Hello, readers. This is David Stegora, Editor-In-Chief of Dark Futures back with another interview. Today we will be interviewing Patrick W. Marsh, who any regular reader will know as the author of The Greenland Diaries. Patrick is also the author of the novel Beware The Ills and a story called The Water Palace, which appears in Dark Futures Annual 1.
Patrick will be appearing at Crypticon Minnesota this weekend, where he will be releasing The Greenland Diaries Days 101-140 in paperback format. He’ll have some copies of that, as well as his other books, available for sale and will be on hand to sign them. Thanks for taking the time to do this, Patrick.
As is our custom here, we’ll start simple by asking you to tell us a little about yourself.
Thank you for having me as an author interview on Dark Futures. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dark Futures and the content it produces. In fact, Dark Futures in many ways inspired me to create Calamities Press. I’ve been writing since I was 16 years old. After high school I floated around aimlessly taking classes at a variety of colleges. Typically, I’d take all the creative writing courses I could at a college, then I’d transfer onto the next one as much as FAFSA would allow me. It wasn’t until I published Beware the Ills a few years ago that I started to withdraw from using college as a time to write and fell from my academic paradise in the effort to actually produce writing that wouldn’t satiate a writers workshop full of my cynical counterparts. During this decade of muddled college, I worked a glorious amount of customer service jobs to support myself including; bank teller, maintenance guy, projectionist (before the invention of digital projectors, I just dated myself), cashier, security guard, and the heinously misanthropic Macy’s Christmas/Seasonal employee. Writing horror and dark fantasy has always been a two headed monster for me to dance with. Morose themes allow me to confront emotional trauma and psychological damage I’ve survived or inflicted throughout my life. Also, I like to use monsters within the horror and dark fantasy genre to enhance the humanity of my normal characters within the narrative. I’m literally bouncing nonfiction off of very fictional appendages within my plot. I dislike scary movies due to the suspense. I seldom play scary games for the same reason. Fear and monsters are a form of therapy for me, not necessarily a symbol of entertainment.
For those who haven’t yet read any of The Greenland Diaries, tell us a little about the series.
The story is told through the point of view of a bank teller, who one evening in April hears a drum thundering off in the distance. Shortly after the sound starts, shadowy monsters appear and began to relentlessly slaughtering humans for what seems like no reason. Plants began to choke the earth, and the mirrors and streetlights become haunted with these horrors. He writes fragmented, and sloppy diary entries each night before the drum starts in an effort to understand the then occurring apocalypse. It was important to me that the main character be a regular type of loser (slightly based on me). Not some ex special ops warrior. You’re chained to the story by his shaky perspective, which is continuously baffled by the monsters and their intentions. I emptied my entire war chest for the monsters. They’re unlike anything you’ve ever seen. They’re not genetic freaks, aliens, zombies, ghosts, or anything of the sort. I’m not ashamed to admit they’re by far the most interesting thing in my story. I had the opportunity to purge the novel of errors and “poor” writing, but instead left some in to give the audience a sense of authenticity, that a survivor and not necessarily a writer wrote the Greenland Diaries.
Regulars to Dark Futures are already aware we’ve published the first 10 days of the series here on the site. Would you say writing The Greenland Diaries has gotten easier or more difficult since then?
I would say the evolution of the voice has gotten easier, along with what I want out of the story as it progresses. The most challenging part of the novel is introducing characters, because the narrator is a monster-made hermit, a refugee of a nightly catastrophe, and adding other survivors, monsters, or characters into the fold cause ripples in his character that even I can’t predict. How he interacts with these characters in realistic manner in a fictional setting is hard to construct. Awkward emptiness tends to be the topic of conversation. You’re afraid to mention the world before the monsters because the old old world gets resurrected every night. How do you talk about the weather when everyone you know has been killed, and the drum is a metronome for your life?
Do you know how far, in terms of days/entries, The Greenland Diaries will go or is it still open ended for now? Do you know how it will end?
The Greenland Diaries will be exactly one year long or 365 days. The year will be split into six books, two of which have already been published. I wanted to stretch it out longer, but the rate of devastation and madness sort of compels the plot to be shorter. I do know how it will end. Just like the briefing at the beginning of the book, it will end in Duluth Minnesota. In the next novel to be released next year at Crypticon, we’ll be introduced to the character who takes the narrator to Duluth. The next book will be 62 days long.
The Greenland Diaries obviously didn’t start on Dark Futures. In fact, it’s something you’ve been writing for quite a while and the early days of it have been published online in more than one place. Tell us a little bit about how it got started and where it’s been.
The Greenland Diaries started in the humblest of ways. During a lull between colleges, I forgot how to write in past-tense, so I started writing a blog via Blogspot. It was an apocalyptic journal of a man trying to survive a plant-wild apocalypse. Originally, no one read the damn thing except for some family and friends taking pity on me. Eventually, the views started to grow, and after hitting 30,000 within the first year I decided to publish the first 100 days of the series as a novel, and I haven’t looked back. Out of all my stories, this one seems to resonate the most with audiences. It’s a strange mixture of a simplistic narrator in a complicated situation. I think people can appreciate how human the main character is in the storm of faceless abominations.
