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RLK! EXCLUSIVE Author interview:

RLK! is delighted to be able to bring you this exclusive interview with Barry Hoffman - author, magazine editor, publisher and all-round-nice-guy! We'd like to thank Barry for his time and effort with this interview.

Richard Laymon Kills!: Hi Barry, it's an honor to finally get the chance to interview you.

Barry Hoffman: The honor's mine. I'm a great fan of Dick Laymon and I appreciate your taking the time to interview me.

RLK!: Let's start with your "EYES" series of horror novels. Where did the idea for the first novel, HUNGRY EYES, come from?

BH: I get many of my ideas from the news. In the early-nineties there was the story of this extraordinary case in the New York Post (my favorite newspaper). An eleven year old girl Katie Beers had been kidnapped by a neighbor. The police suspected she was in the neighbor's house (almost next door to where the child had lived), but two searches of the house proved futile. Finally, almost by accident, a bunker was found under the house and so was Katie Beers. She was then taken away from her mother and put with a foster family when authorities deemed her mother negligent and unfit. Katie Beers hasn't been heard from since. The case struck a cord with me immediately. I've always been intrigued by those who have been victimized. Katie Beers suffered from dual victimization; her mother and the kidnapping. So the question that came to my mind was how would this trauma effect her as she became an adult? Some victims such at Katie Beers succumb to alcohol or drugs. Some become suicidal. Some become abusers of their own children, while some marry husbands who abuse them. Others lead normal lives. Renee (who changes her name to Shara) in HUNGRY EYES goes a step further. HUNGRY EYES begins twelve years after the initial ordeal (her kidnapping is fictionalized with many twists and turns to differentiate it from the Katie Beers case).

RLK!: Did you have plans to make it a series, or was this to be only a single novel?

BH: HUNGRY EYES was meant to be a stand-alone novel. The reason I enjoy writing novels rather than short stories is I can really plumb the depths of my character. Characterization is the single most important aspect of my novels. So, I THOUGHT I turned Shara inside out and upside down with nothing left to say about her once I'd concluded the novel. The agent I had at the time thought the ending was too ambiguous for publishers (I don't write neat and tidy endings. I like to surprise the reader and maybe even leave them feeling a bit uncomfortable). He suggested a sequel to placate publishers who might show interest in HUNGRY EYES. I was reluctant, but . . . I let it fester in my mind. I needed something to tie up some of the loose ends without repeating myself.

RLK!: EYES OF PREY was the sequel, but it took a different path by featuring a new lead character. Did you have a particular reason for doing this?

BH: A new central character was the vehicle to continue Shara's tale without simply regurgitating what I'd said before. I think one of the problems with series (and this was NOT yet a series, just a sequel) is the main character becomes stale. One way to keep it fresh is to feature another character and have the focus of the series shift a bit. The book is about Lysette and many of those who had made brief appearances in HUNGRY EYES saw their role increase dramatically (Briggs, the gruff but vulnerable homicide detective in particular). Shara makes brief appearances throughout the novel. It's not until about two-thirds through that her presence is really felt. And, despite myself Shara began to take over in that last portion of EYES OF PREY. There's not a lot of introspection regarding Shara's character in the final portion of the book, but she begins to control events. I think it was then that I saw the power of Shara as the lead in the series. Originally I had considered Deidre Caffrey, a reporter, as a possible series lead. But, while she plays of more significant role early in EYES OF PREY, she can't stand up to Shara.

RLK!: What made you want to write the sequel? Was it the characters who called you back?

BH: As I said, I initially wrote the sequel with reluctance at the suggestion of my then-agent. The characters "called me back" as you say three years later with the third book in the series JUDAS EYES. After EYES OF PREY I was done with Shara and that cast of characters. As much as I enjoyed them I wanted to create an entirely new set of characters. I did so with BORN BAD and two other stand-alone novels. But, Shara (not the other characters) kept drawing me back. It was after a three year hiatus that I KNEW I'd been mistaken. I had only begun to explore Shara. We know her back story. We know what she did to exorcize her demons. But . . . what makes her tick and what kind of life will she now make for herself? That is what drew me back.

RLK!: The third novel, JUDAS EYES, sees us firmly back with Shara. Tell us about her.

