Interview: Corey Farrenkopf, Horror Writer

Corey Farrenkopf is a thirteenth-generation Cape Codder. His family has been around since most of the towns were colonized along the peninsula (it’s the arm that sticks off the end of Massachusetts into the Atlantic). “Most of what I write is set in nearby coastal towns,” Farrenkopf says, “so my place of origin very much makes its way into my writing.”

Corey Farrenkopf

He’s been writing seriously for about ten years, publishing for the last seven. “I’m usually drawn to supernatural horror, weird fiction, dark fantasy, quiet horror, and literary fiction with a dark bend to it. Most of my stuff is pretty fluid between all of those, which makes it difficult to say exactly what I’m writing at any given time.” He also dabbles in dark sci-fi and light fantasy from time to time.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I’ve always been compelled to create. When I was young, I’d tell stories and draw very terribly articulated monsters.

Then I played a lot of music in my teen years, mostly punk and indie stuff with different bands, while still dabbling with writing. But in college I really committed to writing, recognizing that in order to be happy I had to be creating and writing. It was what I was best at and enjoyed the most, so it won out over music. I’d given up drawing way before that point. You can only draw the same terrible dragon a thousand times before you get tired of it (I mean this fairly literally, I’d draw the same dragon endlessly in middle school, so I’m glad I moved away from that.)

What books have most influenced your life?

There are definitely a handful of books that have very much steered my writing course. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Marquez and Collected Fictions of Jorge Luis Borges were both important early on, along with Pastoralia by George Saunders, Saint Lucy’s Home for Girl’s Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell, and all of Poe’s short stories. Probably the two most important books for my writing, though, as far as what’s brought me to what I write today, are Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer and A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay.

I studied creative writing as an undergrad. My professors weren’t into genre fiction, so I didn’t get exposed to as much as I should have, and the stuff I wrote was always somewhere between realism and the weird, so I never really found my place on the literary spectrum until I read those two books. They showed me where I fit in, where the type of writing I always wanted to do could go… and that there are a ton of awesome writers writing in a similar vein.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I don’t know if I can say I have a favorite author, but the first three that come to mind are Karen Russell, Laird Barron, and Caitlin R. Kiernan. As far as what strikes me about their work…

Karen Russell has the best sentences, character descriptions, and humor out of any writer I know. There’s a line in her story, Bog People, that describes the main character’s uncle as the kind of guy who would, “eat the sticker on a green apple rather than peel it off.” I think that’s the most beautiful and hilarious way of saying someone is lazy.

Laird Barron just kills it in every story. His ability to write about nature is second to none, and the darker imagery he creates never leaves you. I think about the horse scene in Hallucigenia way more often than is healthy. I also love how so much of what he does plays with structure and blends the best parts of so many genres together.

Caitlin R. Kiernan also kills it in every story. I think I can apply much of what I love about Laird’s work to what Kiernan does. In addition, they do such an amazing job at creating shared worlds for their stories. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do in my own work. I’m thinking about the four stories that make up The Dandridge Cycle, or Jacova Angevine showing up across short stories and novels, or their linked Tinfoil Dossier novellas. Also, everyone needs to read Houses Under The Sea—it’s very necessary.

Do you write every single day? What’s your writing routine like?

COVID has made my usual routine a little weird, but I generally get some words down every day. I usually shoot to write between 1000 and 2000 words a day. I don’t have a specific time when I write. Just when I can. I snatch an hour here or there, write on my lunch break, write before bed… basically whenever I can.

I’ve gotten in the habit of starting off by editing whatever I wrote the day before and then jumping into drafting to make sure my voice stays consistent. (And to save myself from having to do that first horrible straighten-every-terrible-sentence edit like I used to.)

What do you think is more important: characters or plot?

I’ve always been a plot guy, which has actually been a challenge for my own writing. I love plotting, but the most common feedback I get usually focuses on a desire to have a more rounded/likable character (at least in my novels). So I think the true answer is character is more important. If the character is good enough, the plot should come along fine.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing one of your stories?

