By Ed Symkus
“I’m really dark. Everything I write is dark. Most people don’t know what dark fiction is, but agents ask for it.”
Newton native Gary S. Kadet doesn’t open up much about what he did before his first novel, D/s – An Anti-Love Story, was published in 2000. He will attest, without going into detail, that he was an avid comic book reader as a kid, that the first book he fell in love with was Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast, that he was a cartoonist on his high school newspaper, but “they kicked me out because I was a bit too radical,” and that the first writing he got paid for was a short story in the literary magazine Ploughshares.
Segments of his career include writing features for the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, and The TAB; serving as the crime editor at the Boston Book Review; ghostwriting screenplays (one of which is a rewrite of “Peter Pan,” done hip-hop style); and running HotSex.Com (which he refers to as “the 10th largest adult Website in the world, back in the ’90s”).
Where, aside from Newton, he’s called home: Mostly Cambridge (off and on for 40 years), a few months in Germany (“My ex-wife is from there.”), the past decade in Providence (“I met a woman; my lease was up.”).
Interests: Competitive bodybuilding, former vinyl junkie turned CD junkie, at-home guitarist.
Kadet’s main interest, though, has been focused on getting back to writing novels. Over the past few years, he’s done just that, with both ferocity and success. The Ogre Life, about the seamy side of bodybuilding, was published last August. The crime novel Condition Zero — the first in his Null & Boyd series — followed in December. Then came his bank heist thriller Mens Rea in February. May saw publication of the second Null & Boyd book, Violent Mind Candy, as well as Breath Control, which he says is about “the decay of the American dream.” Scheduled for fall publication: another Null & Boyd thriller, High Body Count, and Viral Load, a satire about — again, in his words — “fascism as a form of mental illness.”
Arts Fuse: Were there attempts at writing novels before D/s – An Anti-Love Story?
Gary S. Kadet: I wrote three novels before that one, and they weren’t good. But I was encouraged by people to continue writing creatively. I didn’t run around saying I was a self-styled artist. I didn’t count myself as a serious novelist, though I wanted to be one. I wanted to write novels that had ideas and depth, and would perhaps last.
AF: What was the reaction to that first one?
Kadet: It did rather well. It was given a generous print run, and it was a Book of the Month Club Main Selection. Unfortunately, because it dealt with real-world S&M (Sadism & Masochism), BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism and Masochism), cultists viciously attacked the book in customer reviews, stalked me, and committed illegal acts. The cultists dog me and revenge-review my books to this day.
AF: Why has it been 20 years between having another novel published?
Kadet: Because of literary agents. I had eight literary agents, one as recently as last summer. They just couldn’t sell me, so I did some different things. I continued to fool around writing novels, and I did a bunch of ghostwriting. I also developed a pursuit of bodybuilding, and became a national body building competitor for a few years.
AF: But you were still determined to get more novels published?
Kadet: During the layoff of my publishing novels, I kept writing books and then shelving them. Finally, about four years ago, things I’d been working on solely in my head suddenly forced their way into the world. I’ve done their bidding ever since, without looking back.
AF: They suddenly forced their way into the world? That sounds like a simplification. What actually happened?
Kadet: Four years ago, I wrote my way out of a depression. I was being treated for hepatitis C. I was really sick, and I went through some grueling therapy. The drugs I was taking wipe out serotonin in your brain and can put you in a black depression. And I was in one. Eventually I started fighting back. I wrote the first page of The Ogre Life, then I just kept on writing. But it was slow going, and another book intruded. So, I thought, “Well, I’ll do this other book, too.” I started writing a few opening paragraphs of [what would become] Violent Mind Candy, and then another one got in the way. So, I put down some notes, gave it an opening and a title, then started flipping back and forth between them all, didn’t stop, and in about a year, I had three books completed. Feeling rather empty at the finish, I decided to use the same technique again, and in another year, I had three more – then another novel and a play. Meanwhile, when I was procrastinating, I was pitching agents and publishers. That’s when I added my eighth feckless agent to my list and began pitching publishers directly, and before I was done, I had six out of seven novels sold to four different publishers.
AF: I’ve read four of your novels, and I’ve gotta say, they are dark. Where do you think that comes from?
Kadet: I’m really dark. Everything I write is dark. Most people don’t know what dark fiction is, but agents ask for it. There’s only one kind of dark fiction to write, and that’s about human depravity. Depravity is the only darkness there is, and you can do it in broad sunlight. Darkness isn’t the castle in the mists at night, it’s not vampires or torture dungeons and half-naked woman. It’s not that, it’s human depravity. It’s not attractive, it’s corruption and it’s repulsive. Villains are not charismatically interesting. They are villainous, and they will hurt you.
AF: But even your protagonists are hard to root for. They’re conflicted and they make a lot of dumb decisions. At the beginning of Mens Rea, for instance, the protagonist George Arrant kills his wife and kids rather than allow them to suffer from the woes of the world.
Kadet: Some people told me that they wound up liking George Arrant. I love my characters. I want flawed but relatable heroes. There are no completely good characters or evil characters. Even my evil characters think they’re doing the right thing for the world and themselves. They have no concept that they’re doing anything wrong.
AF: How many novels are you currently working on?
Kadet: Three novels right now. One is about male bisexuality, another is book four in the Null & Boyd series, and one is a sequel to a dystopian novel I’ve written about the passage of the 28th amendment – the freewill amendment that makes blasphemy a crime.
Ed Symkus is a Boston native and Emerson College graduate. He went to Woodstock, is a fan of Harry Crews, Sax Rohmer, and John Wyndham, and has visited the Outer Hebrides, the Lofoten Islands, Anglesey, Mykonos, the Azores, Catalina, Kangaroo Island, and the Isle of Capri with his wife Lisa.