Next up for my five-ish questions for co-contributors to Wrapped in Black: Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult is Nick Kimbro. Nick is a martial artist and a widely published author with a ton of credits to his name. This story had me from the very first line, and the opening paragraphs are absolutely beautiful in their stark imagery and sound and the world Nick starts to unpack for us. Believe me, you want to read this story.
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.
Nick: “Belief” is a very strong word to me. There’s not a whole lot of things that I “believe” in, per se, although I am very open to and interested in various forms of religion, mysticism and, yes, also magick. Hӓxenhaus was actually conceived as a way for me to blow off steam from another witch novel I was working on at the time, and was constructed sort of piecemeal from various research sources I was using. Throughout that process, I read a number of “real” grimoires and books on magickal practice, and found the reasoning behind a lot of it compelling and at least a little bit convincing. The explanation that made the most sense to me basically compared magick to the execution of any intention. For instance, if I want to take a sip of water, it begins with an intention to do so which is then transformed into energy, then manipulated to control my hand picking up the glass, bringing it to my lips, etc. Magick, as I understand it, is merely an extension of this very basic process, except it involves the use of ritual to project those intentions and to manipulate fields of energy beyond one’s own body. Makes sense to me, although that could be owing to my own limited understanding of science and physiology. When it comes down to it, taking a sip of water is equally mystical to me 😉
Nick: I don’t know. There’s something very nostalgic about it for me; I was always a fan of horror from the time I was a child. But I think there is also something very honest about it. The contract between a horror writer and her audience is very forthright: “I am going to try and scare you.” But it’s also very technical and creative because you have to then make good on that promise despite the reader’s expecting it. I think it’s also a way of exploring certain spiritual ideas and anxieties—at least supernatural horror. But all horror, obviously, in one way or another attempts to grapple with the idea of Death.
I try to be careful not to oversell all of that stuff though. Ultimately, I just like it.
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.
Nick: I read. Both fiction and non-fiction pertaining to whatever subject I’m interested in writing about. I also keep a stack of notecards handy so that I can rattle off whatever stupid ideas occur to me without forcing them into any kind of narrative prematurely. Works every time.
Michael: What work (horror or otherwise) do you most wish you had written, and why?
Nick: The Shining, definitely. As well as any number of Laird Barron stories. I’ve tried imitating him a number of times, but can never quite pull it off. I think that as a horror writer I am much more drawn to existing tensions and fears such as the occult, demons, ghosts, etc, than to the terrible things we don’t know about but which exist behind/beyond our mundane perceptions (i.e. the Weird). I love reading Weird fiction and think that Laird Barron, for my money, is the best at it, although there’s something about my constitution as a writer that makes it uncomfortable for me to write that stuff. Maybe it’s just one of those walls I have to push through. We’ll see. In any case, I doubt I’ll stop trying.
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?
Nick: Laird Barron. I try to get a feel for how much he actually believes in the stuff he writes, his knowledge and experience with occult practice. I also have gathered from social media that he’s a martial artist, or at least into martial arts. I am also a martial artist, so once we’ve exhausted the previous topic, probably we relieve the tension of being stuck in an elevator together by sparring.
Joe R. Lansdale, I know, is also a martial artist. Wouldn’t mind a shot at him too ; )
Michael: What’s next for you? How can we keep up with you?
Nick: I’m currently seeking publication for my aforementioned witch novel, The Obscene Kiss. Here’s a description.
Children are missing in Boulder, Colorado. Four in the past three months, to be exact. There are no leads, no bodies. The most credible theory is that they’ve been victims of a wildlife attack—a rogue mountain lion, most likely. But when a clearing is discovered in the woods, lined with bones and esoteric signs upon the ground, one radical group of church-goers begins to develop another theory: that witches are responsible. Not the new age, earth-is-your-friend kind. The other kind.
THE OBSCENE KISS (70,000 words) is a literary horror novel written as a book of shadows—a spell book shared by covens of witches. The collection of interlinking first-person voices stalks the situation while revealing it through different sets of eyes. An empty-nester joins a book club that turns out to be a coven of witches. A woman turns her next door neighbor into a familiar, and nurses her while battling her children. A man strikes his wife and is convinced he’s been possessed by demons.
It is a novel haunted by what it cannot know—about relationships, mysteries, and magic. The characters all use language in various ways; to tell their stories, but also to validate them. Meanwhile the missing children linger at the edges of each narrative, egging them onward, a silent chorus of mounting terror. Each chapter is an accounting, yes, but also a spell, and none more potent than the novel itself.