Archive for the ‘Interviews (general)’ Category

TheEnforcer

Karen Sheperd guest starred in two highly successful episodes of Hercules:The Legendery Journeys opposite Kevin Sorbo and Michael Hurst as “The Enforcer”, a ruthless killer summoned up by the evil Goddess Hera. This interview was sent to Karen by e-mail in late 2001 and printed in my Swedish (Lucy Lawless) LUCY IN THE SKY magazine in March 2002 (and also in a major Swedish publication called FIGHTER). I thought it could be good fun to add it to this blog today. The image you see here was one of the photographs that Karen sent to me at the time, and that guy is actor Michael Hurst, one of the stars of the show. I wrote this introduction back in the day…

Karen Sheperd is a living legend on the American martial arts scene. She may not be a household name here in Scandinavia but it is not a coincidence that Robert Tapert contacted this lady and asked her to do the role of The Enforcer in a couple of episodes of Hercules. At that point he had thought about using her talent for some time. When “The Enforcer” script came up he knew that he had found the perfect part for Karen. And although this character was to appear in only two episodes, Karen´s way of portraying the ultimate killer sent to earth by the Goddess Hera to kill Hercules was so effective that nobody that saw it is likely to forget.

Karen is an interesting person. She has meant an awful lot to women who wants to compete in martial arts in America and she has done everything. In 2000, she was winner of Golden State Karate Black Belt Hall Of Fame and earlier triumphs include her “Woman Of The Year” victory in Black Belt Hall Of Fame in 1997 and has been #1USA Black Belt Forms Champion (twice). She has done numerous movies, including “Eliminator Woman”, “Mission Of Justice” and “Shinobi”. The classic is “Righting Wrongs” (also released as “Above The Law”) by the famous Hong Kong director Cory Yuen, in which he used her chops to the full. There are fighting scenes in this film that is regarded as some of the best in cinema history by many. Karen has also appeared in many tv shows, both as an actor and as a double for the fighting scenes. She has been there for Eliza Dushku in Buffy and Angel, and she has been seen in Walker Texas Ranger for Nia Peeples.

A lot of this was unknown to me at the time. I knew she had done Red Sonja at the Universal Studios stage show of “The Adventures Of Conan” and her job as The Enforcer was an early favourite. Back in 1999, I think, I stumbled across an article in Femmes Fatales that shed some light on her person. I recall a picture of her sitting on a bike that was way cool. And then we jump ahead in time to early September 2001. What happened then was that I sent her a mail asking her if she would be interested in doing an interview for my LUCY IN THE SKY magazine, and the reply that came was very nice and positive. She even put a package of promotional pictures in the mail to me so that I would have no trouble getting a good job done. I had just sent her the interview itself by e-mail when the tragedy of September 11 hit us all. I then sent her a note and asked her to do it later on. I mean, we all had a hard time back then. By December, we were in touch again and once I got the interview it became obvious that she had “walked the extra mile” with it, as the American saying goes. I sent her a mail thanking her for her effort and then she replied that she wanted to do it as good as possible because in her opinion this was the best interview about her work in Hercules ever. I don´t think I have to tell you how nice such a compliment feels and I think you all know by now that Karen is a very warm and friendly kind of person. Here follows the interview. Please enjoy!

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Can you describe your early years, where you grew up and so on?

– Born in Colorado, raised in Illinois and Oregon by parents who influenced me to appreciate the arts and values in life and globe-trotted ever since.

When you were a kid, what influenced you to pick up karate and such things?

– It sounds trite, but it’s true: Bruce Lee… and a girlfriend who encouraged me to join her martial arts class. Sue Hill was a wild friend of mine who encouraged me to check out the class she was taking in Kenpo Karate. Sue perished in the TWA Flight 800 crash from New York to Paris and I will always remember the night before my first class when she helped me sew my first “gi” (traditional karate uniform). On a happier note, Bruce Lee was hot when I was a kid and I saw all of is movies over and over again. I secretly wanted to the first “female Bruce Lee” and do what he was doing on screen. I say secretly, because at the time, it was an unusual desire for a girl.

When you grew up, did you feel that there were any real role models and action heroines worthy of the name on your television?

– Not in the US. The action heroines I respected were the Chinese actresses doing their own stunts and fights in Chinese martial arts films, like Angela Mao. American television didn’t offer anything as real as that.

You were a force behind getting more females involved and gave them a chance to compete. How did you go about this and how long did it take?

– When I competed in martial arts tournaments, there were less than 10% female competitors (now there are 50%). Many national tournaments didn’t even offer separate divisions for women. Many women spectator-martial artists would approach me at tournaments and tell me how intimidated they were to compete against men. I felt that if more tournaments offered separate divisions for women, that more women would sign up for competition and that if women had a goal (ratings) to work for, that they would feel it more worth their time. I contacted the head of the national ratings system (at the time “Black Belt Magazine”) and told them the situation and that I felt women deserved separate ratings. I felt that if a #1 title existed for women, that competitive women would turn out and go for it. The magazine told me that in order to do that, they would need a signed petition from the top women in the country stating that they desired the same thing AND also that tournament promoters needed to begin offering separate divisions for women. I then contacted the top women competitors who enthusiastically believed in the concept and the petition was begun. I also wrote letters to the top tournament promoters and encouraged them to add separate divisions for women. Many of them obliged, hesitantly however. It was a gamble because the promoters didn’t think they’d get enough women to compete. Needless to say, it all worked out. After the first year’s ratings were announced and published, then women competitors came “out of the woodwork” to compete and attendance at tournaments increased. I’m rather proud of this, and would like to think I had a hand in opening up martial arts recognition for women. My thinking at the time was that if there were national rankings for women’s tennis, gymnastics, skating, skiing, etc – why can’t there be national recognition for women in the martial arts and give women a competitive goal to work towards?

You have a very nice track record in your chosen craft. Looking back on your awards, did any one of them mean more than the others and if so why?

– My very first competition ever brought a first place trophy. It is most special because I went in as an innocent, not expecting to win, just to have fun. I wasn’t nervous at all. Performing and competing in that first tournament was fun because I did not put any pressure on myself to win. After that, I lost my “competitive virginity”, so to speak. After tasting victory, I was out for blood. I am also fond of my United States Open Grand Championship. My win was the first time a woman had ever won “Grand Champion”, beating everyone… men and women. It was featured on the national nightly news report. That was a great feeling, winning one of the biggest tournaments in the world. Also, my induction in the Black Belt Hall of Fame run by Black Belt Magazine was most special because to me it is the most credible. There are lots of Halls of Fame but that one is the first, most well established and holds the most credible inductees.

How did you get into live drama at Universal Studios as “Red Sonja” in the “Conan” stage show? Is it true you performed over 3,200 shows?

– Where does a martial-arts star/wanna-be martial-arts movie star look for work to pay her bills between movie jobs? The answer for me was at Universal Studios. I auditioned to be the sword-swinging redhead opposite Conan. How much fun was that? I was the only woman sharing a dressing room with six guys in my cast. I fought four bad guys armed with weapons and helped slay a dragon four to seven times per day for 20 minutes each show daily. What a workout. I met lots of interesting people from all over the world and celebrities that came through and saw the show. In fact, that’s the first time I met Kevin Sorbo. He was in LA on a publicity tour and his people had arranged to present him on our Conan stage for a Question & Answer session for his fans. I was asked by the studio to help introduce him. What’s really bizarre about that, is unbeknownst to either of us, during this same time his producer (Rob Tapert) happened to be in negotiations with my manager to have me guest star on “Hercules”.

Did you ever get injured?

