"The Tenth Muse" is quite detailed when it comes to characterization and setting. In your opinion, how do these elements increase the effectiveness of a story? Are these elements always a priority in your writing?
I think my first allegiance is to story (the thing that happened, that needs to be told, that someone wants, perhaps needs, to hear). Details of character and setting are what draw a reader into the story. Horror, with its fantastical elements, probably needs to create a deeper sense of verisimilitude to counter its inherent weirdness. Anyway, the visible world and its inhabitants warrant close observation; it’s fun to try to make the old new, part of the joy of writing fiction. Horror, as I see it, isn’t designed for fable or myth; it isn’t Everyman facing Existential Horror. It is more apt to be an exclamation of personal dread, something like: “Jeez! This is happening to me!”
Were there any parts in "The Tenth Muse" that was based on personal experience? What kind of research did you have to do for the story?
I was living in a small town in Missouri when I wrote this story. I had also just finished reading a biography of Harper Lee. What more can I say? I guess I can say I am really, really glad to be back in Austin, Texas.
What is it about the horror genre that appeals to you?
John Fowles, in his novel, Daniel Martin, has the narrator state the following: “The hyperactive imagination is as damaging a preparation for reality as it is useful in writing.” True words. My hyperactive brain always hears the bad news in a ringing phone. Horror is hard to dodge in the world. I suspect my first thought, on being born, was Oh great! I’m in a hospital! Writing fiction appeals to me, and horror often feels like the most accurate and appropriate perspective for a writer considering the disturbing aspects of trapped sentience. Stephen King understands this mortality problem—but so does Flannery O’Connor, so does Cormac McCarthy (our most gruesome horror writer). Most writers are, to one degree or another, horror writers.
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