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Writer's Lounge Part 9: An Interview with HumboldtLycanthrope

MrDupin October 31, 2016 User blog:MrDupin

Greetings, creeps and creepettes. It is Halloween, the time of the ghosts and the dead. For this special occasion we resurrected the ancient tradition of the Writer's Lounge to interview one of the most celebrated authors the wiki has known. I present to you, Matthew Brockmeyer the Humboldt Lycanthrope! He is a two-time winner of Pasta of the Month, with his stories The Long List and The Number of Darkness, has won multiple contests and is responsible for thousands of screams and sleepless nights. Without further ado, let's get right into the interview.

MrDupin: To start off the interview, tell us a little bit about yourself.

HumboldtLycanthrope: Well, I live in an off-grid cabin with my wife and two children, deep in the forest, way down a dirt road, in Humboldt County, California. It actually used to be a hippie commune back in the seventies called Shit Fuck Piss. No joke. We homestead, growing our own fruit and vegetables. We have a small apple orchard. We raise chickens for eggs and turkeys for meat. We used to have milking goats, but when my wife got pregnant with our second child we ate them. We sell produce and plant starts at the farmers’ market. My wife, Tara, is a certified herbalist and she makes teas, tinctures, and distills essential oils and hydrosol. I also teach a botany class at the local alternative elementary school.

MrD: When did you start writing and what got you into it in the first place?

Humboldt: I started writing very young. I suppose it sprang from my passion for reading, which has always been voracious. I wrote lots of stories in elementary school and continued through high school and after traveling around a bit, ended up at the University of Oregon where I received a BA in English Literature and studied creative writing in a fellowship with novelist Chang-Rae Lee. Besides writing fiction, I also write articles on organic farming practices, biodynamics, and permaculture. But horror is my absolute passion.

MrD: What got you into horror? And how did you come across this wiki and creepypasta in general?

Humboldt: I have always been a horror fanatic. Even in kindergarten and elementary school I was obsessed with goblins and ghouls, vampires and werewolves. In high school, I devoured every Stephen King book that came out, reading them over and over again. I discovered creepypasta a few years back when my kid came home from school babbling about Slender Man. Then there was that stabbing in Wisconsin and I thought, What? Internet horror stories are causing children to knife one another? I want in! Ha ha, just joking. But seriously, that did spark my interest. I read Jeff the Killer and was, like, this is the crap they like? I’ll rip out their brains and give them to them on a silver platter with a side of eyeballs! So, I wrote my first pasta Clown Dogs. I wrote it in about fifteen minutes, as a joke, figuring Facebook ghosts, high school bullying, and sex would be what the average creepypasta fan would want. But then I started poking around on the wiki and discovered all these amazing authors. There was Shadow Swimmer with his great story The Wicker House, Banning’s Secret Bar, the incredible Mike MacDee (his story Jozsa's Grove is probably my favorite on the site), of course the amazingly imaginative Empy with stories like A Small Piece of Lead, and Blacknumber’s Pasta Noir: Dames, Slugs and the Hatchetman. Yeah, and also some other guy, I’m trying to remember who, he wrote a story I nominated for POTM called I Am a Big Boy. Oh, yeah, Mr. Dupin. Anyway, I read and wrote a lot of stories, had a hell of a time blogging and being goofy with other horror writers. It’s been a lot of fucking fun. I love this place!

MrD: One of your earliest works on the wiki, The Abalone Thief, has a very Lovecraftian tone. Any other influences, or writers you admire?

Humboldt: Oh, so many. When it comes to pastas my biggest influences would have to be Kafka and William Burroughs. Very short, unnerving, and incredibly disturbing stories that strike in a simultaneously cerebral and visceral way, really making you think about the nature of the human condition. And, of course, King’s short stories. I really find him a better short story writer than a novelist. His novels tend to meander and get bogged down in dark fantasy moralistic tales of good versus evil, while his short stories tend to stick to the horror genre: gritty, bleak and nihilistic. When it comes to the nitty gritty of prose my biggest influences would be Andres Dubus III, Raymond Carver, and Donna Tart. I also love Cormac McCarthy. All of the works of Brett Easton Ellis have influenced me, but especially American Psycho. The wild, misfit characters of Irvine Welsh. But I’m also a literature guy and love everything from Dostoevsky to Faulkner. I’ve always been really into Steinbeck and think he embodies an important part of Americana. I’ve even visited his childhood home and traveled to many of the towns and farms where his stories take place. The Beats had a huge effect on me, the melodic, jazz-like riffs of Kerouac’s voice in books like On the Road and The Dharma Bums. I could really just go on and on here.