– Oh sure, cuts deep enough to require stitches a number of times. Some of those guys should never have been hired, as their ability with weapons were minimal. Also there were guys using steroids and that tended to make them unpredictable and unsafe. Also, I tore the ligaments off the bone in one knee and had reconstructive surgery that had me in rehabilitation for 1 year. I saw guys get their faces and heads split open on that stage, so I guess I fared pretty well…considering.

Would you accept a similar job again.

– Not where I do four to seven shows a day, especially with performers who are not top-notch. In a way, I do this sort of thing still, but it is fight scenes for movies and TV and it’s only a one-time deal each project and it is usually with people who are great at what they do and there are more safety precautions in place. I did have fun on “Conan”, definitely – but I’ve been there and done that.

Did the job as Red Sonja have anything to do with you being offered the part as “The Enforcer” in Hercules?

– No. The executive producer of “Hercules”, Rob Tapert, was a big fan of martial arts movies and had seen a few that I starred in. He told me he had always wanted to put me in “Hercules” but that he was just waiting for the right project. Finally, “The Enforcer” came along and he thought I was perfect for it. It was really an honor and very flattering to get a job that way, based upon my previous work on screen. It was a nice validation and I am always thankful to Rob Tapert for showing me such respect.

At the time, were you aware of the show? Were Hercules and Xena popular at the time in the US?

– I was aware of Hercules and had seen it a few times. I don’t think Xena was airing yet at the time of my first episode on Hercules. Kevin Sorbo and Hercules were beginning to have lots of fans and gain in popularity.

What was your impression of New Zealand the first time you got there?

– It was winter in New Zealand when I first filmed there. A lot like the Pacific Northwest in the United States, lots of rain, cold but very green and beautiful. Did I say cold? Yeah… cold. Especially that establishing scene I shot for the first episode where I rise up out of the water. On a miserably, cold, rainy day I had to stand in the ocean – in wintertime – with no clothes until we got the complete shot. We were filming on a military reserve and there were Navy guys in a boat behind me. The film crew kept trying to get guys to leave so they wouldn’t be in the shot. They wouldn’t because here was this nude girl on the beach!

Can you describe what the first trip was like?

– In a word… exciting. I love to travel, meet new people, experience new things. I enjoyed the Kiwis (New Zealanders) and their lovely way of talking, went on glorious horseback rides on the beach, ate like a Queen and had a blast working. The director was really good and the crew and cast were such a pleasure to be around. Everyone made me feel so welcome.

Can you confirm that you had creative input in creating the Enforcer?

– I did have input about the look and development of the character. It began with the costume designer, Ngila Dickson. She is awesome, really talented. She phoned me in LA and asked my opinion about how the costume should look. I requested that the outfit show my arms and my stomach because I felt that besides the Enforcer’s supernatural power, she should look physically strong as well, so muscles were in order. I also wanted my knees covered because I knew I’d be doing my own fights and I wanted to be able to pad them with protection. Ngila came up with this incredibly perfect costume. Once I arrived in New Zealand I went straight to hair/make up tests. When I put the costume on for the first time, it fit like a glove and it made me “feel” like the character. The Enforcer’s mannerisms and gestures started to come naturally to me. Then came the hair and eyes. Once the make-up/hairstylist, Annie Single, and I settled on the cut of the hair, the director came in, took a look and suggested the black contacts. I tried some on with the whole outfit on and we decided that was it. The look was complete. I then conferred with the director and producer about the aspects of the character and they were very open minded regarding my suggestions.

Would you say that the creative freedom down on the NZ set was a surprise?

– Once I got there, I wasn’t surprised because I had already met Rob Tapert in LA and Kevin also. I was surprised and pleased when I met them at how open-minded and positive they were. In Hollywood, it’s rare to meet such very cool people, really. They saying goes that a crew is only as good as the top person, so I knew that Rob’s team had to be a really special group.

The stars usually have stunt doubles for action scenes. Did you have a double at all?

– I had a gymnastics double who performed the more difficult moves like flipping off of platforms and repeat backhandspringing down the banquet table and stuff. She was really great. All of the fights and most everything else is me. I like to do as much as I can myself, but I also believe in giving credit where credit is due.

Describe the feeling of the set. Was there any joking going on, any practical jokes?

– Lots of joking. One great thing about Kevin is that he kept his crew happy and laughing. No big “star” trip on the set, nothing to prove. I don’t remember any practical jokes, but I do remember lots of laughter. We would sit around between shots and Kevin and Michael Hurst would share humurous stories about their experiences on the show, leaving us giggling into the next shot.

You had fight scenes with both Kevin Sorbo and Michael Hurst. Can you tell me a little about these scenes?

– Both guys were awesome. Neither one had egos that got in the way of creativity. They both realized that having a woman knock the blazes out of them was integral to the storyline and they both really got into it. They both did most of their own stunts and took their own hard-knocks. I was impressed. They were both equally open to my suggestions about choreography, as was the fight/stunt coordinator, Peter Bell. The scene where I really thrashed Iolaus (Michael Hurst) was fun because Michael really got into it. The more raw and thrashed he got, the more he seemed to love it. A real gritty actor. He was very cool. I remember the final fight between Kevin and myself, we both were not feeling well that day. The flu bug was going around set. I guess we used how we felt to make the scene appear more violent, as it well should have looked.

How long did the first episode take to shoot and did you get to see it prior to actually seeing it air on TV?

– I was there two weeks from beginning to end of getting all the shots for the first episode. I did not see it prior to it airing on TV, so I had a little party at my house when the show aired for the first time. The director, T.J. Scott, came to my party along with a few friends. It was cool watching it with a group.

The ratings were very good. What was the best thing that came out of that in your opinion?

– The best thing is to be able to say that my episode, “The Enforcer” had the highest ratings ever for the entire series. Way cool.

How long was it before you knew they wanted you down there again for another episode and did you hesitate to do it at all?

– I think it was almost a year later, for the next season. I was extremely flattered to be asked back. When they sent me the first draft of the script, however, I asked Rob Tapert if he would be open to changes. He was great about that and obliged me with a few long telephone conversations about the story and my character.

For the second episode, you already knew what the character would be like but this time you were on the good side. Did this give you impulses to add something for this episode.

– I wanted to make it apparent to the audience that The Enforcer was going through a transition, as opposed to all of a sudden having her be a good guy for no apparent reason. I wanted the episode to show a sort of discovery and learning period for her so that she truly understands what good is and redeems herself before she dies (again).

The death scene of The Enforcer was very good. Is it true that you or your husband came up with that?

– After reading the second draft of the script, I realized that the death scene was coming up flat. It was written that The Enforcer just died in the battle against Enforcer II. End of Enforcer. I truly loved this character and had such fun playing her that I wanted her to go out in a blaze of glory. I wanted her death to mean something relative to the story and to Hercules. I wanted to show the audience that The Enforcer had completed a journey and had truly learned about good. My husband came up with the idea of tying in the scene where The Enforcer discovers tears (Hercules’ mother crying) with the death scene by finally understanding that “sometimes people cry when they are happy”. My husband, Joe, mostly wrote the scene. I took it to NZ and read it aloud at the script read-through for cast, producers and director. I held my breath at the end and was thrilled when everyone said they liked it. Rob Tapert said, “let’s do it”. What a feather in Joe’s cap. I’m pleased with how it came out. I think it added more meaning to the story throughout. The way Kevin played it made the scene very touching and served to flatter his character as well.

Was there ever talk again about getting The Enforcer back for yet another episode?

– Talk, here and there but nothing came of it. The director wanted to spin me off into my own series, or do a feature film based on the character, but it was just talk at the time. I would have loved to have seen The Enforcer cross over to Xena. I thought Xena was an outstanding show and thought Lucy was doing really great things on it.

