Featured Author: David Kenney
Introducing this indie author David Kenney. His creepy tale "When Called", featured in our newest anthology "It Calls From the Forest: Volume Two", will stay with you even after you are finished the collection.
Born and raised in Minnesota, David Kenney has spent the past five years teaching rhetoric and composition at a university in Wisconsin while completing his PhD in nineteenth-century literature. In between, he spent several years abroad, working as a bartender and accounting clerk in Ireland, where he enjoyed the “mighty craic” of Galway and Dublin. Heavily influenced by Victorian ghost stories, David’s own tales attempt to recapture the time before the lightbulb, when dark corners of the world still had to be explored with only a small flame. Stories from his “Lost Archivist” series have been recently published by Rogue Planet Press in Lovecraftiana: the Magazine of Eldritch Horror.
Have you always written, or was there a catalyst that prompted you to begin this journey?
I have always been a bit of a dabbler, and began writing seriously about three years ago. My sister Regina and I started a little writing group with just the two of us: The Spooky Siblings Club. Since we already did a horror reading competition every fall, we decided that scary stories would be our focus. At first, it was just an excuse to talk every week, but we started looking up prompts for horror stories and working through how to turn a premise into a plot. We would spend hours discussing different ways to evolve a story and the strengths and weaknesses of different scenarios. Since we grew up together, offering harsh criticism was not a problem. The story included in this anthology, as well as all the others that I have published, grew out of this collaboration.
What is your favourite genre to read?
The list of genres I avoid is shorter than the list of genres I enjoy. For work, I study nineteenth-century novels. Mysteries and westerns feature prominently in my list of favorite books, and since I was raised on Tolkien and Lewis, fantasy has a special place in my heart. I love variety, and my tastes change with the seasons. But, winter, spring, summer, or fall, I am always in the mood for a good scary story. If I had to be stuck on an island for the rest of my life with only three books, as much as I would like to say that some profound treatises on the nature of human existence would be making the journey with me, the truth is that the complete works of Poe and Lovecraft would probably be my first two picks. I have read “The Black Cat” and “The Dunwich Horror” more times than I care to admit, and I would read them both again today if I had time.
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?
It was in the fourth grade. I remember it well. The class had been given a creative writing assignment and, since I included my four best friends as characters, I thought it appropriate to read my story aloud to them before turning it in.
The story began with my friends and I walking through the woods, which we often did, though never with the cute girl from class that we all fancied (that was a creative bit I added). Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, a huge monster bear came crashing through the underbrush and started chasing us. We tried to hide in a cave, but (who could have guessed?) this cave turned out to be the bear’s hideous, bone-strewn lair, and we were soon cornered. We weren’t defenseless though. We all had swords, for some reason. Doug and Nick tried to attack the beast from the front, but a swipe from its massive paw sent them crashing against the cave walls. Joe attempted to roll under its legs, but was crushed. And poor Brian; well, the bear ate him whole before he could do very much. Things looked bleak. That’s when I stepped in. Jumping on the monster’s back, I drove my sword into the foul thing’s head killing it stone dead.
The feedback I got from my friends was almost entirely negative. Brian, in particular, failed to appreciate any subtleties in plot or character development. Even my teacher did not care much for it. She was of the opinion that the level of gore was gratuitous. However, I learned a valuable lesson from the experience: never listen to critics.
What is your workspace like? What kind of atmosphere do you need to write?
Clean and neat. If I see disorder, I have to sort it out before moving on. I know plenty of people who love to work in a bit of chaos, but I have never been able to. I get the appeal, though. You hunker down amongst the mementos of previous writing nights, noodle cups and wrappers, scraps of paper and book piles. The sights and smells of clutter can cause the creative juices flowing; I get that, but, for me, a clean slate and a central focus, a little ambient music, a cup of coffee is what I need to get the job done.
Horror occasionally veers into the paranormal or supernatural, that's what makes it fun in my opinion. Do you believe in the supernatural?
I do not know if I believe in ghosts and the supernatural, but I love reading authors who treat it seriously. Not necessarily those who want to convince me, but those who put effort into creating a little bit of doubt in the certainty of everyday existence. Also, I think, the supernatural can be a brilliant vehicle for expressing aspects of reality that are often difficult to depict in more “realistic” fiction: universal questions raised by fear, doubt, suffering, and grief. At the end of the day, though, maybe I just appreciate the supernatural in fiction because it allows both the author’s and the readers’ imaginations to run wild. Do I believe in werewolves? Maybe not. Do I want to read about a pack of them terrorizing a town? Absolutely.
Without giving too much away, tell us about the short story you have featured in “It calls to the Forest: Volume Two”. What inspired you?
I can’t think of any direct inspiration without giving things away, so let me just say something about why I love this anthology and why it drew my attention. I grew up near the Twin Cities, but my grandparents lived in northern Minnesota. Almost every other weekend of the summer, my family would pile into the van and make the long trek up into the northern wilds to stay at a house with the long yard that ended with an old shed at the verge of the woods. During the day, we would go on hikes down to the swamp to look for tadpoles or up to the bluffs. And the forest was a nice place during the day. But, when we all sat out on the back porch at night, and the surrounding hills had all turned to black, the forest absolutely terrified me. You would hear things moving in the leaves and strange yips and howls and chatters from the blackness. I think what frightened me the most was that the things out there in the darkness knew not to come into the light. Often, I would see eyes shining out, well into the yard but always just beyond the patch of ground covered by the light. Then, in the morning, we would find garbage cans overturned and bird feeders torn down. I knew that whatever the night things out there in the woods were, they had waited for us all to be asleep before they came up to the house. Maybe they had just been sitting out there watching us the whole time we sat outside, and maybe if I was out there alone, they would not have waited.
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They warned us not to enter, but we didn't listen. The call too strong to ignore. And now there is no one left to save us.
Beware, these things within the forest will rip out your heart and devour your soul. You will tremble as they revel in your madness, taking everything from you and leaving you with nothing. Delve inside this anthology of what truly lurks within the shadows of the trees.
Eerie River Publishing brings you another round of exceptional horror by award-winning authors from around the globe.