An Interview with Michael Griffin

Happy Walpurgisnacht! Today marks the release of Michael Griffin‘s The Lure of Devouring Light. We’re currently launching the book with Mike at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in San Pedro, but a few days ago, Sean M. Thompson interviewed Mike about the collection.

The Lure of Devouring Light by Michael Griffin

What do you feel the role of genre is in fiction?

Genre is especially useful for booksellers, marketers and publishers. I think genre divisions are useful for people trying to find their way toward work they would enjoy, as a way of herding together works that share certain traits. From the opposite perspective, that of a writer, I would stop short of saying genre is a negative thing, as I’ve seen some other writers say. Some writers gladly align themselves to a genre, wear it like a badge on their sleeve, and go around proudly waving the flag. Many writers, though, don’t want to think about it too much, and look at genre as a necessary thing unavoidably imposed upon them. The writers I most respect pretty much seem to do what they want to do without consciously aiming at a certain genre target. The create the work, and their agent or their publisher or the critics decide what it is. I think this last approach makes the most sense to me, but I don’t want to disparage those who are flag-wavers for their chosen territory, and who exclusively write (and read) within it.

How do you think the weird has evolved in modern fiction, if you think it has at all?

I used to believe the weird had evolved a lot, but the more widely I read beyond the obvious starting point (Lovecraft) the more I discovered examples of weird writers throughout history creating all kinds of challenging and diversely varied stuff. I do feel that in the last ten or fifteen years, the number of people writing truly strong, individual work is higher than it has ever been before. But I no longer believe that the kind of thing being written now is entirely different in kind from what came before my lifetime. Maybe a slow evolution.

You’ve told me before you’re a proponent of a lot of edits. What’s the most you’ve ever edited your work?

There are different kinds of edits. I used to line edit endlessly, second-guessing word choices, adding commas, changing pronouns and shifting around phrases. That’s still important, and I spend a lot of time trying to get every word and every sentence just right. Certainly more important, though, is editing with a wider angle of view. By this I mean looking at the overall shape or trajectory of the story, maybe trimming or adding entire pages or even scenes. Once I start writing, I continue to pause, step back and look at my stories with a wider view. Sometimes I do what I call a “reverse outline,” where I look at the structure of the story as it’s written, and I create an outline from it. This helps me find things like jumps in logic, or especially repetition. Sometimes in a reverse outline I discover something like, “Hey, I don’t really need to have him visit the lawyer’s office and talk about the case in scene 9 because he basically did the same thing in scene 6.” I make sure each piece of the story contributes something, or else it gets changed or removed. I have to say, I read a lot of stories that could benefit from this kind of structural analysis. Very often stories include dead scenes or repetitive sections. But to answer the original question, I have stories I’ve reworked at least 20-30 times, and quite a few that have gone through more than 10 versions. As I get better at this, so I make fewer mistakes and follow fewer dead-ends to begin with, it seems like I’m able to get by with fewer drafts, maybe four to six.

What is the significance of the title of your collection?

First of all, it’s the title of the lead story, so that’s why it’s the title of the collection, not just because it’s the first story but because it’s also representative of what I do, and a good opener, neither too long nor too short, and not too confusing. But to explain the significance of the story’s title, I’d say something that’s important to me is to avoid the too-easy trap of Horror and Weird writers making everything “black” and “dark.” There’s certainly plenty of darkness and nighttime and black imagery in my work, but I’m interested in different kinds of fear and unease. Also, the story makes the point that sometimes people or things that are dangerous or malicious don’t in fact appear horrifying or gruesome. They may be appealing, attractive or seductive. They have something to offer, something to draw us nearer, otherwise we would just run the other direction.

How do you think your style has changed from when you first started writing?

My style hasn’t changed too much, in terms of how I tend to build sentences. What has changed is that my way of conveying to the reader what’s happening has shifted to give a perspective from inside the mind and senses of the point of view character. As much as possible, everything should be filtered through the mechanism by which this person makes sense of their surroundings and what they see and hear unfolding around them. I guess a simpler way to say this would be that I try hard to make the point of view more subjective.

Ultimately what do you hope readers take away from The Lure of Devouring Light?

Aside from the obvious, like wanting to provide entertainment or enjoyment, the outcome I most hope for is that readers will find the characters believable, convincing human beings. I also hope some of the images or situations will linger in the mind after the reading is done.

Cover Reveal/Now Available to Preorder: John Langan’s The Fisherman

Coming June 30, 2016: John Langan’s long-awaited second novel, The Fisherman. We think you’re going to enjoy the hell out of this one. Here’s your first look at the cover:

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Here’s the teaser:

In upstate New York, in the woods around Woodstock, Dutchman’s Creek flows out of the Ashokan Reservoir. Steep-banked, fast-moving, it offers the promise of fine fishing, and of something more, a possibility too fantastic to be true. When Abe and Dan, two widowers who have found solace in each other’s company and a shared passion for fishing, hear rumors of the Creek, and what might be found there, the remedy to both their losses, they dismiss it as just another fish story. Soon, though, the men find themselves drawn into a tale as deep and old as the Reservoir. It’s a tale of dark pacts, of long-buried secrets, and of a mysterious figure known as Der Fisher: the Fisherman. It will bring Abe and Dan face to face with all that they have lost, and with the price they must pay to regain it.

And here are just a couple of the blurbs The Fisherman has picked up so far:

“John Langan’s The Fisherman is literary horror at its sharpest and most imaginative. It’s at turns a quiet and powerfully melancholy story about loss and grief; the impossibility of going on in same manner as you had before. It’s also a rollicking, kick-ass, white-knuckle charge into the winding, wild, raging river of redemption. Illusory, frightening, and deeply moving, The Fisherman is a modern horror epic. And it’s simply a must read.”
–Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock.

“For some fishing is a therapeutic, a way to clear one’s head, to chase away the noise of a busy world and focus on one single thing. On good days it can heal the worst pains, even help develop a sense of solace. John Langan’s The Fisherman isn’t about the good day fishing, it isn’t even about a bad day fishing, its about the day that you shouldn’t have even left the house, let alone waded chest deep into a swollen stream of churning water. Langan tells you that up front, warns you this isn’t going to be that story, but you ignore the signs, lured in by the faint smell of masculine adventure, hooked by tragedy and the chance of redemption, and reeled in by a nesting tale of ever growing horrors. By the time you realize what has happened it’s already too late, you’re caught in an unavoidable net of terror that can end in only one way. It doesn’t matter how strong you are or how prepared, John Langan has you hook, line and sinker, and he doesn’t let go until the very last page.”
–Pete Rawlik, author of Reanimatrix

The Fisherman is an epic, yet intimate, horror novel. Langan channels M. R. James, Robert E. Howard, and Norman Maclean. What you get is A River Runs through It…Straight to hell.”
–Laird Barron, author of X’s for Eyes

Preorder your copy of The Fisherman today!

Word Horde at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in San Pedro, CA

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Join Word Horde as we return to the Los Angeles area in order to sell you books at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in San Pedro, CA, April 29-May 1, 2016. We’ll be sharing space with the incredible Dim Shores, and we’ll have plenty of free Word Horde buttons, stickers, and bookmarks (just sign up for our mailing list). Plus, we will be debuting Michael Griffin‘s new collection, The Lure of Devouring Light, at the festival, and Mike will be on hand to sign copies. Tickets to the festival are still available, and it’s going to be more fun than you can safely shake a shoggoth at. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!