Fellow Garden Stater Jeff Samson is a writer and creative director at an ad agency. His piece in the anthology, “Hey Diddle Diddle,” is a science-gone-wrong story that warns against the pursuit of knowledge untethered by caution, yet still gives the reader glimpses of the wonder and drive that fuel that pursuit. For more, read on!
Q (Crone Girls Press): What do you write? How long have you been writing? What are your preferred genres and why?
A (Jeff Samson): I tend to write whatever comes to mind. An idea strikes and I run with it. I’ve been at it on and off for the last ten years or so. And nearly everything I write could be classified as Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror, or some combination of the three. I love Science Fiction and Fantasy because there’s just so much room to play. They’re like great, big sandboxes for the mind. And I enjoy Horror because it’s so damn challenging. Scaring people is hard. And fun.
Q: What inspired your story in this anthology? Tell us the “story behind the story.”
A: I picked this story out of a hat. Literally, out of a hat. My friend Brian (the same Brian I mentioned earlier) and I wrote out twelve common SF/Fantasy/Horror tropes on slips of paper, tossed them in a hat, and randomly drew one. It’s a thing we’ve been doing for years when we feel we need a spark to get going. In this case, that spark was “uplifting animals.” Later that week, I was reading nursery rhymes to my son. And it just kinda hit me.
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’m a sucker for existential dread. Morbid as that might sound, I find it conjures up all sorts of powerful feelings and heavy thoughts. And for me, there’s nothing that dials it up quite like a solid horror yarn. I’ve always been in awe of folks like King, Tremblay and Ketchum because of how skilled they are at creating that sense of dread within the reader. As I mentioned before, scaring people is hard. And they make it look effortless.
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 try to resist pigeonholing my work (easy as it may be to pigeonhole much of it). But this story is a pretty clear case of what Michael Crichton referred to as scientists asking whether or not they could instead of whether or not they should. So that’s what…science run amok? Let’s go with that.
Q: Why horror? Why do you write it? What about the genre appeals to you as an author?
A: At the risk of sounding shallow, I just really enjoy terrifying people. Of course I want to make people think and feel. But I can do that in any genre. With horror, I can make people think and feel AND shit their pants. And I just find so much delight in that. Does that make me a bad person?
Q: Of the characters you’ve created, who is your favorite, and why?
A: That’s easy: Brian and Jurgen. They’re the only two characters in a short story I wrote a number of years ago called Can Spring Be Far Behind?, which was published in Lore. Just a couple of good friends riding out the apocalypse together in a burned-out tenement in Newark, fighting to survive and holding out hope for getting published. They’re also largely based on me and my dear friend and frequent collaborator Brian Hurrel. He and I had been submitting a ton of stories at the time and consequently amassing a ton of rejection letters. And this was my way of celebrating we wretched two. Naturally, I have a soft spot for them.
Q: What do you find the most challenging about the writing process, and how do you meet that challenge?
A: Making time for it. Between raising two kids, working in a field that demands long hours, and trying to be a halfway decent husband to my lovely wife, the idea of sitting down, clearing my head and slipping into punch-out mode for a few hours is a fantasy. I actually started writing on my commute simply because it’s the only point in my entire day when I have a stretch of time to myself. I knock out a hundred words on the way to work, a hundred more on the way home. It’s pretty far from ideal. Then again, that’s exactly how I wrote the story appearing in this anthology. So maybe I’m onto something after all.
Q: What was the worst writing advice you ever received? The best writing advice? Why, and how did it affect your writing?
A: The worst writing advice? It’s a two way tie for first between “write what you know” and “if you aspire to write genre fiction, you’re not a serious writer.” The former is simply garbage. I write largely to explore all the things I don’t know. The latter? I mean, I’m from Jersey. I’ve seen people throw down over words way less harsh than that. Interestingly enough, the best writing advice I ever got was about writing advice. And it went something like this: 90% of all writing advice is crap. 9% is actively detrimental to your success. And the remaining 1% is invaluable. I’ve approached all writing advice through that lens ever since. And it’s served me well…mostly.
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: That’s a tough one. On the rare occasion someone compares my work to another’s, the name that seems to come up most often is Bradbury. Which is interesting because admittedly I haven’t read a ton of his work. But I’ve been told my work touches on similar themes. So maybe I’d point them in that direction. Maybe?
Q: What’s next in your writing journey?
A: That’s also a tough one. I tend to be a little all over the place. Short stories, songs, humor pieces, the occasional sitcom script that never goes anywhere. Though I can tell you for certain that I won’t be attacking a novel any time soon as I struggle with longer pieces. Case in point, I’m currently about 8000 words into a short story and I’ve forgotten much of what takes place in the first 5000. My sense is that’s a problem, no?
Q: Anything to add?
A: Nothing other than I’m thrilled to be a part of this anthology.
Jeff Samson makes a living as a creative director in the advertising industry. Like Don Draper, you ask? Yes, just like Don Draper…with brain damage. He brews beer when he’s not writing and occasionally drinks it when he is. His work can be found in numerous publications, including Nature, Lore, Cast of Wonders and Perihelion. Jeff lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children, and no cats.
To read “Hey Diddle Diddle” by Jeff Samson, 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…