Weird fiction is a sub-genre of horror and suspense fiction. It is a description of a certain kind of writing that has its roots in Gothic fiction but then became it’s own child in the 1920’s. H.P. Lovecraft started publishing stories in Weird Tales and other pulp magazines of the time. With the publication of stories such as The Call of Cthulhu, Shadows Over Innsmouth, and The Dunwich Horror, Lovecraft founded what we know today as weird fiction.
Lovecraft had always attracted other writers in his time, after his passing and even now. In fact we are in the middle of what some critics are calling a weird fiction “renaissance.” This is due in part to the ideas of social media and it’s impact on small press and self-publishing.
There is a new group of men and women who are attempting to further the canon of the Lovecraft Mythos. Though not everyone in the movement is writing strictly in the mythos. Some of these amazing writers are using their talents to capture the atmosphere, the emotions, and the kinds of strange dark places we like to visit in this land that we have chosen to call Weird.
Today I am going to to bring you the first in what I hope will be a long regular series of interviews with authors and other people involved in this new weird fiction movement.
This week, we’re chatting with Douglas Wynne.
Can we start off with a few easy questions to give our readers a baseline of who you are and what you do?
What is your name?
Where do you live?
Coastal Massachusetts, north of Boston.
What is your profession?
I own a dog daycare with my wife and write horror, suspense, and dark fantasy.
What sort of formal training do you have, if any?
All of my formal training is in music. In another life I played in bands and worked as a recording engineer. I went to Berklee College of Music, which is what brought me to Boston from NY. I’ve learned writing mostly by trial and error and reading a lot, including some books on craft. But I think the years I spent as a singer and songwriter helped me develop an ear for words.
You say you played in bands; any I would have heard of? Or do you have any YouTube or Soundcloud links for your fans?
Nothing you would have heard of. I engineered for some well known artists, but my own bands were the definition of obscure. Just for fun, I gave some of our songs to the fictional rock star, Billy Moon, in my first novel. Here’s a Soundcloud link to Billy’s 3 song demo and a couple of audio clips of me reading from my books. I’ll probably regret this, but you asked…
If you could recommend one book to the budding writers out there what would it be?
One book on craft? Everyone knows King’s On Writing, which is practical and inspirational, but the other one that I consider just as essential is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King (no relation to Uncle Stevie).
At what age did you start writing? And when did you consider yourself a professional writer?
I wrote some terrible short stories in junior high when I was reading a lot of King, Poe, and Bradbury. Then a fantasy novel when I was 15. I’m afraid to take that down from the attic and look at it now. But the guitar and four-track recorder seduced me away from fiction for a while and all I wrote for years was lyrics. I guess I started thinking of writing as a potential career when I sold my 1st novel to a small press for a small advance in 2012.
The Devil of Echo Lake was your first novel, correct?
Also you say “Uncle Stevie”, have you meet him? I know you hang out with Joe Hill a lot.
I have met him a couple of times by chance, but no, I don’t know Stephen King in any way that would suggest he knows me. He calls himself “Uncle Stevie” in his writing sometimes. And while I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Joe recently, it’s not like I’m over his house for Scrabble on the weekends. But I’m available if he needs players. He’s probably afraid I’ll kick his ass.
Very cool. I was not sure how close you were with Joe Hill. You had mentioned him a few times in a familiar way. He seems like a very interesting guy to me.
He certainly is. Super smart and funny and bursting with ideas. Really passionate about music, too, so there’s always that to argue about.
What was your first Lovecraft/Mythos story? You mentioned reading King, Poe, and Bradbury, when did you first start reading Lovecraft?
I also read Lovecraft in my teens when all you could get were these cheap paperbacks with yellowed paper and lurid covers. Nothing like the beautiful annotated stuff that’s out there now with meticulous editing. I think my first Lovecraftian story that saw the light of day was “Tracking the Black Book,” which appeared in the Lovecraft eZine, also in 2012.
You have been published in Lovecraft eZine some, what other if any publications have you been published in?
Dark Discoveries published a story of mine that’s sort of a loose tie in to The Devil of Echo Lake. And lately I’m getting some things placed in anthologies like The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft from JournalStone, Tales From the Miskatonic Library from PS Publishing, and I Am the Abyss from Dark Regions.
Who is your favorite performer/band? Or top three if that is more feasible.
I’m pretty deep into Pink Floyd.
