Cats and The Writhing Skies: An Interview with Betty Rocksteady

Just catching up with Betty Rocksteady, the two-punch Gatling gun of artistic creation about what happens when her passions for illustrating and writing collide…

-Austin James

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Betty Rocksteady Pic

“I wouldn’t ever want a dog, I just don’t really get them, and they don’t get me. They’re extroverts.” -Betty Rocksteady

Austin James: So, I know you’re a writer and illustrator. You’ve e got a couple books out there, been in some anthologies. Amazon search shows an impressive catalogue of magazines as well (which I assume is a mix of your writing and illustrations, if not both). Do you have any other art forms in which you express your need to create?

Betty Rocksteady: I don’t think I have the time to do any other art forms! I’ve dabbled in other things, but these are the two that have stuck around. The main thing I want to do in the future is marry the two more. I’m going to be illustrating all my books from now on. I’m currently working on 20 illustrations for The Writhing Skies, which is coming in fall. The book is really extreme, sexual, and colorful, and the illustrations are a cartoony storybook style, which creates a really interesting contrast that I think really represents what I want to create.

James: I love it! It’s cool that you can take your two passions and weave them together like that.

Rocksteady: It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, like since I was a kid, and now I feel like my abilities are at a point where I can do it right. I’d love to do comics someday, and I’d also love to illustrate a point and click adventure game. So, it’s mostly about using the two art forms—illustration and writing—in new ways and using them together.

James: Is The Writhing Skies your third book?

Rocksteady: Yes! It’s coming out from PMMP this fall.

James: So other than “extreme, sexual, and colorful” is there anything else you can share about this upcoming release?

Rocksteady: Sure. The Writhing Skies is a novella that contains a lot of the same surreal nightmarish logic as Like Jagged Teeth but with a much more adult tone. The main character, Sarah, is trapped in her empty and grey hometown, followed by strange glowing creatures, confronting some really fucked up stuff from her recent past. It deals with sexual violence and manipulation, plus goopy aliens.

James: Thank god for goopy aliens, right? So, I know you’ve written Bizarro before. Would you consider TWS a Bizarro piece?

Rocksteady: I think everything I write has some Bizarro elements without being fully Bizarro. I like to use the dream-logic and strangeness of Bizarro, but it leans more on the side of Lynchian surreal than outright Bizarro (to me at least). Writhing Skies is definitely in that category. It’s more trying to make you uncomfortable than make you laugh.

James: Tell me about all of your short story work… it’s quite an impressive list.

Rocksteady: Oh yeah! I spent a couple years writing a ton of short stories and got into a lot of cool anthologies and magazines. Now I’m working on longer projects for a bit and it feels weird not to be submitting all the time.

James: So how do you like working with PMMP?

Rocksteady: Oh, I love PMMP! I think they do a lot of cool stuff. Max is an excellent editor and Lori makes beautiful-looking books. They’re also really into my vision and on board for any of my artistic ideas, which really makes me feel like I’m doing projects I believe in.

James: I’m relatively new to the scene, but it doesn’t take long to recognize that they are a well-respected small press who know what they’re doing. Okay, back to you, which talent took hold first (illustrating or writing)?

Rocksteady: This is kind of pedantic, but I don’t really think of them as TALENTS so much as skills. I definitely had an early interest in both, and maybe a slight aptitude but if what I do is good, it’s because of all the time I’ve spent getting here, not an inborn talent. And I think that’s just as cool.

I’ve always done both illustration and writing I guess, I was into both as a kid. I spent a lot of my 20s drawing and not much writing, but when I turned 30 I decided to get back into both seriously.

Betty Art 1

James: Yeah, I like the word “skill” better as well. I mean, someone can have a natural talent towards something, but it usually still takes lifelong development. Except for those of you that don’t need to develop—just have the natural “talent” to go out and be successful… fuck you people, by the way.

Rocksteady: Yeah there are definitely people that are naturally talented enough to produce professional quality work without a lot of training and those people can go to hell, haha.

James: So, when did you first start to realize your illustration skills were sharpened to the point where you felt like you were getting good at it? How about writing skills?

