The following is an interview with Patrick Winters, author of the short story “The Faoladh,” which appears in Neon Druid: An Anthology of Urban Celtic Fantasy (available now on Amazon in digital and paperback).
1) What inspired you to write your Neon Druid story, “The Faoladh”?
I was perusing Facebook months ago, and I just happened to see a post with a brief article about the Faoladh. “Irish werewolves” caught my attention, and when I read the article, I was really surprised by the concept of werewolves acting as nobler—even heroic—guardian figures, as compared to the more modern view of them being mindless monsters, like we see in a fair bit of today’s media. I kept the concept in the back of my mind, and once I saw the call for Neon Druid, I knew it was time to make a story out of it.
2) What’s something that always seems to pop up in the stories you write?
My stories tend to end badly for all characters involved. Death or insanity tend to be the gut-punch-lines of my tales. I’m not averse to a happy ending, but when it comes to horror—people dealing with the otherworldly and the terrible—the darker endings seem the most logical. You see some movies or read some books where people survive to the end and move on from what they experienced, and that seems odd to me. If I saw my friends or family killed/eaten/possessed/turned into a human centipede, I think I’d at the very least go a bit crazy. “The Faoladh” is a bit of a rarity in that way, in that a) someone survives, and b) there’s a smidgeon of hope in there for what may come after.
3) Which book/story has had the biggest influence on your writing?
I’m going to cheat on this one, because I can’t narrow it down to one particular story or volume, but for a series? Clive Barker’s Books of Blood were an incredible revelation to me when I started reading them. Those stories managed to have heart, horror, and a fair amount of commentary, all mixing together to create beautiful terrors. I think those books stand as a shining example of all the emotions and concepts that “Horror” can deal with, mixing up sensationalism and chills with insight and earnestness. More and more, I find myself trying to capture that balance with my stories.
4) Cross over into the Otherworld and tell us about a deceased writer you would most like to chat with and learn from.
There are plenty of options, but I’d have to go with Robert E. Howard, first and foremost. I’ve loved his work for quite a while, and I always liked the variety of pulp fiction he managed to create. I’d probably ask him for tips about writing fantasy/sword and sorcery, which I’d like to get more into, but which seems a bit more daunting to take on when it comes to world-building. I think he managed that wonderfully, especially for someone whose writing consisted mostly of short stories. And I’d definitely love to hear more about his Solomon Kane stories, from his own perspective.
5) Excluding your Neon Druid story, what piece of writing are you most proud of, and why?
One of my personal favorites (that’s published, anyway) would be a dark fantasy piece called “The Cold.” It’s a bit different from my usual style, and I wrote it in a pretty quick stretch of time; maybe three days total, from the initial conceptualization to the completed draft. That’s awfully quick for me. It’s one of those occasions where I felt like the Muse was upon me, and I’d like to think it carries some emotional weight. The piece was originally published in Fantasia Divinity Magazine #14, and then republished by them again in their Dreams of the Past for 2017, a “best of” anthology for that year’s releases.
6) What’s a “universally loved” book/story/movie/TV show that readers would be surprised to learn you are NOT a big fan of?
I’m going to stir the hornet’s nest here and say Ridley Scott’s Alien. Maybe it’s a case of “you had to be there” (although there are much older films that I manage to enjoy and love), but I don’t find it to be as creepy or intense as the horror/sci-fi community at large seems to feel about it. I’ve tried to watch it several times, to really stop and analyze it, and my attention always wanders. Take away Ripley and you have next to no characterization, and even then, she’s more worried about saving that damn cat than her own crewmates! Plus, I’ve always been a Predator guy…
7) Now flip it: What’s a “universally disliked” book/story/movie/TV show that readers would be surprised to learn you ARE a big fan of?
Since I mentioned Alien, it only seems right to bring up Leviathan (1989). I’ve seen those two movies, along with John Carpenter’s The Thing, being compared in several places. And Leviathan is always the third wheel in those conversations. I enjoy it (for the most part), and I think it captures a sense of claustrophobia and the interpersonal breakdowns of the characters much better than Alien does. And even though The Thing and Leviathan both deal with monsters that absorb and assimilate people, Leviathan portrays its big-ugly as retaining that victim’s awareness/psyche in its new form, and the idea of being trapped inside a monster scares me much more than just becoming one. It’s a subtle difference, but an effective one—at least for me.
8) What do you do when you’re NOT writing?
Well, I work in death claims for an insurance company, which tends to get some interesting reactions from people, especially those who know the kind of things I write. My manager often jokes that I should be able to get some story ideas from the cases I handle. But when I’m not working or writing, I’m consuming. If you want to be a good creator, it helps to be a good consumer, and I love to read, listen to music, and watch movies and TV shows. And my tastes vary. I could be watching episodes of Cheers one minute and then pop in a disc of Tales from the Crypt after that, or be listening to Machine Head for an hour and then shuffle to Hollywood Undead the next. And when I’m not doing any of that, sleep suits me just fine.
9) What writing project(s) are you currently working on?
I recently published a short story collection through Barnes & Noble called CRANKED!, inspired by hard rock and heavy metal music, and I’m already working on a second volume. I have a few stories all set, and with a few more months of toil, it should be ready for release. In the meantime, I have some stories that’ll be coming out in early 2019, in various places. “Hellfire and Hamnation” will be featured in Don’t Cry to Mama, a comedy/horror anthology being released by Jolly Horror Press, and my first straight-forward Western piece, “Absolution,” will be appearing in Cloud of Dust…Cry of Death from Millhaven Press.
10) Excluding your own marvelous contribution, what was your favorite Neon Druid story, and why?
“Mari Lwyd” by Jennifer Lee Rossman was a wonderfully dark tale of holiday horror. Those opening paragraphs are brilliant, pulling the reader in and begging the question of what, exactly, is afoot here. The tension and mystery builds at a perfect pace, and while the description of the menacing monster gives us only a shrouded image of its presence, it’s what we can’t see or don’t know about its powers that makes it such an intriguing read, and the quick, chilling comment that Ffion delivers about the sisters’ past drives that notion home.
Patrick Winters is a graduate of Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL, where he earned a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. He has been published in the likes of Sanitarium Magazine, Deadman’s Tome, Trysts of Fate, and other such titles. A full list of his previous publications may be found at his author’s site, if you are so inclined to know: http://wintersauthor.azurewebsites.net/Publications/List