Welcome to Fantasy Magazine! We’re delighted to run your story, “Free Coffin.” Can you tell us how this story came to be?
My wife and I were walking around our suburban neighborhood and eyeing the stuff that people put out at the curb. That trash tells surprisingly intimate stories about peoples’ lives, and it struck me that a certain item might tell a story about death, too.
One of the things that makes this so readable is how relatable it is: I have a Mr. Byerly right up the street from me, and Big Trash Day is definitely a thing. Are you a conscious note-taker when it comes to people-watching and observing the seemingly mundane details that bring a story to life?
I’m not a note-taker, though I should be. So many ideas get lost in the jumble of my thoughts, when a one-sentence note would give me something to come back to. The direct observation is a bit easier, because I find that disparate images that I’ve noticed at different times in the past tend to cluster and compose themselves when I need them. I first saw that coffin, for instance, displayed outside a pompe funèbre in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
What was the most difficult part of writing this story? Did any part of it come easily?
The initial idea came easily. The most difficult part was figuring out Mr. Byerly’s personal history and the source of his shame.
This story is more horror-adjacent than we commonly run. Do you lean more toward horror as a writer in general? What is it about your favorite genre or genres that most appeal to you?
I tend to avoid horror because I’m somewhat repelled by my own ideas for horror stories. I think, to be a successful horror writer, you need to be pretty uninhibited about digging around in your own psyche. I prefer fantasy—not that it’s any gentler—but the otherness of fantasy gives me more freedom to express myself in the guise of another sort of creature. I also write literary fiction.
What are you working on now, and what can our readers look forward to seeing from you in the future?
Having voiced my reservations about horror, I’m now working on a couple of stories that have to do with the properties of human skin. Also, some stories with animal-human and machine-human hybrids.
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