Can you give us a bit of background about “The Cork Won’t Stay”?
The story really started as a writing exercise and a good bit of catharsis. The opening scene is almost exactly what happened when I lost my father to lung cancer. When I started writing it, I honestly wasn’t sure where it was going to go, or if it was even going to go anywhere. I just had some stuff I wanted to exorcise. Introducing a supernatural element wasn’t something I expected, but it really opened up the story when it happened. From there, it was just experimenting a little bit here and a little bit there. Sooner or later, the story started to form. Then I just had to hammer it into shape. It might not be the easiest way to work, but that’s the way I tend to create.
In “The Cork Won’t Stay,” the protagonist is the monster, but in some ways, he’s also one of the victims. Is this just the logical extension of “the calls are coming from inside the house”? Do you find it difficult to balance a sympathetic protagonist with a creepy story?
To me, it all boils down to grief. “The Cork Won’t Stay” really lives and breathes in grief, and grief just strips away everything else and leaves you really raw. When you reach that level of emotional exhaustion . . . I’m not sure if it goes beyond monster and victim, or if it just leaves you too tired to care. It does weird things to you. It’s this colossal sadness, but it gives you this hair trigger. When my father died, I experienced the same anger toward my stepsister that the protagonist does. In a strange way, I felt like her reaction was interfering with my grief. I guess mourning makes you pretty selfish, too.
You recently released a collection of novellas called Will the Sun Ever Come Out Again? Care to tell us about it?
Will the Sun Ever Come Out Again? collects my four favorite novellas. I’ve wanted one of those ever since I read King’s “Different Seasons” way back when. Broken River Books was excited to do it, and J. David Osborne’s enthusiasm is simply infectious. It collects “He Stepped Through,” which I always describe as a Lovecraftian episode of The Shield; “Something Went Wrong,” which tells the stories of a brokenhearted man who keeps finding body parts, a supernatural fixer who hates his job, and a bartender who needs to dispose of a body that isn’t quite human; “Deeper Waters,” a fun story that stars Charlie Crawford, redneck magician and my take on the paranormal detective; and “Safe House,” about a group of domestic terrorists who really pick the wrong place to hole up.
What are you working on these days?
Currently, I’m finishing up a novel called Porcelain. I don’t want to say much about it, except that it’s a very character-driven, Rashômon type of horror novel. I’m also shopping around the first Charlie Crawford novel, which plays a lot like Justified, just with magic demons and a whole lot of sarcasm.
You find yourself in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. Who do you want in your band of survivors, and why?
A good bartender and anyone who wants to dance. No one’s getting out alive, so let’s party.
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