What is your opinion on Rob Tapert and Sam Rami? Would you say that it is true that Hercules and Xena changed the American thinking in this field?

– They are extremely creative gentlemen. American TV had never really experienced fantasy, innovative action, and outrageousness combined with clever humor before. I think all the “wanna-be”, copy-cat action shows that started after Hercules and Xena began are a testament to the creativity of these two guys. Imitation is the best form of flattery, it is said.

When in NZ, did you get to meet “the other set”, the Xena crew and stars?

– I met a lot of the crew, because many of the same crew members went back and forth between shows. The only cast member I met was Renee O’Connor, Gabrielle. We met in passing at the production office one day. My father was with me on my second trip to NZ and I remember her being so gracious and sweet. I think she charmed my Dad so much that I had to snap him back to reality and remind him who I was… hey Dad, remember me… Karen, your kid? Not really that bad, but close!

If you had been an ancient queen and your motto engraved on all the coins in the land, what would it say?

– “What is real are those whom you love and who love you unconditionally. Nothing else is as important.” My coins would have to be really big!

Do you have any hobbies aside from the time you spend with your career?

– I collect antiques, mostly memorabilia from the 1950’s and 1960’s, especially original toys and metal lunchboxes. I also love to read, learn languages (currently trying to teach myself French) and travel. Mostly though I watch movies. Movies, movies, movies.

Have you ever been to Sweden and do you have any friends or relatives here?

– I’ve never been. I hope to go one day and I hope that after this interview, I will have lots of new friends from Sweden.

Would you like to say something to your fans here?

– Thank you!

After receiving and writing this interview out I realized that it would be fun to know if Karen knew what had happened to the costume that she used to wear as she portrayed The Enforcer in these episodes of Hercules – could she perhaps even own it herself? So I sent her a mail and asked and she replied “I kept the Enforcer costume… all of it, boots and everything. I´m happy to save it as a remembrance”. So now you know. And it feels somehow just right that she still has it stored away. She was The Enforcer and nobody else could have done the part better.

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Michael Eriksson (c).

(No part of this interview may be quoted without permission)

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This is a preview from RETROFUTURE 8, the interview with Ellinor was made about a week ago to go with the final issue. Enjoy!

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I guess it all started in the Spring of 2012. I don´t recall the exact date but I do remember that I found you on Internet. But you lived in Stockholm, not here in Jämtland. I thought that I had found a local gal, but you had moved…

– Yes that is correct but I have been living in Jämtland for 20 years before I decided to move so I still see myself as a local girl because it is still “home”.

Is it fair to say that RETROFUTURE was an unknown publication to you at this time?

– Yes, it was.

What was your initial reaction to my suggestion, I guess a Wild West job is quite unusual to say the least in this day and age?

– I got really surprised but I found it very interesting. So, I thought… let´s go for it!

Are you into Western films or books or anything like that? Riding?

– I remember watching many old western movies with my dad and a big bowl of popcorn when I was a little girl, I only got to see him at the weekends so it brings back a lot of happy memories. I have also watched some new western movies lately but the old ones is definitely better.

From my end, I recall that you seemed to be a very positive kind of person, and I knew that you were a rocker. And indeed, it turned out to be an easy going kind of affair. You did some shopping for the character in Stockholm.

– Yeah… Rock is my kind of music and always has been. I guess that also have something to do with my father, I was raised to be a rocker to make it short. And when I discovered your magazines I realized we had something in common. I got really excited to work with you and it was something I have never done before. And of course it was so much fun to go to the stores and collect the things that we needed to make it work.

We also agreed on the name of the heroine together – I thought that Tornado Blaze was a great name.

– Yes, Me too… It was spot on. It sounds cool and it is a funny coincidence that I am kind of a tornado in private as well.

What did your friends think about it at the time?

– My friends thought it was cool and they were really excited to see the result. They all got a copy each. My colleagues called me “cowgirl” for a long time… but of course they got a copy as well. It was very appreciated!

We had the photo session in Östersund on July 30 2012, and I guess we spent about three hours all in all, including the main session at Jamtli and the shorter trip down by the lake. What do you recall from the day?

– It was so much fun. I thought it was amazing… the weather that day was perfect and the places we we were shooting at was gorgeous and really appropriate for that time in the story. I enjoyed every second of it. It was funny to go in to the character and to improvise. I really appreciate all the help we got from my mother Lise Nordbakk and Johan Ängeflo as well, they did a great job indeed! Thank you my dear ones!

I recall that the sun was going down but that we actually got some really nice shots because of the angle of the sun, like the ones of your shadow against the side of a house – the Lucky Luke type shots – I loved those. And the colors were stronger, it looked great.

– Yes, It was a wonderful day. It was a great idea! By the way… I love Lucky Luke… Icing on the cake!

Trinkelbonker

I still had to write the novel at the time but when I did it turned out to be a spin-off to the Montana Blue thing, and I think that was exciting.

– Me too… The fact that Tornado Blaze got trained by Montana Blue at a young age and they have fought together and they meet again under other circumstances to battle. Smart move!

The 28 page Tornado Blaze edition with the first part of the novel was printed in March 2013 and was handed out for free in and around Östersund around that time, 1.000 copies. What was your take on it? Did you get any kind of feedback?

– I don´t remember but it was a lot… I still have some copies at home and every now and then people has been asking for them. It is a strange feeling to think about so many people having the magazines in their homes. And also to see yourself in a magazine like that, but it is a nice memory to keep. They say that I looked really good, cute and sexy and that the character suited me well. And lots of other nice things… I feel really flattered!

The novel was completed when the main edition of RETROFUTURE 6 came out in the Fall, and this issue sported yet another Tornado Blaze cover. I think this was a great cover, you were really cool on that magazine.

– Thank you! I am happy about it. It is a good thing being a make-up artist in these occasions. And the outfit turned out great. We did a really good job to put it together I must say…

I heard people talk about you, they often asked me how I could find such beautiful models. It was obvious to me that RETROFUTURE has gained notoriety because of the novels and these covers (including the Dakota Jane & Montana Blue projects). In any case, these two magazines went out in about 1.900 copies around Jämtland. The long wait was over, Tornado Blaze was all over the place now.

– That is so cool… I am amazed about this project. It is pure passion. I feel honored to be a part of it.

Then we had the Purple edition of RETROFUTURE 6 (the 100th publication) in June 2013, which sported a story about these novels with a very cool image of Tornado Blaze. Again, another 1.000 copies went out – including 100 to Sioux City for the Deep Purple & Tommy Bolin festivities there in August – I got a lot of good feedback around this time for sure.

– Well… That is just awesome!

Hundreds of copies went out around the time of the Deep Purple party at Jane Doe in November 2013 and to me that period symbolized the beginning of the end. The time had come to wrap things up eventually. In the end, was it a positive thing for you?

– Yes and no… I mean, it must feel good to have completed it all but at the same time I would like to see more of it. And I would love to work with you again. It was such a blast.

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When I look back on Tornado Blaze, I think it was totally worth it. It cost me an arm and a leg to do it, but it was a great thing to have done and I am very pleased with this being part of the RETROFUTURE saga. You were the perfect Tornado Blaze, nobody could have done it better.

– Yeah… Good thing it was worth it…. I am glad you survived! Thank you for your kind words. Makes me really happy to hear!

As for the shots we took down by the lake, I still might use one of these for a one-off publication called Swedish Preppers later on (possibly in 2016). You have seen a suggestion for a cover. Do you have an interest in those kind of things?

– Absolutely… I thought it looked great. Bring it on!

We have to wait and see. This interview will be added to my blog Trinkelbonker. Do you have anything to add to this interview?

