1) Is Mort Castle a pseudonym or your real name? It's a great name for a horror writer!
It's my real name, Morton Castle, and I, of course, go by "Mort" rather than "Morty," because you only want to be called Morty if you're Mickey Mouse's nephew.
Mort Castle, and, as Rex Miller told me, with that name, what choice did I have about writing horror?
Funny story: Some years ago, I met one of my heroes, that master of the elegant jazz violin, Stephan Grappelli. I asked him to sign a few record covers for me, but then, when he heard my name, he crossed himself, and explained he could not write "To Death." He signed the albums, "Good luck."
2) Tell www.buried.com about yourself: (Biography)... ... .
54 years old but look considerably younger, thanks to the set screw I had implanted above the nape of my neck; every six months, I give it one turn and my extra chins disappear.
Married to Jane for almost 30 years. Lived in the town of Crete, Illinois for a few years longer than that. At various times I've been a working musician-guitar, banjo, mandolin, anything with strings- (one smash flop album straight to the cut-out bins in 1965), a standup comic, a stage hypnotist, a high school English teacher (that little stint lasted a mere 11 years), a magazine and comic book editor, and today and a whole lot of yesterdays, for want of a better term, I am a "freelance language arts consultant," meaning I'll work with anyone who wants write. In that capacity, I'm writer in residence for three high schools, and teaching "Researching and Writing Historical Fiction" at Chicago's Columbia College.
Oh, yeah, I've been writing for a while. I published my first novel in 1967, have seen all sorts of shorter things in all sorts of places, everything from lit mags like OYEZ REVIEW to bare tushy magazines like DAPPER and SIR!, women's mags like TRUE SECRETS, anthologies like ADVENTURES OF THE BATMAN and all four of the MASQUES series, comic books, everything except book length romances and hardcore raunch.
3) What was the most appealing thing about horror fiction for you?
It was really with my horror writing that I first came to realize I could take myself seriously as an artist, that I could do what every artist in any medium does: Try to find answers, or at least insights, into the One Big Question: What does it mean to be a human being?
Horror lets us see "people under pressure," and some of them display old Papa Hemingway's brand of courage, "Grace under pressure," and some of them display chicken guts under pressure and some of them become monsters under pressure-
-and the reason for was is that I've come to realize I can tackle that question again and again without trying to conform to or worrying about anyone's definition of horror. Or of "dark fantasy," or of mainstream literature, or literary literature, or post modern, millennial non-linear retro-subtextural how's your Mom Ed prose.
I'm writing "Mort Castle stuff," trying to make it the best I can, and I am no longer terribly concerned about whether it's even fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a performance piece.
That I have found an audience with "horror readers" is very satisfying, as is my finding an audience with fantasy readers, and mystery readers, and literary readers.
Truly, today, I say I have my niche audience: People who can and do choose to read.
4) Some writers say that what they write doesn't have much to do with themselves-others say that their writing is very much influenced by their own experiences. How is this with you?
Oh, man, that's me on the page. I'll bend some facts, throw in personality tics, traits, and twitches from him, her, and that dude over there to make one character, but that's autobiography in some filtered form or other.
Or at least it is in my best stuff, the work that I'm hoping will be judged capital "A" art and be around for some decades after Ye Olde Mortal Mort ain't.
Here's a slice from "Dani's Story," from my selected stories in the collection, MOON ON THE WATER:
There are voices, you know, and they talk to me--after hours. Truth is, I'm hearing them more and more often. I don't sleep well, not anymore, and so, two or three in the morning, I'm up reading, trying to write, trying not to feel sad, whatever. And it is then "The After Hours Voices... " ... they don't scream. They are soft, insistent, and regretful. They are not unlike the haze around a mountain peak in an Oriental painting, and just as real.
And when that got written, well, that was none other than Moi talkin' on the page.
5) What is the weirdest true life thing that happened to you that if you wrote it down would read like fiction?
Years back, lying in the hospital after a bad car wreck I knew with absolute certainty that I was a 15 year old girl who'd lost a leg and died in that bed. Her presence entered me totally.
And you know what? If you had as much morphine in you right now as I did then, why, hey, I'll bet you might be convinced you had a past life as a microwave oven in the kitchen of Princess Di.
6) Who is YOUR favorite horror author.
Too many to list any one favorite-it would be like saying I listen to only Ella Fitzgerald. But I always admire Jerry Williamson, because he never writes down to a reader and never panders to some schlepper's perception of an audience. James Ellroy, because he understands that it's all about sin and redemption. Stephen King, because he is pure gutsball, a guy who has 100% honest conversations with the guy in the mirror. The old master, Hemingway, because he understood that it is so frightening out there in the pues y nada that you need a clean, well lighted place-and, for the same reason, David Morrell.
Of the new kids on the block, I think Steve Savile will have staying power and I always read him with interest: his goal is up there in the House of God and not at the foot of the mountain.
7) In addition to writing novels and short stories you also have written for comics. Which format do you enjoy working on the most?
Comics are much more fun for a very simple reason. Despite my having written 50-60 issues of this comic and that, and my editing plenty more, I'm still happily ignorant about much of the craft. There's still lots I can do and discover, and coming across the "new" stuff, being in the "early learning" stage, is always fun. In comics, I don't have to work too hard to avoid repeating myself.
In prose or poetry, because I've been doing this so long, I've got to work hard to avoid falling into creative ruts. I'm not trying to write the same story again that I did when I was 27-only now I have a cel phone instead of a telephone booth and the protagonist stops off at an ATM instead of dropping into his bank.
But, of course, I don't know that "fun" is my primary goal!
8) Anything you want to add?
Yeah: Sometimes it just amazes me how much "good stuff" is out there-good paintings, good music, good drama, good films, and good writing. And with all that good to be found, I'm so gratified and grateful that there is an audience for what I do.