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Polly Frost, author of Deep Inside.

Polly Frost recommends some authors...

READERSVOICE.COM: What genres of books do you like to read, generally?

POLLY FROST: All due respect to literary fiction, I’m a genre lover. I like crime, comedy, suspense, sci-fi, erotica. The one genre I don’t like is romance, which I just don’t get. Some authors who come to mind as current favorites are Elmore Leonard, Day Keene, David Goodis, Jim Thompson, Philip K. Dick, Ramsey Campbell, Ruth Rendell.

Ray and I just finished Patrick Dennis’ Auntie Mame, which is an amazing comic epic. I’ve never understood why “literature” is considered something above genre fiction. Why do some people seem to think that having a plot and setting out to entertain is an undignified, even unworthy, thing to do?

RV: Do you read a lot of magazines, like movie horror magazines, and which ones do you generally like to read?

PF: It’s been noted that print horror magazines are on the decline. That’s sad. What fun it is to lounge in bed and read a good, gory horror mag!

he good news is there are a lot of really terrific online horror movie magazines right now. There’s Fatally-Yours, New Voices in Fiction, Infernal Dreams, Fear Zone, all of which have terrific editors running them as well as writers and reviewers. They’ve got the real kick-it-loose spirit, which is missing from too much traditional media outlets.

A favorite of mine is Scared Stiff, which is run by Geno McGahee, who also produces and directs horror movies through his film company X-Posse. I was thrilled when McGahee asked me to write a weekly horror column for Scared Stiff. I’ll be doing that for three months, starting in August.

RV: What were some of the most influential books or authors, on your writing style?

PF: My answer would depend on the day, since I’m influenced by this and that. I’m a pretty responsive creature — my husband likes to tease me about how I take on the colors of whatever I’ve just been exposed to.

But a list of some authors and books I right now find inspiration from include Junichiro Tanizaki for his perversely exquisite storytelling, Terry Southern for his gonzo satire and James M. Cain for his insights into Southern California’s desperate characters. My influences are eclectic, that’s for sure!

RV: How important is humor to your writing, and what influences have gone into your humor?

PF: Humor is central to life, as far as I’m concerned. Not only do I not trust a writer who’s humorless, I don’t really trust a person who’s humorless.

In fact, I started out as a humor writer. I wrote humor pieces for The New Yorker, The New York Times, and other places. Some of those pieces have been included in The New Yorker’s “best of” anthologies. It was a great time.

When I started out, there was a decent magazine market for humor. Sadly, that market doesn’t exist anymore. You can’t really be a “magazine humor writer” any longer the way that Roy Blount Jr., Frank Gannon and I were. Though there are a few exceptions: I admire Ian Frazier who continues to write humor pieces, for example.

I decided to put my humor into fiction and playwriting. I think of Deep Inside as a collection of edgy, satirical stories and Sex Scenes is a comedy. So is the webseries I co-wrote and co-produced, The Fold.

RV: How did you start holding performances at the Cornelia Street Cafe, and where did you meet the actors who performed the stories?

PF: Oh, thanks for asking! The Cornelia Street Cafe has been a big part of our lives, and it’s a genuine NYC cultural landmark. If you’re ever in NYC you must go there! It’s in the West Village and any night of the week you can go there and hear poets or comics or jazz musicians. Cornelia Street is an amazing NYC cultural resource.

In addition to being a great bar and restaurant, they present music and spoken-word acts seven nights a week. “Vagina Monologues” got its start there! For 30 years owner Robin Hirsch has sponsored readings and performances in his downstairs cabaret space. Robin’s a genuine New York City culture hero. And the drinks and food he serves are mighty good too! Anyway, Robin and Angelo Verga — who’s a wonderful poet and who also works as the curator of spoken-word part at CSC — liked “Sex Scenes.” They really liked the way that it’s outrageous, and full of crazy off-the-wall characters. You’d often find Rob in and Angelo in the back of the room laughing their heads off.

Robin actually told us that he hadn’t liked anything he’d presented so much since “The Vagina Monologues.”

Cornelia Street Cafe embodies the best of downtown: arty-and-lowdown. The party atmosphere and low cover charge — seven dollars which included a free house drink — meant we had all kinds of people attending the shows.

Ray and I would write ninety minutes of new material every month. I’d already written some plays, which I’d produced and staged. I had a central core of actors I could call on. As the series went on and developed a reputation, more and more actors showed up eager to take part. Many of them wound up appearing in our webseries “The Fold.“ It has been really fun the way the whole thing has snowballed. And it has been a great way to develop material in many ways.

One other major reason: We got a chance to see what worked and what didn’t. The show really evolved over time, with each story having had a workout in front of many different audiences. Which means that the audio version of “Sex Scenes” has been thoroughly audience-tested!

By the way, one cool thing we learned from the experience is how working with performers can inspire you. Some of our regulars were Jake Thomas, Josh Matthews, Karen Grenke, Shannon Lower and Francesco Paladino. When you’re working with people like this who are bursting with charisma and talent, you really, really want to do what you can to show them off. They’ve been a huge part of the ”Sex Scenes” experience. To answer your question about how I have found talented actors: it varies. Sometimes I’ve put out casting calls. Sometimes I was just lucky: Karen Grenke, Francesco Paladino and Jake Thomas came to me and asked to be in it. Alex Kosene doesn’t consider himself an actor because he’s a successful director and producer. But I saw “Sex Scenes” acting potential in him and when he came to a show, I roped him into acting in the next one.

I’m not really a director, but I do pride myself on my ability to spot talent. I’m so in love with the actors I’ve worked with that I know they’re going to be stars. Trust me!

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