“The Ease with Which We Freed the Beast” was originally published in Inferno: New Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, edited by Ellen Datlow. Was this a story you’d already written or been planning to write, or did the anthology guidelines inspire it?
Ellen told me she wanted something dark—I don’t believe I ever saw the anthology guidelines.
What is your typical writing process like, and how did this story in particular come about?
Get up. Drink coffee, go to work. Work as long as I feel it. Stories just come to me, sometimes over a period of years, sometimes over a few days. I’m not into self-analysis, so I don’t explore their origins, but in this case it was obvious. I was an abused child, and a very angry teenager and young man. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten over being angry—so in this case I was more or less blending some autobiographical stuff with fantasy. When I was a kid, I believed anger was magic of a kind, power, and I wanted to convey that feeling in the main character. I got angry when I was writing it.
There’s some ambiguity as to whether there is really a monster or if the monster is a psychological manifestation of the POV character’s dark impulses. Was it difficult to maintain that balance? How much did you want to leave open to the readers’ interpretation?
No, it wasn’t hard—ambiguity is a feature of most of my work and I’m used to writing in that mode. As far as the reader’s interpretation goes, I wanted to keep them guessing for a while, but I think that by story’s end it’s pretty clear what’s going on.
What sort of lesson do you hope readers will take away from this story?
I don’t know if this is a lesson story. I was just trying to write honestly about how I felt as a teenager; always on the verge of losing it, scared of people—myself most of all—and murderously angry at times. Perhaps it’s a sort of cautionary tale. If you feel like you’re out of control, seek help. I did not, and it made for some very rough sledding.
What work can readers expect to see from you next?
A short story collection entitled Five Autobiographies and a Fiction, a short novel called The Wild North King, and a novel, The End of Life As We Know It. And stories. The next one, I believe, is “American Police Haiku,” a novella for Pete Crowther at PS Publishing.