Guest Interview: Weird West Writer Gemma Files

Gemma Files is the weird west author of A Book of Tongues, one of the novels included in the


Gemma Files

weird west StoryBundle which a reader can purchase at a very low price. I had the opportunity to interview Gemma recently and she was kind enough to allow me to post it on my blog. I hope you like it, and I hope her interview inspires you to check out the weird west collection from as well. Thanks!  –Mark

Mark: Hi, Gemma, thank you for the opportunity to interview you about your work. I’ve looked forward to this opportunity for a long time, so let’s get to it. As a writer how do you define the weird west genre? Why did you decide to set A Book of Tongues in this time frame?

Gemma: Hey, Mark, right back at you–I’ve been impressed by your work since I first ran across the initial short stories that would eventually give rise to Haxan online. Like most people my age (I think), I was first introduced to the weird west genre through Joe R. Lansdale and Jonah Hex, both on their own and in concert, though thinking back, I actually believe my first brush with it came through William S. Burroughs’ The Place of Dead Roads and Michael Ondaatje’s Collected Works of Billy the Kid. So for me, it’s definitely always been best defined as “Western with something extra,” whether that something is psionics, black magic, Mexica goddesses, zombies, alien technology, time travel or just a general sort of…spiritual weirdness, an Acid-soaked 1960s hangover, a Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole Of The Law deconstructive Southern Gothic ethos that translates from The Outlaw Josey WalesMcCabe & Mrs Miller and Heaven’s Gate on down to The Long Riders and Unforgiven, Deadwood and Carnivale. There’s also a whole lot of fire and brimstone folk-country/spookabilly rock ‘n’ roll in there, too: 16 Horsepower, Murder by Death, Leonard Cohen, Emmylou Harris, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. That’s the soundtrack that was hovering in the back of my mind as I was writing A Book of Tongues.
As for why I decided to set the book in that time-frame, well…my previous obsession had been Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, so I’d already done a fair bit of research about the 1860s. But at the moment I began writing, I’d just spent basically a year not writing much except fanfic for James Mangold’s remake of 3:10 to Yuma. So that was the seed everything grew from: a Bible-quoting bad guy in black and the trigger-happy right hand man who was obviously in love with him, with liberal application of other stuff I liked: blood magic, evil dead gods, Pinkerton agents, towns cursed to salt, absinthe, incautious sex, train robbery, wholesale murder. All that.

ABookofTonguesM: A Book of Tongues has many cultural and historical references, some quite obscure or not well known. You kept the western and supernatural elements distinct when needed, or used both to great effect. How did you research this novel, and how did you decide what elements to keep, and what to leave aside?

G: I love history, and I love to know stuff other people don’t. One of my biggest influences was probably either a book called Poe Must Die by Marc Olden, which I got at a rummage sale when I was in my teens and is mainly set in Five Points, New York’s most notorious slum, or Michael Crichton’s The Great Train Robbery, large sections of which are set in the area of London called Seven Dials, which makes an appearance in Hexslinger Series Book Three. Poe Must Die juxtaposes hierarchical black magic and necromancy with “normal” period-specific criminal violence and enterprise, while The Great Train Robbery is about how people’s emotional impulses–venal and otherwise, pre-planned or otherwise–can drive and derail even the most complicated plans. Both were really useful in terms of outlining A Book of Tongues. The other thing that helped was thinking about religion as another form of magic, both in terms of Reverend Rook’s Christianity and the Mayan-Mexica goddess Ixchel’s plans for humanity, especially since both are bridged by various characters’ talent for natural magic–“hexation.” But generally, I just kept the stuff I liked most and threw away the rest, the way I do with almost everything else.

M: A Book of Tongues is the first novel of a trilogy. When you were writing did you know this ahead of time and did it present any problems in structure?

