Laura E. Price’s short story, “Primary Manifestations,” opens with an image that’s a little too familiar these days–a family, down on their luck, lost their jobs, lost their home, moving into a place that they would only choose to live in if they were desperate not to live in their van. It is that desperation that fuels and flavors this haunted piece from beginning to end…
Q (Crone Girls Press): What do you write? How long have you been writing? What are your preferred genres and why?
A (Laura E. Price): I’ve been writing seriously since about age ten, but I really started getting a grip on what I do and how I do it about thirteen years ago. That’s when I began to lean into the weirder parts of my imagination, writing more of what I found entertaining and less of what I thought other people might like. (It turns out, people actually like the weirder stuff more.) I primarily write fantasy and horror, with some occasional science fiction mixed in for fun, and I write in those genres because I like them the best. Look, I go to work, come home, talk to my family, and wage passive-aggressive war against my neighbors’ ideas of how my lawn should look … why on earth would I want to write about that? It’s boring. Give me my epic adventures and haunted houses.
Q: What inspired your story in this anthology? Tell us the “story behind the story.”
A: When I watched the Netflix “Haunting of Hill House,” it occurred to me that haunted house stories, particularly ones involving kids, have gotten a lot scarier to me since I had a kid.
You’re a parent, and you make one poor judgement call—and not even an obviously poor judgement call! The house is a great bargain! You want your kids to grow up somewhere with a yard, and this is the only way to afford it! Or you’re getting out of a bad situation! Or, hell, you just … buy a house. And it ends up with your kids being haunted for the rest of their lives because you did the best you could for them, and you still made the wrong choice.
It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. Well, it’s my worst nightmare. And that’s where “Primary Manifestations” comes from. The other main piece of it was wanting to set a horror story in south Florida, where I live, specifically. There are so many architectural nightmare houses here, and it’s not a recent phenomenon–go visit the Ringling mansion, you’ll see that questionable taste in Florida homes goes back a long, long way–we should have far more haunted houses than we do.
Q: What draws you to the genre of horror/dark fiction? What do you find there that you don’t find anywhere else?
A: I’ve always loved scary things, creepy things, blood and death. There is something beautiful about monsters, something oddly graceful in the grotesque. But an integral part of horror, I think, is love. It can be love that’s been twisted, or love that’s salvation; it can be love found in unexpected places, felt by things that perhaps oughtn’t. It’s possible that these strange permutations of love can’t be found in daylight. But that’s what draws me in, that strange dark love under all the fear.
Q: There are a number of subgenres/tropes/flavors of horror. Where does your story fit? What drew you to this particular category?
A: I love hauntings. Ghosts have long been my favorite horror trope. I like ghosts that can talk to you clearly, but I also love ghosts who can’t communicate anymore, ghosts who are on auto-pilot, evil ghosts, friendly ghosts–give me all the spectral dead. None of this zombie nonsense with the brains, guts hanging out. I’m looking for the gauzy thing in the corner of your eye or the bathroom mirror that doesn’t quite look right, but it reaches for you all the same, yearning toward you for … something. To talk? To touch? For love? For company?
There’s only one way to find out, if you’re brave. Or too scared to move. Either way.
Q: Why horror? Why do you write it? What about the genre appeals to you as an author?
A: When I think about writing horror, I imagine looking for the center of a shadow. The part of a monster that lets you understand it is an interesting part. Especially if you understand it, but still recoil from it. That’s the tiny, still center I look for as I write.
Q: Of the characters you’ve created, who is your favorite, and why?
A: My favorite character I have created is actually a pair, but they really don’t come separately: Corwyn and Gwen Teachout, lady adventuresses for hire (whose exploits can be found in a variety of publications linked at my blog). The Teachouts work for the Museum, which sends them out to find rare and mysterious objects. They each have supernatural knacks: Corwyn can find people, while Gwen’s knack is for fighting. They are snarky. They have very little patience for, well, anyone (or anything). Their go-to method for getting out of trouble is to ask “what’s the stupidest thing we could do right now?” I love them. Not sure they’re very fond of me, though.
Q: What was the worst writing advice you ever received? The best writing advice? Why, and how did it affect your writing?
A: I think the dumbest writing advice I ever got was that you shouldn’t be emotionally affected by your own writing. According to this school of thought, if you’re laughing at your own jokes, or crying at your own tragedy, you’re not actually being funny or affecting; you’re being self-indulgent. I think this kept me from really emotionally connecting to my work for a while. And now I feel like–you know, I’m my first reader; shouldn’t I be entertained as I write?
Q: What do you find the most challenging about the writing process, and how do you meet that challenge?
A: Drafting is the most challenging part of the process, for me. Hammering a vague concept, three characters, an aesthetic, and one really clear scene into a decent enough structure to be a first draft is hard, y’all. I meet this challenge through a clever combination of longhand writing, complaining on social media, banging my head against my desk, and talking the plot out with the husband and/or the best friend. Also swearing. Possibly some whining. I most definitely do not bribe myself with peanut butter M&Ms.
I’ve gotten a lot of really good advice over the years, too; in the end, though, it all comes down to the same thing: do whatever works. The end goal is to write and finish stories, so whatever you have to do (short of murder, I guess) to make that happen, do it. Write it in longhand. Outline. Dictate it into your phone. Bribe yourself with peanut butter M&Ms. And if what worked last time isn’t working this time, ditch it and try something new. Just get the words on the page.
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: If you like my stories, you might also like the Kyle Murchison Booth stories by Sarah Monette (“The Bone Key” is a collection of them). These are old-fashioned spooky tales of murder, ghosts, horror, and, as the subtitle of the collection states, “necromantic mysteries.” You can draw a line between the Parrington where Booth works as an archivist and the Museum that features in some of my other work, though I imagine Booth would be aghast at the ways in which my characters (any of them) interact with the horrors they encounter.
Q: What’s next in your writing journey?
A: I’m currently querying agents for a novel about the Teachout sisters (the main characters of a series of short stories I’ve been writing the past few years), and working on more short stories. There may be a novella lurking in the back corners of my brain, as well, but we will have to see if and when it starts demanding my attention.
Laura E. Price
Laura E. Price lives with her family in Florida in a house that is most definitely not haunted. Really. Nothing to see there. The lights just … do that, sometimes. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, GigaNotoSaurus, Curiosities, Broad Knowledge: 35 Women Up to No Good, as well as other venues–you can find her full bibliography at her blog, seldnei.wordpress.com.
To read “Primary Manifestations” by Laura E. Price, 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…