Sean M. Thompson recently sat down with Laird Barron, the Bram Stoker Award-winning author who inspired our Shirley Jackson Award-nominated anthology The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron, to ask him a few questions.
How did it feel to hear that Ross and Word Horde wanted to publish a collection in homage to your work?
I wasn’t keen on it initially. However, I trust Ross. He and Justin Steele worked hard to put the anthology together and avoid pastiche. The contributing authors wrote great stories. It was a humbling experience and altogether fascinating to see what bits and pieces of my universe they responded to. The anthology succeeded, so all’s well, et cetera.
What do you think the role of genre is in fiction?
Genre is a default, a convention. You start with horror as a broad concept and that’s genre. Then you subdivide and subdivide, or you strike out into other territory. For an author, it’s the beginning of a conversation. For editors and publishers and booksellers, it’s often the end of a conversation.
What scares you?
My dog stood at the top of the steps yesterday, deciding. After a while she limped down and we went outside. She trotted around the yard once, then collapsed in a patch of sun and looked at me and panted. Her eyes are getting a blue tint and her face is going white. I couldn’t egg her into playing like we used to do. Back in the house, she drank some water, curled up on the couch in my office and began to snore. I sat for a long time, adding the numbers, moving them around, looking for loopholes—people years versus dog years, what I have got left versus what she has left. I couldn’t make it add up to anything equitable.
Do you have anything in particular you like to do during the fall season?
Late August through October is my favorite stretch of the year. As I write this, I’m living in the countryside in the Hudson Valley. There are massive stands of sycamore around the house, a dairy farm across the road, and farther on, fields, streams and foothills of the Catskills. Way back in the day, this was the season I’d return home from the cannery or salmon processor and start cart training my team of sled dogs. I’d hook them up to my old Ford truck or a four-wheeler and we’d cruise for miles on back country roads. These days, long walks through farmland suffices, but I admit, the smell of September dampness and cold dirt still gets me.
Would you consider a hip, new iteration of your infamous cosmic monster-deity: Young Leechy?
I think the Cartoon Network should be brought in on this.
What’s your favorite dog from a novel?
Buck from The Call of the Wild. I’m also partial to Blood from A Boy and His Dog.
What’s the scariest part of where you currently reside in upstate New York? Is it John Langan’s bear hugs? (optional to answer second part of question)
I am nimble enough to evade John’s bear hugs. It’s between him and Paul Tremblay now.
Nothing is particularly scary about the Hudson Valley, although I have a lot of exploring to do. Closing in on four years since I moved here from the west. The geography (old towns surrounded by dense forest; mountains, rivers, caves…) appeals to me as does the rich history. There’s a distinct sense of wildness at the edge of civilization. It will influence my writing in years to come. And I hope some of that will be scary.