Midnight Echo 14 inspiration interviews – part 2

Midnight Echo 14, with the theme of things are not as they seem, is almost upon us.

To whet your appetite for this issue’s deliciously horrific offerings, Sinister Reads has interviewed the 13 contributors.

Please enjoy Part Two, which includes musings from Gregory Long, Brian Quinn, Renee de Visser, Hari Navarro and Denny Marshall.

Gregory Long, what inspired your flash fiction piece, “Alive!”?

It is not a particularly fresh idea that everything has a cost and that the cost can be more than mere money. So, it is not surprising that stories are frequently based upon the unexpected price we pay for our needs and desires. “Alive!” is no different. It is a story about the cost of a second chance at life.

The origins of “Alive!” lay in two of my earlier unpublished pieces. The first was a fantasy novel called Tempting in Shade. In this novel, one of the secondary plots revolves around mindless clones born from giant flowers and used as slaves. Towards the end of the story, they are stolen from their masters and imbued with the spirits of departed witches and wizards who then escape to a brand-new existence.

The second was a short story called “Restored”. This told the tale of a woman dying of cancer and the lengths undertaken by her obscenely rich husband to prolong her existence. While it was quite cathartic to write (a personal tragedy was unfolding at the time), the story itself tended to ramble at almost 4000 words.

Both of these sat for quite a while collecting metaphorical dust on my hard drive as I undertook other endeavours.

Then, as I started outlining a new novel, I found myself frequently thinking about this theme of death and continued existence. An urgency filled me. I needed to write something immediately. I could not wait for the new novel to express my thoughts. So, I just started writing. My first response was a witty (and perhaps crude) little piece about a sex robot on Mars. Don’t bother trying to figure that out. If it ever gets published then you will understand the connection.

My next response was “Alive!” But with “Alive!” I went back to “Restored” and tried to deconstruct the original story. What was I actually trying to say? Had I lost the point of the story somewhere in that big jumble of scenes and characters? Could I express the same story in under 1000 words with just one scene and two characters?

It was a tough ask and even having sold the story I still um and ah about it. But then I have never ever been truly satisfied with any of my creations and I probably never will. That said, I hope “Alive!” gives the reader pause to think about the cost of at least one potential method for extending existence. Would you pay it?

Brian Quinn, what inspired your artwork “Sea of Blood”?

“Sea of Blood” is a throwback to my teenage years in a sense. A tribute to Frank Frazetta with heavy and defined musculature, and a fantastical subject matter. I used to have several of his posters on my walls. Midnight Echo being the publication of the AHWA, we need something broodingly dark and horrific. The creature I guess is a werewolf; I think that is what I intended when I started. I used mostly human anatomy but went a little “above and beyond” with imagining what a werewolf would look like. I think the creature looks plausible – something you might see stalking a roadside when you are driving home late at night and later cause you to double-check that your house doors are locked.

I enjoy creating art because what I consider my final piece is rarely what I envisioned at the start. (Though I never consider my work finished – if I didn’t have deadlines, I would never get anything done.) It makes it that much more exciting for me. I just go with wherever my paint brush leads me. I plan somewhat my pieces but always leave room for that creative spark to strike during the process.

I’ve been in a moon phase as of late. Most of my horror or fantasy pieces that I have created in the last couple of months have a moon in them. Brings a sense of mystery to the piece. I put some lightning in the sky; also reflected in the water to add another dimension to the piece and give a dynamic sense of energy in motion. You can feel the hairs on your arm rising from the electrostatic charge in the atmosphere.

I think the overall look of the piece is what I intended: the raw, horrific power of the creature, the dynamism of the lightning bolts in the occult moon and the terror of the blood-red water – what are those masses in it and how did they get there?

Renee de Visser, winner of the AHWA Short Story Competition 2018, what inspired “Keep Them Close”?

My short story is actually inspired by a real place – a little country cemetery just down the road from where I live. In fact, most of the story is inspired by real events. There really are little wooden crosses dating back to the late 1800s, most of which are of the same family, and, sadly, most of which are of children. And, just like my story, when we pulled over to have a closer look, we were lucky enough to have a local resident couple fill us with the history of the place and of the people buried there. All of that went into the story, so you could safely say that the beginning of my short story is mostly fact. Even the soft little teddies are real, gifted by some kind local.

Then there is the setting. I grew up in an historical part of North Western Sydney near where the first stone church was built, and old cemeteries are some of my favourite places. I’ve always been inspired by places and settings, and this place was so tranquil and peaceful, and oh so quiet! You could almost hear a pin drop. Or a bell jingle.

Of course, the rest is fiction, inspired by being a new parent myself, with everything that goes with that. Kids are creepy; any parent will tell you that.

And so, it all came together: a cute little cemetery in a picturesque rural setting, my daughter toddling around the little white crosses in blissful naivety of what lay below her feet. A little macabre perhaps, but nothing untoward there. Nothing that you don’t see in other small country towns that have enough historical significance to be preserve their graveyards.

I started writing as soon as I got back home, and it pretty much wrote itself. Which, I think, is the best kind of story. I hope you enjoy it.

Hari Navarro, winner of the AHWA Flash Fiction Competition 2018, what inspired “The Nymph”?

The central inspiration for “The Nymph” draws from the actual brutal murder of the daughter of a long-time family friend. Although this was the catalyst, the actual story combines imagery from a number of jarring events that have affected me over the years.

I grew up exploring the rugged Taranaki (New Zealand) coastline, and I remember once stepping into the carcass of a long-dead sheep that was wedged and rotting in a rock-pool at low tide. The image stayed with me and infused with a conversation I was to have with a friend many years later.

She told me about a girlfriend of hers that had taken her own life by drowning and how the friend would return to her in a recurring nightmare. In the dream, my friend would imagine her lover calling out as her body and mind slowly flaked away. She described for me the great passion they shared, and I remember even then that I pictured her as sad and lost creature of the sea.

I originally wrote the story from the perspective of the nymph being a man. But this just didn’t sit right with me as it seemed I was hijacking the inspiration behind the story and then stamping my own gender upon it. I had not suffered the violence and trauma that these women had; not just the victim but also the mother and girlfriend left behind.

So, I got back in touch with my friend and I asked her opinion. She was adamant that the draft that I sent her must echo the essence of her dear lost friend and that, in her eyes, the character should be a woman. So, I switched the gender of the nymph and also added in aspects of the actual relationship that my friend had passed on to me. For example, the Anaïs Nin reference is taken directly from the conversation I had and was used with her blessing.

Actually, the most worrying thing about writing and then offering this story for consideration was my use of a certain word. It is an understatement to mention just how divisive this word can be and it was added and then removed more times than I can remember. Again, the final decision to include it came down to yet another phone call to my old friend. I asked her if she and her friend ever used this word in the same context as I had used it. Her answer was that they most definitely did, and that, in fact, she still very much does. So, the word remained.

I think this taught me a lesson about being true to my characters. A lesson I have not always followed and looking back I now very much regret these instances. It’s a betrayal. We are what we are and we speak as we speak. He said.

Denny Marshall, what inspired your artwork “Cymon”?

The drawing is a few years old & I have no idea what I was thinking at the time.

All I remember is that I left room at the top & right for text in case it was used for a cover.

And, of course, since it is a horror drawing, I wanted it to be scary.

I have done lots & lots of drawings these last few years and have no idea what inspired me except for what inspired me on the day I was drawing them or a few days after. Most I don’t remember.

Just like to draw.

MIDNIGHT ECHO 14 will be published in digital format on Amazon at the end of the year.

Click HERE for more information.

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