|Illustration by Luke Spooner, © LVP Publications|
Welcome to The Pulp Horror Author Interview Series. Today's interview is with James Pyne who explores the fear of plants in his short story "It Came From The Grave" in The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias.
LVP PUBLICATIONS: What draws you to horror, both as a writer and as a reader? Who is your favorite horror creator? Who are your inspirations or influences?
JAMES PYNE: That’s a loaded opening question.
I really have no definitive answer for what pulls me toward horror. When it comes to my writing, the characters tell me their story and I write it down. It seems I have tons of angry, hateful characters on my hands, doesn’t it?
For me, reading horror is like a rollercoaster of emotions, if the writer is good at his craft, they’ll have you caring about the characters like they’re your best friends . . . before putting them through a hellish end, one you feel is happening to you, too. I also enjoy the twisted imaginations of horror authors, their creative ways in killing off characters but what I really enjoy are those horror stories and novels that feel real, like they could happen. Now that’s talent.
My tastes for dark fiction changes yearly but a few remain consistent. Most will say King and I enjoy his works without a doubt but if I had to pick just one, it would be Clive Barker. But Ray Bradbury, M.R. James, Shirley Jackson, and Richard Matheson aren’t far behind. I won’t ever forget my first introduction to Barker. A classmate had one of his paperbacks, very graphic for the '80s and during Reading Time in English Class he let me read a story in it. My first piece of Barker was The Book of Blood, then The Midnight Train and I was hooked after that.
My world is a small one when it comes to people in the physical realm and every one of them have had an influence on me in my writing. My mom always had a taste for horror, the nastier the better, she had a thing for anything paranormal, and introduced me to the imaginative world of dinosaurs… and wowzers, we had some great giggles sitting out on the front doorstep mispronouncing dinosaur names because we knew that there was no way we were getting many right. My dad had his part, telling me he hunted Bigfoots, and shared other tall tales fanning my imagination even more and the man was always good at anything he did, inspiring me to be the best at whatever I enjoyed doing. I could write a novella on people who have influenced my writing in some way.
If I looked at influences via writers, they are many. Besides the dudes mentioned above, John Gardner (Grendel, Sunlight Dialogues), Joseph Campbell, Douglas Adams, Anne Mccaffrey, Hardy Boy books. Both Jane Austen’s Wuthering Heights and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov showed me horror can exist outside the genre with scenes that disturbed me.
LVP: What were your biggest fears as a child? Do you have any current phobias or fears now as an adult?
PYNE: The Old Hag. Yes, I was one of those kids who got regular visits from her. A nasty piece of business. I never shared those experiences into my adulthood until I came across Whitley Strieber’s website. I either came across a story about the Old Hag on a public board there or one of his paranormal news links and it sounded just like the monster visiting me, in description and experience. I did YouTube search and wow, I was blown away. I didn’t feel alone anymore and freely shared my experiences no longer thinking it was the work of an over-imaginative child. The professionals like to call it “sleep paralysis.” In many cases it might be, but those of us for centuries seeing the same thing… how do you explain that? I have even written a short story for Lycan Valley Press starring the Old Hag for Subliminal Reality which is to be released soon. It is the first horror story that was personal, reliving that horror through the main character. I also would scare myself with Bigfoot movies. I hated watching them. But couldn’t resist them. To this day, if I watch anything Bigfoot, I look at the corner of my eyes for something blurry dark before fully looking in the direction of my window.
LVP: Horror has a million sub-genres, from psychological to splatterpunk. Which sub-genres have you written in? What's your favorite flavor of horror?
PYNE: I’ve written psychological, dark fantasy horror, shock, phantasmagoria, gore, and now pulp horror. I like psychological and dark fantasy.
LVP: Is there any sub-genre or area of horror that you won’t go anywhere near? Any one area that is completely off-limits?
PYNE: I’ll try anything once. I don’t read much gore, we’ll go with that, then.
LVP: In your opinion, what is the scariest or most terrifying thing you’ve ever written?
