Join us as we peek behind the scenes of our upcoming anthology, ON TIME. Learn more about Christopher Stanley in his featured interview.
ABOUT THE STORY
What inspired your story?
Variations of this story have been bouncing around my head since I was a kid. I’m sure I wrote a version for a school project more than thirty years ago. I was inspired to write this new version in response to a flash fiction contest being run by The Arcanist. As it happens, I won the contest with another story, which gave me the opportunity to revisit and extend this one. I’m glad I did because it works much better in a slightly longer form.
Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist?
Thomas is an academic who has abandoned social sciences to study parapsychology, much to the incredulity of his peers. His childhood was dominated by his mother’s single-minded pursuit of ghosts, and this has influenced his studies. When we meet him, he’s on the brink of announcing the results of his research to the world – an achievement he believes will justify his work and life-choices.
What is the most interesting thing about the world you’ve created?
I remember reading ‘I Am Legend’ at university and being blown away by the science Richard Matheson created around the vampire myth. I’m no Matheson, but I did enjoy exploring the world of ghosts through the eyes of a curious academic.
What genre or mix of genres does your story fit into?
It’s a science fiction tale, although the presence of the ghost, and the flashback to Thomas’s childhood, contain elements that are more commonly associated with horror.
How have your personal experiences influenced this story?
I thought about ghosts a lot as a child. I’m not sure I believed in ghosts but there was definitely something going on at my grandparents’ houses.
On my mother’s side, I used to sleep in my uncle’s room while he was away at university. Two things happened every night I was there. Firstly, I could hear a radio playing, and I remember asking my dad to tell my grandad to turn his radio down. Except my grandad wasn’t listening to the radio. Secondly, the room would light up. I always thought this was due to a security light shining in through the window, until I checked one night and it was totally dark outside. I was in my thirties when I first talked to my mum about these strange experiences. She said my great grandma, who died in the room, used to fall asleep every night with the light and the radio on. I wish she’d been joking.
In many ways, the stuff that happened at my other grandparents’ house was more intense, but I’ll save that for another time.
What would you like readers to take away from your story?
I guess the main message of the story is the old cliché: ‘don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.’ But the message wasn’t my primary objective. I wanted this to be entertaining, and if that’s all readers take away from it, then fantastic!
What was your favorite part of the story to write and why?
Going back to my earlier point, it was satisfying to revisit this childhood idea with a few more storytelling skills. And there was something especially satisfying about interrupting Thomas just as he was about to prematurely celebrate his success…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
When did you write your first story, how old were you, and what was it about?
I have no idea! I’ve written every day for as long as I can remember, right back into my childhood – although I didn’t start taking it seriously until I was made redundant around eight years ago.
After that, I took an online course and the first story I wrote was called ‘The Coastguard’s Cottage.’ Coincidentally, it was a ghost story – or, rather, it was a ghost story. The story was finally published last year as ‘Gods of the Southern Horizon,’ in a beautiful hardback anthology called Exquisite Aberrations. And by then it was a lot more than just a ghost story – just like ‘Delicate Equilibrium.’
What is your writing survival checklist? (Aka, what helps your write the best: music, snacks, coffee, complete silence, a stress ball, a cat, or an outline, etc.)
I do the vast majority of my writing between six and seven in the morning, before it’s time to get my boys ready for school. No music, no snacks, just a couple of hot cups of tea, a keyboard, and me trying to be as quiet as possible so I don’t wake anyone up.
What has influenced you most as a writer?
I’ll start with the obvious and say there are plenty of books that made me want to be a writer. I recently reread Danielewski’s House of Leaves and King’s The Shining, both of which were just as inspiring second time around. I also read Shirley Jasckson’s The Haunting of Hill House for the first time, having devoured many of her short stories. I’d love to be able to write such power and conviction.
The other thing that has inspired me is being around writers and witnessing writer friends achieve amazing things. Seeing their success makes the impossible seem…well, maybe not possible but certainly less impossible.
What font do you prefer to write in?
Times New Roman, 12pts. Nothing exciting, but it does the job.
Do you have any writing blogs/vlogs/podcasts, etc. that you would recommend?
Before the lockdown, I enjoyed listening to the No Sleep Podcast on my way to work. And I was lucky enough to catch the live show when they came to Europe. Fantastic entertainment, with great voice actors and music that will make your skin crawl right off your body.
What is your favorite and least favorite word, and why?
Unique. It’s such a dangerous word, and a lot of people don’t think it through before they use it.
Are you working on anything exciting at the moment?
Recently, my time has been taken up with the launch of my debut collection of horror flash fiction, The Lamppost Huggers and Other Wretched Tales, which was published by The Arcanist on Monday 1 June. It features 26 stories, including six prizewinning stories and three that have never been published before.
I’ve also just had a mini short story collection accepted by Demain Publishing – I can’t say anything more about this one at the moment, but there will be an announcement in due course.
Christopher Stanley lives on a hill in England with three sons who share a birthday but aren’t triplets. He is the author of numerous prize-winning flash fictions, the darkest of which can be found spreading misery and mayhem in his debut collection, The Lamppost Huggers and Other Wretched Tales (The Arcanist, June 2020). He’s also the author of the horror novelette, The Forest is Hungry (Demain Publishing, April 2019).