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Hello, everyone. I am GreyOwl, and I was given the amazing opportunity to conduct November's Writer's Lounge interview. Being that my birthday resides on thanksgiving this year, I decided why not highlight to you all someone that creates the good stuff(ing). With stories filled with unpleasant heat, unimaginable suffering, undying love, and karma in full effect, not even an apple bobbing could cool down the aftershock of them once read.
So, without further adue, I want to introduce someone that provides this site with fresh, innovative ideas that are sure to have you looking at your own dog with questioning eyes. The man of the hour, Banningk1979!
GreyOwl: So, let me start off by asking how you are doing? I don't know about you, but it's been one hell of a few weeks.
Banning: Well, thanks for asking. I am doing great. Just coming off of my weekend so I am a little bummed out that it's already time to go back to work, but other than that, things are awesome.
Just doing that balancing act of work, family and relaxation. Sometimes it’s a challenge to get all of that in sync, but when it happens, it happens. I am looking forward to the start the American Horror Story series this month. It’s being filmed down here in New Orleans, although it’s set in Florida.
But back to the topic at hand, I had a busy weekend. We taught Tristan, my 11 year old, how to count his money, and then we spent the rest of the day taking him around so he could spend his money. It was fun for him.
GreyOwl: Sounds like you've had a busy weekend. Let's not get me started on my obsession with American Horror Story. That premier last night was to die for.
GreyOwl: So, diving right into the good stuff, what got you into writing? What about it screamed," indulge in me"?
Banning: Honestly, I've been writing since I was probably about 6 years old. I remember video games were my biggest inspiration to write back then. I wanted to add to the concept of the game, I guess. I remember writing a series of comics when I was about 6 or 7. Now, I can remember these comics, but really, they were a piece of paper folded over once to create semi book appearance. These comics were based off of the Atari game Centipede, and involved various insects from the game going on very brief and simplified adventures.
Later, I wrote longer, more in depth stories about games like Maniac Mansion and Mortal Kombat. As you can see, most of my earlier work was based on whatever game I loved at the time.
What kept me locked in to writing though, was the ability to create the scenes and worlds the way I wanted to. If I wanted the geek to get the girl, I would work that in. I loved the fact that I could put something down and mold it in the direction that I liked. It was a rush to see my finished product.
GreyOwl: How do you balance writing with everyday life? Being a family man and a working adult must leave little time for writing.
Banning: I have actually gotten really good at balancing the two aspects. My wife is very supportive of my writing, so when I need some time to sit down and type, she lets me have it without too much of a hard time. What really helps me get writing done though, are my work hours. I work 3pm-11pm. So, when I get home it's nice and quiet and I can usually sit down and write for a few hours before bed. Sometimes I will also get up a few hours early and work on stories before I have to get ready for work.
One of my dirty little secrets is I get some writing done at work too. (Don't tell my boss ha ha) I'll open up my email and type in ideas and email them to myself. When I get home, it's really easy to transfer those ideas into pieces of work.
GreyOwl: At least I'm not the only one that has snuck in some writing at work. I promise I won't tell.
GreyOwl: Continuing on, because it is said every writer has been inspired before touching that pen to paper or fingertip to keyboard, who is someone who inspired you to write and when did you begin writing?
Banning: Well, I guess that all depends on what you call writing. The Centipede game inspired "comics" that I mentioned writing when I was a kid, were pretty much just inspired by me wanting to add to the game story as a whole. When I got to high school though and actually started writing more complex stories, I would say that my inspiration came from two sources.
The first being Stephen King. The first huge book that I ever read for my own pleasure, as in, not a school assignment, was The Stand. I remember being around 11 years old or so, our bank had a small selection of books that you could check out, like a tiny library. I recall seeing The Stand on the shelf, and because I liked the cover, I checked it out and took it home. I remember my mom joking around with me, telling me that I'd never read all 1100 plus pages of that novel.
And I didn't. I read maybe the first 100 pages or so, before being 11 years old took over and caused me to gravitate back towards video games, but the influence had already occurred. I loved his writing style, and when I finally sat down and tried to write more serious stuff, I always found myself going back to his style and character methods. I finally did go back and finish The Stand in high school, and was very glad that I did.
My first big stab at writing came when I was around 16. I started writing something that was called The Grand Occurrence. I put 8 chapters down in paper, and worked on this book on and off until I was in my early 20's. Sadly, I was never able to finish it, and still regret that until today. However, my story Joe Montana Saves the Princess, was inspired by a chapter from that novel, so I guess in a way it got to live on.
