Howling At the Moon: An Interview With Max Booth III
Max Booth III is one hell of a talented creator, and one that wears many hats along the way. He’s written several novels and his short stories have appeared in various anthologies, such as Welcome to the Show and Garden of Fiends, his works oftentimes infusing horror and irreverent humor, his talents for gross-out moments balanced with the absurd. He’s also a publisher in his own right, operating the small press company Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, as well as the host of Castle Rock Radio, a comedic podcast centered around the works of Stephen King. If all that isn’t enough, you can even find him writing regularly as a columnist for LitReactor and as contributor to CrimeReads.
In February, Cinestate will be releasing his latest novel, Carnivorous Lunar Activities, the third release in their Fangoria Presents! line. Described as “a toxic cocktail of An American Werewolf in London, Old School, and Bubba Ho-Tep,” Booth’s newest novel promises to be one hell a Southern Fried horror story revolving around former best friends Ted and Justin.
Of Carnivorous Lunar Activities, Bird Box author Josh Malerman said, “Booth’s book is a breakthrough, from the conceit to the delivery. It’s funny but mean, smart but smartass, and it just might be your favorite werewolf story in the world. Carnivorous Lunar Activities starts out like a play, Grand Guignol, a couple of very compelling characters locked in a helluva conversation, before transforming into a blood-bright explosion of horror joy. Fucked up love, fucked up friendship, and how maybe you shouldn’t live past the best night of your life. Oh, how I loved this book.”
Hi Max! Welcome to High Fever Books!
First, give us the inside scoop on Carnivorous Lunar Activities. We know it’s a werewolf novel, but let’s dig a bit deeper. What’s it about and where did the inspiration come from? What sort of influences led to this book’s development?
So, I am a big fan of films and books that take place in a single setting and feature limited characters. In TV, they’re called “bottle episodes”. Think of movies like The Autopsy of Jane Doe, 12 Angry Men, and Hitchcock’s Rope. I am not quite sure why these setups are so appealing to me, but I eat ’em up like Halloween candy. Long, drawn-out conversations endlessly fascinate me. I’m somebody who despises flashbacks but loves when a character tells another character some insane, complicated story about something they’ve done.
The initial inspiration for Carnivorous Lunar Activities came from wanting to write a novel-length work that’s just one long conversation. To most people, this concept probably does not sound exciting, and I fully understand that, so I guess I’m gambling on a very small niche of people who also drool over this kinda stuff. As for how werewolves got into the mix, well, I just have a natural love for the little doggos and always wanted to feature them in a story.
This image came to mind early on, of a guy handing his best friend a pistol and asking him to shoot him with it. I became obsessed over this scene. It asks so many questions. Working through these questions is how the entire novel got written. The first draft I wrote consisted entirely of dialogue and nothing else. What would it take to convince someone to shoot their best friend? That’s what I set out to answer. I think, above all else, this is a novel about friendship. And also dick jokes.
In your novel The Nightly Disease, you wrote with an insider’s perspective from your background as a hotel night auditor. There’s a lot of crazy shit happening at The Goddamn Hotel, but were there any experiences you had that were too crazy to make into print? Or any occurrences since the book was released that you wish you could go back and add in?
My memory is often frustrating. I can remember specific events very clearly, but I can never decide when the events took place. Nothing in my head is ever…linear, I guess. I have a hard time now remembering what true stories from my night job I recycled into The Nightly Disease, and what occurred after the book came out. I know nothing ever happened that I would consider too crazy to write about. I feel pretty confident that I could make it believable enough in a story. Most people are pretty surprised when I tell them how much of the novel is autobiographical.
Recent events at my hotel, let’s see. Recently there’s been this woman who stays there who, during the day shift, will just stand in the lobby and stare at the front desk agents for hours at a time. I met her last night and noticed her standing next to the dining area window, watching the swimming pool outside for a solid hour. Everybody is very annoyed by her but I’m 100% confident she is an actual ghost. Nobody believes me, though. During New Year’s Eve, a father set his sleeping child on the couch in the lobby then went back outside to retrieve the rest of his luggage. He then went back up to his room. Twenty minutes later, I realized he’d forgotten his son.
