DARK WEB: STEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA
PART 35: AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH VINCENT VENA CAVA
Usually these Dark Web features focus on a single story, or a connected series, but this week I’m going to do something a little different. Instead I’m going to focus on the work of a single author, one of the most successful and popular writers of Creepypasta the genre has produced — Vincent Vena Cava.
With a wealth of work to his name, including iconic pastas such as The Pastel Man, A Favor For a Favor, Picture This and the ongoing (and fantastic) Wendall Lane Diaries, the LA-based author has caused quite a stir with his fiction, gaining recognition and approaches from several huge media companies, including 20th Century Fox (when he wrote The Eye of Ra, which was part of a viral marketing campaign for the movie The Pyramid) and Starz. He has also been published multiple times, including the inclusion of his stories Right On Time and Picture This in a new short story anthology, The Creepypasta Collection: Modern Urban Legends You Can’t Unread, that hit the shelves at Barnes & Noble (the last remaining major book franchise in the US) last month. (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-creepypasta-collection-mr-creepypasta/1123556473)
All of this in just four short years since he first started publishing work on the web under the Vincent Cava name.
Recently he saw a project successfully funded on Kickstarter that combined his talents with those of genre YouTube heavyweight Mr Creepypasta and top artists Chris Oz Fulton, Maja Cornvall and Teo Gonzalez. The resulting Creepypasta Comicbook (of which I’m a backer) is a fantastic debut effort and fans are eagerly anticipating subsequent issues from the team.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had the tremendous pleasure of conversing with the amiable, humble and supremely talented Cava, asking him about his influences, storytelling processes, several of his most notable stories and what the future holds.
Our interview follows below.
UK HORROR SCENE: Hi Vincent, and thank you so much for agreeing to speak with me. First, I’d like to ask you some general questions about your influences, before asking specific questions about some of your stories, including The Pastel Man, Right On Time and your Wendall Lane Diaries series. I hope that’s OK?
VINCENT VENA CAVA: No problem, I’d be happy to answer your questions — and btw, you just named two of my worst stories! Haha! Is that what people know me for? Good God.
UKHS: Oh dear, you are too harsh on yourself, they’re all fine stories! May I ask which two you’re least happy with? As an aside, some of my favourites include The Hall Monitor, The Job, Selfie, The Ocean’s Cool Air and Little Black Bugs. I expect a few of those will be the subject of future features should you be happy to speak with me about them!
VVC: Thanks! The Pastel Man is the first thing people really noticed me for and I’m sure I’ll be tied to it forever, haha. I believe the story has weak stakes and the prose is pretty amateur. I’ve been working for years to hone my craft since I decided this was something I wanted to make money doing and I feel like I’ve gotten better since then. Right on Time is just fan service and if you aren’t familiar with Jeff The Killer then, in my opinion, the story is sort of weak (maybe even confusing?), but it is what it’s supposed to be. I am fond of Wendall Lane though.
UKHS: Here are my first few questions, they’re non-story specific, but should give my readers more of an idea about you as a writer. Which writers, horror or otherwise, do you consider yourself a fan of?
VVC: I’m a fan of so many authors! Some of my biggest influences are Vonnegut, Lovecraft, King, Heinlein, and Philip K. Dick.
UKHS: Do you consider yourself a fan of Creepypasta?
VVC: I’m a fan of anything that has to do with horror, but I’m not entirely sure what Creepypasta even is. It’s such a fluid word. It seems like everyone has their own definition of “creepypasta”. What makes something creepypasta? Is it only stories featuring certain characters? Is it only scary stories? Who says what’s scary? Does a story have to appear on specific websites like r/NoSleep or creepypasta.com to make the cut?
Last I checked, the author of The Martian, Andy Weir’s, short story The Egg is featured on creepypasta.com. I don’t think he posted it there, nor would I call it horror, but is it a creepypasta nonetheless? To me, are you a fan of creepypasta is a difficult question to answer because I don’t even know how to go about defining it.
UKHS: What work of your own are you most proud of?
VVC: I’m really happy how people reacted to A Favor for a Favor. I’ve since given it a little rewrite and I think it’s a better story now. Picture This was a really therapeutic story to write so I was happy when people responded well to it. I’m also pretty proud of the graphic novel I just took to Kickstarter.
UKHS: What is your favourite Creepypasta by an author other than yourself?
