By Patrick R. McDonough
Dead Head Reviews (DHR): Shane, Rich, thank you so much for giving us your time. Ink Heist as a review platform has been around a little bit longer than your podcast. Could you both tell us about the history of how Ink Heist was formed and how the podcast eventually came to be?
Rich: Thanks for having us! We’re honored to be here and honestly it feels a bit surreal anyone would want to interview us [laughs]. To answer your question, Ink Heist was formed for a variety of reasons. The short version is that Shane and I just really wanted to work together. We built up an online friendship way back when we first launched our own respective blogs, The Horror Bookshelf and Shotgun Logic.
The longer answer ties into the first. I started The Horror Bookshelf about 5 years ago in 2014 (wow, I can’t believe it has been that long!) as a way to sort of get back into writing. I used to do album reviews and interviews for a few music websites, but I was starting to get back into reading horror and figured I should just make that my focus for a site. It started off slow with me just reviewing books I already owned. Over time, I slowly built up the site and making contacts to get ARC’s. It quickly grew much larger than I ever dreamed and I even have some blurbs in a few books, which was always surreal to me. I was happy the site was doing so well, but it also quickly became way too overwhelming for me to handle on my own. That’s when I decided I would be interested in starting something completely new and also to branch out into crime and noir, which was hard to do since I kind of locked myself into horror only based on my site’s name. By that time, Shane and I had already become friends (I forget how it even happened honestly, hopefully he can help me out!) and he was pretty much the only person I thought of when I was thinking of potential partners. The rest as they say is history!
The podcast was something we always wanted to do, but I think both of us were way too nervous to start. We’ve told the story on the podcast, but essentially the actual start of the podcast is 100% attributed to John F.D. Taff. He approached us about doing a cool “behind the scenes” series for his serial novel The Fearing, sort of like the Game of Thrones aftershow. Shane and I jumped at the chance because we are huge fans of John’s work and after some initial brainstorming, Taff asked if it was going to be audio. Well, you don’t turn down the King of Pain, so we said yes and that was just the push for us to get started. We owe him everything for giving us that nudge we needed to get over our anxieties about starting a podcast.
Shane: Well, Rich did a pretty good job of answering that for both of us, but I’m your huckleberry. I started Shotgun Logic in 2014 and subsequently got picked up to write for This Is Horror, Horror DNA (formerly HorrorTalk), Hellnotes, Gingernuts of Horror, and a few others. Point being, I got myself so fucking overwhelmed I damn near walked away from it for good. But I didn’t want to do that. I started doing this as a labor of love and I was still in love. I was just falling apart at the seams trying to take on the load I had. So I decided to start weaning myself from those other sites, going from writing for them all the time to just writing for them sometimes, which I still do to this day, for the most part. The idea was that I would rededicate myself to Shotgun Logic which, by this time had become a fucking ghost town, replete with tumbleweeds and creaky saloon doors. But at this point, I realized that while my passion for writing was still in full bloom, I had fallen out of love with Shotgun Logic. It was too much for me and I determined that I would probably quit later that year. That was in the Spring of 2018. Then I started talking to that fucker, Rich Duncan, and determined that he was in much the same boat and we decided, given that we were both passionate about the pursuit, we would join together and help shore each other up. I’m pretty sure that was in May, and Ink Heist was born in June. That’s right. When we make a decision, we don’t fuck around. We get down to business and get things done. For the most part, Rich told you the rest of the story in his answer.
