Shells Chats with author Nicholas Grabowsky

You have been interested in films, including shorts. In fact wasn't there a short you started in college?

I fooled around with video cameras almost as long as I’ve been alive and there were video cameras. I’ve been writing scripts since elementary school. I’m moving towards directing an indy feature film—“Cutting Edges.” But yes, there is “Muffin Man.” I think it was the summer of 1985 when my friends and I got together with fellow classmates from a drama class I took while attending junior college in Southern CA and put together a series of goofy skits and commercials we called “Onslaught of the Crawling Potato Chips.” It had segments in it alternately directed by myself and friend Kyle Pamson, from “Taco Hell” to news spoofs, and in the middle of it was this mini feature “Muffin Man,” about a guy who in times of duress turns into a blueberry muffin. A few years ago, I found old grainy footage of it and thought I’d edit it professionally, which I did, and I threw it out online. It’s 17 minutes of offbeat hilarity with a heart, a little stop-motion animation, and a good soundtrack, that anyone would find entertaining for what it’s worth. It’s received great reviews, too. I’m really proud of it.

How do you feel movies hinder or help writing today?

We wouldn’t have movies if nobody wrote them first. The process of writing movies versus penning literature may be different in format, discipline, and structure, and one may be more collaborative where the other’s more personal, but no matter what the outcome it’s all just methods of telling a story. In creative expression, movies and writing complement each other.

What do you find most challenging about being an author?

Making money from it consistently. And as far as the writing itself, taking complexity out of my head and putting it down on paper in such a way that people not only follow it, but “get it” and are entertained by it.

Can you tell us a bit about Red Wet Dirt?

It’s my Hallmark card to the world, the best and most diverse example of whatever storytelling talent I have to show the world, the work that prompted Tales of the Talisman Magazine to pin the term “The Norman Rockwell of White Trash” on me (which, if you read my works, that about sums it up). The stories in “Red Wet Dirt” cover a wide range of subject matter, from apocalyptic vampires to Johnny Cash to ancient zombies, wererats, shaving cream creatures, and an explanation for why traffic stops on freeways for seemingly no reason. Every story in it is being translated into comic books and graphic novels, the first of which was released in 2010 by A Shot in the Dark Comics: “Looks Like a Rat to Me.” This collection really flaunts my abilities and diversities as a writer, and I enjoy giving readers their money’s worth in taking them to places they’ve never been before. And originality is scarce nowadays.

Where did the ideas come from for Red Wet Dirt?

My life. From taking bits of my life and my “Walter Mitty”-like daydreams I have about my life and writing about them. In a lot of ways, my writing is an interpretation and outlet and mirror of the things I’ve put myself through over the years, my imagination is my all-expense-paid unlimited ticket ride to do with it on paper what I will, and I get away with constructing the final product into something people can actually call a damn good read. For instance, the first story, “The Yuletide Thing,” is based on my taking an alcoholic girlfriend to a mountain lakeside retreat to see Toby Keith in concert as the trip’s highlight, and that was a terrible experience. So in the story I had the girlfriend become a creature who tore people’s hearts out and spewed snow out of her nostrils, and it made for a good Christmas fairy tale besides. Once I was initiated into an exclusive brotherhood that included Ronald Reagan and came from out of the California Gold Rush days, and that inspired the vampire initiation in “Red Afterworld.” In “The Freeway Reaper” I actually knew a serial killer-like guy named Ray Man who I used to see in local bars, had a crush on a girl named Lisa Dove in the sixth grade, and I have an autistic son. In some ways I’m like Taylor Swift, who openly writes songs based on real life and characters, but she sings and wears dresses and plays guitar whereas I write and wear jeans and wield chainsaws.

Where can people find Red Wet Dirt?

Anywhere they sell books. It’s orderable through Borders, B & N, Ingram, Baker & Taylor, everywhere online like Amazon. You can also order direct at really cheap, and the first issue of the comic as well.

Rumor has it that Black Bed Sheet Books started with you working in your garage, compared to bigger companies that can be a lot of work. How do you feel that has helped you get deeper into the publishing business?

