US author Mark Allan Gunnells’ collection, FLOWERS IN A DUMPSTER has just hit the physical and digital shelves and I wanted to get the lowdown on how it came about from the man himself. In this interview he talks about the collection, what influences his writing – and Clive Barker!
GC: You have a new short story collection out, FLOWERS IN A DUMPSTER from Crystal Lake Publishing. How difficult was it to select the “best” of your writing?
MAG: I did spend a lot of time choosing the stories to include. I wanted to display a range in tone and subject matter, length, and even time period the tales were written. I have stories here that date back to my college years, and others that were written just last year. I did some hemming and hawing, dropped a few stories I initially thought were shoe-ins, before finalizing the manuscript. When I sent it in, Crystal Lake said if they would let me know if they thought any stories didn’t fit and we could work at replacing them, but they accepted the table of contents as it was and we didn’t drop anything.
GC: Your stories seem to push ordinary people into strange or confronting situations. What is it about the human condition which fascinates you as a writer?
MAG: I am very interested in how regular individuals react to extreme circumstances. In some it seems to bring out leadership and heroism, whereas it others it brings out savagery and cruelty. It makes me wonder, does being put in an extreme situation just make us more of who we always were deep down inside, or does it change us into something else entirely? These are fascinating and somewhat fun questions to explore in fiction.
GC: You were lucky enough to have Clive Barker blurb your book – is he one of your biggest influences?
MAG: I consider Barker a huge influence on me, for several reasons. For one, he’s just an amazing writer with amazing vision. And one of the things that appeals to me most about him is that he first made his name and gained fame through short stories. I am a passionate lover of the short form, and it really warms my heart to see a writer whose work in short fiction catapulted him so far so fast. As a gay man, I remember reading about him coming out when I was a teen, and that was a tremendous inspiration because back in the early 90s there didn’t seem to be a place for gay writers in the horror community, not like there is now, but he gave me hope.
Last year he was judging a short story competition based on one of his paintings, and I entered not really expecting much but just delighted by the idea that Barker would actually read something I wrote. I was ecstatic and shocked when my tale “The Support Group” was chosen as 1st runner up. Barker provided the tale with a generous and lovely blurb, which we were allowed to utilize for the collection which does contain that piece.
GC: You recently co-wrote a book with Aussie author Aaron Dries. Can you tell us a bit about that experience?
MAG: Aaron Dries is one of the nicest fellows around, and a hell of a talented writer. I had the pleasure of meeting him earlier this year at the World Horror Convention in Atlanta, GA, and we instantly hit it off. I’d already read some of his work and was a fan, and when he tossed out the idea of collaborating on something, I jumped on it.
He had an idea for a zombie novella that would not be your typical tale of the undead. Something more metaphoric and emotional. As we got into the story, it began to grow until it ended up a full-blown novel. The process was so much fun for me, with us writing and then rewriting each other’s work so that our voices truly blended into one unique voice that was neither his nor mine but something totally ours. I learned a lot from him and feel he helped me grow as a writer.
The novel is currently being read by a publisher, and we’re hopeful they will publish it. If not, we’ll just shop it elsewhere, but I feel confident we’ll find a home for it.
GC: What’s next for you – and what are you working on now?
MAG: Well, I’ve been in serious pimp mode for months now. I had a Halloween collection HALLOWEEN HOUSE OF HORRORS out in October, a zombie novella FORT out in November, and now FLOWERS IN A DUMPSTER. All projects I’m very proud of, so I’ve been working overtime spreading the word.
I’ve just started a new novella called BOOK HAVEN which is my first stab at a futuristic tale, while continuing to work on various short stories. I also have a novel I plan to get into once the novella is done, my own unique twist on the haunted house tale called 432 ABERCORN.
Flowers in a Dumpster is available now from Crystal Lake Publishing.
For more info on Mark, visit his blog – http://markgunnells.livejournal.com/