The last time we spoke to writer, editor James Aquilone, he was putting together an anthology full of amazing stories. But what else is new? That one was about one of my favorite characters: Karl Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Never one to rest on his laurels, Mr. Aquilone is now working on another collection of stories. This time centered around the Bard himself, William Shakespeare. In Shakespeare Unleashed, James has gathered another vast array of talented creators to bring a veil of horror on some of Shakespeare’s famous works.
Recently, we caught up once again with James to discuss the progress of his previous anthology and of course, his newest endeavor, Shakespeare Unleashed.
GVN: Thanks again for sharing some of your time with me, James. No rest for the weary or the workaholic I see. It seems like it wasn’t that long ago we talked about the exciting Kickstarter Campaign of your Kolchak: The Night Stalker Anthology. Now you’re delving into the world of William Shakespeare and the possible supernatural underpinnings found there. But before we move ahead, let me get a status report on Kolchak for those who have not been following. How has that project been progressing?
JA: We’re nearing the end of the Kolchak project. Most of the artwork is in — and the pages are stunning. All the stories are fun and exciting and full of crazy monsters. I’m really excited to get those books out.
GVN: As I mentioned, your new project is entitled Shakespeare Unleashed. How did this project come about and was it difficult to recruit contributors for your new venture? (Judging from the impressive list, probably not). Although, if it was me, I would imagine that a horror re-imagining of some of the Bard’s classic work might be intimidating. (Although many of his works lean toward that interpretation).
JA: Many people jumped at the chance to write a story for Shakespeare Unleashed and we have some big names, like Joe and Kasey Lansdale, Tim Waggoner, Cullen Bunn, Seanan McGuire, Gemma Files, Jonathan Maberry and Ian Doescher, who’s done this sort of thing before with William Shakespeare’s Star Wars and William Shakespeare’s Tragical History of Frankenstein.
Like Classic Monsters Unleashed, this project has been a really cool opportunity to delve into an iconic literary universe. I had always wanted to write a zombie Romeo and Juliet story and I got the chance with a tale in the companion ‘Shakespeare Unleashed’ comic book. More on that later…
A Simple Philosophy
GVN: As you approached this project, did you have any suggestions for your talented contributors, or did you just explain the premise and turn them loose?
JA: My philosophy is pretty simple. I find the best writers and artists and let them do their thing. They very rarely disappoint.
Always Fun and Surprising
GVN: As some of the stories have been gathered or outlined, have you been surprised by the takes some of your collaborators have come up with? Anything that made you think “that’s an unusual take on that story or why didn’t I think of that?”
JA: That’s the fun of putting together these projects. Most of the time you don’t have much of an idea what the contributors are going to do, so it’s pretty awesome — as an editor and a fan — when a writer turns in a story, and you get to see how they tackled the assignment. There are always surprises and sometimes a writer perfectly nails your vision for the anthology. John Palisano wrote a story called “A Pound of Flesh,” which is a sequel to The Merchant of Venice and shows us what happened to Shylock after the events of the story. It’s very dark and exactly what I was looking for.
GVN: Your Kickstarter campaign begins later this month. If it’s anything like the Kolchak campaign and what was offered, it will be an exciting event. What might fans expect when they explore your campaign?
JA: Like Kolchak, this campaign grew and grew and grew. This time, I went and added a completely separate Shakespeare comic book, which I’m very excited about. So far, we have three stories in the comic, including one written by David Avallone with art by Helena Masellis. My zombie Romeo and Juliet story was illustrated by J.K. Woodward, who also contributed to the Kolchak graphic novel, and wait until you see the art for that! I also wrote a short comic based on Shakespeare’s infamous stage direction “Exit, Pursued by a Bear.” That has art by Zac Atkinson.
J.K. Woodward not only did an amazing cover for “Shakespeare Unleashed” — he did four interior illustrations, each one based on a famous Shakespeare quote. Plus, I got comic book legend Tom Napolitano to do the lettering for the quotes. Those illustrations are available as prints.
The anthology will also have horror sonnets and an introduction by Weston Ochse, who is a Bram Stoker Award-winning horror writer and has taught Shakespeare in the classroom.
GVN: Just as I thought, a lot to look forward to. Now, since I know that you ALWAYS have multiple irons in the fire, do you have any other projects being worked on you would like to mention before I turn you loose?
JA: There are a bunch I can’t talk about yet. But one thing I probably can… I had always wanted to turn my “Dead Jack Zombie” Detective books into a comic book, and I’m working on that. Look for a Kickstarter next year.
GVN: Thank again, James. It is always a pleasure talking to you and we look forward to this new book through Crystal Lake Publishing and Monstrous Books.
Shakespeare Unleashed by Crystal Lake Publishing and Monstrous Books is now in its Kickstarter Campaign and can be found here.
Senior Writer at GeekVibesNation – I am a 50 something child of the 70’s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove head first over a cliff (Ok, it was a small hill) to try to rescue his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of a 18 year old boy with autism. My wife and son are my real heroes.