Television singing sensation Calvin Hubbard has been caught with his hand in cookie jar. An illicit affair with a contest judge costs him not only the competition crown, but his musical credibility as well. Fleeing the media fallout, Calvin exiles himself to the backwoods town of Harvey, Virginia. With a little solitude and a lot of cheap beer, he plans to write the next great rock and roll album and resurrect his career. But Calvin doesn't know that a man has just been buried alive in the woods outside of town, and that this quiet murder is just the first in a string of macabre events. As the town goes silently mad around him, Calvin is unable to abandon the record of his dreams. Drunk on inspiration and blinded by an inexplicable lust, he careens headlong into the maelstrom, only to discover that he may be the town's only salvation. Something is alive in the trees—an ageless, nameless evil—and it's coming for everyone in Harvey. Now Calvin has to decide whether to run or to stay and fight… if it isn’t already too late.
HARVEY by Phil Rossi is the perfect example of horror and music coming together. Not only is the main character a musician, but so is the author. The story itself has a supernatural riff that flows through the mystery surrounding a recent killing spree. What begins as a crime-thriller quickly develops into a blistering mix of folklore and savagery.
Rossi does a stellar job of drawing readers in on several different levels at once. Why would someone bury their drinking buddy alive? Why did Calvin flee to a small town in the middle of nowhere? What in the hell is Jeremy's malfunction? Why do the police keep finding dirt everywhere? Harvey is literally the root of all evil.
You don't read Rossi's stories, you feel them.
Instead of featuring a band this week, I thought I'd bring Phil Rossi into the Lair...
My relationship with horror goes way back. Back to when I was just a kid—I'm talking around 10 or 11 years old. I came across a copy of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark at my Elementary School Book Fair and, begrudgingly, my parents picked it up for me. I don't think I slept for a month or more after my first read through. I devoured that book in spite of the monsters it placed outside my bedroom window and under my bed. A little later, I started watching HBO's Tales from the Crypt series. My buddy Vinnie and I would watch it together every Sunday night. And I'll tell you this, some nights the walk home---just across the street and up my dark driveway—often turned into a full out sprint. In the fifth grade, I started telling my friends ghost stories at recess and at birthday parties, and that routine continued through middle school. I loved drawing my friends in with the little (and probably silly) stories I used to tell. It was more than once that my pals would come to me the next day and tell me they couldn't sleep the night before. Always put a smile on my face. In this day and age, my parents probably would have been on the receiving end of a lot of phone calls from the other parents. I don't remember those stories too well, just fragments and images, really—but some of these fragments have made their way into my stories and books as an adult.
Unlike other writers who usually go with the typical author blog, you’ve found a way to utilize podcasting for your story-telling. Does that make creating new stories easier or more complicated? Is there more pressure in writing when working with so many different forms of social media?
The short answer—it definitely makes things more complicated, but I don't think in a bad way. Podcasting my fiction certainly adds more steps and many more hours to the process, what with recording narration, editing that narration, and adding score and sound effects to some of the stories. The production piece takes a lot of time, tenderness, and love and though it often leaves me red-eyed and weary, I enjoy it immensely. In terms of the social media piece, for me it's a choose your battles wisely scenario. There are an overwhelming number of social media channels out there. I've picked the few platforms that work for me and focus on those. Most recently, Instagram has become my preferred social media outlet, but I still utilize Twitter and less so, Facebook.
From my first podcast novel, Crescent, music has played a pretty prominent role. In part, yes, I created my own music to set the mood and atmosphere for certain passages. But in other ways, it became a way for me to explore those parts of the story from a wholly different perspective. The marriage of music and prose has continued on since those early days. More than once the song-writing bit has influenced, changed, or even spawned new sections of narrative altogether. In some cases, as with a some of the stories on Patreon, the music is not featured in the story itself, but rather as an extra—a musical interpretation of the story. Joining these two creative disciplines—music and writing—has also been a way to make sure I get that music fix in my life, too. I found out—the hard way—that I can't live with just one or the other. If I had the bandwidth to create soundtracks for every project—standalone or integrated in the podcast, I would do just that.