MrD: Do you have any fears of your own? What scares the big, bad lycanthrope?

Humboldt: Silver bullets, of course. Ha ha. Naw, what really scares me the most is the idea of anything ever happening to my children. It’s a primal thing. Nearly all of my pastas involve harm coming to children as well as the dissolution of the modern family. It’s a theme I also embody in my other fiction writing as well. But, it’s funny you ask that question. I’m doing a workshop with acclaimed horror writer Gemma Files right now, and we just had to write out our deepest fears. Here, let me get them for you.

1. The unknown. H.P. Lovecraft said, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” I would include in this example, all of the monsters from childhood: the one under your bed that will reach out and grab your ankle, the one in the closet watching you while you sleep, and of course the one lurking in the basement, as well as that most primordial fear of all: the fear of the dark.
2. The Police. Every time I see them they scare me, even when I am doing nothing wrong. Perhaps it’s just their sheer power, how they can grab you up and lock you away, or even execute on the spot.
3. Rednecks. Hardcore hillbillies frighten me for some reason, though I admittedly have friends who would fall into this category and are great people. Maybe it was the movie Deliverance that did it to me, but whenever I see a confederate flag I get the heebie jeebies.
4. Vampires. When I was child, no older than six, I watched a Masterpiece Theatre production of Dracula on television. I still remember when the Count catches his brides all over Mr. Harker, he gives them an infant to feed on, which he pulls from a black leather satchel. This image has haunted me since: those three weird brides, strangely sexualized and beautiful, reaching up to take the baby from Dracula’s hands, and falling upon it with bloodthirsty hunger.
5. Rats and mice. There is something very creepy to me about mice and rats crawling through our walls and over our kitchens while we sleep. For ages I have been plagued by nightmares where rats and mice are burrowing into me, under my skin, as I, in a panic, rip them out of my body.
6. The Night Stalker. Notorious Satanic serial killer Richard Ramirez would sit outside of his victims’ windows watching them, waiting for them to go to sleep. Then he would quietly sneak in and after quickly dispensing the males with a gunshot to the head, he would rape and torture the women, forcing them to swear allegiance to the devil, before ripping out their eyes and using their blood to draw pentagrams on the walls. So scary. It’s hard to get to sleep at night if you imagine a serial killer squatting outside your window.
7. Ghosts. My rational mind disputes their very existence, and wonders, even if they were real, why I would be scared of a phantom that can’t physically harm me. But, nonetheless, they still scare me.
8. Parasites. I almost died of amebic dysentery backpacking in Egypt, way back in the early nineties. A horrible and psychedelic experience, full of agonizing pain and hallucinations. The thought of something in or on your body, feeding off of you, really gives me the willies.
9. Crack heads and tweakers. The real-life equivalent of zombies.
10. Bad psychedelic trip. I’ve had a few of these in my time, on both LSD and mushrooms. I used to love the stuff in my twenties, but it seems the older I get the worse the trips get. Now, the idea of ingesting psychedelic drugs is terrifying. The loss of control, the helplessness, the awful thoughts and visions. Not fun. This would also include fever dreams.
11. Home invasion. Being robbed and bound by a gang of masked men who have broken into your home is an awful thought. But what makes the idea so incredibly horrifying for me, is my role as a husband and father, someone whose job it is to protect my family. Having my wife or children at the mercy of thieves while I watched helplessly is so horrible it is tough for me to contemplate. Especially if I had somehow caused the event to happen.
12. Sexually transmitted disease. The possibility of me getting one at this stage of my life is beyond unlikely, as I am happily married and monogamous. But, growing up with the AIDs epidemic has had an effect on me. I also love how sex and death become so weirdly intertwined in horror. A very bizarre and visceral thing. I grew up watching David Cronenberg films like Rabid, The Brood, and Videodrome.
13. Becoming something alien that I hate. Whether it is waking up to find myself a Trump supporter or finding my morals so corroded to having performed hateful acts or joining a cult and transforming into a mindless acolyte, the idea of becoming something abhorrent, either physically, mentally, or spiritually is both sickening and frightening. Again with Cronenberg, I think of The Fly.

MrD: Do you believe in the supernatural? Have you had any experiences in the paranormal?

Humboldt: I do not believe in the supernatural at all. I adore the imagery and the metaphorical and allegorical implications involved with ghosts, vampires, and werewolves, but I don’t think any of it is real. I see real mystery and magic every day: I live in the woods. Nature is where I find myself marveling at the wonders of the universe and life itself. It is also my church. I don’t need to put belief in silly made-up crap, that goes for religion as well as bigfoot. On the other hand, we have a family tradition of staying in supposed haunted hotels and visiting supposedly haunted houses. It’s just fun. I’ve stayed in nearly every haunted hotel in Northern California. As a writer, it’s also very inspiring.