I was writing a story on an island off of Cape Cod, doing an eco-horror sort of thing, when I stumbled on the fact there was a bunch of unsolved murders out there. I was originally just trying to write about bird populations, but that fact really swayed the direction of the story. I’m still working on it, so we’ll see how it turns out in the end. A murderer who loves bird watching maybe…?

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

I hear from my readers through Twitter pretty frequently. I have many friends in both the horror community and the flash fiction community, so I think we all pretty much read each others’ work and get excited about what everyone else is doing and try to be as supportive as possible.

How active are you on social media? And how do you think it affects the way you write?

On Twitter, very. Everywhere else, so-so.

I don’t know if Twitter has helped my writing, but it has enabled me to find so many publishing opportunities that I never would have seen before. All the open calls that get posted there, or announcements for flash contests or guests editors… I would have missed so many opportunities if I wasn’t tuned in. Also, a lot of my Twitter friends are super supportive, so it makes writing feel much less lonely with all of them metaphorically around.

Has COVID affected your writing routine this year? If so, how?

Oh, definitely. My work schedule is all over the place now, so I don’t have a normal time of day that I write. Like I said previously, I just snatch the time when I can. And like so many others out there, I find it hard to focus some days depending on what new terrible thing is going on.

Tell us about your current project.

Right now I’m working on edits for an eco-horror/weird fiction novel set on Cape Cod with my agent, a handful of supernatural horror stories (most of which are also set on Cape Cod), and five or six short stories for different venues. I’ve been writing about a lot of lake/ocean/pool/pond/river monsters lately, so figure there are a number of aquatic creatures spread out across those projects 🙂

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t be afraid to submit your work. Yes, you need to polish the heck out of it, but don’t wait too long or you might never get it out there.

Also, always try to write something that you’d want to read. That’s my goal anyway. I think of what a version of myself maybe five years ago would get stoked to read, and I try to create that.

Everyone always says read a ton, and I echo that, and I want to add that when you find a writer you really click with, devour as much of their work as you can. This always helps inspire me and get me excited to sit down at my computer. Whatever I can do to get me excited about typing is cool with me.

You can follow Corey Farrenkopf at his website, https://CoreyFarrenkopf.com. His Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/corey.farrenkopf/. Follow him on Twitter at @CoreyFarrenkopf and Instagram at @Farrenkopf451.

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Book Review: INSTIGATION by Michael A. Arnzen

INSTIGATION: Writing Prompts on the Dark Side by Michael A. Arnzen from Mastication Publications

“Where do you get your ideas?” Since it’s not cool to say, “From fantasizing about strangling the living shit out of you,” I’m telling everyone, “From Mike Arnzen’s Instigation: Writing Prompts on the Dark Side.”

Michael A. Arnzen, PhD, is an award-winning author of horror fiction (four Bram Stoker awards), an English professor at Seton Hill University, and a mentor in their Writing Popular Fiction MFA program, of which I’m an alum (with an MA).

INSTIGATION: Writing Prompts on the Dark Side by Michael A. Arnzen

INSTIGATION by Michael A. Arnzen,
from Mastication Publications

Over a decade ago, he began writing a column for Hellnotes journal called “Instigation,” which provided not only creative—but darkly creative—writing prompts for writers. He continued this tradition at Gorelets.com and in his Goreletter (totally worth subscribing to). Arnzen has expanded his original collection of prompts and revised, updated, organized, and supplemented it into a terrific resource for creative writers on the dark side.

I recently downloaded INSTIGATION and gave it a spin. I’m so glad I did.

In “Here Comes the Fork: An Introduction,” Arnzen discusses writer’s block and creative desiccation, and how writing prompts can get the imaginative juices seeping again.

One trick to getting started is to sidestep the burden of coming up with ideas or a plot first. That’s what a prompt does — it challenges the writer to respond without having to worry too much about premise or plot. It hands you a deck of cards and maybe even the rules too and encourages you to simply start dealing them out.