What is our favorite Pink Floyd album? Mine is Meddle. To make it easier maybe favorite Syd album vs. favorite post-Syd album?
Meddle is great! I’ll go with A Saucerful of Secrets for the Syd era and The Dark Side of the Moon for post. I’m more of a late era fan. It’s hard to not go with Wish You Were Here, but Dark Side is just a perfect album. Only Abbey Road comes close in my book. (I’m a big Beatles fan too, and have referenced one of their songs in every novel so far)
This leads into my next series of questions. This one I feel like I already know the answer to: Do you listen to music when you write? What kind of music? Does it change with what you are writing or do you always listen to the same music?
I don’t always write to music, but for novels I make a playlist of stuff that suits the mood I’m after or reminds me of a character and I loop it over and over and randomize it to give me momentum. Some of it is movie soundtracks and some is rock. For the trilogy I’m writing lately, it’s been lots of Tool.
You live in Lovecraft country, how far away are you from Providence? I assume you have done all the Lovecraft tourist stuff. What is your favorite Lovecraft site?
I’m not that close to Providence. I’ve been there for NecronomiCon but I was too busy to see the sights. But I do live near Newburyport, which features in The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and as far as I can tell we are pretty close to where Arkham would be if it was real. Although, Alan Moore equates Arkham with Manchester, New Hampshire in his new comic, Providence. That’s a fun theory, too.
What is your favorite Lovecraft story?
The one that comes to mind first is “The Haunter of the Dark.” It has a great opening and I just love all the trappings of that story. “The Colour Out of Space” and “The Dunwich Horror” are also contenders.
Other than yourself and Lovecraft who is your favorite author(s)? and what is your favorite work by them?
I had more of a pantheon when I was younger. The more I read widely, the less I have just a few idols. I get different things from different writers, both in and out of the genre, but I don’t think I’d be writing today if I hadn’t gone through a Clive Barker phase. I still consider Imajica a masterpiece.
I love Thief of Always, one of my favorites of all time. Barker is a master for sure.
That is another great one. I read it to my son not too long ago.
How long did you spend writing your first novel?
I wrote the first draft longhand for about 5 years on and off and then got serious about revisions for a couple of years. I was figuring out how to do it as I went along. It’s not a long book, but I ended up cutting a lot out of it.
How does this compare to your writing process these days? You said you were figuring it out as you went. What were you figuring out?
Just everything. How to write a book. Which is funny because I think Neil Gaiman said he told one of his mentors that he felt he’d finally figured out how to write a book when he finished American Gods, and the response was: you never figure out how to write a book; you only figure out how to write THAT book. And it’s true. Every book has a somewhat different set of needs and the process varies a bit according to that. But I think it does get easier with practice. If nothing else you gain some confidence from recognizing the hard parts and knowing you’ve found your way through them before. These days it takes me about a year to write and revise a 70 to 80,000 word novel. My latest, Black January took a little less than a year. I started making notes for it last August and just sent the final final edit to my publisher today. But that was a sequel, so a lot of the groundwork has already been laid in the previous book, Red Equinox.
On average how long do you “write” everyday? By writing I mean actually writing, thinking, and staring at the blank screen.
I’m not someone who writes every day. There might be a month when I’m just editing or working out ideas but that has a lot to do with also running a business and raising a kid. If writing were my only job, I’d have to write every day. When I’m working on a book, I do try to write every day with a minimum quota of 1,200 words. If I haven’t been on a project for a while, I might have to work my way up to that number. And when I’m in the flow, I might exceed it. The amount of time it will take me to hit the word count varies depending on how busy my day is with those other priorities, but on a good day, I can usually hit it in a couple of hours.
Do you write at home or somewhere else? If you write at home, do you have an office or just a shared space?
I usually write at home in my office. I recently inherited my grandmother’s desk, so that’s nice. It has a lot of sentimental value because she was an amateur writer and she typed up my first short stories on a big old IBM electric at the same desk. But the desk is a best case scenario. When I’m under deadline, I’ll try to get in a few paragraphs at my son’s karate class or in the backyard surrounded by my dogs, if they let me.
What did you think of the first season of the TV show True Detective? And what do you think of the boost in popularity in weird fiction due to the show?