BH: I see Shara as a stew, a mixture with a bit of F. Paul Wilson's Repairman Jack, Andrew Vachss' Burke with a massive dose of femininity and vulnerability added. Shara doesn't know who her father is (her Italian mother refused to tell her). There's the hint (in her looks) that her father may have been Hispanic or black, but for now we don't know. When she fakes her suicide she gives up her past. She has no real blood family she acknowledges, but she creates her own family. You see a bit of that in EYES OF PREY and far more in JUDAS EYES. She has been very self-centered, totally focused on HER problems and disposing of HER demons. In EYES OF PREY she comes into contact with someone for the first time in a decade (Lysette, the main character in EYES OF PREY) she can relate to. And in EYES OF PREY the reader begins to see her relationship with Alexis Briggs, the daughter of Lamar Briggs (the homicide detective who had been hunting Shara in HUNGRY EYES). Alexis had been raped and badly beaten. She's almost a vegetable, but Shara is drawn to this girl. In a way Alexis is Shara's conscience. Shara doesn't want to disappoint Alexis which helps curb Shara's excesses.

While Shara is now in her mid-twenties I see her as someone who has been in stasis for the last ten years of her life. Her focus has been on survival and then revenge. In JUDAS EYES she has to decide whether to remain an island unto herself or embrace life with both its joy and pain. Still she keeps others at a distance until she can trust them beyond the shadow of a doubt. Because of her molestation when she was eleven it's not until JUDAS EYES that Shara's sexuality is awakened. This is something new she has to cope with. Shara can be loyal to a fault to those she becomes close to. In JUDAS EYES that trait comes back to haunt her. Shara becomes a bounty hunter in JUDAS EYES to satisfy her need to stalk. In a way she's like an addict. Psychologically she's been forever altered. She MUST stalk (hunt after others) to exist, but she no longer has the need to kill. A bounty hunter allows her to hunt her prey without having to play by society's rules (all the bureaucratic and political nonsense cops must endure). Yet there remains a mean streak within her. Those demons she's buried still reside within her. In JUDAS EYES it's possible they escape. While Shara is softening a bit, as she interacts with others, I don't want her ever to lose her edge.

RLK!: She's certainly an intriguing character who stays with the reader long after the novels are over. She's so alive in the book, you'd swear she was real. Is she?

BH: Shara's a total figment of my imagination, though as I mention in the afterword to JUDAS EYES she shares certain of my traits. She's impatient, as I am. She has zero tolerance for bureaucrats, just as I do. She's a loner, who keeps an emotional distance between herself and others UNTIL she totally accepts them. Same with me. Other than that Shara doesn't resemble anyone I know. We begin to see her femininity in JUDAS EYES. She's far more emotionally vulnerable than in the previous two books. She's coming to grips with her life and doesn't like the person she's become in the first two books. She hits rock bottom in JUDAS EYES and has nowhere to go but up. I think Shara becomes a far more complex character in JUDAS EYES and will continue to evolve.

RLK!: So there IS a part of you in Shara?

BH: Most definitely. I think most authors lend part of themselves to characters they create. I haven't been victimized as Shara has, but I've had more than my share of adversity. Losing my kids in a custody dispute (because my ex-wife had remarried) and not being able to see my kids daily as they grew up (they went from army base to army base) devastated me and haunts me even now that they are grown. That's the event in MY life that most equates to Shara's trauma. And it's made me a far different person than I'd been if I'd had my children around me as they grew up. I became far more distrustful than I had been. I became far more aloof. It was difficult for me to form close friendships. Too often when I did I was disappointed. All of this is ingrained in Shara's character. At conventions and events in general I tend more to observe more than participate. I definitely felt an outsider when I was a teacher. I taught my students and became close with them, but I had little in common with most teachers. I was never comfortable working for others. Shara's the same way. As a bounty hunter she's her own boss. Now, too, as a publisher I'm my own boss. And as a writer I write to satisfy a need within me rather than what might be an easy sale for a publisher. So I'm not catering to the needs of others. Shara's the same.

RLK!: All of your characters are strongly drawn in each of the books, especially Shara, Briggs and Deidre in the EYES Series. They feel so real, and that seems to drive the stories - their humanity comes across so sharply. How do you develop such strong characters?