Yet for the writer of dark fiction, most writing prompts fall short, providing only inspiration. “Rarely,” he says, “do they push you to do something truly weird, taboo, goofy or unthinkable (ergo, original).” Sure, your plot and writing may follow typical form, but Arnzen believes that “the best genre fiction always marries convention with invention.” And that’s where his envelope-pushing prompts slither in.

Arnzen suggests successful usage in “How to Use This Book,” while advising that, when writing, the best counsel is, “Do whatever works.” This may involve journaling or freewriting.

“365 Sick Scenarios” lists a story starter for every night of the year, with prompts like: “Create a numbered list: ‘Rules for Human Hunting'” and “Clot a wound or make a tourniquet with an unexpected object.”

“Spurs: 31 Turns for the Worst” includes prompts for works in progress—when you need a jab in the flank by your demon rider to “take things in an unexpected direction.” Like “Torment with temperature” (a creative way of saying turn up the heat on your character).

“Resurrections” are prompts that will help bring your story “back from the dead” during revision. This will come in handy for me soon.

“Memoir Mayhem” is a collection of journal prompts to inspire you beyond the realm of dark fiction.

The D.I.Y. section, “The Devil Made You Do It Yourself,” enables you to customize his prompts or come up with your own writing exercises. I particularly like “The Monster Mash” and “Weird Sins.”

All these sections are numbered with a scheme so that you can do a random search to pick a prompt out of the skull cap.

INSTIGATION concludes with a few short articles to help you overcome writer’s block. (Which makes me think of a chopping block. “Stick your neck out and write, or just stick your neck out.” How’s that for inspiration and encouragement? You only have me to blame for this prompt, I’m afraid.)

Arnzen encourages INSTIGATION users to write their own material and drop him a line to get a link to their work posted in his “Instigation Showcase.”

My favorite phrase from the book: “sloshing, galumphing breasts.” To find out what that’s all about, writer, get your copy of INSTIGATION: Writing Prompts on the Dark Side by Mastication Publications, providing “Unusual Ideas to Chew On.” Ebook formats include Kindle (.mobi), Nook (.epub), and PDF. Only $3.99.

Subscribe to the Mastication newsletter, and get a 25% off discount code!

Then incise an artery and start writing.

Mike Arnzen is also the creator of “The Refrigerator of the Damned” magnetic poetry kit. Take down your kids’ drawings and post a horrific poem about how they cried. Get your kit at Raw Dog Screaming Press.

Search for #TFOTD on Twitter. Follow @MikeArnzen and Like his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/gorelets.

I describe how Mike Arzen has inspired me in How Arnzstigation Set Me Free.


Coming Soon: ODDS AND ENDS by Dustin LaValley

Prepare to be ferried to an unfamiliar realm on the bony back of despair.ODDS AND ENDS by Dustin LaValley

Author Dustin LaValley takes us down face first with rapid-fire flash fiction in the form of ODDS AND ENDS: AN ASSORTMENT OF SORTS. Already associated with the dark and bizarre, LaValley expands his repertoire to experiment with form and literary introspection.

These harrowing meditations on the nature of the world—and the very purpose of humanity—not only provide chills, but strangely the effect of this read is vastly disproportionate to its length, leaving us with scars to contemplate for a long time to come.
 

Watch the book trailer here:

Guns, Girls, and Tattoos: A Book Trailer for ODDS AND ENDS

Raw Dog Screaming PressLook for ODDS AND ENDS, due out this month, from Raw Dog Screaming Press.

“Extraordinary. Hauntingly poignant.”
–Thomas Ligotti, author of My Work Is Not Yet Done

Connect with Dustin LaValley:
On Facebook: Dustin LaValley, Author
Dust, In the Valley: http://dustinthevalley.tumblr.com/
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/dustinlavalley

Artwork by Jody Rae Adams.