Blurring The Line: Tom Piccirilli

12003146_879319075487621_892517258321694034_nBlurring The Line is the new anthology of horror fiction and non-fiction, edited by award-winning editor Marty Young, published by Cohesion Press. You can get your copy here or anywhere you normally buy books (the print edition is coming any day now).

To help people learn a bit more about it, I’ve arranged for each fiction contributor to answer the same five questions, and I’ll be running these mini interviews every weekday now that the book is available. (And yes, I have a story in it, so I’ll be interviewing myself too!)

The first story in the book is by the late, great:

Tom Piccirilli

Sadly, Tom died recently after a long struggle against cancer. I sent the interview questions to his wife, Michelle, and asked her if there was any way she could think of to include him. (Tom is a fantastic writer and you really should read anything by him you can find.) Here’s what Michelle sent back to me:

I wish I could help you by answering all these questions as Tom would have but in spite of the fact that I knew him better than anyone else, I don’t have specific responses to most of the questions. I can tell you that Tom never gave a serious answer when asked about inspiration so I guarantee that he would have responded with sarcasm.

As far as a book/collection or writer he would have said that everyone should read, number one would have been Harlan Ellison. He admired him tremendously and a month before Tom died, Harlan sent him a hand written note praising Tom’s writing and saying that Tom’s novel THE LAST KIND WORDS, which he had just finished reading, would make a wonderful addition to his library. I framed that letter for Tom and it now hangs in his office. He was so incredibly proud to receive recognition from a writer he admired that much. And I am so happy he received it in time to treasure it. Tom could rave about Harlan’s incredible talent for hours. I’d never read Harlan’s work until I met Tom. He insisted that I go buy a copy of DEATHBIRD STORIES right away. So he turned me into a huge fan of Harlan’s work too. We own every book Harlan has written (a few doubles from before we lived together) and they are all signed. We spent time with him at two World Horror Cons. Tom got on with him very well and loved to hear his personal tales about life in the writer’s trenches.

[So read Harlan’s stuff too! – Alan]

Previous posts in the Blurring The Line interview series:

Marty Young


Blurring The Line – Marty Young, editor

12003146_879319075487621_892517258321694034_nBlurring The Line is the new anthology of horror fiction and non-fiction, edited by award-winning editor Marty Young, published by Cohesion Press. You can get your copy here or anywhere you normally buy books (the print edition is coming any day now).

To help people learn a bit more about it, I’ve arranged for each fiction contributor to answer the same five questions, and I’ll be running these mini interviews every weekday now that the book is available. (And yes, I have a story in it, so I’ll be interviewing myself too!)

But first off, I have the same interview (with a slightly different first question) from the editor himself. So without further ado, introducing:

Marty Young

MartyYoungMarty Young is a Bram Stoker-nominated and Australian Shadows Award-winning writer and editor, and sometimes ghost hunter. He was the founding President of the Australian Horror Writers Association from 2005-2010, and one of the creative minds behind the internationally acclaimed Midnight Echo magazine, for which he also served as Executive Editor until mid-2013.

Marty’s first novel, 809 Jacob Street, was published in 2013 by Black Beacon Books, and won the Australian Shadows Award for Best Horror Novel. His novel was also given an Honorable Mention in Shelf Unbound’s Page Turner competition. His short horror fiction has been nominated for both the Australian Shadows and Ditmar awards, reprinted in Australian Dark Fantasy and Horror (‘the best of 2008’), and repeatedly included in year’s best recommended reading lists. Marty’s essays on horror literature have been published in journals and university textbooks in Australia and India, and he was also co-editor of the award winning Macabre: A Journey through Australia’s Darkest Fears, a landmark anthology showcasing the best Australian horror stories from 1836 to the present.

When not writing, he spends his time in the deep dark jungles of Papua New Guinea as a palynologist, whatever the heck that is.