BH: It comes from my being an observer of human nature. I taught 5-8th graders and in thirty years I came into contact with thousands of kids as well as their parents or guardians. Teaching in the inner-city probably two-thirds of the students I taught were black. But I also taught Hispanics and Asians, the children of college professors and the children of drug addicts. My students would often want to eat lunch in my room and as I NEVER ventured down to the teacher's lounge to gossip lunch gave me a wonderful opportunity to observe my students. They talked among themselves as if I weren't there. At times they spoke to me about their home life and concerns. At this age - just entering adolescence - I found the girls far more interesting than boys. I saw how best friends could be worst enemies the next day, then best friends a day later. The girls have vibrant and unique personalities. The boys, for the most part, were still unformed lumps of clay. When parents visited for parent/teacher conference a part of me observed even as I interacted with them. In what ways were they like their children? How did they differ? I guess it's just my nature to stand outside of myself a bit and REALLY watch and listen to others. Because of this in my novels I can create full-bodied characters. I view ALL people in shades of gray. There are no Saints. And there are redeeming qualities in even the most heinous individuals. That's why serial killers are so successful. They don't stand out in a crowd. Many are good neighbors. When a serial killer is caught and neighbors are interviewed you hear how surprised they are that this person committed THOSE atrocities. So even in BORN BAD where I've created my most vile antagonist Shanicha, I let the reader REALLY get to know her. And in a way to know her is to love her. I've had readers who sympathized with her, even though she's lethal and her biggest thrill is seeing others suffer. And sometimes my characters seem to create themselves. In EYES OF PREY Angel was meant to be a minor character. I seemed drawn to her despite myself and her importance grew to the point she became a pivotal character in the novel.

RLK!: In fact, most of the characters are dealt a less-than-perfect hand in the novels. Fate always seems to go against them. Especially poor Briggs and Deidre. The readers certainly feel for them because sometimes they just don't win. It's just like life. It can be depressing, but they carry on. Humanity in adversity is a very strong theme in all your books. Is it something close to your heart?

BH: I think we are defined by how we respond to adversity. A friend of mine mentioned how he found the most beautiful girls in high school to be shallow. There wasn't much beneath the skin, because they defined themselves by their beauty. Things came easy to them because of their looks. And I think that's the same with athletes. They are endowed with gifts whether it be speed, height or just raw athletic ability. Yet many are hollow shells. I find it far more intriguing to see what happens when an athlete fails. Some like Muhammad Ali (losing to Joe Frazier) become stronger - not just as athletes, but as people. Others like Mike Tyson become mired in mediocrity. Briggs was a bit too full of himself in HUNGRY EYES. He got taken down a notch when he found he couldn't protect his daughter from the predators of the world. In the end it made him stronger. It opened his mind to possibilities he would never have accepted. Remember he was worst sort of misogynist. All of a sudden he's surrounded by strong women he learns to grudgingly respect and admire. Briggs could have been a stereotype, but adversity brought forth his humanity. Deidre, on the other hand, hasn't faced as much adversity. Yes, her husband and son died tragically, but other than that she's led a pretty charmed life (or so we think). She's a bit envious of Shara in EYES OF PREY that Shara can relate to strippers while Deidre can't. Deidre knows her limitations as well as her strengths. She has a tough time accepting the fact she's led a relatively normal life while Shara has led an extraordinary life. That Deidre understand this adds to her humanity.

RLK!: In Judas Eyes, there's more of a supernatural element to the story. Are we going to see more of this in the next book, DEMON EYES?

BH: Oh yes. Remember, far earlier I mentioned how I was reluctant to write a series because I felt the characters would become stale. For EYES OF PREY I made Shara a secondary character. For JUDAS EYES I changed the genre. The books is still a thriller with horrific elements, but the supernatural adds an entire new element. Shara takes the supernatural in stride. Briggs is completely resistant until he confronts the supernatural face to face. Being a cop he has a tough time accepting the supernatural. And there's a mythology developing that in DEMON EYES is even stronger. In EYES OF PREY the healing forest plays a minor role. In JUDAS EYES the forest is far more important. In DEMON EYES the reader will find that the forest is not at all what it appears on first glance. There's foreshadowing of that in JUDAS EYES. Alexis knows the face the forest presents is deceptive. DEMON EYES explores this. At the same time the main plot line of DEMON EYES has nothing to do with the supernatural. And, just as a tease, in DEMON EYES one of the series regulars dies. This was something very tough for me. In a way I was playing god with my characters. With my pen I could create and could destroy. I wasn't about to get rid of one of the series regulars without it being intrinsic to the plot. I played with a number of variations in my mind until I found what would work. In some ways DEMON EYES is the darkest of the series because one of the regular characters dies. I think that character's death hovered over me as I wrote the book. I didn't want it to be too bleak, though, as the book is also about family. Shara's family grows in DEMON EYES.

RLK!: Can you let us into any more secrets about Demon Eyes?

BH: Want some more, huh? Okay. The faithful reader has seen the growth of the character Alexis. She faces something both wonderful and horrific in DEMON EYES. Renee, a secondary character in JUDAS EYES becomes a series regular (kind of like on television where a character who has a recurring role eventually becomes part of the opening credits). And with the death of one series regular, we find out this character has a sister with many secrets of her own. More and I'll give away the entire plot of the book.

RLK!: When is it due for release?

