Join us as we peek behind the scenes of our upcoming anthology, ON TIME. Learn more about Clinton Bryant in his featured interview.
ABOUT THE STORY
What inspired your story?
A couple of things inspired this story. One was my love for slasher movies. As a child, I grew up watching every slasher movie I could find. I always thought they were a strange mixture of extreme violence and absolute boredom. The most interesting person in every movie was the final girl, but each one wasn’t that much more interesting than the killer. After years of watching these movies, I started thinking about why they were so redundant and why I continued to watch them? Would the killer, having done the same thing in the previous six movies understand that they were just reliving what they’d done before? How much of my time had I spent reliving the same thing year in and year out by watching these movies. It led me to wonder had these movies secretly meant to put me in the same position as the killer, reliving each year with the same kills, same heroines and the same basic movies.
In 2011, my wife and I moved to Burlington, Vermont. My wife introduced me to one of her colleagues. I had an instantaneous and strange recognition of this person like I’d met her before. It was so off-putting that I came off as dense during our first meeting. The meeting lingered in my mind, then my wife mentioned that her friend had been an actor in the 1980’s. Her most famous role was a Friday the 13th movie. I realized that I did know my wife’s colleague because I’d spent years watching her get slaughtered by Jason Vorhees. Meeting someone who had been in a movie that I’d watched a million times was a surreal experience, but it got me thinking about the template of slasher films. The overall construction and the mostly static world that would allow the same killer to do the same thing over and over again. I wanted to explore these ideas. It seemed to me that another root of these movies is misogyny and part of that would be an entire lack of understanding not only of women, but of the killer’s desire. Add all of these things together and you have ScareCrow!
Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist?
My protagonist is unknown to himself. He wakes up not knowing much about how he physically came to be in this place, but more than anything, he is a stranger to his own desires. I believe someone like Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees-type must experience time in a maddening loop. Part of that is not knowing the things that drive you. Every element of the protagonist’s life is repetitive and yet unknown to them.
What is the most interesting thing about the world you’ve created?
I believe the most interesting thing about the world of the story is how it places the reader and the protagonist in the same boat. That becomes a very uncomfortable place in the end, but I really love the idea of stories that yoke the reader with a character they don’t necessarily want to be tied up with.
What genre or mix of genres does your story fit into?
Obviously, horror is the main genre the story riffs on, but mystery is also there. I think the story is mordantly funny as well. I think a pleasing aspect of the story is that it can both be a series exploration of the slasher genre and the way stories like this see time as a loop, and it can offer up some gallows humor.
How have your personal experiences influenced this story?
In some ways, the story is a summation of the teenage boy that I was. The desire for gore and the titillating aspects of those movies spoke to that kid. Also, I think there is an identification with main killers of these movies, especially for teenagers who feel confronted with confusing emotions of violence, the need to objectify the final girl, and the desire to tear down the normal world they feel denied. The older guy sees the totemic ways these movies signify cultural mores and fears. I appreciate how they reminded me of years of my life, but also, what these works signify as artifacts. All of these elements filtered into my story.
What would you like readers to take away from your story?
First and foremost, I want the reader to feel as if the story was a good time. I would also like them to reflect on the nature of their own desires. What do they expect and want? How well do they know themselves? I would also like the reader to think about time, how humans can sometimes live their lives on a treadmill, putting themselves in the same situations again and again.
What was your favorite part of the story to write and why?
I think the most fun part of this story to write was the dialogue. I really love the interaction between the characters and how they come to understand the situation and their place in the world more and more, while acknowledging the absurdity of knowing how and why they died.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
When did you write your first story, how old were you, and what was it about?
I wrote my first story in fifth grade. It was about someone who lived in a world entirely constructed by the game of American football. Everything was goal posts and endzones, the grass was fake turf, and all the bread was shaped like an NFL football. At the time, I was quite taken with the idea of football and thought living in that world would be great fun. I won the best story out of our entire fifth grade class, and it was read at a school assembly. I think it was the first time I understood that stories had a way of leveling social and other biases imposed on you, at least for a while. I was never a particularly good student or perceived as smart, but when my story was chosen and read in front of the entire school, I couldn’t be dismissed quite so easily. Even then, I could feel that sort of change.
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.)
Going through the checklist, I would say coffee is very important. Time is pretty vital to writing. I write so many drafts that I need to feel as if I have the time to really dedicate to them and work through my drafts. This might take months, so that’s really important. I do find silence helps, but I don’t need absolute silence, just a bearable amount of noise. A desk always helps with a computer that is comfortable to type on and a pad and pen for when I feel like I need to really work on specific sentence constructions or just mix things up.
What has influenced you most as a writer?
I have various authors that I love or respect. Edgar Allan Poe is one of them. I really loved how precise his language was and yet how loopey he could be with plot or ornate details. Ray Bradbury is another writer I really admire for his sense of voice and great love of words. William Faulkner is probably one of my favorite writers. His books are grotesque, beautiful, philosophical, and funny. I really love Larry Mcmurtry’s Lonesome Dove series. My father loved the novel and movie and reading through each book of the series made me want to write.
My greatest influence though was my great grandmother. I spent years of my life sitting on the sun porch listening to her stories. Her stories were salacious and funny, about the little things and sometimes not even enough to be called anecdotes, but I loved them all. I wanted to create a world like she did and when she passed away, I wanted to tell stories to feel like I did when she was alive. She really is the greatest influence.
What font do you prefer to write in?
It varies depending on how the work is going. Usually, it is Georgia or Times New Roman, but if I do not feel so great about something, I fiddle with all kinds of fonts from typewriter to Gothic.
What is your favorite and least favorite word, and why?
I love the word latterly. James Joyce used it in the story “Eveline.” I think it’s a beautiful way to speak about time. It feels sleek and philosophical referring to latter days or latter stages and particularly for that story gave the character a kind of dignity. I’m not sure that I have too many specific words that I hate. They’re all doing their work, approximating meaning, it’s the writer’s job to help hone in that approximation.
Clinton Bryant, the author of Horror Sponge.com a blog about horror movies. He holds a M.A. in English from the University of Vermont specializing in Gothic literature and the short fiction of Edgar Allen Poe. He’s recently published a book chapter “How I Met Your Mother: ‘Last Forever’” in Finale: Considering the Ends of Television Series (Syracuse UP, in press). In addition, he has published creative fiction in online magazines including Red Fez and Pomona Valley Review.
ON TIME is coming in September 30, 2020. Be sure to follow us on Amazon.