Now, I would say that my other inspiration to write actually came in my desire to be read. For that, I would have to thank my best friend, Mike Rucker. When we were kids, if I wrote something, he would be begging for me to read it to him. It made the process feel somewhat more rewarding, because I knew that I had a friend that was willing to sit and listen to my work. Mike and I are still best friends until this day, and he still reads all the stories that I have posted on Creepypasta.
Banning: Secret Bar is really a story about myself at the age of 21. I remember being that age, and feeling that this whole secret world was about to open itself up to me. Of course, I was wrong, but that didn't stop me from trying. Before I turned 21, I remember walking through the French Quarter and seeing all these dark places, goth bars and such, that just seemed to wreak of secrets. In my mind, I pictured all sorts of crazy stuff going on in those dimly lit rooms. I wanted to experience whatever strange offerings they might have, and I couldn't stand being too young to just walk in. Turning 21 seemed like earning a badge of honor almost, stepping into a new realm of our own world. As you can tell, I was really excited about this.
I recall the night me and my friends went out to celebrate my 21st birthday. It was finally here and I was proudly throwing my new and enhanced social rights around. We went down to the French Quarter and went into every single bar we could find.
And do you know what I found out about all those dark, creepy looking bars? They were bars. Sure, the clientele was a little more artsy mysterious, but at the end, I learned that there were no deep, mind shattering secrets. It was just a bar with liquor.
One place in particular, it's closed down now, but it was called Mythique. (I reference it in Secret Bar.) It was a secret bar, for all intents and purposes. Just like in the story, it involved getting the bartender to allow you access to a small stairwell that went up to a 2nd floor bar. I remember being so excited when I was climbing the stairs, but finding at the top, just another bar. No secret societies, no crazy dark rituals or insane sex acts, just people sitting at a bar.
I was very disappointed. So, that was my inspiration for Secret Bar. Kurt's adventures are a reflection of what I guess I was hoping I would find when I turned 21 and finally had an all access pass to New Orleans' underground.
GreyOwl: Sounds to me like New Orleans is quite the hotspot for freshly 21 year olds. I'm actually quite surprised you didn't find any dark secrets there, being that New Orleans is said to be the breeding ground of supernatural occurrences.
GreyOwl: Anyways, because many writers tend to add subtle influences of their own lives/personalities within their stories, have you partaken in such?
Banning: Oh yes, in just about all of my longer stories. As I already said, Secret Bar was largely inspired by my own desires when I was 21. I would say that most of my leading characters from my other larger stories are inspired somewhat by what I would say or do in various situations.
In The Demon Tobit of Delphia, the character of Derrick sort of represents my desire to try and manage a situation. Derrick tries so hard to convince Sergio to come back to normal in that story, and even proceeds to venture into Delphia to try and resolve the situation.
In Joe Montana Saves the Princess, Brian follows his heart over his head, which is something that I have been guilty of a few times as well.
And of course, the main character in We Called Him TaTa, is pretty much just me. I wrote that story one night when I was thinking about my grandfather. I remember I was sitting in my office, and I was thinking how amazing it would be if he just showed up for a visit. That was the initial inspiration for that story, and after that, I just thought about what I would actually do if such an amazing situation were to come to be.
GreyOwl: I know you've discussed with me, prior to this interview, that you have been in the military. Did anything that occurred while deployed inspire you to write?
Banning: Deployments are funny. They are nothing at all like what we see in the movies. The best way to describe both of my deployments to Iraq, would be "long days of boredom and routine, broken by the occasional instance of extreme danger." So, there was a lot of time to read and write while sitting in Iraq, which I did quite a bit of.
Believe it or not, I actually discovered Creepypasta Wiki while in Kuwait. One common trend with deployed Soldiers is file swapping. We all had our hard drives, filled with movies, games and such, and one of the games I had was the old Pokémon for Gameboy, on a ROM. We were all playing it too. Yeah, the Army is a funny place. You can walk into a tent full of Soldiers deployed, and often find most of them watching cartoons or playing video games. In our case, Pokémon became a popular game in our Platoon.
I remember trying to find secrets in that game, and I Googled Pokémon secrets. Of course I found a link to the Creepypasta Pokémon genre, and just started reading it. I remember thinking, "This site is cool, it's a bunch of homebrew horror stories." I think I spent a week just reading the Happy Appy story.