G: I did not know this would be a trilogy, no.;) What happened was that I kept working from exactly the same outline I started with, then getting to 80,000 words out of a potential 100,000 (ChiZine Publications’ official cut-off point) and going: “Oh shit, time to tie it off and write another book.” I like to say it comes from having written screenplays; the three books are like three acts in a classic Syd Field-style Hollywood three-act structure, each sub-divided into three acts of their own.

M: I was wondering what is it about the weird west genre you like? Is there anything you don’t like, or would like to see improved?

G: Like I said above, I think the weird west has an amazing potential for deconstruction, particularly as it applies to some of those old established storytelling tropes which really deserve to be challenged. In a lot of ways, Westerns are a genre of stories America tells about itself to excuse its own actions–the destructive lies behind the idea of Manifest Destiny, for example, of the West as an “empty” frontier, which allow settlers to try to pretend that that emptiness wasn’t achieved by removing indigenous people from their tribal lands, herding them like buffalo, trying to exterminate them. Add in slavery on top of that, and sexual violence, and all the different types of awfulness people perpetrate against each other, and you see that this is a genre ripe for reinterpretation, for being busted down to its component parts and messed around with so different voices–voices other than those of the accepted default–can get a chance to tell stories which imagine themselves as heroes rather than background, or villains. Is it easier to do that when you splice Western DNA with something else, something that cracks the mold a bit? I don’t know. I do know that even in A Book of Tongues, though, I was trying to push those boundaries. I’ve been rightfully called out for not doing it as hard as I might have (the novel’s a pretty shameless bag of dicks, for one thing), but I do think I got a lot better at it by the time A Tree of Bones rolled around.

M: What are you working on now? Can we expect more stories or novels set in the weird west?

G: What I’m working on right now are two contemporary, stand-alone horror tales in the basic mode of Experimental Film, for which I recently won the 2015 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel. However, who knows? When CZP asked me to write some supplemental novellas for their Hexslinger Omnibus ebook, which collects all three parts of the series, I had the opportunity to revisit this world and those characters in a way that was very satisfying–I wish more people had gotten to read those tales, because they really do form a nice little epilogue of sorts to the whole saga. Since then, however, I haven’t really done much more in the genre, aside from three fairly obscure short stories (“Some Kind of Light Shines From Your Face,” which I did for an anthology called Gutshot, “Black Bush,” which was in Arcane, and “Satan’s Jewel Crown,” for Dark Discoveries #26). I’d eventually like to do another series set in 1880, mainly focused around New York–characters from the Hexslinger series would turn up in those, definitely. I’m pretty sure I’m not done.
M: Finally, the most important question of the interview. What would you like to hear Matt Dillon of Gunsmoke say if you were suddenly transported to the Old West?
G: Okay, what would I like to hear Matt Dillon of Gunsmoke say if I were suddenly transported to the Old West…well, sad thing to admit, but I’ve never actually seen Gunsmoke. My personal vision of ridiculously cleaned-up Old West media acceptance of choice would probably be the so-called “Brat Pack” Western Young Guns (1988, dir. Christopher Cain), in which characters at least got to say a weird-ass version of “fuck” (“farg,” if I remember correctly). I’d like to be welcomed there by a thin, smirking Emilio Estevez and a vaguely poetic-looking Kiefer Sutherland.
M: Thank you, Gemma!
All Covers Large

Weird West Story Bundle





My Novel HAXAN Now Part of StoryBundle!

My weird west novel HAXAN has been included as part of a StoryBundle where wide frontiers, flintlocks, whiskey and revenge meet swords, airships, terraforming, magic, myths, and dragons. There are lots of great writers here working in all kinds of worlds filled with wonder, horror, magic, and the bloody violence of the Old West.

It’s $5 for the minimum, and $14 to get all the books! That includes Judith Tarr’s Dragons in the Earth and A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files, along with lots more incredible fiction depicting the weird (and weirder) west, including my groundbreaking novel, HAXAN. Plus, everyone who subscribes to the newsletter can get a free copy of NEW WORLD. Yay!

