March 16, 2016

Old Fears in New England: an interview with Glenn Rolfe, author of "Things We Fear" and "Where Nightmares Begin"


by Glenn Rolfe

Summer has just begun, and fear is in season.

School’s out, and the faculty at Fairington Elementary School are free for the summer. Emily Young can’t deny her attraction to Aaron Jackson, the Ed Tech from her classroom, but she’s afraid of being hurt again. Meanwhile, Aaron is determined not to let his phobia of drowning prevent him from enjoying the sun and the sand of Maine’s best beach town.

But they’re about to learn real fear. Fairington is home to a monster. Phys Ed teacher Matt 
Holmes has more to offer the ladies than a perfect smile. He’s a killer and he’s got his sights set on Emily.

Who at Fairington will conquer their fears? And who will fall to a psychopath’s hellbent rage?

Gef: Where did the idea for Things We Fear come from?

Glenn: Don D’Auria asked for novellas for the Childhood Fears anthology Samhain put out last year. I was too busy at the time, but then I thought back to when I was a kid and how much I feared drowning. As I started writing it, more characters came in, each with their own fears or insecurities. They were all adults, so I decided it wouldn’t work for the project that Don was working on. I finished working on a different project and then went back and finished Things We Fear.

Gef: When it comes to writing a novella, how big a consideration is pacing compared to other aspects?

Glenn: There’s no time for deep side treks into character’s pasts. You need to keep to the narrative and keep the story moving forward. At the same time, you have to flesh out the characters enough to make people care. That’s the tricky part. You’re going to upset somebody somewhere with the streamlined approach, but I think in a novella, readers (most anyway) understand the situation and forgive you for not giving us the protagonists childhood and work history.

Gef: Where it's more expansive than a short story and more condensed than a novel, how does the novella length suit you?

Glenn: I love it. I feel like I can’t write short stories anymore. I feel like these are my short stories now. I feel like I’m definitely taking a harder look at my novels. I’m starting to get comfortable in what I do and can’t wait to push myself and see what else I can do. There’s much, much more improvement waiting.

Gef: Now this time around you've got a tale probably closer to the thriller genre than the horror genre. Do you make a distinction between the two? What was it about this book, if anything, that you approached differently from the previous titles?

Glenn: I don’t plot. That leaves my stories wide open to take me where they want to go. I didn’t sit down and say this is going to be a thriller-that’s just where it took me. That being said, there’s definitely a difference. In a thriller, you have to get people to the edge of their seat and try to keep them there as much as possible. They have to care about the people involved. I think the difference with horror is that the readers goes from this intense worry to being all out terrified. For Things We Fear, I wondered myself while writing it if it was going to have a real monster. I had Aaron’s nightmarish vision, but then I found Matt. The human monster took the lead. After reading a batch of Jack Ketchum books (most recently, Red and Cover) which are more thriller than horror, following Matt felt like the right move. And it was.

Gef: What was it about the seaside town of Old Orchard Beach that felt like the perfect backdrop for this exploration of fear?

Glenn: There are really three settings here. Fairington which is modeled after the towns I grew up inland. Farmingdale, Hallowell. Portland, where we have a hotel that an important part of the story takes place, and of course, Old Orchard Beach, a little seaside town that I love going to every summer. You see the pier on the cover of the novella. There’s a sort of boardwalk, a carnival type place called, Palace Playland, a tons of shops, tons of tourists…and the beach on the ocean, of course. One of my lead characters, Aaron, has a phobia about the water. Yet, he faces that fear every summer by renting a tiny bungalow off the beach. I thought that would be perfect. I couldn’t think of a better set up for Aaron. That close to his big fear, so many things could go wrong. Everyone around him is smiling and having a blast. I guess it touches on the whole Jaws vibe there. Something awful happening when you go to your happy place. That makes me think of when Happy Gilmore went to his happy place then Shooter McGavin shows up and steals his girl. I shudder just thinking of it.

Gef: Did you sneak in any easter eggs into this book as far as your own fears or phobias go? Any bits of catharsis played out with a school serving as a setting--an antagonistic teacher from your past meeting an untimely literary end, perhaps?

Glenn: Sure. I have the fear of drowning. I went to a swimming hole we called The Ropes. I fell in and blacked out. At the same time, my best friend is an Ed Tech for an elementary school. I’ve heard all kinds of stories. When he used to substitute at the high school, he was always telling me that the Phys Ed guy this perfect smile macho guy…. all the ladies loved him. The real guy was really nice though, so I took that and twisted him into a psychotic stalker. Another character in the book, Heather, deals with some body image issues. Who among us doesn’t face that problem every day? Many of the women in my life are very vocal about such things. Some of the guys , too.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Glenn: Well, after these last two pieces from Samhain, I have a new short story collection coming in October. That will be followed in January or February by my first release for Sinister Grin Press. That will be my fourth novella, Chasing Ghosts. That novel traverses more of a Richard Laymon -type “in your face” horror.

After that, the future is wide open.

Thanks for having me Gef!

Glenn Rolfe is an author, singer, songwriter and all around fun loving guy from the haunted woods of New England. He has studied Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and continues his education in the world of horror by devouring the novels of Stephen King and Richard Laymon.
He and his wife, Meghan, have three children, Ruby, Ramona, and Axl. He is grateful to be loved despite his weirdness.
He is the author the novellas, Abram’s Bridge, Boom Town, and his latest, Things We Fear (March, 2016), the short fiction collection, Slush, and the novels The Haunted Halls and Blood and Rain (October 2015). His first novella collection, Where Nightmares Begin, will also be released in March 2016. His next book, Chasing Ghosts, will be coming by 2017.
He is hard at work on many more. Stay tuned!

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