Blurring The Line is the new anthology of horror fiction and non-fiction, edited by award-winning editor Marty Young, published by Cohesion Press. You can get your copy here or anywhere you normally buy books (the print edition is coming any day now).
To help people learn a bit more about it, I’ve arranged for each fiction contributor to answer the same five questions, and I’ll be running these mini interviews every weekday now that the book is available.
Annie Neugebauer (@AnnieNeugebauer) is a short story author, novelist, and award-winning poet. She has stories and poems appearing or forthcoming in over fifty venues, including Black Static, Fireside, DarkFuse, and Buzzy Mag. She’s an active member of the Horror Writers Association, the webmaster for the Poetry Society of Texas, and a columnist for Writer Unboxed. She lives in Texas with her sweet husband and two diabolical cats. You can visit her at www.AnnieNeugebauer.com for blogs, creative works, free organizational tools for writers, and more.
1. What was the inspiration/motivation behind your story in Blurring The Line?
A few years ago I read the nonfiction book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. In it, the author very briefly mentions The Mellified Man, or human mummy confection, a purportedly true practice in ancient Arabia cited by sixteenth-century Chinese pharmacologist Li Shizhen. This was the custom of elderly people sacrificing themselves by consuming only honey until death, so their bodies could be turned into a medicinal substance believed to heal all sorts of ailments when ingested.
The claim was bizarre enough to catch my fancy, and off I ran. When Cohesion Press announced this anthology asking for stories that blurred the line between fact and fiction, I knew “Honey” was the perfect fit. I took the supposedly true legend and put my own spin on it, bringing it into modern times.
2. What does horror mean to you?
Do you want the 1,000 word answer or the 50,000 word one? Kidding, sort of. This is a topic I’m incredibly passionate about. I’ve blogged about it several times, both for the Horror Writers Association and on my own website. “Thoughts on IT by Stephen King, What it Takes to Enjoy Horror, and Why I Write It” is my most popular, thanks in large part to Anne Rice sharing it with her followers. I also have “What Is Horror?,” “Why Horror Should Be Its Own Genre,” and “Reclaiming Horror.”
But I’ll give you the shorter answer. Defining horror, for me, comes down to fear. Fear is subjective, so it doesn’t have to scare me personally (although that’s ideal), but it does have to be written with the intent of unsettling, unnerving, frightening, or disturbing the reader. There are a lot of politics and prejudices that go into labels, so some of horror’s best works often evade the descriptor “horror,” but at the end of the day, that doesn’t change what they are. Horror is an emotion, and to me, anything written with the intent of creating that emotion is horror, from Mary Shelley to Jack Ketchum to Franz Kafka.
But maybe you mean what does horror mean to me, personally? That’s tricky to answer, because it means so much. Horror is the nostalgia of staying up late on Sunday nights to watch The X-Files with my dad. Horror is hearing “The Raven” read aloud after looking up all the vocabulary words and allusions. Horror is seeing Halloween for the first time with my best friend in high school. Horror is the thrill of walking through a haunted house. It’s trick-or-treating. It’s scaring my friends with my own stories. It’s the first short story I ever had published. It’s what inspires me to sit down every day and work until my wrists are sore and my eyes burn. Horror is the torch and the darkness both – it’s the unconquered nightmare I walk through to prove to myself that I can. It’s my livelihood, my passion, my boogie man, and my friend. Horror is my life.
3. What’s a horror short story that you think everyone should read?
My first answer is “everything by Poe,” but since most people have at least read Poe’s classics, I’ll go for something I think less people are familiar with. One of my favorite horror shorts is “The Tooth” by Shirley Jackson. It doesn’t have the big bang ending that her more famous story “The Lottery” boasts, but it has a subtlety and quiet eeriness that left me absolutely unraveled. I think Jackson is a master of literary horror, and I’m honestly not sure why more people don’t talk about her.
4. What horror novel should everyone read?
Stephen King’s The Shining is famous for a reason, so I always suggest people start with that. It’s my personal number one as far as “scary” goes. Less known and more modern, Bird Box by Josh Malerman absolutely knocked my socks off. And I’m a hardcore fan of House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, but it’s admittedly not for everyone. You really have to love literary fiction and long, complex, experimental works, but if you do, this one might just become your favorite book. It’s one I know I’ll reread many times in my life.
5. Name something that you think just might be real, or might not…
Hm, that’s hard. I’m a pretty grounded realist; I don’t believe in ghosts or spirits or anything supernatural. (Ironic, I know.) So I guess for me the “might or might not” things are those which we haven’t disproven but that we also haven’t discovered, like aliens or various animals living in the few underexplored parts of our planet. The unknown creatures that swim in the deepest parts of the ocean inspired my poem “The Hadal Zone,” for example. My fancy is always captured by the real, unknown things that might still be out there, waiting.
Previous posts in the Blurring The Line interview series:
Lia Swope Mitchell
Gregory L Norris
Steven Lloyd Wilson
James A Moore
Alex C Renwick
Lisa L Hannett
Kealan Patrick Burke
Charles L Grant