Next up for my series of interviews with fellow contributors to Wrapped in Black: Thirteen Tales of Witches and the Occult is none other than Allison M. Dickson, author of the story “Number One Angel.” Allison is a writer with whom I had the tremendous good fortune to appear in Wrapped in White and of whose writing I am a serious fan.
Michael: Wrapped in Black is an anthology of stories about witches and the occult so let’s get right down to the meat: do you believe in magic and the powers of those who claim to practice it? There’s no wrong answer, of course, but if you say yes and then don’t tell at least a little of the story I am going to be serving some serious side-eye.
Allison: I’m not sure I believe in magic or really anything we tend to call supernatural—not to say entertaining such notions or using them in stories isn’t a whole boatload of fun. What I do believe is everything has answers, but we just haven’t quite developed the means to understand them yet. A few centuries ago, we used to think seizures and other neurological disorders were a result of demonic possession. We used to drill holes in people’s skulls to let the bad spirits out. We used to think bad weather was the result of an angry God. Our comprehension about our universe and our own minds still has a long way to go, and I don’t think we will really ever reach a place where we will understand all of it. There will always be mysteries well beyond our grasp. But I will say this: we humans really do not give our own brains enough credit for the awe-inspiring electrical meat packets they are. We think ourselves mundane, that we’ve explored and rooted out all there is to know about human beings and what they’re capable of, but this could not be further from the truth.
Michael: Why horror?
Allison: Because perspective is like mental protein that makes our minds strong. I can’t think of anything better than a scary story to provide that all-important nutrient.
Michael: As writers, we’re supposed to be tired of being asked where we get our ideas. (Personally, I love hearing myself talk.) Thus, I’m not asking that: I’m not asking from where in your brain your ideas come (unless you want to tell me). Instead, I’m curious as to whether there’s a physical location or activity you find particularly helpful. For my part, I go running when I need ideas. There are specific trails and dark wooded places where I can put my body to work on that repetitive task and my brain will eventually start coughing up inspiration.
Allison: My thinking place is usually in the car when I’m driving somewhere, and it helps when my husband is with me to take the ideas I bounce off him. I have also received a lot of ideas directly from my dreams. My story “Under the Scotch Broom” began as a dream, as did my upcoming book THE LAST SUPPER. Ideas, though, can come to me just about anywhere and anytime. But I would say most of them are the result of a particularly stimulating conversation. Which is saying a lot for someone who brands herself a bit of an introvert.
Michael: What work (horror or otherwise) do you most wish you had written, and why?
Allison: There are so many books that have made me feel that way, but I have to say the one that immediately comes to mind is THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy. Only because I wish I was capable of writing such stark and sorrowful prose that manages to tell so much in so few words. Brevity has never been my strong suit.
Michael: You and your favorite writer are stuck in an elevator while repair crews try to rescue you. What do you ask them? Do you have a grand time together or do they eagerly anticipate their escape?
Allison: If I were stuck in an elevator with Stephen King, I like to think we would walk out as besties after having the most awesome conversation about books and writing and movies and TV shows. And then the next day I would be served with a restraining order. But it would be totally worth it.
Michael: What’s next for you? Where should we keep up with your goings-on?
Allison: Right now I am hard at work preparing for the release of my dystopian novel THE LAST SUPPER, which is coming out on 12/13/14. Also, my agent should have my suspense novel KUDZU out for submission very soon, and I am very excited to see where all that goes. There are a lot of other little things in development as well, and folks can read about them at my website: allisonmdicksonbooks.com as well as follow me on Twitter: @msallied.