After that, I was hooked on Creepypasta.
As far as direct inspiration from being deployed, I would say that yes, I had some moments that I think helped me write better stories. During those long periods of boredom, we all tended to just talk a lot. Since none of us knew each other from before the Army, we all discussed past events a lot. Most of us had some sort of crazy stories from our past, and I remember some of my friends had some amazing creepy events in their pasts.
Some of the scariest stories I ever heard were just some past events that buddies of mine would tell me about in the military. Some of those stories could be turned into pastas down the line, so I always try and remember the best parts.
GreyOwl: Wow, and here I was thinking you couldn't bring along anything to the military but a toothbrush.
GreyOwl: In addition to all of which you have described earlier within your responses, if you could use one word to describe your writing style, what would it be?
Banning: Instant. My inspiration just comes, sometimes out of thin air. When I wrote Love Always, I caught the story while I was sitting on my balcony smoking a cigarette. I think I had just fed our cats, and somehow, the idea of a dog eating its owner just popped into my head. I developed the rest of the concept while I was smoking, and when I was finished, I went inside the apartment and wrote that story.
GreyOwl: Have you ever had a supernatural experience? I personally have countless times, and, after reading your story We Called Him TaTa that was based on your grandfather, I found the way you wrote it extremely touching and so authentic that I felt it could have been a reality.
Banning: Oh yes, I have had a couple of them. Nothing ever as profound as the story in We Called Him TaTa, but still, I’ve had a few interesting encounters. I remember one night, I was in Algiers, which is a city across the river from New Orleans. The people that lived there told me that there was something on the third floor of their home. So, I went up there and was walking around, taking pictures. Now, the entire 3rd floor was pretty much a loft, and there was no furniture or anything. As I was walking, I suddenly felt something pretty much tackle me from behind. I imagined some big football player taking out my legs from behind.
I jumped up and asked the guy that was up there with me if he saw anything, of course he said no. So, I walked around up there for a while longer to see if anything else would happen, but nothing did. Fun night though.
The hotel I work at, the Omni Royal, is allegedly one of the most haunted buildings in New Orleans. I have walked those floors at all hours of the night, and had a couple of strange instances. One night, I was walking on the 2nd floor, and I heard someone call my name. The voice sounded perfectly normal, it said “Banning!” as though it were just a co-worker calling me over for a question. It was also pretty much right over my shoulder.
So, I spun around to see who needed me, and there was no one there. I was at the end of a long hallway, so there really wasn’t anywhere for someone to hide. I went back to my office and was telling one of my coworkers about the incident, and he started to tell me all of the strange stuff that he has seen since working there. So, it’s pretty cool to get to go to work every day in a place where apparently ghost encounters are that common.
With We Called Him TaTa, I think that story was just a summary of what we all wish would happen to us. The idea of getting “One more day” with a deceased loved one.
GreyOwl: Have you always indulged in the horror genre or is this an acquired taste to you?
Banning: Yes, I pretty much grew up on horror. My mom was very open when it came to what I watched on television. I remember watching The Exorcist when I was about 5 years old. The movie scared me, but at the same time, it also made me want more. I liked that feeling of pulling the blankets up to my chest in a dark room and letting the thrills just wash over me.
Horror just sort of became a social thing for me. Me and my friends would have sleep overs and tell scary stories, or watch horror movies until 3am. Most movies, you’re supposed to just sit there and watch quietly, but I always found horror to be an interactive experience. Me and my friends would watch, say, Freddy Krueger, and then spend most of the movie trying to scare the hell out of each other.
As I got older, horror stories were just a natural draw for me. Like I said in a previous question, I read Stephen King at a young age and was just pulled back to it again and again. I remember really enjoying Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark as a kid, the pictures in those books were really terrifying. Then my mom bought me a book about real ghost encounters, and until this day, I still remember most of the stories from that book. I also had a book about the lore of zombies. This was back in 1994 or so, before zombies were treated like a social icon. I still recall how cool it was to be the only kid at school that knew that zombies actually came from Haitian lore.
GreyOwl: If there is one subcategory within the horror genre that you could live off of, which would it be? Psychological, monsters, demons, etc?
Banning: Wow, that is a tough question. I love all aspects of the genre. However, I guess my favorite would be demons/ritual type stories. The idea of dark cultists doing their rituals out in some abandoned building or barn in the middle of nowhere has always fascinated me. I think what thrills me the most about it, is because that aspect, at the very least, is real and can happen in real life.
