"To Hell with Dante" is a collection of cynical afterlife stories, ranging from comedic genius to dark surrealism. To help kick off this fine anthology, I'll be conducting interviews with many of the contributors. Today I'm interviewing Erik Storey, the talented author who contributed the story "Tartarus Tavern." Thank you for being here, Erik.
ERIK STOREY: Anytime. Thanks for having me.
MTI: Starting off, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
ES: Well, I've been told that I'm an anachronistic curmudgeon, a Luddistic peasant, and a condescending prick. But I'm here to set the record straight by saying that I'm really a nice guy, once you get to know me. And that the stuff I write is in no way a reflection of who I am as a person in the real world.
MTI: Now, getting down to business; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?
ES: I started writing as a kid when I ran out of things to read. It only got worse as an adult. No matter how many books I read—and I've read thousands—there's always something missing. So now I'm attempting, everyday, to fill in those gaps.
My favorite type of story to write, by far, is crime. Stories about criminals and the downcast and detritus of society. If you can't beat them, or join them, might as well write about them.
MTI: Tell me, if you had to pick just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?
ES: Lois L'Amour. The consummate storyteller. He may not have been as literary as some of my other favorites, but he could tell a hell of a yarn. He wrote western, crime, and adventure stories, even one that was pretty much fantasy. Plus over a hundred books, and once you start one, you can't help but finish before going to bed. It's that kind of storytelling power that I hope to have when I grow up.
MTI: Your story, Tartarus Tavern, appears in To Hell with Dante, tell us a little bit about that. What's the general idea behind it?
ES: It's the story of a cynical detective that dies while working a case, and finds himself waiting in line for the afterlife. It seems that everyone else he knows is there, but they are all going somewhere he's not.
MTI: Does your story hold any special significance, perhaps seeking to provoke some thoughts about the afterlife, or was it just a lot of fun fiction?
ES: Oh, it's mostly just fun, but there is an underlying concept of choice and self-determination.
MTI: Okay, on a totally unrelated note, if you could meet and talk with any one deceased person, who would it be?
ES: Ernest Hemingway. As much as I like his writing, the stories about his life fascinate me more and I'd like to see if he lives up to the hype. A morning of fishing in a cold river, an afternoon hunting elk in the forested hills, and an evening of drinking and fisticuffs.
MTI: Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?
ES: My second novel, about a wandering adventurer that finds himself stuck in
with an extorting law enforcer, a murderous biker gang,
and a cult of polygamist, anti-technology Mormons. Oh, and a bunch of other
people even crazier. Idaho
MTI: Other than your piece appearing in To Hell with Dante, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?
ES: I do, but I'll wait to talk about it until it's a little closer to release. It's a crime story, and not for the faint of heart, or those with weak stomachs.
MTI: On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?
ES: Well, I was. A great show called Longmire that was recently canceled. FOR NO APPARENT REASON. It was honestly one of the best crime dramas on TV. I am also addicted to Justified. Both of these shows are modern westerns, well written, highly entertaining, and are slightly similar to the kinds novels that I write.
MTI: Yeah, I'm kind of pissed that they dropped Longmire, too. I'm also sad to hear that this upcoming season of Justified will be the last. No more after season 6. Curses!
So, what do you listen to for music?
ES: A little of everything. Nahko and Medicine for the People, Mike Stinson, Old Crow Medicine Show, J. Roddy Watson and the Business, Shovels and Rope, Vance Joy, Milky Chance, Matt Nathanson, and my old favorites Tom Waits and Steve Earl.
MTI: What are three of your favorite movies? You know, the ones that never get old.
ES: Big Trouble in Little
, Legends of the Fall, Raiders of the Lost China In no particular order. Ark.
MTI: Legends of the Fall is one of my favorites, too, but a lot of people have never even heard of it.
Of course, writers are some of the most voracious readers these days. Tell me, have you run across any great pieces of literature lately?
ES: I've been going back in time, and have been rereading all of the Travis McGee novels. Also just reread The Last Good Kiss, by James Crumley, and had forgot how perfect that book is. Some recent novels that I adored were Iron House, by John Hart; Wayfaring Stranger and The Light of the World, by James Lee Burke. All three were brilliant.
MTI: You have the attention of potential readers. Do you have any words of wisdom to share with them, or possibly a sales pitch to encourage them to read more of your writing?
ES: How about just a big Thank You to all of the readers out there. You are a dying breed and your valiant adventures into the literary world of books and stories is well appreciated. Especially from us writers. Please don't stop reading. Ever. Encourage your friends to turn off the tube once in awhile and join in partaking of the word-drugs, the getting high on the imaginary. And if you want something different than the street corner stuff, try reading some more of my stories.
MTI: Of course, readers love free samples, so let's give them a taste. Here are the first few paragraphs of your story, as featured in To Hell with Dante:
My head is pounding. A staccato timpani drum is beating against my temples from the inside. Feels just like any morning after a whiskey night; like the morning after a wedding, a wake, or a day ending in Y. When my vision clears, I expect to see the cracked paint and the dust encrusted fan that adorn the ceiling of my little studio apartment.
But that isn't what I see. This isn't a normal morning. In fact, I don't see anything that would give me an indication of the time of day.
I'm standing in line. Maybe a couple hundred people in front of me. I turn my sodden head and see that there are even more people standing behind me, shaking their heads and scratching their asses, all of them as bewildered and confused as me. Then I'm alert enough to start to notice the details. We are all buck-ass naked. Wangs and titties wobble as we shuffle ahead in line.
All of us are in a hallway. The walls are carpeted brown and black; it's all bristle and sharp points when you touch it. The ceiling is pockmarked Styrofoam, the kind that you could stick a pencil in with a good throw. The hallway stretches ahead and behind so far that it seems to warp into an arch, with me at the
and the bare skinned people on the horizons like squat
insects far below. high point
No one is talking. We're all trying to understand, trying to figure out what we are waiting for.
ES: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with me.
MTI: Thank you, Erik. It was my pleasure. Readers who would like to see more of Erik's story and 20 other cynical afterlife tales can pick up To Hell with Dante.