h o m e / n e w s / f o r u m s / r a n t s / d v d s / b o o k s / i n t e r v i e w s / m u s i c / l i n k s / c o n t a c t / s h o p

You are here: Home - - - > Interviews - - - > A Conversation with Kimberly Warner-Cohen
Sex, Blood, and Literate Horror: A Conversation with writer Kimberly Warner-Cohen - Author of "Sex, Blood, and Rock & Roll"
Conducted August/September, 2006
Interview Conducted By: Matthew Dean Hill

So, I was wandering through the dealer's room at the 2006 Horrorfind Weekend in Baltimore, Maryland. You know, soaking in the sights, spending too much money, hob-nobbing with the plethora of celebrities, writers, vendors, and what have you. I turned a corner, and a small, highly attractive, and genuinely interesting looking woman caught my eye. I had never heard of Kimberly Warner-Cohen, and when I picked up the book she was hawking, her novel "Sex, Blood, and Rock & Roll", I wasn't too sure what to think. After a brief conversation with her at her table, it was clear that she's not your typical writer. Clearly, there's something more to Kimberly Warner-Cohen than meets the eye. There's something...I don't know...aged about her eyes...as if she's, through whatever machinations, seen too many sights in too little time, and only been able to truly enjoy some of them properly. Intrigued, I asked her to autograph her book for me, and I gave her my card. About a week or so ago, Kimberly sent me an email. Following up on my offer to interview her, you see. So, I did more reseach, read a chunk of her book, asked her to recommend some hotels in NYC, and proceeded with our interview. Here it is, folks...I hope you glean from it what you will, and that it's as fun and fascinating to read as it was to reseach and conduct.

Matthew Dean Hill: Thanks for joining us, Kimberly! Now, I've seen some biographical information about you from various sources. It seems you've led quite an interesting life. Would you care to give me a run-down of your life so far? What has brought you to the point you're at presently?

Kimberly Warner-Cohen: I'm lifelong New Yorker, started writing at eight, and gore at thirteen as a reaction to getting picked on. I started hanging around the Lower East Side pretty young and at sixteen I was a junkie and (more or less) cleaned up by eighteen. At nineteen I was a pro-domme, which is where the concept of my first novel germinated.

After that I lived in London for a little while, and moved back in late 2001. Since then I've been working more seriously than previously on my writing career.

MDH: Wow. Just wow. So, would you say that New York has been kind to you? Your career?

KWC: I don't think NYC has been kind or unkind, its just been. As to my career, there are definitely some advantages. However, in the day and age of the internet, I don't think living in a publishing meccas is as important as it once was.

MDH: I guess NYC has a kind of history of "just being", doesn't it. Your book, "Sex, Blood, and Rock 'n' Roll" paints a very specific kind of picture of the city. In the tradition of Scorcese, and perhaps to a lesser extent, Brett Easton Ellis, the city seems to be a character in your book. In any event, it definitely plays an integral role to the story. Care to confirm or deny? Elaborate?

KWC: NYC is just as much of a character in Sex,Blood and Rock'n'Roll as Cassie or Dev. I tried to pay homage to the New York I knew and loved. Events that transpire in the novel couldn't have happened the same way in any other city.

MDH: So, since we've established that you're a to-the-core New Yawker, and that New York is an integral part of your book, why don't we take a minute and let you explain how you see the more, shall we say, "tangible" characters in "Sex, Blood and Rock 'n' Roll". Obviously, there are similarities between you and certain characters in the book. How much of what happens on the page is translated, more or less, directly from "real-life" events? Yes, I know you're not a serial killer, but really...

KWC: Cassie's experiences in the dungeon are taken directly from real life. The secondary characters are amalgams of people I've known. However, Dev is meant to be the stereotypical "cool rock'n'roll boyfriend", just as Cassie is the "Every Person" escaping the suburbs for NYC.

MDH: Obviously, "Sex, Blood, and Rock 'n' Roll" is a highly personal novel. Is it scary for you putting yourself onto the page like that? Or, as it is for me to one extent or another, is it somehow liberating and/or therapeutic?