Please CLICK THIS LINK and you’ll be taken straight to StoryBundle’s main page where you can buy any book you want from the bundle, or all of them. Thanks for checking it out, and thank you for supporting me and the other writers of StoryBundle!

All Covers Large

The Weird Western Books of StoryBundle!

Depression and Writing and Chess

I’ve been dealing with a lot of depression for the last year or so. I always have struggled with this, but it’s gotten worse. I’m taking medication and seeing a therapist, and it does help.

Meanwhile, I’m slowly moving back to writing again. I have three novels to complete so I think I will stay in Albuquerque for the month of July this summer and work. I need to get away and make some decisions. I’ve also started to play chess again online which is a decent way to keep my mind sharp. Relatively speaking, of course.

I will try to post/blog more here when I can to keep everyone up to date. Thanks!


Quaternity by Kenneth Mark Hoover

My brand new Haxan novel Quaternity has just been published by CZP. Order your copy now, and I hope you really like it. Thank you!

Screen shot 2014-09-25 at 3.33.07 PM

Blood, Dust, Wind! Quaternity, a brand new Haxan novel coming from CZP

From the jacket copy:

Hell is truth seen too late.

Before he became a U.S. federal marshal in Haxan, John Marwood rode with a band of killers up and down the Texas/Mexico border.

Led by Abram Botis, an apostate from the Old Country, this gang of thirteen killers search for the fabled golden city of Cibola, even riding unto the barren, blood-soaked plains of Comancheria.

And in this violent crucible of blood, dust, and wind, Marwood discovers a nightmarish truth about himself, and conquers the silent, wintry thing coiled inside him.

COMING JUNE/JULY 2015 from CZP. Blood, dust, wind!


Quaternity by Kenneth Mark Hoover


Pre-Order QUATERNITY Coming from CZP — A New Haxan Novel

Hell is truth seen too late.

Before he became a U.S. federal marshal in Haxan, John Marwood rode with a band of killers up and down the Texas/Mexico border.

Led by Abram Botis, an apostate from the Old Country, this gang of thirteen killers search for the fabled golden city of Cibola, even riding unto the barren, blood-soaked plains of Comancheria.

And in this violent crucible of blood, dust, and wind, Marwood discovers a nightmarish truth about himself, and conquers the silent, wintry thing coiled inside him.

COMING from CZP! Please order your copy now and beat the rush. Also available in e-book!


Quaternity by Kenneth Mark Hoover

“Showdown at the Cliche Corral” Live at Sunnyhuckle Magazine

“Fiction writer Kenneth Mark Hoover discusses his love for the true Old American West in literature, not the one born of Hollywood clichés, but the historically rich and fascinating one that is so often forgotten.”  –Sunnyhuckle

Mark here. My latest article “Showdown at the Cliché Corral” is featured on Sunnyhuckle Magazine. Once again I take Hollywood, cliches, myths, and western writers who should know better to the woodshed.

As you might expect I take no prisoners. Click below and enjoy the smell of burning gunpowder in the morning!


Shemika Demouchet Berry Cosplays Magra from HAXAN

Shemika Berry cosplayed Magra Snowberry from my novel Haxan at the World Fantasty Convention in Arlington, VA.

Here is Shemika’s portrayal in her handmade dress, the dress Magra wore in the novel.


A fan of Haxan cosplays Magra

Shemika Berry as Magra


“Magra was pretty under the glimmering lamplight. Her long black hair was brushed and she wore stiff, yellow calico. I had the idea she had dressed this way special for me, but I couldn’t prove it.”  —Haxan

Did you miss the new cover for my upcoming novel Quaternity? Here it is!

Hell is truth seen too late.

Before he became a U.S. federal marshal in Haxan, John Marwood rode with a band of killers up and down the Texas/Mexico border.

Led by Abram Botis, an apostate from the Old Country, this gang of thirteen killers search for the fabled golden city of Cibola, even riding unto the barren, blood-soaked plains of Comancheria.

