In our new author series, we’ll be offering a clairvoyant peek behind the veil of who and what makes up TRANSCENDENT. Here’s a glimpse at Gregory L. Norris and his story “Footsteps in the Room Upstairs.”
ABOUT THE STORY
What inspired your story?
On September 30 of 2017, my husband, who suffers from an extreme form of Parkinson’s, took a spill down the stairs in our house and was unconscious for almost five minutes. He was released from emergency, but was not to be the person he was before the accident. I transformed our front parlor, scene of so many previous literary gatherings and parties, into a bedroom. Our entire schedule rearranged on October 1, 2017. That room, once the coldest in the house, has become the opposite since we installed a propane ‘wood-stove’ in there in late 2016. So now we watch TV, dine, and have family time in there at night. On one of those nights in early December of 2017, as the propane stove blazed and a brutal winter wind rattled windows, I heard one of our cats jump off the bed in the room directly over our heads. The entire story came to me as I sat on the loveseat, thinking about this new normal for our small family.
Can you tell me a little bit about your protagonist?
He is a man, unnamed, who has suffered some form of debilitating condition that has led to dementia. He lives in the front parlor of the house, and begins to hear things, see things, suspect things of his wife. That she is, in fact, cheating on him in the room that used to be their master bedroom.
Tell me about the setting you chose and how it influences your work.
A house – it could be any house in any rural neighborhood. Two stories tall. There’s a dining room. The house is based on our house, Xanadu, which we bought in 2013. It’s a fixer-upper in New Hampshire’s North Country (aka the Arctic Circle) we fixed up that appears in many of my stories now. Before, we lived in an amazing apartment in an old Victorian house. We lived there for almost three years. That place began to appear in stories, novellas, and novels in ways few other real world settings have. I’m not sure why, only that it was a fantastic place to live, and an even better place to write about!
What would you like readers to take away from your story?
A sense of doubt – is what he thinks is happening real, or part of his confusion? Dementia?
If your story was front-page news, what would the headline be?
WAS IT REAL? Husband questions wife’s motives.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
In 1993, Halloween weekend, I paid 189.00 to attend a weekend writing retreat on Wentworth Mountain here in New Hampshire. I had been at something of a crossroads leading up to that time—frustration at wanting to break into bigger markets, feeling as though the universe was telling me to give up this whole ‘writing thing’. I knew I couldn’t, because writing was all I’d ever wanted to do. But at this weekend, I determined that I would either walk away or knuckle down and live as though my life depended upon writing and, in bigger and deeper ways, commit. I’d make this my life. The day I departed, a cold autumn Friday, we received a rare early mail delivery—a request for my first book, GHOST KISSES (which I would later sell to the publisher I’d queried), notice that I had won a significant writing contest, and the first professional short story sale of my burgeoning career to a national magazine, all before motoring north and setting foot out of the car at the big passive solar log cabin on eighty-eight acres where this retreat was to be held. The food was sensational—gourmet, mostly vegetarian, with a seafood stir-fry one night and fresh baked blueberry pies, the berries harvested from the surrounding land. On that Saturday afternoon, as snowflakes fell from the October sky and a small blizzard raged, I took a walk and confronted my muse and demanded he do his part, If he did, I was willing to rearrange my life and do mine. To live a literary life. That weekend, I wrote, dreamed, woke to the life I wanted. The next day, Halloween Day, I returned home and have been living a literary life since.
If you had to put your name on someone else’s book/story, which would it be and why?
Hmmm…I have no interest in that. My stories are my babies, and I really love them like any parent. I appreciate so many other writers and their work. In fact, I’ve surrounded myself with really cool creative genius types. But I’d rather live in awe of them and keep my byline on my own work.
When did you decide to take writing seriously?
That Halloween weekend in 1993. And I have never regretted it.
If you could choose a single superpower, what would it be and why?
To resist the siren-call of naps. Now that I’m officially old, I run out of steam easier than I used to. But I do try to get in my daily pages before I give in. I wouldn’t say no to the powers of regeneration—teeth that I’ve lost, or the toe I had amputated in 2016. Part of me would love to live to be a thousand years old and to write nonstop for that time.
Gregory L. Norris is a full-time professional writer, with work appearing in numerous short story anthologies, national magazines, novels, the occasional TV episode, and, so far, one produced feature film (BrutalColors, which debuted on Amazon Prime January 2016). A former feature writer and columnist at Sci Fi, the official magazine of the Sci Fi Channel (before all those ridiculous Ys invaded), he once worked as a screenwriter on two episodes of Paramount’s modern classic, StarTrek: Voyager. Two of his paranormal novels (written under his rom-de-plume, Jo Atkinson) were published by Home Shopping Network as part of their “Escape With Romance” line — the first time HSN has offered novels to their global customer base. he judged the 2012 Lambda Awards in the SF/F/H category. Three times now, his stories have notched Honorable Mentions in Ellen Datlow’s Best-of books. In May 2016, he traveled to Hollywood to accept HM in the Roswell Awards in Short SF Writing. His story “Drowning” appears in the Italian anthology THE BEAUTY OF DEATH 2, alongside tales by none other than Peter Straub and Clive Barker, and he recently enjoyed the publication of THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW: INTO INFINITY, the novelization he was hired to pen based upon the classic Gerry Anderson made-for-TV movie — which he watched and loved as an eleven-year-old way back in 1976. Earlier this year, he put THE END on a novel sequel, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW: PLANETFALL, which is scheduled to release in September.
Featured Photo Credit: Haunted House by Barbara