Saturday, August 23, 2014

Spine-Tingling Saturday and Interview #6: Spire in the Woods

Title: The Spire in the Woods
Author: TheBoyInTheClock
Posted on: October 2013
Location: Reddit

This ten part series was one of the first I fell in love with. Prior to The Spire in the Woods, I read mostly short stories that I could finish within a few minutes. But then I found this. And I read for hours. This story was truly spine-tingling. Like, I was legitimately freaked out, especially considering I have a fear of dolls.

The Spire in the Woods is a story about a guy who finds a strange (you guessed it) spire in the woods. He quickly becomes a little obsessed with the spire and its stories. And things start to happen... I really cannot recommend this series enough!

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview the author of this story this week! Hopefully this will bring a little bit of insight into the brain of an author of horror.


>How did you come to write Spire in the Woods? What was your inspiration?

Six years before I ever put pen to paper I had an image in my head of someone crossing a frozen lake in the dead of night completely alone. I had it in my head they'd just done something terrible and they didn't know what to do with themselves so they were going to go to this scary little island no one ever visited. That was it, it was less than an idea, but the image stuck with me.

>How long did the series take you start to finish? 

A few months. I didn't keep track exactly. I knew the beginning, middle, and end before I began writing it, but I didn't have any concept of how to estimate how much story I could fit in a page so I initially figured the story was going to be about a 1/5 of it's ultimate length and only take a few days to write. When I finally did finish it, I felt like I had missed the window to post it, so I stuck it in a draw for about six months before I even looked at it again.

>Is there any kind of message in your series that you want readers to grasp?

The importance of enthusiastic consent. There's a tendency people have to think of people who hurt others as monsters and, since they don't consider themselves to be monsters, then any hurt that they cause others is either the hurt party being too sensitive or justified by the particular circumstances - both of which are rarely the case. There's a variety of ways this manifests in the world, but what's central to the Spire is that if people (particularly young men) don't understand how their sexual behavior can be predatory regardless of their self image or intentions, they are much more likely to hurt people.

>If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything about Spire in the Woods? 

I am something of a glass is half empty sort of person. So there are small things that will always stand out to me that I may yet change just for myself or if the Spire is published as a novella.

>Why did you choose Reddit as your outlet? 

I enjoy the NoSleep community. I particularly find the 'everything is real even if it isn't' rule delightful. There's actually a long history of authors (and other artists) playing with that idea. Everyone probably thinks about the Blair Witch Project's viral marketing campaign, but for people a bit older the big debate was whether or not the Faces of Death franchise was real, and, while it was before my time, the trial of Deodato for his part in Cannibal Holocaust is also quite fascinating. Both of these probably grew out of the 1950's publicity stunts where studios would hire actors to pretend to be movie patrons that were so terrified by the latest monster flick they had a mental breakdown and needed to be carted off from the theater by other actors pretending to be doctors and nurses.

But toying with this line is actually a far older tradition dating back to 1719 and the publication of Robinson Crusoe. Robinson Crusoe, often cited as an early example of realistic fiction, was originally presented as a 'just history of fact.' When it was later exposed that there was no Robinson Crusoe and the tale was created by Daniel Defoe, Defoe had to defend himself from accusations of 'lying like the truth.'  And if we also consider obvious fictions peppered into otherwise nonfictional documents as examples of how reality and fiction is toyed with by an author  we'd have to go back at least as far as The Travels of Marco Polo (c. 1300).

Anyway, all this is to say that a community that encourages you to toy with reality like that and so willingly plays along with you is tremendously fun.

>What’s your real-life, non-Reddit job? 

IT for a large energy company.

>How much research did you do and what were the challenges (research, literary, psychological) in bringing this series to life?

I did quite a bit of research. I wanted to make as many of the mundane/real world details as accurate as I could so that anyone who really wanted to take the story to heart and thought to check them would find that they were accurate and the story would gain credibility in their minds. There is, of course, a line though that I have to be careful not to cross. The story is a work of fiction. There may be superficial resemblance to real people living or dead, or actual events in the real world, but the characters in the story are invented and not based on anyone.

>If you had a superpower, what would it be?

If I could choose, I'd probably want teleportation or maybe shapeshifting. I love traveling but hate how long it takes and am never comfortable on airplanes or buses. I miss the East Coast but, even with all the time in the world, can't really afford to get out there very often. As for shapeshifting, well, I've never been overly self confident, particularly when it comes to my looks. Being able to present a more polished image or slip off into the wilds as an animal are both attractive options.

>If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of this series, who would play your characters?

I don't think I have enough familiarity with teen actors to say.

>How have you enjoyed the reader response?

I've enjoyed it immensely, for the most part. I was slightly disturbed by one or two letters that insisted the narrator's actions were perfectly acceptable and Alina was the real villain of the piece, but the vast majority have understood the story and been very supportive. I've also really enjoyed people writing to ask more details about the Spire because they want to visit it and hear the bells for themselves - questionable reasoning, but very flattering.

>What secret talents do you have?

I'm a beast at Trivial Pursuit games published during my life time.

>Are you working on anything new at the moment?

I'm helping a friend develop their story. I'm also jotting down lots of notes for my next one which I hope to do as a full novel.

>Think you’ll ever write a book? You could definitely turn Spire in the Woods into one! 

I do and thank you.

>As an author of horror, what is your biggest fear?

You probably won't be surprised to learn I have pretty severe automatonophobia. I have no idea why. There weren't any creepy dolls in my attic growing up and I never got stuck in a fun house or anything. I guess I just perceive the uncanny valley a little too acutely.

>Do you read much and if so what is your favorite book?

I read a lot. Mostly non-fiction. I often feel like my brain is atrophying if I'm not reading. I'm not sure if I'd say I have a favorite book, though I was extremely fond of Tiger! Tiger! (lots of trigger warnings here) by Alfred Bester and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson when I read them as a much younger man.