1. What was your guiding framework for selecting stories for BtL? Did you have any methodology in mind?

I wanted to be taken somewhere uncomfortably real. Now I know the idea of all horror stories is to do that, to make you believe or to at least give you believable characters in an unreal situation, but there were some tales I rejected because they were just too far out there for what I had in mind (for example, set on another planet, or with humans integrated with monsters in society). I wanted the events in the story to seem like they could have come from a newspaper, but then I also wanted strange and surreal things to happen so it was a fine line to walk. Our world remains a mystery, despite all we know about it, and I wanted the stories to reflect that.

I also wanted these stories offset against non-fiction material. Some people might not get why non-fiction is included, or find this jarring, but it was an attempt at trying something a little different to what is standard practice. For me, it’s one thing to suspend belief for a story’s sake because you know, deep down, that what you’re reading isn’t real, no matter how realistic it might be. That’s the whole fun of horror fiction, right? It’s a safe scare. But it’s something else altogether to read details of actual real events or technological breakthrough that defy belief or cause you to question the world. So as per the title, I thought it would also be fun to take this a step further and blur the two, so some of the short stories are based on real events, while some of the non-fiction is made up. It’s up to the reader to work out which is which.

2. What does horror mean to you?

Horror to me is an emotional reaction to a horrifying event or situation. It’s something personal, hence why one person will call a book horror while someone else won’t. The genre is a nebulous beast, with horror being found in all kinds of books. We’ve come out of the ghetto and infiltrated the world; people read horror now without even realizing it, and then still claim it’s not a genre they like. In some ways, I think calling horror a genre isn’t accurate anymore. Maybe there’s a core element of horror that’s still there and easily classified as such, but there are certainly no boundaries anymore.

3. What’s a horror short story that you think everyone should read?

Phew, tough question, but one that comes to mind is ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ by WW Jacobs. The ending is just so perfect and terrifying. Another that I love for is surreal creepiness is ‘The Wendigo’ by Algernon Blackwood. Or for something a little different but still just as horrifying, ‘I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream’ by Harlan Ellison. Absolutely brilliant.

4. What horror novel should everyone read?

Mine! No? Okay then, I’m going to go for Clive Barker’s Weaveworld for it’s poetic language, the staggering scope of its imagination, and the horror contained within. It’s one of my all time favourite novels. Beyond that, any of Stephen King’s books (especially his earlier ones). Not very original of me picking King and Barker, but I grew up with those two and they have had a heavy hand in shaping my writing.

5. Name something that you think just might be real, or might not…

I believe in monsters – except for me monsters are just animals we’re yet is formally discover and classify. I believe we will soon enough create AI (and then find ourselves in trouble). I believe in aliens, and I believe in the power of the mind.

I’m not sure I believe in alternative dimensions, even if they have been proven mathematically. I’m also not sure I believe in ghosts, hence why one of my hobbies is ghost hunting. I’m a scientist so of course I need proper indisputable evidence to prove their existence before I’m happy to believe. Do other supernatural entities exist? Fairies and demons and vampires and werewolves, etc.? I don’t know but I hope that they do.


New story in Review of Australian Fiction

IMG_7187The Review of Australian Fiction is a prestigious bi-monthly electronic publication showcasing the broad plethora of Australian writing talent. It has two stories every two weeks across all genres and styles. It’s really quite a wonderful thing. Now into its 16th volume (with 6 issues per volume) it’s doing very well for itself.

I’m very proud to say that the latest issue, volume 16, issue 3, has a story from me in it. My contemporary Australian horror story, “Reaching For Ruins”, shares the issue with “Only the Moon Rages” by Jarrod Boyle.

My story is based on a couple of real events that I’ve extrapolated into something well beyond real. Or is it..? You can find the issue here for only $2.99:

Or subscribe to RAF for only $12.99 per volume (six issues). You can subscribe here:

I hope you enjoy the story!


