Welcome to another author interview.
April’s most-read story was “The Sub-Basement” by Aaron Polson. Although Aaron’s horror story was originally published on January 7th — not in or near April at all — it was our most-read story for April by a substantial margin, and by the end of the month it had been read an impressive 4000 times.
EDF: What should people expect when they see a story with your byline under it?
AP: In general, they should expect something strange, unexpected, or uncanny. I hope they would expect to be entertained and moved in some way. I want readers to have an emotional response to what they read — to have the writing affect them at a core level, but it is just as important for a reader to be affected on an intellectual level.
EDF: “The Sub-Basement” is a creepy and effective horror piece. What attracts you to horror as a genre?
AP: I never planned to be a horror writer. When I started to write, many of my ideas were dark and somewhat bleak rather by accident. I also enjoy the fantastic, especially if the story is still believable on some level. Bizarro and splatterpunk don’t work for me; I prefer subtlety and nuance — sort of dark magical realism. I think horror can be very cathartic for both the writer and the reader. Fiction is safe. The events in a story didn’t really happen, but we (both reader and writer) can share a little of the thrill as if they had. I’ve also had a very pervasive fear of the dark since early childhood. Even as an adult, I don’t like being alone in a dark, unfamiliar place.
EDF: Your bio tells us that you’re a high school English teacher as well as a writer. Do your two careers colour or influence each other? Do your students know that you write? Could you share some highlights and/or frustrations about the creative writing component of your classes?
AP: Writing my own fiction has definitely helped me teach writing. All of the mistakes I make and rejections I receive turn into lessons for my students. A few students know that I write, but I try not to broadcast my “secret life”. Teaching should be about them, the students, and not a platform for my fiction. The few who know about my writing discovered it on their own, which is for the best with any author. I find it challenging to help the students understand the importance of showing vs. telling. Too much of their writing is clogged with summary and generalization. But most of them try to make it better.
EDF: Which authors do you feel have influenced your writing the most?
AP: I’m a big fan of Shirley Jackson. “The Lottery” is a masterful short story, and she is well known for The Haunting of Hill House, but We Have Always Lived in the Castle is my favorite of her works. The narrator’s voice is spot on, creepy, and quite believable. I also enjoy the short fiction of Ramsey Campbell, Chet Williamson, and William Nolan, too. Edgar Allan Poe deserves mention as well. Where would any writer of short horror fiction be without Poe?
EDF: Despite having been published back in January, your story was our most-read for the month of April by a significant margin, with an impressive 4000 reads. What strategies do you use to promote your online writing? Do you feel that your efforts contributed to the number of reads “The Sub-Basement” has garnered, or was it just luck and a good story?
AP: I’m a little surprised by the story’s success. I do blog about writing almost daily (aaronpolson.blogspot.com) and maintain a website (www.aaronpolson.com) — both have links to my fiction online. I think blogging is a great asset to writers. I don’t have a local writing group, but through the magic of the internet, I’ve been able to find like-minded writers with whom I communicate on an almost daily basis through their blogs and email. Do I think any of these efforts contributed to the number of reads? I don’t know; I have learned that writing is a long-term proposal, and I believe every writer, if they stick with it long enough, reaches little “tipping points” where they start to receive more attention for his/her work. This will not happen overnight.
EDF: What has been your best moment as a writer so far?
AP: Two moments are tied for the best. My first acceptance was especially sweet after months of rejections, but the first unsolicited, positive review of my work caught me off guard. Somebody actually read and liked my work?
EDF: Your worst?
AP: The worst moment is more of a mood. Rejections don’t sting after a while, but I find myself in a black funk at times in which I don’t feel like writing anything. The only cure: sit down and write. I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but I have to write my way out of the black hole.
EDF: What is next for you as a writer?
AP: I have two young adult novels that I’m querying at the moment: Rock Gods and Scary Monsters and The House Eaters. If one of these lands an agent or publishing deal, great, if not, so be it. I’ve started to outline another YA book, title pending. In the meantime, I see more short stories in my future. I love shorts, and would be hard pressed to stop writing them.
EDF: Thank you for your time.