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A Ripple Conversation With Dee Calhoun

Posted on the 05 March 2021 by Ripplemusic
A Ripple Conversation With Dee Calhoun

A Ripple Conversation With Dee CalhounIf you’re into heavy music, especially of doomier kind, the name Dee Calhoun is very familiar. A multi-instrumentalist, Dee is known as a formidable singer and that was the situation when I first encountered him. At that time he fronted the band After Therapy but he came into prominence not long after when the legendary Maryland doomsters, Iron Man, brought him in. And it’s been a pleasure ever since to see his progress on stage. However, not many people might be familiar with the other side of him. While Iron Man was on a hiatus, which sadly became permanent when guitar maestro Al Morris sadly passed away, Dee was already in full swing with a solo career to keep himself busy. But in the midst of this he splintered off once more and became an author, as well. And that’s how this interview came about, to focus on Dee’s newer side. That of a non-music storyteller. Prior to our chat Mr.Calhoun has published three books: ‘Tales Of The Screaming And Mad’ (2015), a collection of short stories; ‘Jesus, Devil, Deed’ (2017), a novella; ‘Down The Rabid Hole. A Collection Of Tales And Poems’ (2019), a collection of stories and poems. Come April 23rd 2021, his first full novel, ‘One Whore’s Town’ will be published.

Those who have followed your career closely know about Dee the author but for the bigger audience you are still Dee the singer only. Hopefully this can be rectified today and open up the full scope of who Dee Calhoun really is. So, to start everything off, how long had it been in your mind to write when ‘Tales Of The Screaming And Mad’ came about? And was it deliberate to do short stories?

I had dabbled in short stories for a long time, but very sporadically. The stories for ”Tales” came about while I was working overnights, and stumbled into a Reddit page that featured submitted horror stories of 500 words or less. I started reading them and thought, ”hey, I can do this”, and started writing and posting. I got really into it, and ideas started flooding in. After a while I decided that if I ended up with enough stories to fill a book that I would publish them. That’s how it all started.

Were any of those stories written purely for that book or were they originally song ideas?

They were all purely for the book. When I decided to publish, I did go back and resurrect some older stories that I wrote in the 1990s, but they were all born as story ideas.

Being both a songwriter and a bookwriter is it difficult to keep both apart? Or do you just let the words flow and see where it leads you? Has one idea intended for music switched to story or vice versa?

I always let the ideas overlap. A lot of my songs are just stories set to music, so they intertwine nicely. There have been instances where the song came first, and the song’s narrative begged to be fleshed out in more detail, and then the story came along.

What set your writing in motion?

Really, it just kind of fell into my lap. I started writing the stories I mentioned for the Reddit site, and it grew from there. With that format I received a lot of good feedback, and it gave me the confidence to pursue writing more

I listened to your second solo album, ‘Go To The Devil’, a long time before I got my hands on your second work, the novella 'Jesus, Devil, Deed'. Once I had read it, I discovered the novella had turned into one of the main songs on your second solo album, 'Go To The Devil'. Was that intentional? If not, which came first?

The song came first, but the novella was published before ‘Go To The Devil’ was released. I wrote and demoed the song, and a little voice in me kept saying ”there’s more there, there’s more to this story.” I started becoming interested in how the character came to be in the place he was, and what transpired when he sat down with Jesus and the Devil to lay out his bargain. It was great fun to see it all unfold.

To me this novella would be an excellent movie. Have you toyed with the idea of turning ‘Jesus, Devil, Deed’ into a script and have it filmed?

Yes, and the screenplay is written. I adapted it about three years ago. The idea was presented, but it's kind of on the wish list right now. It would definitely be a fun project to have at.

How come you didn't make your third book, 'Down The Rabid Hole. A Collection Of Tales And Poems' your first novel?

At the time, the idea of attempting a novel scared the shit out of me. ‘Jesus, Devil, Deed’ was my first long-form writing, and I learned how important organization was. I started writing stories again because I had an artist friend show me some of her work, and I wrote some stories based upon what I saw in her drawings. That got the ball rolling again, and Rabid Hole was the result. The drawings that she sent me are included in the book.

Moving on to your latest creation, 'One Whore's Town'. This is your first full novel, so tell me, where did you get the inspiration from to write it?