Rocksteady: Oh, I don’t know. I’ve always been drawing, and I always liked my drawings. I’ve been doing it I guess semi-professionally for a few years now, but it still took a while for my skill to catch up with my taste. I taught myself to draw on paper, but I’ve been using an iPad Pro for a few months now and I really feel that it’s pushed me to a new level where the work I produce is much, much closer to what I want it to look like.

The first story that I wrote that I thought was pretty good was “This Narrow Escape” (published in Kzine), which was also the first story I wrote using Bizarro/dream logic techniques. That kind of broke things open for me in terms of writing. Before that everything I wrote felt very hollow to me and didn’t have my true personality in it. Then from there I went on to write Arachnophile and so on. I’m constantly determined to learn more and get better

James: Do you have a routine you “must” follow in order to be productive when creating?

Rocksteady: Nope, not at all. I keep changing how I do it. It’s not chaotic or anything but I don’t have any rituals or set ways that I can think of.

James: Switching gears, rumor has it that you like cats. Can you confirm and/or deny said claim?

Rocksteady: Haha yes! Maybe just a little bit. I’m actually in the very starting phases of my next book, THE CAT LIVES, which is going to be a short story collection of interlocking stories about some really strange cat mythos.

James: I was actually going to ask if cats were ever inspiration for any of your work. Sounds like THE CAT LIVES will be badass… I’m already looking forward to it. Can you give an example of “really strange cat mythos”?

Rocksteady: It’s still in development stages but I have a few stories written and a lot of notes, just had to put it aside until Writhing Skies is complete. THE CAT LIVES is going to be a lot of different types of horror stories, but they are all going to predominantly feature a cat or cats, and I’m working on a mythos that’s developing naturally as I go. It’s not quite ready for public consumption yet, and I don’t think any of it will be laid out in so many words, it’s something that will seep into you as you read (assuming it turns out like I’m expecting)!

James: That’s sounds awesome (you see, I, too, have love for feline companions)!

Rocksteady: I don’t think I could be a functioning human without cats.

James: What’s your opinion about canines?

Rocksteady: I just don’t really care about them, but I think everyone should treat their pets well. I wouldn’t ever want a dog, I just don’t really get them, and they don’t get me. They’re extroverts.

James: And extroverts disgust you… I get it. We have both. But our little dog is a lot like a cat, honestly. So, back to writing: which of your pieces (short stories included), are you most proud of?

Rocksteady: Honestly, I get so sick of looking at everything after a few drafts, it’s always the new stuff I’m most excited about! I do think one of my coolest stories is “Dusk Urchin” in Looming Low. Anything where I can achieve a lot of tension subtly and without a lot of backstory is cool to me. I’m also really excited about my story “Elephants That Aren’t” coming soon in Lost Films. I’m obsessed with 1920s-1930s style cartoons so that style features in the story and I even drew a flip book to go with it.

James: Makes sense. In anticipation of this interview gaining you hundreds upon hundreds of new fans, where would you recommend one starts into the Betty Rocksteady Library?

Betty Art 2

Rocksteady: Oh, definitely Like Jagged Teeth. And as far as short fiction, “Dusk Urchin” (in Looming Low), “Elephants That Aren’t” (Lost Films), and the upcoming “The Woods, The Waterfall” (in Deciduous Tales #2).

James: Circling back to THE CAT LIVES, do you already have publication plans with PMMP, or are you planning to shop it around once it’s ready?

Rocksteady: I’m still thinking about that. I don’t think I’ll decide until it’s closer to complete. I definitely want to illustrate it, so I have to keep that in mind as well.

James: Switching gears again, tell me about your “semi pro” job as an illustrator. Do you mostly do it for individuals, publishers, etc.?

Rocksteady: When I started I was just doing a lot of stuff for myself and posting it on REDBUBBLE. I always did a lot of gothic pen and ink work, but I started adding that retro cartoon styling to it and I feel like I’ve really found my own groove now and people are responding well to it! This year I’ve done a couple cover commissions, I’m illustrating a couple books and I’ve been doing a lot of personal cartoon commissions for people. It’s all pretty fun and I’ve been really pleased with how it’s going.

James: That’s awesome! Do you still have the REDBUBBLE thing going on, or has it evolved beyond that?

Rocksteady: Yeah, I still have lots of stuff on there but have not added anything new in a bit, as I’ve been kept really busy with other projects! I would like to get some cartoon stuff up soon.


