What do you like most about the Appalachian Mountains as a story setting?
It really has to do with the region’s deep, rich history and staggering beauty. When I lived in the mid-Atlantic region, I’d take weekend trips out to the Blue Ridge Mountains. This was many years ago, but it left such an impression on me that I swore one day I’d use it as a story setting. You can feel the history in those old mountain towns. I’m not just talking about history related to the early settlers and colonial times, but back even further to the original indigenous peoples and the rich traditions of oral storytelling. Of course, you also have this gorgeous seasonality that gives the mountains a constant cycle of renewal and decay. I think I’m especially tuned into this because I grew up in the redwood mountains, which are beautiful in their own right but lack anything near the seasonality of the Appalachians. All of this taken together provides an ideal backdrop for a good, immersive story.
What draws you to writing folk horror stories? Are there particular themes that appeal to you?
I consider myself a bit of a tree-hugger, so the theme of environmental destruction in folk horror is very compelling to me. In Song of the Red Squire, one of the first things Charlie Danwitter notices when he arrives in Ashe County is how the hardwood forests have been clear-cut straight back to the ridgeline. As I understand it, the actual story is much worse. The American chestnut, which used to be called “the redwood of the East,” was essentially erased from the planet by the 1940s, due to a fungus introduced from Asia. Oaks, hickories, and poplars filled in, but the hardwood forests were never the same. Between the blight and the timber industry, human activity has been devastating to the Appalachian ecology (and everywhere else, of course). The disappearance of older, more sustainable ways of life is also a theme I’m interested in. Charlie’s main objective is to document old apple varieties before they go extinct due to the rise of factory farming and the consolidation of the agricultural industry. Modernism versus “the old ways” is definitely a theme at work in the book.
What are you working on next?
I have a handful of short stories I’m excited about. Some folk horror, Gothic, noir. I like the short story format because you really get a chance to experiment with different styles, different voices, and POVs. I’m a big believer in learning new storytelling techniques and approaching everything with a beginner’s mind. There have been a few authors talking about this lately, but the idea comes from a Zen practice that seeks to take the ego out of it as much as possible. It’s so much fun to get lost in the wonder of a story and let it be what it wants to be without the “writer mind” taking over and regulating the flow too much. I also think short stories provide an opportunity to work with new editors and presses and network with new writers. I first connected with Nosetouch Press because of an open call for short stories! After I’m done with these projects, I have a few novel ideas I’m going to outline. My hope is to begin writing my debut novel sometime in early ’22.
North Carolina, 1949. When agricultural inspector Charlie Danwitter is sent on a special assignment to bucolic Ashe County, he expects an easy job cataloging heirloom apple varieties. However, when the local farmers grow suspicious of his motives, Charlie finds himself in far more trouble than he bargained for. In an attempt to salvage his assignment, he follows a mysterious woman deep into the beating heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains to a long-forgotten village where harvest rituals are rooted in bizarre Old World customs—and discovers that some traditions are better left in the past.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
- Paperback: 170 pages | Novella
- Language: English
- ISBN-13: 978-1-944286-26-2 (paperback)
Also available as an ebook.