Free Fiction! Dead Memories - a short story

https://parlorofhorror.wordpress.com/2016/10/20/halloween-horror-free-read-2016-best-horror-stories-on-the-internet/

This story recently won 'Runner-Up' in the Parlor of Horror's 2016 short fiction awards and is also part of my collection 'Dreams of Thanatos' - now available to all new subscribers for free - click on the image at the end of this post to download your copy.

Dead Memories

 
1.

I had a dream on the anniversary of her death. In the dream, I heard her unmistakable voice calling me, then I saw her and she was so real, I could almost touch her again. Everything about her hit me deep in the chest, I sat bolt upright in our big empty bed. My breath gasped, sweat beaded itself on my cold skin. I could still hear her voice in the dark. I rationalized there were only two possible reasons why I could hear such a thing. I was either hallucinating, or what I heard was her ghost whispering in my ear. Then she was gone again.

I lay down and listened, my breath held in my chest, afraid to break the silence. The dawn light bled through the cracks in the blind as I strained my ears, listening. Listening for her sweet voice, playing her words over repeatedly in my weary mind –

‘There’s no turning back.
There’s no turning back now.’


I longed for her touch, the feel of her soft cold skin, her beautiful words carried on her sweet breath. The memories came flooding back – projections of my need. As I began to drift back into sleep, I thought of the way she played me with her brown eyes, teasing me, imparting so much desire . . .

The radio-alarm went off, waking me violently. I checked the time and acknowledged the precious two hours of sleep I just had, turned the screeching alarm off and got out of bed. I passed her photo in the hall on the way to the bathroom. It was the only photo I had of her on display: an enlarged black and white shot of her sitting on a beach in a lotus position, gazing mystically into the sun, long black hair out behind her in the breeze, framed by a silver expanse of ocean in the background. All the other photographs had been secreted in an old suitcase in the attic; some memories were just too painful to look at in such quantity.

I went to work, exhausted. Throughout the day, I thought about the morning’s events. Waking up with her pristine voice whispering in my ear from behind, thinking she was beside me in bed – it was so real. Must be stress, I reasoned with myself. Loneliness does strange things to a man’s mind.
 

Ghosts don’t exist. Do they?

The day finished quickly and I gladly closed the office door and loosened my tie with a yawn. Outside, the day had turned to night. On the way home I heard a song she used to love on the car radio. I passed the streetlight down the side road where we kissed beneath for the first time, then the church where we married. I stopped at the bottle store before turning into my street and our empty house.

2.

The voice came again. The same words, her voice seemed closer than before, I could almost feel the skin of her soft lips against my ear. I woke with expectation – she wasn’t there, just the dim light cast across the sheets and a hangover from hell, twisting its evil blade between my tired eyes. As the days fell into each other, her disembodied voice seemed to talk louder. The same words – 

‘There’s no turning back now.’ ‘There’s no turning back . . .’ adding emphasis that began to take on an ominous air – 

‘There’s no turning back . . . now. There’s no turning back, for YOU’ and so on.

My nerves were stretched to capacity. My mind was tumbling over itself, trying to bridge the gap between reason and a slow-turning madness.

The voice was
unmistakably hers, the intonation painfully real. Her name was, is, Alicia. We had been together for seven years before she left. We had a passionate relationship to say the least. A veritable love and hate fest, with more making up and breaking up than we both needed. We had met at the office and soon fell for each other. A drunken bout of knee-trembling sex against a photocopier in the stationary room after a work party, heralded the official beginning of our tumultuous relationship.

I didn’t want to think about the inevitable disintegration of our passionate affair, but it eventually happened and that was that. As Alicia said, there was no turning back now. We were young and had aged well together, into our fifth year, we even started talking about marriage and children and then she got a new office manager. I heard the talk among my colleagues. At first, I thought it was mere gossip, as office talk usually is. Then I saw his eyes undress her as he sauntered past her desk across the way. A coy look as she pretended to shuffle papers, her eyes caught in his swagger.

She started working late. I asked around discreetly and no one else knew of any overtime available. Then she ‘transferred’ to another floor, promoted as she put it. The evenings became a waiting game. I tried to impress with the usual chattels of love – the flowers, gourmet meals, expensive perfume. In short, I tried to purchase her affection as I had exhausted all other means of reconciliation. When she did arrive home, she was always freshly showered and well mannered, courteous almost. A peck on the cheek that made Grandmother’s kisses seem like incestuous advances. Her back turned toward me perpetually. A ‘not tonight’ was the standard response to my romantic overtures, every night.

Good old Mr Forgiving tried to get on with things, forget her indiscretion and lies and pretend that she still loved me. I knew she didn’t love me at all – not even a fraction of desire was left in her cold heart. I started to think things – what could I do, how could I get her back? The migraines kicked in and I started to drink heavily. It seemed to block reality out, for a while, and then she didn’t come home one night. But that was over a year ago; that was then, this is now.