– This was such an amazing experience. I am so glad I took the job. And I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. So if you ever need me in the future, just give me a call. I really must say I admire your passion for all the things you do, it is so brave to follow your dreams and make it happen, I really hope that people understand and appreciate the effort you put into it. I am definitely looking forward to the next magazine, should you do it. And to all the readers out there; thank you so much for all the kind words and support, I hope you all enjoyed it! Me and Tornado Blaze surely did!

Mike Eriksson (2014) – RETROFUTURE (c).

Nina_1 

I photographed local model Nina for my Montana Blue novel twice in 2010, a project that has reached quite a reputation since then. I have just published a 4 page interview with Nina in RETROFUTURE 6 (Western edition), and thought that it might be fun to translate it for this blog as well. Good fun.

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The Montana Blue novel is basically a Western adventure, although it has some Asgard mythology and Fantasy bits in it as well. Did you have an interest in this genre before this job came up? I guess the Western thing can be a little out of fashion these days.

– I had some interest, mostly since I love horses. I guess it would come naturally to enjoy a good Western and what kid did not love Lucky Luke growing up?

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What hobbies do you have?

– My main hobby is my horse Laida, but it feels wrong to call that a hobby when she feels more like a member of the family. It is more of a lifestyle thing to own a horse. I also enjoy dancing, cheerleading, outdoors life, taking care of all my animals and hang out with friends and family.

I recall that I showed you some old magazines of mine when I approached you for this job. Dakota Jane had been done at that time so you could have a look at that. Do you recall your thoughts when this came up?

– Yes, I thought “This is exciting, of course I want to do this!”. It seemed like a lot of fun.

I recall that we thought about names for the heroine before settling with Montana Blue, and that we took the name into consideration for the outfits we created buying blue shoes etc. We landed in two outfits, the blue one and the other one. Looking back, what do you think about the outfits we created?

– Well, I do actually have a favourite, although I think both were very successful. I do prefer the first one, with the white shirt and the Mocca jacket. That worked very well with the Montana Blue jewellery, I thought.

We had the first session on June 16 (2010), with the Mocca jacket and the hat etc. The blue necklace were there and we used the blue shoes for maybe half the session. We worked at Frösö Island and down by the shore of Lake Storsjön, The Great Lake. How do you recall this today?

– I remember that I was very nervous! I really wanted to live up to your expectations of how you wanted Montana Blue to be. As the day went on I felt that I got it right and it really was a lot of fun then! That whole day is a good memory to have. My favourite spot was down by the lake, we got some really good photographs down there.

Personally, I was very happy with the results of that day and it was obvious that the camera loved you. The second session that we did took place on September 26 at Frösön Island, around composer Wilhelm Peterson-Berger´s residence and down by the lake. Now you wore the blue outfit. What do you recall from that day now?

– I was not nervous anymore, I just had a blast! I had seen the pictures from the first session and I knew what it was all about this time around. It was another good day! My favourite spot that day was that field, I think those shots turned out well. I could get into the part of Montana Blue and really act it out.

The character was introduced with a Making of Montana Blue article in RETROFUTURE 3 in November 2010. 800 copies of this was handed out locally, on a pub called Bishop´s Arms etc, and 200 students in a school at Frösön Island got copies. Could you tell that this was going on at the time?

– Yes, and rather quickly. Friends and relatives got in touch and wanted to know more about this, how it had happened etc. Most of them thought that it was good fun and they wanted to read the novel.

The novel was printed in February 2011 in 400 copies (we signed 50) with a cover that was taken outside the Peterson-Berger place. I got feedback from women who thought the shoes were beautiful, what did you hear on your end?

– I heard a lot of comments from people I know that had seen the magazine. They were all very positive and they really liked the pictures and thought that the novel was very exciting! I even met people that I didn´t know that came up to me and said that they recognised me from the Montana Blue thing. The outfits, and particularly the necklace, was very popular among both women and men that had seen it.

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How did it feel to be a heroine in a Western novel?

– Good fun! This is not the sort of thing that happens to you every day. I think it is good to have some fun and to try new things out and I was glad to have done it. And I am looking forward to the comic book version that is in progress, that will be fun to show to the grandchildren some day! How many can say that a comic book heroine was based on them?

At this point, about 1000 magazines that featured Montana Blue was out among the general public. In September 2010 we had RETROFUTURE 4 on which you had the cover (with the blue outfit) and another 800 copies was handed out in different ways to the public. This magazine also sported a preview of the novel. What do you recall from this period?

– Oh, this was an exciting period! It was fun to see these magazines, and to hear feedback from people.

I did enjoy the faked pocket book covers that were made to look like they could have been published around 1970. I showcased a number of such covers in these first two publications. What is your take on these?

– They were very nice and appropriately retro, which they were sopposed to be! I liked some of them very much. It was fun to see the titles and to try to figure out why you had chosen them for the specific covers.

One detail in the novel that I thought was fun is the heroines horse, and her name, Fyrhov (roughly translates to Four Hooves). I though the name was good and I liked that they had such a strong bond to each other.

– Yes, and this is something that I can relate to in real life. The bond that you get with your horse is very special. My horse and I have this bond, we trust each other completely. Like Fyrhov and Montana Blue.

In the summer of 2012, the novel was seen by many as it was re-printed twice. First, it was included in my publication “Storsjöodjuret” (“The Great Lake Monster”), then it went out in GUNSLINGER back to back with the old Dakota Jane novel. So within a few months, another 1800 copies of this novel reached the general public. I recall not telling you about the novel being re-printed in the Great Lake Monster publication as well, so this must have been quite a surprise?

– Yes, it was! But it was good fun to see the novel in print in that magazine as well! I have a good feeling seeing it.

And GUNSLINGER used a shot with the Mocca jacket from the first session. One can wonder what people are thinking when they suddenly get a free Western publication delivered in the mail box? I seem to recall that you got your copies on your birthday?

– Yes, I think that is true. Some present! I remember having dressed up and I was ready to go out and celebrate and then I just wanted to hand out magazines instead.

The Montana Blue novel was mentioned in a review about the Great Lake Monster publication in a major newspaper, DN, did you see that?

– Yes, I saw that! Great fun to be noticed in such a big paper.

Another 900 copies of RETROFUTURE 5 was handed out to the public in September and October 2012, this time with the news that a comic book version is in the works. Could you ever have imagined that such a thing would happen some day when you took this on?

– (Laughs) No, how could one see such a thing coming? Nor could I have thought that it would have become so popular, with so many people having seen it. It just kept growing! I am happy about the comic book version, this is very exciting!

When this interview is being made, the Tornado Blaze novel still have to see the light of day. But you have read it and you do know that this is going to be a spin-off from Montana Blue, and that Montana Blue has died and is now a Valkyrie at the side of Oden in Valhalla. What is your take on this?

– I think it suits Montana Blue just fine to be a Valkyrie. I think she has deserved the honor!

Looking back on all of this, do you feel that it was OK?

– I think it was more than OK! You have been very kind to me right through all of this and it was nice to have been part of this creation. I would do it again.

I am thinking about writing a novel in which we find out how Montana Blue died and became a Valkyrie, in that battle she had alongside Tornado Blaze. Maybe for the last publication in 2015? Any thoughts on that?

– Sounds exciting! Does this mean that I have to dust my old Western boots again? I would love to work with the woman that modelled for Tornado Blaze, she looks like a terriffic gal!

Would you like to add something to this interview?

– Only that I am glad to have done this. I never would have thought that this would have become what it is now back when we started to talk about it. Everything that has happened has been an inspiration and very exciting. I hope that people will continue to have an interest in Montana Blue and the other heroines. Thank you for the ride, it has been a lot of fun.

* * * * *

Michael Eriksson (c).

