“See You on a Dark Night” is an intricate dance of grief, loneliness, and slow horror. Tell us something about the inspiration behind the story.
I had this idea that rattled around in my head for a while, this idea about a vampire and a vampire hunter, but I wasn’t sure what to do with it. The hunter was old and his only friend was the vampire, who was ageless, at least in appearance. The vampire’s only friend, he was shocked to learn, was the vampire hunter. Anyhow, I didn’t really know what to do with it. Ideas are like that sometimes. Usually, I just let it rattle around until something happens. Then, one day, I was doing my groceries. When I do that, I usually plug in headphones and stroll around, getting what I have to get and just zoning. In the second aisle — among all the bread and health foods — Grimes’ “Oblivion” turned on. The chorus is the title of the story, “See you on a dark night.” And then the rest of the story was there —the vampire club, the girl, the grief you feel after you’ve cared for someone for a long time, up until their death. I had the whole thing done within a week after that.
I was intrigued by the anonymity of the character’s names, how W, E, and Z could be anyone, a facet of the horror at the heart of the story. Why did you choose this particular narrative tool rather than assign individual names and identities to each character?
In the first draft, they had names, but I didn’t like them. I thought, what if I just assigned them letters? I thought it worked pretty nice, so I kept it and started stripping out details like place names, streets, all of that. I thought it gave the story a nice, unsure quality, as if everything is not quite there, indistinct, lost.
Vampires are a much beloved horror trope and are frequently reimagined to explore the nature of what it means to be human and, through that, what makes us monsters. Given the choice, would you want to be a vampire like W?
No, not really.
You are an accomplished writer, tackling short stories, novels, and reviews. Are there any writing projects you would like to try?
I have a new novel I’m writing, and I like that. It’s called Snowtown, if anyone is curious. After that, I have another novel, and another. I kind of see myself as a poor, shabby, half-lost writer these days, and nothing says poor and shabby like working in prose, especially in Australia. But with that said, I’ve had a few ideas for different mediums, like comics and films and plays — I’ve even written poetry — but a lot of those are prohibitive in terms of cost and layout, so I usually ignore them, or adapt them for other things. Very occasionally, I write them just for the mental exercise. But I like prose most of all. I like working by myself. For a long time, prose is just you and the page, or screen, and not much else. It’s easy to just forget who you are during those moments. That absence of yourself, that loss of yourself in your work, is hard to replicate elsewhere, and hard to give up.
If you could reach out and share a bit of writerly wisdom with those just dipping their toes in the ocean of words, what would you say?
Read more. Don’t just read your friends, or who your friends say you should read, or who you’re comfortable reading, or who your model of literature is. Push yourself. Take risks. Read small things, big things, translated things, things in your native language but from different countries. Understand language is fluid, that it’s forever changing, that there are no rules. There are writers of every kind out there doing interesting and fascinating things and you want to find them. Setting aside time to read is just as important as setting aside time to write.
Spread the word!