3.

Things started slipping. I called in sick three times in one week. When she spoke in my ear, no longer whispered now, in those frenetic waking hours – I started ‘feeling’ the words. After two goddamn weeks of visual and auditory apparitions I started feeling her. I felt her tucked against me at night, relishing each second, stuck between the ecstasy of the moment and agony of the inevitable realization that she wasn’t actually there. Her full tanned breasts against my back, soft lips brushing my shoulder, hands soft so soft like silk caressing. Supplicating my disbelief. and her photo – I can’t explain it, but she seemed to move within, animated, changing pose each morning – one day staring at the sun, black and white – next, a different tilt of the head, her hand rested on her leg just so, next . . . and then she was there. Not quite, but I could see her. Some copper coils of her hair on the pillow next to me, a fleeting glimpse of a smooth-brown shoulder. Then she’d fade away again.

The anticipation drove me delirious – I lost my mind, my heart pumped desire and love to every cell. Whatever she was, ghost or hallucination, I hungered for each second – a panacea for the sad soul. If her memory was just an indentation in the bed where she slept, I could’ve lived with her this way if it weren’t for the words – ‘There is no turning back for her NOW’ screaming in my brain, like a loudspeaker next to my ear, almost painful.

I tried to shut it out to no avail. The migraines increased, nausea, bursts of white spots before my black ringed eyes. I couldn’t shave, the sound of the razor sent blasts of pain ripping through my spine to brain. I took a month’s leave from the office – they gladly gave it to me – “You need a break Harry. You’ve been working too hard lately. Rest up. Take a break. Come back when you’re better, ok?”


Sometimes I’d like to kill those patronizing bastards, just walk in one day in Gucci suit and tie, axe in hand. Walk into the office – “Good morning Miss Secretary, Mr Boss . . . I’ve come to kill you!” Chop chop chop chop chop . . .
 

Then she was there one morning – “My love, my love. There’s no turning back for us now” she said, completely naked. Her burning eyes glowing hypnotically. Her hair coiling like twisting black snakes, framing her beautiful deathly countenance. I tried to touch her. She reached into me, cupping my pulsing heart in her taloned hand. I could feel it. She withdrew and walked into the bedroom. I followed. She wasn’t there . . .

I couldn’t eat. I looked in the mirror, my gaunt pale unshaven face stared back at me forlornly – eyes blackened, pupils dilated, trembling . . . my heart quivered delicately under my rib-cage, then missed . . . a beat. It felt like it, my heart, was encased in ice. I felt sick to my stomach. Where was she? I decided that it was the sleeping that did it – maybe I was reciting a spell I had lodged deep in my subconscious mind – dreams or something that kept conjuring her up every morning. Invoking the muse at every breath, so to speak.

4.

It had taken exactly one year and twenty-one days after our break-up, or should I say her ‘disappearance,’ before I realized I could not go on without her any longer. I mean she was with me all the time, all day and night now – naked, following me around the house, hovering above me on the ceiling – whispering to me indescribable things, obscenities of the vilest nature. She had started to taunt me, yet my love grew stronger as if with a will of its own – then she started to slap me – ferocious backhanders that rattled my teeth and left droplets of nose blood on the white walls.


Half of me wanted to leave, just run as far away as I could. Pack the car and put a match to the godforsaken house as I escaped, but the other half – the stronger half, wanted to stay – couldn’t leave. Besides I knew if I tried to escape, I’d look into that rear-view mirror and those black cold eyes would be boring into my soul, her white forearm draped around my neck, her blue lips mouthing the words – “There’s no turning back now . . .”

That day I ordered in a couple of one-liter bottles of gin – I’d discovered booze could block her out for a while. I began to drink sitting with my back against the bedroom wall, watching as she undulated like a snake on the yellow duvet on the bed. Her once tanned now white body arched, her full breasts swelling with her movements, her hand pressed deep between her thighs – pink tongue darting across her full lips. Moaning. I gulped the gin quickly – ten mouthfuls, my jaw clenched and then it was easy. Half a bottle, she began to fade out like bad TV reception. Each drink twitched, erased another part of her lithe form – I couldn’t take any more. I knew I had to be rid of her once and for all. Rid of everything.

5.

I stumbled to my drunken feet, pulling drawers out, cupboards open, photographs letters clothes newspaper clippings onto the floor. I looked over my shoulder, her head and torso moved on the bed. Her arms, legs, pelvis – gone. I stared at what was left of her, tears spilling down my face. She mouthed her silent words again – “There’s no turning back.” Her eyes glazed, hair disintegrating, writhing crumbling like black maggots, her skin peeling into nothing. My head was spinning. I threw everything in the bathtub, all the photographs, letters, clothes, newspaper clippings – fire – I opened the window. Smoke blew out.

