‘Con’ Man: Adam Cesare on Fans, Cons and ‘The Con Season’

‘Con’ Man: Adam Cesare on Fans, Cons
and ‘The Con Season’

ConSeasonAdam Cesare’s new novel, The Con Season, is available to read for free right now—well, the first couple of chapters, anyway. If you want to read the rest, you first have to do your part in helping it get published.

Like many authors (such as Norman Prentiss), Cesare is testing the waters of the Kindle Scout program with his latest work. Readers can check out a portion of the book and throw a nomination its way if they would like to see it published. Cesare talks more about the program in our interview, but suffice to say that it’s another innovative approach to publishing made possible by today’s technology.

You can check out The Con Season at Amazon, but before you do, take a few moments and enjoy this chat with Cesare, who talks about the slightly unreal world of horror conventions, the mindset of horror film and literature fandom, and much more.

(Interview conducted by Blu Gilliand)

CEMETERY DANCE ONLINE: I’ll lead off with a question I’m almost afraid to ask….what inspired The Con Season?

ADAM CESARE: The elevator pitch for the book is: a group of B-movie celebrities are tricked into attending a convention that is actually a cover for a real life “interactive” slasher movie.

There were multiple sources of inspiration. I’m not the kind of writer who tends to have lightning strikes of “inspiration” or whatever. I usually have to work at my ideas gradually, put little bunches of clay onto the skeleton of a genre or a theme and then stand back once they become a book.

But two things mainly influenced The Con Season:

The first one is the obvious one: I’ve been going to horror (and scifi and comic) conventions since I was a child. I love that world, because I was raised in it. But it’s also a little like growing up in the circus. My worldview might be forever skewed now.

The second influence may be the less obvious one, if you’re reading just the log-line of the book. The “convention” in the story shares a lot of similarities to real events.

I’m fascinated by interactive theater, escape rooms, zombie runs, all that stuff. It seems like we’d be getting further away from all these real, immersive forms of entertainment, but they’re becoming more and more popular. The idea was: what if you signed up for an escape room or a haunted attraction but the people running it weren’t at all thinking about your safety?  

A lot of your work—I’m thinking specifically of Tribesmen and Video Night—is fueled by/concerned with cult movies and VHS video nasties. The Con Season continues that train of thought by featuring characters that make those kinds of movies. What is it about the world of low-budget horror that makes it such a rich environment for you to mine for stories?

Hmmmm, good question. I think originality (or as close as we can get when *nearly* everything has been done) in horror is arrived at by taking familiar tropes, breaking them apart, then sticking the pieces together in unexpected ways or with a tone or viewpoint that hasn’t been done before. It’s kind of like Lego sets. Where I have my “Cannibal Island” playset over here and then my “Regan’s Possession Funtime Bedroom” set over there, and then I dismantle both of them and build them into something (hopefully) new. Or maybe it’s not like Lego at all and that was a terrible analogy…

Do you think you’ll dive into filmmaking yourself one day, or are you happy behind the keyboard?

I don’t know. “Filmmaking” puts me in a mind of, like, being on a set and making movies. I severely doubt I’ll ever be trying that. But I certainly would be game for getting movies made while staying behind a keyboard.

I’ve written a bunch of scripts and treatments. And there’s been some mild interest in turning one or two of my books into movies. But spec scripts and “mild interest” don’t pay the bills, so I’m not going to count any of those chickens before they hatch.

I’m no expert on the movie industry, but I know enough to know that it’s very hard to get a movie made, even when talks are in progress. And these are the most cursory of talks.

What was your worst convention experience? And, just to balance it out, what was your best?

Putting me on the spot!

Yeah, the book is about a hellacious con experience, but I’ve actually got to strain to think of a non-excellent experience in my own con-going. I love being at cons, whether I’m selling books or just walking around.

But there was this one time…

I was behind a publisher’s table, it was late in the day so I was kind of exhausted, and this indie filmmaker walks up (people would know him, but I’m not naming names), points at the table, and says something like, “Wow, you guys are selling out!” in a sarcastic way.

I don’t think I said anything to him, was just kind of taken aback at his dickishness and squinted in his direction. He said a half-hearted “Lighten up, I was joking” and moved on. Kind of shows how authors are really the low men and women on the totem pole when you’re vending at a con.

But the clincher to that story is that I sold out of every title I had at that show. And I bet that broski had to haul a trunkful of his DVDs back home.

