Stuart R. West is one of my favourite horror writers. He manages to blend the sinister and macabre with dark and often wry humour. He says he owes his inspiration to his home state of Kansas. Here he tells us why:
Kansas is creepy. Shocker. All of my life I’ve lived there and for most of my life I’ve hated it. But I finally learned to use that hate in my writing and embrace the peculiar nature of Kansas, perfect fodder for a horror writer.
You see, Kansas isn’t just a “red state.” No, it’s a bloody red state of mind. Everyone carries guns. Recently, they made it legal for students to carry weapons on college campuses. It’s like we’ve reverted to the ol’ wild West. Kansas legislature recently tried to pass a law giving restaurant owners the right to refuse service to gay people on “religious” grounds (mercifully, it didn’t pass). Hey, where else in the world will you still find active chapters of the Ku Klux Klan? And the mob! Only in Kansas is it still active, old school style. Let’s not forget about the meth-head pockets, a thriving (non) life-style for many. And, of course, Satanism is big. Black masses, devil worship, goat sexing, death metal, you name it, we got it in spades in Kansas!
So…yep, perfect for a horror writer. In my first short story collection, Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley, I’m ripping the band-aid off of Kansas’ bleeding underbelly. Many of these horror stories were written in a (red) state of shock and anger after the relatively recent presidential election. America has become a nation divided and nowhere is it better encapsulated than in our lil’ state of Kansas, God bless the USA, lil’ ol’ Tornado Alley.
But wait! Don’t go away because I brought up that naughty word, “politics!”
Tornado Alley, I’d like to think, is right next door to the late, great Ray Bradbury’s October Country. It’s a place where it always seems to be dusk. Where a hideous group of monsters live beneath the streets of Kansas City. Tornado Alley confronts racism on a personal level when a privileged white male wakes up in the body of a Midwestern man.
Do you see all of those giant webs strung throughout the trees in suburban Kansas? You might be better off avoiding them, thar be monsters in those parts. Around the corner in Tornado Alley, there’s a secret night school catering to vampires, zombies and other marginalized supernatural creatures. Hey, don’t forget about the family forced into the country through downsizing, the only farmhouse available haunted by…something. Bigfoot’s storming through Tornado Alley, ripping off the arms of vile human polluters, enough to dry up Iron Eyes Cody’s tears. There are other horrors awaiting you, both all to Kansan real and unreal. Or are they? I mean, Kansas is creepy. Who’s to say what’s real and what’s not?
So, join me on a little trip through Tornado Alley as I carve up that oddly Kansan niche, where dark humor coexists with horror, where suspense and all-too-recognizably human characters collide, and where things just seem a little (okay, a lot) off. Keep the lights on, though. You don’t wanna know what exists in the dark of night.
Stuart R. West is a lifelong resident of Kansas, which he considers both a curse and a blessing. It's a curse because...well, it's Kansas. But it's great because...well, it's Kansas. Lots of cool, strange and creepy things happen in the Midwest, and Stuart takes advantage of them in his work. Call it "Kansas Noir." Stuart writes thrillers tinged with horror and horror tinged with thrillers, both for adult and young adult audiences. He writes at the crossroads of horror and sneaky humor.
Twisted Tales from Tornado Alley is Stuart’s first short story collection and third book with Grinning Skull Press, and Stuart feels funny talking about himself this way. Stuart spent twenty-five years in the corporate sector and now writes full time. He's married to a professor of pharmacy (who greatly appreciates the fact he cooks dinner for her every night) and has a twenty-six-year-old daughter who's still deciding what to do with her life. But that's okay. It took him twenty-five years to figure that out.
Stuart's blog can be found at http://stuartrwest.blogspot.com/.
Drop in on him at Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/stuartrwestwriter