Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Interview: Orrin Grey

Recently I reviewed Never Bet The Devil, the first collection of stories from author Orrin Grey. I found the stories within to be vastly entertaining, and I had quite a time reading them. I also had many good things to say about Fungi, the anthology Grey co-edited with Silvia Moreno-Garcia, the publisher of the wonder Innsmouth Free Press. 

After the review I asked Orrin if he'd be interested in doing an interview for The Arkham Digest, to which he readily obliged. 

Here's the interview:

JS: Your first collection is quite an impressive one that I vastly enjoyed reading. I'd like to thank you for taking the time to do this interview.

OG: You're very welcome! Thank you for asking me.

JS: When did you know you wanted to become a writer? What were the major driving forces behind that decision?

OG: I've honestly wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. My mom has one of those "school days" books where you post in class photos and report cards and stuff, and there's a line for every year about "what do you want to be when you grow up?" and from about third grade on all mine ever says is "writer."

JS: You are obviously a fan of Lovecraft. Which of his stories would you peg as stand-outs or favorites? How about stories by other Lovecraftian writers over the years?

OG: Picking a favorite Lovecraft story is always a dicey proposition, but when backed into a corner I usually go with "The Shunned House," even though in some ways it's not very Lovecraft-y. (It's even got a kind of happy ending!) It involves weird fungus, which I've got an obvious soft spot for, and the big reveal at the end is one of my favorites in fiction.

As for other Lovecraftian writers, while I'm drawn to writers who are working in what I think of as the Lovecraftian tradition (guys like Laird Barron and Richard Gavin, to name just a couple), I don't tend to enjoy out-and-out Mythos stuff as much. That said, I really loved T.E.D. Klein's Lovecraftian stories, especially "Black Man with a Horn," which is emphatically in the Mythos.

JS: Never Bet The Devil & Other Warnings is dedicated to Mike Mignola. I myself am a big fan, and even have an art print of Hellboy hanging in my office. What was the first Mignola you read, and what about his work appealed to you the most? Have you ever considered writing for the comics?

OG: Small world! I've got a print of Hellboy in my office as well. I wonder if it's the same one?

The first Mignola that I ever read where I really was aware of his work and who he was would have been the first Hellboy trade, Seed of Destruction, way back when it was new.

Trying to pin down what appeals to me about Mignola's work is pretty difficult, since I love pretty much everything about it, from the art to the writing to the myth-building. The biggest appeal, though, is probably his approach to the supernatural, which is similar to earlier writers like Lovecraft or M.R. James. I've written extensively about my approach to the supernatural, and how it's shaped by Mignola's, but the short version is that he keeps the supernatural strange and unusual and doesn't layer too many rules onto it. 

Another thing that Mignola does that I really try to do is that he proudly acknowledges his influences. Mignola is my big hero, but I've found my way to a lot of other influences and favorite creators by way of his author's notes and interviews and things, which is something that I try to pass on myself in my own author's notes and the like.

I have definitely considered writing for comics, it's something I've always wanted to do, and I've actually got an eight-page story coming out in a new comic magazine called Pandemonium that's due out from Kaleidoscope Entertainment sometime soon.

                                                    My Hellboy Print

JS: Seeing as you have interests in comics and horror films, especially older ones, what are some you would recommend as being comics/films that any fan of the weird absolutely must read/see?

OG: Oh man, this list could get long in a hurry. I'll try to keep it short. As for comics, the obvious answers are Mignola's Hellboy stuff, Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing, and anything and everything by Junji Ito. The less-obvious but still completely true answers are Gary Gianni's Monstermen, Ted Naifeh's Courtney Crumrin stuff, the Italian Dylan Dog comics, and Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson's Beasts of Burden, all of which are absolutely fantastic, but have flown under a lot of peoples' radar.

