Maybe it’s just me, but I find horror stories with babies and dolls to be extra creepy. In “The Grave,” you have both. What is it about infants and toys that’s so scary, do you think?
I think it’s because they look so real. It’s a true testament to the talent and skill of the doll maker, but, seriously do they have to look like they’re . . . I was going to say “alive,” and that is probably why we find them so unnerving. They look real, they look like us, but they don’t breathe and their bodies are cold to the touch; their eyes may open and shut and even cry, but they don’t blink, and they don’t see, and the expressions on their perfect, little faces never change.
They are images of us, but an image that is cold and still and dead, and maybe that’s what some of us see when we look into those empty, staring eyes.
You’ve said in another interview that you drew inspiration for “The Grave” from walking in the woods behind a friend’s condo and spotting a rock outcropping that he’d never noticed before. Did he read the story after you wrote it and, if so, how’d he feel about those woods after? You said you could hardly wait to go back. Did any other stories spring from that place?
I’ve only read the story once after writing it, and that was at an author reading. Generally, I don’t read my own work after it’s been published (unless asked to); I guess it’s like an actor not watching himself in a movie.
I would love to walk those woods again, but as it happens that won’t be possible. And perhaps that’s for the best. I wrote “The Grave” because of that one specific walk along that one trail and I’m not even sure I’d be able to find that outcropping now if I did go back. Maybe I’m not supposed to. I did use those particular woods as a setting for another story, “Fireflies,” but have my main character only view the woods and never go into them.
But I have other woods to walk through now.
Who is the baby in the grave? I thought maybe she was Elizabeth’s sister . . .
Elizabeth’s sister . . . now wouldn’t that be interesting?
You seem to have focused more on short fiction in recent years—do you prefer that length? Are you working on anything at the moment?
I’m actually getting back into short fiction for two reasons: 1) Because apparently if you haven’t appeared in print for a while, people think you’ve stopped writing, and 2) Because I love writing short fiction.
I grew up reading comics (they weren’t called graphic novels when I was little) and watching The Twilight Zone and came to realize early on that stories can and sometimes should be told in “one sitting.” Where novels allow me to take certain liberties with time and space and multiple plot lines, I find the restrictions of short fiction enables me to focus on just telling a good, strong story.
At present, I’m working on three new short stories and attempting to find a publisher for my rather large, multi-character novel, Remnants.
Any lesser known horror novels, stories, or movies you love and would like to recommend to our readers?
I hate to say “lesser” known when it comes to things like this, so let me just give you a short list of books, one short story, and some movies I really love.
Short story: “They Bite,” by Anthony Boucher. (The reason I had a hard time sleeping when I was teaching Desert Survival.)
Books: Fog Heart, by Thomas Tessier. (I keep reading this over and over. Absolutely love it.) A Prayer For The Dying, by Stewart O’Nan (BEST ending I’ve ever read).
Movies: Picnic At Hanging Rock (1975), The Devil’s Backbone (2001), The Orphanage (2007), Lake Mongo (2008/Australian—and you MUST watch the end credits), and The Eclipse (2010).
Spread the word!