An Interview with Ennis Drake, author of “We Can Only Become Monsters ” (GIALLO FANTASTIQUE)

Giallo Fantastique edited by Ross E. Lockhart ships this month, and I asked if we could do some spotlights on some of the authors and their stories. The authors, and editor Ross E. Lockhart kindly complied. I’ll be posting these throughout April and May to get the buzz going, so keep an eye out for more this month.

Today, please welcome Ennis Drake to the blog!

Will you tell us a bit about your story in Giallo Fantastique and what inspired you to write it?
Publisher’s Weekly describes it as a “’journalistic expose’ about a pedophilic movie director with ties to [a fictional] Charles Manson.” That’s it in the proverbial nutshell. Originally the story was quite different: the intent was a reworking of Jim Clark’s 1974 giallo, Madhouse, with Vincent Price and Peter Cushing. At some point in the writing the Price character—Paul Toombes—began to merge with a fictionalized version of Roman Polanski (in the novel the film is based on, the character of Paul Toombes and Polanski share quite a bit in common). As I further approached Toombes from this angle, the more the story became an investigation of the exploitative power the very wealthy and famous can wield over the everyman/woman; the more it became an exploration of sex crime; the more it became grounded in my protagonist’s story (something I was struggling with), being: a young woman dealing with her own past abuse, the sexism of 1970’s-80’s America, and her descent into psychosis when confronted with the futility of her efforts to see the truth of Toombes outted. I’ve been accused of overreaching in my work, and I think it’s a fair accusation, and I think it applies here. I can only hope I’ve said something worth saying in the reaching–as always. I’d also say I might be accused of writing a piece of ‘revenge porn’. And to that: I could have done worse things.

Have you always wanted to write? Will you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I, more or less, have always written. I love writing. I love words. I love story. I do not love being a writer, though. As for my background, I guess I’m no different than a lot of writers: I’ve done a bit of everything for a living…but nothing so well as putting pen to paper, I expect.

What do you like to see in a good story, and what authors or novels have influenced you the most in your work, and your life?
I love innovation, unusual form, language treated as Art. As far as influences? The latter work of P.K. Dick, King’s more “fantastic” work ( Lisey’s Story, “N.”, “Stationary Bike”, etc…), Kiernan, David Foster Wallace’s entire body of work, but especially his essays and Infinite Jest, Chabon, Eggers—including McSweeney’s, Camus, Ferlinghetti’s Poetry as Insurgent Art, Atwood, Borges, Calvino (Oh, “if on a winter’s night a traveler”!), Oates, Woolf, Plath, on and on. I’m influenced by everything; I take from everything.

What do you enjoy most about reading, and writing, dark fiction?
It depends on your definition of “dark fiction”. I don’t really read much of what passes for it in the mainstream anymore. I don’t especially want to write in that vein, either. I’m bored to death of “Cosmic Horror”, the Lovecraft-, or Blackwood-, or Machen-, or Barron -pastiche, Weird fiction with a capital W. I’m not really a fan of neo-noir, or the glut of small-press crime fiction, or even the idea that innovation is inhabiting the border between supernatural and crime fiction (Ross is going to hit me with something). The “core” writers that sell to the staple markets have already over-saturated readers with it. It’s played out. Dead horse. It’s solopsistic isomorphism. A flat-circle, devoid of dimension, but a wall nonetheless, keeping out anything truly innovative or original. TOC’s—from the Best of’s to the thematic small-press anthos—lool like recycling bins and the stories, for the most part, read the same way. And it has less to do with a formulaic business model than one might hope. #Kanyeshrug “We Can Only Become Monsters” is the last story I’ll write in this mode…and the ending is a bit of a send up. All this aside, I don’t think you can deal in reality, in the present, and not be writing under an umbrella of “dark fiction”. Our reality is one of extreme polarization and extreme violence: The world is falling into chaos. We’re on the cusp of a new Dark Age. There’s more darkness to write about than light. More real terror, more flesh & blood monsters than you could ever want. I’ve been more interested in uncovering, and thereby understanding (or, at least, attempting to understand), the horror I wake to every day than I am trying to convince a reader to be afraid of the latest iteration of/spin on someone else’s fictional mythology. I’m of the opinion there isn’t much to enjoy in truly dark fiction, only lessons to be taught and lessons to be learned. True darkness scars. But I’m admittedly conflicted about genre at the moment. Maybe too much so to be offering my thoughts on it. Lately, I’m of a mind that it’s time to set a fire in the dark.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on my first full-length novel, We Are Hidden from the Timeline, a look at a near-future America through an experimental fish-lens of social media.

About Giallo Fantastique:
An anthology of original strange stories at the intersection of crime, terror, and supernatural fiction. Inspired by and drawing from the highly stylized cinematic thrillers of Argento, Bava, and Fulci; American noir and crime fiction; and the grim fantasies of Edgar Allan Poe, Guy de Maupassant, and Jean Ray, Giallo Fantastique seeks to unnerve readers through virtuoso storytelling and startlingly colorful imagery.
What’s your favorite shade of Yellow?

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