I shuffled down the hallway past her photo now completely metamorphosed from the original. She was facing me, arms outstretched like Christ. Her blank eyes pleading. The sun behind her a ball of blazing fire. Wild hair dancing blackly around her gaunt white face. I took the photo and threw it through the bathroom door into the fire with the other memories. I’m sure I heard her scream, but it wasn’t a scream of pain – rather, a triumphantly defiant roar. 


I sat down on the toilet next to the burning bathtub and put my head in my hands. Flames ran up the plastic shower curtain dropping molten lumps of fire like napalm on the linoleum. Flames licked the walls and the black smoke billowed from the bath – I saw her again, I couldn’t hear anything except the roar and burn of the blazing fire – the smoke melded together, transformed into her unmistakable snake-like coils of hair twisting and swirling, reaching for my gasping throat. Long black fingers of smoke in my eyes, in my ears – forcing my mouth open in wrenching breaths, reaching deep into my burning lungs. My heart felt like cracking ice trapped between my rib-bones. The flames burned red and blue but no heat – just intense cold – so cold. I shivered, inhaling my last breath of her love – her fading words hissing in the black smoke, echoing in my dying ears – “There’s no turning back now. There’s no turning back . . .” 


https://parlorofhorror.wordpress.com/2016/10/20/halloween-horror-free-read-2016-best-horror-stories-on-the-internet/




2016 (C) William Cook
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Guest Author Interview: Mort Castle



Mort Castle is a veteran of American genre-fiction. Mr Castle is a respected horror author, editor and writing teacher, a prolific short fiction author and a novelist. Among other awards that he has won he is a three-time winner of (and nominated eleven times for) the Bram Stoker Award. Today I present to you a great interview with Mr Castle and it is truly an honour as a fan – my favorite works of his are the collection ‘Moon on the Water’ and his novel ‘The Strangers.’ As his bibliography testifies I have a lot of reading of Mr Castle’s work still in front of me (rubs hands with glee). Please make sure to check out his books and grab some copies off Amazon - you won't be disappointed if you are new to Mr Castle's work (just click on the book cover images below). Here is he, the horror maestro himself, Mr Mort Castle:

Q: How have you managed to maintain your literary career for as long as you have? Do you have any tips for other writers starting off on their careers in terms of long-term strategies to maintain a career as an author?

A: Oh, man, it's perseverance. You don't give up, period. There were some very bleak times, times of serious "career reversals," when I wished I could just pack it in. Was supposed to be editor of Horror, The Illustrated Book of Fears, which would be the country's largest circulation B&W comics horror magazine; that fell through at the last minute when the distributor reneged, saying he had had a moral revelation and was convinced the magazine would encourage mental illness and criminal behavior. Had movies come close and never happen. Book contracts blow up at last minute. Markets disappearing (go take a look at today's convenience stores for the behind the counter men's magazines that used to pay my mortgage!)

But let me rephrase that: I didn't give up. I don't say that's a game plan for everyone. There are people who have given up after little or no success at publication who were probably right to do so. Certainly they are better off than the self-deludeds who slap their borderline literate twaddle onto an epub platform and call themselves "independent author."

Hell, I gave up on my violin playing when I realized that with intense effort, I could someday be mediocre. (Stuck with guitar and I'm not bad!)

Q: After nearly fifty years as a professional writer do you still have ‘eureka moments’ when you think of something fresh and new to write about?



A: If you make that "something that grabs me," then yes, indeed. I don't know that I'd be writing at all if I didn't find / create those concepts that make me say, "I ought to write this." If I weren't doing that, if I were just grinding it out and saw it as "more of the same of the same of the same," I'd have no business writing, using up my remaining hours doing assembly line work and trying to inflict the result on readers who, I hope, have come to expect more of me.

Q: Your writing usually deals with dark themes – is there anything that really scares you and are there things you won’t write about?

A: Yes, and I'll leave it go at that. But I will add ... There are scares and horrors and worse that I had as a younger person that I came to write about—later. Later being when I had acquired the technique to tackle the concepts and had enough distance from them so that going deep inside the bad places didn't leave me a weeping, quivering puddle of nerve endings on the floor in ye olde foetal position.

Q: You also script stories for comic book adaptation – how different is it writing comic books stories as opposed to straight fiction and do you have any tips for aspiring authors who want to break into this market?

A: Comics, man, I love comics. Leaned to read because of Batman and Little Lulu. Comics scripting calls for writing that is totally visual. Without word one on the comics page, someone looking at a good comics story will get a sense of what happens ... what happens next ... what happens now ...

Comics scripting forces me to be a visual writer and that has made me a better writer. Indeed, if I get hung up in a story or a scene from a longer work, I can usually get un-hung by scripting it.

