"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 Francis Gideon, the talented author who contributed the story "Alone and In Debt." Thank you for being here, Francis.
FG: Thank you for having me!
MTI: Starting off, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
FG: Sure! Right now, I’m a horror writer living in
. I just moved
to a Canada to be closer to
my university as I start my PhD. new city
MTI: Now, getting down to business; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?
FG: When I was young, I read the book “The Outsiders” by S. E. Hinton. I really liked it, but I remembered being even more impressed by the fact that the author wrote and published the book when she was around 16-17 years old. I was about twelve at the time, and decided that if she could do something like that so young, then I could too. So I started writing more seriously then. Most of my “novels” never ended up more than thirty pages on loose leaf paper, but it was a start.
My favourite stories to write are a toss-up between horror and romance, actually. I always figured those genres were the most relatable, since everyone has experienced some type of love before (be it from family, friends, or significant other) and we’ve all been scared, too. I was lucky that “Alone and In Debt” is a little bit of both.
MTI: Tell me, if you had to pick just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?
FG: Other than S. E. Hinton, who first got me really interested in doing writing professionally, I would say either Angela Carter or Kurt Vonnegut. Both of them aren’t afraid to be really, really weird in their fiction—and to take risks.
MTI: Your story, Alone and In Debt, appears in To Hell with Dante, tell us a little bit about that. What's the general idea behind it?
FG: At the time, I remember reading a lot of stories with demon possessions, or deals with demons/devils. It’s a very common theme—from Faustus to Supernatural now. But I always wondered how people really dealt with the fact that they had been possessed or were now going to hell. I began to wonder what types of emotions that would involve—and how people could comfort one another during that. So, I thought of a therapy group just like Narcotics Anonymous, but for people who had made deals. The rest of the story came easily after I already had a setting.
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?
FG: It was a lot of fun! Most of what I end up doing becomes a thought experiment—a process of asking myself “what if…?” for certain scenarios, and in that way, I suppose I’m trying to get the audience to ask themselves the same types of questions. There is one scene, with Corey and Adam in the diner, where they talk about how “monsters are national creatures.” That, in particular, I find to be a really fascinating thought. A lot of scholarship on horror films echoes this statement, too. Coming from Canada, I see the subtle differences between the horror films I grew up watching—Black Christmas, Ginger Snaps—and the US horror films. Horror is always a shadow of the current time it was made in, and to think of a different monster for each country, is something really captivating and thought provoking for me. I can only hope the audience thinks so as well.
MTI: Okay, on a totally unrelated note, if you could meet and talk with any one deceased person, who would it be?
FG: Since most of my favourite authors are dead now, I would probably say one of them! Or Robin Williams.
MTI: Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?
FG: A lot of things, actually! I have a YA zombie novel that I’m putting the finishing touches on right now, in between my PhD work. I know, most people would probably groan hearing about another YA zombie novel, but I’m hoping to approach the contagion aspect of this a little differently, using some outside research. Only time will tell if I’m able to pull it off.
MTI: Other than your piece appearing in To Hell with Dante, do you have any other stories being published in the near future?
FG: Yes! I just had a Halloween story released with Mocha Memoirs Press called “Surrender to Destiny” about a
investigating the bodies of men hollowed out and colonized by insects. I also
have a few holidays stories (mostly romance though) coming out with JMS Books,
Here are some links:
MTI: On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?
FG: Yes! The TV show
(an adaptation of the Thomas Harris
universe) continues to impress me more and more each time I watch it. The
cinematography is beautiful and their new treatment of the stories really
captivates me as an old fan of the books/movies. Hannibal
MTI: How about music?
FG: Gerard Way (former front man of the band My Chemical Romance) recently released his solo album Hesitant Alien, which has been getting a lot of plays for me recently. He even has a song about a manga on it! The whole album has a kind of Brit Pop, David Bowie vibe to it. Really nice to listen to as I grade papers.
MTI: What are three of your favorite movies? You know, the ones that never get old.
FG: Too hard—but I’ll try. Surprise, they’re mostly horror or comic book related: Silence of the Lambs, The Company of Wolves, and The Dark Knight.
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?
FG: Hmm, Kurt Vonnegut is always so much better at small sound bites for occasions like this. The only thing that springs to mind is “Goddammit, you’ve got to be kind.” Be nice to people. We all need each other in some way and we all have different stuff going on that makes it difficult. It’s far, far better to need people and ask for help every once in a while than to completely shun everyone for the sake of reputation or something else abstract. The older I get, the more I think about being kind and just how important it is.
Thanks again for having me!
Of course, Francis. It was a Pleasure. Those who wish to check out Alone and In Debt, along with 20 other cynical afterlife stories, can pick up To Hell with Dante!