Today, I am delighted to be able to chat to bestselling author, Peter Giglio, whose Vampire Horror novella, ‘A Spark in the Darkness’ has recently been published by Etopia Press.
If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a bit of background to the story:
On the final day of her second life, Edie returns to the family she abandoned five years earlier. Edie is not merely a vampire, she’s a Goddess…one of the vanishing race of beings the vampires need to keep their kind alive. But being dead has taught her much about life, and Edie’s determined to destroy the evil thing she’s become. For something has changed within her, something almost alive in her dead soul. But can a single spark in the darkness be enough to save all she holds dear?
Catherine: Welcome Peter and congratulations on ‘A Spark In The Darkness’, which I found unputdownable. With the plethora of vampire tales around, how difficult did you find it to be fresh and original and where was your starting point?
Peter: Greetings Cat! I’m honored to be your guest today. Originality can be achieved in any subgenre of horror, but the author must approach the story as a story, not a gimmick. When someone tells me their story is about zombies or about vampires, I shudder. Good horror should never be about devices. Monsters are devices, a way of escalating conflict. But they should never be the subject. My starting point was an abandoned vampire novel titled Never Mine. The reason I didn’t execute with that novel is that it wasn’t original enough. Some of the elements of A Spark in the Darkness were present, but the heart was missing. Writing that book would have been an exercise, not a labor of love. One day I started writing a short story that began with a woman in a bar, a story that was never conceived as a vamp tale. The opening bits of A Spark in the Darkness poured out, my muse singing in my ear as my fingers clattered keys. Then my muse whispered, “Never Mine.” I snatched the outline of that long forgotten novel and changed course. I merged the two concepts and found a story with pulse. I really love the result and I hope others will too.
Catherine: You are said to be fascinated by ‘institutional evil’. Your earlier novel ‘Anon’ was centred on this. Could you define this for us and tell us more about why this fascinates you?
Peter: My father’s a historian so I’ve always been fascinated with the past. Most forget that Hitler was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in 1938. Germany loved their Führer, because, as it has been said many times, the trains ran on time. These are hard pills to swallow in light of how history played out. But this example raises serious questions about the nature of humanity. Put simply: if we have what we want and need, we tend to be complicit to institutional evil. And like the frog in boiling water, we don’t realize the dire impact of inaction until it’s too late. Looking at the world banking issues in the last few years, I started thinking about this more. People got loans for houses they couldn’t afford, so who was complaining? Immediate gratification speaks volumes in today’s society. The mantra “Too big to fail” feels like a cheer for Godzilla or King Kong. As long as things are well in our back yards, we turn blind eyes on our fellow man. I’m simplifying, of course, but you get the point. Institutions—companies, churches, governments, etc.—have great influence over people. Sometimes these powers are good and might is used responsibly. But too often the opposite is true. I like moving institutional evil into horror. It fits. But it’s not likely something I’ll keep exploring. I’ve done it, now I’m ready to move on. Bentley Little is a brilliant author who has explored these conceits. His novel The Store took on Wal-Mart indirectly. The Association took on those nasty little home owners associations. The Policy took aim at insurance companies. With Anon I wasn’t as direct as Mr. Little. Instead of focusing on the entities of power, I focused on us. How do we react? What mistakes do we make? The lesson: the more evil we allow, the more evil we become.
Catherine: Looking ahead, what do you think the future looks like for Horror writers and where do you see the genre going?
Peter: Hard to say, Cat. Things are cyclical. The ‘70s and ‘80s were very good for horror. In the ‘90s, horror all but vanished. In the last ten years horror has made something of a comeback, but the same problems of the ‘80s have crept in—oversaturation! There will always be an audience for horror, but authors must focus on good storytelling. I’ve read many books in the last few years that left me cold—that felt like exercises rather than soul searching. Writing isn’t just a job for me—it’s how I express myself. If I was a better artist, I’d paint. If I was a better orator, I’d give speeches. I don’t express myself: Jack and Jill went up the hill. I write: Jack considered the hill. And Jill considered Jack, realizing just how much she hated him. As a reader, I don’t want three hundred pages of story beats. I want something deeper. Depth takes time, but if more writers take the time it will solve the oversaturation problem, and give us all better material to read. If we collectively get this, the future is bright. But immediate gratification looms large again, doesn’t it?
Catherine: You have written novels, novellas, short stories and a screenplay. Do you have a preferred medium and, if so, what is it and why?