MrD: You have written stories set in the past and stories set in the modern era. Which one do you prefer writing/reading? Do you think any one enhances the horror of a story more than the other?

Humboldt: That’s a very interesting question, especially as I have just started a novel that takes place from 1890 to 1910. While modern stories are able to touch on important things that have come to dominate our lives, like our reliance on technology and unhealthy obsessions with social media, smart phones, and the internet itself, I think the past is somehow very scary in a more subliminal way. There is something about the alien nature of the past that is unnerving, or, as Freud would put it, uncanny. I suppose we could compare and contrast Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men with Blood Meridian. They are both powerful and violent stories, with terrifying and ruthless antagonists, set in similar locations, only one takes place 150 years after the other. I’d have to say that Blood Meridian’s time period gives it a somehow spookier feeling while No Country for Old Men’s modernity makes it feel closer to home and more realistic. So, I suppose they each have their attributes. In the end, a story is a story, and while setting is important to the overall feel of the work, it is character and narrative arc that is most important.

MrD: For your story Daddy's Little Princess, you not only made a video for the pasta, but you also registered a domain name. What was your thinking behind that?

Humboldt: Go all out! One of the first things that really struck me about creepypastas was the multi-media aspects. Pastas like Necrosleep with links to insane videos, the image of the grinning canine in Smile Dog, the photographs in Ted the Caver, of course the crazy artwork in The Slender Man, and the amazing paintings that Mmpratt99 deviantart uses to illustrate her stories, such as The Last Day of October. I wanted to do something in the vein of all that. It also gives it a life of its own, makes it feel real. I took all the photographs in The Abalone Thief myself. I’d love to see more of that in creepypasta, people making videos and doing their own artwork. It was also a hell of a lot of fun. I am lucky that I have talented filmmaker friends who were kind enough to film and edit the video and let me dump fake blood all over them. Lol.

MrD: It's interesting that you have never written a sequel to your creepypastas. Is that a conscious decision, or it just so happened? Are you planning any sequels? I remember you were thinking about writing a sequel to The Gym Teacher.

Humboldt: Ha! You’re actually wrong about that one. Daddy's Little Princess is a sequel to Clown Dogs. Laura narrates both of them and talks about the death of her best friend Alyssa in Daddy's Little Princess, how it has made her despondent enough to want to run away and disappear. Laura and Alyssa also make a brief cameo in The Gym Teacher discussing how Credence got the lead role in A Street Car Named Desire. In fact, all of my pastas take place in the same universe and locations. Detective Standler from The Long List is the same detective at the end of The Gym Teacher. The bridge Rosemary turns a trick under in Rumpelstiltskin is the same bridge Garbage jumps off of in Under a Rotting Sky (a real bridge, btw). There’s references to He Was a New Man and The Gym Teacher in A Noel in Black. Lots and lots of connections, some obvious, some hidden, little Easter eggs for people who like my work. As for that sequel to The Gym Teacher, I do have a story sketched out and even wrote a few pages, but it’s on the back burner for now.

MrD: I understand you have also been writing professionally/semi-professionally for some time. Can you tell us a little bit about that? How did it come about? Do you have any future plans/projects in professional writing?

Humboldt: Yeah, well, I’ve gotten a few paying gigs here and there. In fact, I recently had a story accepted for the horror anthology Let Us In, that is going to be released in April, that pays the pro-rate of six cents a word. That’s the most I’ve ever gotten. I also write book reviews for Cultured Vultures. I was really stoked that after my review of Stephen Graham Jones’ new novel Mongrels they asked me to interview him. I just received an advanced copy of bestselling horror author Ania Ahlborn’s new novel—The Devil Crept In—which comes out in February, for review. Hopefully she will be gracious enough to let me interview her. Yeah, I have lots of plans for professional writing. I finished a novel a while back and have been busy trying to get it published, an arduous process that involves nail-biting suspense with soul crushing rejection. Lol. And, like I said, I’ve started another one. Wish me luck!

MrD: Can you take us through your process of writing? How do you create your stories, from inception to completion. How do you combat the much feared writer's block?