And in this violent crucible of blood, dust, and wind, Marwood discovers a nightmarish truth about himself, and conquers the silent, wintry thing coiled inside him.

COMING JUNE/JULY 2015 from CZP! I  can’t wait!


Quaternity by Kenneth Mark Hoover

My Reading is Scheduled for the World Fantasy Convention!

Yay! I got a reading scheduled for the upcoming World Fantasy Convention!

The con is being held in Washington, D.C. from Nov6-9. My reading is scheduled for Nov. 7, 10:30am-11:am. I am very much looking forward to it, plus I get to meet my publishers from CZP again. So how cool is that?

I will read from Haxan and an excerpt from the upcoming Quaternity.

Come see me read!🙂

Hscsn by Kenneth Mark Hoover

A Year and a Day Completed

So I’ve done my Year and a Day for Wicca. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t get as much out of it as I wanted. This wasn’t due to Nordic Wicca (the eclectic brand I practice because I feel more comfortable with it) as much as it was to a lot of other personal problems and interruptions that took away my time.

There wasn’t anything I could do about it and I couldn’t ignore what was going on around me. Nevertheless, I intend to keep the altar and when the mood strikes me perform a small ceremony. I do like how it ties in so nicely with yearly patterns and the changing of the seasons and moon and sun. I like that a lot. Some mornings I will ring my bell and call upon Freya and Odin to give me strength to face what’s coming that day.

I am hoping some of the personal upsets I’ve suffered this past year will calm down. They have been extremely disruptive and personally painful. If they don’t ease off I will have to make other decisions about my life that don’t (and should not) involve my interest in wicca, or anything else.

I have to be mindful of priorities in my life, no matter what else might be sucked into the maelstrom around me. Writing, of course, always comes first. That is a no-brainer.

But not all is lost. All Hallows’ Eve is coming up and I plan to do a cleansing of the house with incense and bell, a ritual I did last year and enjoyed. It’s a fun, simple little ritual that helps breathe new life into your home and yourself. It’s fun and other people like to help.

So at the moment that’s my relationship with wicca. I really do like it a lot, but personal matters are intruding in so many other aspects of my life I can’t ignore them. I will celebrate yearly events when I can and of course I will blog about them.


Blessed Be. )O(



Cover Reveal for New Haxan Novel QUATERNITY!

Hell is truth seen too late.

Before he became a U.S. federal marshal in Haxan, John Marwood rode with a band of killers up and down the Texas/Mexico border.

Led by Abram Botis, an apostate from the Old Country, this gang of thirteen killers search for the fabled golden city of Cibola, even riding unto the barren, blood-soaked plains of Comancheria.

And in this violent crucible of blood, dust, and wind, Marwood discovers a nightmarish truth about himself, and conquers the silent, wintry thing coiled inside him.



Quaternity by Kenneth Mark Hoover


Blood, Dust, Wind: Another Day in Haxan

Hello, everyone! I’ve been camping and working on a new novel. I’m in Albuquerque at present but headed home soon. I’ve made a lot of notesKenneth Mark Hoover, author of Haxan for the new book and feel the story is coming along. I’m excited about what it portends for the future of the Haxan series, and my writing in general.

I also wanted to say I am grateful to everyone who purchased and reviewed my first novel, Haxan. I genuinely appreciate your support.

If you haven’t gotten Haxan yet, but are interested in seeing what all the fuss is about, then please buy a copy! The book should also be in brick and mortar bookstores. If you don’t see it while browsing the shelves, please ask them to order it.

Thank you!


Kindle Edition (Amazon):

Paperback edition:

Apple iBook (iTunes):

Google (Play):

Barnes & Noble (Nook):

ChiZine Publication:


Hscsn by Kenneth Mark Hoover

Headed for a Long Trip to Austin and New Mexico

I am leaving for Austin and then New Mexico. I will attend ArmadilloCon in Austin this weekend. Then head over to New Mexico (maybe with a side stop at Fort Davis, I’m not sure) for research on a new Haxan novel. I will also attend Bubonicon in Albuquerque.

