Catching the Darkness with C.W. Blackwell
We are thrilled his noir inspired "Knotwork Hill" short story will be featured in the anthology "It Calls From The Forest: Volume 1" this April 15th
C.W. Blackwell was born and raised in Santa Cruz, California where he still lives today. A crime analyst by day, his passion is to blend poetic narratives with pulp dialogue to create hard-hitting and evocative genre fiction. He writes mostly crime fiction, dark fiction and weird westerns. You can find his recent work published in Pulp Modern, Switchblade Magazine, Econoclash Review, Mystery Weekly Magazine, Aphotic Realm, and Shotgun Honey.
Without giving too much away, tell us about the short story you have featured in “It calls to the Forest”. What inspired you?
For “Knotwork Hill” I aimed to write a mashup of my three favorite genres mentioned above. The tone is noir, but the heart of the story is horror. There is a long trek through the woods that owes a lot to my Southern Gothic influences. The noir part of the story is really essential, since it is so common in this genre for flawed characters to struggle with the poor choices and events they’ve set in motion. Sometimes the past really does come back to bite you.
Have you always written, or was there a catalyst that prompted you to begin this journey?
I’ve wanted to be a writer as far back as I can remember. My early attempts at fiction were sort of strange and avant garde — and by that I mean not very good. I was trying to break all the rules before I learned them. I gave it up for many years. It wasn’t until I found myself in a dead-end job with a miserable commute that I started writing again. I’d often get stuck on the highway with no A/C in abysmally hot weather, and my mind would wander. I’d create stories to pass the time. I started writing the stories down and submitting a few here and there. I got a little better at it, and soon my name was showing up in lineups for various anthology projects. I’ve since found a new job that is much closer to home, but the ideas haven’t stopped. If anything, I now get a lot of creative inspiration from my job.
What is your favourite genre to read?
I’m drawn to Southern Gothic fiction more than anything. I’ve always loved stories that emphasize character and atmosphere over plot. Not that you can’t find some great plot-driven Southern Gothic fiction, but what really draws me in is the authentic dialogue, flawed characters, and poetic descriptions of the natural environment. I’m from coastal California, so it wouldn’t work for me to write pure Southern Gothic fiction, but it isn’t hard to notice the influence in my writing. Horror and hardboiled/noir are my other favorite genres to read. All of these genres often have a nihilistic element that I adore. I’m not big on happy endings.
Do you remember the first piece of writing shared publicly? What were people’s reactions, but more importantly how did you react getting it out there?
As a kid, I wasn’t a good student. I was disruptive and rarely did the work. When I did turn in work, I’d get marked down on writing assignments because teachers didn’t believe I was turning in my own work. They were skeptical that such a bad student could write well. It wasn’t until I started taking classes at the local community college that I met some writing instructors who recognized my passion, and helped me recognize it in myself. They encouraged me to write from the heart, with vulnerability. They gave me some really great feedback. It would be years before I started writing and submitting in earnest, but their support was always something that I’ve carried with me. Sometimes it’s hard for me to be proud of what I’ve written. I always think I could have written it a little better. I compulsively re-edit my work.
What is your workspace like? What kind of atmosphere do you need to write?
I do my best writing in the morning with a cup of coffee, but that isn’t always possible with the day job and a houseful of rowdy kids. So I make due. I find the most reliable block of time is late at night. I sit in the living room in my favorite chair, maybe a glass of something strong at arm’s reach. Sometimes I stay up too late, but I think part of being a writer is finding your next 500 words any way you can, even if that means being a little tired and hungover the next day.
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