BH: Good question. What I'd like to do is first publish another stand alone novel. BORN BAD was the first. But I now have three others, the last co-authored with my daughter, Dara. I don't want to be pigeon-holed as a writer of one series. I think readers will enjoy new characters who populate my stand alone novels. So, my plan would be to publish a stand alone novel next year and then DEMON EYES the year after.

RLK!: Will it be the final in the "Eyes" series?

BH: There will be no finale, no curtain drawn. Right now I plan a 5th book in the series. I've got it plotted out in my mind. But there will be no final resolution. Such is life. If there is a demand I'll continue the series. Or, if a few years from now Shara pulls me back there will be another book. What I HAVE already done is allow some characters from the EYES series to appear in other books. Nina Rios from EYES OF PREY is in one of my stand alone novels, along with Morales, Briggs' boss. As both the EYES books and my stand alone novels deal with the Philadelphia homicide unit it's natural some characters from the EYES series will bump into characters from other books. This allows me to expand on their characters in ways I couldn't in the EYES series. Nina Rios, in particular takes on new life in the book co-author by my daughter (BLOOD SACRIFICE).

RLK!: You're a busy guy! You're the head of Guantlet Press and editor of Gauntlet Magazine, plus you're a writer of horror novels. Is it hard to juggle the three different hats?

BH: It has been at times, but I know my priorities. Writing in my passion. Everything else I do with Gauntlet takes second seat to the writing. That's why I've taken on a partner in Gauntlet. It took me eight years to find the right person. I've delegated responsibility often only to be bitten in the ass. So, at times I did too much myself. I just didn't trust giving the reins to someone else. Fortunately, through R.C. Matheson I was introduced to Buddy Martinez. He worked FOR me a year and I knew he was every bit as competent and dedicated as I was. And our personalities meshed. Neither one of us takes ourselves too seriously. We've never argued. If we disagree I pull rank (kidding!!!). Seriously, if we disagree we talk it out. We don't disagree often. We're as much friends as partners. We've been partners for over a year now and it's working out famously. I've had the time to write and Gauntlet hasn't suffered.

RLK!: Tell us some of the history of both Gauntlet Magazine and Gauntlet Press.

BH: In 25 words or less, right? Well, I'd been submitting short stories to magazines for years. While most were to small specialty press magazines I found the professionalism of those publications to vary widely. I felt I could do as well, if not better. Around the time I was considering publishing my own magazine I was censored at the school I taught at. I would write plays my students would perform each year. They were massive projects with students staying after school, a professional composer writing music to lyrics my students wrote and a choreographer teaching dance. I handled EVERYTHING else. My last play dealt with teen runaways and someone from the school's PTA (her child was not in the play) had concerns (mainly the play would glorify running away). The message was quite the opposite. In any event my principal line-edited the script. No violence (the ONLY violence, based on fact, was a father ripping off a necklace his daughter was going to wear to school, telling her "You're acting too old."). No sex (there wasn't sex - these were 5th-8th graders - but there was one song which mentioned the S-E-X word. Runaway in a morgue rose and told their tales which had led them to the morgue. One had S-E-X, contracted AIDS and died. Out went that word). I think you get the point. Really petty stuff. I wasn't invited to write a play the following year, so in effect the principal censored me. It did provide me with 100-200 hours of free time and an issue for a magazine: CENSORSHIP. My main contacts were within the horror community. I wrote to several and Ray Bradbury wrote back saying I could use the afterword to FAHRENHEIT 451 ... GRATIS. Once it was known he was on board we had an all-star first issue. We now publish twice a year (each November and May) and I'm proud to say that each of our 21 issues have come out on time, something which can't be said for a lot of publications.

Jump forward two years to when I developed an itch to publish signed limited books. One of the first was Robert Bloch's PSYCHO. I was amazed it had never been published as a signed limited. Bradbury agreed to write the afterword and Richard Matheson wrote the introduction (his FIRST). Just before the book was published, but after Bob Bloch had seen everything, he called me and told me he had terminal cancer. He also told me how much he appreciated what Bradbury and Matheson had written about him, both as a friend and literary legend. Bloch's death guided the path Gauntlet Press would take. While we publish new books by contemporary authors we are committed to publishing signed limited editions by the masters. We publish one classic by Matheson a year (THE SHRINKING MAN was released in July) and our fourth Bradbury (DARK CARNIVAL) will be released this fall. We don't rest on our laurels. We've been fortunate to have published the last three new Repairman Jack novels by F. Paul Wilson. We'll be publishing a previously unpublished Young Adult novel by Matheson this fall. And, next year we'll publish a coffee table erotic art book with photographs by David Armstrong and prose and poetry by Clive Barker.

