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Flame Tree Fiction

Weird Horror | Author Q&A | Story Inspirations

Posted by Gillian Whitaker

Our series of beautiful hardback anthologies has a new addition in the form of Weird Horror Short Stories! Available to buy now, the book includes a foreword by Mike Ashley alongside over 40 stories on this fascinating theme. From unsettling visions and strange spaces, to lurking creatures from the beyond, the collection combines brand new and recent fiction with older, classic work exploring the roots of the genre. Here to introduce their tales of imagination, modern authors from the book tell us the inspiration behind their contribution, and offer a glimpse of what to expect…

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What was the inspiration behind your story in this anthology?


Ramsey CampbellThe Place of Revelation

I often find telling an uncanny tale in a naïve voice can create an extra sense of unease and convey weirdness obliquely, which can make it weirder still. The masterpiece of the form is surely Machen’s ‘The White People’, and I wanted to capture some of that sense of a young person embroiled in the supernatural, somewhere between disquiet and reluctant acceptance. I hope the story suggests the weird is all around us.


Micah CastleThe Things from the Woods

It was inspired by a small line in the book A Cool Million and the Dream life of Balso Snell by Nathanael West, specifically the Balso Snell novella. A weird, surreal story about a man venturing through the innards of a trojan horse. The line is: ‘In your belly there’s a tangled forest of arms and legs.’ When I read that the whole story from start to finish exploded in my mind.


Kevin M. FolliardWhite Noise

My story ‘White Noise’ was inspired in large part by the phenomenon of night terrors and how frightening, real, and personal they can be for people. I thought it was a good lens through which to explore the character’s inner struggles with identity and self-worth, as well as how those around him perceive – and are quick to dismiss – his problem.


Anastasia GarciaDark Skies

In the 1940s, there was a rash of pilots going missing on missions over the mysterious Bermuda Triangle. All that remained were chilling radio reports and a sinking feeling that something unexplainable was afoot. Also around the same time during WWII was a little-known battalion of women military aviators called the Night Witches who fought prejudice and Nazis. In this story I highlight the connection between two women pilots and their stand against the unexplainable.


Timothy GranvilleThe Animal King

Unusually for me, ‘The Animal King’ was directly inspired by a dream in which I glimpsed something very like the eponymous entity (and promptly woke up). All I had to do then was work out what it was.


Steve HansonIsle of the Dead

The story arose from an attempt to write an ‘ekphrastic’ horror story; i.e. one inspired by a visual image or work of art. This one was inspired from a painting by late nineteenth-century Swiss symbolist artist Arnold Böcklin, called Isle of the Dead. According to art historians, prints of this particular painting were popular in early twentieth-century Europe, especially in the Weimar Republic era of Germany before the Nazis rose to power. This fact inspired the story’s setting in that era: the German Jewish family facing the real-world horrors of Nazism parallels the cosmic horror presented in the painting.


Maria HaskinsThe Brightest Lights of Heaven

My main inspiration for this story was watching my kids play with their friends. When they were younger, they’d play really intricate games together in the backyard where they’d make up all the rules themselves. Watching them, it was fascinating to see how they immersed themselves in the play, essentially ‘becoming’ various animals, for example. That ability to live inside the game and adhering strictly to the rules you’ve made, was something I wanted to capture.


Nyx KainHe Led

As seems appropriate for a story in this genre, it came to me in a dream. Though it needed some pruning to rid it of superfluous dream weirdness, and several drafts to cohere it around a distinct emotional centre, the basic flow of events is still almost exactly that which woke me gasping.


Shona KinsellaThe Call of El Tunche

El Tunche is a creature from Peruvian folklore and when I read about it, I knew I had to write about it. The creepy whistle through the jungle was just too good to pass up. I love folklore and collect little pieces of it from all around the world to inspire and feed into my work.


Lena NgLola

The characters in my story ‘Lola’ were inspired by the strange upper class New Yorkers from the movie Rosemary’s Baby. I’ve always found it interesting that there are different manners and norms across the economic classes, and what one class may find normal, another class may find odd (and vice versa of course). I tried to give the reader a glimpse into a society that resembles our own, but has some weird differences.


