"To Hell with Dante" is a collection of cynical afterlife stories, ranging from comedic genius to dark surrealism. To help kick off this fine anthology, I'll be conducting interviews with many of the contributors. Today I'm interviewing Karl G. Rich, the excellent author who contributed the story "Everybody Goes to Heaven, and Then..." Thank you for being here, Mr. Rich
KARL G. RICH: Thank you, Martin, it’s a pleasure, but please call me Kregger. Karl Rich is the name I give the barista down at Starbucks since my real name seems both unpronounceable and incapable of being spelled correctly. Karl’s an alter ego I have used since the Stone Age when I worked in the restaurant biz.
MTI: Of course, Kregger. We've done this before, but for readers who didn't catch our last interview, why not tell them a little about yourself?
KREGGER: First and foremost, I am a grandfather of six. Being Papa seems to have swallowed all my other identities. As a young adult, before kids and my current wife--on entering a restaurant, instead of smoking/nonsmoking, I would ask for the “No Kids” section. Children weren’t my favorite people, but now my favorite people call me grandpa.
At work I’m a healthcare professional. I take painstaking care not to talk about work with strangers. This is due to their reactions to the tonnage of blood, gore and pain I deal with on a daily basis. One time my brother-in-law asked me, “What was the worse thing I have ever seen?” I described in detail how a prolapsed rectum nearly ate an intern in an operating room. Thank God, I caught the young doctor by his surgical booties before he disappeared forever. Can anyone imagine that eulogy? Now, my brother-in-law knows better than to ask such silly questions.
MTI: Your story, "Everybody Goes to Heaven, and Then..." appears in To Hell with Dante. Tell us a little bit about that. What's the general idea behind it?
KREGGER: I spend a lot of time writing about heaven and hell. I don’t believe in either place as popularized in the media or religion, but the perception of both places allow for a variety of stories. Imbedded within most of my stories are retellings of old jokes. In “Everybody Goes to Heaven, and Then…” I used a classic internet joke with some of my recurring characters to illustrate choices people make. In death as in life bad choices and bad decisions lead to bad things. Right now, I’m trying to shoehorn a joke about not stepping on ducks/bunnies in heaven into a story, but I’ve yet to figure it out.
MTI: Does your story hold any special significance, perhaps seeking to provoke some thoughts about the afterlife, or was it just a lot of fun fiction?
KREGGER: Just plain fun. I’ve given up trying to convince anyone of anything. I write for fun.
MTI: Okay, on a totally unrelated note, if you could meet and talk with any one deceased person, who would it be?
KREGGER: Honestly, the first person that came to my mind was Adolph Hitler. Not because I admire or idolize the man, but to ask WTF were you thinking? In what world would a man or group of people think it proper to exterminate any other group? I believe his answer would probably be the world of the 21st Century.
MTI: Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?
KREGGER: I have a Sci-fi project that is an extension of my story in the Veterans of the Future Wars anthology called, “I am Drone.” It is a futuristic thriller set in a post-nuclear-war
with human drones used as weapons of mass destruction to
safe guard what’s left of America . America
MTI: Oh, I want to read that one! Keep me apprised of your progress with that project. Other than your piece appearing in To Hell with Dante, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?
KREGGER: I’m waiting on a submission to Vineyard Press for the Passions of Man anthology. I have one more submission called, “The Absence of Heat” slated for publication in the We Were Heros anthology by Martinus Publishing. This winter I will start querying for my novel, The Mad King of
. Beaver Island
MTI: Writers are often voracious readers. Have you run across any good literature lately that you'd like to recommend? You know, other than your own great work.
KREGGER: I’m in the process of slogging through a compilation of twelve novels called, Deadly Dozen:12 Mysteries/Thrillers. It’s something I picked up for learning style and technique of the genre. The stories are interesting, but I’m noticing a staccato style in the writing. Most of the books utilize very short chapters to move the story along. I couldn’t beat the price, and if I hate a story I skip to the next one. I read Timebound by this year’s ABNA winner. Here’s a clue to new writers—women are not male characters with breasts. So write female characters with female traits. Today’s market, we are selling to, are women. Conversely, I suggest women writers not emasculate their characters as Rysa Walker did in Timebound. I also enjoyed Malone Hero by Edmond Wells, a long time contributor to Martinus Publishing.
MTI: Other than writing, what would you call your favorite hobby or pastime?
KREGGER: I always have been and will always be a sailor. It is the one thing that defines me till I die. At which time I will be submerged in
Lake Michigan. I do not understand anyone that fears water.
MTI: Once again, you have the attention of potential readers. Do you have any words of wisdom to share with them, or possibly a sales pitch to encourage them to read more of your writing?
KREGGER: I write because I enjoy the process. I look forward to seclusion with the Margaritaville channel playing in the background. I prefer to sail alone for the same reason. I don’t have an eye for what is marketable. I only write what makes me happy. Happy people are successful by whatever criteria are used.
It is impossible to write every minute of the day, so on those off moments Martinus Publishing has multiple anthologies available as well as Martin Ingham’s newest creation, The Curse of Selwood.
MTI: Well, thank you for the extra plug there. Now, readers love free stuff, so here's the start of your story in To Hell with Dante:
“Where am I?” he muttered as he walked alone, squinting into the brush beside the path.
He walked for what seemed like an eternity through the impenetrable fog and foliage. He carried a pack and musket, but couldn’t recall camping, sleeping, or hunting. He halted and listened; the forest sounds were muted and soft. Birds called to one another in the distance and since the wind had died there was silence from the trees above. The fog not only muffled his sight, but dampened his hearing as well. Everything smelled wet and decayed.
White woolen pants covered his legs down to his knees and wool socks protected his feet from chafing inside tall, black boots. Glancing down at the blouse he wore under his red military coat, he found dark-red blood stains, but no wounds. For the hundredth time in as many days, he wondered, where had he come from?
He came to an intersection in the path. The path to the left and right led to a white light-filled tunnel. He spun around to find a similar portal to his rear. The tall man gripped his hands in prayer and fell to his knees. “God help me.” He bowed his head and shuddered.
MTI: Thank you again, Kregger, for a fantastic interview. Those who want to read the rest of his story, as well as 20 other cynical afterlife stories, can pick up To Hell with Dante!