James: Ok, so I’ve been saving up for this last question. All of your fans are dying to know: Is “Betty Rocksteady” your real name? Also—spitting follow-up questions a bit to early—is neon blue your natural hair color?

Rocksteady: I hate to reveal the boring truth but yeah, Betty Rocksteady is a pen name, and for no Particular reason other than it just sounds great.

And no, hot pink is my natural color.

James: Makes sense, I hear that hot pink is pretty common in Southeast Canada. And I do love how Betty Rocksteady sounds… how did you come up with it?

Rocksteady: It just struck me one night, a couple years before I even started writing and I changed my Facebook name to it just for fun, and when I started getting published it just felt right. Betty Rocksteady feels like the best version of me. Oh, my real name is actually Betty so it’s just the Rocksteady part that was new.

James: Yeah, I dig it. Definitely fits you and resonates in the memory. Anyway, it’s been a blast chatting with you.

Rocksteady: Hey, yeah, thanks for doing this!


Austin James writes obscure and uncomfortable fiction.

God Save The Queen of Filth: An Interview with Dani Brown

Having been a fan of her work ever since the first time I experienced it, I caught up with Dani Brown, “The Queen of Filth”, to scour her brain about her huge library of published works (links galore to follow!), as well as her newest release, Ketamine Addicted Pandas. In addition, we ended up discussing her evolution as a writer, internet creeps, toxic assholes, the #metoo movement, and something called Marmite, which is apparently a disgusting toast spread banned in most countries.

-Austin James

“I’m a naturally squeamish person. I like to share that around.”

-Dani Brown

(I explain that I like to do these interviews over FB Messenger because it allows for real life to happen without interrupting the interview, as well as lends itself to a more conversational feel, and our discussion takes off from there) …

Dani Brown: I’m okay with using Messenger. And do you have WhatsApp in case the creeps come out and we need to switch apps?

Austin James: I do not, but I can download it. I’m curious though, when you say “creeps come out,” does that mean when random pervs see you active on messenger you start getting spammed?

Dani: Yep that’s the one. I’m not even sure if they see me as attractive. I think they want to lure someone into paying their way in life (some sort of co-dependent love bombing situation) and when one doesn’t respond they move onto the next. I don’t seem to be targeted as much this week, and I’ve changed my profile pic.

James: That’s insane! It’s sad that you have to put up with that. Do you think the content of some of your art, or maybe your author persona as “The Queen of Filth” has encouraged any of these assholes to harass you? Or do you think this shit is pretty common for most women in this social media age?

Brown: It’s a bit of both I believe. Being a woman on social media isn’t pleasant some of the time. I don’t think this current batch of internet creeps realized I write, let alone what I write. But the writing has its own problems. People have the impression that I’m some sort of sexually liberated person. I’m really not and I like to keep my sex life and even romantic life very private. Some people have difficulty viewing me as a person with a voice, ambition, hobbies, etc. It’s only a small handful of people, but it can be terrifying.

James: I was actually going to ask if any of this harassment fueled some of your writing…sounds like it has.

Brown: These people are absolutely making it into my current group of stories, something I think of as “Era Two of The Queen of Filth.” Some of the creepy FB messages are even making it into my stories. Regardless of the amount of times I’ve stated to these people that I want to be left alone, I’m not into sex, etc., I still live with the fear. They don’t come across as reasonable people. Constantly trying to outdo each other, in person and on social media, which in my writing came out as “trying to out-narc frenemies on social media.” With the exception of Sparky the Spunky Robot [see below] and a few short stories, this is the first time I’ve really been using stuff from my life in writing. It took years to become comfortable using my emotion in writing, let alone experience and deeper opinions

James: So, the harassment has been bad enough that it prompted whole new phase in your evolution as an artist?!

Brown: Partially, yes. Era Two is not only a response to internet creeps, but a deeper response to the toxic people of my past. And a deeper look at society and specifically how women are treated (the entire #metoo thing is also playing a huge role). As well as me being treated as crap for coming from a bad background and being a single parent (more the excuses people use). Sparky has a lot of the frustration I’ve experienced over not having a voice (more on this book later). It got to the point that I couldn’t write the erotic Bizarro story I wanted to, so I started to write what is becoming Smothered Hope (currently under construction). Basically, a girl band is repeatedly raped by their producers after learning they won’t be playing instruments or writing their songs. Kesha was making headlines again with her ongoing legal battle against her producer (best of luck to her!!). And the sheer way women are treated in anything art or entertainment related [plays a part].

