By Marty Mulrooney
Tales From Lovecraft Middle School is a book series published by Quirk Books and written by Charles Gilman – the pen name of Jason Rekulak, an editor who lives in Philadelphia. Each book takes place in the haunted Lovecraft Middle School as seventh-grader Robert Arthur battles devils and demons while simply trying to fit in. To celebrate Halloween 2013, Alternative Magazine Online is proud to present an exclusive online interview with author Charles Gilman, where we talk about Lovecraftian monsters, school bullies and what makes the horror genre so appealing to readers both young and old!
Hi Mr Gilman, thank you for your time and welcome to AMO!
Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be “here.”
Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself please?
I am 42 years old and I have worked in book publishing my whole life. It is pretty much the only thing I ever wanted to do and I feel lucky that I found a way to do it. Geography (growing up close to Manhattan, the hub of US publishing) and dumb luck helped tremendously.
When did you first realise that you wanted to become a writer?
I have been writing stories and comics and scripts and other unclassifiable things for (literally) as long as I can remember. I don’t remember ever wanting to BE a writer; I just thought it was something I would do, in the way that other people cook or play golf or sing in a choir or whatever.
Your real name is Jason Rekulak – why did you decide to write under the name Charles Gilman?
My (Ukranian) last name is impossible to pronounce, and more importantly I thought a Lovecraftian pseudonym would be fun for this series. Charles Gilman takes his first name from “Charles Dexter Ward” and his last name from Walter Gilman of “The Dreams in the Witch-House.”
Is it safe to assume that you’re a fan of H. P. Lovecraft?
Yes, I really admire his contributions to horror and fantasy literature.
What is the premise of the Tales From Lovecraft Middle School book series?
It’s about two boys, Robert and Glenn, who attend a school in which many of the students and teachers are strange, bizarre, Lovecraftian monsters-in-disguise. Over the course of the series, the boys pick up friends and allies (like a two-headed rat) and they vanquish a different enemy in each story. You can see these enemies on the covers of the books: Professor Gargoyle, The Slither Sisters, and so on.
The front covers are fantastic! Did you have any input into their design?
Yes, in fact, we actually start each book with a lenticular cover, which shows the teachers or students morphing into monsters. I would basically suggest the concept (“snake sisters”) and then a very talented team of artists took over. They were a ton of work and I love how they turned out.
The main character (Robert Arthur) faces the challenge of attending a new school – is this a situation you can relate to?
Yes, I moved to a new school when i was 12 and I spent an unhappy year trying to acclimate to my new neighborhood.
I’ve read the first two books and I really enjoyed them – I particularly liked how the school bully ended up becoming Robert’s friend! What made you decide to make someone who was initially an antagonist for Robert an eventual ally?
I feel like this happens to kids all the time. The Best Man at my wedding was a guy that I couldn’t stand back in 9th grade. Why didn’t I like him? I don’t remember. By 10th grade, everything was different. He and I were the best of pals. What changed? I have no idea. He and I used to marvel at this.
Who provides the illustrations for each book and how does the collaborative process work?
Eugene Smith does the illustrations and he often finishes them before I’ve finished writing the books. I’ll usually outline the basics of a scene and then he will take it the rest of the way, inventing all kinds of brilliant details and flourishes. Often I will go back and rewrite my text to match details he has included in the illustrations! He’s really extraordinary and I feel lucky that I had the chance to work with him.
Who would you say the books are aimed at – do you have a particular audience in mind when writing them?
Not really. I just try to write an interesting story with language that is very clear and direct. I know these books are being marketed toward middle-grade kids but I get letters from adults, too.
What do you think it is that makes the horror genre so appealing to readers both young and old?
Real Life is scary! Horror lets us confront our worst fears in a safe setting.
What do you do to unwind when you’re not writing?
I try to spend as much time with my wife & kids as I can. I don’t know that I can call this “unwinding” but life is short and I will relax when I’m an old man!
Thank you for your time and I shall look forward to future instalments of Tales From Lovecraft Middle School!
Thank you so much!!