BRIAN EVENSON is the author of a dozen and a half books of fiction, most recently the Weird West microcollection Black Bark (2023). His collection Song for the Unraveling of the World (2019) won the Shirley Jackson Award and the World Fantasy Award and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times’ Ray Bradbury Prize. He has also won the American Library Association’s RUSA PrizeAward and the International Horror Guild Award, and has been a finalist for the Edgar Award. He is the recipient of three O. Henry Prizes, an NEA fellowship, and a Guggenheim Award. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages. He lives in Los Angeles and teaches at CalArts.
I started writing when I was young, around eleven or twelve. My mother saw a call for submissions for a science fiction anthology and even though she’d never published a story before decided to submit to it. To give herself time to write she set up me and my four siblings doing various activities. The youngest she set up doing art, but she just told me I should go ahead and try writing too. I tried it and liked it; I’ve been doing it ever since.
I tend to write fiction that has one foot in genre and one foot in literature, that tries to take advantage of both. Most (but not all) of my fiction has a horror aspect, and I think that’s definitely what fascinates me most. But I’m even more interested in trying to cross and splice genres: to see what I can do with horror in an SF space, for instance, or to see what happens when I combine SF, horror, and fairy tales.
I write both short stories and novels. I think of myself as more of a short story writer than a novelist, and short stories are definitely my first love, but I’ve published a number of novels.
I usually start with an idea catching on my attention, something small. I might be reading something and think, early on, “what if the writer would have gone this other direction with this?” That can sometimes be inspiration for me to start something of my own. Or I hear something that interests me, a weird little detail, and find myself, inspired by it. For instance, somebody told me once that the the Old Norse word for window, if translated directly meant “windeye”. The strangeness of that, just that one word, led to a story for me.
Don’t write all the fun parts first, particularly if you’re writing a novel. If you do that, then you’ll feel miserable for a good chunk of the second half of the writing process.
The most important trait for a writer, especially at the beginning, is perseverance. It doesn’t matter if you’re good straight out of the gate, but it matters that you’re willing to keep working and getting better. Also you have to persevere in the face of rejection. I know a lot of writers who were better than me when I was first starting out who stopped writing because they couldn’t persevere.
I think demystifying the writing process is an important part of it. I know people who always write with a special pen on nice paper and sit in a special chair in their office to do it; I’ve found the opposite works for me: I use scratch paper and cheap pens so that I can feel like writing is just fooling around, is fun, not something super serious.
The other thing I find is that I write better if I write by hand. I usually write by hand until I start to get stuck and then, as writer’s block is creeping up on me, I take what I’ve written and type it into my computer. Then I print it out and revise it by hand and keep on writing from there. Almost always I find I can keep going, that I’ve figured out subconsciously how to get past where I was stuck.
As someone who writes for TV as well as writing novels I’m fascinated by what happens to a story when it becomes dramatized or visually depicted. Storiaverse was of interest to me because it allowed for a new conceptualization of the connection between story and the visual.
It’s a kind of reimagining of a fairy tale (Little Red Riding Hood) as an SF story. It has many of the elements of the traditional fairy tale, but things can’t help but begin to transform because of the new context. Little Red Riding Hood is probably my favorite fairy tale because it’s one of the few early tales about female protagonists where it’s not about the protagonist getting married. The earliest versions are very strange indeed. It’s also one of the most flexible fairy tales; there’s a reason that it’s a tale writers and filmmakers keep returning to in various forms again and again.
I love to see how an animator interprets my words and brings them to life. There’s something really galvanizing about seeing what your words conjure up in the mind of a writer.
I think it’s quite important. I’m white and cis-het, but I do try to acknowledge with sensitivity subject positions that are different from my own and afford them space. As a writer, I do this by trying to support books by BIPOC writers by either reviewing them or by blurbing them. As an editor, I recently did an issue of McSweeney’s that was focused on Horror that has a lot of representation by BIPOC writers: I feel that the best work being done in horror at the moment is being done by such writers, that writers like Tanarive Due and Stephen Graham Jones and Victor LaValle are cutting new and very productive ground that ends up opening new possibilities for all of us. The more diverse the writer pool, the better and more dynamic a particular genre will be.