Greetings from the Ethereal Plane,
Let the interview commence!
CP: Can you tell us a little bit about your story “The Black Dog?” What inspired it and how did it come to fruition?
MD: The title and premise of the story were based on a saying by Winston Churchill, who referred to his own bouts of melancholy as his “black dog.” I wanted to write something about demonic possession manifesting in the form of severe depression, and Churchill’s metaphor struck me as a powerful one.
CP: While speaking of inspiration, what inspired you to become a writer? And what authors helped carve your path to horror?
MD: “Inspired” isn’t quite the right word, it’s more of a compulsion. At least it keeps me off the streets and away from crime.
H.P. Lovecraft was obviously a huge influence on me. His vision of a meaningless universe ruled by malignant, alien deities aligned with my own teenage worldview like a baleful eclipse. I also devoured the E.C. horror comics whenever I could get them. I still tend to enjoy both reading and writing gruesome, punchy morality tales.
In terms of more recent authors, Laird Barron is the master of blending pulpy adventure with cosmic horror, which is something I’d like to do more of. I’ve also been extremely impressed by Philip Fracassi, Jon Padgett, Nadia Bulkin, and Gemma Files.
CP: What are your goals and aspirations as a writer? What does the future hold for Max D. Stanton?
MD: My goal is to keep on publishing short stories as often as I can. I’d like to branch out some more into science fiction and fantasy, two genres that are terrifically fun to write in. And time and fate permitting, I hope to get at least the first draft of a novel done in 2018.
CP: Tell us something that not many readers know about you.
MD: I’m House Lannister all the way.
CP: “The Black Dog” has many themes that could’ve easily been tropes (i.e. Son of Sam, which you acknowledge through the protagonist), in nature. How did you manage to craft a story with some old themes in an innovative and original way?
MD: To quote Ecclesiastes, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” All authors reuse themes and ideas from prior works or lived experience. Nobody but a feral child could write a truly original story. When I write I don’t worry so much about the originality of my ideas as much as I worry about creating compelling characters, vivid images, and lean, gripping plots. Those are the factors that make stories feel fresh.
CP: Do you have any other works releasing soon that our readers can look forward to? If not, are you currently working on any pieces?
MD: I’ve got a few stories on deck that I’m very excited about. The Voyage of the Jericho is coming out in the Halloween issue of Lovecraftiana, The Master and the Mushroom is being published in the Death’s Garden anthology by Lycan Valley Press, The Enlightenment Junkies will be in a future Lovecraftian Tales anthology from Lovecraft eZine Press, and Flying Machine in Gehenna & Hinnom’s Year’s Best Transhuman SF 2017 Anthology. My current project is a rather ghastly bit of body horror called Hikati Yoga.
CP: If you could meet and converse with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?
MD: I’d love to crack a few beers with Charles Portis. He writes such wonderful characters that I have to imagine that he’s one himself.
CP: What is your favorite novel or work, and/or author? Why?
MD: I have two favorites and they’re so wildly dissimilar that I can’t compare them to declare a champion. Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian is a staggering American novel, a literally awesome work. John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces is absolutely hilarious, and I can relate to its dementedly self-deluding protagonist more than I’m comfortable with. I return to these two books often.
CP: What is your writing process?
MD: I generally start with a high-concept idea for the premise, and then work to create characters whose own flaws and dreams will interact with that premise in some compelling way. Vonnegut offered some of the best writing advice that I’ve ever heard, which is that every character should want something. I want the protagonist’s desire to be the kernel of every story I write. Perhaps the desire smashes and breaks against the horror; perhaps the desire takes root in the horror and blossoms.
I also find that the passage of time makes editing much easier. I can spot my mistakes better when they’re not so fresh. If a story is rejected I’ll usually take another look at it and see if there’s anything I can do to tighten it up further. Usually there is.
CP: If you could give advice to new, young authors concerning the publishing world, what would it be? And why?
MD: I’m still trying to get my foot in the door myself, but to the extent I have any wisdom to offer I would say that writing, like any discipline, requires concentrated, dedicated effort. I find it useful to keep track of how much I’m writing. It doesn’t matter if you write quickly or slowly; what matters is that you keep your pace and don’t give up or let it slip away.
Read Max D. Stanton’s “Black Dog” today in Hinnom Magazine Issue 002!
Thank you so much for stopping by, as always. Please make sure to like and follow us on social media!