Interview by: John Wisniewski
Author Gary Lovisi owns Gryphon Publications, an American independent publishing company specializing in contemporary pulp stories. The company publishes Lovisi’s own writing as well as that of other authors and Hardboiled Magazine (quarterly). Gryphon published Other Worlds magazine, edited by Lovisi, between 1988 and 1996.
When did you begin writing and what were your first published stories?
I have been writing since I was a kid and wrote in school, and later as a teenager, doing some of my own versions of Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter of Mars and Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories. Never for publication, but just for myself. Some of those early books — with a heavy rewrite — are actually being published now. They all had a certain wild enthusiasm that captured the original work and were very imitative, but they were fun. My Jon Kirk of Ares books — three so far, and more to come — are based on John Carter, for instance and have been published by Wildside Press.
My first published stories appeared in a bunch of very small and limited circulation fanzines in the later 1970s. They were not great, but I think they showed talent. Thing is, I am a self-taught writer, writing what I want to write about. Whether it is fiction or non-fiction, the subject has to move me, it has to be something I am interested in.
Would you consider yourself to be a “pulp writer”? Are you influenced by pulp writing?
Not a pulp writer in the true sense, as the real pulp era ended in the 1950s, and I wasn’t even around then, but yes, I do write in that style — and it is a style. Pulp writers are more concerned with action and adventure and with plot — the actual story, and/or the characters. That is opposed t, so-called literary fiction which I do not like, which is mostly pretense in my view, and mostly only worthwhile because of its experimental qualities. Pulp fiction takes in a lot of areas and types of stories, and there are different levels of pulp. While pulp writing has been traditionally put down and looked down upon by the literary establishment and critics, that has been changing. There are a lot of fine writers who wrote pulp fiction in the old days, and more so today.
I am very much influenced — some people tell me too much — by pulp writing. I love the action, adventure, the horror, the crime, the intricate plots and ideas — and the real heroic characters that we do not see enough of these days. In science fiction — there is the ‘sense of wonder’. You do not get that in other fiction, and that is what I like to read and write.
Any favorite authors, Gary?
I already mentioned two of my favorites writers, Burroughs — Edgar Rice — not William — and Howard. But there are so many more. I like pulp fiction and other types of writing in all genres, I love Lovecraft’s horror; but also the hard-boiled fiction of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane, the noir of James M. Cain, the westerns of Clair Huffaker, Ernest Haycox, and a LOT of SF & F. Tolkien, Moorcock, Philip K. Dick, Asimov, Fred Brown (his sf & crime), there is just so much. I also like a lot of new authors and some of them have influenced my writing, Simon Scarrow’s brilliant Marco & Cato Roman army series — is historical adventure fiction at its best. In fact, I have just written a book set in the Ancient Roman world, Augustus The Undefeated. I also like military SF like Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series and Walter H. Hunt’s Dark Wing books (4) which are terrific military SF. I love military and crime science fiction and outright history in certain areas. So there are a lot of influences — probably too many — but it all grist for the ever churning idea mill. I write in all genres of fiction, as well as many non-fiction articles and books about rare books, book collecting, cover art, artists, genres, series. I have interviewed many authors, artists, publishers and editors, some of whom have been my heroes and become friends. So it is really cool to be able to meet these people, or be in contact with them. I have a lot of interests and am never bored.
Do you write screenplays, and any favorite films?
No, I have never written a screenplay, that is an almost impossible business to break into and I do not like to write on spec, which is what I would have to do — many scripts without getting a hit with even an option. I have a LOT of favorite films, in all genres, crime, noir, Bogie, Errol Flynn, most of the great old classic material, Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes. Too many to mention here.
Do films influence your writing?
Films (and hard rock and heavy metal music) do influence my writing, I see images in my head, voices in my mind as I write putting pen to paper. People have said that my writing is very visual and is full of film-like imagery. I think that is especially true in my genre work, SF, crime, private eye, and even western fiction. I am happy to hear that.
What do you like about the western genre?
A lot of westerns are actually hard-boiled action pulp novels, and I like that hard edge attitude. I also like the historical context which can also be hard-boiled and interesting. At one time westerns were the most published genre in the US, now they have been relegated to a corner in the book stores and few western novels and stories appear, which is a shame. I like to write them when the opportunity presents itself and I have written one novel and about eight stories for various anthologies.
What will your next book be about, Gary? Could you tell us about future projects?
There are a few things I am working on now. Sherlock Holmes & Mr. Mac: The Lost Cases, is done now and will feature two novellas about these two detectives in their most deadly cases. Mr. Mac was the one detective that Watson wrote that the great Sherlock Holmes respected. It is a fun book. I have just finished the first draft of my new military war series set in Ancient Rome, Augustus The Undefeated: The Sicilian: Book #1, about one of Caesar’s most trusted agents. My Sherlock Holmes story “The Wrinkled Yeti of the Club Foot and His Abominable Life” has just appeared in Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine #20, and later this year it will be included with four other stories in The Secret Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Book Three. I will soon begin work on the next one, or perhaps two, science fiction pulp adventure novels in my Jon Kirk of Ares series, the first three books are out now, so this will be book four, and perhaps book five. I have no titles for them yet. Fantastic fantasy artist Marcus Boas will probably do the cover art on both books, as he did for the first three in that series. He is just great! Articles on artists Don Maitz will appear in the US in Illustration magazine, and on Peff in the UK magazine Illustrators. And of course I am always writing articles for my own book collector magazine, Paperback Parade, issue #93 has just come out. So I do keep busy.