RLK!: Can you give us an outline of what steps you go through to get a book ready for publication?

BH: What we're most proud of at Gauntlet is working with each author to publish the book THEY would like to see. We don't publish the MOST books of specialty presses, but ALL of our books have a personal touch. Take DARK CARNIVAL, for instance. Bradbury didn't want the book published, initially. I mentioned it to him over the course of five years. Slowly he began to consider the possibility (in 1999 he said, "if it's published it will be in 2001."). It became a reality when Donn Albright, the book's editor and Bradbury's bibliographer showed Bradbury an oil painting he had painted around the time of the book's original publication in 1947. Donn thought the painting would make a wonderful cover for the book and all of a sudden we got the go ahead. Usually we next find an artist for the cover, but in this case we had the cover art.

With many of our books we have an author write an afterword. I knew Clive Barker loved Bradbury's work. A call to Barker's office and he readily agreed. Next Donn Albright assembled bonus material to go into the book. This was Bradbury's FIRST collection, remember, out of print for over 50 years. We wanted to do right by him. Donn Albright provided a mountain of material. He sent copies to me and to Bradbury to get his approval. Later Donn went out to visit Bradbury and go over each individual item. We were given a copy of the book and hired someone to typeset it (over 50 years old it wasn't on disc and we weren't about to destroy a book that might sell for $800). At Donn's suggestion the bonus material Bradbury typed in the late-forties would be presented as is, rather than typeset. The reader will see the typos and misspellings and be able to get into the author's mind. There are also handwritten notes and doodles Bradbury made to himself and these, too, we present. There's not enough space here to mention all the bonus items. You can find them on our new website at www.gauntletpress.com.

Donn also suggested we add 5 stories that would be placed AFTER the original stories along with the other bonus material. Bradbury readily agreed to three of the stories, but had to be talked into allowing us to publish two others. Donn had a colleague, John Eller, write an essay on misconceptions surrounding the original publication of the book. A friend of Bradbury's suggested opening each story with the original Weird Tales or other magazine cover in which the stories first appeared. Next we have to send both Bradbury and Barker signature (called tipsheets) sheets on which to sign their name. No author would want to sign 700 BOOKS. The tipsheets are glued into the book by the printer. Now Buddy Martinez is laying the book out and designing the cover.

When we published Matheson's first previously unpublished novel last year he liked the Harry O. Morris art so much he asked that we not have any lettering on the cover. We agreed. The Bradbury oil painting has so much detail we suggested to him that there be lettering ONLY on the spine. Being the type of person he is, his first comment is "Won't that hurt your sales?" When we assured him it wouldn't, he agreed. We have someone who will proof it and then it goes to press. We've also decided on a more elaborate traycase for the lettered edition and we offer a handmade leather slipcase with the cover art inset on the side for the numbered edition. Sounds easy, but an awful lot of work goes into each step. And throughout the whole process we've worked with both Ray Bradbury and Donn Albright, the book's editor. We may make suggestions, but the author has the final say.

RLK!: Gauntlet magazine primarily fights censorship. Sometimes do you find you're the lone voice in a deaf crowd?

BH: Yes, mainly because we don't pander to any certain group. From the very beginning I decided if we published an article about a controversial piece of art we would RUN THE ART unedited or not run the article at all. If we have an article about an offensive story, we run the story. Newspapers and magazines won't do that. We feel the reader has the right to see what has been deemed offensive and decide whether it should have been banned. This upsets some liberals because while they decry censorship they don't necessarily want to see the offensive work. Organizations that oppose censorship won't support us by telling their members about the magazine because some of the graphics might be offensive. But, that's what fighting censorship is all about; opposing suppression no matter how repugnant the art or writing. We also publish both sides of an issue whenever possible. Again, an informed readership can make an intelligent decision. Those who oppose censorship don't necessarily want the other side given equal time. So, we're most definitely on the outside looking in.

RLK!: There were some problems with BORN BAD too, weren't there? It was banned from some university campuses. Tell us about that.

BH: The story behind BORN BAD would be laughable if it weren't so tragic. BORN BAD is the story of a girl (Shanicha), a crack baby born without a conscience. She seldom kills outright, but she manipulates others and watches that havoc that follows. She's now a college freshman at the University of Pennsylvania. Now the school I taught at was near the university. I had taken my students on tours. I even took some courses there. It seemed the obvious setting for the book. I did a lot of research to make sure I portrayed the university and university police appropriately. When the book was published it made perfect sense to set up a reading at the University Of Pennsylvania Bookstore, loosely affiliated with the university. The events coordinator read the book, enjoyed it and set up the event. Three days prior to the event I called and was told by the events coordinator that the event has been canceled due to the "sensitive nature of the book." I asked him what was the objection? "The suicides," he tells me.