Okay, actually one incident comes to mind now that I think about it. This happened after the hotel novel came out. This drunk stumbled in one night, around midnight, asking how much we’re charging for rooms. My system was in the process of rebooting, so I told him he’d have to wait a couple minutes before I could tell him a solid number. As we waited, he told me I would be giving him a discounted rate because of the company he worked for. I asked him if he had any identification proving he worked for the company, and he told me that he wasn’t gonna show me shit, which made me laugh a lot. I refused to give him the rate. He called me half-a-dozen insults then stormed out, only to return a couple minutes later carrying a construction helmet. He slammed the helmet on the front desk and shouted, “There! Is that proof enough for ya?” I informed him that was, indeed, not proof enough for me that he worked for the company. He started screaming at me and demanded I give him the phone number for our corporate office. I told him I wasn’t going to give him shit and ordered him to leave. He then lunged across the front desk at me. I grabbed him and dragged him the rest of way over and threw him down. His skull smashed into the wall, creating a hilarious head print that’s still visible nearly a year later. He got up and tried to tackle me but missed. He got up again and decided to hell with this and stumbled out of the hotel, taking his helmet with him.
So, yeah. That was interesting. I’m not somebody who fights and I’m sure if he hadn’t been drunker than shit he would have successfully murdered me. I guess I lucked out.
You run your own small press publishing house, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, and I know you rarely publish your own work through PMMP in order to avoid conflicts of interest. How much of a difference do you see in the works you acquire versus the works you create, or do you see a lot of overlap between the two? How differently do you approach publishing as an editor versus a writer?
I don’t know if there is a clear difference. I think a significant part of selling books depends on the strength of your social media presence, which is a sentence that nearly just made me vomit. Maybe I tend to take bigger risks when promoting my own stuff, as far as how crude and vulgar I can sometimes be, whereas with PMMP stuff I try to tone it down a bit since we’re talking about another author’s reputation here.
You work a lot of conventions, hustling hard to get your work and the work you release through PMMP out to readers. You’ve also lamented running into a lot of non-readers at various events. What’s one book you recommend to change the attitude of those non-readers and try to get them hooked on books?
Whenever someone tells me they don’t read too often at an event I’m doing, I usually try selling them a copy of Jessica McHugh The Green Kangaroos. It’s the kinda book that makes reading super fun. You got this new drug and to use it, you gotta shoot it straight into your testicles. It’s part noir, part science fiction, part horror, and 100% hilarious. Not really the typical book your English teacher assigns you, right? Anything McHugh writes is destined to bring a smile to her reader’s face, even the fucked-up and depressing bits.
Looking beyond Carnivorous Lunar Activities, you’ve got another book written that’s looking for a home. Can you tell us anything about or other projects you’ve got in the works? What else can we expect from you and from PMMP in 2019?
That’s true! Early last year I wrapped up a new novel tentatively titled Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them. It’s kind of a mix of Stranger Things and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and I really dig how it turned out. I have no news about when it’ll be published. I’m currently seeking agent representation and the search has not been great so far hahaha. I don’t know if I’m supposed to talk about stuff like that in interviews but who gives a fuck.
As far as stuff we’re releasing through Perpetual Motion Machine in 2019, expect another four issues of our magazine, Dark Moon Digest, along with George Daniel Lea’s Born in Blood (a story collection split into two volumes), Michael David Wilson’s The Girl in the Video (his first book!), W.P. Johnson’s The Eight Eyes That Watch You Die (a spider-themed story collection), and Tales From the Crust: An Anthology of Pizza Horror (co-edited by myself and David James Keaton). Oh! And I’m self-publishing a Christmas horror novel titled The Geezer in serial format over on our Patreon account. Anyone can read the installments by pledging $2 or more. This amount also gives you a digital subscription to Dark Moon Digest. You can find our Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/pmmpublishing
Where can readers find you? Give us your links!
Thank you so much for your time, Max! It was great talking with you!
Thank you for all the support, man. This has been a lot of run. Only thing else I’d like to quickly promote is a weekly comedy podcast I do with Lori Michelle titled Castle Rock Radio. Every episode we pick something Stephen King has written and just…kinda have fun with it. If you’re a Constant Reader, I highly recommend you check it out. We’re nearly at the two-year mark now and it’s stronger than ever. It’s available wherever you listen to podcasts, but you can check us out at www.CastleRockCast.com.