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Of Mice and Rat Men
The Outlaw C. L. Werner ell, I hate talking about myself. There must be a couple million better things to discuss over the course of the day than this decaying scavenger. But, I suppose if you're reading this, you aren't sharing that sentiment, so I guess I'm obliged to fill this space with something of some sort or another.

Let's see. Many moons ago, my parents found me under a rock somewhere in New York's Orange County (not related even slightly to the California demense they want to rename 'OC'). I can recall only a few things from my early years in New York. I remember playing with tiny silver knights and gold-coloured vikings, re-enacting some decidedly historically suspect WWII battles with little plastic soldiers, eating pickles in the kitchen with my Grandmother, watching steam rise from my great dane Baron's back when he'd be loosed into the snow-ridden yard after lying for hours in front of the fireplace. I can recall my Mother taking me to see the god-awful '76 remake of 'King Kong' and falling asleep well before the titular ape put in an appearance. I remember a neighbour boy setting his pocket on fire with a book of matches and I can still remember my white rabbit named Halloween. My Father tells me our German neighbour was always warning that the rabbit was getting too old to make for good eating. Since this is the same man who once told me that Christmas was cancelled because the Soviets shot down Santa Claus, I'm not entirely sure the story is legitimate.

Sometime before '79, the whole tribe moved out to California. I really can't say enough bad things about California, or San Bernardino in particular. One day, the whole thing will crack off and sink into the ocean and the world will be a better place. Sorry Mom and Dad, but as the Joker once said 'Decent people shouldn't live here. They should live... somewhere else.' San Bernardino earns high marks as a crime-infested pit, at one point it had a higher murder rate than Detroit - enough so that the county sheriff issued T-shirts proclaiming them 'Penal Code 187 Champions' and featuring a pair of vultures perched on the 'Welcome to San Bernardino' sign. More than the criminals with guns, though, are the thugs with pens: the politicians and lawyers. The divisive atmosphere created by these twin evils was as offensive as it was insulting, giving me a bellyful of hate that coloured my formative years. My only escape from the daily grind of pandering inanity where the only people that didn't matter were those who didn't fit into some isolated group the politicos could exploit was through books. I read alot, diving into Sherlock Holmes (both Doyle's originals and many pastiche works), Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allen Poe and H. G. Wells.

My biggest discovery at this time was the works of H. P. Lovecraft. I still have the tattered remains of the Del Rey paperbacks that my Mother found for me at the local B. Dalton. Lovecraft was like lightning for me, really firing a desire to write in my black heart. The vivid style, the hideous suggestiveness of his writing excited me in ways the lacklustre scribbling of more contemporary writers simply failed to. More than his own work, however, Lovecraft opened the door for me to an entirely new world of writers. Through him, I sought out the likes of Clark Ashton Smith, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Henry S. Whitehead, Fritz Leiber and Michael Moorcock.

Robert E. Howard I owe to Lovecraft the second major influence on my writing: Robert E. Howard. Best known as the creator of Conan the Cimmerian, Howard was a two-fisted giant who had the impact of an avalanche upon my sensibilities. He was every bit as good as Lovecraft at settings of strange horror and ancient evil, but where Lovecraft's stories were cerebral, Howard wrote his with blood and thunder. Swords crunch through skulls, axes hew through limbs and hideous grey apes mangle men with their brutish talons! Howard's prose was fast and furious, filled with action and savage imagery that was shocking beside the more delicate prose of the Victorians who had been my steady diet for so many years. Even more than his action-oriented style, however, Howard did something else that Lovecraft could never really do: he made writing look easy, something that was achievable. To be certain, there is a deceptive ease about Howard's prose - try as I might I still can't capture his amazing economy of words, that sorcerous craft of vividly describing a room or a city with only a pair of sentences - but there is something about his writing that is approachable, like an old friend inviting you in.

Lovecraft and Howard are certainly the big dogs when it comes to my influences and however far I go with this game, I'm forever in their shadow. That's just the way it should be.

My first big break in the writing game was in 1999. My first sale of a story (as opposed to donating to small press for contributor copies) was to Inferno! The story in question was 'A Choice of Hatreds' and was very loosely based upon my favorite Vincent Price movie Witchfinder General (though I'll always think of it by the title I first saw it under, Conqueror Worm). It appeared in Inferno #22 and marked the first appearance of Matthias Thulmann and his vicious henchman Streng. I wrote another story for Inferno, 'The Small Ones' and then my editors Christian and Marc approached me about the possibility of doing a novel. The result of that brainstorming session was Blood Money and the cold-hearted bounty killer Brunner. Incidentally, it was Marc who suggested the name. I gravitated toward it because the heroic priest in the classic Bela Lugosi film White Zombie was named Brunner. Marc has said he came up with it as a contraction of 'Blade Runner'.

Ray Bradbury Now, many moons later and several novels between, I am reminded of the other moment when I decided that I had to throw my hat into the ring. The one good thing about California was proximity to so many legends in the entertainment industry. This was back when you still had decent, professional people, not the spoiled slobs you have these days. Anyway, one day in high shcool my journalism class was allowed to attend an assembly at another high school. The speaker was none other than Ray Bradbury. After listening to his insightful ruminations on his career and advise to the audience - and bearing with the insipid questions put to him by that audience (tripe such as if he would write a book with Stevo King and such rot), we were allowed to approach the great man for autographs and such. With great nervousness, and a sweaty hand, I asked him if he would mind perusing a manuscript I had written. It is a credit to Mr Bradbury's graciousness and indulgence that he took that manuscript from some punk kid in a gloomy high school ampitheatre. I have never forgotten that act of kindness and charity on his part. Every set back, every obstacle along the road, I've gone back and looked at those few lines of encouragement he attached to the story when he sent it back to me (in a black envelope no less). If Mr Bradbury could see something there, I felt there was always hope.

That's the same advice I'd give to anybody trying this: keep trying. Take advice, take criticism, constantly evolve your style. Read as much as you can and teach yourself to read with a technician's eye. Disect what you read, analyse it, pick it apart. See what other authors have done and how they have done it. Then start building your toolkit of tricks and devices. Don't be afraid to branch out into other genres, don't be afraid to experiment with other styles. Above all else, keep writing!

Now, why the curious title for this website? Well, beyond physical and tempermental similarities your host shares with vicious scavenging rodents, he was born in the Hour of the Rat in the Year of the Rat. Perhaps that gives me my insidious affinity for merciless monsters and things like the skaven and Grey Seer Thanquol, the creatures who bear responsibility for drawing me into the Warhammer world. I'd like to pretend I'm made of better things, imagine myself as a noble lion or a defiant wolf, but as anyone who has read my stories knows, the heroes are those guys who don't play by the rules and who respect honour only as far as they can exploit it. I blame that on my inner vermin shining through.

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