Q&A: Writer Ash Crowlin Talks About His Extreme Horror Novella 'Birthday Girl'

A grotesque novel that truly takes your mind into a different realm as Anna the main character spends her Birthday dealing with a sadistic perverted demon.

Beginning within an orphanage, a board game was found by the girls who boarded there. Soon after they began playing, everything went stale as the game began releasing something evil, something sinister.

Within his own hell, the demon named Magriol escapes the game board. Perversion and morbid intentions fill the air as be beckons upon the girls to play his twisted games. Games that turned everything upside down, “thrusting them into a gore-splattered game of perversity in which their deepest insecurities are fodder for his amusement”

“Anna may survive the carnage… But who will she be once the ocean of blood clears?”

If you are fond of morbid intense realities full of sadistic creative imagery and perverted demonic intentions, you will definitely enjoy this novel.

We were lucky enough to share a few questions with Ash Crowlin as he dives deeper into the creation of "Birthday Girl," his inspirations and plans for a sequel.

What inspired you to write a novel with controversial aspects?

Ash Crowlin: Birthday Girl started with a question: what makes us become who we are? Furthermore, do our minds and bodies really belong to us, or are we constantly giving both away bits at a time? The world’s a scary place, particularly for people who don’t fit into a very specific mold determined by a litany of standards. If someone has the power to suddenly own everything about you, and if they can use your body, your history, your insecurities, and your desires to amuse themself however they see fit…how do you fight something like that?

Magriol, the villain in Birthday Girl, is a pretty disgusting creature. He’s very prideful of his ‘art,’ and humans are just clay and canvas for him to shape, cut, and display however he pleases. Hell doesn’t even like him; he’s a bit of a fool in his complete disregard for human life. He does a lot of mean-spirited, perverted, despicable things throughout the story, and some of these things are just absurd exaggerations of how people in real life treat others who don’t fit their standards.

If you could change anything, what would you introduce or take away from this novel?

Ash Crowlin: I don’t think I would add or take away anything from the story, but I would’ve liked to include some artwork within the book. It was actually part of my original plan, until I figured out how expensive it would be to commission an artist to draw some of the stuff I had in mind. I’d end up paying for years of mental therapy for them, and then I’d have to charge more for each copy of the book to make up the costs. You live, you learn.

If you had the chance, would you create a graphic-novel version of ‘Birthday Girl’ to show everyone the images in your head depicted throughout? Or do you want your readers to endure everything from their own images and perspective instead?

Ash Crowlin: Oh, I would be totally open to a graphic novel adaptation. It’d be interesting to see how others imagine characters like Magriol and his various art projects. And the final scenes in the book…wow, if someone out there’s ever interested in taking on something like that, I’d love to work with them! Graphic novels are infinitely superior to film adaptations, at least in my opinion. When you’re watching a movie you’re just a witness, but when you’re reading a graphic novel you’re an accomplice. The artist gives you the visuals, but your imagination still does all the heavy lifting. There’s still that high level of reader participation.

Venturing deeper, did you ever question how far you were taking the darker aspects of this novel?

Ash Crowlin: Not at all. Compared to ways I’ve seen people treated in real life, whether it be on the news or at the local Wal-Mart, Birthday Girl’s pretty tame. One of the reasons I included “An Extreme Horror Novella” on the cover is because it’s like an agreement between me and any potential readers: by taking a chance on this story, you’re accepting that some scenes might rub you the wrong way. There’s one scene in particular that I kept rewriting and showing to various people who are fans of bizarre fiction,

because I was second-guessing its place in the story. They all told me they’d feel cheated if I took the scene out, not because it’s particularly important to the story’s progression, but because it was something that made them squirm in their seat, which is what they wanted. This story’s not meant for a wide audience, and I’m perfectly fine with entertaining the few people who’re as weird as me.

Can you give us a slight sneak peak in your next novel? Will it be a continuance or “different story, same world” that possibly collide together?

