Join us as we peek behind the scenes of our upcoming anthology, ON TIME. Learn more about Rebecca Rowland in her featured interview.
ABOUT THE STORY
What inspired your story?
I worked as a high school English teacher in an urban school for many years. Last year, one of my former students disappeared while walking home inebriated from a downtown bar. His body was discovered in the Connecticut River months later, but the circumstances surrounding his death have never been clear. Rumors circulated both that he wasn’t the only young man to meet such a fate and that foul play could have been involved. It bothered me that this happened to a kid I knew and genuinely liked, and so my mind raced with possible explanations. On top of this, I possess an unhealthy amount of trivial knowledge on serial killers, especially those who were never caught. For me, “The Found Boys” proposes a solution to both mysteries.
Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist?
The title “Found Boys” is a play on the classic Peter Pan. I selected the names John and Michael to mirror those of two of Barrie’s nursery children; Michael even looks a bit like his doppelganger, right down to the glasses. Michael and John are a young professional couple still in the first explorative years of a commitment. They are also at that uncertain age where most of their friends are settling down, starting families, establishing firm roots, and yet, John in particular feels they are too young to put those tethers down. Michael is trying to cement his career path and achieve some stability, but at the same time, he wants his more adventurous partner to be happy. It’s that late-twenties feeling of being torn between the heaviness of adult responsibility and the freedom of youth that serves as the catalyst for their fatal mistake.
What is the most interesting thing about the world you’ve created?
The story twist addresses some mysteries from both nineteenth and twentieth century history, though I can’t specify which ones without revealing the explanations the story proposes.
What genre or mix of genres does your story fit into?
I am a dark fiction writer compulsively: I don’t think I’ve ever written a story that didn’t fit comfortably under that umbrella. “The Found Boys” contains elements of horror and a sprinkling of speculative/fantasy for good measure, the latter of which is unusual for me: I tend to stay away from anything supernatural in my fiction.
How have your personal experiences influenced this story?
In addition to the death of my former student, many of the elements in the story are based on real places and things. The setting is Springfield, Massachusetts, where a casino was recently added only a few blocks from the interstate and the Connecticut River. Train tracks abut the river, and when I take the train to New York City, it runs along those tracks, and I’ve often looked down on them and wondered if anyone could be living there.
What was your favorite part of the story to write and why?
My day job requires me to perform a lot of research, which I enjoy doing. I made sure to research the bonfire inhabitants thoroughly so that anyone who knows anything even peripherally about them in history could recognize who they really are.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
When did you write your first story, how old were you, and what was it about?
My father worked for the government, and he used to bring home stacks of these spiral-bound notebooks for me to write in (your tax dollars at work!). I can remember very clearly writing my first novella in one of them at the age of ten, and of course, it was terrible: some pre-teen angsty nightmare inspired by John Hughes or the like. Although by the time I was a teenager, the government-issued notebook supply waned, I still made notes on things as I thought of them, sometimes expanding those anecdotes into stories. I still have one of the composition books I kept in college. I wish I could say it’s a goldmine, but alas… Nowadays, I sometimes wake up with a full-blown story in my head, but instead of writing it down, I grab my phone and email it to myself.
What is your writing survival checklist?
Colleagues are always telling me about their requirements for banging out a fantastic story, everything from a certain type of music to a meticulously crafted gin and tonic. I favor a quiet area and good lighting, but that’s pretty much it for me. I’d rather write alone than in public, but that’s just because I sometimes read my sentences out loud to weigh the cadence and prefer not to look like a lunatic… at least to strangers.
What has influenced you most as a writer?
Teaching high school English means teaching students how to write, but the one thing I learned from my experience as an educator is that an instructor can teach organization, grammar, and basic brainstorming techniques, but when it comes down to it, to write well, we need to read well. Writing is just like talking: we learn to talk by mimicking, and the same is true for writing. I don’t mean that we should actively mold our writing styles on another writer’s; what I am saying is that much of my writing cadence has been shaped by those authors’ that really spoke to me. I was a voracious reader as a child, and I learned to write (and to enjoy it) very early because of that.
What font do you prefer to write in?
Times, I guess. However, Scrivener likes to push me to use Palatino, so sometimes I just give in.
Do you have any writing blogs/vlogs/podcasts, etc. that you would recommend?
I enjoy the MasterClass series; the Joyce Carol Oates episode was particularly helpful. Her advice to sit down and write without stopping to edit is something I’m still working on.
As a woman, why do you write horror? I mean, what’s the matter with you?
When I was young, I was afraid of a lot of things. My father introduced me to Stephen King’s books, as he was a big fan, and I devoured them. They scared the bejesus out of me, but I found that for the first time, fear was fun. I’m not a fan of romance stories, so I don’t write them. I like gory thrillers and realistic horror fiction, so that’s what I am drawn to write. Sure, there are more male horror authors out there than female ones; I’m still not quite sure why that is. Both genders experience fear, and both can be equally monstrous. Every now and then, I meet someone who looks me up and down, then makes a snarky remark about my genre of choice—girls can’t write horror (pat on the head)—but my feeling is, either you like my writing or you don’t. If you’re going to judge the caliber based solely on my lack of a Y chromosome, the criticism isn’t really about my story; it’s not about me at all. Girls—and women—can write horror, but we need more people of both genders to pick it up without preconceived notions about what they are capable of creating.
A member of HWA, NEHW, and ALA, Rebecca Rowland is the author of the dark fiction collection The Horrors Hiding in Plain Sight, co-author of the crime thriller novel Pieces, and curator of the horror anthologies Ghosts, Goblins, Murder, and Madness;Shadowy Natures, and the upcoming The Half That You See. Her fiction appeared most recently in the anthologies Movie Monsters, Strange Stories (vol 1), and Strange Girls and in the magazines Waxing & Waning and Coffin Bell. To pay The Man, she works as a librarian, ghostwriter, and copy editor. Despite her love of the ocean and unwavering distaste for cold temperatures, she currently resides with her family—animal and human members—in a landlocked and often icy corner of New England. If you sign up to follow her at RowlandBooks.com, she promises not to send you junk mail on anything…unless you’re into it.
ON TIME is coming in late September 2020. Be sure to follow us on Amazon.