Interview with dark fiction author J.A. Crook about his short story collection

As we near
Halloween, it’s always fun to have dark fiction authors on the blog. Today I have
horror writer, Joshua “J.A.” Crook answering questions about Amid the Recesses: A Short Story Collectionof Fear.
Bio:
J. A. Crook
is an independent American horror and literary fiction author. He writes
anthologies that combine terror, suspense, and supernatural elements. His short
literary fiction focuses on the human condition with southern gothic influence.
His inspirations include the modernist writers Ernest Hemingway, Carson
McCullers, and Flannery O’Connor. Contemporary inspirations include Stephen
King, Clive Barker, Cormac McCarthy, and Raymond Carver. He has written
and released two horror anthologies and has published a series of short fiction
pieces. His style involves the use of intertextuality between stories and
anthologies, with a focus on keen dialogue and minimalism.
Welcome, J.A. Please tell us about
your current release.
Amid the Recesses: A Short Story
Collection of Fear
is
a second edition release of my first horror anthology. It’s also the first book
I wrote. Amid the Recesses was a
practice in intertextuality and humanity, in understanding people and how their
minds work. I wanted to dig into the very depths of ourselves, of parts of our
society that are plagued by diseases and distress, that are lost in this world
and are healed or left for dead. I wanted to talk about love and horror and
about how these two ideas, this intensity of emotion, of fear which sometimes
hangs in the balance of the two, can manifest itself. I wanted to understand
myself as a writer, to export my ideas and imagination onto a page. The second
edition is a sort of “purifying” of an old work with new, grown talent. I wrote
this book when I hadn’t known myself. I know more now and wanted to infuse my
old art with it. Besides, it’s one of the few luxuries of self-publishing—the
ease of editions.
What inspired you to write this book?
I was
drunk. I was sick. I didn’t know anything about anyone or myself for a long
time. I’d trapped myself in my own world and hid and tried to prevent myself
from doing things that made me evil or angry. Somewhere in the middle of this
book I gave into myself and damaged a lot of important things in my life.
Writing this book was a way to keep me sane when I was certainly becoming less
and less so. Writing became that way, truthfully. It saves me from myself. I
had to get the darkness out of me and that’s what this book was about:
expelling demons.
Excerpt from “The Horse, the Elephant,
& the Lion”:
The carpets were bloodied. The walls were
streaked with red. Everything she had cleaned was soiled again. Her mouth fell open
and her lips quivered toward a scream, but she could not. A trembling hand shot
over her mouth.
            “How?
How is this possib—“
She heard a metallic lullaby.
The sound chimed through the hallway and came from the room in the middle of
the hall. She recognized that it was the song from the mobile over the cradle. Her
legs weakened and sweat sprung at her forehead. She stepped toward the door of
the middle room. The sound became louder. She braced herself against the wall. Hand
over hand, she scaled along flat surface. She depended on the wall for support.
She depended on the wall to remind her of reality.
“This isn’t real. This
isn’t real.” She said over and over again.
The door to the room was
cracked. She reminded herself that she had closed it. She considered a weapon—a
lamp or a knife. She took a broad step toward the end of the hall before the
door opened fully. She froze.
            Patterns
of light projected from the room onto the hallway wall. Irene pressed her back
against the wall and watched the ghostly shapes float by. The light projected a
horse, an elephant, and then a lion. One appeared after the next in their
endless circus march. She wanted to hide inside of the wall. When nothing came
from the door, she slid closer to it.
            She
shook from head to toe as she peered into the dark room. The mobile turned
around and around. It sang its provocative lullaby. The light in the center of
the spinning mobile beamed through the carved shapes of each animal and they
circled the room. Each projected animal crawled along the wall with more
confidence than Irene. When the light hit her eye with the passing of each
projection, she was blinded. Light faded into darkness and darkness into light
as she stared at the spinning mobile.
            The
sound was too much for Irene to bear. The melancholy melody ripped at her heart.
She stepped into the threshold of the door. Her bare feet rose over
obstacles—she dodged animal-printed wallpaper and she stepped over unopened
bags from the baby shower. She scanned the room for an intruder. She eyes
scanned the room and followed the projected shaped across the walls. She waited
to see if something would be revealed when the light passed. Nothing was. She
reached the cradle to brace herself—it was a grounding point in the center of
the room. She stared down its emptiness. The horse passed. The elephant
followed. The lion stalked behind. The room became colder. The door ticked
closed and remained cracked.
She grabbed the spinning
mobile and it clicked as the motor fought to turn against her grip. The parade
stopped but the song played on. She ripped the mobile from the hook above the
cradle. The hook fell into the cradle and the rattle of plastic was heard as it
impacted. The light in the mobile shut off and there was complete darkness. The
song played on.
            Irene
reached for something to hold her up far from the cradle. She heard plastic
shifting again coming from the center of the room.
What exciting project are you working
on next?
I’m writing
my first full novel. It’s about a character named Joe who’s a detective. He’s
suicidal and hates everything except that he falls in love with a dead woman,
whose death is a mystery. It invigorates him, enough, and on his own maniacal
terms he works his way toward vengeance and understanding.
When did you first consider yourself a
writer?
I’ve
written nearly as long as I could. I remember being in love with writing when I
was a young child and we were made to create our own books in second grade for
some parent-involved show and tell. I strengthened my writing in online
roleplaying forums and chatrooms in the early days of MSN and AOL and internet
service that somehow survive for reasons beyond me. I left the military in 2012
and decided to go to school for writing, but always questioned the validity of
it as a “career choice” and people are pretty good about reminding you that
it’s a poor one. However, I decided eventually that they’re both right and
wrong. They’re right in that I may never make a dollar. They’re wrong because
it doesn’t matter. I truly embraced “being a writer,” with the title and all
recently. I was slated to go to law school next year. I decided not to. I’ll
write. That’s it.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?
I don’t
know what writing full-time entails. Daily word counts seem to vary between
writers. Some say 500 words a day is enough to call yourself full-time. Stephen
King claims to write at least 10 pages a day. I strive to write as much as I
can when I can. I’m a student, too, and I’m stuck often reading uninteresting
Victorian-era junk while I’d rather be writing. But I’m also a dedicated
student, so I read what I need to. If I have a moment to myself, I write. If I
think I should be doing something less productive, I try not to, then I write.
I find any moment I can.
What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?
Quirk? Hm.
Sometimes I make the voice of my characters as I’m writing their dialogue. I
don’t even notice I’m doing it sometimes. It’s especially unusual when I’m
writing a monster or some sort of intense villain. In moments like those, I’m
glad I’m alone. But it helps me to tighten the dialogue and get the feel. It’s
weird, I don’t know.
As a child, what did you want to be
when you grew up?
An
architect. I was an ignorant little fool.
Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?
I suppose
I’d like to thank any supporter of indie writers like myself. We walk a fine
line between trying to be enjoyable and avoiding being outright annoying, but I
hope readers understand that we’re entirely in and of our own business. I
should add our business is full of pitiful writers, too. We try hard to
distinguish ourselves, us that truly care about the craft. Be patient with us.
Give us a chance. Consider something unusual, whether it be my writing or
someone else’s who’s trying to compete with the Stephen Kings of the world—you
might be surprised.
Amid the Recesses releases on December 8.
Links:

Thanks for being here today, J.A.! Happy writing.

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