Shanicha, you see, has convinced several coeds to commit suicide. They are actually murders, but yes, the girls jumped to their deaths. THAT is what the university objected to. Why? Because they felt it would give the university bad publicity even though the book goes to extremes to point out all the support mechanisms which makes one security guard in the novel question whether these were suicides after all. Someone from the university read the dust back blurb, NOT the book. That might have been the end of it except the university then said they never agreed to the event in the first place. A bald-faced lie, which raised my hackles (The Shara in me). So I ended up getting far more publicity for the banning than I would have if the event had taken place. Six months later, when the paperback was released, I gave away copies of the book outside of the bookstore so students could decide for themselves whether the book should have been banned. The irony is that the University of Pennsylvania prides themselves on its freedom of expression.

RLK!: How did you feel?

BH: Obviously bitter, but also disappointed. As I said I portrayed the university in a positive manner. And what upset me was that the event I was to attend could have given some students the opportunity to find out about all the support mechanisms there are on campus for those who are depressed and might contemplate suicide. So the university didn't just do a disservice to me, but to their own students. Why sweep the issue under the carpet. There ARE suicides and far more suicide attempts every year at all colleges. The university should have embraced a forum where students-at-risk could have learned where to get help.

RLK!: When did you first meet Richard Laymon and do you have any special memories of your time with him?

BH: I go to very few conventions and, as you know, Dick lived in California while I reside outside of Philadelphia. I met him just once, but it was a memorable meeting. It was at the 2000 World Horror Convention in Denver. I was on a panel with Dick, David Morrell and Harlan Ellison, among others. And, let's just say that Harlan was being Harlan. I remember looking at Dick, without saying a word, and seeing a gleam in his eye like he wanted to burst out laughing, but was controlling himself. Later we talked and I mentioned that we'd like to publish his work. He agreed to write a short story, THE KEEPER which we'd publish as a chapbook. I'd hoped that would be the beginning of wonderful relationship with him. I was very pleased that when Kelly Laymon received copies of the chapbook she loved our presentation. While Dick certainly spoke his mind it's that memory of his eyes smiling when Harlan Ellison was saying outlandish things and making the audience repeat the words after him. He knew it best to just allow Harlan to play to his audience. Sometimes it's more effective to remain silent.

RLK!: Where do you see horror market going in the next 5 years and where do you see Gauntlet in the scheme of the market for that time period?

BH: I think horror, for the most part, is going to be absorbed and labeled as fiction. I can see it already. Except for a few writers (King and Koontz to name two) it's already occurring. I get review copies of mass market books which talk about the horrific elements in the story, but DON'T label the book as horror. I also think the big chains will make it more and more difficult for the midlist writer to get published in large quantities. But, I do see the specialty press gaining in popularity and importance as a result. I'm also quite excited about Gauntlet's long term future. We have some books lined up that won't be published for five years (an anniversary edition of THE KEEP by F. Paul Wilson). With Richard Matheson we're branching out into books for Young Adults. With David Armstrong and Clive Barker we'll be publishing an art book. Both of these will be published as mass market hardcovers as well as signed limiteds. Both of those books are risky. We have to put a lot of money into them and getting them distributed to the big chains won't necessarily be easy. But it's just another challenge. Unlike some publishers we're not jumping in without a plan. It's like those first tentative steps into the ocean. You don't know if the water's too cold. There's nothing wrong with taking baby steps if the result is a successful new venture.

RLK!: What are some of the new titles being released by Gauntlet Press in the next few months?

BH: As I write this interview Matheson's THE SHRINKING MAN should arrive at my door any minute. In September we'll publish TEMPTER by Nancy A. Collins. It's her second novel, but she's totally rewritten it. Her original publisher forced her to include vampires (it was at the height of Anne Rice's popularity). Nancy has gotten rid of the vampires and added more voodoo, which is what drives the novel. We're also including 32 pages of her handwritten notes from both the original edition and the rewrite. October will see DARK CARNIVAL. We usher November in with ABU AND THE 7 MARVELS, Matheson's Young Adult novel with artwork by Bill Stout. And in December we publish TRILOBITE: THE WRITING OF THRESHOLD from Caitlin R. Kiernan. We wanted to do the limited of her new novel, but her mass market publisher insisted upon retaining the rights. Caitlin had a lot of material she had not used in the final novel and offered it to us. She's added a fifty-page novella written especially for this project using characters from the book along with photos and more.

RLK!: Where do you see your writing in 5 years time?