To break into the comics "market," such as it is ... There is no stigma attached to self-publishing in comics. That's because self-publishing has a solid history launching major critical and / or / both commercial successes. So ... do a good "self-" publication and then become part of the comics community. Yes, you really do need to go to conventions.



Q: ‘Writing Horror’ has proved to be invaluable resource for my own work, is there a book or resource that you’d recommend that has helped make you a better writer?

A: The book, and we all know it: Strunk and White, The Elements of Style. A wonderful old and out of print book that took published works and showed the writers' drafts to get it right: On Writing by Writers, edited by William West, with fine models provided by Ray Bradbury, Phyllis McGinley, John Updike, John Ciardi, Paul Gallico, Kay Boyle, Robert Penn Warren, Lucien Stryk, Hayden Carruth, Stuart Chase, W. Earl Britton, and Paddy Chayefsky. Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Finally, I re-read Hemingway's complete short stories every so often and still learn economy and precision from the Master.

Q: As a teacher, what is the most important piece of advice you could give to the new generation of horror/fantasy authors trying to get a foot on the rung of a career as a writer?

A: I’m going to repeat myself here; I’ve said this a lot in the past few years. (Hey, I don’t know all that much so I get maximum usage out of whatever knowledge I do have!)

So, the advice that has earned me the title of curmudgeon … This is simple: Learn to write. The so-called indie movement, the “free rein” authors (most of them call themselves “free reign” or even “free range”) are boasting of their self-publications. Never has it been so easy for so many to be so self-deluded—and to aid others in becoming no less deluded.

Worry less about “platforms” and “social media” and “emerging technology”. You’ve got to have a product before you can sell it. I cannot believe there’s so much bad stuff out there, but that’s because now we get to see the bad, proudly displayed on websites, in bad electronic magazines edited by editors who can’t edit, featuring stories by people who can’t write, aimed at aspiring bad writers who want to write for bad electronic magazines, and get self-published on Kindle, Swindle, Shnook, Hobo, Yoyo, and Hoohah …

Writing is a craft and a craft can be learned and a craft can be taught. There are good schools with good writers as teachers. There are great workshops like Clarion and Borderlands. There are good editors. There are good publishers. And when you find someone who says, “Yeah, you’ve got the possibility,” then you can learn from that individual or institution.

Of course, you could learn on your own, with extensive reading, plenty of writing, etc. But a mentoring program of some sort makes it easier and quicker. You bet such mentors as the poet Lucien Stryk and that lovely gentleman J. N. Williamson knocked years off this guy’s learning curve.

Q: Alongside your work as a novelist, you are also a prolific exponent of the short story form, can you recommend any specific markets that are essential publishers of this type?

A: I strongly recommend anthologies edited by someone about whom you can say, "Yeah, he knows what he's doing." That cuts down on your marketing decisions right there.

The well known so-called "little magazines" (not an oxymoron) are also a good bet. If you can score with Tin House or Bombay Gin you are in the best TOC company there is.

And you are better off with one story appearing in Ploughshares than three dozen stories in North Jerkly Journal or Beautiful Buds and Bad Begonias, the readership of either not being the length of the table of contents.

And contests. Beginning writers, there are many worthwhile contests. The Writer's Digest annual contests are the real thing—and can lead to all sorts of notice and publication.



Q: Do you have a favorite author or authors of short fiction and if so, why do you consider their work noteworthy?

A: Hemingway remains the master, for reasons noted above. There are so many fine short fiction writers that I could name dozens who are on my must read list. Dan Chaon, because he has Bradbury's sensitivity to life without being at all imitative. Bonnie Jo Campbell, who richly understands the suchness of things. Alice Hoffman, who is a magician with words. John McNally—and I'm waiting for the moment when he becomes the "Everybody look!" writer he is meant to be. Lee Martin, for his Midwestern heart and common sense. Ron Hansen ... for proving that you don't have to preach to write moral fiction and that "thoughtful Christian" does not mean secular humanism disguised with a cross (and please, Ron, you have to write more short stories). Julia Keller—maybe this era's Shirley Jackson, if she weren't so busy writing great mystery novels and winning Pulitzers for non-fiction.

And I'm just getting started.

Q: As a horror author how do you view the state of contemporary horror fiction and do you think that the genre still has room for new writers and original ideas/stories?

A: The good is great: Newer writers like Sarah Langan and Livia LLewellyn, the old(er) masters like Dan Simmons, Straub, and of course, King. Not a one of 'em content to turn out potboilers. More than a few others.

The middle—pretty bad, most of them not able to meet even the minimum competency tests for midlist paperback originals of the 70s and 80s. A few notable exceptions who will rise.

The bad—too bad to be true. Swamping Kindle, Shnook, Createacrap, etc. Possibly reading each other, but that's about it.



