Monday, April 30, 2018

My First Time: David W. Barbee


My Four First Times

The first time I got a book contract, it was for three books to be published by Eraserhead Press. I was beyond ecstatic, especially because I’d sold a hundred copies of my “New Bizarro Author Series” book. That series was like a trial run to see how well an author could not only write, but also promote their book, pretty much all on their own. The book itself wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever written, but it helped me earn that contract and prove myself. That first contract helped to make me feel like a real author, but nothing more was ever said about the contract. I kept submitting stories and Eraserhead kept publishing them, long after my three books came and went.

The first time I had a story rejected, it was for an anthology of literary horror. Very literary. And since I’m more of a pulp genre writer, my prose didn’t really fit in. I should have known that at the time, but I was still very new to things. The story I wrote was very clich├ęd and stale compared to what wound up in that anthology’s table of contents. On the bright side, my rejection was probably more polite than I deserved at the time. It simply said, “This isn’t what we’re looking for.” It was cold and robotic, and to this day I’m very appreciative of that.

My first public reading was back in college. I started out, as I always do, by shouting at the audience. The boom of my voice made several of the college folk jump in surprise. The story had to do with a father yelling at his son, who wouldn’t come inside for dinner because he was having too much fun jumping on a trampoline. Eventually, the kid decides that he can jump higher if only he can climb onto the roof of the shed and fall onto the trampoline from a great height. He makes the perilous climb onto the roof, and he makes his swan dive onto the trampoline, but then he bounces so high that he hits a power line hanging over the backyard and dies by electrocution. The college folks were pretty impressed.

My first award nomination came back in 2012, for my redneck detective novel A Town Called Suckhole. I was still pretty nervous about doing author stuff like reading publicly and talking about my writing. So I probably would have crumbled into a million tiny Davids had I won an award at that point. And at that point, there was a real chance I could’ve won it. Suckhole had a lot of buzz at the time, at least in the bizarro scene. I remember writing something down on a piece of paper just in case I won and I needed to remember what to say. The message was just a thank you to my wife. Nothing more. Then the moment came, the nominees were announced, the winner’s name was about to be revealed, and just as I was about to wet my pants… Laura Lee Bahr saved my life and won the award for her novel Haunt. Afterwards I hugged Laura, congratulated her, and thanked her for saving me from crumbling into a million tiny Davids.


David W Barbee writes bizarro fables full of dark monsters and strange maniacs, influenced by a deranged childhood diet of cartoons, comic books, and cult movies. He is the author of Jimbo Yojimbo, Bacon Fried Bastard, The Night’s Neon Fangs, and the Wonderland award-nominated A Town Called Suckhole. He lives in the mangy wilderness of Georgia, next door to one of the world’s most polluting power plants.

My First Time is a regular feature in which writers talk about virgin experiences in their writing and publishing careers, ranging from their first rejection to the moment of holding their first published book in their hands.


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