The writing process for this collection really began in the summer of 2013 with a story that I wrote titled “Mortality” (the story didn’t make the final cut; perhaps it will be in the next one). I’ve always heard that the most annoying question you will hear as an author is “where do you get your ideas”. The question doesn’t annoy me beyond belief yet (perhaps that’s because I’ve not heard it enough to be annoyed by it), but the fact is that I’m not completely sure where most of my ideas come from…but I will do my best to remember where I believe that they came from.
“Tony’s Dream” – I’ve always been interested in dream sequences. I love horror movies where one of the main characters is dreaming something particularly terrifying and then they wake up only to realize that it was only a dream. This is the same concept only it is stretched a little bit farther. The story tells the tale of a man named Tony who is terrified by the recurring nightmare of the man that he accidentally ran over keeps coming back…only in the end, he realizes that it is not really a dream.
The story was written in the first half of August in 2014. With this one I can tell you where the idea came from. Being a big fan of NASCAR, I couldn’t turn on any sports channel around that time and not see the story of the tragedy that involved NASCAR driver Tony Stewart and Kevin Ward Jr. I’ve made my feelings about the incident very clear in an essay and an open letter to fans of motorsports. Still, that wasn’t enough. I began to think about what Tony would have to live with and hard it was going to be. I changed the situation in this slightly, but thought that it turned out well. I’ve been asked before if there are any times when I scared myself. Usually I have a hard time thinking of one, but this one sure as hell came close.
“The Button” – By brother once was given an assignment to write a story about a plain white button. He challenged me to do the same. I got the idea from that little shop on the corner of “fuck” and “off” where all writers do about a haunted button. I just made one small change to the original assignment…the button had to be black.
“Buck’s Game” – I’ve never been comfortable with borrowing money from anybody. I rarely do it. But one day I started to think about a man who barrowed money from the wrong person who wanted immediate payment with interest. Like Dale said in the back description, this will teach you not to borrow money.
“I Know What You Need” – This is a story that I tried to write numerous times and had several starts and stops. It was what I like to call a “trunk story”. A story that was never meant to see the light of day. It is a strange story in the sense that it mixes horror with dark comedy. A man turning into a giant marijuana plant is both hilarious and terrifying.
“The Things That They Left Behind” – I drive back and forth a lot from my home in Elizabethton, Tennessee and where I go to college in Jefferson City. It’s an hour and a half drive and I used to listen to the radio quite often (now I just plug my iPod up and listen to rock ‘n roll rather than the garbage they play on mainstream country radio). One day while I was driving back to school on the interstate listening to the radio, a news story came on about a family in El Paso, Texas that had gone missing. Their dinner was cooked and sat out on the dining room table and was hardly touched. There were theories about what happened to the family (most of which dealt with a drug scandal). I like my version better.
“I Can’t Write Love Poems” – Written in February of 2014, this is the true odd ball of the collection. Not much to say about it except that no, it did not end to my liking.
“The Gray Area” – There are a few works in this collection that deal with the afterlife. This one, as strange as it seems, is the more cheerful one. It takes place in New York City on September 11, 2001. “The Gray Area” is the idea that we all go to this little room when we approach death. If we leave the room, we meet our guide to lead us into the unknown of the afterlife. If we stay in the room, we live the rest of our lives as a “vegetable”. If we choose to go back to sleep, you wake up.
“Lost in the Stacks” – The oldest story of the collection and perhaps the weakest. It is in the collection because it was my first professional story to be in print when it was printed in the 2013 Show Me Doctrine: Pumpkin Spice Edition. It tells the tale of a young man whose love of reading takes a terrifying turn when he goes into the adult section of the library called “The Stacks” in the basement.
“Carly” – I love sitting around the campfire telling ghost stories. This would probably be the one that I would tell. In this story I take an old urban legend and a true twist on it. It is one of the more terrifying stories in the collection.
“On A Midnight Stroll” – I was on a walk one night (around midnight) when I got the idea of this story. A campus security car was following me almost as if they didn’t trust me. After I returned to my dorm room, I immediately wrote the story of a dystopian society that doesn’t allow you to be out past midnight. Probably not the best story in this compilation, but I still like it very much. Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Pedestrian” and his novel Fahrenheit 451 influenced it heavily.
“The Children of Eden” – Inspired after I saw the Carson-Newman production of Children of Eden. I’m not quite sure why I wrote it. I guess it just spoke to me.
“Daddy’s Shadow – This was the last story written for the collection. I started to think about a mom coming home and hearing her daughter talking to somebody. When her mom investigates and finds that there is nobody there, I thought “whom better than to be her dead alcoholic father”. The story took off from there. I’ve been told that it is the scariest thing I’ve written. Decide for yourselves.
“A Birthday Surprise” – I have mixed feelings about this story. On one hand, I really love it because it is sick and twisted and truly terrifying in that gross-out kind of way. On the other hand, it is the most risqué thing that I’ve written with its subject matter. I don’t like birthdays. I have that in common with the main character of this story. Albert Fish who committed a crime very similar to this inspired the main villain.
“The Bottom of the Bottle” – This story is my only story to be really influenced by a local author by the name of Gurney Norman. I read his collection of short tales titled Kinfolks and was inspired to write this. It’s a bit different, but I do like it very much.
“Just A Little Research” – This is what is known as a “flash fiction” story (which means short short story). I was going through a dry spell last October with very few good ideas when I wrote this one down. If I remember correctly, it was written on the afternoon of Halloween after a Halloween party that the music department of my college put together.
“The Future Lies Ahead” – A tragic romance about the end of the world…enough said.
“Fade Away” – A poem that suggests that being an agnostic is the humble way to go. Nobody really knows for sure what is on the other side and it is arrogant to insist that you do. I was in a pretty dark place when I wrote this one.
“That Same Damn Thing, It Always Ends The Same” – This is another story about the afterlife. It suggests the idea of the limbo version of hell.
“Under the Willow Tree” – I was out on a walk one afternoon when I saw this tree. It looked delightfully creepy and I began to picture it being in somebody’s back yard. I also envisioned a young girl’s severed arm lying under it and began to think about what could have done it. Like “I Know What You Need”, this story took several starts and stops. I finally decided to have it take place in a courtroom and be a nest narrative where the main character of the story is telling a story within my story. I decided that the creature below would be named Willow.
“Inside the Black Room” – I was thinking about secret rooms when I wrote this story. I thought about a woman who had a room that she called the black room. Her beloved ones decided to trap her in it by building a wall there and when the new couple buys the house years later, the grieved wife finds out the sinister secret behind the wall.
“The 13th Floor” – Have you ever wondered why many hotels don’t have a 13th floor? So have I. Most of it is superstition. With this story, I wanted to explore the idea of the 13th floor being another world. A world where the dead speak. It is an old-fashioned balls-to-the-wall horror story and I love it very much.
“The Great Curtain Call” – This is perhaps my favorite story in the collection. It is one of the stories that deal with the afterlife and you actually get a glimpse of what is on the other side when a hardcore Southern Baptist minister decides to reveal it to thousands of unsuspecting students in what he calls “The Great Curtain Call”. This story is heavily influenced by H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, Arthur Machen’s great horror novella, The Great God Pan, Marry Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Stephen King’s novel Revival. It is a true love letter to the horror genre.
Well, that’s all folks. I hope you enjoyed this collection of short stories and poems. I can hardly wait until the next one. In true Tales from the Darkside fashion, “until next time, try to enjoy the daylight”.
May 21, 2015