This is pretty neat. A short interview with me about getting nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for short fiction this year. And it’s true: I learned I’d made it to the final ballot when folks congratulated me on Facebook. Neat-O! Now? Back to work!
Welcome to our third entry in “Know a Nominee,” the blog series that puts you inside the minds of this year’s Bram Stoker Awards nominees. Today’s interviewee is John Palisano, who’s nominated in the category of Superior Achievement in Short Fiction for his story, “The Geminis” (Chiral Mad 2, Written Backwards).
DM: Can you please describe the genesis for the idea that eventually became the work for which you’ve been nominated? In the case of a work wherein you’ve written multiple stories (like a collection) please choose your favorite part and discuss.
JP: “The Geminis” is an exorcism. A dream ruined my day. How could it not? In it, my insides were outside. Looking up toward the sky, the huge Hollywood hills around me, a mysterious, organic dark sphere hovered a few feet overhead, its string-like fingers connected and dipped deep inside my opened chest. My essence draining, the sphere’s scent overpowered me. It smelled like every good thing. Freshly cut grass. A fireplace. A baby’s cheek. A fantastic trap, and with a deadly, paralyzing payload. I felt no pain, but I heard music. A beautiful melody, with missing notes. I knew what notes to play, to complete it, but could not. Had I not spoken my true love to the pianist, we’d complete the melody. The spheres would be pacified, as would the worse things slumbering inside the hills, waking as the blood spilled, because there were others. As I looked around, spheres drained people up and down the hilly road. Every person I’d known would soon be dead. That’d only be the beginning. Then the pianist stopped and the hillside became eerily quiet.
When I woke, I decided I’d have to save the world from these hidden things. So I wrote “The Geminis” to get rid of that disturbing fever dream playing over and over in my head.
DM: What was the most challenging part of bringing your idea to fruition? The most rewarding aspect of the process?
JP: It was difficult to get the music of the writing just right. I did a pass where I tried to put a cadence to the words in places that would reflect that they were playing complementary sounds. It’s very subtle, but it’s there. May sound uber pretentious, however, it was just me having fun with it.
It’s rewarding when people read something you’ve written. Some asked me if the characters were based on me and someone I may have unrequitedly been in love with. I use moments from life to color characters, but this is make believe. It’s not a diary or a documentary, it’s a story. A parable. An idea.
As far as being in love, and it being unrequited? Countless times. I’m sure that’s more common than not. Who doesn’t fall in love a dozen times a month? You see some beautiful person, by chance, and you daydream and wonder, what would it be like? Could that be better? Worse? Forgettable? Magical? In a blink, we’re off into our lives again.
Addressing that moment, but sticking two people in that feeling, and making it happen endlessly, and that if they acted upon it, even knowing they’re destined, it’d be catastrophic, was me being a complete terrorist to them!
Fun fact: Lia’s name comes from Legato, shortened to Lea, then Lia because it looked pretty. Legato is a musical term that means notes are played together, smoothly, seamlessly.
DM: What do you think good horror/dark fiction should achieve? How do you feel the work for which you’ve been nominated work fits into that ideal?
JP: Great horror fiction needs to leave scars. It needs to spin the world a few degrees on its axis. It needs to make something inside you hurt, or feel, or get turned on by things you’re not supposed to get all hot and bothered by. When you’re done, it’s got to stay with you. Some of the best horror fiction does its best work long after you read it, when you’re still afraid of the dead coming back to life, or of being stoned after pulling a number, or of that little flash in the video right before the picture starts.
DM: I’m curious about your writing and/or editing process. Is there a certain setting or set of circumstances that help to move things along? Where do you often find yourself getting stuck, and why?
JP: Most my writing begins as longhand. I’d say it’s text, but I do draw primitive pictures. Sometimes I’ll draw a horrific dream image just so I can remember it later when life isn’t getting in the way of my addiction.
I write everywhere these days. Very little though, is at a traditional desk. Someone else’s chaos is not my chaos at home, so I can tune it out. I love airplanes, but have to pretend there’s no internet. Too distracted.
When I hit walls, I move. Go to a coffee shop. Another room. That usually works. The hardest part for me is if I’m writing a scene and it gets mapped out too thoroughly or quickly I lose interest. It’s not organic and feels false to me. So I try to not get bored if I already know the story.
DM: As you probably know, many of our readers are writers themselves. What is the most valuable piece of advice you can share with someone who may be struggling to make their way in this life?
JP: Remember what brought you: your love for story, and for getting that fix through words. It’s easy to get caught up and into the con/party loop, but just remember: the work needs to be the best it can be.
DM: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Bram Stoker Awards/WHC (if you are attending)? If not attending, what do you think is the significance of recognitions like the Bram Stoker Awards?
JP: Just seeing so many dear friends will be reason enough. Also looking forward to the inevitable whipped cream pie fight at the end of the ceremony, because everyone who’d lost, wins, and those who win lose!
It’s been an honor, privilege, and a few good natured laughs, too.
About John Palisano
John Palisano’s short stories have appeared in anthologies from PS Publishing, Terror Tales, Lovecraft eZine, Horror Library, Bizarro Pulp, Written Backwards, Dark Continents, Darkscribe, DarkFuse, Dark House, and, likely, one or two more ‘Dark’ places in there. Hard to say. They’re all so . . . dark. His novel Nerves was put out by Bad Moon Books and promptly placed in the “What the hell category is this?” section of Amazon. John writes all the time, but does his best not to look at the word counter until it’s absolutely necessary, less he have a flashback of glimpsing the abyss, like he did during a mandatory high school Calculus class. Google it. It happens. While you’re hunched over your phone, look up John on Facebook, because no one really goes to author’s websites anymore, do they? He’ll be the one who isn’t posting his daily word count, but you will find out how long it took him to walk the [expletive deleted] dogs.