Motivation and refreshing the well

I spent this past weekend at GenreCon. You can see my previous post for some photos of that fantastic event. As part of his opening speech, con organiser Peter M Ball said the following incredibly true thing:


He later blogged with the follow-up half of that truism:


I cannot emphasise just how true these things are. You mix with other writers and you learn all you can. You help other writers, with no view to a reward, but you’ll be rewarded anyway with other writers helping you in turn. You will benefit from friendly and open socialising with your peers, whether they’re streets ahead of you in their career or just starting out. But apart from that, the reason to hang out with other writers is because it is just so fucking motivating.

You talk about writing and publishing, you share successes and failures, you learn things you didn’t know before or you’re reminded of things you’d somehow sort of forgotten. You come away from these events with such a burning desire to work harder and be better and chase success that it makes all the struggle and the default position of rejection so much easier to bear. It reminds you why you do what you do. Other than the old truth that we writers simply couldn’t not write, by going to events like GenreCon we’re reminded that there are so many other people out there who share our particular brand of insanity and that’s incredibly empowering.

It’s also important, however, to remember that you need time and space. Creativity is born in boredom. Brains need downtime, when they’re certainly not switched off, but they’re actively resting. It’s a necessary part of being a writer to get out and do nothing. Since GenreCon, which was only a couple of days ago, I’ve written about 5,000 new words, pitched a non-fiction article to a pro venue, polished a short story and sent it to a wonderful beta reader and more. This is alongside running the kung fu academy and having a two year old son. But that’s my normal. It’s great and I love it.

This morning I woke up with a virtual iron spike through my eye, quivering on the verge of a migraine. I don’t get them often, but when I do they’re utterly debilitating. They happen when I’m too stressed/busy and too tired. The busy-ness or the tiredness on their own are no big deal. When the two line up in force, BOOM! It’s migraine time. Usually I can tell it’s coming and head it off. Today I almost couldn’t.

Wednesday mornings are one of my dedicated writing times, before I go out to teach classes through the afternoon and evening. But with the head I had this morning, I knew I needed some self-care. So I took my dog to the beach and walked in the rain. It was beautiful. Then I went into town with him, got a coffee and just sat on a bench under an awning and watched the world go by for an hour.

Now I’m home, recharged, my potential migraine reduced to a dull ache that will continue to fade. I feel refreshed and enlivened. And the best bit? All that stuff I did this morning is still writing. My brain was actively resting, turning over plot and story in my hindmind. Watching people in town gave me insights into characters. Nothing conscious, no note taking, but it all feeds the beast. It refreshes the creative wells. So now I’m back at my desk, writing up this post about it, then I’ll get back to the novel for an hour or two before I have to go to work. I might only add 1,000 new words, where most Wednesdays I might write up to 5,000, but that doesn’t matter. It’s healthy forward progress, it’s sustainable and enjoyable.

So mix with your peers, online all the time and in person when you can. Be inspired, be motivated, but remember to look after yourself too. There’s an old proverb: Fear not moving slowly. Fear only standing still.

Be well and if you make half a page of progress one week, congratulate yourself. Aim to do more next week. If you don’t, so what? Do more the week after. Just keep going and stay healthy. And yes, in some ways this is a thinly veiled NaNoWriMo post, but it’s more than that. It’s about the importance of interaction and isolation, and recognising when you need both. It applies to everything, not just the writing life. It’s about all of life.

Be well!

A photo from my walk today - Kiama headland from Bombo Beach.
A photo from my walk today – Kiama headland from Bombo Beach.

GenreCon 2015

I went up to Brisbane this weekend for GenreCon. It’s the third (I think) time GenreCon has happened, the second one in Brisbane. It’s run by the Australian Writers’ Marketplace and expertly managed by Peter Ball. Honestly, Peter and his ninjas deserve medals, as it’s a truly professional convention. You can learn more about it here.

I did my Write The Fight Right workshop up there and that seemed to go down very well. Otherwise there was a fantastic selection of panels and keynotes from incredibly talented and interesting writers. GenreCon is every two years, so get yourself organised for 2017.

I uploaded a bunch of photos to my Facebook page here. I wish I’d taken more, but I was too busy hanging with awesome people and having fun.