November 19, 2012

Finding a Home for Horror: an interview with Ian Rogers, author of "Every House Is Haunted"

Ian Rogers' new short story collection from Chizine Publications, Every House Is Haunted, hit shelves in October. I had the opportunity to read and review it recently, and thoroughly enjoyed it. And as an added bonus, Ian was generous enough to answer a few questions about the book and writing in general. Enjoy!

Gef: Every House Is Haunted ranges from your first sale to your most recent, in terms of time frame. How would you describe your evolution as a writer?

Ian: My evolution as a writer is probably much like any other person's. There were some embarrassing moments in the beginning, some growing pains along the way, but I'm pretty happy with where I am, and who I am, today. I was torn a bit about including my first sale, "The Tattletail," in the book, but in the end, I realized that while it might not be my best story, it was still good enough to be published. After all, an editor thought it was good enough to publish six years ago. Sure, I've written better things since then, but I like having it in the book. It's like a baby picture in a photo album. A little embarrassing, but it's part of my life.

Gef: A couple of these stories are rooted in Cape Breton. Do you find that region conducive to ghost stories and the like, more so than other places you've visited?

Ian: Definitely. The East Coast of Canada is rich in ghost stories and folklore. Maybe more so than any other part of Canada, if only because that's where our history as Canadians began. My family is from the East Coast and growing up I heard many, many ghosts stories from my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins -- everyone! And these stories were never told for entertainment value -- at least, not entirely. My family truly believed the stories they were telling, which of course made them even more terrifying.

Being a huge Stephen King fan, I've always been impressed by what he did with New England, turning it into this hotspot for ghosts and monsters. I wanted to try and do the same thing for the Maritimes. I've only written the four stories that are included in Every House Is Haunted, but it's definitely my intention to write more tales in my Maritimes Mythos.

Gef: My favorite story from the collection may have been "The Dark and the Young"? What was the impetus behind that story?

Ian: "The Dark and the Young" was written at white heat in a single day to meet the deadline for an anthology for which it was eventually rejected. I think every writer of scary story tries his or her hand at the popular tropes -- the ghost story, the bug story, the creepy kid story, etc. This was my "creepy book" story. Sort of H.P. Lovecraft meets "The Cabin in the Woods," although I wrote this story years before "Cabin" came out. My interest in UFOs and government conspiracies, especially Area 51, probably played a part in setting the story in an underground facility in the Nevada desert.

Gef: What's the best--or the worst--piece of writing advice you ever received?

Ian: I've been lucky enough to avoid any really awful writing advice. The best I ever received was probably that I should take all writing advice in stride. That what works for one writer may not work for another. Part of building your career is listening to those with more experience than you, and part of it is cutting your own trail, not just by doing this right but by doing things wrong. I've made mistakes, as we all have, and I've learned more from them than the things I got right. "Always be a professional," is probably one of the pieces of advice that I always live by. Don't be an idiot, don't ignore submission guidelines, don't act like the editor/agent/whoever is your best buddy. Be a professional.

Gef: How have you found the working relationship with Chizine Publications?

Ian: It's been an absolutely dream. Right from the beginning of the process, when they announced that they were going to buy my book at a room party at the World Horror Convention in Austin, Texas, to the actual work of putting the collection together, seeing the cover art and the layout.... I could never have guessed how much it would affect me. Each step along the way has completely exceeded my hopes and expectations. And to see the book getting so much attention now, with reviews in Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, pictures of people on Facebook finding the book in actual book stores, I'm just really grateful that Brett and Sandra at ChiZine believed in me enough to publish this book. It really does represent my first six years as a published author, and seeing it out there in the world makes me feel like I've "leveled up" as a writer. It's also giving me and my work exposure I've never had before. It's like the literary equivalent of a debutante ball.

Gef: Along with these stories, you also have the Felix Renn series. In terms of short fiction, how does a recurring character affect the storytelling process?

Ian: If I have any saving grace with the Felix Renn stories, it's that I learned, from reading other series, especially those where the mythology and world-building ends up contradicting itself, that it pays to plan ahead. I haven't figured out every little thing about Felix Renn and the Black Lands, but I've got most of the important parts clear in my mind. I enjoy dishing out pieces of Felix's background at the same time I reveal potions of the world of the Black Lands. It's like telling two stories, one up front, one below the surface. Subconscious storytelling, if you can dig it. I always know which parts to cut out of a Felix Renn story, the stuff where I end up running on about the world. When I'm moving away from the main plot of the story, I know I need to take it out and save it for later. Because while it may be interesting, and fun to write, at the end of the day I'm writing a story, and not a world resource book for a role-playing game.

The other thing I've realized about writing a recurring character is that while Felix is the main character, and the voice through which the stories are told, he doesn't have to be the only one. It's a lot of pressure to put everything on one character, which I learned when I introduced Jerry Baldwin, a friend of Felix's who works as a real estate agent who only represents haunted properties. Jerry is a bit of comic relief, but mostly he's there to show how other people are living in a world where the supernatural exists. It takes the pressure off of having Felix do every little thing. It also made sense from a storytelling point of view, because even recurring characters need a supporting cast. I plan to do more with Jerry, as well as Felix's ex-wife/assistant Sandra, in the future.

Gef: What other projects do you have in the works that you can divulge?

Ian: Well, I've got the Felix Renn collection, SuperNOIRtural Tales, coming out in November. It collects the three Felix Renn chapbooks, a short story reprint, and a brand-new, 50,000-word story called "The Brick," that I feel is the best thing I've written to date. It's the perfect bridge between the shorter Felix Renn stories and the novel series that I'm working on right now. I'm also shopping around a science-fiction satire that I wrote last year. It's very weird. I describe it as "The X-Files" meets "Arrested Development."


A big thanks to Ian for his time. If you'd like to find out more about Ian and his work, be sure to visit him at http://www.ian-rogers.com/

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