(No part of this interview may be quoted without permission)

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IngridPitt 

Ingrid Pitt starred in “Where Eagles Dare” (1968) alongside Clint Eastwood, Mary Uhre and Richard Burton, and when I was old enough to see it at the cinemas I thought it was so good that I saw it twice in two days. I was 13 at the time (must have been back in 1974 then) and you were supposed to be 15 to be let in. I recall a teacher of ours spotting us but he looked the other way. In 2001, in May, I told Ingrid Pitt this story (via e-mail) as I contacted her asking if an interview would be possible. Her response was wonderful. Not only did she love that story, but she said I could send over my questions. At the time, she was writing books so I´m sure it must have messed up her day in one way or another, but she was a beautiful lady.

Her life (she died in 2010) was amazing, they could have shot a movie about her. As a child she survived a Nazi concentration camp, making her escape with her mother as they were to be shot in the woods, and they remained with partisans until the end of the war. More drama followed when she later escaped to the west. Still, most people remember her from “Where Eagles Dare” and from the Hammer horror movies that followed, but that was just a small part of her amazing story. She was also an author, a pilot (and a WWII airplane enthusiast), and she had a black belt in Karate. Not your average person, then. This is the interview, I hope you enjoy it.

* * * * *

 Who in your opinion was the first female character in television or in the movies that had “girl power” (or just a ton of attitude) written all over her? The TV series The Avengers introduced strong female characters in the sixties. Do you remember how it was received back then?

– I guess that would have to be Honor Blackman. The “in yer face” half of the Avengers TV series. Of course there were others before her, Theda Bara, The original Vamp of the Roaring Twenties and Betty Hutton spring to mind although they are probably not good examples. But Honor did enough to have everyone wanting to be “cool” before cool. The Avengers had an interesting provenance. A friend of mine, Ian Hendry was the lead in it originally, when it was a much more serious thing than it became. Background politics and Ian´s fondness for the bottle saw him supplanted by the more amenable Patrick MacNee and a legend was born.

Did you have a role model, somebody that you looked up to and admired?

– That has to be Betty Davis. She was so cool and seemed to know exactly what she was doing. Not everyones cup of cocao now I guess but after the austerities of the Second World War it was wonderful to see TWO whole cigarrettes being lit at the same time. When I finally got to meet her she was very old. I gushed, sycophantically, “so wonderful to meet you”. She looked down her nose at me and said, “Of course it is”. I felt such a twit.

Did you ever work with Honor Blackman or Diana Rigg?

– Never worked with either of them but I´m on friendly terms with both. Well – at least we say “Hi” when our paths cross. My daughter, Steffanie, did a sitcom with Honor a few years ago – forget what it was called.

In your own experience, would you say that you would have welcomed a more female friendly attitude in scripts and so on?

– I´m not sure what that means? I would have preferred a more producer friendly environment. Whatever the script is, if the play is right you can work something out.

Was there ever a moment when you wished you could just hit some director in the head with something very hard?

– Not actually on set but… When I heard that my voice had been dubbed in “Countess Dracula”, Peter Sasdy was lucky to not be in range. I´m still not sure why he did it. I had appeared in half a dozen English speaking films at that point including “Vampire Lovers” and “Where Eagles Dare” without complaint. And when we had run the dailies there had been no complaints. He said that as the Countess was royalty she needed an English cut glass accent. In Hungary? And him with an accent that could explode bananas at fifty paces! I see him occasionally. After a rather tiresome period on a jury at a Spanish film festival, which culminated in me pushing him off the harbour wall, we tend to tread warily around each other.

When you did the Hammer movies, would they listen to opinions? Did you have some input?

– I can´t remember having any barn storming ideas sessions. Colonel Jimmy Carreras was in control and it was fairly relaxed but he was hot on keeping to the budget and could get quite sniffy if he thought time was being wasted.

What script was the best, and the worst, of the many you were offered?

– I think one of the best stories I did was “Nobody Ordered Love”. This was originally released through Rank. An argument with the producer Robert Hartford Davis blew up which resulted in Bob taking his picture and refusing to play anymore. He then went off to America, married a rich widow, died of a heart attack and the film has joined the passengers of the Marie Celeste and Lord Lucan.

– The worst was one of my own. But, I plead quickly, it was not my fault. I offered a nice taut story about a woman in an Asylum suffering from schizophrenia. It was bought by a producer who then wanted changes – and changes – and changes. It finished up as a rather grubby offering about Adolf Hitler´s body, preserved in a cryogentic state, being resurrected and paraded before his present day followers. Unfortunately the cryogenic capsule was not working properly and… you don´t want to know.

What was the best part that you did in your opinion?

– The Ghost? Or maybe she wasn´t a ghost, in Mike Figgis´s “The House That Dripped Blood”. All I had to do was walking around very slowly in a variety of wonderful gowns and look soulful. I do soulful very well.

When you portrayed a female vampire it created a very strong image. Could this have been followed up in a TV series back then or would that have been difficult? (in view of the times). Would you have done it if the opportunity had presented itself?

– Don´t think the times had anything to do with it. Nobody came up with a decent basis for a series. Anyway, TV was NOT considered suitable for a young lady of ambition in those days. Even the series I did appear in were considered a retrograde step by most afficinados. But it gave me the chance to work with such greats as Larry Olivier, Alec Guiness, John Mills, Ralph Meeker, Ida Lupino, Raymond Burr and many others. By the time I left Hollywood in 1968 I had crossed the line and would have done anything that dropped through my letterbox. I even had to stop myself acting out scenarios for lingerie catalogues.

You had a part in “Where Eagles Dare”. It is regarded a classic in every way. How do you recall being there today?

– It was wonderful. Lots of money and pampered to the hilt. Burton and Eastwood spent a lot of time ragging me but as both of them were mega stars I considered myself privileged. It also gave me a chance to ask Clint what had happened to Rowdy Yates in the episode where they were all set to hang him. I hadn´t seen the denouement because at the crutial moment Steffanie had decided to put in an appearance and I had tried to get to the hospital. Clint said “Don´t know, Dove”, and that settled it. Stories that circulated about a little extra curricula between Richard and me were disseminated by him to get Elizabeth´s dander up. With remarkable success.

Today movies are marketed with long tours for interviews and so on. How was it back then? What were you asked to do for “Where Eagles Dare”?

– Most stupid thing I did in my life! No, hold it! There was that… and… but we won´t go into that. Sufficent to say that when the promotional tour was on the road I went with it. Naively I thought I had cracked it. It didn´t occur to me as I was travelling the world in my little Heidi dress that Clint and Richard weren´t to be seen. They were off making other movies – leaving me to die the death.

Did you ever visit Sweden for any kind of promotion?

– Nope! Not on the promotional tour but I have visited Sweden for the motor races. There is an “Where Eagles Dare” fan club there which I was talking to about doing all sorts of things but I haven´t heard from them for about six months or so I guess I pissed them off in some way.

Do you still have an income from those movies?

– Another “nope”.

You retired from film and television and are now an author. Do you miss anything from the old days? Would you consider a part today if it came along? What would you be interested in doing if you had your choice?

– Retired? Who said anything about retirement? I usually manage to get two or three appearances in during the year. Last year I did “The Asylum”, “Green Fingers” and “Urban Gothic”. I´m doing another film in June and I have another horror film on the stocks which I hope will be ready for the cameras by the Autumn. I´m not fussy. I usually look at the cheque before looking at the script and if it´s worth getting out of bed for I´m away.

Looking back on your adventurous life, is there anything that you wished you had done differently as far as your career goes?

– I don´t think I can answer that question. I suppose if I had returned to LA after “Where Eagles Dare” it could have been a sensible career move. But living in London while it was being made finished me, I fell in love with the city and wanted my daughter to grow up there. It wasn´t a smart move career-wise – but Steffi grew up to be a smart, uncomplicated woman and I guess that justifies my descision.