But let me also tell you about some goals we have, and some dreams, while I’m at it. By the time this releases, we will have published our first story, a drenching piece by John F.D. Taff titled “Love Tap.” It’s the first in what we intend to be a long run of stories as part of what I call the “Ink Heist Initiative”, though it has no official name other than “Ink Heist Fiction” yet. The reason I call it that is, for us, it is an initiative, one to get talented new authors writing and to publish those already established indie authors we love, who, in spite of that, still often struggle to find a venue. But we don’t believe in the words “in exchange for exposure” and that’s the only time you’ll ever see one of us use them. We currently pay our authors a decent semi-pro rate and will continue to do so until, at some indefinite future date, we can pay them the going pro rate. Authors cry, sweat, and bleed for their creativity and it’s a goddamn crime to ask them to do it for free. If they’re not good enough to pay, they aren’t good enough to publish. We make no profit from it and we want none. We merely want to keep/get good authors writing and readers reading, the two goals we are most dedicated to and the ones we will bleed ourselves out for if we have to. We also, in the dream arena, would like to eventually anthologize the stories we publish and get them into the hands of an even larger and more diverse audience. But, fucking baby-steps and all that. And shit. I just wrote you a goddamn book for one question. Boy did you fuck up inviting me to this party.
DHR: Ha-ha! When Rich first sent me your answers, I was both surprised and filled with glee. Long answers with substance are never a problem here! I imagine you both wrote up a list of people you wanted to interview on the podcast. Who was on it and did you have a similar list to one another?
Rich: It’s funny you mention that because we absolutely have a list! It’s a long list, but a lot of the episodes we released started from that list and we are always adding to it. I don’t want to give away the entire list – mainly because it’s incredibly long – but a few of the guests we have planned for the future or hope to have on are Caroline Kepnes, Kathe Koja, Richard Thomas, Karen Runge, and Joe Lansdale to name a few. I’m sure Shane will give you some names too.
But our list is actually the same. Shane and I are based on opposite coasts, but we are pretty much in constant contact every day. We use a lot of web-based tools to make Ink Heist go. We chat daily through Discord and then any sort of lists or plans we use to brainstorm go into various types of Google services like Drive, Calendar, etc. That’s one of the things that I think has really attributed to Ink Heist’s early success. Shane and I were friends before, but we got to know each other REALLY well as we went through the rigorous process of forming the framework of Ink Heist. We share a lot of the same ideals and our vision for Ink Heist is the same, so that made things extremely easy. I consider Shane one of my best friends and I think that friendship is one reason we are able to keep Ink Heist focused and why people have been enjoying the podcast.
Shane: Yeah, that answer covers it. Since we’ve been keeping the list, we’ve pretty much been of the same mind about who we want to try to get on at any given time, and we’ve had pretty great success with getting the authors we’re shooting for, including managing to get some bucket-list level authors who have either been on the show, or agreed to be at some future date. Also, I implicitly agree with that last sentence of Rich’s. I also consider me to be one of my best–wait, I mean Rich. I also consider Rich to be one of my best friends.
DHR: As a listener, it’s very evident that you guys trust each other and are best friends. I agree, it’s probably the biggest component in shaping the tone and flow of the show. So, just to kind of go into a little more depth of something you two touched on: How has the response from the pursued authors been?
Rich: The response has been universally positive. One of the great things about the horror community, which I’ll touch on later, is it’s very supportive. So far, every writer we’ve contacted has agreed to be on the show. I think for one thing, they’re excited to be able to talk about their work with readers and a podcast format makes it a little bit more personal. I can only speak for myself, but I was very nervous about approaching some of our guests. That was more on me though as all of the writers have been very generous with their time and are happy to support the blogging community.
Shane: It’s been a great experience so far, but that doesn’t come
as any surprise to me. As involved as Rich and I have both been in the
community for the past 6-ish years online, I already knew its members to be
open and willing to share of themselves or their knowledge/availability, so I
suspected going into it getting guests was going to be one of the easiest parts
of the whole endeavor, and that has proven to be true. Honestly, though, early
on I prepared a mental list of people who I thought would be difficult or
impossible to get to be on the pod. Turns out even at that, I was completely
wrong. We’ve approached some top-shelf level talent since we jumped on this
train, and we have yet to encounter anyone who said no.
DHR: Piggybacking on the last question, how has the response been from the horror community?