I really enjoyed True Detective. It was a great mashup of crime, mystery, and philosophical horror. I love stories that keep you guessing about the nature of what’s really going on. I haven’t seen season 2, but I hear it was disappointing. It’s too bad because I felt like there was potential there to cast the season 1 events in a new light by referencing some of the same elements in a different location with different characters. And of course, it was great that season 1 brought mainstream attention to some writers of weird fiction who deserve wider exposure. It seems like weird and cosmic horror themes have been infecting pop culture lately like a virus. But I may be biased because I’m tuned into it.
Can we pre-order your new book, Black January, on Amazon yet? You said you just turned in the final edit, that must be exciting. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Currently, it’s only up for pre-order at the publisher’s web site: http://www.journalstone.com But in a couple of months it should pop up on amazon.
Black January is the second book in a trilogy of apocalyptic thrillers, but where the first book (Red Equinox) was an urban fantasy set in a near-future Boston flooded by climate change, this one takes place at an abandoned mansion in central Massachusetts. So it’s influenced by a lot of haunted house fiction, but with a cosmic slant.
This book is listed a “Spectra” novel, What plans do you have for this organization, this “world”?
SPECTRA stands for the Special Physics Counter Terror Recon Agency, a shadowy government agency that first appeared in Red Equinox. The main character of the trilogy is a photographer/urban explorer named Becca Philips. In the first book she gets caught between SPECTRA and a group of cultists of the Starry Wisdom Church who are using modern technology to awaken ancient gods. In Black January, Becca is enlisted by SPECTRA to investigate a weird house with shifting architecture and portals to another dimension. The house exploration team is trying to find these portals and make sure that entities from beyond can’t get through.
I’ve also been kicking around a SPECTRA anthology idea with my publisher, but I’m not sure if that will materialize. If we were to do it, I’d like to include authors from diverse backgrounds approaching the concept of this morally ambiguous counter-terror agency up against this persecuted apocalyptic religious group and their gods. The resonance of that to real world issues is what excites me, especially if it were approached by diverse writers from unexpected angles.
On a smaller scale, I recently wrote a SPECTRA story for the Lovecraft eZine about the first assignment of Agent Jason Brooks, a character from the books. That will be out in their next issue. But I’m also looking forward to writing some stand alone horror again that has nothing to do with SPECTRA or the Lovecraft mythos.
As an author, what do you think social media’s biggest impact has been on the publishing industry?
Probably that writers now spend more time reading and writing social media posts than books! And that ain’t good.
I think the marketing value of social media for books is overrated. It’s not a great advertising platform, and I don’t think we want it to be. You don’t go on social media to be marketed at, right? You go for a shared experience and to find out what cool things your friends are enjoying. That word of mouth passion for something is what sometimes helps writers, but it can’t really be manufactured.
What social media can be very good for is building networks where writers, editors, publishers and readers can connect in ways that sometimes lead to opportunities and cool creative projects and conversations (like this one).
Do you use a lot of social media marketing yourself? And if so how can our readers follow you and stay up to date on all things Spectra?
I’m pretty active on Facebook and a little bit on Twitter. My web site has links to both: http://www.dougwynne.com
What book(s) are you reading now?
Just finished Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones. It was excellent. A totally fresh literary take on werewolves that avoids all of the cliches. And I’ve just picked up Roses and Rot by Kat Howard, which puts a different spin on fairy tales. Also very good so far.
You are getting ready for a con, what con is it that you are going to?
Tomorrow I leave for NECON, the annual North East writers convention in Rhode Island. It’ll be my first time attending and I’m moderating a panel on Apocalyptic fiction. Should be fun.
And one question I almost forgot to ask: In your newest book, Red Equinox, you go into details of several occult rituals and expound on the philosophy of the Church of Starry Wisdom; How did you come up with that material? Did you or do you dabble or engage in any actual occult practice?
I did go through a bit of a Crowley phase. I’ve always been interested in techniques for altering consciousness, which ultimately led to what I suspect will be a lifelong study of Buddhism. But I still have bookshelves full of occult source material and some of that finds its way into the fiction. I like to say that magic is the art of altering your own consciousness and art is the magic of altering someone else’s.
And one last question; who do you think I should interview next?
Peter Rawlik always has interesting stuff to say about weird fiction and publishing.
In conclusion I would sincerely like to thank you for carving out bits of time to do this interview. I feel like we connected and I hope our readers feel they know you a little better due to our conversation. Talk to you again soon.
YouTube Channel: Exeter TV98
Featured image via Monsters and Miracles