VVC: Hard to answer that question, so I’ll stick to writers who are generally known for online horror. Anything by Matt Dymerski, T.W. Grim, Michael Whitehouse, and IPostAtMidnight is usually great. I think they’re all really polished writers. Anything by them won’t disappoint.
UKHS: You’re a prolific writer, regularly releasing stories to the web. How do you keep the creative juices flowing? Is writing a process that you enjoy or is it more about getting your stories out there to an audience?
VVC: Keeping the creative juices flowing isn’t a problem. I have more stories in my head than I can write. The slowest part of my process comes from crafting my prose and trying to develop a unique and interesting narrative that will fit with what I’m writing. Writing isn’t just about telling people a story. It’s about HOW you tell them a story. A lot of young writers don’t realize that. When you do it correctly, your prose can be poetry.
And most importantly…
Read. Read. Read.
You have to read if you want to be a good writer. And you have to read great writers. I get people asking me what to read. Don’t just read horror. Read Hemingway, read Melville, read James Joyce, and Asimov, and Clarke. Read Oscar Wilde, read Doyle, and London. Read non-fiction too! Read, read, read. Great stories can inspire you….you get the picture.
UKHS: Why do you think Creepypasta resonates so much with the fandom?
VVC: I think a lot of the fans of these online, user generated horror stories are younger or at least became fans when they were younger. This…trend is like a gateway for a lot of young people. It can introduce them to the world of literature and I think that’s wonderful. Many times, these stories are not written for children so of course there’s always intrigue for kids when it comes to taboo subjects.
UKHS: These fans have flocked to some characters, who really have become iconic to the community, such as The Rake and Jeff the Killer, a character you incorporated into your story Right On Time (you can hear Mr Creepypasta’s narration of the story here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uu9NvCTJbHs ) What inspired you to write a story that contributes to the Jeff the killer mythos?
VVC: I just wanted to pay a little fan service. Jeff is a popular character and people are usually excited to hear a new Jeff story. I figured why not try my hand at a little fan-fiction. I don’t know if I’m actually contributing to the “Jeff mythos”. I don’t really consider any Jeff story to be canon. There are so many tales written by so many people. But that’s cool. It makes the character and his personality somewhat amorphous. He isn’t really defined by any set of rules and whoever is writing him can put their own spin on it.
UKHS: What drew you to the character?
VVC: The character’s popularity is what drew me to him. Haha!
People like reading Jeff stories, I like writing stories, so why not try writing a Jeff story?
UKHS: Your Jeff is less sympathetic than the version traditionally portrayed, he’s almost a force of remorseless destruction than a human, a lot like John Carpenter’s original idea for Michael Myers in Halloween. What inspired you to portray the character in this way?
VVC: To be honest, I never found the character to be very interesting and the broken emo kid thing isn’t all that scary. That’s the problem a lot of people have with Jeff, which is why I decided to write around him. He couldn’t be the protagonist in Right On Time. Protagonists don’t give you nightmares. I believe the character can be frightening, so long as you move away from the “woe is me” stuff. If you want him to be scary, don’t let the audience into his head. You have to strip away anything that makes him human. Make him a monster. That’s why Michael Myers works. And let’s face it, the Jeff character is basically an amalgam of slasher movie clichés. I just followed the trend.
UKHS: What do you think the attraction is to Jeff for Creepypasta fans?
VVC: I think most Jeff fans are pretty young. He’s an antihero, he’s counterculture. He plays by his own set of rules. If someone upsets him, he stabs them. I see why teenage girls and boys are into him.
UKHS: Do you have any further plans to feature Jeff in your stories?
VVC: Not right now. I’d rather not write a ton of Jeff stuff, but maybe in a future comic book.
UKHS: Are you happy with Right On Time?
VVC: I think Right On Time is good fan-fiction. The problem with it is that you need to know who Jeff The Killer is for it to make a whole lot of sense. Otherwise, it’s just an interesting story with an “out of nowhere” twist. If you don’t know what Jeff The Killer is, you might read it and wonder what the hell just happened. What did he mean by “go to sleep”?
UKHS: Do you have any plans to write stories featuring any other existing Creepypasta characters? (Excluding the Rake — who Vincent covered as part of his Wendall Lane Diaries series AND for the Creepypasta comicbook)
VVC: Yeah sure. I’d love to write more stories based off some of the Internet’s more popular characters. It’s fun for me. I have no plans at this moment, but if it’s something people would be interested in then I’m game for it.
UKHS: I mentioned the Creepypasta comicbook just now. I recently received my PDF copy of the comic and I wanted to extend my most heartfelt congratulations on what is a really great read. You must be very, very proud of it! Any news on whether there’ll be an issue 2? I’d certainly be onboard if so!