How much of Harvey is based on your own life? Do you draw inspiration from real life experiences?
There's a common adage which I'm sure you've heard—write what you know. For me, that's less of an instructional imperative and rather just what happens during the creative process—sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously. In recent years, I have drawn on some pretty difficult and personal situations in my writing and that's been a hard thing for me to do. It's been a way to face some tough emotions and events that I'd otherwise drop into a lock box and kick into the ocean, and it's a useful tool in creating characters and happenings that are sincere and real. I'm still figuring that all out. Ha! As for Harvey, there are some aspects grounded in my own life—specifically from my experiences as a performing musician and as song-writer and others simply based some of the sights and sounds nearby.
Authors often have a common theme in their various stories. Your theme seems to be psychological, i.e. screwing with reader’s minds, more reminiscent of the horror genre in the 80s and early 90s. Is this deliberate or do you ever write something so off-the-wall, you wonder where it came from?
The psychological horror of the early 80's and 90's and some newer entries—I'll go with film as an example--like Hereditary and the Conjuring have always been my favorite. That's how I chase my own scares and those are the kinds of scares I like to deliver. It's deliberate in the way that this is my preference and this is what I know best. Have I ever written something so off-the-wall, I wonder where it came from? Sure. This does tend to happen. My story the Hand of Glory completely went of the rails on me and I love it. So. Yeah. While my tales have a psychological bent, they can also get down-right visceral. I think sometimes that juxtaposition in and of itself can be chilling. Hereditary utilized that juxtaposition in a way that was both delicate and unforgettable, creating a truly disturbing experience—Scene from that flick still pop into my head unexpected. The sticks with you on both of those levels.
Do you think you’ll ever expand your storytelling into film? Is that something you would like to do eventually?
Absolutely. I would love to do that at some point. I love film—such a powerful medium. Ten years ago, I sold the film rights to Crescent and even wrote my first screen play, so I have just a wee bit of experience there—enough to know I enjoy it. I've also done some film scoring work for another superb author and film talent Jack Kincaid(Edict Zero). I loved the process. So, we'll see what happens in the future. I would totally dig finding someone to work with on short films as a start.
The depth of content. There is a deep back catalog of stories and new stories every month. There are also the "story extras." I think this sets me apart from other campaigns because these extras aren't just eBook version of the stories, bonus behind the scenes episodes, or cover art and the like. The extras are put together specifically to enhance the atmosphere of that month's story. A photo of the murder house. A voicemail from the missing woman. A spooky video transmission. All of these fun, little extras build the mood and anticipation leading up to the day that new story drops. I try to do this as often I as I can. It takes some extra time but, in the end, the listeners really seem to enjoy it. Beyond that sort of extra, there are also musical extras—the soundtracks mentioned previously. There are the eBook versions of the stories. Podcast production session videos. Signed books. The Discord community. The list is even longer than that...but I think you get the idea. In 2019, via the Discord community I'm going to start doing what I'm calling "Fire-side Chats" which will be real-time, audio discussions with my pledges from select reward tiers utilizing Discord. I'll be recording these sessions and making them available as podcasts as an additional reward.
What are your plans for 2019? Will you be making any convention appearances?
I'm looking into some conventions, including Northern Virginia's All Star Comic Con, but I haven’t made any firm commitments yet. It's a matter of what's in the budget, really. I say that because I'm releasing the follow-up to my earlier book Eden this year (and soon) first as a podcast but then as a print and eBook, and of course there are costs associated with that process. I've got some new podcasts concepts that will be coming to life in 2019, including a podcast about the writing process—not nuts and bolts type stuff—but what it's like to be a writer that also has a full time job, side jobs, kids, wife, dogs, bills, stress and so on. Real life, essentially. And I just might be collaborating on something in the realm of True Crime. I plan to continue my horror gaming streams on Twitch as well. Twitch has proven to be a fun outlet and a remarkable way to not only connect with my existing Patreon pledges but also bring new pledges into the fold. Talking about my stories while under the nail-biting pressure of Resident Evil or The Exorcist VR has been a pretty wild, challenging, and downright fun thing to do.
You can find out more about author and musician Phil Rossi on his Patreon page.