Reggie OliverThe Black Ship

My motivation was a commission to write a Lovecraft-themed story set in the seventeenth century for one of Steve Jones’s anthologies, but what inspired me was the entertaining notion of combining the antiquarian style of M.R. James with Lovecraftian elements. It began therefore as an enjoyable literary jeux d’esprit, but, as these things do, it acquired something deeper and darker along the way. How that came about is a mystery I am unwilling to probe!


Jason ParentAgon

I love to travel, and for me, the best way to see as much of the world as possible in a short timeframe is by cruising. The irony is that I hate being on the ocean. For some people, their phobia is being buried alive. For others, it’s flying or clowns or snakes or crowds. But for me, it’s open water. Maybe it’s the fact that, as a child, I almost drowned at the beach or that I watched Jaws at far too tender of an age, but there’s nothing more terrifying than looking over the railing at an endless expanse of dark swells and imagining myself alone in it, wondering how long I can stay afloat or how close predators are swimming by my feet. Bury me six feet deep in the cargo hold of a plane, packed like a cigarette alongside a horde of clowns wearing boas, and I’d thank you if it kept me out of deep water.


Bonnie QuinnThe Stones Move at Night

I tend to be obsessed with folklore from a particular culture for a long stretch at a time, and these past few years it’s been Slavic folklore. There’s a forest spirit called the leshii which carries off young women and sometimes marries them. That provided the inspiration for the story. The setting came from my childhood in New England, where I spent most of the time outdoors playing by the pond or in the stream. Being deep in the woods like that is an ethereal experience all on its own, so I wanted to capture some of that feeling in my story.


Eric ReitanThe Blessed Affliction

As with most of my stories, this story did not come alive until two distinct story ideas came together, and the friction between them in my imagination birthed the story. One idea was to write a story based on the legend of the Phoenix, except that it’s a human being burning up and being born anew every month. What would that be like? The second idea was to write a story that in some meaningful way shed light on issues of depression and suicidal ideation. These two ideas birthed a third: What if the human Phoenix needs to take action to live through the burning, to come out reborn? Action that feels like an odious burden? What if ending her own life requires nothing but staying home? Finally, because I lean towards hope, I asked myself: What’s the source of hope in a life like that?


Cody SchroederStray

I’d been noodling around with the idea of a horror or monster taking the form of a cute animal to lure in human victims for a while, and this gave me the perfect chance to take a crack at it. The story was a ton of fun to write too.


Lucy A. SnyderWhile the Black Stars Burn

I wrote ‘While the Black Stars Burn’ while I was attending a snowy winter MFA residency at Goddard College in Vermont. I knew I wanted to write a story evocative of both the Robert Chambers story ‘In the Court of the Dragon’ and Lovecraft’s story ‘The Music of Erich Zann’ but which was not a copycat pastiche of either one. The heat wasn’t working well in my dorm room, and my being profoundly cold and under-slept definitely influenced my writing!


Richard ThomasFrom Within

‘From Within’ was originally in a shared-world anthology entitled Slave Stories: Scenes from the Slave State. So that was where I started. I kept picturing these ‘overlords’ as paper-thin creatures, floating in the sky, tentacles drifting down, their internal organs colourful and vibrant through the thin membranes. The father and son aspect comes from my own life, and the idea of what working in this world, in the mines, might look like. The opening line, ‘The first time they come to measure my son, he is only eleven years old’, hints at subsequent times that they will come to measure him, and it was a visual that just stuck in my head. So I had to think about how that might escalate, and where it might go.


Chris WheatleyEternal Visions

I was thinking about the changing nature of communication and how we used to go about things in the pre-internet days. I had the idea of writing a story which moved through history to demonstrate these different forms.


Maria WolfeExogenous Cephalus Syndrome: A Case Report and Review of the Literature

As a surgeon, I find the human body fascinating. My fiction often focuses on body transformations and their attendant horrors. Also, as a writer, I’m interested in unexpected ways to tell a story. In 2021, while attending the annual meeting of my surgical society, I was struck by the idea of writing a short story as a surgical case report and review of the literature. It’s a format I’ve used to describe patients with rare or novel conditions.

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