Today I am happy to have Hildred Rex, author of pulp and speculative fiction. He currently lives and works at an undisclosed location in the Greater Los Angeles Area. Through fantastical and self-contradictory tales, the man Hildred Rex began to take shape. He claims his age ranges anywhere from 45 – 53 years old, and his birth name remains unknown. (Although, a waitress from Spokane, WA, Nicole Steylette, claims that the name “Hildred Rex” was assumed in 1982 by her son, Michael P. Steylette.) Hildred has stated before in an interview that he has no memory of being born, but was “pretty sure it happened in the back of an ambulance.” This was an awesome interview and it was really cool to talk to Hildred about his writing, inspiration and which writers and novels had an impact on him. Now on to the Q&A!
The Scary Reviews: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview! For those who may be unfamiliar with your work, how did you first get started in writing and what led you to pursue it professionally?
Hildred Rex: I suppose I caught the bug out on the open sea. I was working on a cargo freighter at the time. I had just had a row with another AB (able-bodied seaman) over a stacked bottom in a game of Gin Rummy, and I went on deck to stand watch early as we were passing through Gibraltar to smoke a cigarette. I decided then, enshrouded in twilight, to do something about all these thoughts and ideas which were running through my head at the time, haunting me. I thought, maybe I’d be happier if I got them down somehow, purged myself of them. Perhaps that’d be therapeutic in some sense. So I bought a diary bound in elephant skin off a Moroccan merchant in Carthage, of which I got everything down in, until I left the sea for Venice, Italy. Thoughts became outlines for stories and then stories were worked into anthologies, etc. And I haven’t stopped since.
TSR: What is a typical day of writing like for you? Do you have a set process or is it something that varies depending on the day?
HR: Since I relocated to California I’ve adopted more of a routine when it comes to writing. I’ll wake up around 8 or 8:30 AM. I’ll ground and brew myself some fine Colombian coffee. Over coffee I usually read the LA Times. After that I’ll get dressed and venture out to climb Mount Lee up to the Hollywood sign to formulate my thoughts on the day’s work. I’ll take my diary with me as well, in case I’m struck with any ideas while I’m out. Upon my return to the apartment, I’ll set the mood with some Mozart or any of Reznor’s work; and brew myself some more coffee, and get to typing. My daily quota averages around two thousand words a day. Once I’m finished I’ll shake myself up a vodka martini on rocks.
TSR: What was your inspiration for choosing the speculative fiction genre?
HR: If I’m reading it’s to escape from reality. The speculative fiction genre (although a hard one to pin down) usually affords the reader that type of escape; be it horror, or science fiction, or even tangent universes or alternate histories—I like it all. Well, I don’t so much care for the fantasy crap, unless it’s Tolkien we’re talking about. My favorite genre(s) of films are horror and sci-fi—especially the combination, i.e., John Carpenter’s The Thing. But I also get down with a good mystery, or anything pulpy—detective or noir. I suppose there is a sort of world building that goes with all of this; it’s just grounded in reality (that’s the difference). Also I’m a big fan of the night; so I like my fiction dark—literally and figuratively.
TSR: Do you have a preference between the novel format and some of the shorter formats (short story, novella, flash fiction, etc)? What do you enjoy about each style of storytelling?
HR: I prefer to read novels—the classics. Though, as of now, I wouldn’t dare embark on one myself. None of the concepts that I’m kicking around with right now exceed 25,000 words. If the story is good and the characters are dynamic, I’ll read it regardless of format.
TSR: What novel had the biggest impact on you as a writer and who are some of your favorite current writers that you recently started reading?
HR: The novel which had the biggest impact on my life has to be Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Even with all the vodka and the hindrance of being incarcerated by their own government, the Russians are still the greatest writers; and none have so poignantly and eloquently examined the human condition than Dostoyevsky. I suppose Fitzgerald would be a distant second—before Zelda’s Grizzelda ruined his life and deprived the world of a second masterpiece.
As a writer my main inspirations are Poe, Chambers, and Bierce: Poe for his form; Chambers for his mythology; and Bierce for his acid wit and utter profundity. Thank God Ambrose was shot in the head in the Civil War and was forever warped. Can you imagine a world without An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge? Bierce was writing science fiction before Wells. Not to mention, apart from A Confederacy of Dunces, The Devil’s Dictionary is the funniest book ever written.
Oh, I don’t read any current writers. Unless Etgar Keret is still working. He’s interesting.
TSR: I see several of your books with the subtitle (The Egg Book), can you tell us more about how that name came to be and what is all about.
HR: The Egg is Hildred’s first compendium. Although the first three tales are “stand-alones,” around Opus 3 or 4 the stories and characters begin to refer back to one another, as they all exist within the same universe—one that’s slightly skewed from reality. The central theme of The Egg, specifically, is madness, and the idea of madness spreading like a contagion. I’m calling it The Egg to represent the genesis of Hildred Rex.
TSR: What was your inspiration for writing A Slinking Agent of the Devil (at 3 AM). Is setting your story in a historical setting something you like to do.
HR: I have a friend who’s a DJ down in New Orleans. He retrofitted his apartment to accommodate a tiny restaurant and a dance-floor on Soniat Street. It’s called saVage’s. DJ saVage hosts around five to eight patrons on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. He cooks the meals himself and then works the turn tables while his customers eat: think John Carpenter meets Kanye West. Anyway, I used to visit saVage’s on off-days to play ping-pong with him. He was the one who brought the Axeman of New Orleans to my attention in the first place. DJ saVage is essentially his biographer. By the way, the Axeman was a serial killer in New Orleans from 1918-1919. There are plenty of theories about this Axman. saVage thinks it’s some guy who ended up being shot in California by a widow of one of his victims. God knows how she could have possibly uncovered his actual identity, and then traced him thousands of miles across the country. I never set out to write an origin story about the real Axman; I just liked the mythology surrounding him. I think American Horror Story did some candy-ass, voodoo crap about him showing up today like Jason, but it really sucked and was completely forgettable. So I decided to write a story about the people who populated New Orleans on the day after the Axman sent his famous warning letter to the press, and the mass hysteria that ensued because of it.
Yes, Opus 5 will also be set in the post-Great War era New Orleans. I just love that time period. I suppose I’m drawn to the upheaval of it all (the doldrums of the Gatsby’s and the profligates). But even though the stories of The Egg are both contemporary and period pieces, the themes, mythos, and tone are the same.
TSR: If you could choose any writer to collaborate or talk about writing with, who would you choose and why?
HR: I’m afraid I am unable to collaborate with anyone (except for Peov). I hate people; but I do like individuals. Still, I’m too much of a tyrant. Off-topic, but I caught a private screening of this new, unreleased film called People. An interesting picture . . . actually, it captured my own sentiments on people within a society. “Society is a detriment.” Did Emerson say something of the sort once? . . .
TSR: Thanks again for stopping by The Scary Reviews, Hildred! Is there anything else you would like to let readers know?
HR: Thank you for the spotlight, David. Oh, damn, should I have been scarier for this interview? I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to salute the real genius behind this two-man operation—Hildred’s warrior shaman from the Amazon: Peov, the illustrator.