At any rate I plan to squeeze in camping here and there, especially in New Mexico if I can swing it. Of course, I will take pictures.

I will update here when I can. Internet is spotty where I camp and hotel Internet is not always what it’s supposed to be.  Stay informed via my Facebook and Twitter links, however, located on this webpage. They are more reliable.

See you soon!

A Summer Update, and Writing Monoliths

I am working on an espionage novel, trying to get it into shape for submission. That’s my big summer project, along with promoting the new novel Haxan. When I am finished with that I will turn my attention to writing a new Haxan novel in the series. I think I have a weighty enough idea for that.

When I first began to write I was worried I wouldn’t have enough ideas. But the nasty secret (and it’s not so secret) is you come up with too many ideas. So you have to pick and choose which ones are worth your time, and which ones are not.

I am reminded of the enigmatic Monolith in Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. The idea behind the aliens was they cultivated intelligence where they thought it might take root, and when necessary dispassionately weeded the growth.

Writing ideas, and how they take root in your mind, are a lot like that. Not all ideas are created equal. You must pick and choose which ones are worth your time. I will come across an idea and think, “No, I will let someone else write that one.”

Not because I think a particular idea is beneath me. I determine someone can do a better job with that idea than I can. I have to maximize my time with ideas that excite me. If I think I can do something interesting then I am on board. If I think it will be another average retelling…I cull it out.

So, yes, ideas are very important. Not that short stories can’t be weighty. Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” comes to mind. But you need an idea that holds up over the length of a novel. “The Lottery” works as a short story. I am not certain it could work as a novel. Similarly, Moby-Dick is an excellent novel and would be difficult to present as a short story. (Although I have tried.)

So those are my summer plans. I’m in the thick of them as we speak. I’ll let you know how things develop.



Changing the Western (for the better)

While I was attending SoonerCon a week or so ago a writer friend relayed a conversation she had with a family member.Hoover-8

She said the uncle stated he liked to watch westerns because “they were real.”

She proceeded to tell him, No, they were not real, but only Hollywood’s version of the Old West.  What he saw on television and movies was not in any sense “history” or “reality” of what the Old West was truly like.  He was being sold a bill of goods. Period.

I work in the western genre. Not exclusively, but I toil there quite a bit as readers of this blog know. I’ve seen this before. I know mythology and cliche has been elevated to historical status in some areas. Frankly, I find this depressing, because if this is all we have, if things don’t change, then this genre will never change.

And it needs to change.

The idea of the iconic western is an extremely powerful story telling tool. I use it all the time. It’s also the whole frontier mentality that makes much of science fiction accessible to readers and fans alike. But westerns are earth-bound. We can readily identify with that. Hell, even Star Wars was a western, and Star Trek often used western elements.

They are used because they are powerful.

Here’s what I would like to see. I’d like to see a western novel where there were no guns. Historically, most people never owned, carried, or used one. That’s historical fact. I’d like to see stories about that.

I’d also like to see more stories from, and about, women and POC. Because, you know, they actually existed back then.

It’s easy to slipstream behind Hollywood tropes. Cliches are the easy way out. Example: the iconic gun fight a la High Noon.

I agree this all makes for great television. But that’s not how they fought. Gunfighters did not meet each other on the street. They shot each other in the back and through windows. It was gang warfare. No one in their right mind would stand with a gun 15-feet away from another man with a gun in an open street. These weren’t dueling Knights of Old, which is where this myth was appropriated.

I remember visiting the Flats near Fort Griffin while doing research for Quaternity. I came across a first person account of a town sheriff or marshal who jailed a man and then shot him through the bars and killed him because “he was too mean.”

Now I want you to stop and think about that a bit and then get back to me.

To be sure, not every man and woman behaved like this, and it would be ridiculous to assume otherwise. But they weren’t Knights from the Round Table, either. They just were not.

