I have been repeatedly asked how I come up with my stories. I don’t have a particularly twisted imagination or way of looking at things. It’s just that if I do get a passing thought I blow on it until it catches fire. And besides, there’s no new stories out there: only new ways of presenting age-old ideas. But one thing I’m known for is my unique creatures, especially the Finger People. So how does one make a monster?
According to rock musician Rob Zombie, making a monster likely involves a teenage werewolf and a possessed cheerleader making out in the back of a car. My process isn’t nearly that exciting, but certainly more plausible. In the aforementioned example of the Finger People, I started with a subject that fascinated me. This is important because passion comes through. I focused on a specific moment in the Civil War, all the better to reveal the grisly details without overwhelming the reader with too much history. My initial thought was to have ghouls gathering up the fallen soldiers. Ghouls, while not generally the fodder of mainstream horror, are well known to us horror fans. Certainly I didn’t want any ghosts of fallen soldiers—that had been done to death (please pardon the pun). So what kind of monster could ‘realistically’ come about during a Civil War battle? It would have to be something we haven’t heard of yet.
What evolved from this exercise was a new type of fully developed beastie, the Finger People. They act like ghouls, sure, but why? What motivates them? Do they collect the dead bodies to eat them like scavengers or for some other, more sinister reason? The latter would be far scarier. And how do they interact with their environment? And there’s a war going on—how do they handle that strain? In short, how can I skip the magic and apply evolution? Applying deep reasoning and logic to monsters is what separates them from the fantasies of childhood.
I guarantee you’ve never seen anything like the Finger People. Maybe they are why The Gothic Shift—my book containing their novella The Swamp Hive—won the 2014 International Book Awards’ Best Short Story Collection.
“I wouldn’t think that any author could come up with anything more brutal and scary than the Civil War, but this he did and he did it well. I will be dreaming of The Finger People for a while to come. *shudder*” – Horror After Dark