Q: How long have you been writing, and what kind of stories do you most like to write?
A: I've been writing horror and suspense stories for more than thirty years. They are not as well known as my nonfiction occult work because I haven't been attempting to sell them -- it's a reality of the writing profession that nonfiction sells more easily and pays better, so that's where most of my energies have gone over the years. Even so, my heart has always been with weird fiction.
Q: What sparked the idea for your story in Unearthed? Can you remember?
A: I started with the idea that horror can be found in the most unlikely places, and with the most mundane of objects. Then I asked myself, what is the most everyday, harmless thing anyone can imagine. The story evolved from there. There is a kind of awe that verges on panic (in the classic sense of the word) in solitary settings far removed from any human trace. While walking in the deep woods, I've sometimes felt this myself. That's why I set my story in the north woods of Manitoba, up near the tree line. To be further removed from the ordinary reality we all live in is to be nearer to the uncanny and extraordinary.
Q: What's the title of your story in Unearthed? In general, do you get the title first, or do you write the story first? Do you remember what prompted this particular title?
A: Usually the titles for my stories come automatically, so that I don't even need to think about them. I favor short titles that get to the point, without giving the plot of the story away. In the case of my story "Grass" it was a no-brainer. The story could not be called anything else.
Q: Please tell us: one book you've read recently, one book you're reading now, and one book on your to-read list.
A: This is fun -- I like talking about my reading. A book I've read recently is the novel The Tomb, the first in the Repairman Jack series by F. Paul Wilson, the author best known for his novel The Keep, which was made into a popular horror movie. The book I'm currently reading is actually three novels combined into one -- it's The Turner Trilogy by the mystery writer James Sallis. In the near future I'd like to read the novel Neuromancer by William Gibson. It's a modern classic that somehow has escaped me until now.
Q: What's the best/worst writing advice you've ever been given?
A: Probably the worst advice that I've taken seriously at one time or another is the famous advice given by the great science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein. His three rules for writing are as follows: 1. You must write. 2. You must finish what you write. 3. You must never rewrite except to satisfy the demands of an editor. The first two rules are fine, but the last one is terrible! Every story or novel needs to be rewritten not just once, but at least several times, before it is even halfway worth keeping. The best advice I've ever been given is the old saw "Write what you know." I'm following it more and more these days. Many of my recent horror stories are set in my native Nova Scotia, and the last two I wrote take place right here in Cape Breton.
You can visit Donald online at his website: http://www.donaldtyson.com/