Best con experience? Probably the one I’m going to have next week, July 21st-24th, slinging books with my buddies Scott Cole and Matt Serafini at Scares That Care Weekend in Williamsburg, Virginia!  Is this how plugs work? I don’t understand.

Why did you choose to take The Con Season into the Kindle Scout program? What are the benefits of this program for you, as a writer, and was there anything about this particular story that seemed “right” for the program?

Also a good question, because I’m finding out as I’m going through this campaign that a lot of folks don’t know what Kindle Scout is. And I’m not an expert or anything, but the gist as I understand it is:

People browse the site, read a few excerpts and synopses to pick out books they like (up to three at a time), then when the campaign for those books end (authors have 30 days to get their votes) the Kindle Press editors decide which books get a publishing contract. So nominations are not the only factor in getting an editor’s attention, but they do help.

And everyone who nominates the book gets a free copy, if it ends up being nominated.

With the “what is it?” out of the way, I’ve got to say that the reason I chose to go the Kindle Scout route with The Con Season is exposure. I could have worked with a small press or just self-published the book (which is daunting in its own way), but with this novel I wanted to experiment.

And why did I choose The Con Season and not one of my other titles to try this out with? I don’t know, really. The story is kind of more Kindle Scout-friendly than a lot of my other books, because it’s got a little bit more of a traditional suspense novel thread running through the center of it. But maybe it’s just because I really believe in this title.

As of this writing we’re five days into the campaign, and I’m overwhelmed by the support from my friends and readers. But even cooler is that I’ve already had people share the link and rally behind The Con Season who have never read or heard of any of my other work. For them this isn’t just “one more book by that weird guy in my twitter feed.” My work is a whole new entity to these folks and that’s really cool. In that sense, I feel like I’m already a winner from the Kindle Scout program.

“Feel like a winner” but am not actually a winner. I would so so so appreciate it if anyone reading this could check out the book and toss it a nomination if they like what they see

You write a fascinating column for us here at Cemetery Dance Online that examines that dark place where horror films and horror literature meet (and in which you wantonly—and rightfully—ignore suggested word counts)—why do you think these two forms of media feed off of each other so well, especially when it comes to the horror genre?

I’m going to ignore that dig at my luscious word counts and focus on the question…

Because the fan pools for both horror lit and horror film are comparatively small, as mainstream fandoms go. Horror movies open big (look at The Conjuring 2) but my black t-shirted brothers and sisters are definitely a minority when you compare them to, say, scifi fans and readers. A lot of people “like” horror movies and horror books (sometimes those readers are so horrorphobic that they’ll apply the “thriller” label where it doesn’t belong), but few people LOVE them like we do.

It’s very common to see someone build their wardrobe and general life aesthetic around Doctor Who or Star Wars. Kill List? Not as much (though I would and I will).

And one of my hobby horses, something that kinda baffles me when I go to cons, is the people who I’ll try to rope in to the table that tell me “I like to watch horror, not read it.” That’s a real quote that I’ve heard a bunch of times, verbatim. And yeah everyone’s entitled to an opinion, blah blah blah, but I can’t help but feel that both “scenes” would benefit from a little cross-pollination.

The phenomenon goes both ways, too. I’ll sometime’s hear crotchety horror authors (of all ages, really), talking about how modern horror movies are crap (usually in an attempt to get people to check out their, uh, maybe-crap books) but if you engage them with “well have you seen [x]?” you find out that they don’t watch modern horror films.

That was a long answer. (*Editor’s Note: 263 words.) What was the question?

AllNightTerror300 2You’re a busy, busy man (although your columns almost always arrive on time)—what all do you have in the works right now?

Almost always?! Almost always? (BTW my next column might be late.)

I’ve got too many things in the works. I’m really excited about my next novel but don’t want to talk about it yet and jinx it. Not to play the guilt game but I’ll be able to write the new book a lot faster if people go over to Kindle Scout and nominate The Con Season. 🙂

This weekend I’ve got a book out with Sinister Grin Press that I co-wrote with Matt Serafini. It’s a collection of short stories called All-Night Terror. It’s actually a reissue of an e-book from 2013. But it’s now getting a paperback release and we’ve gone back and added 4 new short stories to it. Even if you have the old version, it’s now almost double the length. 

Thanks so much for talking with me, Blu!

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