KillerCon4 Interview—KillerCon Organizers:
Wrath James White, Bailey Hunter, and RJ Cavender
Wrath James White is a former World Class Heavyweight Kickboxer, a professional Kickboxing and Mixed Martial Arts trainer, distance runner, performance artist, and former street brawler, who is now known for creating some of the most disturbing works of fiction in print.
Wrath's two most recent novels are The Resurrectionist and Yaccub's Curse. He is also the author of Succulent Prey, Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town, The Book of a Thousand Sins, His Pain, and Population Zero. He is the co-author of Teratologist (with Edward Lee), co-author of Orgy of Souls (with Maurice Broaddus), co-author of Hero (with J.F. Gonzales), and co-author of Poisoning Eros (with KillerCon co-founder Monica J. O'Rourke).
Wrath lives and works in Austin, Texas with his two daughters, Isis and Nala, his son Sultan, and his wife, Christie.
Bailey Hunter is a writer and book inset & cover lay-up designer who does graphic design for print and digital media, and has been professionally creating for corporate and personal requirements with nearly 20 years of experience.
R.J. Cavender is the horror specialist editor at The Editorial Department, an Associate Member of the Horror Writers Association, and the twice Bram Stoker nominated editor of the +Horror Library+ anthology series from Cutting Block Press. Horror Library IV (co-edited with Boyd E. Harris) won the 2010 reader's choice Black Quill Award from Dark Scribe Magazine in the Best Dark Genre Anthology category.
KC: Wrath, you’ve been a veteran since the first KillerCon. How did that come about?
WJW: Well, KillerCon was at least partially my idea. I sort of stuck my foot in my mouth about how someone needed to start a writer’s convention in Las Vegas. That “someone” ended up being me with much needed help from Monica O’Rourke.
KC: Bailey and R.J, at what point did you come on as organizers?
BH: RJ and I came on board near the end of Killercon 2 after seeing the effort and heart and soul Wrath was pouring into it given a major upheaval by the original venue. He had dedicated so much and it was clear support was needed. Being a west coast dweller, I saw the value of having such a con on the western side of the continent. Also, I saw it as an excellent opportunity to get some knowledge and experience under my proverbial belt should I want to submit a bid to have a bigger con come to Vancouver, BC in the future.
RJC: I had to miss the first KillerCon as I’d just landed a new job and I simply couldn’t take the time off work. So by the time I finally made it to Vegas for the second convention I was beyond stoked. And when I saw there was an opportunity to get involved with the convention, I decided since I live so close (in Tucson, AZ) and since an annual writers convention in Vegas is one of the best ideas I’ve ever heard of…well, it was a no-brainer for me. So I reached out to Wrath, asked Bailey if she’d be interested, and by KillerCon 3 I was setting up the pitch sessions and helping with Guest of Honor outreach. Best decision I ever made while drinking in Vegas.
KC: Give us a bit of a recap on KillerCon 3. What was the process behind approaching the guests of honor, getting the word out at other cons and through social media, etc.?
BH: Lots of letters sent out back and forth first between the three of us as we threw several names in the hat, and then each of us reaching out to different prospective GoHs and seeing who responded. We were all quite pleased at the response–even though we did lose a couple at the last minute. Even with that, we were able to find stellar replacements. As far as getting the word out, it was a lot of Facebook posting, talking it up at other cons like World Horror in Austin, TX and using the large group of friends and ‘family’ in the community to help us spread the word.
KC: Give readers some more details on the panels planned for this year’s con. What are your personal highlights?
BH: I’m really looking forward to the “Why Strangers Have The Best Candy: Writing Young Adult Novels” because more and more or our genre is reaching out to the youth market. I’m also looking forward to both Pat MacEwan’s and Mike D. McCarty’s panels. I’ll probably be sliding between the two. The last one I’m very excited for is on Sunday—“Why They Kill: The Psychology of Serial Killers” Q&A with Doctor Al Carlisle. He’s a clinical psychologist with first hand exposure and work with serial killers. I’ve always been fascinated with criminal psychology so I think it’s going to be a very intriguing panel.
KC: What’s the story with how you scored Grammar Girl, Mignon Fogarty, to come to the con? A grammar workshop isn’t exactly the first thing that springs to mind when one thinks of a horror convention, but is this a conscious effort to offer more to the large proportion of writers attending the event?
BH: That was a great score! The gents get accolades for that one. We are a writer’s con. Whether it’s novels, novellas, shorts or scripts, writing is the name of the game. We want to provide a well rounded convention experience where we are catering to knowledge and sharing of experience for writers of the dark genre. It is meant to be fun and informative. If you’re going to pay to come, it should be a worthwhile expense.
WJW: I’m a big fan of Grammar Girl’s series “Quick and Dirty Tips for Fiction Writers.” I often listen to it on the long, arduous journey to my day job. After the success of Mort Castle’s writing workshop at KillerCon3, I thought it made sense to bring in a leading grammarian to do a workshop. And since she’s one of the few I actually understand, it was an easy choice.
KC: RJ, tell us a bit more about how the Self-Editing for Fiction Writers workshop idea came out, how you made it work, and give us a preview of some of the things you’ll cover.