Humboldt: It’s very organic. I usually start with a character and a scenario and work out the dramatic elements from there. But I love writing from a prompt, which is why I often get in these contests on the wiki. Story is about conflict, so you’ve got to go there. What does your protagonist want? What’s stopping him/her from getting it? How far will they go? What are their internal questions, desires, and struggles? It’s all about the human condition and highlighting our existential existence, our universal struggles. I usually have a very clear outline by the time I sit down to begin the actual prose, with an ending all worked out, so I know where I’m headed. You combat writer’s block by making writing a habit, something you do every day. If you are having trouble putting actual words on paper on a given day, then switch to research for a while and just take notes.

MrD: A lot of your stories are NSFW and contain very explicit scenes. Why do you think sex and horror work so well together?

Humboldt: Sex and horror just go together in my mind. Sexuality is a primitive force that awakens a whole host of conflicting emotions: lust, shame, greed, excitement, covetousness, fear, revulsion, desire, and, yes, even horror. It adds a layer of depth and creepiness to any story. Also, carnal desire is so animalistic, and I’m fascinated by its ability to turn humans into monsters. From bloody barroom fights to necrophiliac serial killers like Ted Bundy, lust is a driving force in many of the evil actions of the world, something that strips us of our humanity and empathy for others, while at the same time evoking the most powerful and wonderful human element of all: love. Its paradoxes and underground stirrings are just wonderful stuff for a horror writer. I was also raised on weird slasher movies with strange sexual bents and am a huge fan of David Cronenberg. His examinations of human sexuality in horror films like Videodrome, Rabies, and Dead Ringers is just amazing and has been a huge influence on me.

MrD: Your story A Noel in Black features many symbolic figures and themes.What inspired you to add them in?

Humboldt: Honestly, I was just looking to get weird and have fun. I’d been reading a lot of bizzaro at the time and felt inspired by that. But, look, symbolic figures are very important to the very idea of literature, and all stories have them, whether they are apparent or not. In that story, I tried to take on the nature of God, monsters, and myths. Make them real in order to point out the very fallacies that are inherent in their nature. But like all good stories, I wanted the narrative to be a crazy rollercoaster ride, where the reader doesn’t know where they are headed, and is losing confidence in the safety of the machine.

MrD: Do you see yourself in your characters? Do you take inspiration from real life people and events?

Humboldt: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I’m definitely Calendula in Looks Like We Got a Live One Here, Boys, that’s a pretty straight up portrait of me, to be honest. Definitely have many, many elements of Garbage in Under a Rotting Sky and based that story on a real-life love affair I had with a beautiful and troubled punk girl, I even have a homemade black heart tattoo she gave me. Danny in The Gym Teacher, uh, yeah, that would be me. Many of the characters in my stories are versions of people I know, like the hippie junkies in Rumpelstiltskin. I’ve had a pretty crazy life, traveled all over, lived on the street for a while, and have met a lot of very interesting and shady characters.

MrD: Have you got any advice for aspiring writers?

Humboldt: Know your craft, and that would involve reading. Read, read, read, read. Like what you read? Then read it again and try to find out why you liked it. Underline, highlight, take notes. Read craft essays and creative writing guides. Take classes. There are tons of online writing classes, my favorite are at LitReactor. I’ve taken classes with Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk, splatter punk pioneer John Skipp, all kinds of people. And you gotta be able to type a minimum of eighty words a minute, so practice your typing! Now, this may sound weird, but you’ve also got to become completely self-absorbed and narcissistic, that’s the only way you’re going to be able to proofread and edit your work to the point of completion. If rereading your manuscript over and over bores you, then guess what? It’s going to bore the reader as well. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. Make every word count. Get a thick skin, learn to take criticism, and prepare yourself for a lot of rejection. If you can get one out of every ten stories you write published, you’re doing better than a lot of professional writers.

MrD: Do you have any closing comments? Any projects you are currently working on, or any work of yours you want to promote?

Humboldt: Well, first off, thank you, Mr. Dupin. Those were some tremendous questions, really great, and I had a wonderful time answering them. I suppose I should thank Cleric for starting this weird place we can all congregate in. Thanks also to the hardworking administrators who volunteer so much of their time: Jay ten, Underscore, So Pretentious, LOLSKELETONS, and everyone else who makes this such a fun site.

If you want links to some of my stories, reviews, articles, and interviews online, visit my website.

There is an anthology out right now—One Hundred Voices—with one of my stories in it. You can get it here, use this promo-code and you’ll get a discount: 100V72.

There are also several other upcoming horror anthologies featuring my work coming out, as well as several magazines, such as Infernal Ink and Timeless Tales, you can keep up to date with them if you “like” my Facebook page.

Ciao! It’s been a blast.

MrD: Thank you very much for letting me interview you. It has been a joy, and best of luck in your future endeavors.

That's it everyone, hope you enjoyed. Thanks for reading.