James: I’m fucking proud of you for standing up and actually doing something about it!

Brown: Thank you. Although I’m anxious about sharing stuff from my private life and what influences me as a writer, I find the rewards and empowerment to help with the anxiety about letting the light in. After what’s happened, I can no longer return to the incredibly private person I once was. Ten years of having no voice, and now I find there are people out there that actually want to hear what I have to say. Even when it is something as simple as saying my favorite Disney Princess is Pocahontas, which I’ve never stated in public until today. Or admitting that stress wiped out some of my memories and I’ve only been reclaiming them over the past year. I don’t feel like I’m alone in standing up and doing something about it. It seems that every day on Facebook, there’s at least one woman with a long post about something she has experienced and what impact it has on her life and current situation, or how she got out of a bad situation. It took ten years to not feel shame over what happened to me over the course of those ten years.

James: So, is it safe to assume that those ten years (as well as the toxic people you referred to) make up Era One of your evolution as an artist?

Brown: Yep. Some of my older stuff relies on some shallow opinions, which was when I was really engulfed with these toxic and manipulative people. I suppose being surrounded by them, my own personality was becoming engulfed in the negativity and competition. All the drama would keep me in a perpetual state of stress which meant the people I do like to be around became further and further away, until I started writing my way out of it and being very open (a bit too much perhaps) about the cause of my stress.

James: “Writing your way out of it”. I really like how you worded that. I mean, that’s what art is for, right? To foster our inner need to create and to fully express our emotions?

Brown: It is. It took me awhile to get the hang of it. I was trying to write about these toxic people (Middle Age Rae of Fucking Sunshine, Reptile), or ignore them and write (Welcome to New Edgehill). Or even write the anger and stress (Stara) for a while. My early stuff (Seth, unpublished but a draft of the first section is available on my website, My Lovely Wife, Broccoli) is me trying to write with no emotion and as far away from myself as possible. Eventually I came to a point where I started to write Ketamine Addicted Pandas [links below]. I was overjoyed with it. Pointless, extreme, nothing of me in there. I started telling people what I was writing, and they were interested. I had a proven track record of published material by that point. The people I had been having problems with left for the most part. They realized they couldn’t change me and I would never be one of them. Stress levels dropped considerably, and I was able to do what I wanted. There were a few problems with some lingerers when I was finishing Sparky the Spunky Robot but somehow, I got that finished after having Sparky tattooed on my arm for inspiration. That one goes a lot deeper than my usual stuff. The underlying stuff is a story I’ve been wanting to tell since 2013, when the toxic creeps started appearing, but stress wouldn’t let me. I plan on more tattoos. I need to create. I can’t change that. I wish people would realize that the first few times I say it. Creating isn’t a choice.

James: Your need to create is very apparent—between your books and anthology appearances, you’ve got a huge resume. I know a few of these titles are already on my TBR pile and after this interview there are going to be even more.

Brown: The only way to escape from the toxic people in my life was to get up at 5am every morning before the day job and school run (no matter how little sleep I had) and write. Now I have a large amazon account and a Sparky tattoo and people around me shut their mouths and take me seriously.

James: Personally, I first discovered your specific method of insane creation in the Strange Behaviors Anthology, which prompted me to publicity exclaim that you’re one of the few authors who can actually make me squeamish. And thus, I fell in love with the “Queen of Filth.” Is that the type of response you hope for when you write?

Brown: Typically, yes. I’m a naturally squeamish person. I like to share that around. Places in the stories should result in squeamishness but that isn’t the overall point. I have written stories purely for the sake of trying to induce a vomit worthy reaction (Broccoli). I was working on one based on Rapunzel when my Era Two writings grew from a handful of stories to a massive undertaking. I will probably get back to that when this Era is over. My story in Strange Behaviors came about simply because I hate Marmite (like any sensible person). I hope I at least put some people off smearing that on their toast. I wanted it to be disgusting but not over the top like some of my other short stories.

James: Well I loved it, even though I have no idea what Marmite is. It was a great introduction to your work!