RJC: Wrath had asked me, after reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne (the book that my employer and company founder at The Editorial Department co-wrote with editor Dave King) if I’d be interested in adapting it into a workshop for KillerCon this year. Since I’ve been using the book as a personal editing bible for the last two years and have attended the SEfFW workshop locally, I thought it would be a fantastic addition to the convention. I accepted as soon as I got approval from the home office. In a nutshell, the SEfFW workshop will teach authors what editors are looking for and how to objectively fine-tune their writing to make it more appealing to acquisitions editors. It’s a great book and I’m exciting to be teaching it!
KC: You’re also bringing back Pat MacEwan who did the Forensic Blood Splatter event last year, and this time around, she’s doing an Alien Autopsy. Can you give us a sense of what that will be like?
BH: Pat is awesome. Her event last year was standing room only and we’re very happy to have her come back. She will be delving into what forensics would be like on some less-than-human anatomy, some of the potential differences and similarities, and there will be a slide show. Pat has a lot of surprises in store, and will likely have a few tricks up her sleeve.
KC: There are also a number of publishers who will be having pitch sessions at the convention on September 21 & 22. Any tips on how writers should prepare?
BH: As we did last year, there will be a ‘Pre-Pitch Panel’ that will include all those who are taking pitches. It will be sort of a round table panel, in which each of those taking pitches will offer some tips and tricks on how to pitch and what they are looking for. RJ made this suggestion last year and it’s a great way to give those putting their work out there a helping hand and calmed a few nerves, too.
RJC: If you’re going to pitch to a market in particular, then you’ll want to research them and find out what sort of manuscripts they’ll be looking for. Familiarize yourself with their publications, come to the pre-pitch editorial panel on Saturday directly before the pitch sessions to hear the editors themselves talk about what they are looking for, bring a pen and paper for notes, and you should be fine.
KC: Besides casinos and the usual Vegas fare, do you have any sightseeing recommendations for KillerCon attendees while they’re in Sin City?
BH: I’m afraid I have no idea. I generally don’t leave the hotel during a con except on the last day–too much to do. Vegas is a playground, though, and I’m certain there is something for everyone whether it’s lounging by the pool, shopping, shows, a quick day trip to the Hoover Dam, or if you arrive early and want to kill a day, even a drive down to Area 51 (look to the hills for those cameras).
WJW: Last year, we rented a limo Sunday night and took a bunch of people to Spearmint Rhino. So, I can definitely recommend that place. Good, wholesome, family place. I wouldn’t recommend bringing the kids, though. Not unless they’re over 21. And I’m a foodie, so I have to talk about Vegas’s culinary delights. Around the corner from the Stratosphere hotel is a sandwich shop called Capriottis. Best cheesesteaks outside of Philly. The Palms hotel has one of my favorite sushi restaurants, Little Buddha. The Mandalay Bay has an excellent French restaurant, Fleur de Lis.
But you don’t have to leave the hotel if you want fine dining. Top of The World restaurant is excellent. You can cut the steak with a butter knife and the mashed potatoes are exceptional. I proposed to my wife at Top of The World. There’s also an Italian place on the main floor of the hotel that has excellent carpaccio.
And if you’re not a foodie and you’re not in the mood to leave half your income in someone’s g-string, there are shows like Zumanity at New York, New York, Imagine at the MGM, “O” at the Belaggio, and of course our very own topless vampire extravaganza, “Bite” at the Stratosphere. We’re even giving out discount tickets to “CSI: The Experience” in the goodie bags.
RJC: My biggest suggestion would be just to plan some extra time either before or after the convention for some sightseeing. We’ve got a zip-line event planned on Thursday night and I’ll certainly be hitting the Vegas Strip on Sunday with a group, but like any convention…when it’s going on you’ll probably want to stick close to the convention hotel and not miss any of the programming and events. You simply can’t do Vegas in one night or one trip, so don’t try to. Make a list of a couple of things you’d like to do and plan them in to your itinerary so as to not to take you too far from the convention while it’s in full swing. Plus, there’s a lot to do at The Stratosphere hotel as well…and we’ve got free booze.
KC: What’s the part about KillerCon4 that each of you are most looking forward to?
BH: Seeing old friends, making new friends and knowing that our guests are having a great time from the moment they get up to when they pour themselves into bed. This is what is most important to me. This is what makes it completely worthwhile. Thanks for your time and I can’t wait to see everyone again!
WJW: The sex. There’s always lots of sex at KillerCon. Vegas is just one sexy place. It may have something to do with all the alcohol— and the strippers. Did I mention Spearmint Rhino?
RJC: More than anything, I’m just looking forward to seeing all of our friends again this year, partying throughout the weekend, then following up and working on projects for the remainder of the year.
KillerConLV would like to thank Wrath, Bailey, and RJ for taking the time out of their jam-packed schedules to stop by for this interview!
RJ Cavender will be involved in various events during KillerCon4, including the pitch sessions, as well as conducting the Self-Editing for Fiction Writers Workshop, both of which take place on Saturday, September 22. For more information, please visit the Schedule/Events page.