KWC: Everything I've written has a huge piece of me in it; they're each my creation. SBRR is my first piece of fiction published because I was terrified of people reading my work. Up until then, only my instructors at university had seen my writing; and that was because I had to show it to them. The only way to get over that fear was to just do it. Writing itself, however, is very therapeutic.

MDH: On that level, I've certainly heard that from other writers. As a writer myself, I'll be the first to admit that the mere act of writing, as therapy goes, is pretty effective. To extend that logic one step further, certain filmmakers I've talked to (who will go unnamed) have said that the simple act of filming a particularly gruesome or sadistic scene is something of a "release". I think it was Plato who said (paraphrasing) that the wicked man does what the virtuous man only dreams. So, were there any parts of your book that were particularly liberating to write...in lieu of actually performing in reality?

KWC: Absoloutely. Writing is both therapy and more of a drug than heroin ever was. If I don't write for a few days, I get very cranky. While it is a release to explore the side of human psyche people generally don't want to face, there's no particular part of the book that was any more liberating to write. It is all pieces of the same puzzle.

MDH: That said, you have a unique perspective, shall we say, into human nature, stemming somewhat, I imagine, from your days as a pro-domme. What did that experience teach you about people? I imagine it's easy to be cynical about humanity, but please, tell me how you feel about the needs and desires of people.

KWC: Working as a pro-domme made me extremely cynical about human interaction, which is why I quit. I don't think I feel any different about people's needs and desires- so long as it is "SSC" (safe, sane and consensual), what goes on behind closed doors isn't my business. That being said, there were some clients who I was less delighted to get than others.

MDH: Safe, sane, and consensual...ideally, that works for "real life" and certainly for sexual and/or sensual encounters, but in the world of horror, things don't always work out that way. What's your ideal approach to horror? Is it, "the more realistic, the better", or is it more akin to, "the bloodier and more over-the-top, the better"? What about in horror movies (vis-a-vis literature or at least the written word)?

KWC: I think that horror is best when the story grabs your brain and shakes it a little bit; keeps you up a little at night. Violence can be realistic and over-the-top. Events in history that have actually transpired are way bloodier than anything that could ever come out of my imagination.

Similarly, The Birds and The Shining are far more terrifying to me than any slasher flick. Don't get me wrong, I love them, but I don't find 'em scary.

MDH: Since you're speaking of specific horror movies, I wonder if you'd enlighten us with, say, your top five favorite horror films of all time. What about your top five favorite genre books?

KWC: My five favorite genre books are "Dante's Inferno" (it was the first and is still the most influential), Poe's "Tales of Mystery and Imagination", just about any of [Stephen] King's early work, Shirley Jackson's "The Haunting of Hill House", and [Whitley] Streiber's "Wolfen".

My favorite horror movies are the original [Kubrick's] The Shining (the little girls get me every time), [Christophe Gans'] Brotherhood of the Wolf, [Romero's] Dawn of the Dead, Murnau's Faust, and [Meir Zarchi's] I Spit on Your Grave. Although the original The Stepford Wives should get an honorable mention.

MDH: I've got to agree with you on I Spit On Your Grave (aka "Day of the Woman"). I think a lot of people have far too difficult a time seeing past the (allegedly) "exploitative" elements of the film. It's one of the true underrated wonders of horror cinema.

I guess I'll wrap this up, Kimberly, by giving you the chance to be encouraging and wise. Do you have any advice for would-be writers, filmmakers, makeup artists, or anyone else who wants...no, needs to get into this industry on one level or another?

KWC: No matter what anyone around you says, don't give up. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Don't worry if you're "marketable", and don't be deterred by rejection. Everyone has gotten those awful form letters.

MDH: Well, thanks for taking the time to speak with me, Kimberly! You've shed some light on the creative process, as well as on your own life! I'm sure I speak for all of my readers when I wish you the best of luck! Keep me posted on your upcoming projects, won't you?

KWC: Of course! I'm glad you enjoyed this as much as I did!

Relevant Links:

You can learn more about Kimberly Warner-Cohen and her novel "Sex, Blood, and Rock 'n' Roll" by visiting HERE, and you can purchase her novel by clicking HERE.

c o n t a c t / i n f o