BH: In December I finished my first Young Adult novel - a dark fantasy called THE END OF TIMES. I originally wrote it 27 years ago. It's about a country that is invaded and enslaved. The hero of the book is named Dara. She leads the resistance hiding out in the swamps and later goes on an adventure-filled journey to find an army to battle the invaders. My then wife and I named our first daughter Dara. When Dara was pregnant with my first grandchild she asked if I would send her the book so she could show her child how she got her name. I read it and decided to totally rewrite the book. I've become a better writer in 27 years. I really grimaced at some of that early writing. I added new characters, including my granddaughter Tyler. I completely revised the end. I had a ball. Now, I'm writing some short stories based on the book as a tradition for Tyler. She'll get one on each birthday. I'd like to get the novel published because I already envision a sequel and even a third book.

I've got many more tales to tell as stand alone novels and dozens upon dozens of new characters to create. By the same token I see myself writing sequels to at least two of my novels. There will be a sequel to BORN BAD. And there will be a sequel to the novel Dara co-authored with me. I guess I just don't want to let go of some of my characters. And who knows, maybe in 5 years I'll decide to revisit the EYES series.

RLK!: If you weren't a writer/editor/publisher, what job do you think you would be doing now?

BH: To be honest, withering up and dying. I taught for 30 years and I have no desire to go back into the classroom. There's no joy left in teaching. The bureaucrats have taken the teacher out of teaching. I've had many hobbies, some of which I thought might lead to a career change, but I always tired of it after about five years. While I may not edit or publish forever, other than my children and grandchild, I've found nothing that nourishes me more than writing. So, if I couldn't write life would be a rainbow of black and white. And, that I can do without.

RLK!: If you could co-author a book with any author alive or dead, who would it be?

BH: That's a tough one. I've got to say Bradbury because he has been such a huge influence on my career. I certainly can't write the wonderful poetry he creates with his every sentence, but if he were patient with me (very patient) maybe I could add something to the characters if we co-authored a book.

RLK!: What novel would you like to write a sequel for? What would it's title be?

BH: This isn't exactly a sequel, but I'd like to write LORD OF THE FLIES with females stranded rather than males (and not necessarily on an island). I think it would make for far different dynamics than LORD OF THE FLIES which could make it unique. Put a bunch of girls together and the infighting would make LORD OF THE FLIES look tame by comparison. As for a title, you've got me there. In keeping with the original maybe STING OF THE WASP. As I said as tough as a group of boys could be, a group of girls would be far more deadly.

RLK!: Barry, thanks for your time.

BH: A pleasure, Steve.

You can read excerpts from Barry Hoffman's four novels on the Gauntlet website at www.gauntletpress.com.



Selected Published Works:


RATING:

Publisher: Leisure Books

Review Source:

HUNGRY EYES by Barry Hoffman

At the age of 10, Renee was kidnapped for 6 days. She was taken to a cabin in the woods, stripped naked, and held in a cell with only a blanket and a bucket. During those six days she was tortured and abused by a person with cold, evil, hungry eyes.

But then she was let go.

Edward Costanzo, a neighbour, is charged with the crime and he goes to prison for it, but never says anything about the events that happened in the cabin. Renee won't talk either, except to one up-and-coming-reporter, Deidre, whose career is about to skyrocket due to the exclusive Renee is about to give her.

With the kidnapper in jail and Deidre's career on the rise, Renee is placed with Foster parents to give her the safe, stable life she's been wishing for. Finally, everything is starting to come together for Renee.

But then, for seemingly no reason, she commits suicide by jumping into the Schuylkill River...

Fast forward 13 years.

Deidre is now working as the media liaison for the Mayor and life is looking good. She's placed on a police task force trying to find a serial killer, the Vigilante, who is killing child molesters and deviants who have escaped jail terms. Deidre is to be the buffer between the police and the media. The public and the Mayor want the case solved, pronto.

And, scrawled on a wall near the latest victim are the words:

"NO MORE HUNGRY EYES."

Suddenly, Deidre finds herself in the middle of the hunt for the killer. She remembers the postcard she received from Renee 13 years before. The postcard Renee posted three days after her suicide. "Hungry Eyes" - just like her kidnapper in the cabin.

Is Renee still alive? Did she fake her own death? And, if she did, why have the killings started 13 years later? Could Renee possibly be the Vigilante?

The cops won't believe Deidre's theories - the theories don't follow the FBI profile - so Deidre must use her all journalistic skills and intuition to find the murderer before anyone else is killed. But once confronted with the truth, will Deidre have the strength to follow through with her plan?

