As part of my participation in the publication of Wrapped in Black: Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult, I have the extreme good fortune to be able to interview my co-contributors. I’m working through them in the order of their stories in the book. In this post, I pose my questions to Gregory L. Norris, author of “Comes the Rain” and many other works.
Michael: Wrapped in Black is an anthology of stories about witches and the occult so let’s get right down to the meat: do you believe in magic and the powers of those who claim to practice it? There’s no wrong answer, of course, but if you say yes and then don’t tell at least a little of the story I am going to be serving some serious side-eye.
Gregory: I do believe in magic and the ethereal. Call it a healthy dose of superstition, if you will, but I feel strongly in that whole thing about what you project into the world leading to what the world projects back in your direction. In other words, if you’re a fire-breathing horror to others, you can expect to get singed by life in return. I’m kind to everybody until they drive the cold steel devochka into my back… and then I kill them in my stories, which is the most poetic of revenge scenarios. I also believe in the power of writing, of inspiration and creativity. There are times when the work unleashes such a high level of joy that I swear I’m a kid again, reliving the happiest moments of my life. That’s sorcery of the best kind!
Michael: Why horror?
Gregory: Why not Horror? I grew up on a very healthy dose of Saturday afternoon creature double features—giant rubber suit monsters, mummies, and supernatural menaces. There were days following the conclusion of such films as Attack of the Mushroom People when I was afraid to go outside to play. To this day, I remember that emotion and try to recreate it in the stories short and long that I pen, even in the feature films I’ve been hired to write. I love the delicious fright of Halloween in my corner of New England and often travel back to my boyhood in my imagination—my mother would put the soundtrack to Dark Shadows on the record player and broadcast it out a window to spook all the trick or treaters. I also love science fiction, fantasy, romance, mystery, and have even developed a passion for westerns after writing and selling several this past summer.
Michael: As writers, we’re supposed to be tired of being asked where we get our ideas. (Personally, I love hearing myself talk.) Thus, I’m not asking that: I’m not asking from where in your brain your ideas come (unless you want to tell me). Instead, I’m curious as to whether there’s a physical location or activity you find particularly helpful. For my part, I go running when I need ideas. There are specific trails and dark wooded places where I can put my body to work on that repetitive task and my brain will eventually start coughing up inspiration.
Gregory: Last year, we bought an old New Englander house in the north country of New Hampshire. We packed up all we owned, moved 150 miles away from everything and everyone we knew, and started a new life with an amazing view of Mount Washington and the Androscoggin River from our windows. Within an hour of unloading the moving van, I met my very first local writer here in the grocery store—she’s now one of my closest friends. A month later, I’d started a fantastic writers’ group that meets every Tuesday night. That’s all back-story for the actual answer, Michael. I love my house and usually don’t leave it unless it’s a Tuesday night for the meeting or to attend a writing retreat (I just returned from one to Maine). This past Saturday night, our town held its annual pumpkin festival and River Fire (they light all the boom islands along the river on fire, and towering flames blaze for hours), and several of my writer friends and I moseyed down to take it all in. Throughout, we all mentioned how inspired we were to write stories involving the pumpkins and those columns of fire. I love this house, and in particular my Writing Room, where I romance and am romanced by the Muse. My problem isn’t a lack of ideas, but a plethora of them. Not really a problem, I know! But as an example, I was all set to begin work on my NaNoWriMo novel on November 1 when a lit agent in New York City approached me about writing a fantasy novel. By the end of the day, I had an entire outline for this novel merely by sitting down, letting my mind wander, and figuring out the story, the characters, their journey. And I was so madly in love with the results that I’ve shifted things around to make sure this novel gets the November treatment before the other idea. Ideas for me are everywhere, and many of them have followed me around from my earliest days on Spaceship Earth. I just wrote a short story about possession and family secrets called “The Petrified Forest” based upon an image in a book I saw at my grandmother’s house over forty years ago (that same book, containing color images of the Petrified Forest, is now in my Writing Room on a shelf with a lot of the neat books that were handed down to me). I don’t go looking for ideas, and haven’t in a long time. They find me. Some 140 unwritten ones, as of this moment, according to the note cards in my catalog of story ideas!
Michael: What work (horror or otherwise) do you most wish you had written, and why?
Gregory: I’m honestly not envious of other writers’ ideas or published works, but I do love to read certain masters, like Shirley Jackson—her We Have Always Lived in the Castle is so haunting, so fabulous. And I’m just a sucker for anything by Edgar Allen Poe; in fact, I’ve appeared in print twice now with my favorite author, which is totally humbling and just flipping cool.
Michael: You and your favorite writer are stuck in an elevator while repair crews try to rescue you. What do you ask them? Do you have a grand time together or do they eagerly anticipate their escape?
Gregory: Last month, I had a dream that Richard Castle (from the TV show) and I were having an incredible conversation about our shared love of writing. We referenced that rush of inspiration that comes from seeing your work in print, and when you put THE END on a novel’s first draft. It was really, truly just like the elevator scenario you mention.
Michael: What’s next for you? How can we keep up with your goings-on?
Gregory: I have a collection of three novellas called Tales From the Robot Graveyard due out shortly by the fine folks at Great Old Ones Publishing, and the first of two movies I wrote the scripts for, Brutal Colors, will have a limited theatrical release in select cities in early 2015 (and be available in Red Box and Walmart thereafter). The second feature film is due to go before the cameras in winter of 2015 and has some nifty star power attached. I’ve got short stories coming out in a variety of releases, and, hopefully, that fantasy novel, which is as yet untitled. Those interested in my latest literary adventures can friend me on Facebook or check out my blog, which I update frequently, at www.gregorylnorris.blogspot.com.