What inspired your piece?
Edgar Allen Poe and HP Lovecraft (despite the overt racism). I wanted to emulate that old style of storytelling that we don't see very often anymore, so I started writing something a bit more mysterious. I wanted to use really purposefully purple prose so the story would be almost poetic. I feel like a lot of horror that we are exposed to now is just gross for the sake of being gross. There's a real art to telling a story that's spooky because of the way that you tell it, and I have yet to master that. It's something I work on from time to time. I listen to a lot of old horror radio plays in my free time and I think there's an element that they give us and I wanted to emulate that.
How do you connect with the theme of GRAVE?
I was an "out-of-zone" student in high school and was eligible to go to this school because I was in an advanced learning magnet program... The thing was I hated it. I hated every single day of it. I had to go to another school for my senior year, but I hated just about all of the students. However, I did make friends with a girl named Dena.
Dena and I were driving around one day smoking pot, as one does, and we passed a sign… "FREE KITTENS" and we lied to the man there. My mom said I couldn't keep the little kitten, but Dena was sure her parents wouldn't care...so we got back into her car and I went to her house for the very first time. It was in the middle of a cemetery.
"Is it haunted?" I asked.
"Yea, but it's no big deal…"
She had literally no opinion or care in the world about growing up in a haunted house in the middle of a graveyard. She was one of the most genuine and bizarre people I've ever known. We've lost touch after I graduated but I hope she's well.
Your piece shows how places can carry history in unconventional ways; how did you put together the setting of "Man Who Stalks"?
I've actually written stories that featured this same graveyard three times. I don't think I revealed it in one of them, but it's the same place in my head when I'm writing. I definitely named the place in a more recent story where the drunken father is being chased by cows infected with some kind of alien parasites.
I like to create settings that have a lot of history. Things based on the actual past and things that I just make up... And then once I make those things up that's part of the history of that place and you should mention those things if you ever bring that same place up again. This graveyard is on the south side of Webber Street, which runs east and west across the span of Bradenville, Kentucky (population 2127) and lots of weird things happen there. The narrator of this story actually shouldn't have been able to leave town. Nobody can. He happened to forget to mention that he was able to leave because of the birth of Lincoln Parish in 2009. Among other strange things, the population in Bradenville has to remain constant. People can pass through but you can't leave or take up residence there if the population changes for you to do so.
Edgar and Doris have their own histories too. The scars on Doris’s back are another story I haven’t written yet. I know what it is, I just haven’t sat down to write it out. I could go on, but I don't want everyone to know all of the crazy details about life in this crazy place that I made up. If you want to know more, check out these links:
For Sale: Cheap
Comets and Cow Worms
How did you get into horror? What do you enjoy in the genre? What scares you?
The first horror movie I ever saw was Child's Play. I was 6. I snuck out of my bedroom and was laying on the carpet in the hallway. My mom and dad were watching it in the living room. They didn't know I was there right away. When my dad figured out I'd been watching it for a while, he invited me to the couch with them, much to my mother's chagrin.
We had a clown doll in the bathroom. It was the kind of thing meant to teach you about zippers and buttons and shoelaces. That clown started moving around the house and talking to me. Well, not actually, but I thought that was what happened...it was just my dad. He was always messing with me growing up. I'm less scared about physical "horrors" because of the tricks he played on me growing up. Existential dread or worrying about things that might happen is where I find my real fear as an adult.
I'm also scared of needles and blood...more specifically anything that goes under my own skin and makes me bleed. My partner Daniel is the opposite. I know it's completely irrational and I'm not a hemophiliac, but I'm absolutely terrified I'll never stop bleeding once I start. Last time I got a wood splinter, D was laughing so hard while I panicked and attempted to dig it out of my own hand with a pocket knife...I nearly passed out.
What’s your writing process like?
I'm kind of erratic when it comes to "writing processes..."
Sometimes I'll get the house really dark and put on the soundtrack from Aliens or Dead Space...(Dead Space is better for writing) and I'll go around the house and light as many candles as I can and pretend in my brain that I'm in an isolated dark place and "I just have to tell this story before I die!"
Other times, I will find a song I really like...For instance, for this r/NoSleep story, "We're Forever Tonguing Tender Sores" I listened to a song called "Enemies Forever" by Blaqk Audio on repeat for about 4 hours. Seriously. The story is highly influenced by the song and the title is a lyric...
And yesterday I wrote something entirely with Speech-To-Text in an hour. It's about the recent mass shootings that took place in Texas and Ohio. I borrowed the premise from Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery." I really needed to get some thoughts out so I turned on my phone's microphone and started talking and when I was done, I had written "The Raffle." Admittedly that one is a little bit sloppy for me, but it wasn't ever meant to be a masterpiece. I just had something I needed to say at the time.
How does identity play a role in your writing?
It's actually really important to me that I write about people "like us." That's where the idea for our horror anthology "Black Rainbow" came from. Growing up, I remember a world that was much different than what we see today. I was in the closet until I was 22. We didn't have anybody out here telling us it was okay to be ourselves. We weren't in books or narratives except as something sex-crazy or evocative. I think that's exploitative and we deserve better because that's not necessarily the reality for everybody...almost every one of my stories features queer people and more than once I've been accused in comments online for "shoehorning" sexual identity in to make the story interesting. Some people just can't wrap their heads around the fact that just because my characters are gay doesn't mean they have to tell you in the first line of the story. It could be something I save until later. I know who they are the entire time. It doesn't matter until I decide to tell the reader that it matters. I mostly write short stories and I can't give a giant bio for every person in it. I think it's important just the same to tell stories that feel true. I don't introduce myself "Hi, I'm Gay Scott." It doesn't matter when you meet people how you identify.
What role do you think horror plays in the LGBTQ community?
I think it's an escape for a lot of people and having an immediate outlet when when things in your real life get too scary is immeasurably important. I think the world can be a scary place still for many queer people, especially young queer people, and it's very easy to succumb to really horrible dark thoughts. We like to pretend that everything LGBT is glitter, drag queens, and parades, but let's be honest… for a lot of people it's a lot of depression, and self-denial, and for some it's suicide. We have to talk about this part of our experience so that we can make strives to change it. People need to know they're okay and the world isn't such a horrible place and they're supposed to be who they were born to be. That person is incredible and unique. We can erase the shame and stigma by talking about it because it's been proven that the more people talk about it, the more people will say "I feel that way sometimes too, so maybe we're not so weird as we think."
I think that horror is important for our community because for a lot of us, it takes some time to navigate through the dark times (emotionally speaking) and it's good to have a bit of a false horror to escape from the real horrors that we have to face every day.
What’s next for you, creatively?
I'm not a very good planner. Immediately speaking, I'll be doing a lot of work on fulfilling Kickstarter Rewards for Black Rainbow. I've got about 8 half finished short stories. There's also the beginning of a novel to work on which will be about a loveable dimwit who hears ghosts and helps them complete the final thing they need to do to cross over.
Any great horror recommendations?
Buy our book! Black Rainbow is a horror anthology written by LGBTQIA people and it's great. It really is. I promise! Aside from that if you haven't seen "Us" yet, you're way behind. That's my favorite thing so far this year and hubby and I also really enjoyed "The Dead Don't Die." It wasn't really horror per se, but it was super strange and pretty funny too. I recommend that pretty highly.