We may never see a demonic entity actually get summoned and start rampaging, but there are actual people out there that worship dark gods and demons. I just read on the news the other day that a man changed his name to Pazuzu and murdered people for some sort of sacrifice. They found the bones of two people buried in his backyard.
That would be scary enough if it were just a story, but the fact that it really happened just makes it that much more thrilling to read. That is what makes the demon/ritual genre really click to me, which is why I’ve written several stories where that is the strong feature. Because, it really can happen, and I think one of the cornerstones of horror is believability.
GreyOwl: I have to agree with you there. The reality of demons/cultists is the reason I shiver a little when I read a story revolving around such or watch a movie based on actual events.
GreyOwl: Keeping the ball rolling here, are you someone who constantly thinks of ideas for a story or are you the type that needs to sit down and plan out your shorts?
Banning: Anything can be a source of inspiration. So, I guess I always have my horror radar turned on. When I catch my inspiration, it’s instant, like I said in a previous question. I have never been one to sit down and really grind out a story. Once my inspiration clicks, it just comes, and I have to write it out. Once I catch that motivation, it’s like, I have to write it out. I’ll type at work, email it to myself, and then get home and work on it some more.
When I wrote, The Demon Tobit of Delphia, I sat up all night. I remember my wife waking up around 7am and coming out into the living room to find me still grinding away. I was almost done, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go to sleep until it was finished.
And that is how my inspiration has always sort of worked. Even back when I was writing on folded over pieces of paper. Even when I was sitting in school writing Mortal Kombat inspired stories. When I caught that inspiration to write, I just had to do it.
GreyOwl: Lastly, I want to ask you one of the more underrated questions out there. There is this huge stigma going around that the gore and the horror corrupts those who feed into it, particularly the younger audience. Do you believe even in the slightest of such rumors?
Banning: No, not at all. As a parent myself, I can tell you that the task of guiding kids in the right direction, is found in parenting, real quality parenting. An involved parent can tell when something is going strange with their child.
We live in a society that likes to blame. It’s been going on since I was a kid, and probably since well before that. When I was a kid, the music industry was the popular punching bag when kids misbehaved. Then it became video games that took the brunt. I saw a lot of people doing a lot of blaming, but the one thing I didn’t see were parents taking accountability for the fact that raising their children is their job, not MTV’s or Nintendo’s.
I grew up watching horror movies, but my mom was also very involved. She would remind me that movies were fake and that if the movie became too intense, we could always turn it off. The most important thing though, was that she constantly reminded me that it was fictional. There was never once a time when I watched Nightmare on Elm Street and got up thinking…”Well, I guess Freddy is real and he’s living in my dreams.”
And this parenting isn’t difficult. It doesn’t mean that you have to be a helicopter parent. You just have to be available to teach and mentor your kids. If they are freaked out, tell them what fiction is. Kids aren’t that stupid, they will understand the difference between real and make believe if you sit down and tell them.
GreyOwl: I couldn't have said it better myself. There is nothing worse than accountability being bestowed upon an innocent bystander.
GreyOwl: Well folks, this concludes this month's Writer's Lounge Interview. I would like to thank you, Banning, for providing us with such insight within your everyday life. I don't think you've left out a single thing that I didn't inquire upon every time I read a story of yours. I do want to close it out by saying it was a pleasure to get into your head and interview you. It definitely shed much needed light on your life and inspiration. Until next time, have a great day and write more stories for me to feast on, haha.
Banning: Well, thank you Grey for this amazing interview. This has been a pleasure. In closing I would like to thank my wife Neomi and my son Tristan, who both continue to be a constant motivation in my life to excel in all aspects, whether it be at work, home or in the Creepypasta universe. Next, I'd like to thank my best friend, Mike Rucker. Thanks for always being willing to read my work and being a constant sounding board when I needed advice or guidance.
Finally, thanks goes out to the Creepypasta universe itself. People like yourself Grey, who are always producing and creating quality work that inspires me to 'keep up' with the rest.
To all the new users here and aspiring writers, remember, we are a community. If you need help, ask. If you are unsure, seek clarification. Knowing that I have such an incredible bank of skilled writers here always helps me to feel inspired to keep going, because I know that if I need the advice or critique, it's there for me. You guys are all amazing.