The clock on the cable box says 3am, so I turn off the TV and the jigsaw puzzle app and, getting ready for bed, concentrate on writing. Before sleep I focus on images, tableaux I imagine forming during key moments I haven’t yet described in a story. Last night I went to bed picturing a pile of cages on a beach. I don’t often dream about the images my consciousness brings to sleep’s doorstep, but having the images with me lets sleep know what kinds of things I’m interested in seeing, and at the very least the images will be there waiting when I exit. I hope to dream in the right visual style, even if I don’t remember details, and maintain continuity between sleeping and waking.
The easiest way to make “sense” out of some of the best stories in my horror collection Peritoneum is to read them as nightmares. I’m interested in connections the brain makes when traditional, rational sense becomes impossible, like during sleep. The best fear comes from non-sense.
Morning, perhaps barely. To sustain pre-coffee brain-mush, I linger awhile, grasping at story ideas while the noise of other concerns crowds in. Eventually, I get up, fetch the first cup of espresso, take some pills, and mainline some news. If bedtime is about images, waking is about plot. The news shows that virtually all the people in my country think approximately half the people spew nothing but nonsense, and thus we all have a good lot of fear going. Everyone’s saying this is America’s wake-up call, but the meaning of “this” has changed regularly almost every day for fifteen years. There’s more than enough “this” to supply plots for horror stories. The pulse of the American audience beats so hard you can count neck throbs from across the way.
After counting throbs, I get to writing and editing. I alternate between hammering at new sentences and chiseling at old ones. I wish I could say that I went into some kind of automatic-writing trance-state and produced thousands of words at a sitting, but that’s rarely true. I move painstakingly, pausing for long bouts of imagination and then recording aspects of them one word at a time until I need to pause again to reimagine, to see, hear, touch, smell, and taste again, differently, so I can keep the words coming. “A day’s work” results in fewer words now than it used to, but the results seem more likely to last.
[INTERLUDE: MUSIC. Other people’s music adds to the rhythm. When working on most of the stories in Peritoneum, I was listening to soundtracks, notably Paul Mercer’s soundtrack to the film Psychopathia Sexualis and music by Angelo Badalamenti and Philip Glass. Readers familiar with the music will get some of its… flavor… in the stories. A novella I’m working on now is set in the present but involves the 1950s, so I keep listening to and writing about 50s music. The 50s flavor gets more than a little… extra spice… from the surrounding ingredients, but I couldn’t make the stew without the sound.]
Writing sometimes gets broken up by evening activities and carries on into the wee hours. Evening/night involves loafing time, but that’s time for consuming narratives, literary, sure, but also television, movies, and video games. I play a lot of video games these days, but that’s okay, as I’ve already read a lot of books and seen a lot of movies. I try out elements from video games in short stories “Patrick’s Luck” and “Door Poison” in Peritoneum. Video games, like dreams, have their own physics. They’re non-sense, but players acclimate to them just like Americans acclimate to nightmare politics.
The jigsaw puzzle app I’m playing at night is a new discovery, but it suits me. I love seeing big pictures emerge out of seemingly nonsensical messes. If you looked carefully at all the stories from my two collections, Leaping at Thorns and Peritoneum, you’d see that they all fit together in strange ways. Some connections I planned ahead, and some happened while writing. I like ending my day putting together a picture. I go to bed with images, preparing for the next day’s nightmares.
About the author: L. Andrew Cooper scribbles horror: novels Burning the Middle Ground and Descending Lines as well as anthologies of experimental shorts Leaping at Thorns (2014 /2016) and Peritoneum (2016). He also co-edited the anthology Imagination Reimagined (2014). His book Dario Argento (2012) examines the maestro’s movies from the 70s to the present. Cooper’s other works on horror include his non-fiction study Gothic Realities (2010), a co-edited textbook, Monsters (2012), and recent essays that discuss 2012’s Cabin in the Woods (2014) and 2010’s A Serbian Film (2015). His B.A. is from Harvard, Ph.D. from Princeton. Louisville locals might recognize him from his year-long stint as WDRB-TV’s “movie guy.” Find him at amazon.com/author/landrewcooper, facebook.com/landrewcooper, and landrewcooper.com.
Book Synopsis for Peritoneum: Snaking through history–from the early-1900s cannibal axe-murderer of “Blood and Feathers,” to the monster hunting on the 1943 Pacific front in “Year of the Wolf,” through the files of J. Edgar Hoover for an “Interview with ‘Oscar,’” and into “The Broom Closet Where Everything Dies” for a finale in the year 2050–Peritoneum winds up your guts to assault your brain. Hallucinatory experiences redefine nightmare in “Patrick’s Luck” and “The Eternal Recurrence of Suburban Abortion.” Strange visions of colors and insects spill through the basements of hospitals and houses, especially the basement that provides the title for “TR4B,” which causes visitors to suffer from “Door Poison.” Settings, characters, and details recur not only in these tales but throughout Peritoneum, connecting all its stories in oblique but organic ways. Freud, borrowing from Virgil, promised to unlock dreams not by bending higher powers but by moving infernal regions. Welcome to a vivisection. Come dream with the insides.
Book Synopsis for Leaping at Thorns: Leaping at Thorns arranges eighteen of L. Andrew Cooper’s experimental short horror stories into a triptych of themes–complicity, entrapment, and conspiracy–elements that run throughout the collection. The stories span from the emotionally-centered to the unthinkably horrific; from psychosexual grossness to absurd violence; from dark extremes to brain-and-tongue twister. These standalone stories add important details to the fictional world and grand scheme of Dr. Allen Fincher, who also lurks in the background of Cooper’s novels Burning the Middle Ground and Descending Lines.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/landrewcooper
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