Hungry Eyes is an edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting character study dealing with two women who know more about each other than anyone else, due to a relationship forged by tragic events and inhumanity. Hoffman places the spotlight on human emotions and character traits and you leave the novel feeling that we're all victims in one way or another. The plot is strong and complex, the characters are believable and the imagery is a pure delight.

Powerful, addictive stuff. Buy it now!



RATING:

Date of Release: Aug '99

Publisher: Leisure Books

Review Source:

EYES OF PREY by Barry Hoffman

Barry Hoffman returns with a sequel to the fantastic Hungry Eyes. Eyes of Prey once again proves Hoffman is an up-and-coming author who knows how to write truly unique psychological thrillers.

Lysette Ormandy has had a tough life. She was only a child when she watched as her family were slaughtered in front of her. She was lucky to survive herself, due to the massive head injuries she received from a marble cigarette lighter.

But, she grew up and moved on with her life. She works as a stripper; living in a fantasy world where she is able to weave a spell over those men who pay her every night. Her stage persona is "Cassandra" the rough and ready goddess of the night who allows Lysette to come out of her shell.

But one night, on the way home from the strip club, she happens to walk onto the wrong carriage in the subway. She witnesses a black youth try to rob an elderly black man, and she watches as everyone else on the train looks the other way.

Still in her Cassandra clothing and persona, she decides to stop the attack - something Lysette would never do. Her intervention saves the old man from possible death, but also causes the youth's death. She shoots him with his own gun. And then she flees the scene.

So starts the reign of the person the media call "The Nightwatcher".

Lysette, feeling more like Cassandra every day, decides that it's time to show these street thugs that it's not their city - that the city belongs to the people. Wearing her Cassandra outfit once more, she decides to take back the night.

And she will kill anyone who tries to attack her.

From here the reader catches up with Deidre Caffrey from the first novel, Hungry Eyes. She's no longer working for the Mayor and is back as a reporter. She feels that with her experience in catching Shara Farris (from the first book) she can catch The Nightwatcher as well. Lamar Briggs also makes a re-appearance as the cop picked by unknown people from above to work on the Nightwatcher case. Can he hunt down The Nightwatcher? Does he want to? His own daughter, Alexis, was attacked and raped just a few months before and is suffering from brain damage. Does Briggs really want to catch someone who is cleaning the streets of the scum that attacked his daughter?

Add to this, Sara Farris, also from the first novel, who is able to witness every time Cassandra kills - she sees it all in her mind. Sara thinks she can track down the Nightwatcher - she's a murderer too, after all. Throw in the sudden rise of citizen action groups like the "Take Back The Night" campaign and the mysterious group called, The Fist - who want to see The Nightwatcher caught - and pronto - and you have a captivating character study that's a damn good psychological thriller.

Hoffman builds his characters perfectly and by the end of the novel you really feel for each one of them. The plot is full of moral dilemmas, plot twists and enough people who will trade honor for money to keep the reader riveted.

This is book two of a proposed four book series and we can't wait to read the next two.

Do yourself a favor - buy Hungry Eyes and Eyes of Prey today!



RATING:

Date of Release: July 2001

Publisher: Edge Books

Review Source:

JUDAS EYES by Barry Hoffman

The trail of dead males run up and down the eastern seaboard from Georgia to Pennsylvania. The victims are horridly butchered and tortured in a kind of sadistic sexual rape.

Shara Farris (from the previous EYES series of books) is no longer a vigilante seeking justice by hunting for prey. Instead she's now a bounty hunter seeking her prey legally and bringing them to justice. She joins forces with police detective Lamar Briggs, who she helps acquit on a murder charge. They seek out the serial killer "John", wanting to bring him down before anyone else is killed.

Shara finds she can read the mind of the female murderess Mica Swann and, by doing so, she realizes that Mica is just like her. She has the same kind of secrets, the same problems, and the beast within her needs to be freed through the killings.

The latest Hoffman "eyes" tale is another excellent paranormal-psychological investigative tale that will keep all readers on the edge of their seats. The story is fast-paced and the characters are intelligent and realistic given their horrific circumstances.

Fans of the series will not be disappointed. Can't wait for book four!



Hoffman Exclusive: HUNGRY EYES serialization!

We're thrilled to be able to provide readers with 12 monthly installments of Barry's HUNGRY EYES novel.

Installment: One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six |
| Seven | Eight | Nine | Ten | Eleven | Twelve |

Head on over to:
The Hungry Eyes
page where you can sign the guest book and get a free copy of Guardian of Lost Souls,
and also have a chance to win an autographed copy of Eyes of Prey!


Where to buy:

Availability:

For those who order online, try:

Amazon UK!   Buy Laymon & Others Here!   




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