I’d been dabbling in the whole POD self-publishing thing since I completed my most important work, “The Everborn,” which took me twelve years to write, and with an arrangement with Trancas Films essentially self-published the special limited edition of my Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers without any help from outside sources. With gaining the rights back from my earlier late 1980’s mass market paperbacks, there was a short while where I self-published my older stuff just to get them back out there and therefore add to sensationalize my newer stuff. Then came a day where I put “Red Wet Dirt” together and was drawn towards an online publisher whom I joined forces with, who had, like, 150 authors under his belt including ones I knew personally. He was supposed to put out “Red Wet Dirt.” This publisher was doing well the first couple of years in business, and then his personal life went horribly awry and he slowly began flaking on all his authors, making false promises, and disappeared owing a lot of people money. I took a good long look at how he published books and told myself, “I can do that, only the right way.” So I figured out what it took to legally establish a small business, did all the small business paperwork and pulled together a nice fully functional office with a bunch of screens and laptops and hardware with organized warehouse space, designed my own logos and did all the announcements and marketing and proclaimed to the world that I was the new indy horror publisher on the block. I started this all in a garage because, well, I wasn’t allowed to smoke in the house, and it made it all seem so underground.

The name Black Bed Sheet actually comes from the fact that, in my experience, generic black bed sheets are versatile. I use them in everything, from throwing them on tables at conventions and appearances to backdrops on a photo shoot, to utilizing them in Halloween costumes and spreading them out on grass for picnics, to wiping up spills when one’s right there and the paper towels are all the way in the kitchen.

One of the things that Black Bed Sheet Books does is allow authors to help each other with proof reading and editing. How do you feel that helps authors with their own writing?

Well, it’s not really with proof reading and editing, it’s more marketing. I expect each author to proofread and edit, (the initial submission itself is expected to adhere to conventional industry rule-of-thumb standards), then I proofread and edit, and oftentimes the author assigns an outside source on their behalf to do the job, and I look it over again under a microscope when I format it. Occasionally, despite everything, I’ve still in the past have seen a chapter heading off-center, some typos, some minor flaw in the final published product. I’m a perfectionist for the most part and that pisses me off when I’m made aware of it. But I believe, especially when it pertains to marketing and to an indy publisher such as BBS, that we can only achieve greatness individually by incorporating ourselves as a whole through mutual and combined efforts. In other words, I believe in teamwork. More than in any other aspect, that belief particularly applies to marketing.

Where can we find Black Sheet Books?

Its official website:
And our official online store:
Also on Twitter: blackbedsheet
And Facebook:
Google searches bring up several pages.

You attend many conventions. How do you feel that has helped you as a writer and a publisher?

I’ve said this many times. If I was a plumber, if that’s what I truly wanted to be, then I would learn all the ropes so I can be the best one I could, recruit other awesome plumbers, start a small company, and go to plumber industry conventions to hobnob and learn all the latest tech. I’m a serious career writer and publisher in the overall horror genre, and respected as such. So conventions….aside from book store appearances and such….are essential because you’re placing yourself into the eye of a hurricane full of people who do what you do, hold the same interests. In my case, it’s a way to meet fans, and to meet fellow writers and other celebrities I idolize while promoting what I’m doing to all the right people on a large scale more personable than online. And people are more easily inclined to buy more books on the spot if the author’s there to sign it for them. Conventions present the ultimate networking opportunities, and the ultimate hotel parties.

Based on your experience, can you share the one most important thing regarding marketing one's work?

It’s not as easy as one thing. Be resourceful. Be professional. Be aggressive, yet diplomatic and humble. Don’t offend, intrude or spam. Get a website, then a ton of free profiles on social networks. Set aside money from your paychecks into free copies to reviewers and some ad space in periodicals covering your audience. Streak naked across the capitol steps of your state holding a cardboard sign with the name of your book at a news event and get a million hits on Youtube for it and a remark on Tosh.0.

Any future projects upcoming for you that you can share with us?

Yup, certainly. The next of the RED WET DIRT comics comes out soon, in graphic novel form. It’s the zombie story, THE FATHER KEEPER. I’m also going to soon start work on my next novel/collection THE DOWNWARDENS and jumpstart my directorial efforts with “Cutting Edges,” my shaving cream creature horror popcorn flick.

Where can we find more out about you?

At, Wikipedia, and there are 20+ pages on me in a Google search.

1 comment :

  1. So many projects and still talking with a great enthusiasm for them all. A great interview Shells and what an inspiration Nicholas is.