What about the horror genre, and specifically short stories in horror, attracts you?
Basically, as long as I can remember, I’ve liked horror. I was actually just talking about this the other day, trying to figure out what it is that makes some people like horror and some people not. And I’m not sure I necessarily have the greatest answer as to why I like it; it’s just as long as I can remember, I’ve liked scary things.
As far as the short story, there’s just something I like about the short form, the sense that everything in it really matters, and that it’s not a high-pressure situation for the writer necessarily, but something about the compression of the story makes it seem very urgent and very exciting, too.
You explore such a wide variety of subjects and subgenres in your stories. What do you start with when you begin a story? Is it the germ of something you personally find creepy? Do you try to pay tribute to certain writers or genres? What about the most recent one,
So that’s a good example. That story started out as just thinking about that point, when there was a changeover in Hollywood from silent films to sound films, and just thinking about points in history where a major industrial change like that can be disruptive. And I think I probably first got interested in that moment during a film class in college if I had to guess. And that just sort of stuck with me, and as it germinated, I thought, well, there were bound to be winners and losers from that, people who had done well and people who didn’t, and that the person who knew how to use the sound process when they first introduced it was going to have a lot of power. And from thinking about that scenario, it struck me as being a particularly rich setting for a darker story.
For other ones, they could be things that I just find personally upsetting or scary. One that was up on the site last year, “Termites in Your Smile,” ends with the main character and all of his teeth falling out and then his jaw falling off. And that image of the teeth falling out was from when I was younger. A pretty frequently recurring stress dream that I would have is that my teeth were falling out, and it’s something that you can’t stop and you can’t control and you don’t know why it’s happening.