I was asked by the fine folks at Apex Publications to interview Mr. Douglas F. Warrick, esq. regarding his upcoming short story collection, Plow the Bones.
I’ve talked about books here in the past and had several folks tell me that my recommendations were useful, so here’s another: Go buy Plow the Bones. It is seriously good. Apex isn’t paying me to say that. In fact, they don’t pay me at all. I just think they’re fancy people.
Also, this was my first time conducting an interview and I didn’t fuck it up. Go me!
Tell everyone about Doug Warrick and Plow the Bones!
I’m Douglas F. Warrick. I started writing professionally in about 2006, that’s when I made my first sale to what was then Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest. It’s always so awkward trying to summarize yourself. That’s what I’ve found most perplexing about this process of PRing this book. You have to find something compelling to say about yourself. I spent the last three years teaching English in Korea, I’ve visited China and Thailand and Japan. I’m putting out this first book, Plow the Bones. It’s a collection of short stories. I’m pretty excited about it. It’s the first thing I’ve released that’s just me. I’ve been in anthologies and magazines and podcasts. This is the first thing I’ve done that’s me between both covers.
You’ve mentioned before that Apex Magazine published your first short. Does their publishing your book feel like a sort of homecoming?
It really does. I can’t imagine putting it out through anyone else. Jason (Sizemore) has been in my corner from the very beginning. He’s been my biggest cheerleader.
“When’s that collection coming out?”
It felt really right to have this come out through him. I feel like I have an affinity with Apex. It feels like family to me.
I’ve noticed religious themes are something you incorporate into several of your stories. Is that a conscious decision, or is religion just something that you find yourself subconsciously compelled to write?
I don’t think that I make a whole lot of conscious decisions when I’m writing. There are some things I try to add when I go back and edit, but for me the process is just sort of exploring my own anxieties. At least, that’s the process when I’m getting it on the page for the first time. I don’t necessarily think “well, I’m going to explore themes of religion in this.” I consider myself an uneasy atheist. I grew up Lutheran and was constantly told I’d be going to hell, and I guess I have a phobia of that. I’m afraid I’m getting it wrong. Now, when I go back and edit, that’s the point where I can see the themes that I’m working with. That’s when I can explore and see “oh, that theme’s been coming up a lot. Can I connect that to another story?”
I think every horror writer, one way or another, has strong feelings about Stephen King and H.P Lovecraft. What are yours?
I don’t know that I love or hate either, but I’m strongly conflicted on both. I think King is an interesting writer because he’s so populist. Sometimes he gets it and sometimes he misses it entirely. I love his Dark Tower books and I love Pet Sematary, that’s a brilliant novel. Sometimes I feel a little pandered to by Stephen King. I feel like he wants us to feel like he’s us and it gets a little obnoxious, and it gets boring to read 400 pages of whatever pop culture thing he’s consuming that day. I do love his stuff and continue to read it though.
I’m so conflicted on Lovecraft because I find his work so… some of what he wrote is legitimately frightening to me. I’m deeply conflicted by his racism. That has always bothered me. I think that it is too frequently hand-waved by his fans. He’s an interesting guy. I find him just, biographically, pretty intriguing. Some of what S.T. Joshi has written about him has been interesting and his correspondence was really cool. I think he was a deeply troubled dude and socially maladjusted and I think that comes through in his fiction. It’s so difficult to separate Lovecraft the writer from Lovecraft the person, and that’s where I’m conflicted with him.
What else are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a couple of different things. I have a novel in progress called We Three Slayers of Beasts, which is sort of a surreal crime novel that I’m hoping to finish up quickly here. My list of works in progress is far too long. I’ve got a second work-in-progress novel called the Memento Mori Year, which is set in Korea. Maybe a half-dozen short stories, maybe like four of which I’ll finish. That’s kind of the extent of things I’m working on that aren’t connected to Plow the Bones or its promotion.
You are in a dark forest. You come to a fork in the path. One way leads to a blind dog who will lead you to a cave in which you can learn one secret you’ve always wanted to know, but you don’t get to choose which secret. The other way leads to a tree with an axe stuck in it. The axe will tell you any person’s sins, but if you use it, you are obligated to kill them with the axe if the sins are bad enough. Which path do you take?
I’m going with the dog on that one. Yeah. I don’t think I have it in me to kill anyone. I’d rather have some deep dark secret revealed to me.
If that episode of The Twilight Zone where Burgess Meredith is the last man alive (where he has the stacks of books, but breaks his glasses before he can start reading them) were to really happen, what do you think the chances are that he would select Plow the Bones as one of his books?
100%. Everyone’s gonna read this thing. No, I’m gonna guess that old Mr. Meredith was probably not big on weird, experimental neurotic nonsense. Probably pretty low. If it were in the stack, I’d hope he’d at least get through a couple of stories before his specs fell off.
Anything else to add?
Please go check out Plow the Bones. I hope everyone who reads this is compelled to pick it up and that they enjoy it when they do so.