What a compelling first paragraph you wrote for this story! How did you come up with the premise of the story, and did the beginning come to you naturally or did you craft it more meticulously?
My wife Rosina gets the credit for the premise. After a combination of some innocuous things going missing and later pandemic lockdown cabin fever, she mentioned anxiety about someone being in our crawlspace. I confirmed we didn’t have any intruders in the crawlspace and then wrote a five-hundred-word flash story about the man hidden in your walls watching you during covid lockdown. With a lot of work and revision, I expanded it into a full short story but most of the first paragraph remained the same all the way from that flash piece.
I absolutely love stories about people/monsters that live in the walls of homes, watching their occupants. I’m not easy to creep out, but those tales always get me because (even as a kid) I had a fear of being watched. Is this something that also scares you? What scares you the most?
What scares me the most is foreboding doubt. A person in the walls is creepy, sure, but uncertainty about if there really is someone there or if it’s my imagination or a delusion and facing that fear alone with no one believing me—that deeply terrifies me. That she never sees the monster directly—that’s the real horror for me. Also, in less than six months, I was on standby to evacuate from forest fires and had my home devastated by an ice storm. Climate catastrophe is a massive fear of mine.
You did a wonderful job of writing Amanda and absolutely nailed a fear that a lot of women share—a stalker, especially one that can access her home and watch her with no one the wiser. But you also hit on another aspect of being a woman in society that many male authors try and fail at writing—her intuition, and how she initially explains things away until her intuition can no longer be ignored, as well as how the man in her life simply didn’t believe her. Were you able to do this on your own, or did you work with a writing group or friend to help you capture this so accurately and beautifully? If you did it on your own, what would you credit to understanding the female experience so well?
I absolutely relied on insight from Rosina and critique partners for this story and every story. It might sound corny, but I listen and try to understand everyone all the time. I think writing a good, authentic story is less about the words I write than the ones I hear. The final draft of this story took shape during the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade. What I heard and felt then was a deep and justified fear and anger at the loss of bodily autonomy and personal freedom. That very much informed the story and I hope that I managed to capture that fear and anger with sympathy and respect.
The last line was so perfect. What advice would you give to readers on nailing that last sentence?
My glib answer: when in doubt, light it on fire. My sincere answer: a lot of times, the right last line is three sentences before the one you think it is. I think a short story should end with more violence and ambiguity than you initially think. I’m also a very meticulous sentence by sentence writer. I write, read, read out loud, revise, and repeat until every sentence feels like it’s absolutely critical. I liken it to playing Jenga. If I can pull the sentence out, it has to go. So, I treat the last line, the first line, and every line with the same scrutiny.
Where can we find more of your work and how can we support you?
Considering the shifting sands of the social media landscape, the best way to find information on my published work, news, and the like is my personal webpage at erikgrove.com. Fair warning: most of my work isn’t nearly so dark. I generally write a lot more jokes and less utility knife murdering. I think the best way for readers to support me is to support all writers. Buy a subscription to Nightmare Magazine. Read more. Write more. Join the community. Volunteer. Tell a writer you enjoyed reading their work. And then another one and another. That sounds lovely, right?
What can fans look forward to from you in the future?
By time and emphasis, I’m mostly a novelist. I’ve been working on longer form stuff I can’t quite discuss yet for most of the last year. I play with science fiction and fantasy as much as horror. I will be subbing more short fiction as soon as I revise it to my satisfaction but I’m a slower short fiction reviser. I think fans can expect everything I write will have the weariness, dread, and anger of living on the knife’s edge of a failing world paired with my silly devotion to empathy. The narrator of “Home” is a monster but one that breaks my heart as much as repulses me. Fans can expect a lot of that but (usually) with more jokes. I love horror though, so maybe reader excitement will encourage more utility knife murdering. One can never say for sure.
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