There are three gunfights in my novel Haxan. None of them go according to Hoyle because it NEVER happened the way Hollywood sold it.

I’m also getting a little worn out with the romantic notions that permeate too much of what I see. Men and women of all races, all religions, all creeds, struggled every day to survive in the Old West. Just like they do today.

There’s nothing romantic about that.

Mythology is not history. Cliches are not a foundation to build on. Well, I mean, you can, if you want. If we write the same stories over and over, and don’t push the envelope, this genre will not evolve. It won’t die. As I said up at the top the idea of the western is too atavistic for that to happen.

The western will never die. That’s a good thing, in my opinion because it’s an interesting setting in which to tell stories about people.

But maybe it’s time to step away from the romantic ideals of an age that never existed, either, and write something different. There are many western writers right now doing exactly that. Their voices are few.

I’d like to see more.

“Talitha Koum” now appearing in Frontier Tales

Well, the new novel is out. But that’s not all going on in the world of Haxan.

My new Haxan short story entitled “Talitha Koum” has already engendered controversy among fans. It’s published by Frontier Tales and is on their website now. If you like the story please remember to vote for it on their website. That helps me a lot.

If you don’t like what happens in the story, please remember to vote for it on their website anyway. It helps me a lot!

So click the link and see what all the fuss is about! I mean, it’s Haxan. What could possibly go wrong for the people who live there, right….?




CZP Bought My New Haxan Novel QUATERNITY for July 2015!

A lot of good news on the writing front, recently. Haxan has just been published by CZP last week, and I also learned they want to buy PulpFiction_112013_DSCF0017Quaternity for a July 2015 publication date.

As followers of this blog know Quaternity has a very special place in my mind. I wrote that novel, all 85,000 words, in 19 days. I mean, that was after about a year and a half of starts, stops, thinking about it, etc. Border trips, which I blogged about, and other research and fact finding trips.

Then, suddenly, the flood gates opened and it poured forth. It was an amazing experience in many ways. and as a result the novel became personally important to me. Yes, I think it’s my best. I tried to do something very different in that novel, both substantively and personally. I set out to write an anti-western, even an anti-mythological western. A complete break with the cliches and mythology that has held much of the western genre back for over a century.

That’s what I wanted to do. I will flat out say I think I have succeeded.

Those who know me know I don’t say that lightly.

I knew it was a big goal when I started the project. I was never certain I would find the key to unlock what was holding me back. After all that time spent and no real pages to show for it, I never quit. I never for one moment thought the story idea and what I was trying to accomplish wasn’t worthwhile or didn’t hold up.

That’s not always true with every story. Sometimes a writer learns when to walk away from a story. I never felt that with Quaternity. I always believed there was something special there, if only I could tease it out.

If only I could find the key.

I did. I finished the novel in 19 days and was floored at that process. Submitted it. It went through a couple of rewrites, and now CZP wants it for next year.

I couldn’t be happier!

It’s a validation. A big one. Yes. It’s that important to me.

Writer in Progress: Haxan by Kenneth Mark Hoover

In case you missed it, Darke Conteur ran a special post regarding my new novel Haxan which has just been published by CZP. If you want to read more, please click the link below, and please let her know in the comments section you liked what she did.

She even included an excerpt from the novel. Yay!

Thanks, Darke!





Darke Conteur

Darke Conteur

Kenneth Mark Hoover Writer Biography

Kenneth Mark Hoover

Kenneth Mark Hoover


Kenneth Mark Hoover has sold over sixty short stories and articles. His fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, and many other magazines and anthologies. His first novel, a dystopian SF called Fevreblau, was published by Five Star Press in 2005. He is a member of SFWA and HWA. His interests include Shotokan karate and Nordic Wicca. He also likes beagles and pecan coffee.

His latest novel, Haxan, is a violent dark western published by CZP/HarperCollins in 2014. You can find out more about Mr. Hoover and his work from his blog (you’re reading it now!) or his website

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