Welcome back! Today, for your weekend partying pleasure, I would like to present author Troy Blackford. I first met Troy through the anthology series, Robbed of Sleep, for which he serves as editor. Once I started planning my own horror omnibus, I knew I had to have him onboard. Although he was in the throes of finishing and promoting his latest novel, Under the Wall, Troy still managed to carve out the time to create a fantastic ode to the fall season with his story, “Hall ‘O Ween Partie!” which appears in A Shadow of Autumn.
Recently, Troy and I discussed his contribution to the anthology as well as what’s next for this major up-and-coming writer.
What was your inspiration behind “Hall ‘O Ween Partie!”?
When I thought about Halloween, one of my first memories of the holiday was a Halloween party from my youth. It had many of the same activities mentioned in the story, but I reflected on how differently they might be received now. I just wanted something that would capture that wistful feeling I felt as I considered the party in my youth, as it seemed like the perfect backdrop for a story.
First off, let’s talk about that title, which by the way immediately caused my copyeditor to ask if it was purposefully misspelled. Did you ever create or receive an invitation with “Hall ‘O Ween Partie!” written on it, and did you realize the havoc you would wreak on those of us who are OCD about spelling?
Sorry for the extra difficulties! I just love those sorts of deliberate manglings, I’m afraid. I can’t recall that I ever got that exact malapropism, but I certainly got my fair share of poorly scrawled missives with the spirit of the error. I didn’t think too hard about the problems the title would cause, but I do feel guilty about it now!
Thematically, this story is quite unique. You manage to blend a sense of autumnal glee (the revelry of the Halloween party) with a deep-seated melancholy (the protagonist at last facing her guilt over a childhood loss). Was striking that balance as a writer particularly difficult, or did it develop naturally throughout drafting the story?
It did sort of come naturally, and I think that’s because so many of us do have that kind of mixture when we look back at our childhoods: we relish the naive, innocent joy we took in things, but there can also be a sense of guilt about all the opportunities we didn’t take, all the effort and time we spent on something we might now think was misplaced, or, at the very least, all the encounters we know now we will never have again. It’s kind of dark, the way we treasure our childhoods but also lament them, and I think the generation of folks I am a part of are raising this kind of ‘wistful, longing nostalgia tinged with regret and guilt’ to a new artform. This story was just sort of one way for me to work with and through that.
You have a youngster of your own. Do you plan to make him stick his hands into bowls of spaghetti and grapes this Halloween like Margaret does to the children in the story?
Ha! I will say that last year, when he was one, Nolan took rather gleefully to the scary decorations (my wife loves Halloween decorations, and I think they’re pretty awesome too, so you can imagine how overboard things get each October in our house!), which he termed ‘Rawrs.’ In the last half a year, he’s developed a keen imagination to the point where frightening things scare him to a much larger degree. This is good, as I tend to be the sort of person who quakes in fear at imagined mishaps, and I’m glad he’s following in my footsteps, but we’re really going to have to play it by ear how much artificial terror he is exposed to. But, I sincerely doubt we will waste grapes or spaghetti on the child: we’ll go straight to fake spiders and the such, and save the food props for dining purposes.
This anthology focuses on the Halloween season, so I’m asking all the writers this question: across all the years of dressing up for trick or treat and/or costume parties, do you remember your favorite Halloween costume? And, dare I ask, are you willing to tell me about the most embarrassing costume, either something your parents made you wear or something your foolhardy self thought was a good idea once upon a time?
When I was five, I dressed up as Peter Venkmann, which was a lot of fun. I got to be in the small Arizona town newspaper, which made me feel important. It was such a small town, there were only six people in my first grade class the next year, so it really wasn’t that big of a deal. My most embarrassing costume is easy to decide on: the next year, there was a short-lived TV show adaptation of the comic ‘The Flash,’ which for some reason I liked enough to watch the first episode of, not enough to watch further episodes of (I think one scared me or something ridiculous like that, or maybe it was just bad – it did only last one season) but also liked enough to want to be ‘The Flash’ for Halloween. I guess it’s not that ridiculous, as there is a new show I think adapting the comics, and I’m sure there are lots of kids dressing up as the Flash this Halloween, but what made it so embarrassing is that part of my costume consisted of red briefs with a yellow band that I wore over my red tights. And my grandmother let me do this. In public. It was only humiliating in retrospect, but that feeds into the idea that we both love and regret our childhoods, doesn’t it?
Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share?
Well, I just released a new novel called Under the Wall that I would be thrilled if people gave a chance. It’s a strange premise, revolving around telekinetic cats, but I’ve worked on it a very long time and it is kind of special to me, so I hope people see past the potential for goofiness and give it a shot. Thanks for asking!