Gregory L. Norris’s story, “Baby Gray,” opens with the trashy reality TV trope of the “loser” sucker punching the “heel” on the set of a storage unit for which the heel has successfully achieved the winning bid. In this case, the heel, reality “celebrity” Tyler Jessup, has won more than he bargained for… he just doesn’t know it yet. When I read this story, with its well-drawn main character and classic horror trope in a penultimate modern setting, I knew I had to have it for Stories We Tell After Midnight 2.
Q (Crone Girls Press): What do you write? How long have you been writing? What are your preferred genres and why?
A Gregory L. Norris): When I turned fifteen (in the long ago summer of 1980), I took my first glimpse into a much larger universe than the one I knew and decided I wanted to be a writer, only a writer, because I loved to write. I write across all genres and I strive to finish drafts of every idea that comes to me — even the baddest and ugliest (which make great exercises). I love SF, Mystery, Romance, Space Opera, Mainstream, Flash, Horror. I detested the Western genre until 2013 when, stuck in a hospital bed for 4 days with Westerns running on the TV, I outlined (and later wrote and sold) three Western tales. Now I appreciate and love that genre as well.
Q: What inspired your story in this anthology? Tell us the “story behind the story.”
A: “Baby Gray” was inspired by two distinct threads. The first involves an obscure 1950s horror flick set in Rome whose title eludes me. The other was that I was seated in my living room writing and one of those lousy reality TV shows about storage units was playing in the background. The idea that the winning bidder might uncover something odd and dangerous led to my writing “Baby Gray”.
Q: What draws you to the genre of horror/dark fiction? What do you find there that you don’t find anywhere else?
A: There’s a certain elegance to fear. I grew up haunted by the dreamy daytime soap DARK SHADOWS. I had a recurring dream that if I looked across the road into the deep, dark woods surrounding our little house and the wind was blowing just right, I’d see Collinwood, the vast manor house filled with mystery and secrets from that show. Then, one day on the school bus in an autumn long gone, I looked up and there was Collinwood, rising up through the trees. It really wasn’t — our small town had a bona fide castle built by the Searles family — but the image haunts me to this day. I also grew up on a healthy diet of creature double features. Fear is elegant even in its rawness. I love the elegant shudder of something glimpsed only from the corner of the eye, an undercurrent of wrongness, and that glimpse through the trees at something no one else can see.
Q: There are a number of subgenres/tropes/flavors of horror. Where does your story fit? What drew you to this particular category?
A: Mine would likely fall into Splatterpunk at the end. I normally don’t spill gallons of blood in my writing but I will say this — when I have in the past, those stories have sold generally on their first forays out into the publishing universe and have gotten excellent reviews!
Q: Why horror? What about the genre appeals to you as an author?
A: Again, I love a good chill. I’ve been told that my stories have kept people up at night, made them wince, look over their shoulders, and creeped them out completely. To me, as a writer, that means I’ve done my job and done it well.
Q: Of the characters you’ve created, who is your favorite, and why?
A: I’ve been writing SPACE:1999 fan fiction since I was a boy. That amazing outer space series was what made me pick up my pen. Quite a few years ago, I created an android commander named Rudj Rudat who became the villainous foil for the heroes of that beloved series. I’ve killed Rudat numerous times but because he’s an android, I’ve also managed to bring him back. I have one final confrontation between Rudat and Commander John Robert Koenig (who was played so beautifully by actor Martin Landau) that I can’t wait to begin, likely in the fall of 2020.
Q: What do you find the most challenging about the writing process, and how do you meet that challenge?
A: I learned a long time ago to get out of my own way. There are days when I’d rather do the dishes than write — not many, but I’m not above falling into excuses if there’s a pressing deadline or I’m not in the zone. Now I mostly tell myself to stop screwing around, uncap my pen, and get to work. As I grow older, I find the winters challenging — I want to hibernate and my energy level plummets. In the spring, summer, and autumn, I write most days on my sun porch with its view of the mountains, but in the winter here in New Hampshire’s remote North Country, days are short and the cold brutal. So I write winter stories to stay focused and set reasonable goals in terms of page count and deadlines. Coffee helps.
Q: What was the worst writing advice you ever received? The best writing advice? Why, and how did it affect your writing?
A: I read in a book once to line up all your unfinished manuscripts and cull the herd — to toss out those you didn’t see yourself finishing. I choked. My stories are my babies, and I love them all — even the worst behaved and ugliest of the bunch. I left that book at a writing retreat in Vermont on the shelves in the library. The best came from my late, great grandmother, Rachel Runge. She published fairly regularly in the 1960s with HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN. She told me to write down my story ideas on note cards and keep them in a card catalog — to not trust my memory to remember stories and facets of stories but to commit them to a recipe card so that the idea could ‘cook’ even while I wasn’t working on it. The best advice ever. I refer to my card catalog as my treasure chest of ideas. I also have her old treasure chest in my home office, with her notes for stories and poetry projects.
Q: If someone asked you to recommend books/stories similar to what you write, who/what titles would you be giving them? And, why?
A: I always recommend anything by sisters Roxanne and Karen Dent. They are, to me, the modern day Brothers Grimm.
Q: What’s next in your writing journey?
A: I’m about to begin a time travel mystery/romance called EX MARKS THE SPOT. I’ve got a giant robot novella and am under contract for six Fantasy short stories for one publisher. And on my to-be-written list of story ideas are 36 projects crossing a wide canvas of genres.
Gregory L. Norris
Gregory L. Norris writes full time from the outer limits of New Hampshire’s North Country. His work appears in national magazines, fiction anthologies, novels, and the occasional episode for TV and film. Follow his literary adventures at http://www.gregorylnorris.blogspot.com and/or follow him on Facebook.
To read Gregory L. Norris’s story, “Baby Gray,” pick up a copy of Stories We Tell After Midnight 2. And, once you are finished, please think about leaving us a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Reviews make our cold, dark little heart so happy…