“Growing and Growing” is wonderfully dark. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, and the prose is sharp, no words wasted. Did you intend to write such a small bite of horror when you first put it to paper? What is it about shorter formats that lend themselves so well to horror?
I wrote “Growing and Growing” all in one sitting, maybe a couple hours, and it felt like the right length when it was done. More psychological horror might benefit from a slower burn, but this is basically a campfire story—brief enough to tell aloud without your audience getting bored or distracted.
Tell us some of what inspired “Growing and Growing”.
This is a retelling of a story told by a friend’s grandfather in Oaxaca, though numerous versions of it exist in Spanish-speaking America. The one I was told had two men stumbling across an abandoned baby in the night and carrying it as it grew heavier and heavier. I added a few details—the brothers’ business, the missing eyes, the gasoline—but I can take no credit for the spine-tingling moment when the baby addresses them through a mouthful of teeth (ya tengo dientes). In the original, one man ran to his garden, where his embrace killed a tree, but the other died on the spot. I invented something a little more twisted.
There is a wonderful old world folklore feel to the story, two drunks tottering home from a tavern who stumble upon the supernatural along the way, usually in the form of a child. This is a familiar plot in folklore and older stories, yet is not used as often in recent years. Are there other folklore twists you would like to explore as a writer, something you would like to reintroduce to modern readers?
My friend’s abuelo had a couple of other stories, too, most of them occurring in that “tottering home from a tavern” mode. I might try retelling the one about a man meeting the Devil on the way back from a casino, or the beautiful woman who lured men into thorn bushes.
You are a prolific writer with over 100 short stories under your belt, and a novel and a short story collection both released in 2018. How do you recharge your writing batteries?
After I’ve put in a day of writing I like to do things that get me out of my head, like meeting up with a friend to dance kizomba, watching Bob’s Burgers, or juggling a soccer ball outside.
What makes you shiver late at night? What scares Rich Larson?
I’m scared of getting paralyzed or suffering brain damage, losing my grandmother, hurting people I care about, growing old alone, climate change, seeing my parents age, being incapable of romantic love, letting something horrible happen out of cowardice, and dying with many things unsaid and unwritten. In no particular order.
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