Interview with Robert Gannon

What motivated you to become an indie author?
I've been working close to 10 years as a freelance media critic/entertainment writer. I've had far more success as a writer going directly to smaller sites or publishing on my own than I ever did trying to succeed in the rapidly shrinking print market for genre fiction. Taking the plunge and publishing my short fiction directly to readers is a scary step, but one that will actually let people read what I do without having editors say "Love your story. We're looking for werewolf fiction right now. Can you change your story to fit that?" (actual note from an editor) or "Whoa. I was laughing until the end. Then it got too extreme. Tone it down or no one will publish it!" (actual note from editor).

The werewolf story was actually a slapstick, Kafka-esque ghost/splatter story, which was also the one called too extreme by a publisher looking for extreme splatter stories. You get the run around where everyone wants you to change the core of the story to suit their editorial mindset rather than just acknowledge your story is well-written but not right for their publication.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love playing with words. I discovered very early on how rewarding it is to put someone in a totally different mindset with recurring imagery or language choices and try to do that will all of my writing, fiction and criticism alike. It's a hard skill to master and one that you can only control to the point of release; then it's up to the reader to interpret your work. That's the joy of writing: bringing some level of control to the unknown.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book is a collection of five horror/dark fantasy/paranormal stories I've struggled to place with traditional print publications for years. I get really good feedback from editors who have unanimously decided that none of these stories are right for the horror, fantasy, paranormal, or even literary fiction publications.

The stories are oddly connected in a way that made me think they'd be a good debut. When you're confronted with things not of this world, you're forced to adapt in ways you've never imagined. An unpredictable business deal, a young obsession with mature horror, a kitchen with a mind of its own, a mysterious stone buried beneath the shore, and the new starring attraction at a declining farm all can reduce you to your base instincts and reveal what kind of person you really are. Some people will stand strong while others wither away to weakness or greed in the face of the inexplicable or the otherworldly.
Who are your favorite authors?
I read everything I can get my hands on. Just off the top of my head, I love Margaret Atwood, Jean Toomer, Mary Shelley, Henry James, James Joyce, Charles Dickens, and Tony Kushner. My big genre influences are pre-Victorian Gothic, Modernism, and 20th Century Drama.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
It's hard to pinpoint one story. I've been writing as long as I could hold a pencil. Teachers used to give extra credit in elementary school for short stories and I was a teacher's pet with a perfect GPA until my junior year in high school. It had to be a ghost story about the skull I saw materialize in the upstairs hallway of my house. I've reworked it a few times but haven't quite found the right angle to share that early inspiration yet.

I work in the same school system I went to, so I occasionally have my old teachers come up and talk to me about horror, sci-fi, and fantasy stories I wrote for them and have no memories of. I read and write incessantly so it's hard to keep everything straight.
How do you approach cover design?
I love arts and crafts. For my first cover design, I actually remembered a specific photo I took of my massive haunted night club display for Halloween 2013. I erected a huge stage with a band in the yard and placed simple ghosts around as the patrons. I like to take perspective shots of the haunt to show how detail-oriented my designs are (for home haunt competitions. I'll win one year, I know it) and actually climbed on the stage and shot a photo looking out at the ghosts. I caught the neighbors door just right and knew I could use the shot.

When putting together Take Out & Other Stories, I remembered the photo. I cropped it to just be the ghosts seemingly floating to the porch light across the street and then used a simple stock art filter to hide some of the seams in the haunt. Some bright text a few royalty free spooky fonts later and I had my first cover design.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale: It might be the best science fiction book ever written. The shocking, suspenseful tale of a woman losing all of her rights in a hostile religious takeover of the near-future United States will chill you to the bone and leave you craving more.

Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist: Is there a more perfect Realist novel than Oliver Twist? A college professor I had claimed it the worst, but my theater friends and I have long agreed that the simple but expansive story of a young orphan rising into high society through a chance encounter with pickpockets is a true masterpiece.

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: The original sci-fi novel and still one of the best. I always tell my students you're either a Dracula fan or a Frankenstein fan. There's rarely overlap there. It's not a good or a bad thing to prefer one over the other: it's just a matter of preference. I'm big on the dialogue driven narrative of man playing God and the creation talking back.

James Joyce's Ulysses: Experimental novels can be a tough read. James Joyce makes the writing seem effortless even if the subject matter is dense. The bizarre, meandering story of a typical day in the life of an unlikely Irishman is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how far the limits of literature can be pushed.

Young-Ha Kim's I Have the Right to Destroy Myself: This short novel is one of the more sensitive and realistic depictions of suicide, depression, and loneliness in a crowded city you'll ever find. It's a masterwork in brevity and a uniquely haunting novel driven by an active but nameless narrator who lives an unremarkable life making an impact on the lives of others.
What is your writing process?
I develop an idea in my head and then put it to paper. Sometimes, it's just an image that I build off of (or, more likely, build to) while writing. Other times, it's a fully formed scenario that just needs finesse. I believe in letting the writing take me where it needs to go while editing aggressively. I'm the anti-NaNoWriMo author. I use my inner editor to give me a break and try out different directions for the same story.
Describe your desk
I have a multi-tier platform of customized work stations from Ikea to house everything from my computer and monitor to printers, research materials, and gaming consoles. It's an absolute mess that makes no sense to anyone but me. Next to my desk is the rest of the gaming consoles, the big TV, and an end table loaded with games. All of this is contained in the bedroom, which also has multiple dressers and cabinets filled with books and a wall unit loaded with DVDs and my fabric stash. I sprawl when I work and this layout gives me lots of places to shove stacks of materials.
What are you working on next?
I'm already working on my next collection of short stories. I have a lot of stories I was very proud of that just didn't fit the needs of horror, sci-fi, or fantasy markets because I write slipstream stories. It's too scary for fantasy, to unbelievable for sci-fi, and too techy for horror. I'm trying to figure out how often I can put out these little mini collection and how long it would take to put together a full length collection of new stories from scratch.
Published 2013-12-01.
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Books by This Author

Take Out & Other Stories: A Collection of Weird Fiction
You set the price! Words: 6,400. Language: English. Published: December 3, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Weird fiction, Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
Take Out & Other Stories: A Collection of Weird Fiction explores what happens to the human mind when one thing enters a life that cannot be explained a way with logic or reason. From a young boy's obsession with horror stories to a kitchen with a mind of its own, these five stories put the weird back in weird fiction.