-Interview by Desi D
1. What is your favorite horror trope? And why?
I love to explore the idea of unusual creatures. There are plenty of terrifying cryptids and creatures from religious folklore that are bizarre and intriguing for readers who are tired of sparkly vampires and hunky teenage werewolves. One of the first short stories I published appeared in NOT YOUR AVERAGE MONSTER, VOL. II, edited by Pete Kahle (Bloodshot Books), and featured a carnivorous tree. Japanese folklore is an especially rich vein in this regard. In fact, Asian folklore as a whole has some incredibly horrifying and compelling creatures that are hungering to have their stories told!
2. As a writer, how would you describe your muse? And your process?
My muse has proven to be such a capricious and inattentive bitch; so I am forced to find inspiration elsewhere…usually in strange places: nature documentaries, religious works, historical biographies, etc, all of which I touch on in the introduction to my latest collection, CORPSE HONEY: A BANQUET OF GRUESOME TALES. Chuckle… I think the real trick to finding “inspiration” is tweaking your awareness to notice the fantastic and amazing things that are occurring all around you — the unusual and the unappreciated things. I find a lot of inspiration in nature — particularly in the insect world. Those poor little critters suffer horrors that we can’t imagine! I always find it interesting to extrapolate the savagery and degradation seen in their world and explore how my characters respond to those sorts of predations.
3. What author has been your biggest inspiration to write? And why?
Well, I enjoy reading different authors for different reasons. Of course, I love King’s story telling (just not his endings…ugh! Can I get a witness?); I love Jonathan Carroll’s characters and style; I love William Gibson’s sophistication and subtlety…his use of language is superb; I love Tad Williams and Stephen Donaldson for their world making and sheer imaginative prowess. And I like HP Lovecraft for tone (even if I find his style a bit hard to take at times) and sheer weirdness.
I think the key to being a decent writer is to read widely and see what resonates with you as a reader. As a writer, you try (with varied success) to reflect those elements that you found appealing in other writer’s work. We are all pieces of the things we love. Or, more prosaically: Our ideas are all part of the same compost heap.
4. What is it about the art of creating short horror stories that excite you? And of course, what is the next story we can look forward to reading from you?
I love the thrill of slipping under a reader’s guard and finding that vulnerable place—somewhere they weren’t expecting it. I like to say that my stories “get in your head.” They linger and burrow into the soft furrows of your brain…and lay eggs there.
I am currently working on a story that takes place in Il Bosco Dei Suicidi, the Forest of Suicides located on the edge of the Abominable Wastes in Dante’s Hell. I am exploring the fate of Dr. Bruce Ivins, the alleged perpetrator of the anthrax mailing that occurred in 2001. The story is called: “…And The Stars Are Different Here…” I am also expanding a couple of my short stories into novellas and publishing those in a collection. I hope to have this completed no later than 2024. You can follow my progress on these and other stories on my website: michaelpicco.com