Diabolic Tales III
Today's horror author interview is with Michael Wehunt. Michael's stories have appeared in such publications as Diabolic Tales, Shock Totem, and One Buck Horror .
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I grew up quietly and still live quietly in the lost city of Atlanta, where I do various freelance writing and editing. And, of course, fiction. If I have a spirit state, it’s Vermont. There is so much majesty in the northern part of Vermont, where the slow, gentle crawl of life and the mountains seem to murmur in a sort of familiar harmony my native Appalachians have never held for me. But I promise I’m not a hippie. I enjoy the drone of the city too much.
I began this crazy journey of being a writer about two years ago. It’s something I’d always dreamed of, but aside from a few short stories in my late teens that I never let anyone see, I allowed my fear of rejection and failure to prevent me from even trying to write. Too many years went by with my dream buried in dust in the back of my mind. Let this be a cautionary tale to anyone who’s young and wanting to write: Try it out. Don’t wait for life to fill you out before you start. As you go along, you’ll experience regular old life, emotion, loss, love, everyday bitternesses and joys. Your writing will grow as you do, and you’ll have an immense head start compared to my own path.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
I waffle a lot between these terms, because when you tell someone, “I write horror,” certain stigmas and preconceptions immediately arise in the mind. That person might assume your work contains severed limbs and bloody rapists, while you might actually veer more toward insular, low-key, literary horror. The other two terms also have their own preconceptions and parameters. But “dark fiction” seems best to me. It’s a bit more open-ended and can cover a lot more ground, including that shadow in the corner over there. What is that, anyway?
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I’ve loved Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Algernon Blackwood, M.R. James, and the like for most of my life. In recent years I’ve been drawn powerfully toward two authors: Laird Barron and Cormac McCarthy. The former writes dark fiction in a league of his own. I can honestly say that his is the only fiction I have ever been able to truly and consistently call “creepy,” which isn’t a word I use lightly. The latter is probably our greatest living writer. The things he can do with words astonish me, always and endlessly. Another author I very recently discovered is Nathan Ballingrud. His collection North American Lake Monsters is full of literary tales that contain small tears in the fabric, where weird fiction leaks through.
What are you reading now?
I’ve just started Come Closer, a very short novel of demonic possession by Sara Gran. Recently I finished Room, by Emma Donoghue, which really surprised me. It’s simple, effective, and more psychologically and emotionally astute than I expected.
How would you describe your writing style?
That’s tough. I’m fascinated in finding evocative beauty within the dark. Stories that search for that. In my secret, most ambitious thoughts, I dream of writing stories the way Terrence Malick films movies: weaving the beautiful into the everyday and the everyday into the beautiful. Malick will focus on a tree in sunlight while the central action or dialogue of a scene is occurring a few feet away. His cinematography is gorgeous regardless of what’s going on around it. The trick is finding that visual balance—managing to enhance the scene rather than falling into pretension (like this answer has)—and the written word has to go about it in a different way. It’s something I’ll always strive toward and perhaps one day tap into. It’s on my bucket list, so to speak. But I also very much want to creep you out.
Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Really I just write when I can. I spend too much time finding little pockets of free moments to develop any unusual habits. One day I hope to have an array of talismanic objects arranged on my desk, every one of which will be essential for the words to come to me.
What’s your favourite food?
Sushi. Although I celebrate every short story sale with a house burger at Young Augustine’s in Atlanta. Pimiento cheese, jalapenos, bacon, a fried egg…it’s become a tradition.
What’s your favourite album?
The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid by Stars of the Lid. I love all sorts of music, but ambient and classical are what I always come back to in the end. And this band blends both of those genres in the most amazing ways. Gorgeous waking dreams.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned about writing?
No matter what your strengths are, you will always have room for improvement in some aspect of writing. Probably more than one aspect. In this way, rejection is your friend in the early going. It teaches you your strengths as well as your weaknesses. The process of craft is a neverending education.
Fame and fortune, or respect?
I’d have to choose respect, although already the line between the two sides has blurred for me. It’s actually that grey middle area I find myself drawn toward. The ultimate dream would be to write fiction full-time, with no other source of income. To reach that rare and lofty goal, one needs to at least veer toward fortune.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
Of my published work, I’d choose the short story “Pretend,” which is featured in One Buck Horror, Volume Six. It’s a quick one—only 2000 words—and I feel like it comes close to distilling everything I love about dark fiction into its simple frame. There’s another story of mine due out in spring 2014, in Shadows & Tall Trees. It’s called “Onanon” and there’s a chance it will dethrone “Pretend” in my heart. It’s perhaps the strongest dose of “weird” I’ve written yet.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
I have yet to even begin work on my first novel, although its premise and, more importantly, what I want it to be, are pretty fleshed out. I hope to type “Chapter 1” before the end of the year. All I’ll say is that the novel involves a nice young man who has no idea who his father is. And Dad’s not very nice.
Diabolic Tales III is the most recent book to feature my work. My story “Have a Blessed Day” hangs out in the middle of a great-looking paperback (out on Halloween). I’ve just begun reading my contributor’s copy and it’s great so far.