Q: Many of the your stories place characters in deep existential crises, does any one philosophy inform your work and do you think that horror offers a cathartic experience to the reader?

A: My philosophy? Expressed by the poet William Wantling in the one novel he wrote, a book called Young and Tender: "Let them know we were here and here hard, without believing in the Lie or adding to it."

Cathartic? Nah. Illuminating, maybe. Reassuring, maybe, in that it reminds you we're all gonna have to do some hard time. But cathartic? If that were so, I'd have been thoroughly cathed and never would have kept on writing horror. I could have written about lemonade and happy bunnies.

Q: As a writer how important is physical fitness to you and do you have a regime that keeps you fit? I.e. Do you write standing up or sitting down and do you do exercise before/after writing to prevent health issues common to a lot of writers (e.g. weight issues, heart problems, stress etc)?

A: Ah, quit smoking years ago. Hardest "health achievement" ever. Physical fitness? Just getting back to it after months of severe tendonitis made walking dreadful. Way overweight, but I like my stuffed pizza and pasta and ice cream.



Q: Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed, it is truly an honor. Do you have any parting words you’d like to share about upcoming projects or events?

A: Yeah, I was just recently a winner in the annual Leapfrog Press fiction contest with my story collection Knowing When to Die. This makes me literary as hell and I'm sure I will now be awarded countless zillions in government grants like so many others who have done most of the creative work in writing grant proposals.

Projects? Working on a long comics script for "The Golem," based on the 1920s film, for Graphic Classics, one of the absolute best lines of comics today, published and edited by Tom Pomplun. Lots of most enjoyable research.

Just licensed Argosy magazine for development with my sometimes literary tag team partner Sam Weller. Got big plans, but veddy, veddy hush and hush for now.

And then, with my partners in 4 Maples Productions, working on an anthology television series. We've got an Emmy winner attached and we've partnered with a well known production firm ... More news as I (hope to) have it.

Parting words? From the best rock n roll band ever: Creedence Clearwater Revival: Keep on Chooglin'!


Mort Castle's Links 




Thank you for reading this interview. If you haven't already, please take a moment to subscribe to this website (here is the link:free instant book download for all new subscribers) so that you can catch all the latest news and interviews. Until next time - stay tuned, thanks for reading and please share this post with your pals.


*Author photo credit: Michelle Pretorious.

Guest Author Interview: Brian Evenson


Today it is my distinct pleasure to bring you this recent interview I did with the talented author, Brian Evenson. I recently read his early collection Fugue State and thought it a fantastic book. Here’s my review, which doesn’t really do it justice – I encourage you to read this and any of Brian’s other superb books (click on the book cover images below to be taken direct to the Amazon book page):

“Brian Evenson's Fugue State is a very surrealistic, slip-stream kind of collection soaked with dark themes and nightmarish allegories that make the reader think! A bit of a rarity these days. I especially liked the way the stories encouraged a second reading. Stand-outs for me were 'In the Greenhouse', 'Life Without Father', 'Fugue State' and 'The Adjudicator.' Will definitely be reading more from this fine author.”

https://www.amazon.com/Fugue-State-Brian-Evenson/dp/1566892252/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Without further ado, here is my interview with Brian.


BRIAN EVENSON is the author of a dozen books of fiction, most recently the story collection A Collapse of Horses (Coffee House Press, 2016) and the novella The Warren (Tor.com, 2016). His collection Windeye (Coffee House Press 2012) and novel Immobility (Tor 2012) were both finalists for a Shirley Jackson Award. His novel Last Days won the American Library Association's award for Best Horror Novel of 2009. The Open Curtain (Coffee House Press, 2006) was a finalist for an Edgar Award and an International Horror Guild Award. Other books include The Wavering Knife (which won the IHG Award for best story collection), Dark Property, and Altmann's Tongue.  He is the recipient of three O. Henry Prizes as well as an NEA fellowship. His work has been translated into French, Greek, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and Slovenian. He lives and works in California, and teaches at CalArts.


Q: You have recently been in Transylvania teaching at the Horror Writer’s Workshop, did you get an opportunity to explore the countryside and were you inspired by your experience?

A: We did.  The Horror Writer’s Workshop was held just outside of the town that houses Bran Castle, the basis for Dracula’s castle in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, so I spent some time there, also explored some of the nearby towns and medieval villages and fortresses, places like Sighisoara and Brasov, took my son to a decaying Communist playground complete with scary cartoon figures, passed through a gypsy village in which on a Sunday morning everyone was carrying a broom, spent time in the forest, etc.  It’s an amazing place, and it reminded me a lot of what parts of Europe used to be like 30 or 35 years ago, back when I visited as a kid.  I do think I got a lot out of it and that it’ll figure in my writing in various ways.

