black gums showing. “They had Bellyfull of Butterfly ale in there!”
“Yeah, we could have taken it, but that’s looting. How many times do I have to tell you—”
“I know. 'We’re exterminators, not thieves.' You have to remind me every time?”
“Yes.” Glover shook ashes from his long, curly red hair. “Because you try to steal shit every time.”
“Why does it matter? You’re just burning it all anyway.” Wurly pouted, folding his hairy arms. “Who's going to miss it?”
“Who’s the mage here?” Glover scowled.
Glover nodded. “Damn right. When you’re a mage, you can pick what you want to burn or not.”
Wurly kicked a burnt husk of a massive Colani cockroach. “I don’t wanna be a blasted mage. You all smell like piss and roasted garlic.”
“And ogres smell like rose petals and fresh linens, right?”
Wurly sniffed. “That's very accurate. You must have smelled quite a few ogres in your day.”
“Just shut up and help me haul these roaches,” Glover said, jerking one by its antennae.
PO: Thanks again for the interview!
MTI: And thank you for the great answers. This has been an excellent experience, and I look forward to seeing more of your fiction in the future. It’s always entertaining. Those who want to read more of Philip Overby’s stories can pick up a copy of Quests, Curses, & Vengeance!