Ash Crowlin: Well…a little bit of both. We spend most of Birthday Girl with Anna, but her experience with Magriol was also a conduit to introducing a larger world. A few big things were briefly introduced throughout the story and then pushed off to the wayside, mostly because I didn’t want to slow down the pacing to overindulge in world building which wouldn’t serve Anna’s story directly. The second book, Coronation, has a larger scope, and these things become more important to the bigger picture. The first book has a lot to do with finding one’s identity, and the question we face in life once we’ve decided who we are is, “Okay…now what?” The events in Birthday Girl leave Anna very disillusioned, similar to how many of us become disillusioned by the cruelty of life. Now, in part two, she gets to decide what she’s going to do about certain issues she has with the world. Meeting someone as nasty as Magriol changes how a person views the value of life, and if you know you can potentially stop similar entities from hurting others…aren’t you obligated to try?

Coronation continues Anna’s story, but it’s told from the perspective of a new character. This book is much more on the ‘horror-fantasy’ end of the spectrum, but I can tell you with absolute certainty, it gets much darker than Birthday Girl.

Finally, What inspired you to begin your journey as an Author for extreme horror? Do you ever think to branch out in any other genre or does this genre appeal to your mind the most?

Ash Crowlin: Honestly, this story didn’t come from the desire to write extreme horror, it just sorta became that naturally as I wrote it. I’m obviously a horror fanatic, and I’ve been that way since I was a little kid, so these weird stories are always working themselves out in the back of my mind even if I’m not actively writing them. I think it goes back to when I was five or so, when I walked downstairs in the middle of the night and saw my parents watching The Shining on the living room TV. The very first image I saw from that movie was the dead woman’s bloated naked corpse cackling maniacally as it walked toward Jack Nicholson, and that fucked me up for a solid month or so. But from that point on, I was hooked on horror. I’d beg and beg my parents to take me to the video store just so I could walk up and down the ‘Horror’ aisle and look at all the VHS cover art, and although I wasn’t allowed to actually rent these movies for a while, I would come up with stories in my head and try to write down all these ideas of who the guy with a razor glove was or what sort of scary things the pale guy with the nails in his head said. I started raiding my dad’s Stephen King book collection and dog-earing all the pages where I found scary stuff, and I would constantly refer back to these pages and try to write my own scary stories. Then my mom found a story I’d written about a killer who hacks up babysitters and buries them behind walls, and she really put the brakes on my horror obsession. Just to be clear, though: I loved all my babysitters as a kid…except for the old lady who took my Gameboy away that one time. She made my list.

As for writing in other genres, it’s funny you should ask—I actually started taking writing seriously in the first place because I wanted to be a young adult author! I wrote tons of stories for kids, and some of them were horror in the same vein as R.L. Stine or Darren Shan, others were adventure and fantasy, and others just typical teen angst crap that’s never left the safety of my desk drawer and will hopefully never be seen by anyone. For a while I was even working on a Christian fiction trilogy. No, seriously. I’ve always had a soft spot for coming-of-age stories, and hopefully someday I’ll get a few of these published (under a different name, for branding purposes).

But then again, deep down, I suppose Birthday Girl really is just a coming-of-age story. It’s pretty much just The Perks of Being a Wallflower…except instead of “prom night and first dates” it’s “ bones crawling out of bodies and having an orgy on the floor.” You know, typical high school problems.

Name your TOP FIVE favorite Horror movies of all time?

Ash Crowlin: In no particular order (because it would be sadistic of you to make me rank them): Videodrome, Nightmare on Elm Street III: Dream Warriors, Evil Dead II, Inside (2007), Ichi the Killer.

CryptTeaze would like to thank Ash Crowlin for taking the time to answer these questions for us! Make sure you check out "Birthday Girl," available now as a paperback and as an eBook. You can also order a signed copy from Crowlin's official site.


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