Brown: Marmite is some sort of brown substance that comes in a jar. It’s thick and the most disgusting thing known to humanity.

James: Must be a European thing (says the dumb American).

Brown: I think somewhere in Europe has banned it. Might just be an English thing.

James: Speaking of first-time readers, is there a particular story or book you recommend for newcomers to your work?

Brown: What I recommend to first-time readers is Night of the Penguins. It has lots of blood and gore. Phlegm tentacle sex. Weird cult activities from upper management and social climber types trying to out-do each other. So gore, sex and story.

James: Sounds delightful. So outside of Era One and Two, are there any stories that kind of transcend this timeline?

Brown: Sure. Just released, Ketamine Addicted Pandas (also available on Kindle). I wrote it when I was breaking free from the toxic people and then free but sitting around awaiting more therapy. Kind of bridged the gap a little. Then there are series such as Stef and Tucker (still to be published) and Chester and Lester (free on my website) which will probably span over a few more Eras.

James: Great segue…I was going to ask about Pandas. Got time for a quick, shameless plug?

Brown: Of course! Pandas escape from the zoo. They don’t like bamboo, they like baboon brains. And Ketamine. And dance music. Nazis in Hell are pissed off they’ve taken a liking to their uniforms so pursue them. Demons then follow after the Nazis. It is pointless. Violent. Influenced by black metal rumors. And was very, very fun to write.

James: Sounds awesome—this is one that’s already on my pile of books to read. Alright, so we’ve talked about Era One stories and work that ignores the timeline. What can we expect to see from you out of Era Two?

Brown: Soon to be published: The Last Human, Love Can Die: The Last Human 2, and a couple of books that will release later this year. Works in progress include Dream Princess: Basement Fantasy (might not be the final name), Push the Button/Spend the Night in Me (not sure of the title yet). Sat on a slush pile that is turning into a novel called Strip/Becoming. Still to come: all of the The Last Human stories, the Dream Princess stories (probably three of these), Smothered Hope, Change of Season and probably more. I’ll know they’re finished when they’re done.

James: You’re a busy woman! I guess that’s how someone gets as many books/stories out there as you have. Oh, shit, before I forget, tell me about the Queen of Filth logo.

Brown: It was designed by Ilan Sheady of Uncle Frank Productions when he did the cover for Broccoli. He said I needed a logo, so we talked about things I like. He added a unicorn horn to a pig.

James: I love it, it cracks me up and fits your work so perfectly!

Brown: Thanks. Other artists are being cool about adding it to my book covers.

James: I love to see artists being open to another creator’s art like that. Alright, so a moment ago you mentioned a couple books that are slated for release this year. I’d love to hear about them.

Brown: Okay, so my next book release is called 56 Seconds (NihilismRevised, August 2018). 56 seconds of lust/love lost to the sheets. This is the second story of Era Two, but first to be published. It introduces Donnie (also the Knight in the upcoming Strip/Becoming collection), Marcy and Honey. It took about two weeks to write and I had fun with it. Brought in random outside influences with a playlist that seemed more chosen by the story than me. It starts to explore some of what I went through in being around people with borderline personality disorder for what could have been my entire life (my mother refused point blank to speak to someone, but therapists thought she might have suffered with it, a hard diagnosis to make at any rate). I don’t have it, but I’ve obviously been around people with it and I’m trying to understand why people do the things they do, and when those things might be because of a personality disorder.

At the end of the year, Sparky the Spunky Robot will release through Bizarro Pulp Press. This story is very special to me. It clicked to place one day when I said, somewhat sarcastically, that I was going to write a story about a robot powered by cum. I had just received positive feedback from a publisher about a short story I wrote with an emotional robot (to be published) but the most requests for stories I get are for my Chester and Lester series [link above] which are all about cum. I tried a few times to write a typical “Queen of Filth” story. I also tried to write a more traditional sci-fi story. Nothing worked. Then something must have triggered me, and I got to thinking about failed attempts to write a story about how some people behave in regard to status and keeping up with neighbors/social media “friends.” My (now) ex-partner was talking about the keytar he wanted to buy and suddenly all these elements clicked together. Dreams in Suburban Hell are sent to die in garden sheds. Each time part of the dream dies, the resident of the house is rewarded with garden decorations. Karen is fed up with having low tier garden decorations. Matthew still has his keytar. He jerks off over it once per month. Any more and it might get ruined, so he builds a robot. Enough spunk and Sparky comes to life. But he doesn’t have a voice. He breaks into garden sheds, unearthing Suburban Hell’s lost dreams. Along the way, he meets Sandy the robot. Sandy is filled with a different person’s cum, which makes all the difference in terms of his personality.

