In “The Hollow Man,” you only mention the title entity in the very beginning, leaving him to act as a sort of metaphor for the dark desires of the characters. Do you view the Hollow Man as representing the darker side of humanity, which everyone possesses?
The darker side of humanity is represented by the men outside the cabin . . .or maybe they just represent humanity under dark circumstances. The thing inside the cabin (also the story’s narrator) is something else entirely. And the hollow man himself is part vessel, part host, part puppet.
You don’t explain the motives of your main character, nor do you explain why he’s in the situation he’s in, and yet you write with such authority that the reader doesn’t question anything going on. Where does this authority come from, as a writer?
I’ve always believed in tossing the reader into the water and making them swim. Sometimes the water is deep. Besides, explanations are overrated. I find as a reader that authorial explanations by their very nature often take me out of a story. Too much opportunity to stop and consider, and all of a sudden I’ll start asking questions that expose cracks in the setup. So I do try to operate with authority, and I keep things moving. No matter how strange the situation, I aim to invest the setting with a strong sense of reality, even moreso the characters and their actions. If the reader buys into all that and matches the pace, I’ve got them.
The setting is at once both generic and yet specific enough for the reader to understand without question. Does a slowly revealed, somewhat vague setting enhance the suspense of the narrative?
That’s a good question, and one I’m not sure I can answer. With “The Hollow Man,” I do know that I wanted a setting that would allow the characters to be cut off and threatened by the elements. That was an essential. I also needed a setting that would allow them to focus on a single place of safety, so the cabin came from that. Also in the mix: I’d been reading a lot of Jack London. I wanted that sense of naturalism, and I thought it would be interesting to twist it up by tossing in another viewpoint — one that belonged to a monster.
As a writer of both short and long horror fiction, is your approach to writing one different than the other? Which is more difficult?
These days, it’s much harder for me to write short stories. My ideas almost always want to expand.
Your novel, Dark Harvest, won the Bram Stoker award for best long fiction — congratulations! What was your reaction? Does it make you feel pressure in relation to your next projects?
It’s great to have a piece of work recognized, especially by your peers. As far as pressure goes, I always feel pressure to try to raise the bar with each new project. Mostly, that’s self-imposed pressure. And I think it’s part of a writer’s obligation — to make the next story better than the last, to try something different, to push yourself out on a limb. Of course, it’s not always possible to do that, but it’s an attitude that keeps you honest when you sit down to work.
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