Q: What of your childhood experiences determined your future works of fiction in thematic terms? I.e. How/what aspects of your childhood influenced your love of genre, reading and, ultimately, writing?

A: My parents were both big readers, and I think that rubbed off on me.  They read a lot of mysteries in particular, but literature as well, and some science fiction (Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, C. S. Lewis).  I think that, the pleasure they seemed to get out of fiction, was more important to me as a developing reader than anything else.
            When I was young, I read mostly genre, most SF (Wolfe, Moorcock, McCaffery, etc.) but when I was in my mid-teens my father introduced me to Kafka and my mother introduced me to Poe.  That ended up opening a whole new world to me, made me realize that literature was maybe something different than what I’d been led to believe it was, that it didn’t have to be boring and could be very odd.  For a long time after that, a decade or more, but then I suddenly started finding it again and began remembering what I liked about it.  And I also realized at that time that a lot of what I was trying to do with my own writing was to figure out a way to combine literature and genre.



Q: Many of your stories invoke a sense of unease and disquiet in terms of both the effect of characterization and imagery, is this a stylistic device that you employ to psychologically and imaginatively impact upon the reader, or do you think that it is more of an organic signatory aspect of your work?

A: I see it as organic, as something that I admire about the fiction I read that I liked the most and that became part of my literary DNA.  I like work that makes me uneasy as a reader, that throws me off balance, and I think from the beginning of starting to write I was trying to understand how those stories worked and how to do it myself.  But I also see it as operating more instinctively than being something I set out to do with a specific set of tools and, honestly, my stories that work the best manage to accomplish the unsettlement in a way that I can’t quite replicate or can’t quite understand why it does work.  I love those moments in my fiction:  the moments that really work but that I can’t explain to myself.  At this point, it’s organic:  I don’t think about it any more. I only have to think about it when I want a part of a story to not move in that direction...

Q: Your work seems slippery in terms of genre definition, what genre/s do you most feel at home with (writing) and do you have trouble placing your work in your intended market/s?

A: Initially, back in the 90s, I did have some trouble—people had a hard time deciding what to do with me.  When I was first publishing, one of the first reviews my first book got at a large newspaper suggested that I was talented and I’d be worth reading once I got over the dark stuff and started writing “normal” stories. But as time has gone on most have decided they’re okay with me being a little slippery, and that the darkness in my work is crucial and non-gratuitous.  That’s partly because they’ve gotten used to me and partly because I think the nature of the relation of genre and literature has shifted over time:  what editors and reviewers used to think of as a Trump-style gigantic wall most now see as something that can be easily and productively crossed.

Q: What is it that you are trying to communicate to your readers? I.e. When someone finishes one of your stories what do you want them to come away with from the experience?

A: I don’t want to communicate information at all.  I do want readers to go through an experience with my stories, to have an intensive experience.  I want my fiction to be something that sticks with readers, that they continue to think about after they’ve finished the story.  I want them to feel slightly changed by it.

https://www.amazon.com/Collapse-Horses-Brian-Evenson/dp/1566894131/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Q: In a recent interview with BookForum (Jan, 2016) you mentioned that you “go for intense ambiguity, where you just don’t know what the stable ground is.” In the context of your stories that this is applicable to, why is it that you deliberately write this way and what do you hope to achieve by using this type of literary device?

A: I think so much of fiction that is written takes most things for granted.  But I think so much of our experience of the actual world (or at least so much of my experience of the actual world) involves misperceiving and misinterpreting things, muddling forward by getting things mostly right.  For me, being put in a position where you remember that, where what you think you know becomes a little less insistent, a little more tentative, opens you to a different experience of reality, one that is much more interesting.
            An ex-girlfriend of mine used to get very frustrated with me because her perception of color was slightly different from mine.  She used to see things as grey that I saw as green, or maybe the reverse—I’ve been out of that relationship long enough that I’ve mostly blocked it out.  She would show me pieces of clothing in varying shades of grey or green and then tell me I was wrong about what color they were.  But, honestly, whatever I said, I was still going to see the color that I saw.  We could agree on liking a shirt but not on what color it was.  So, either you have to insist on your color being the “right” color (as my ex-girlfriend did) or you have to be willing to realize that there’s no right answer to perception, that perception is different from person to person, but that experience of misperceiving or having your perception challenged is a very common one, one that swirls underneath the surface of seemingly solid things—and that what’s actually there, might be even different still from what either of us perceives.

Q: As an academic how do you distance yourself from writing academically (in the style of) when it comes to writing fiction?

