What were your thoughts when you first encountered the concept behind this anthology?
When I was invited to submit I inevitably and immediately thought, “What the fuck does that mean?” and then immediately realized it meant enormous creative freedom in what I could write. I was in.
With the theme in question, you could have taken your story in any number of different directions. How did you come up with your particular idea?
I try not to analyze how my mind works, because if I ever figured it out they could find a cure for it, but for whatever reason, the first image that popped into my head was someone cutting open a living human body and finding something unexpected inside, with the inevitable “What the fuck is that…” to follow. Figuring out what would lead up to that moment and away from it is what drives me. Most of what I write starts with an odd image or moment in time that I have to explore enough in words to explain what it is I saw in my head. So to make sure I was on the right track I pitched the one line description — “Serial killer saves the world” — and when I was told no one else was doing that, I plunged right in! And I loved the result. I love when an editor suggests a theme that spawns a story you might never have stumbled across otherwise, and this was that.
What challenges if any did it pose having to incorporate a particular phrase into the flow of your story and making it seem perfectly natural?
Once I had the idea, it fit perfectly, no problem. What I liked was that it didn’t feel stuck in; the phrase flowed naturally from events in the story. There was literally nothing else he would have said at that moment of discovery, and so the story didn’t feel like a gimmick to me. It stood on its own regardless of the theme.
What kind of research did you have to do for your story?
Hm, a serial killer story — not what you’d expect. There are no researched bodies in the Gowanus Canal nearby… Oddly, most of it was interrogating author Rick Bowes on his years at the research desk at the NYU Bobst Library, which utterly mystified him until I brought the story into the writing group for a critique. So, in an odd way, the story details what Rick’s life as a serial killer would have been like. I assume he isn’t really one, or he would have killed me as soon as he found out I was about to out him.
What else are you working on right now? Anything coming out that you’d like to talk about?
I have three stories in print this year, including this story, and am hard at work on the third novel in the Vampire Testaments Trilogy that began with Bite Marks and Blood Pressure. Past Life is set twenty years in the future, so it offered additional challenges — vampires in space! Well, no — most of the changes are societal, but I do want to throw in a privatized space shuttle flight near the end …we’ll see. It’s been interesting going back to it after letting it sit and simmer for so long, but time has brought new perspectives, and the goal is to make it the kick ass close to the series it can be.
And I am video-editing the Invisible Universe documentary on the history of black speculative fiction over the years, in three historic periods, which has been an amazing journey so far. I’m looking forward to helping M. Asli Dukan raise enough funds for us to finish what is an epic three-hour long adventure! We have about 45 minutes cut already, and going into the footage she’s been shooting for the last eight years with everyone from Octavia Butler to Sam Delany — well, it’s an amazing experience and education.