As for movies, we could be here all day and barely scratch the surface. I love horror movies pretty well across the spectrum, and will watch just about anything that promises to have a ghost or monster in it. I'm especially fond, as you say, of older fare, and I write a regular column about them over at Innsmouth Free Press. I could agonize forever and kill way more space than we've got trying to come up with a list of essential viewing for this answer, but I'll arbitrarily limit myself to three that a lot of people probably haven't seen, and try to leave it at that.

1. The Old Dark House (1932), which is my favorite of the Universal monster movies, even though it doesn't feature any monsters.

2. Matango (1963), an unlikely Toho adaptation of William Hope Hodgson's seminal fungus story "The Voice in the Night." If I could convince everyone to see any one movie they've probably never heard of, it'd likely be this one.

3. It! (1967), not the Stephen King one, this one involves Roddy McDowall and a golem, and has an exclamation point in the title, so you know it's quality.

There aren't any Hammer movies or Vincent Price movies on that list, because I could never pick just one of either. They're all good.

JS: You recently edited Fungi with Silvia Moreno-Garcia. While co-editing an anthology is there a lot of overlap on the stories chosen, or do you find that opinions can greatly differ? Were there some stories that one of you had to "make a stand" to have included or were all the stories selected unanimously?

OG: I imagine it would vary a lot from anthology to anthology, but for Fungi opinions didn't differ all that much. There were some stories that Silvia really wanted, and some that I really wanted, but for the most part we agreed pretty easily. There are definitely stories in Fungi that I would have been willing to go to the mat for, but luckily it didn't really come to that. The hardest part of the selection process for me was that we had a lot more great stories than we had room to include, so we had to make some pretty tough choices there.

JS: When it comes to modern horror/weird fiction, do you have any current favorites (authors, stories, books) in the field that you would dub essential?

OG: This is another one that could get pretty long if I let it. Can I just say "everyone in Fungi?"

Seriously, though, I did try to make sure I got a pretty good sampling of some of my favorite current weird fiction writers into that anthology. Laird Barron, John Langan, Richard Gavin, Simon Strantzas, Molly Tanzer, Jesse Bullington, Daniel Mills, Ian Rogers, I would consider all of them essential reading. I've also only recently discovered Mark Samuels (I know, I'm behind the curve on this one) and have fallen in love with his stuff. I think Sarah Monette should be better known than she is among fans of ghost stories, because her Kyle Murchison Booth stories (most of which are collected in The Bone Key) are some of the best stories of the type being written today.

JS: With your fiction what do you hope to accomplish?

OG: As usual, M.R. James said it better than I ever could: "The stories themselves do not make any very exalted claim. If any of them succeed in causing their readers to feel pleasantly uncomfortable when walking along a solitary road at nightfall, or sitting over a dying fire in the small hours, my purpose in writing them will have been attained."

The "pleasing" part of James' "pleasing terror" is important to me. I have a lot of fun writing these stories, and I hope the reader has fun reading them, too. If they get a shiver up their back to go along with it, then all the better.

JS: 2012 was a good year for you, seeing the publication of your first short story collection followed closely by the publication of Fungi, which you co-edited. Anything you can tell us about current/future projects?

OG: Well, I'm still recovering from 2012 (if we were recording this, there'd be a laugh here), so the immediate future is a bit more up in the air. I've got a few stories coming out various places in the next year, and I'm writing still others. I'm hoping to have enough ready to put out another collection before too long, but that's not the kind of thing you want to rush. One of the only forthcoming projects I can really say much about at this point is that I'll be writing the introduction for a forthcoming reissue of J.B. Priestley's 1927 novel Benighted from Valancourt Books, which I'm very excited about because Benighted is the novel that The Old Dark House was adapted from, and it's been out of print and hard to come by for quite some time now. Even though it doesn't have any real speculative elements, I think that fans of weird fiction will find it well worth checking out, even if they're already familiar with the movie.

JS: Thanks once again for taking the time to answer some questions. I look forward to following your career!

OG: Thanks once again for having me, and I look forward to having a career to follow!

More about Orrin Grey can be found on his website: http://orringrey.com/

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