A: I think it’s fairly natural to shift from one to the other, in the same way that you might talk differently to a minister than you would to your friend in a death metal band.  It’s enough of a different speech genre that it doesn’t tend to get mixed up.  Having said that, I do have some stories that play with the language of academia, like “The Wavering Knife.”  There are writers who can mimic that voice for fictional purposes and use it to excellent effect.  John Langan, for instance, is exceptionally good at it, as is Thomas Ligotti.  When you do it, it makes for a different sort of reading experience than you usually get from either academic writing or fiction—the tension between the two modes ends up doing something productive. 

https://www.amazon.com/Wavering-Knife-Stories-Brian-Evenson/dp/1573661139/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Q: Your work has previously been compared to the likes of Poe and Kafka, do you see yourself as following in the trajectory of gothic fiction and, if so, do you have any allegiances to a particular strand of the gothic genre, or are your thematic and stylistic concerns influenced by other literary traditions?

A: I do see myself as tied to the gothic, and early on thought of myself as being part of a kind of New Gothic school—there was an issue of Conjunctions magazine called “The New Gothic” that made me think there might be a place for me in the literary world after all.  I tend to read pretty widely and eccentrically, and I think that a lot of different strands end up coming together in my stories, so probably the experience of reading them differs depending on what traditions you’re most steeped in.  So, for instance, in a story like “The Second Boy” I’m playing with campfire stories and ghost stories, sometimes particular ghost stories, and stories about doubles, sometimes particular double stories, but also carrying on a conversation with Isak Dinesen and Roberto Bolaño.  And since what I allude to in Bolaño is actually a conversation he’s having with another writer there’s a further level of complication if you know Bolaño and his influences well.  And if you know the Dinesen story I’m dealing with, you’ll see how I’m turning it against itself.  You don’t have to know any of that to enjoy the story, but what you do know and sense and feel will inflect your experience significantly.

Q: Whatever genre banner your stories fall under there seems to be a prevailing preoccupation with interior psychological landscapes and the relationship between perceived realities and ‘other’ possible states of existence. Does this concern stem from a personal sort of existential questioning and/or is it more of a literary technique that you employ to add to the depth of the story?

A: It stems very directly from concerns of my own.  That questioning of reality is tied to my own fears and doubts and suspicions, and I think that’s what makes it work in the stories:  if it’s unsettling for readers it’s at least in part because it’s unsettling for me.

Q: When you write a story, what is your process? For example, do you outline or jump right in? How many edits do you usually make when writing short fiction and do you use a similar process when writing longer works?

A: I’ve done different things depending on the story and on where I’ve been in my career. I used to jump in and just write the story straight through, but as soon as I began writing stories that were longer than a thousand words or so that became difficult.  I almost never outline a story, but I do jot notes as I go, and if I stop for an hour or for the night I often will write a few lines about where I intend to go.  If I’m working on a longer work, I do sometimes outline, but the outline can change quite a bit by the end.  With novels I’ve done both, but find it much more productive to outline—it allows me to write much quicker and keeps me from wasting a lot of time in dead ends.
            In terms of edits, I tend to try in my first draft to establish a structure, but then will edit a piece anywhere from 3-4 times to a dozen times after that.  Usually the structure stays relatively the same, but parts will shrink or expand and individual wording really gets honed and perfected in the later drafts in particular.

Q: When you write a story from a particular philosophical slant do you try to align it with universal human principles (common to the majority of your readers) in order to solicit a certain type of response? I.e. Do you measure your own intent with an understanding of your reader/s and how they might perceive your work?

A: I do think about the reader and how they might perceive the work, but I write in a way that has enough openness in it that I think different people can have slightly different experiences with my work. I like that about it.  But I do hope that the majority of people have the kind of experience that makes them continue to think about the story after they put the book down.

Q: Finally, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. Are you working on any new projects that you can share details of?

A: You’re welcome.  I have a new novella, The Warren, coming out in a few weeks.  Other than that, I’ve been working on stories and am on the way to a new collection (probably still a year away at least from having something finished).  I also have some ideas for a novel, and am just getting going with that.



Please make sure you check out Brian’s website and Amazon author page (links below) for more information about his available titles.

Brian Evenson's Website:  http://www.brianevenson.com
Amazon Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/BrianEvensonAmazon




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  Interview With Brian Evenson, Interview with Brian Evenson 2016,  Brian Evenson Interview, Brian Evenson, A Collapse of Horses, The Warren, Gothic Literature, Author Interview, Interview, Horror, Surrealism, Publishing, Writing, Fugue State

News and special discounted books promotion

Hi Folks

Firstly, apologies for the lack of posts lately - some of you may know that I recently began my Masters in English Lit. program and it is proving to be the inevitable time-guzzler that I thought it would be! So, less fiction, more academic writing . . . Grrrrrr. Despite the time consuming factor, I am learning a lot as I go and it's valuable information which will hopefully benefit my writing. The topic of my thesis is: American Postmodern Serial Killer Fiction, and I'm analyzing the following select works - Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me, James Ellroy’s Killer on the Road, Brett Easton Ellis’s American Psycho, Poppy Z. Brite’s Exquisite Corpse and Joyce Carol Oates’s Zombie. Here's a slice of the intro - as you will notice, the style is not my usual pared-down prose. Bear in mind that this is the first draft, but you get the idea:

