Greetings from the Ether,
With the upcoming release of Hinnom Magazine Issue 006, we wanted to take a moment to spotlight some of the authors involved in the project. Brianna Zigler’s story “This Must Be The Place” is a disturbing, visceral tale. Join us as we dive into the crafting of the story, and what the future has in store for the author.
CP: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How you came to write horror fiction?
BZ: If I’m being honest, “This Must Be The Place” is kind of an outlier in my writing. I love horror movies, horror is probably my favorite genre of film, but I mostly just write about people. Nothing fancy either, usually people in dysfunctional families and relationships trying to figure things out. I write a lot of “slice of life” stuff with no real defined beginning, middle, and end, but more like a glimpse into this one moment in time. I wrote a piece last spring about a cryptid-loving college girl who gets taken by the Loch Ness Monster, and that’s probably the closest in similarity another story of mine comes to “This Must Be The Place.” I do want to start writing horror fiction, like regularly. I was so surprised at myself for how this one turned out because I really have never written anything grotesque before and yet I adore the grotesque.
Oh, and a bit about myself: My favorite horror movie is Suspiria, I’ve been to England and France, I have a parrot named Buddy and a hamster named Special Agent Dale Cooper, and I could eat Eggs Benedict for every meal for the rest of my life.
CP: “This Must Be The Place” immediately stood out to us. The tale is visceral, disturbing, and eloquently written. Can you tell us how it came to fruition? What inspired the story?
BZ: My initial response after reading this question was that nothing inspired this story because nothing usually does when it comes to how I write. I usually just sit at my laptop with a blank Word document in front of me and write random openers over and over again until one particularly piques my interest and I try to build a story from there as I go along. But this was different; I actually had this story even a little outlined. For some reason I ended up thinking about this short story we read in my fiction class last spring about a couple who stumbles across a dead body, a dead pregnant woman, while walking on the beach, and the wife can’t stop thinking about the body and it ruins the couples’ relationship. I was like, what if someone fell in love with a washed-up body? And it ruined their entire life?
CP: You’re the youngest author we’ve ever published, which is an incredible feat. Where exactly do you want your writing to take you? What goals do you hope to achieve?
BZ: That is the question, isn’t it? I was approached by one of the faculty at my school, just recently, who will be reading my name off during my commencement in May. He was like, “You’re graduating! Congratulations!” I was like, “Yeah! And then what, am I right?” But I’ve always felt like I needed to do something with my writing, it needs to be seen. I want to create art that people will consume and react to, be it negatively or positively, and hopefully in the film or television industry, which is where I so desperately want to be. I watch so many movies and TV shows that wreck me, cheer me, enthrall me, or even anger me, and I feel very inspired by the way in which art can do that to you, just with simple words and visuals. I’ve always told myself I want to create something that will make people feel the way I feel when I watch a movie or TV show. That is my ultimate goal.
CP: Do you have any other stories you’re working on? What does the future hold for Brianna Zigler?
BZ: Right now, I’m not working on anything. I have a few stories that I’ve submitted to a smattering of other publications and I’m waiting for responses, but I hope to start a new piece soon. For me, especially now that I’m graduating, it’s hardest to write outside of a school environment. I’ve always leaned on deadlines, prompts, and grades like a crutch; they keep me in line, keep me working to the best of my ability. An “A” gives me confidence, and a “B” makes me want to do better. I tried writing something last summer and it went absolutely nowhere, I just wrote and wrote and wrote, and the finished product was this endless, lifeless mess. So I’m definitely still trying to discipline myself so I can write more often without the confines of academia.
As for the immediate future, it is uncertain, as I said. I have been mulling over the idea of going to grad school for creative writing, but that wouldn’t be any time soon. If everything ends up okay, hopefully I’ll make it out to L.A. someday, which is, of course, what everyone who wants to move to L.A. hopes. But what I really want to do right now is start working on a YouTube channel for movie reviews, with a focus on horror, which has been a tiny little ambition of mine for a few years now. So maybe look out for that, if I can get myself to finally do it!
CP: What has been your favorite moment thus far, as a writer?
BZ: This probably isn’t my favorite favorite but it’s up definitely there. I hope the professor I’m about to talk about never sees this or has already forgotten about me, but I took an introductory creative writing class in the fall of my junior year and I wrote a story purely out of spite. My class had to do a practice in writing fiction, I wrote something and I forget what it was, but it basically combined surrealist humor and drama and he did not like it, and told me it was too difficult to do and to write something else. So for the final fiction story assignment I wrote an even longer surrealist humor drama about a woman who goes on a date with a man who ends up being five chickens in a suit. My professor didn’t find it amusing, and honestly it wasn’t one of my better pieces of writing. I just wanted to be cheeky. I think I got a “B” on it. This isn’t that interesting of a moment to talk about, but I remember feeling like I really stuck it to him because I don’t think he liked me (though that might’ve just been my imagination).
CP: What writer do you find the most inspiring, living or dead? Why?
BZ: Noah Hawley is my biggest inspiration to be a television writer. If you’ve never heard of him I think he started out as a novel writer, but he’s the creator and writer of the adapted Fargo TV series and the Marvel TV series Legion, both of which are probably my biggest television inspirations, other than Twin Peaks, when it comes to my desire to write for the screen. He creates these emotionally resonant, painfully human and utterly captivating and original characters, within stories that twist and turn and stick a knife into your gut when you least expect it. I don’t know if I could ever write people or stories as intriguing as he does. Legion is absolutely horrific and beautiful and breathtaking and out of this world. It has neo-Lynchian surrealism, demons, and dance numbers. I watched season 3 of Fargo and the first season of Legion around the same time last year and I reached this absolute peak of feeling utter adoration and awe towards the work he’s created. I don’t think anyone on TV creates like Noah Hawley does, not even David Lynch with Twin Peaks.
CP: We always like to end our interviews with a little tidbit of advice for the many readers who are writers themselves. What’s the best advice you could give to a new author?
BZ: The best advice I could give to a writer is to not take advice from another writer. Seriously. Half of us don’t know what we’re doing, and the other half that do, I wouldn’t trust them. I don’t know what I’m doing and writing has always felt natural for me, since as far back as I can remember, struggling in every subject in primary school except for English. But even so, I learned very early on I didn’t always like listening to the suggestions of other writers and I found that, through trial and error, I was able to discover what helped me write best all on my own. I’m still constantly discovering ways to help myself grow as a writer. Every writer is different and has different things that do and do not work for them and I think it’s important when it comes to creative endeavors to carve out the path that’s right for you. I mean, okay, if you genuinely don’t know what to do and are desperate for guidance, I’m not saying starve yourself of help. You can trial and error advice, too, and that whole “write every day” advice is worth listening to. I’m just saying, at least to me, a lot of writers come off as pompous when they give their advice. They always sound like they think they’ve figured out the best, most universal and fool-proof way for everyone to write, when really they just found a way that works for them. And maybe the way that works for them will work for you too, but maybe it won’t. I don’t know. Every writer is unique and one way or another will figure out their own method. Nobody knows yourself better than you, right?
Brianna Zigler is 23-years-old and based in a small suburb outside of Philadelphia, PA, where she lives with her parents. She is a soon-to-be graduate from Penn State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Film Studies and Writing. She hopes to have a career writing and editing for television and/or movies (she hasn’t decided which, but she’s not picky). When she’s not procrastinating all her writing projects, she’s crocheting, cross-stitching, watching a horror movie, or getting bitten by her parrot.