PYNE: Besides the Old Hag story written for you folks, The Room that Cured Racism comes to mind. I’ve recently submitted it (crossing fingers.) It once had a home, but I decided to pull it when it didn’t seem the anthology was going anywhere. Anyone that has read it, loved it, and said the nasty and phycological ending disturbed them and cut deep in their being. I listen to the readers, so I guess that is the meanest one I’ve written so far.
LVP: Have you ever had an idea for a story so scary or disturbing that you couldn't bring yourself to write it down? Tell us about it.
PYNE: Yes, one about babies becoming eggs for things unseeable that want physical form and can only get it through the energy of babies and by hatching from them, it would be a very visual, emotional kind of story that might be too much even for me… Okay, confession. The image popped in my head when reading your question. Honestly, I haven’t come across anything like that… yet.
LVP: Are there any ways that your interest in horror bleeds over (so to speak) into other areas of your life? Do you throw legendary Halloween parties, do you dress like Alice Cooper when you go grocery shopping, do you have a pet albino snake named Nosferatu?
PYNE: Any year I grow big sunflower heads, I will teeth-clench the stem and take photos of me as the horrifying Sunflower Man and post the photos on Facebook. I can be quite the goof like that. I wonder if I should start stalking around the neighborhood at night as Sunflower Man and peek into people’s windows while they are deep into whatever they’re watching on the tele, rap the window with one hand and when they turn around, wave, while holding up a machete with the other hand. Guess that would get me locked up or charged, though… or shot.
LVP: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to try dabbling in horror writing for the first time?
PYNE: Read more than just horror fiction. I am big on reading as many genres as you can. You want your characters to feel real as much as they can, so you will need non-horror elements in your writer’s toolbox. Also, try making your horror “emotional” in some way, something that’s going to resonate with the reader. Richard Chizmar’s A Long December is jam-packed with examples. This is a cliché but never give up. Keep chipping away. You’ll get there but you got to feel those characters, let them do the talking while you’re the scribe. Otherwise, you’re just writing cardboard characters. And one of the most important is, embrace criticism. Don’t take it to heart if you get rejected and if an editor takes the time to reply with advice, do the dance of joy because they see merit in your fiction. They are only trying to help. Try their suggestions. An example, if it hadn’t been for MJ Sydney, my story in this anthology would not exist. I checked my ego at the door and wrote three totally different versions of this story with MJ Sydney who was with me along the way. I am grateful she showed me patience as this was the first time tackling anything pulp. I really wanted in this anthology. The concept is awesome.
LVP: What would you like your legacy to be? Or alternatively, what should your survivors engrave on your tombstone?
PYNE: A decent guy who had his faults, like everyone, that did his best to be kind and help others. Righted his wrongs. Someone who was good to his family and friends, someone who never backed down, and certainly never let political correctness silence his opinions.
HERE LIES THE DUDE. I’d be happy with that.
LVP: Anything else you'd like to say or add? Any final thoughts?
PYNE: Without myths to root us, keep us strong, we are nothing, no more than tumbleweed blown in the wind. Sorry, working on getting a dark fantasy mythological novel ready for my publisher and all I have on my mind these days is myths. That’s all I got. Peace.
~ James Pyne was born in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. His debut novel Big Cranky (Dead Light Publishing) will be released in two volumes soon. His writing has appeared in various anthologies like Clockwork Wonderland, Mother's Revenge: A Dark and Bizarre Anthology of Global Proportions, and Only the Light We Make (Tales from the World of Adrian's Undead Diary Book 3) Add or follow him for updates: https://www.facebook.com/jjamespyne
Pre-order The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias (paperback or hardcover) from your local indie bookstore through IndieBound, from Barnes & Noble or Amazon now... or come see us at Crypticon in Seattle, WA and StokerCon in Grand Rapids, MI to read this story along with all the other madness contained in The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias (including limited edition autographed phobia card sets, available at conventions only)!