The Author's Own Words - Drew Stepek - KNUCKLE SUPPER and KNUCKLE BALLED

IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR...

When the world falls in love, every song you hear seems to say...

YOU NEED TO BUY THESE BOOKS!

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Buy paperback or Kindle here.
Okay, for real...

I've had the privilege of working with the talented Drew Stepek on the continuation of his novel KNUCKLE SUPPER through Blood Bound Books. When working on the sequel, KNUCKLE BALLED, we discovered that there was a lot more to this than just drug-addled vampires of L.A. Drew wanted to really amp up the main character's story and give him more life and vitality...if that's possible for a vampire.

So, we went to work on both novels, cleaning up KNUCKLE SUPPER and turning it into THE ULTIMATE GUTTER FIX EDITION. So even if you've read KNUCKLE SUPPER, you'll want to pick up this third edition to go along with KNUCKLE BALLED. With praise from Rue Morgue, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria, and the incomparable E. Elias Merhige (Begotten, Shadow of the Vampire), how can a horror fan go wrong?

The following is my interview of Drew that I did for Blood Bound, and I hope it sparks your interest in learning more about the story of RJ Reynolds and his struggles with being a drug vampire. Drew was a lot of fun to work with, and I'm glad to say that we will be working on books three and four together as well!

The man with the insane plan.
Andrea Dawn (AD): What drew you to writing in general? Was it a certain moment that sparked it, or did it evolve over time?

Drew Stepek (DS): I was raised by a family of avid readers. That said, on the first day of every summer my mom would take me to the book store to get the books that I would read. Slowly, over time, I gravitated toward comic books and horror, but strangely enough, I always preferred the classics. My favorite authors were Mark Twain and John Steinbeck. The first time I ever cried reading a book was Of Mice and Men and the first time I ever cried reading a comic book was Uncanny X-Men #137 (the death of Phoenix/Jean Grey). As my reading really started to progress, I really started to admire the way writers made me feel, and when I got to be around 13, I decided that I wanted to make people feel a certain way as well. I think that’s why my stories mainly focus on simple messages and issues that construct the universes where my characters live.

AD: Is writing the only work you do? Do you have another job or any hobbies?

DS: No, my day job is being a creative director in branded entertainment. Believe it or not, it’s very rewarding to me. I don’t necessarily like being a shill, but if you could change advertising and refocus it to actually makes advertising entertaining to watch, it makes it less about selling and more about telling stories. Here is something branded that I produced about two years ago… can you tell that this is an advertisement? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkXwIo3sycQ

What is your favorite childhood book, and has it influenced what you write today?

DS: That’s easy, Danny, the Champion of the World. It’s a fucking masterpiece. I’m sure at some level everything I am passionate about (when it comes to books) makes its way into a lot of my stories. Take for instance, Fletch. It always makes its way into my books.

AD: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

DS: The last scene in Of Mice and Men. Completely changed the way I looked at the world and what I thought meant something. There was a time in my life when I read the same books every year.  They were Of Mice and Men, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Great and Secret Show, Watchmen and Ham on Rye. After all these years, they are still just as powerful as when I read them as a kid (TGASS when I was 18).

AD: Knuckle Supper and Knuckle Balled are the first two books of a four-book series. What does this series mean to you? Where does it come from in your life?

DS: The series is my attempt to take my personal demons and deliver them to the audience in a different way than I did with my first book, Godless. Godless was somewhat semi-autobiographical. That said, with the Knuckle series, I wanted to create a different way to make people relate to addiction and abuse. Horror is a great way to push messaging without beating people over the head and coming off as a crybaby about injustices. If used correctly, horror can be so strong (Song of Kali, for instance) and that’s why I think the “punch in face” mentality works better than simply preaching.

AD: This is the third edition of Knuckle Supper, and is aptly named the Ultimate Gutter Fix Edition. What made you decide to do a second and a third edition?

DS: I decided to do the second edition when I switched to Blood Bound Books from my original publisher. That said, I wanted the first book to completely align with the second (and the rest of the series). There were a few things in the first book that, looking back now, were a little shortsighted. Also, I wanted to introduce THE GOOCH in the first book since it plays such an important role in Knuckle Balled.

AD: Which was your hardest scene to write in either Knuckle Supper or Knuckle Balled, or both?

DS: SPOILERS. Most difficult scenes to write in Knuckle Supper were: Luna’s fate, King Cobra’s fate, RJ realizing who he REALLY is, and Bait’s fate. Most difficult scenes to write in Knuckle Balled were: the wig scene, the possum children, RJ’s dreams, the truth about Rodderick and, of course, RJ’s fate.

AD: How do you select the names of your characters?

DS: I liked the name RJ so I used it. It wasn’t until later that I created the vampire naming conventions… making him RJ Reynolds. The others are pretty simple. Since there is this theme of everyone in the books having to constantly put on a show, I shape my gangs around them that way, as if they were celebrities. In other words, I create all the gangs before I even start writing the books. I think of the most outrageous, something ridiculous, gangs and then I try as hard as I can to make them seem real. It’s the same way that I approached vampire lore. I wanted it to be almost believable. That’s why I felt I needed to explain how RJ lives in a house and can’t get a hard on without the help of drugs. Sure, it’s total bullshit but… I mean what if there were creatures like this? What would they do? I hate seeing modern vampire movies where vampires live in these rad houses and shit. How did they buy it? How did they get a credit check? All shit that I felt needed to be dealt with. That’s why most of my vamps live on the streets. Back to your original question, Eldritch’s name comes from Andrew Eldritch, who is the lead singer of the band The Sisters of Mercy.

AD: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with them, good or bad?

DS: I do. I love them. I love when people compliment me but I like it more when they call me out. it makes me think into the next book and make those changes before I start. People call me out a lot on my fight scenes, questioning if RJ has 5 arms. These are all things that I worked on clarifying in Knuckle Balled.

AD: For writers reading this interview, can you give advice on what are common traps for aspiring writers?

DS: Stick with it and don’t put it down. I fell into that trap between these two books.  That’s most likely why Knuckle Balled is coming out almost seven years after Knuckle Supper. Also don’t spend too much time overthinking scenes. Let the editor sort that shit out (note: Andrea Dawn, the interviewer of THIS piece, edited Knuckle Balled). Don’t hold shit too close and don’t take it personally. If someone suggests you approach something differently, take some time to think about it before blowing it off and saying, “I’m the author.” When you do let go sometimes, it’s more of a relief than you can imagine. I sure wish Stephen King would have let go of the gang-band scene in IT. Other than that, always write from your voice or your shit is phony; don’t copy anyone else’s style and try to create something unique. There are enough authors out there writing all the same, tired shit (especially in horror). Take a trope, strip it bare and then re-build it from the ground up.

AD: For fun… What is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything?

DS: We’re a fucking breathing disease on a rock that sustains life and we will be worm food.

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