“Frontier Death Song” seems to draw on your personal background as an Iditarod racer and fisherman in Alaska, which comes across in your vivid descriptions of the frozen wilderness. Can you tell us more about those experiences, and how they influenced or inspired this story?
I raced the Iditarod three times during the early ‘90s. I’ve traveled across thousands of miles of inhospitable terrain, endured blizzards, open water, and attacks by wild animals. It wasn’t difficult to put some of these experiences to work in service of an adventure tale.
There is a long history of stories about the Horned God at the heart of this story. How did you go about researching the mythology and creating your own modern spin on it? What drew you to this particular literary tradition?
I’ve always been interested in world mythology, especially Norse. Late in 2011, I packed up my faithful hound Athena and drove an old truck pretty much non-stop from Montana to New York State. The story came to me as I visited a rest stop in Wyoming—two a.m. and a winter breeze rolling out of the Bad Lands. Later, I was relating to fellow author John Langan that I really wanted to write a chase narrative. Our conversation eventually led to “FDS.” The Wild Hunt fits perfectly as the agent of pursuit for our hapless narrator . . .
The protagonist of this story is a writer, and some characters bear names similar to real-life people in the SF/F community. Are you trying to blur the lines between fact and fiction, or does this autobiographical approach help you relate better to your characters? Or are they just fun Easter eggs for observant readers?
I’m writing a sequence of tales that all deal with incarnations of a central character and all reference Alaska. Some of these stories are quite intentionally meta. Of course any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Horror stories often don’t end well for the protagonist. Do you consider the ending of “Frontier Death Song” a happy one? How do you manage to incorporate moments of humor and strike a light tone in such a grim and grotesque tale?
Yep, by my standards it’s a pretty upbeat ending. I’m a proponent of humor amidst tragedy. Black humor, gallows humor, whatever you care to label it. I come from a long, sardonic line. My people have always found humor in suffering. If you don’t laugh, you gotta cry and all that.
What work can readers expect from you next?
I’ll have a third collection out in 2013—The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All. Details pending. Between that book and anthology/magazine appearances, I’ve over a dozen pieces of original fiction due out over the next year or so.
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