In the nineties, the TV show Xena brought down a lot of barriers in Hollywood. Many shows now have very strong female characters. Are you aware that there has been a change and do you watch any shows today?

– It´s not something I think a lot about. Strong females have ruled the world since day one. I´m not familiar with Xena but the couple of times I´ve seen a snatch I didn´t think it was exactly opening up new vistas for women. Unless you are referring to the lesbian angle. And is that necessarily a good role model for women?

You stay in touch with your fans and this is something I respect you a lot for. How much time do you have to set aside to do that for them? Are they approaching you in a way that you feel is positive? Can a few positive mails in the morning make a difference even?

– I don´t set any time aside for fans. If anyone wants me and I have the time – I´m there. I think it´s wonderful. There are not many walks of life where an old bag can be lauded by the younger generation with flattering remarks like “You look the same now as you did twenty years ago”, and have people queue up for an autograph. And they are wonderful to talk to. I have yet to meet anyone who is ruder than me or is looking for trouble. At my annual birthday party it´s great to just float around and chat. I know who´s laying who, who´s having or just had, a baby. Who´s just thrown out their husband, who´s not too well, send postcards on birthdays and get them back a hundredfold. The way I see it, the more friends I have the bigger the Requiem when I´m gone.

You are writing books now. The fantasy genre is getting bigger. Is that a field that you would like to explore as well?

– I have made a bit of a balls up of my literery output. I should have stuck to one genre and developed a following. My first book was a spy adventure story. Then I did a political thriller. Next up was a book about my mother´s time in a concentration camp. Then a children´s book. I then went into all sorts of assorted tales. I´ve got a new agent now and she is trying to steer me along the path of righteousness. But she´s having a problem.

What did you read when you grew up?

– Anything that came to hand and couldn´t be used lavatorrially. The Nazi concentration camps were not renown for their literary output. When the Yanks came I read just about everything I could on the movie business. It was so far removed from my childhood that I had to have it. Later I got into Schiller, Shakespeare, Tolstoi and the rest. I even tried to read Bram Stoker´s “Dracula” but I must admit it defeated me.

What authors do you enjoy personally? Can you mention a book that you read recently that you thought was good.

– My big pash is flying. My big mate is James Herbert. So my reading tends to drift around these two elements. I thought “Others”, by Jimmy, a bit grim but he has assured me that I will love his new book, provisionally entitled, “Faeries”. Recently I read “Spitfire” by Alfred Price, “Lancaster Target” by Jack Currie and “So You Want To Be In Pictures” by director Val Guest. I find it frustrating reading other peoples books. I always think how much better they are than mine. And that´s not good.

How many hours a day do you put in when you write? Do you write when the inspiration comes or do you sit down and get on with it regardless?

– My usual day when I´m writing starts around nine in the morning. I don´t usually bother to get dressed – just hover over the key-board in a smelly old dressing gown until I´ve pounded out a minimum of 5,000 words, then have a shower, something to eat and read through what I´ve written. If for some reason I can´t do that I tend to get very surly and fret. It seems to me if you miss the daily dose of 5,000 (words) you can never catch up – even if you do up the subsequent output to try and make up for it.

What are you writing right now?

– Right now I´m two thirds through “Ingrid Pitt´s Case Book for Deadly Doctors”. I have a book out in September and I am trying to convince my publisher to print a racy novel about a woman racing driver backed by the Mafia. Lots of screwing, gore and double dealing. I´m hopeful.

Do you listen to music when you work or do you prefere silence? What kind of music do you enjoy?

– Sometimes I like a bit of music to shut out extraneous noises. Most of the time I like it quiet. When I listen to music I prefere classical music, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky – the usual suspects. My non-classical favourites tend to be singers like Celine Dion and Dick Haymes. And, of course, The Great Satchmo, Louis Armstrong. He´s my all time favourite. And that reminds me of a little tale – regarding Sweden. I was at a motor race in Kinnekulle in the seventies and arrived at the circuit early on the day of the race. The loud speakers were being tested. Guess what they were playing – “It´s a Wonderful World”. It was a magical moment I hear as clearly today as I did all those years ago in the misty dawn.

What are your plans for the next few years?

– I´m too old for plans. What comes round, goes around. And hopefully, I will go round with it.

Michael Eriksson (2001)

(No part of this interview may be copied without permission)

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This interview has been in print several times, most recently in RETROFUTURE 5 (printed in 2012).

Bob_book

I have rubbed shoulders with a lot of stars in my life but this has been largely confined to music (especially hard rock). Hollywood was another beast and I never really tried to get my foot into that door. But I did interview a man that for years was one of the very top men in his field in old school Hollywood, world renowned photographer Bob Willoughby. As a big fan of Audrey Hepburn I saw his name again and again and in 2005 I asked him for a chat for my PIZZA 2006 magazine (on the specific subject of Audrey), which he granted. So I called him at his home in France and he told me that Audrey was so special to him that he was only glad to talk about her. Bob passed away in 2009 but his memory lives on. His photographs of Audrey Hepburn are timeless. Enjoy the interview.

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If we go back to your first meeting with Audrey, what do you recall today from that day?

– It was right after her having shot “Roman Holiday” (1953) in Rome and Paramount wanted her to be seen in the media so they set up a session with their photographer and they also invited me. I was impressed with the respect that everybody was showing her. People that work with movie stars are inclined to behave in certain ways, but it was obvious that everybody really treated her with respect. She was a lady. When we were done, somebody suggested that that it would be a good idea if she met Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin as they were in a studio next door, so I tagged along. They didn´t know who she was but Martin was a real gentleman about it and showed his decent side, so we got some pictures from that. I then asked her if I could get some pictures at her home and she agreed to that. She was still doing the odd performance of “Gigi” so she had a place in downtown Los Angeles. So we went over there and I got some pictures of her unpacking her bag and of her reading a private letter. Then I took the pictures of her by the window which became so famous. Those shots belongs to the ones that I´m the most happy with as a photographer. I have seen them everywhere and they still pop up all the time all over the world. It was the beginning of a long friendship.

Did you get any pictures with her and Gregory Peck together?

– No, they had already shot “Roman Holiday” and it was Audrey that Paramount wanted to promote. That movie made her a star and I thought they had picked the perfect actress to play a princess. I know people that have met royalty and they have said to me that they have only met one real queen, and that was Audrey. Everybody that ever met her loved her. She had something. I watched “Roman Holiday” again not long ago and it is still a great movie.

How was your working situation back in those days?

– I was a freelancer. The film companies had their photographers but they knew that I got published in a lot of magazines so they used to give me the access that I wanted. I used to visualize what type of pictures that publications like LIFE and LOOK could want, and then I made sure that they could get them from me. If it was a movie that I thought they may not find that interesting, then I concentrated on the fashion side. This worked well with LIFE magazine for me. So I used to get my pictures printed and the companies liked that. I covered over 100 Hollywood productions. In the 50´s and 60´s I was published on a weekly basis in all the major publications so it worked very well for me.

Isn´t wonderful to see all these classic movies restored now and re-issued?

– Yes, it is very nice to see them again, it really is.

So when did you meet her again?

– It was when she made “Green Mansions”, about six years later.

That was the film where she worked with a fawn and other animals.

– Yes. And this is a remarkable story. Her husband, Mel Ferrer, directed it. He wanted to see a natural bond between Audrey´s character and the fawn so the handler said that the only way to achieve that was for Audrey to spend her time with the animal. So Audrey more or less became a surrogate mother for a time. And it didn´t take her very long to really bond with the fawn. It had another name but it was called Ip during this period. Audrey was such a natural, she handled it with such abundance of affection. Ip used to curl up at her feet when she was reading her script. It was quite a sight to behold. She was so calm and all the animals liked her. The handlers noticed this as well. There were tropical birds and other animals.