James: That sounds like a fun story to read! Anyway, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you, and I’m looking forward to reading more of your work (despite potential problems with my gag reflexes). One last question: where can we find you online?

Brown: It has been fun, and thanks again for the interview. My website has a synopsis of my published books, and the best places to keep up with what I’m currently working on are on Facebook and Twitter.

Austin James writes obscure and uncomfortable fiction.

© 2018 Silent Motorist Media

The Return of Silent Motorist Media


As promised, after nearly a month of inactivity, Silent Motorist Media is back! We’re picking up right where we left off, and we’d like to announce a few changes to our program.

To begin, we have a new staff writer. Austin James, author of “Profixer” and the recently-released collection, The Drip Drop Prophet, is joining us to help with our author interviews series. We’re excited to add another voice to our little community, and believe that you will enjoy the variety. Help us welcome Mr. James by checking out his upcoming interview with Dani Brown.

Which brings us nicely to our second topic: the second phase of our author interviews will largely focus on women writers. We’d like to encourage women writers interested in an interview to contact us. As we’ve stated on our Promotional Services page, this is your site, writers, and we’re always excited to read and discuss your work. The list of upcoming women author interviews is growing daily, and we’d be thrilled for you to join.

Submissions are tentatively scheduled to open again in mid-July, and a themed essay contest will also be announced soon. Don’t worry. We’ll keep you updated.

Finally, the Silent Motorist Media Editing Team will soon announce open enrollment to a month-long creative writing workshop on Facebook. While we’ve been busy editing, we’ve also been taking notes. From those notes, we’ve composed a curriculum based on grammar, content, and style designed to strengthen your fiction writing by addressing issues that we’ve recurrently noted while editing. In other words, what you’ll get in our workshop isn’t the standard affair: we’ll ask you to bring a draft of a short story, and we’ll treat it to an individualized editing process, supplanted by general lessons that focus on the technical aspects of writing. Shannon McCaslin, an English instructor with over a decade of experience teaching undergraduate composition, will join me to give you an experience worthy of a short, college-level course. While enrollment isn’t officially open, we are happy to answer any preliminary inquiries you might have.

It’s great to be back, and we hope you’ll join us as we continue our ecstatic celebration of the literary weird.

-Justin A. Burnett

A Brief Hiatus Interruption

Greetings beloved SMM readers! We’re briefly interrupting our soon-to-be-ending hiatus to announce that Esoteric Sausage and Other Malformations, the debut fiction collection Justin A. Burnett, is currently free for Kindle. Grab your copy while you can, if you haven’t already. Signed and personalized paperback copies are also still available for $11.00. Email us for details.

Don’t worry, we’ll be back and fully operational soon. We promise not to leave you in suspense much longer. We’ll continue with our author interviews series, C. M. Bartolomeo’s Your Happy Life, as well as original material from a slew of other contributors well before July.

Hiatus Announcement

It’s been more than a successful first round here at SMM, and we’re proud of the ground we’ve covered over this short span of time. The time has come, however, to focus on some writing and editing obligations. Don’t worry; we’ll return shortly with a new slew of author interviews, album reviews, and original publications. In addition, we’re adding a new staff writer or two to the team. C. M. Bartolomeo’s “self-help” series, Your Happy Life, will return full-force (if you’re not sure what this is about, check out day one, two, and three to catch up), as well as a synopsis of new and unsettling developments regarding my research of old uncle Charles Burnett.

In the meantime, there is plenty of content here to revisit. Here are a few of our most popular SMM posts to begin with:

We promise we won’t be gone long. As a matter of fact, we’ve just barely begun.

PS: You might’ve noticed that we’ve ditched the ads. We’ve decided that SMM should offer a quality, user-friendly environment to readers, and that ads simply muck up the visuals. This also means, however, that SMM depends on your support. Please visit our Store or leave a donation to help us maintain the quality content our readers deserve. We deeply appreciate your help.

-Justin A. Burnett