Peter: No. Storytelling is storytelling, regardless of medium. There are different considerations and techniques with each form, but I love the processes equally, the intent always the same.
Catherine: What about a film of ‘A Spark In The Darkness’? You would write the screenplay, of course, but who would you love to direct it – and who would you like to play Edie?
Peter: I’d love Stanley Kubrick to helm the project, but he’s dead. Realistically, I’d like John Skipp, Eric Shapiro, or Charles Pinion to direct. They’re all brilliant indie filmmakers who I respect and admire. And I want to write the screenplay with my writing partner Scott Bradley. We wrote a feature-length adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s “The Night They Missed the Horror Show,” and getting financing for that project takes priority. The script has been endorsed by Mr. Lansdale and has received high praise among a small circle of filmmakers. As for casting the role of Edie, I like comedic actress Aubrey Plaza—she’d bring the right sense of apathy and bitchiness, but she’d also light up the screen with her eyes and talent.
Catherine: Here’s your chance to enter into the great epublishing v print book debate. Who will be the winners and losers? Can they co-exist happily? In 30 years time, on what medium/media will we read stories?
Peter: They can co-exist. I don’t see eBooks as an end to print. I see it as a new delivery system for words. Words have always come first, and since we’ve long been in an electronic age, the eBook is really overdue. Booksellers fight the eBook, and I understand this reaction. But I think a better solution exists. I’d like to see a way for indie bookstores to effectively sell eBooks. They could plug Kindles and Nooks into the register and conduct point of sale transactions. But this takes patience and innovation on the part of booksellers and publishers, many of them struggling right now. Patience is a hard virtue to demonstrate when creditors beckon, so action is needed now rather than later. Personally, I’ll always surround myself with print books—the smell, the spines, the cover art, the thrill of opening an old first edition and finding it inscribed. But how one reads the words is irrelevant. Look at how movie studios bundle—Blu-Ray+DVD+Digital Copy. What if a digital copy came with the print book? This would provide the desired portability of many titles at once while promoting the print book. It’s not one or the other—that’s what people don’t understand. It’s about integration and giving people more options. One price, all formats. Think about it publishers and vendors. Is it really such a crazy idea? Print books in stores could have a disc inside. Seems like a no-brainer to me, but who am I?
Catherine: What are you currently working on?
Peter: Scott Bradley and I are working on a novel under contract. The novel is called The Dark, and it’s coming along nicely, nearing completion. Also, Scott and I are continuing efforts to get our screenplay made. I’m the Executive Editor with Evil Jester Press and I’m currently working on several editing projects. I stay very busy, but I always have time for readers at www.petergiglio.com.
Catherine: Who is your all-time favourite horror author and if you could interview them, say, on a TV chat show, what questions would you want to ask them?
Peter: Stephen King is my favorite, but he has given so many interviews that I’d be hard pressed to ask original questions. I’d like to interview John Farris, a bestselling horror author that has been out of the limelight for more than a decade, and a far more reclusive man than Mr. King. I’d ask him a lot of questions about working with Brian De Palma on The Fury, but I’d, more pointedly, want to know what he made of Alan Parker’s Angel Heart. Angel Heart was based on William Hjortsberg’s brilliant novel Falling Angel, but I’ve always contended that it’s equally influenced by Farris’ All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By, my favorite horror novel ever. I’d share this observation with him, breaking down the changes Parker made from Hjortsberg’s novel and how they parallel the structure and story of Farris’ novel. I’d like to see what he made of these things, and if he’d ever considered the subtle (and alternately glaring, in my opinion) similarities. Everyone watching, Farris included, would probably be confused, and the interview would implode. This is why I don’t do TV interviews—not in my wheelhouse.
Catherine: Thank you very much for joining us today, Peter. Where can we find out more about you and, crucially, where can we find ‘A Spark In The Darkness?
Peter: A Spark in the Darkness is available from all major online retailers—Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. You can also find my anthology, Help! Wanted: Tales of On-the-Job Terror (featuring Stephen Volk, Joe McKinney, Jeff Strand, Gary Brandner, Vince Liaguno, Amy Wallace, Eric Shaprio, Lisa Morton, Scott Bradley, Mark Allan Gunnells, Henry Snider, and many more), and my novel Anon at these places. www.petergiglio.com is a great place to learn more about me and my work, watch book trailers, and contact me personally. I’ll see you there.
