Persona Cracked is a series that explores the intersection of artists, their work, and social media. My next guest, Max Booth III, lives in San Antonio and is an author, screenwriter, and publisher known mostly for his contributions to the horror genre. His latest novel, Maggots Screaming!, is set for release in April.
Who is Max Booth I and II, and how do you compare to them?
My grandfather died before I was born. I’m told he was a scientist, and may have been on the team that invented fake leather. He drank himself to death. I am neither a scientist nor an alcoholic. I am also currently alive. So I guess we are pretty different in that regard.
My father worked at a steel mill for forty-ish years. The longest I’ve held a job was eight years, and that was at a hotel. The longest I’ve held a physically demanding job was nine months. I don’t know how my dad lasted so long at the mill. I would have broken, both physically and mentally, long before he did. He is still alive. We have that in common. We also both yawn the same way.
You’re a young, prolific force in dark fiction. Your first novel, Toxicity, was released in 2014 when you were 21. It is 2022, you’re not even 30, and your list of publications is long enough to make writers like me over 40 double-down on a mid-life crisis. Do you think your age helps your writing connect with a horror audience? Is there any drawback to not being over 40?
When I was 13, we lost our house and moved in a hotel. I was withdrawn from school, secluded from my friends, and mainly isolated from society. For the next several years, I lived in various hotels around Northern Indiana with my parents. I had a laptop. I used that laptop every day, mostly for writing. I imagine spending my teenage years doing almost nothing but reading and writing is what helped launch my career so early in life. No writer is good immediately. It takes year and years of practice. For a lot of writers, they don’t really exercise those skills at great length until their twenties. I was forced into a situation that allowed me to do this as a teenager.
I don’t know if my age helps me connect with horror audiences. Maybe so. I try to pay attention to things like the horror lit subreddit, and I’m slowly trying to embrace TikTok even if I kind of despise it, and I know a lot of older writers are more hesitant to attempt things like that, which I understand. Nothing feels more embarrassing to me than admitting I have a TikTok account. Imagine a pulp writer in the 1950s hearing about TikTok. They’d beat the shit out of you.
What is the greatest decade in horror? How do you know?
I tend to prefer the horror films of the 1970s. There’s just a certain vibe, a certain patience, that I really love. But, honestly, it’s difficult not to suggest the current decade—or the previous one—as contenders, as far as books go. It truly feels like we are living in a golden age of indie horror. Look at everything Nightfire is putting out. Look at Stephen Graham Jones’s career finally blowing up. Plus, on the film-side, we have people like Jordan Peele practically making every new horror movie feel like an EVENT. I love it.
This is probably the best and funniest writing advice I’ve ever heard:
Thanks! I hope people give it a try.
Who are your favorite authors? What do you like about them? What have they taught you about writing?
Kathe Koja, Josh Malerman, Stephen King, Joe R. Lansdale…all of these writers, well…it kinda ties into the video you linked above. They’re all clearly having fun with their writing. They’re having a good time. They love what they do, and it shows. They’ve taught me that there are no restrictions when it comes to writing. No boxes to be cornered in. Just write what you want to write!
We Need to Do Something (2021) is a horror film based on your novella. You wrote the screenplay and also were credited as co-producer. What’s more fun, writing fiction or filmmaking?
Writing fiction is always great, and I will probably prefer it over anything else for the rest of my life, but there’s a certain unique kind of fun with filmmaking due to the collaborative process. Writing a book is a very solitary act, that usually results in minimal results. Compare that to filmmaking. Dozens if not hundreds of people are working together to get this thing made. We all have the same goal. It’s nuts. I love it. Plus, if 1000 people read my book, multiple that by 10 for the minimum amount of people who are going to watch the film adaptation. It’s a whole new ballgame, baby.
Two anthologies you edited were inspired by two of my favorite authors: So it Goes: a Tribute to Kurt Vonnegut (2013) and Long Distance Drunks: a Tribute to Charles Bukowski (2014). Do you have any interest in expanding further into other genres, besides horror?
I’ve written crime novels in the past. I’m not opposed to returning to them, and I have plans for writing other ones someday. So yeah. Much how Lansdale will write in any genre that pleases him, I aspire to have a similar path in my own career. I have a very long science fiction novel I’ve been working on here and there for the last couple years, actually. It’s not even close to being finished, as it’s more of a side project I return to every few months, but I think it’s gonna be something pretty cool one day.
What’s funny, and scary, about Maggot’s Screaming!?
What’s scary about Maggots Screaming! is it examines the human body in a very unflinching way. It’s an existential kind of book. We are all given these bodies, and one day each and every one of them will fail. Bodies breakdown. They rot. And it doesn’t matter how much money you have, how much sex you have, how many books you write, there is nothing in this world that will stop the process. One day you will die. There is no escape.
And what’s funny about Maggots Screaming! is also all those same things.
Through Ghoulish Books, my small press, we have a lot of fun titles coming out in 2022. So check out our catalog at www.ghoulishbooks.com to see what’s going on there. On April 30th and May 1st we are throwing the inaugural Ghoulish Book Festival in downtown San Antonio. Go to www.ghoulishbookfest.com for more details—badges are still available! Writing-wise, I’m currently working on something that’s 90% memoir and 10% monster story called Indiana Death Song. I have no idea when that will be available. My personal website is www.talesfromthebooth.com and people can follow me on Twitter @GiveMeYourTeeth.
Thank you for sharing your story!
Ryan Hyatt, March 6, 2022