Interview with John Parke Davis

John Parke DavisJohn Parke Davis’s short story, Halloween Night, appears in the Autumn 2006 issue of Shimmer. Check out his web site or send him e-mail.

Questions About the Story

Where did the idea come from?
It was coming up on Halloween (obviously) and my brother and I had been writing scary stories back and forth. I wanted to do something a little different on my own, and I came up with this idea of creatures dancing and acting crazy outside, trying to tempt a child into coming out. That idea didn’t really work, but it left me with the child’s perspective.

From there, I thought about where the idea of Halloween really came from, and the idea that the dead are allowed back into the world of the living on that day only every year (all right, May Day, too, technically). So I thought to myself, what would it be like if that were actually true? Mix in the child’s perspective and some interfamilial strain themes, and you get “Halloween Night.” Hm, now it doesn’t seem so magical and impressive… um, I meant, it came to me in a dream. Yeah.

How did the story change as you developed it?
It actually didn’t change too much from the first version to the last. I think it got darker… the first version was a little more comedic than the final one. As short as Halloween Night is, most of the changes took the form of additions and sentence structure/flow alterations. The most difficult part proved to be making the intro grabbing without directly stating what was going on.

You know the advice “Sometimes you have to kill your darlings.” Was there a scene or line that it really hurt to cut, but cutting it made the story stronger?
Really good question, but in this case, no.

How is this story like your other work?
I’d say this one is a bit different—it’s just a different type of story in general. I try to experiment with many different styles in my writing; this was one of those experiments. I would say it’s like my other work in the way that the speculative element is presented; the fact that it’s a bit unexplained and/or surreal. Then again, I think that’s kind of a hallmark of true speculative fiction in general, when the term is used to denote its own genre rather than as a category head for all SF/F/H.

Questions About Writing

How did you celebrate your first sale?
This was my first sale, and I’m still celebrating!

Does your work tend to explore any particular themes?
Good question. God and religion make frequent cameos. Death seems to be a favorite, as well, and how we deal with it. Evolution, in its technical sense. My work tends to deal more with the characters and their internal states than complicated external plots.

What people have helped you the most with your writing?
My brother has probably helped me the most– he talked me into a writing game with him, where every week we throw out “pitches” and write short-short stories about them. That’s kept me writing, and really helped me develop it. He’s a very gifted writer, and his approach to things constantly amazes me. We actually decided to put the results up on the web for free on our website.

Aside from my brother, I owe a lot in my writing to my father, the first impetus to write and a constant encouragement/impromptu editor, and my girlfriend, who is a budding romance writer in her own right. Plus, she’s beautiful and awesome and a constant inspiration. Well, not for the death stuff, but you know.

Favorite book you’ve read recently?
I’ve been reading a ton of short stories recently, actually, and not a whole lot of book. House of Leaves is probably the last novel I read, and it is excellent.

Random Questions

If you have a day job, what is it? What do you like about it?
I’m a newly-minted attorney, fresh out of a judicial clerkship and into practice. I love the intellectual challenge, and the (unfortunately rare) thrill of the courtroom. I also like doing something in the real world every now and then. Not often, though.

Favourite food?
[I’ll drink to that. -ed.]

What are some of your hobbies?
Video games (waaay too much video games), cooking, mangling the guitar, travel, scuba.

All-time favourite movie?
The Princess Bride. That may be a trite answer, but it’s an awesome movie.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
I don’t want to grow up.

Quiz: How many writers does it take to change a lightbulb? Please explain your answer:
Well, if the lightbulb really needs changing, I better change it now. I mean, technically, I need light, so that could be considered working, right? Yes, I should definitely change it now, can’t write until it’s changed. Then I’ll get writing. You know, while I’m changing lightbulbs, I might as well change all the ones in the house. And I did want to install florescent lights in the kitchen…

Speculative fiction for a miscreant world

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