VVC: Thanks for backing the comic! Glad you’re enjoying it. Unfortunately our distributor (backerkit) had some trouble with ios mobile devices, but I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it. We definitely want to put out a second comic, but first and foremost we want to focus on getting out all the rewards first. We’ll probably have a second comic up next year, hopefully twice as long.
UKHS: The Rake plays a major role in one of the stories in the Creepypasta comic that you have created with MrCreepypasta. I understand you spoke with Bryan Somerville (who I’ve interviewed for this Dark Web series before: http://www.ukhorrorscene.com/dark-web-steven-hickeys-essential-guide-to-creepypasta-part-28-the-rake-re-visited/) about adapting the character for the comic. How was it working with him?
VVC: I didn’t really work with Somerville on the comic. I just asked him for the OK and gave him a short summary of the story, then he signed a contract giving me permission.
UKHS: The Rake is one of the more recognisable Creepypasta beasties, and you created one of your own with monstrous Pastel Man. (Read the story here: http://www.creepypasta.com/pastel-man/) His story is one that feels very much like an old-fashioned morality play. Was that your intention?
VVC: The Pastel Man is most definitely a morality play. All of my work fits those themes.
I very rarely write about good vs Evil . It is my belief that we all exist on a moral spectrum — No black and white, just shades of grey. That’s why most of my characters are inherently flawed. I also believe that an antagonist with a more sympathetic reason for doing bad is much more compelling than one who just wants to eradicate all humanity or kill a protagonist because he’s a bad guy. My protagonists also usually only act out of self-preservation rather than altruism. They aren’t heroes. But they are more relatable… in my opinion at least.
UKHS: It’s one of your earlier stories and earlier you stated that you weren’t entirely happy with it. Would you ever consider re-visiting the story either with a sequel or rewrite?
VVC: As for my dislike for the story, I believe that it’s prose is lacking compared to what I can do now and the protagonist could probably use a bit more motivation. He is, in my opinion, almost too ‘guilty’. I am heavily considering giving the story a rewrite. I am also considering revisiting The Pastel Man in the second Creepypasta comic.
UKHS: Speaking of comics, you have a great descriptive writing style that really lends itself to visuals. Do you have any more plans to explore graphic novels/comicbooks?
VVC: As for other comics, I’m working with an artist on a project called Nightmare Sketchbook that is supposed to be out first quarter 2017
UKHS: One of your more recent projects to draw considerable recognition from the fans was the Wendall Lane Diaries. In your own words, how would you describe the series?
VVC: The Wendall Lane Diaries are centred around a house where reality is broken. It’s a paranormal hot spot much in the same way the Bermuda Triangle is. One might encounter ghosts, monsters, reality warping paradoxes if they stay there long enough. The occurrences are random. The only thing they have in common is that they’re confined to the house and the property it sits on. I recently worked with the cast of Ash Vs The Evil Dead to put out five new stories in the series, narrated by Bruce Campbell, Lucy Lawless, Ted Raimi and others.
UKHS: I’ve heard the stories via MrCreepypasta’s YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3vq3HFjqkVkZabGSM02I8G960DBHu9xh) and just wanted to compliment you on how awesome they were. Bravo! I just wondered if you could give my readers a little insight into how the collaboration with Starz came about?
VVC: Starz was interested in promoting their show Ash Vs The Evil Dead so they contacted YouTube creator Mr. Creepypasta to read original stories. They wanted the stories to be loosely connected. Since he’s not a writer, he asked me if I’d be interested in writing them. The whole thing was really intense, I had about two weeks to crank out five stories for the series. In the end it was a fun opportunity to meet the great actors of the show and to speak with horror icons like Bruce Campbell.
UKHS: And finally, where is the best place for me to send my readers to get more news on your work? Are there any preferred links for me to send my readers to read your literature?
VVC: I’m so stupid, I don’t have a landing page haha. But I’m all over social media. Twitter, Facebook, youtube, snapchat, tumblr, Instagram, ect. Every account is @vincentvenacava . Hope that answers your questions!
UKHS: It really does, thanks so much.
As one of the more senior and respected members of the community, Vincent Vena Cava’s story shows that, if you’ve got the talent, Creepypasta really can lead to great things. Come back next time when I speak with another creative talent who’s been on the scene for a long time about one of the oldest, yet most recognisable and complex pastas ever.