Just in time for Halloween, author Brian Olsen has released a horror comedy “novelette” entitled The Unnatural Haunting of Mrs. Beverly Snow (currently available for download on Amazon) that tackles issues of prejudice along with his typical sense of humor and a few good scares as well. We were able to interview Olsen about his story and also talk about his process and the horror genre in this exclusive interview.
Horror News Network: What was your inspiration for writing your new story The Unnatural Haunting of Mrs. Beverly Snow?
Brian Olsen: I’m fascinated by those organizations that spend their time writing to television networks protesting whatever they consider to be immoral in pop culture, since usually my own boring life is one of those things they consider so objectionable. While I don’t think much of the heads of these groups, I suspect a lot of the rank and file members may not be such terrible people. They’re just – like a lot of us – scared of the unknown. I thought it would be fun to take one of these self-righteous crusaders and force her to get up close and personal with some of the people she finds so sinful. Having a friendly, but homophobic grandma haunted by a dead gay couple seemed to fit the bill.
HNN: Most horror stories have as their foundation a fear of “the other” or outsider. Was this easy to work into the story from the perspective of a close-minded character like Beverly Snow?
Olsen: Oh, yes. I wanted to make sure that Beverly wasn’t a completely unsympathetic character – we see a lot of her positive qualities, but they’re overshadowed by how her close-mindedness and fear of other people, particularly LGBT people, affects her behavior. Her literally being haunted by her fear, and what that forces her to confront about herself, is the root of the story.
HNN: What are the differences in writing a novela vs a short story vs a novel in terms of characterization?
Olsen: The goal is really the same in each – to create a fleshed-out, well-rounded character that the audience can in some way identify with, or care about, or root for, or root against. In a shorter story like this (at 15,000 words, it’s technically a novelette – a category I didn’t know existed before I wrote one), the challenge is capturing that character in a much shorter span. Short stories have to be concise, there’s only room for one main idea to be explored. It’s freeing, in a weird way – you can cut out anything extraneous and get right to the good stuff!
HNN: The story also contains a lot of comedic scenes. Did you find it difficult to blend in the comedy in a ghost story?
Olsen: I don’t, because that’s just my style. Everything I write has some comedy to it, and I think I’d find it harder to keep all the humor out. The key is knowing what you want your readers to get out of any given scene. When I want the readers to feel Beverly’s fear, I tailor the tone to match. But when she’s sitting down with the rest of the Mothers for Morality to pen a few letters of moral indignation, I can let the absurdity of the situation shine through.
HNN: Horror stories since the early 1930’s have dealt with LGTB issues, but usually through use of subtext. Do you see this changing to a more overt focus in genre writing and horror stories today?
Olsen: Somewhat, but we still have a ways to go. There are more and more secondary LGBT characters in mainstream genre fiction, which is great. Once in a while, one of them even survives to the end! But I’d like to see LGBT characters move to the forefront. When there is a queer lead, the story often tends towards the salacious, if not outright erotica. Which is great, I’m all for sexy gay good times (there’s a little of that in this story, in fact), but there are other stories to be told as well. Those stories do exist, but readers really have to hunt for them.
HNN: What is your favorite horror film, novel, tv show if you had to pick one?
Olsen: I’ll pick one of each! There are a lot of horror movies I love, but I’ll go with Poltergeist (the original, but that probably goes without saying). My mother is a big horror fan and she took me to it when I was way, way too young just because she wanted to see it. I loved it but it scared the living hell out of me. (She is in every other way an excellent mother, I promise.) Novels, similarly, I was reading Stephen King earlier than I should have been, and his work warped my mind in all the best ways – Salem’s Lot probably scared me the most. And for TV, I don’t know that anything has ever beaten The Twilight Zone. When they went for scary, they nailed it. Thinking about that ventriloquist’s dummy still gives me the creeps.
HNN: Thanks for your time and we look forward to more stories like The Unnatural Haunting of Mrs. Beverly Snow in the future.
Interested readers can get access to Olsen’s story here.