You took pictures of Audrey and Ip that are classic today.

– Yes, and it was fantastic. We took pictures in Beverly Hills when Audrey went shopping with Ip. I suppose you can understand that people in cities like Los Angeles are quite used to seeing movie stars, but they couldn´t help but stare when Audrey and Ip walked by. They left Audrey alone, but they stared. And that is another thing that I noticed with Audrey, that people left her alone. She was a very private person. She was never unpleasant but people had a great deal of respect for her. Nobody in the film crew would disturb her.

How often did you see her after that?

– I did a few jobs, “The Childrens Hour” (1961), “Paris When It Sizzles” (1962), “My Fair Lady” (1963) and “Two For The Road” (1966). I had decided never to mix my work with my personal life so I had told my wife that I would never bring any film stars to our home. There were three exceptions, of which Audrey and Mel was one. I think she liked me because we were both very private persons. She never stayed in hotels but prefered to rent a place when she was in town for work. They visited us when their son Shawn and our son Christopher had their first birthdays together and I got some lovely pictures that day. It happened that we met with me taking no pictures as well. I met her when she did “Breafast At Tiffany´s” (1961) but I didn´t take any pictures that day.

After “Two For The Road” she didn´t work for a decade, did you meet her during this period?

– No, I was busy with my career. She wanted to have some private time with her family.

Did she ever talk about her days during the war in Holland?

– No, and I never asked. She was very protective of her father and I don´t think she wanted to talk about that period. She never mentioned it and I thought that it was the kind of thing that was private and that the subject was hers to pick up, not mine. She did mention how she came to London after the war and that she was rejected at a ballet school for being too fat. She did mention that.

Do you have a personal favourite from all your photo sessions with her?

– No, it was always special to photograph her.

Did you know that she was ill before she died or did it come as a horrible surprise?

– I felt deep down that maybe there was something wrong with her when I saw pictures of her with children in Vietnamn when she travelled with UNICEF. She didn´t look well. Around the same time I met a woman who worked for UNICEF when I did a tv-show in France, and she told me that Audrey had said “My face is needed to show the world what the situation is for these children” and I know that she felt that she had to give something back since she herself had received help after the occupation in Holland. I knew her well enough to know how strongly she felt about the children in Africa. It hurt her a lot and she felt that she had to do something. I think she actually gave her life for them.

When did the idea of a book with photograps come up?

– Well, it was the Japanese that brought it up first. She was always enormously popular over there. Then I started to go through my files when I moved to France and I could see that there was good photographs that could be used and there has been a few books now. The 2002 book, “Audrey, An Intimate Collection” is out in Germany in a new print now.

Do you feel that you have been getting proper credit for your work as a photographer?

– Yes, I have been very lucky. I achieved a Lucie Award in New York a couple of months ago. It has been a good journey.

Michael Eriksson (2005)

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(No part of this interview may be copied without permission)

* * * * *

The book pictured above is the 2002 print of “Audrey, An Intimate Collection” by Bob Willoughby (Vision On Publishing).

Faust 

I discovered author Christa Faust when US pulp publisher Hard Case Crime let her lose on an unsuspecting world with the fast paced “Money Shot” in 2008. From there I found out about her earlier work, “Control Freak” in particular, and I was hooked. I asked Christa back then if she would do an interview for my SLICE 2009 magazine TOP SECRET (published in Sweden for collectors, some text in swedish, some – like this interview, in english), and she graciously agreed to do so in late January of 2009. Since then, she has published yet another title for Hard Case Crime. So ladies and gentlemen, I give you the wonderful Christa Faust – the 2009 interview…

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Tell us a little about yourself.

– I’m the author of nine novels, including the Edgar award nominated “Money Shot” and the Scribe Award winning novelization of “Snakes on a Plane”. Grew up in New York City. Live in Los Angeles. I’m a former Times Square peep girl and a professional Dominatrix.  Love pulp fiction, Film Noir and mid-century vintage shoes.

When did you discover the joy of reading and when did you develop your itch to write?

– I learned how to read very early in life, so early that I don’t remember ever not being able to read. My mother tells me that I would memorize and recite the books that she read out loud to me as soon as I was able to talk and seemed to learn to recognize familiar words long before I was given any kind of reading instruction. I was not a healthy child and whenever I was home sick from school (which was often) I would make a pile of the books I planned to read that day at the foot of my bed. Reading has always felt as natural as breathing to me. I’ve also been making up stories for as long as I can remember. I recently helped my father move out of the house where he’d lived for over twenty years and found boxes full of “books” that I had written and illustrated as a child. I guess I’ve always been in love with words and stories.

Tell us about the journey that lead to your first book, “Control Freak”, and what you learned from that experience.

– I wrote the first draft of “Control Freak” in 1990. I was working full time as a professional Dominatrix and had yet to read a novel that dealt with the BDSM community in a realistic or non-judgmental manner. That was my goal with that novel, and I think I succeeded. It was a very hard sell and took eight years to find a publisher. Partly because it was only my first novel and in retrospect still a bit raw, but also because I think many people were made uncomfortable by the subject matter and the idea of a powerful, dominant, unapologetically sexual woman as the heroine. Villains are free to be perverts, in fact the more twisted the better, but a kinky hero is difficult for many people to accept. What I learned from that experience is that, while selling a first novel is a major step in a pro writer’s career, it’s only one step out of many. A lot of unpublished authors put such importance in that first time, as if once they cross that mystical bridge, the hard work is over and all that’s left is to bask in the glory of fame and fortune. The truth is, when you sell your first novel, the work is really only beginning.

How did you get the job writing “Money Shot” for Hard Case Crime?

– I had posted on my blog about the forthcoming (at the time) Hard Case reprint of Richard Prather’s “The Peddler”. I was happy and excited and wrote about how much I loved the Hard Case imprint. A friend of mine replied that I ought to submit a novel to Hard Case and editor Charles Ardai replied, saying he would love to have a submission from me. So I sent him something and he liked it. The rest, as they say, is history.

Did you have the whole book in your head when you started writing or did you come up with twists and turns as you went along?

– I tend to start off a novel with only the first scene in my mind. Sometimes I get myself into hot water with that method because I have no idea how to get the character out of the situation I’ve put them in. Like with “Money Shot”, I started off with Angel in the trunk and then had to figure both how she got there and how to get her out.

The setting is the kinkier side of Hollywood and you namedrop places and companies and there’s certainly a humor in place that is hard to ignore. How well do you know this world and what kind of response have you had from people from that field?

– I know the American adult film industry very well, both through my own experience doing fetish oriented videos (in the US fetish and porn is totally separate and you cannot have actual sex in a fetish video) and through intensive research. For me, researching any topic, be it pro wrestling or pornography, mostly involves talking to the people who do it. Listening to their stories and being respectful, genuinely curious and open minded. I’m very proud of the fact that people in the adult film industry who have read the book tell me it’s the most realistic, even-handed and fair portrayal of their world they’ve ever seen. Although pornography is a common theme in hard boiled and noir fiction, it’s often portrayed in a very negative light. Especially for the women involved. Porn is seen as the bottom of the barrel, the lowest a woman can fall. The men on the other hand are usually portrayed as amoral, misogynistic scum out to corrupt and defile innocent girls. When I was doing my research, talking to people in every aspect of the business both behind and in front of the camera, I didn’t meet a bunch of pathetic victims and evil monsters. I met ordinary people working for a living, just like any other profession.

Could we see the return of Angel Dare? Could she become your Shell Scott?

