Ben H. Winters is a newcomer to world of H.P. Lovecraft, yet he is already poised to go where few Lovecraftians have gone before: the New York Times bestseller's list!

We knew we were in a for a treat when we saw on his website that the "H" stands for "hydrophiliac hellspawn."

In a brilliant move of intellectual adroitness, Mr. Winter's new novel Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters brings everyone's favorite Cynical Materialist to the masses in a book by Quirk Press unleashed today to the unsuspecting world of Jane Austen book clubs.

Mr. Winters has written plays, books for children, and the popular Worst Case Survival Handbooks. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter, and he was kind enough to offer us here at the LNN an exclusive interview to coincide with the release of his novel.

LNN: You have a highly diverse resume of authorship, including children's musicals and how-to books. However, none that I could find have yet involved tentacled monstrosities. Do you think this project will alter the way that you are perceived as an author?

Winters: Inevitably. I think when a guy puts out a book with such a memorable theme (and cover!) it's going to be talked about, and remembered. Which is all to the good, as far as I'm concerned; if when I die, my tombstone reads, "He added a walking jellyfish to Sense and Sensibility", mine shall be a happy spirit.

LNN: As an English major yourself who presumably knew and respected Austen's original text long before SSSM, in your opinion, is there a line between the blasphemic desecration of a beloved classic and the loving parody of it? Where do you fall on this spectrum, and what do you have to say to the Austen purists who would criticize the project as uncouth?

Winters: Uncouth, perhaps -- desecration, never! I adore the original, as any right-thinking person does, and believe very firmly that having a bit of fun with a beloved masterpiece only reminds us of why it's a masterpiece in the first place.

LNN: How familiar were you with Lovecraft before this project, and what specifically did you do to research and thus facilitate channeling him for SSSM? Did it involve the viewing of any Stuart Gordon films?

Winters: I was passingly familiar, and I will say that immersing myself in the weird tales in preparation to write this thing was one of the great pleasures the project afforded me. I have some family members (hi, Aunt Ann!) who are Lovecraft afficianadoes, and I now proudly place myself in their ranks.

LNN: Lovecraft read and briefly wrote about Austen in his treatise "Supernatural Horror in Literature." Here he claimed that "Northanger Abbey was by no means an unmerited rebuke to a school which had sunk far toward absurdity." Is your novel also a rebuke of today's surfeited culture of superficial, pop horror?

Winters: First of all, thank you for bringing that essay to my attention -- I joked on my Facebook page that Lovecraft took Austen to the junior prom, but didn't realize he had actually engaged with her work.

I guess I've leave it to others to decide if my novel is a rebuke to today's pop-shlock horror culture, or a part of it. Or maybe both.

LNN: By conflating Lovecraft and Austen, you will inevitably introduce his fiction to an audience that likely would never have otherwise encountered him. What advice do you have for those with--shall we say--more tender sensibilities in order to successfully navigate these new more hostile waters of literature? (And by hostile I mean both literally filled with bloodthirsty, giant, mutant lobsters and intellectually via the ideological medium of cosmic horror)

Winters: Oh, I hope you're right about introducing readers to Lovecraft. I keep saying in interviews how I hope this book turns non-Austen fans into Austen fans, and I would love it if it does the same for non-Lovecraft fans. My advice would be the same as my advice for all readers, of all things, at all times: Read every book with an open mind and with as few preconceptions as possible. Few people expect to find the humor in Austen, or the clever narrative devices in Mary Shelley, or the profound (and profoundly unsettling) insights into the nature of existence in Lovecraft.

LNN: How did you hook up with Quirk Books and what kind of pitch did you have to give to sign onto a project like this? Did it involve a practical test in chanting or any occult rituals?

Winters: I've known the mad geniuses at Quirk for years; through a marvelous cosmic coincidence, my wife and I lived across the street from their Philadelphia offices the one year we lived in that city.

I do occult rituals only when I'm waiting for reviews to come out.

LNN:Tell us about the style, content, and motive behind the illustrations your book contains.

Winters: The interior illustrations are by a guy named Eugene Smith, and I think they brilliantly evoke the kind you find in those old-school, leather bound editions of classics; I'm so tickled to see the weird, warped stuff I came up with made to look so refined. He also did a map for the frontispiece, just as you might see in some old adventure story. I adore these touches, and I love that the publisher took the time and resources to make the book look so classy. The cover painting is by Lars Leetrau, and I am absolutely in love with it; it perfectly evokes the high-minded/bizarre tone of the book, and (obviously) shows off that Lovecraft influence!

LNN: What does your immediate family think of SSSM? Do you get funny looks now when you attend a family reunion, and if you have children, what do they think?

Winters: My wife likes it, and has not (as yet) requested separate bedchambers, so I think she does not fear for my sanity. My kids are not old enough for this one, and won't be for many years to come -- although my daughter (age three) has somehow decided that that's me on the cover, and says "Daddy has an octopus face!" Ah, well -- writing is a risky career.

In case you missed it, check out the book trailer

LNN: What other projects are on the horizon for you?

Winters: A children's musical, based on the book Uncle Pirate. More books in the Worst Case Scenario Survival Guide series, also from Quirk. And next year my young adult novel, The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman, will be published by HarperCollins. No cosmic horror in that one, but then again, it's for seventh and eighth graders.

LNN: Anything else you would like to put on the record?

Winters: Thanks for the opportunity to share a bit about my process with your community. My experience has been that Lovecraft fans have vigorous imaginations and great senses of humor (hi again, Aunt Ann!), so I hope you all like it.

Buy Mr. Winter's book on Amazon here

Or read about his writing process first hand from an article on Slate here

For a good laugh also check out this lugubriously serious blog called Jane Austen Today that asks, "has Quirk Classics gone too far?" We assume the question is rhetorical.

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