One day I was sitting and reflecting on my marriage ending, and the events that followed. I wondered what might come of it if I pushed the conditions of those events to the Nth degree, and added some supernatural elements. One Whore’s Town was the result.

Prior to the publication of 'One Whore's Town' you were offered a publishing deal. In the end you decided against it. Why?

One thing I’ve gotten used to with my solo music and my writing is creative freedom. I’m not in any of this for the riches, I do it because I enjoy it, and because others seem to enjoy it to. For the hell of it, I submitted the novel’s manuscript to several small publishers and was honored and amazed to actually get some offers. There were conditions with each offer though, ranging from out of pocket expenses to: ”we may need to change the title.” In the end, I decided to do what I’ve been doing.

There was also talk of you writing a collection of stories based in Twilight Zone episodes written by the legendary Rod Serling. But it has yet to materialize. What happened?

A Ripple Conversation With Dee Calhoun
I knew that anything done like that would have legalities involved, so I contacted Rod Serling’s estate. They loved the idea, but unfortunately CBS owns all the rights to anything Twilight Zone-related, including Mr. Serling’s scripts and characters. The estate provided me the contact at CBS, and I contacted them. They said no to the idea. It was a let-down, but they were very prompt and professional with their response, and I greatly appreciated that. With that idea shot down, I decided to move forward with One Whore’s Town.


Was the basis of 'One Whore's Town' intended for the Twilight Zone stories?

No, it was it’s own thing.

I have personally followed your career for quite some time, both Dee the musician and Dee the author. And I feel a lot of what you write are things you've experienced in your personal life, especially in your music. But a lot carries over to your books. Am I wrong in the assessment?

You are 100% correct. I had a friend say to me: ”I didn’t know this was autobiographical” when she read ‘Jesus, Devil, Deed’. I’ve always maintained that I write what I feel, and that goes for books as well as music.

Relating to the previous question, how much of 'One Whore's Town' is self-experienced?

Only in the skeletal aspects of it. Man loses family, goes to a remote area in the wake of it, and experiences hell as a result.

Do you mind telling me a little bit more in-depth about 'One Whore's Town', you know a little bit more without giving everything away?

Not at all. It’s the story of a husband and father who loses his wife and daughter in an auto accident. He survives, and feels enormous sorrow and guilt. He’s accidentally reminded of something from his childhood, and decided to return to his parents’ old vacation spot in rural West Virginia to drown his sorrows and then kill himself. While there, he attracts the interest of a demon and finds himself fighting for his life, even though he wants to die.

Who is Danny Miller in 'One Whore's Town'?

Danny is the protagonist, and the main character of the book.

Is Danny Miller and extension of you?

No, not in a literal sense. And he's in better shape and better looking hahaha.

Which authors, if any, inspires you? Past and present.

Many of the masters. HP Lovecraft, Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Terry Pratchett, Brian Keene.

In what way did they influence you?

They mainly planted the seeds that grew my love for horror and writing, and made me want to participate. Take the styles of guy like Poe and Lovecraft. Their writing styles aren't present in how I write but them writing what they did made me want to do it too.

How does it feel to have finally published your first novel?

It was a wonderful experience, maybe the most fun I’ve ever had with a creative project. Seeing the story unfold, and getting to know the characters was amazing to me. There was an enormous amount of satisfaction when it was finished, but also a little bit of sadness; those characters became friends, and it was sad to say good-bye to them. Some of them will definitely be revisited in the future.

Tell me, how does stories and songs come to you? And do they come easily?

I've always been inspired by the things around me, and things that happen to me or those around me. I'm never hurting for subjects to write about. Writing lyrics always came very easily, stories took some work.

Is it easy for you to write, or do you have to dig in and really work?

Some days are easier than others, but I guess that's true of anything. The days when the ideas flow easily are a blessing, but the days when you have to battle them a little bit is ultimately what shapes you, I think. The common denominator is that it's always rewarding, whether it's easy or difficult. I just got home from Spiral Grave rehearsal and wrote a lyric on the spot for a new song. The guys thought it was something that I brought in that I'd written earlier, and were impressed when I said "no, I wrote it while I was sitting here." Moments like that are magical.

Our conversation is drawing to an end and it's been a pleasure talking to Dee. Obviously he can't give out the whole story of his upcoming novel, that's you dear wave riders to find out! And while you do, check out his other published work as well. It's pretty damned good.

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