– Stranger things have happened. You’ll just have to stay tuned and find out.

One of your favorite authors seems to be the great Richard S Prather? Is the Shell Scott character your favorite among his work?

– Definitely. Prather’s “Dig That Crazy Grave” was one of the first hardboiled books I ever read. I love the sense of humor and the absurd, over-the-top situations in the Shell Scott novels.

Can you name a few authors whose work you would bring for sure to your desert island?

– This question is always so hard for me, because I’m always on the look out for something new. I hate the idea of only being able to reread the same books over and over, no matter how much I love them.

Is Hard Case Crime the only company in the US that is publishing these kind of books still, or has their body of work in the last few years influenced more to surface?

– Hard Case is probably the most traditional, old school pulp imprint, but many other novels in that same vein are being released by other mainstream publishers, such as the novels of Megan Abbott or Eddie Muller. There are also more modern takes on the noir or hardboiled genre being put out by publishers big and small. I don’t think the resurgence of American hardboiled fiction was single handedly caused by Hard Case, I think the success of Hard Case is due in part to the resurgence that was already taking place. Hard Case just made it more visible.

The cover artist for “Money Shot”, Glen Orbik, did an excellent job for the cover. Did he know the story when he created it? And when did you first see it?

– The POV woman with the gun was my idea and the paperclipped hundred dollar bill came from Ardai. I don’t know if Orbik read the novel or just a synopsis, but I love what he came up with. I saw a rough of the cover several months before the book was released. I couldn’t have been happier.

Was is political correctness or dwindling sales – or both? – that killed off the scene back in the 80´s? At least, that was when these books vanished from sight here in Scandinavia.

– Both, I guess, plus the fact that the genre had fallen into repetition and cliché.  I guess everything comes and goes in cycles.

The covers have always been important to me. They got me interested in the first place and I still buy books with great covers with a feeling of great joy when I find them. Are you a collector in that sense as well and how big is your collection of vintage books?

– I love pulp cover art as well. I guess you could say I’m a collector, but I live in a very small house so space is limited. I have to be very choosy and can’t just bring home every book with a cover that catches my eye or obsessively collect every single edition of every single Prather novel. Some day, I hope to have a larger place with a spacious library so that I can indulge my pulp fetish more freely.

Tell me about your work with Dita Von Teese. How did you get to work together and can you tell us a little bit about the bondage adventures you created?

– I have a soft spot for the adventure serials of the 30s and 40s. They’re filled with campy bondage and damsel-in-distress scenarios and I always wanted to do an homage. Dita had the perfect look for a retro-style serial. I knew Dita through the fetish scene and had already worked with her, doing intricate rope bondage for several of her photo shoots. She also liked the idea of a retro-style serial, and so it was a match made in bondage heaven. The serial, called “Dita in Distress”, is a four part adventure with each episode ending in a cliff hanger. Dita plays a daredevil pilot whose plane crashes in the Amazon. She is captured by cannibals, a wild gorilla, a mad scientist, and even travels back in time to be menaced by dinosaurs and giant spiders and nearly sacrificed by lesbian cave girls. It was a lot of work, but we sure had a blast.

Can these films be purchased?

– Dita is in the process of producing a DVD containing all 4 episodes. Watch her website for further info.

Bettie Page died in December. What did she mean to you? I know she was important to Dita since I read that in one of her books.

– She was beautiful and iconic, a kind of patron saint of the American fetish scene, even though she herself was not particularly kinky and saw those types of photos as just another job. I like that she was so open about her sexuality in a time where few women were, but I think she meant a lot more to other people than to me personally. I don’t really idolize models, I’m much more interested in authors.

Quentin Tarantino is said to have called you “A Veronica in a world of Betties”. In what context did he say this?

– It’s funny, but that comment was just a joke about my hair and it’s not even true anymore. He made that comment at a party when someone was photographing all the women together and I was (at the time) the only brunette in the group. He called me a Veronica in a world of Betties and we laughed about it. (Veronica, a brunette, and Betty, a blonde, are characters from an American comic series called Archie.) Later, we were talking about how dumb the whole blurbing thing really is and I asked him if I could use that Veronica comment as a blurb. Now my hair is blonde instead of dark, so I guess I’m just another Betty. That quote really has nothing to do with my writing, but people put so much importance in blurbs that they don’t care, as long as a famous person’s name is attached.

I think “Money Shot” could certainly be filmed by somebody with the Tarantino touch, did you write with a possible movie script in mind?

– I never write with movies in mind, but now that it’s done, I think it would make a good film.

Who would be the perfect cast for Angel Dare? Me, I can see Lucy Lawless kicking some serious ass as Angel Dare!

– Marisa Tomei. Ever since I saw her in “The Wrestler”, I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. She has the perfect combination of vulnerability and inner strength. Angel Dare is not really a bad-ass but rather a physically ordinary woman, who, through extraordinary circumstances, is forced to find a profound inner strength she never knew she had.

You namedrop a few hard rock bands in “Money Shot”, like AC/DC towards the climax of the book. Am I right in assuming that you are a bit of a fan perhaps?

– I like AC/DC, but I’m hardly a fan. I just felt that “If You Want Blood, You Got It” was the perfect song for Angel’s dance because of the lyrics and classic rock was the only choice avaible for her in that particular club.

Do you go to concerts?

– Rarely. I have such a hectic work schedule that I barely have time to listen to a CD, let alone go out to concerts. However, my father, a musician, recently moved out to Los Angeles and he’s a big fan of live music. He’ll drag me out to concerts occasionally and I always have a good time. In this era of silly lip-synching dance numbers, I think supporting real live music is more important than ever.

Any chance that you can mention Deep Purple in your next adventure, ha ha. I can come up with good songs for almost any kind of situation that you throw this way…

– I’ll keep that in mind. Weirdly enough, my dad took me to a Deep Purple concert when I was a kid. Can’t remember the exact year.

Outside of your books, where can we find your work these days and are there articles and short stories out there that the collectors could keep an eye for that you would care to mention?

– Recent short fiction includes “Cutman” in Megan Abbott’s “Hell of a Woman anthology” and “The Footjob” in the forthcoming sequel to Jen Jordan’s “Expletive Deleted”. For the obsessive collector there is a complete bibliography on my website.

What do you have in the pipeline as we speak?

– I prefer not to discuss works-in-progress in detail, but I will say I am working on a new book that should be finished by June.

What kind of response do you get from your homepage and from your MySpace page? How important are they in marketing your product and have you had many interview requests?

– I see my website and my profiles on MySpace and Facebook as electronic billboards that increase the chance that someone will run into me while surfing online. I get a ton of fan mail from those sites and I do my best to try and answer them all. I feel that it’s important for a writer to maintain online visibility and accessibility. I do get most of my interview requests that way. I also have a blog and a Twitter account to help keep my readers up to date on the latest news, in addition to giving them an entertaining glimpse into the day to day life of a pro pulp writer.

Have you ever been to Sweden?

– No, I never have. However, I do love to travel and it is one of many countries left on my list of places to visit before I die.

Would you like to add something to this interview?

– I don’t think so. Just buy my books!

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We asked Hard Case Crime publisher Charles Ardai for a personal comment of Christa, and this is what he had to say…

– Christa is a terrific writer, both passionate and gifted, and it has been a great pleasure to work with her.  I loved “Money Shot” from the day she sent me the manuscript, so it hasn’t surprised me at all that readers have responded so favorably to the book – why wouldn’t they, it’s a great book!  But I am gratified, and thrilled for Christa, since she now had many thousands of readers waiting eagerly to see what she comes up with next.  No writer could ask for more, and she’s earned it.

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Michael Eriksson (2009)

(No part of this interview may be quoted without permission)

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