Can you tell us about the background of “The House on Cobb Street”? What sparked you to write this story?
The story came from a few different places. One was an actual hypnagogic hallucination I had—which I am normally not prone to. I “woke up” but was frozen and I could hear creepy little girls whispering behind me, and could picture them as well. I wrote that section of the story down the following day and the first few pages of the story quickly formed around it, including the initial clippings that helped tell the story.
At some point, prior to that, I had also come up with the title; I’d wanted to write a story set in Athens, Georgia, for a long time, and I once lived on the real Cobb Street, so all the elements fell together after that.
Everyone in the story seems to have a different theory about exactly what’s going on with the house. Are any of them right?
That’s for the reader to decide! I never tell the reader what to think outside of the story itself.
Vivian’s fatalism about the house gives the story a sense of a slow, inevitable march towards doom (and neatly sidesteps the “Don’t go in the basement!” problem, as Vivian herself muses). Would you say that this sense of inevitability is a common feature in your work in horror? Is it something you’re attracted to yourself as a reader?
I think that it is a feature of a certain type of horror, and it is often a feature of the horror that I write. In a way, I suppose, it sort of violates a central principle of storytelling in which the protagonist needs to keep making an effort to solve the problem—the active protagonist, if you will. My protagonists often, though not always, tend to be more doomed than active.
This is actually a really interesting question, and I’m going to have to think about it some more; I have a sense that if the protagonist is really active, the story sometimes becomes something other than horror, but I’m not sure about that!
You’ve got a short story collection coming out soon. Care to tell us a bit of what readers can expect from it?
It’s been pushed ahead to June because I am trying to finish a couple of original stories to include in it. It’s called The Moon Will Look Strange and will include my first eight published stories—that means stories from The Third Alternative and Supernatural Tales as well as a little journal Len Maynard and Mick Sims published for a while called Darkness Rising. It’s published by Karōshi Books, which is a new imprint of Noose & Gibbet Publishing run by Johnny Mains in the UK. Johnny runs Karōshi along with Peter Mark May of Hersham Horror and Cathy Hurren. I’m really excited to have a lovely introduction from Steve Rasnic Tem, whose work influenced me as an aspiring writer.
What are you working on now?
Mostly, I’m presently working on a supernatural novel about the mystery surrounding a forgotten horror writer from the Golden Age of pulps, a cursed book, and a doomsday cult.
What’s your favorite haunted house story?
Definitely The Haunting of Hill House; it’s one of my favorite books of all time, period. At shorter lengths, I love Oliver Onions’ “The Beckoning Fair One” and Kelly Link’s “The Specialist’s Hat.”
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