Here’s an excerpt to give you just a flavour of ‘A Spark In The Darkness’:
They stopped in front of an eighteen-wheel monstrosity. RANDY’S TRUCKING, Ravenswood, West Virginia was stenciled in blood-red letters across the clean, white cab.
“Your chariot awaits, milady,” he said.
“You’re a truck driver?” Shit-faced drunk even by her own quasi-alcoholic sensibilities, she couldn’t hide the surprise in her voice. He didn’t look like any trucker she’d ever met. Not that she had anything against truck drivers. Hell, if it weren’t for the lonely working men and women of the road, she never would have made it this far.
This far? she asked herself, grimacing at her own deluded sense of reality.
“Why else would I hang out at a dump like this?” Randy said. He opened the door, and threw Edie’s suitcase into the back of the cab-over. Wrapping strong arms around her waist, he helped her into the passenger seat. “Besides, Brandi,” he said sternly, “I’m hauling freight bound for Toledo and Cleveland—Omaha’s right on the way.”
Edie admired her surroundings: black leather seats, a red cab liner, and video screens mounted above both ends of the windshield. The opulence of the cab spoke to Randy’s impeccable taste, making it easy to shake off his increasingly uneven demeanor, swinging wildly between gentleness and prickishness.
She marveled at the dark tint of the windows, barely able to see the dusk-lit prairie through them. The pleasant scent of sandalwood and cinnamon tickled her nose as she ran her fingers across the plush liner, the finest velvet she’d ever touched.
“Best digs you’ve seen in a while, huh?” he said, climbing into his seat.
Mouth agape, she nodded.
“If a man’s gotta do this work then he might as well do it in comfort.”
The engine roared. Lights dimmed. Video screens came alive with pulsing, blue-hued shapes.
Lovely, she thought.
Then the hectoring twang of country music sliced through the calm.
“Eww.” Her smile turned into a frown. “Seriously, Randy, what’s with the fucking hoedown?”
Bathed in azure light, he returned her glare, images from the monitors dancing like hell-bent angels in his eyes. “Come on now, Edie,” he growled. “I know they have country music in Los Angeles.”
A rapid series of mechanized clicks pinged through the cab.
“How did you…?”
Suddenly cold, she pressed herself against the door, desperately seeking the latch with her right hand. Trembling, she gasped, unable to breathe, unable to form words. She found the latch, frantically tugged on it. No use. It was locked.
She pressed her face against tinted glass, looking for someone—anyone—and managed a thin scream that ricocheted around her.
Above the din of her own distress, she heard a hollow cracking sound. Dead tree branches? No. Bones. Wild animals invaded her mind’s eye, pulverizing dry limbs with sharp-toothed jaws.
She whirled on Randy, ready to fight. But what she saw froze her blood. Randy’s cheekbones grew large and sharp. His eyes—silver orbs—widened, chin burgeoning downward. Hair receded. Tanned flesh quickened to pallid gray.
She screamed again, this time louder, but knew it was futile. The resonance of her voice told her the space was soundproofed.
His mouth grew impossibly wide. Rows of silver, razor-sharp fangs sprang like switch knives from behind his teeth.
Reflexively, she swung at his face.
He caught her arm in a tight grip, and then twisted it. Admiring the inside of her wrist, his eyes ran along the veins as if he were an archeologist studying a rare fossil. His long, pale tongue waggled like a puppy’s tail.
Her heart hammered a fierce tattoo against her chest. Nerves thrummed violently between each beat. Bile burnt a trail up her throat, and she pushed back on it. But the force of fear won. She bowed her head, gin-rich vomit cascading into her lap.
He sniffed her arm.
“What are you?” she gasped.
In response, Randy bit down on her wrist. Blade-like teeth sank into flesh and muscle with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel. Then, fangs planted, he shook his head. A fierce, almost mechanical, sucking hummed from his mouth.
Intense pain. Millions of jagged needles stabbed every nerve. Throwing her head back, Edie screamed and cried in spastic intervals. Soon, reduced to a writhing mass of agony and fear, gravity faded. She drifted. Tendrils of psyche shattering brutality, ravenous slurping, and steel guitar, united into a singular hum, prosaic and painless. Terror still burned at her core. But numbness ripped through every fiber of her being, extinguishing the human condition.
Growing cold, Edie thought about her daughter for the first time in months.
The name fell from her lips like a dying dream, eyes rolling into the back of her head.
Then, without so much as a gasp, Edie fell into an empty, timeless sea of despair and nothingness.