“Don’t Go” features a fairly universal setting. What drove this decision?
Really, I don’t know. As a writer, I can concoct a story about almost anything except the setting. I just can’t. So, I set all my stories in places that really exist, like Warszawa or Kraków. The name “Rykusmyku” is fictional, but this town is real. My former wife comes from Rykusmyku and my son lives there now. So, I’ve known this town for fifteen years, and I started to write about it.
Where did Mr. Scar come from? Was there someone in particular that inspired his character?
He is a combination of two different characters. The first, most obvious, inspiration was Ed Gein. I’m sure that you’re familiar with this extraordinary man. Before writing, I’d watched some movies about him. He still creeps me out. And I have a long time friend who lost his eye exactly the way Mr. Scar did, in a Polish mine. I combined the two and Mr. Scar was born.
You never name the narrator. Why not?
I thought he just didn’t need a name. He is an ordinary boy with ordinary dreams living in an ordinary town. It could be you, me, or anyone else. I tried to suggest that this kind of horror could happen to anyone. And anyone could behave as badly as this boy.
That a child is missing is a detail very casually delivered in the beginning so the reader experiences a moment of realization in parallel with the narrator. What drew you to this type of horror, as opposed to, say, dramatic irony?
I’ve learned this the hard way. In my early stories, I would try to shock my readers with ghosts and a lot of blood. Now I know that sometimes less means more. We have movies like the Saw series, and games like Dead Space, and they will be more effective, much scarier in a traditional way, than books can be. So, I’m looking for something different. I can’t scare my readers, not anymore. But I can make them feel uncomfortable and restless.
The narrator successfully retrieves Mr. Scar’s eye and finds the missing child. This could be a heroic story, but instead he and Bolo experience regret. Why did you decide to take the story in that direction?
Because I’m a cynical guy? I don’t know. I think people are cowards in most cases. I’ve met many, many cowards in my life and only a few brave heroes. That’s the point. I’m trying to write about “normal life” and “normal people.” People scare me. I think my nameless boy is much scarier than Mr. Scar.
What work do you have out now or forthcoming, and what are you working on now?
I still write short stories about Rykusmyku, and want to publish a collection next year. The timing is good, because my latest novel was a huge success in Poland. And now the time has come to write a new one, which I hope will turn out even better. It’s “true crime” about a Polish serial killer—a young guy named Jacek Balicki who killed two children in Bydgoszcz in the nineties. I’ve spent the last month researching case files, photos, and so on. It’s extremely hard. The horror of real life gets to me. And of course I hope to publish more stories in Nightmare Magazine.
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