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First, Jason, congratulations on the release of your newest horror collection, A Flutter of Darkness. It’s been hailed as “…emotionally charged and thought-provoking.” (Indie Athenaeum), your writing touted as “…[an] ability to lead the reader into the mind-boggling… and situations that are never as they originally appear.” (Reader’s Favorite). Tell us a little about your experience with the release of this collection published by Three Furies Press and the process of having your first collection of Horror short stories out in the world. 

Thank you so much. The journey to making Flutter a reality was quite long. The oldest story in the collection, “Her Dance”, was written while I was in college fifteen years ago. Over the years, I've written short stories in between novels, and some have been published in magazines or entered in contests, but I've always wanted to present them in one large volume. As a young reader, I loved Stephen King's collections of stories and novellas, and so I think for me, this project has been the completion of a circle started long ago. Three Furies Press made the stressful process of editing and publishing this book much more manageable for me than I had expected. With a manuscript the size of this one, an author could easily get lost for many months revising and editing and formatting, and so I credit the publisher with making it all possible. As authors, we're always more critical of our own work than anyone else, but I'm very proud of this collection.

A Flutter of Darkness has been described as a collection of stories that turn mundane, everyday objects into sources of terror. Do you have a favorite example of this theme to share with us? 

Many times life itself is my weapon. Life can be mundane, and it is certainly "everyday." My stories take place in our world because I want readers to feel like any of these fantastic events could actually take place. I want people to know that on any given day, something might happen that changes their world forever. I think the realism I strive for is what makes my stories more disturbing, because it isn't possible for readers to put distance between their world and mine. More specifically, though, in one story, honey is used as an elixir to transfer a malevolent spirit to a human. Despite the honey, the story is anything but sweet.

Where did you get your ideas and inspiration for this collection of fifteen short stories and novellas? 

I get many of my ideas from idle daydreaming while I should be working, a lot of "what if"-type thoughts, or standing in the shower with hot water pounding on me. Some have much deeper meaning to me, though, inspired by work, or by people I've spoken to, or even by wild dreams my wife has had. In all my writing, both novels and short fiction, I use as much truth as possible to strengthen the backbone of the story, so I'll take bits and pieces of real life and weave them into the fiction to create a unique and disturbing mix. One story, “Watching And Waiting”, was inspired by legendary serial killer H.H. Holmes. I love true crime and history, and I like the idea of exploring historical events from different viewpoints—in this case, a little girl who is fascinated by a strange man.

Out of all these pieces in A Flutter of Darkness, do you have any favorites? 

The “Life Of Pets” may be my favorite. I work in a veterinary hospital, so I see and do many things to which the general public aren't privy. Some of these things are questionable for me, morally and ethically, yet I'm required to do them, and they are widely accepted as normal and humane. In this story, I explore my doubts and my misgivings about the way we treat those we think are beneath us. I also challenge the idea of ownership when it comes to another living creature. It is a story that many have described as "horrific," and in fact, several of my coworkers told me they questioned whether or not they'd ever come to work again after reading it. At the same time, it is more than a horror story to me. It is my statement, my petition, my tiny rebellion.

If someone asked you what “the scariest” piece in this collection was, what would you tell them? 

I think that "scary" is a subjective thing. We all have things that frighten us. For some, it may be a creeping spider. For others, it may be loneliness or isolation. The story “Searching For Forever” is about a young, neurodivergent girl who is trying and failing to adapt to a rapidly changing world. She's confused, alone, and haunted. I cried when I wrote the story, and even now, I can't think of it without feeling a little prickle in my heart. It isn't a typical horror story, but I think readers appreciate the idea that fear and desperation cast their own unique and terrible shadows.

You’ve also written a number of Horror novels in addition to this collection of short stories and novellas. Do you enjoy one genre over the other (i.e. novels versus short stories)? What are the major differences you’ve found in writing so many shorter works versus novel-length Horror? 

Well, short stories are easier in that they take much less time to create. I'm a slow writer, so a novel may take me a year or two to write, while a short story might only take a few days or weeks. So when writing a short story, the gratification comes much sooner, and a lot of times, the stories themselves may have a bit more punch than a novel. However—and it's a big however—writing a good short story is hard. I think that average novel length is about 80,000 words, so there's a lot of time and space with which to create characters that readers will connect with, and then to craft a plot to entertain them (or torture them, in my case). A short story forces me to compress plot and character development into only a few thousand words. It's a challenge, but one I enjoy. To accomplish this, I strip out everything but the raw emotions and the most essential plot elements. This leaves a story that isn't as sweeping or smooth but one that can still deliver a hard punch to the gut.

Are there any pervading themes throughout the pieces in A Flutter of Darkness or your fiction in general, including other works? 

Suffering. As a person who has lived with depression for many years, suffering and pain are old friends. So when I write, I share that pain with my characters. My stories aren't always heavy, and they aren't always dark, but I think that some element of human suffering runs through them all. Pain and grief, sadness and despair—these are things that all humans can relate to, connect with, and I think that's why my readers really connect with the characters. Because we all know those feelings, as terrible as they are.

It goes without saying that one of the main intentions of writing Horror is to scare the pants off your readers. Are there any other messages and/or intended responses you hope people will experience when reading this collection? 

My intention with short fiction, like that found in Flutter, is always to get under the reader's skin. I want to shock them, or scare them, or make their skin crawl. I want to make my readers think about things they never have before and probably never want to again. I don't necessarily write about monsters but rather the monsters within all of us.

Have any other authors of Horror and/or fiction with Horror elements influenced the way you write as a Horror author?

Oh, definitely. I grew up reading Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Clive Barker, so when it comes to horror, they are definitely my biggest influences. I also really enjoy the writings of Michael Crichton, Victoria Schwab, James Rollins, and Lee Child. So as an author, whether I'm writing horror, fantasy, or post-apocalyptic zombies, all of the authors I read and love are definitely channeled into the writing. 

In your opinion, what is the most essential element of writing Horror that must exist in order to keep readers at the edge of their seats—that sweet spot of wanting to put a book down out of fear and being unable to do so? What do you always try to include in your fiction, if anything, to bring readers to this exact place? 

I think that when it comes to horror, there are two things that really keep the reader pushing on. One is a desire to read about the horrible or extreme. Blood and gore, sex and dark magic, monsters that cannot be beaten. These are things that scare us but also fascinate, and those of us who read horror, well, maybe we have a few loose screws for wanting to subject ourselves to it. The other thing that keeps a reader going is hope. Even while the worst is happening, we hope that the character can escape, we hope that the chainsaw will break and the killer will be thwarted, we desperately plea with the author to give the players a chance at life after we've delighted at their torture. In my writing, I certainly like to play with the extremes. I enjoy giving my characters and my readers hope, even while I punish them. Now that doesn't always mean the hope is real, and it doesn't guarantee a happy ending, because even in the real world, our endings are often far from happy.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview, Jason, and congratulations again on your latest release, A Flutter of Darkness!

Thank you Kathrin Hutson for the terrific interview!