"The vast body of published texts, which constitute the genre of serial killer fiction, reveal common narrative technique and tropes that signal a prevalence of clichéd formulaic novels representing the majority of works within this genre. However, amongst this stylistic and thematic majority, works exist that extend the boundaries of serial killer fiction through the import of different genre concerns and attributes. This thesis considers the impact and importance of these works and how they have influenced the stylistic and thematic direction of the genre as a whole. Focussing on twentieth century American post-war serial killer fiction, this study examines select works to exemplify aspects of the narratives that directly, or indirectly, transform, challenge and critique the genre conventions in which they are written. Of primary concern is the charting of the trajectory of the genre as a postmodern phenomenon, the evolution and expansion of the genre in terms of its popularity with the reading public in line with the growth of media interest in factual representations of serial killers, and the growing interest in the genre and its possibilities by those authors who usually write outside of it."

Right, now my excuse is out of the way we can get down to the good stuff. I have recently discounted a few of my titles so I thought I'd share it with you here before the price goes up again. Here are the bargains:



Discounted to only $0.99 for a limited time - grab your copy now! (U.S & U.K. links below) - Dreams of Thanatos: Collected Macabre Tales. (250 pgs)

Supernatural demons, murderers and ghosts roam these pages although the most horrifying aspect Cook describes, is the dark soul of humanity. Whether writing about the psychological horrors of modern life, or things that go ‘bump in the night,’ Cook’s writing is always “intense” and often “visceral” in his portrayal of the macabre. Included in this collection of fifteen stories is a novelette (Dead and Buried) and the origin story (Legacy: The Eternal Now and Thereafter) behind the novel, Blood Related.

Recommended for adult readers only. Contains scenes of psychological and supernatural horror


This book is also available FREE to all new subscribers of this website - if you are not already subscribed, why not grab a free copy here instead?

The second discounted title is the popular collection I edited, Fresh Fear: An Anthology of Macabre Horror. I have reduced the price and the kindle version is $2.99 for a limited time. 


https://www.amazon.com/Fresh-Fear-Anthology-Macabre-Horror-ebook/dp/B01HYASBBI/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8#nav-subnav


FRESH FEAR: An Anthology of Macabre Horror is a collection of horror from some of the genre's best writers of dark fiction. (Please share this post with your pals)

With over 450 pages, Fresh Fear is packed with stories written by both masters and up-and-coming maestros of the horror genre. Tales steeped in psychological horror sit alongside visions of strange worlds and fantastical landscapes drenched in blood. 'Quiet horror' sits comfortably next to more visceral portrayals of the monsters that lurk deep within the human heart. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, famously once said, "where there is no imagination there is no horror" - the horror expressed by the authors in Fresh Fear show that imagination is indeed tantamount to excellent story-telling.

AMAZON U.S. - https://www.amazon.com/Fresh-Fear-Anthology-Macabre-Horror-ebook/dp/B01HYASBBI

AMAZON U.K. - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fresh-Fear-Anthology-Macabre-Horror-ebook/dp/B01HYASBBI

Prepare yourself for 28 tales of fear-inducing horror from some of today's best authors of dark fiction.

Authors/Stories

Scathe meic Beorh – God of the Wind
Robert Dunbar – High Rise
Ramsey Campbell – Welcomeland
Lily Childs – Strange Tastes
Lincoln Crisler – Nouri and the Beetles
Jack Dann – Camps
Thomas Erb – Spencer Weaver Gets Rebooted
Brandon Ford – Scare Me
Carole Gill – Raised
Lindsey Beth Goddard – The Tooth Collector
JF Gonzalez – Love Hurts
Dane Hatchell – ‘takers
Charlee Jacob – Inside the Buzzword Box
K Trap Jones – Demon Eyed Blind
Tim Jones – Protein
James Ward Kirk – Block
Roy C Booth & Axel Kohagen – Just Another Ex
Shane McKenzie – So Much Death
Shaun Meeks – Perfection Through Silence
Adam Millard – The Incongruous Mr Marwick
Christine Morgan – Nails of The Dead
Billie Sue Mosiman – Verboten
Chantal Noordeloos – The Door
Don Noble – Psych
WH Pugmire – Darkness Dancing in Your Eyes
William Todd Rose – The Grave Dancer
EA Irwin – Justice through Twelve Step
Anna Taborska – Out of the Light

*WARNING: R 18+ - Contains graphic scenes of violence and psychological horror. Not suitable for younger readers.

Well that's about all for now but make sure to visit again soon and share this post with your pals. Thanks for reading.



Will


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