Rich: Incredibly positive, kind of like with the authors we’ve approached. The horror community is very supportive of each other and that’s one of the things I love most about it. That’s one of the things that makes it truly special and we are honored to be a part of it. Shane and I are novices at this and are still working out some kinks and getting comfortable with speaking “on camera”. That’s why we are very humbled every time someone says they love our show and share positive feedback on social media. We’re just two average guys who love horror, so the fact that people are interested in what we have to say is humbling.
Shane: My thoughts on this are, the pod could have gone one of two ways right out the gate. A) Nobody listens to us and Ink Heist as a podcast dies in obscurity, or B) we get a shockingly positive and overwhelming response from the community and, as a result, we both end up with stars on the Walk in Hollywood. Well, as it turns out, neither one of those things has come to pass, so what the fuck do I know? That said, the response has been humbling, and every week, just as they start to freeze up again, the response to the podcast comes along and melts our frozen black hearts all over again.
DHR: Keep shooting for the (Hollywood) stars, ha. When it came to the technical aspects of the pod—recording and editing—were there any difficult challenges?
Rich: This question is more for Shane as he handles all of the editing for the show, but there were some minor issues. Hell, there still is! Sometimes when we mute ourselves to cut down on background noise we forget to unmute when we start talking [laughs]. However, those issues have been getting less and less with each episode. A lot of it was just getting used to doing it. We kind of jumped in feet first and figured it out as we went, otherwise I think we would have been stuck in the planning stages for a long time.
Shane: Shit, are you asking this just to fuck with my head? Haha! It seems like every time I turn around I’m tripping over something new, unexpected, and torturous to learn my way around. Every other episode I encounter something new in the world of recording magic that I don’t know a fucking thing about. Fortunately, the open-source software I use for editing (hats off to Audacity) has been around for a long time and is well documented by experienced users, among the most primary of them, other podcasters. So it generally isn’t difficult to find an answer to a problem when I encounter it and I’ve become ten times better and faster at it than I was when I started. The more fun technical difficulties have been via Skype, where we record our episodes. We’ve had some good times there. For example, we had Josh Malerman on. Fucking huge name, right? We go to start the episode and I forgot where the goddamn record option was. Took me what felt like forever to find it, and the whole time Fuckng Malerman and Duncan are laughing their asses off at me. That is just one example of many. I once had a one-sided conversation with my living room window, having forgotten that my mic, at that time, was stationary and it was behind me. Yeah, good times. We’ve yet to see the last of our recording and editing follies, I’m certain.
DHR: Rich, during those moments of you guys getting stuck in an unmute-state are hilarious. Shane, me? Mess with your head? No (maybe) way! That episode with Malerman was fantastic. A few episodes ago, you had no guest. It was just the two of you talking to one another. Did you both learn something about each other from that episode?
Rich: That was a fun episode and thank you for mentioning it! As far as learning something about each other, I don’t think we really did. Like I said earlier, Shane and I talk every day through chat, so we already knew each other extremely well. I think the biggest thing we learned from that episode is that we could create a show with just the two of us and no guest. That episode was more or less an experiment for us to see if that was possible. Let’s face it, a lot of our episodes are successful because of our guests and the great insight they bring to the show about their writing process and the behind-the-scenes information about their work. Shane and I thought we’d get maybe 20 minutes out of a solo episode, but we ended up going for much longer than that. We just talked about some horror topics we were both interested in and had a blast doing it. Being our first one by ourselves, we were worried listeners wouldn’t be interested in us just talking to each other, but we were surprised when it became one of our most popular episodes.
There was a lot of hilarious stuff that wasn’t recorded and that’s the first time “donkey laugh” entered the Ink Heist lexicon.
Shane: Well, for one thing, it was in recording that episode I learned how to make Rich donkey laugh. Since then, any time we’re off air I exercise that ability profusely. Rich has come to dread talking to me. If you wonder what a donkey laugh is, pay me $100 and I’ll make him do it on air.
DHR: Anyone out there have a Benjamin? Folks, we’ll be back tomorrow with the second part to this lovely interview. Stay tuned!