You write primarily horror, correct?
I do. I’ve been published in other genres as well like poetry and nonfiction. I’ve wanted to experiment in other styles, but horror pulls me back.
What is it that draws you to that genre? What keeps you coming back?
Horror done well can be emotionally rewarding to the audience and the writer. When you use elements of fear to represent your emotions, experiences, and beliefs, you can pull the genre apart and represent humanity itself. You can literally bounce our human flaws off of a fictional monster, or better yet, use monsters to represent human characteristics. In the Greenland Diaries, the monsters are center stage, but the emotions of the main character reacting to them are actually my emotions. I’ve had a hard time being emotionally honest my entire life, but horror offers me a chance to use monsters to represent my actual voice and beliefs. Moreover, it allows me to create human characters who react like I may or may not in these situations.
Attending Crypticon Minnesota has become an annual thing for you, as it is for me. You and I even met there back in 2013. What do you enjoy most about the con? What advice would you offer people attending the convention for the first time?
I enjoy the atmosphere of the con itself. Horror has become an amoeba of a genre, pulling in science fiction, fantasy, and literary genres to name just a few. All of this is represented at Crypticon, so even if you haven’t watched or read the latest horror, they’ll be something from your past or present you recognize and can geek out about. The people that run the convention are good people, family friendly, and they keep a low-key vibe so you’re not made uncomfortable by rabid con attendees. Also, the guests are great. My advice would be to hang out in the dealers room and talk to the guests of honor as much as you can. The convention does a great job of making them available to you beyond their signing times.
You will be on a panel at this year’s Crypticon. It’s my understanding you’ll even be on it with regular Dark Futures and Phase 2 Magazine contributor Roy C. Booth. Tell us what panel that is, when it will be taking place, and what you will be talking about.
I’ll be on a writers panel at 11:15 am on Saturday. We’ll be going over a variety of questions when it comes to horror, like why do we like it so much? How does horror writing fit in with the other genres? What are our inspirations? I’m sure it’ll be a hodgepodge of grim stories, sadness, and hilarious anecdotes of people getting their faces cut off.
Moving onto something a bit different, you’re also editor of Calamities Press. Tell us a little about what that is.
Calamities Press is a literary magazine I started in the vein attempt to create a “job” in writing besides composing my own stories. I also wanted to see if I could work with other people on a creative endeavor, which hasn’t been that easy. In all, even if the technology is there to create a literary magazine, having the skill and the time to make it function is incredibly difficult. I have a ton of admiration for those who can make it work, since I’m constantly putting Calamities Press on hiatus. Calamities Press is a hodgepodge literary magazine that publishes new and serialized content during the week, along with new authors. We look for niche genres to publish like Slipstream, Magical Realism, nonfiction diatribes about your messed up dreams, and poetry. We also publish a ton of artwork, including photography, music posters, web comics, and jewelry. I’m very proud of the work we produce, despite funding setbacks, and real life getting in the way. We’ve recently gone through a reorganization of the site, so this is sort of the last hurrah to see if this website can exist in this saturated media environment.
What advice would you offer people who are either just starting to write or just starting to take writing and being an author seriously? Is there anything you wish you would have known back then?
The best piece of advice I can give authors is don’t run before you can walk. A formal education in writing isn’t for everyone, but it helped me. Sometimes, you can be the type of writer who just needs to read a lot to assimilate style and tact. Don’t aim for a massive novel deal from a traditional publisher right away, but maybe a small short story or poem for a literary magazine. If you shoot for the moon in this publishing environment you will almost always miss, and us writers are sensitive folk, we don’t take rejection very well. The world likes to put you through your paces, and writing isn’t any different. Whether it’s school, independent study, or reading a ton, learn how to write. Know the rules so you can break them. Writer’s workshops are invaluable, and I suggest becoming friends with a community of writers so you can get support with editing, content, and distribution. You don’t even have to meet with people face-to-face, you can be the atypical writer introvert and do workshops online. But there is no blueprint for learning how to write.
That’s all the specific questions we have for you at the moment. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about before we let you go?
Check out the Greenland Diaries. Read it online for free at Dark Futures, or buy the book on Kindle for a few bucks. People seem to really like it, including me, and I’m the one
writing it. Thank you David for being an inspiration of mine, and for writing on awesome column on Calamities Press called Voice of the Witness. Keep up the good work at Dark Futures. You got something good going here.
Thanks again for taking the time to do this today. Maybe we’ll catch up with you again at some point in the future.
For those in Minnesota or not far off, Crypticon will be taking place this weekend, October 23-25, 2015 at the Bloomington Ramada by the Mall of America. Come out for a weekend of parties and all things horror. I’ll be there along with a few past Dark Futures contributors.