If you were allowed to give one argument as to why the world should read your work, what would that argument be?
I feel like I write original, entertaining stories. If you want crime, horror, humor and weird shit all wrapped up into one messedup package, I’m your guy. If not, that’s fine. Go get your fucking shine box.
What compelled you to become a writer in the first place?
I originally wanted to write screenplays. I was accepted into Temple University’s film program, but dropped out during orientation when I realized I wouldn’t get into my major for at least two years. Then I did a screenplay class where the average age of the students was about fifty (I was 19) and I realized my bank heist, cannibal black comedy hybrid was going over like a turd in a punch bowl. I also had no money to make these expensive ass movies I was writing. I dropped out and realized I could just write stories in my free time while I worked as a union ironworker. I didn’t have to worry about budgets or cameras or actors or any of that shit. I could just write whatever I wanted. I like that better.
Who are some writers every new/beginning writer should read and why?
The two that really hooked me in were Richard Matheson and Joe R. Lansadale. Matheson is just one of the greatest writers who ever lived in my opinion. His stories are lean and expertly written. His novels are on the shorter side, but not a page is wasted. I just fucking love the guy and I don’t hear many people talk about him. Lansdale taught me to not be afraid to let my humor come through. Matheson and Lansdale also have some of the best short stories ever written. Weird, bloody, funny and all over the map in terms of genre. Study their stuff. Some other personal favorites are Joe Hill, Cormac McCarthy, Mark Z. Danielewksi, Stephen King, Paul Tremblay, Clay McLeod Chapman, Grady Hendrix, Don Winslow and Neil Gaiman.
What are some writing tips you would offer new/beginning writers?
Same shit everyone says. Write. All the time. Set time aside and just write. Even if you think what you wrote sucks, just do it. Reading books is an obvious one, but an important one. Don’t just send shit out once you finish it either. Set it aside, move on to something else. Give it a week or a few days and then come back to it. You’ll find spelling errors or plot holes or shit that doesn’t make sense and then you can clean it up before you send it out. But mostly just write. Stop being lazy. Go. Do it.
Some books change our lives. Can you share which books have absolutely change the way you look at the world, the way you approach life? How did they affect this change in you?
Maybe The Road. I read that book before I had kids and it just crushed me. I’ve reread it since having kids (two from a previous relationship and two step daughters) and it affects me even more now. I tend to hate society as a whole. The internet bullshit, both sides of the political aisle acting like hypocritical dick holes day in day out. The constant distractions from reality. But reading that book makes me think that people, at their cores, aren’t the shit heads their distractions make them. Most people would want to protect those closest to them and would want to teach their kids that being one of the Good Guys, a good, kind person, is truly the right way to live. And the world would truly be a better place.
Just kidding. We all know the majority would be cannibals and murderers, am I right?
What’s a movie that absolutely has to be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated (and why)?
I’ll go one big one and one obscure one.
Ghostbusters, because that movie rules and the effects hold up and its just one of the best fucking movies ever made, so why not?
The Assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford. One of the most gorgeously shot films I’ve ever seen and just a great, underrated gem that no ones seen. Good luck seeing that one in the theatre, though.
What can we expect from you in the near future?
I’m just plugging away. Have a million things I’m working on. A bunch of shorter stuff. A novella I’ve been trying to finish forever. I’ll have a story on Close 2 The Bone in July. Hopefully a few more by the end of the year. I’d rather you didn’t expect anything from me. That way you can be surprised when something of mine does show up.
John Teel works and writes in Philadelphia. His work can be found in places like Shotgun Honey, Dark Moon Digest, Pulp Modern, Close 2 The Bone and The Literary Hatchet. He lives with his wife Jamie, their four kids and the ugliest rescue dog you’ve ever laid eyes on.