I’m going to preface this interview by saying Solomon Archer – who once asked me to call him Archer – is absolutely one of the most interesting authors with whom I’ve shared a table of contents and I don’t mean that as a backhanded compliment: I mean there are ways in which he is genuinely mysterious and intriguing that just fascinate me. His story “Into the Light” appears in Wrapped in Black: Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult and, having read some of his other work, he really has something awesome going on in that brain of his.
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.
Archer: I honestly don’t know how to answer this. If you’d asked if I had ever experienced or witnessed magic, I’d say “hmm, Michael, that’s a good question but no, not that I can freely recall.” Unless you count Criss Angel or David Blaine, but let’s be honest – I don’t think anyone counts David Blaine. I’d believe in magic if David Blaine ever showed some kind of facial expression beyond clinical levels of constipated ennui, but other than that I think Fox Mulder from the X-Files said it best: I want to believe.
Archer: Well, unless you’re in complete denial, you have to admit that life is pretty scary. And I don’t mean in a Fox News-whip-the-masses-into-a-frenzy-about-ebola sort of way. I mean life is deadly. No one – not one person EVER – has made it out alive. No one’s even come close. Think about all the things that could kill you any second of any day: (1) heart attack, (2) motor vehicle accident, (3) blender mishap, (4) falling in the shower, breaking your neck, and drowning in a steady stream of water into your gaping mouth as your cat sits on the toilet watching the life drain out of you, listlessly licking herself and wondering when you’re gonna stop staring at her in horror and refill her food dish. And those are only the four most common ways to die. So we’re all gonna die. Some of us before these interview questions are even published. It’s kind of depressing when you think about it, which I suppose “why horror.” It’s the purest form of sublimation – a great way to experience our fears without being consumed by them. Unless your greatest fear is about being consumed. In that case, I guess you’re kinda screwed.
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.
Archer: As cliché as it sounds, one of the most reliable places I get ideas is from my dreams. I suppose because I’m a shrink my friends often tell me about their dreams and almost without exception I feel kind of guilty when I hear them. Not because of the bizarre content or anything. Quite the opposite. Just last week, a female friend of mine said this to me: “Last night I had the strangest dream. I was at a Coke machine but instead of inserting a dollar or quarters, I was shoving potato chips into the coin slot. But that’s not the weirdest part! When I chose a drink (it was a Fresca, not even a Coke like I’d wanted to get) what came out was Lipton Cup-O-Noodle soup! How bizarre is that? What do you think it means?” And I’m sitting there thinking about the dream I had the night before about being tortured by human sized larvae who were violently shoving carnivorous eels into a ragged hole they’d cut in my perineum after forcing me to eat my own eyelids so I couldn’t look away from my family tethered by their intestines to three blades of a ceiling fan that spun so fast their screams all blended into one terrifying howl that for some reason got me aroused.
So I’m sort of half-listening to this woman and I’m thinking of a polite way to tell her that I have no idea what her dream means because she’s given me absolutely zero context for it and I’m struck by an overwhelming feeling of sorrow that her potato-chip-coin-slot-Cup-O-Noodles dream is probably the strangest thing that has entered her mind in recent history so I keep my mouth shut about my own dreams and I just agree that hers was indeed “freaky”. Then I spend the better part of the day wondering just what the hell is wrong with me and how I can work those eels into a story.
Michael: What work (horror or otherwise) do you most wish you had written, and why?
Archer: I would have been proud to call Lord Of The Flies (Golding), A Wrinkle In Time (L’Engle), or Roadmarks (Zelazny) mine. L’Engle’s and Zelazny’s works ignited my imagination when I was a kid and piqued my curiosity about hidden worlds. I’d love to have that kind of influence on young minds. And I would choose LOTF because it so beautifully captured the innate brutality of man and the futility of trying to establish order in the face of emotional reasoning. That, and I relish the idea of forcing high school students to read my work for a grade.
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?
Archer: If I were trapped in an elevator with Stephen King, I’d really want to ask him how his craft changed after he was hit by that van in 1999. It seems to me that his stories before that incident were far more intimate and frightening than those that followed. I’d want to know if he felt like the horror muse that lived inside him died from the head injury he suffered in the accident. I’d also ask for autographed copies of his contrast MRIs ‘cause they’re gonna be worth something some day.
Michael: What’s next for you? How can we keep up with your goings-on?
Archer: There are several writing projects in the works for me right now. (1) PsyKu – I am excited to announce that my first book will be published through Sekhmet Press in the next several months. PsyKu is a collection of forensic haikus based on over a decade of working with mentally ill offenders in prisons, jails, and state hospitals. The “Seasons” in PsyKu reflect different stages of the criminal justice process:
- Summer – commission of the crime
- Fall – arrest and prosecution
- Winter – incarceration
- Spring – release and transition back to society
The book also showcases the work of the incredibly talented Andrew Wood, a Portland-based artist with a wicked imagination and a tenuous hold on reality.
(2) Critical Mass – a story about a pile of dirty laundry that becomes self-aware and develops a taste for human organs.
(3) The Disciple Complex – a fictional novel about child abduction and human trafficking.
Other News: I was just recently named the winner of the 2014 Modern Masters of the Macabre contest. This was a creature feature writing contest that involved writing a brief story that had to incorporate three primary elements: (1) creature origin, (2) place of attack, and (3) a critical item that had to be integrally related to the story. Everyone who entered got three different elements. I was assigned Oceanic Trench [creature origin], New York [place of attack], and Teddy Bear [critical item]. The stories were VERY short (the podcast limit was ten minutes, which works out to about 2000 words) so you can probably finish reading it in a quick bathroom sitting. You can read my story “Surface Tension” here.
Solomon Archer Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/psykuofficial
PsyKu Squarespace: http://psyku.net/
PsyKu WordPress site: http://psykubook.wordpress.com/