Can you tell me a bit about how you came to write “The Owl”?
In 2002, my wife and I bought a crumbling, old (but very beautiful) farmhouse in southwest France, near Cognac. The first time we were shown around the place by the estate agent, we found a dead owl in the attic. Owls lived in a number of the outbuildings and you could hear them at night when they went out hunting. We’d done a lot of driving around in search of the perfect property, and on some of the roads were these “fantômes,” black, person-sized cut-outs that stood at the edge of the tarmac, signifying a death by road traffic accident. Pretty sobering. Some of them had jagged red fractures in their heads. The story came out of those two elements.
“The Owl” leaves the reader with an unsettling sense of ambiguity about what, exactly, happened. Do you have any thoughts on the tension between an ambiguous ending and a stark reveal?
I could tell you what the story means to me, but I’d rather not. It’s up to each individual reader. I like ambiguity in a story. In a horror story, especially, the ambiguity can intensify the feeling of terror that is created. Having everything neatly explained away leaves you with nothing to mull over. A short story, I think, needs some kind of mystery to it in order for it to work. The worst stories, for me, are those that hammer home their point and have an expositional talking head to hold your hand through to the end.
What are you working on these days? Any upcoming publications readers should watch for?
I have stories in Ellen Datlow’s latest Year’s Best anthology, and two Stephen Jones projects: Psycho-Mania! and the final installment of his Shadows Over Innsmouth trilogy. I’ve just delivered a novel to Sony which will act as the prequel to a major new video game release, and I’m putting the finishing touches on a novel of supernatural horror set in a . . . um . . . crumbling farmhouse in southwest France.
What’s your least-favorite horror movie cliché?
It has to be the jump scare. Lazy, cheap, and overdone. Every time a refrigerator door gets opened in a horror movie, a pound will give you ten there’ll be someone standing behind it when it’s closed again. Because that’s what you’d do, isn’t it, if you were a psychopathic killer who had broken into someone’s house? You’d wait till they opened the fridge and then go and stand behind the door. Jeez . . .
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