S.E. Casey is the author of Black Lung Hay Fever, this week’s Story Spotlight. He was gracious enough to sit down for a chat in this week’s Author Spotlight interview.
Not long after celebrating his twenty years of accounting service in a large Boston investment firm, S.E. Casey began to write. As an attempt to quell an unspecific desperation and stave off a growing resentment of everything, he found stories buried in the unlikely between-spaces of numbers, balances, and accounting formulae. This expanding existential collection has been published in many magazines and online publications, which can be found at www.secaseyauthor.wordpress.com.
Q & A
AR: Before we get started, we need to address a few concerns. If you are a Boston Bruins or Red Socks fan we should just end this interview here.
SEC: What about the Patriots and Celtics?
AR: Jokes (and team affiliations) aside…Welcome to the Aphotic Realm family!
SEC: Happy to have my story featured on your site and join the Aphotic Realm family.
AR: First of all, why accounting?
SEC: Yes, I am an accountant. I fell into the job a few years after college; it wasn’t anything planned. I solve problems all day (whether it is with the actual numbers, or creating new processes/templates, or training/mentoring other employees) which is something I like and have found I am good at. Accounting also takes a surprising amount of imagination– everything is messy and nothing ever works like it should; I am always coaching my employees to look at problems in different ways. Being able to improvise, anticipate, and negotiate is all necessary. The problem solving involved has a lot of overlap with figuring out what a story should be and resolving the conflict therein.
AR: Was there an exact moment or event that sparked your desire to write? Did you ever have an interest in writing prior to the “growing resentment” you mentioned in your BIO?
SEC: One of my co-workers has a similar taste in books, movies, etc. In discussing some indie authors that we are both reading, we got onto the subject of how they got published. Being much more tech savvy than me, he filled me in; I had no idea one could simply upload a word file to Amazon or Smashwords for free and have it immediately available to be read by the world. So, at that moment when I realized there were no gatekeepers or unrealistic obstacles to being published is when I started thinking up stories. In fact, the very next day I had two stories that I was excited about and were potentially more interesting than some of the stuff I was reading at the time. I suppose my impetus to write came from the simple and absurd reason that there was an opportunity.
AR: What was your inspiration for your story?
SEC: I wrote a 250-word scarecrow story that got published a year ago in the Molotov Cocktail Lit Zine titled “A Straw Poll for Regime Change”. One of my now writing friends, Gary Buller, commented on how much he enjoyed its simple creepiness. Later, Gary wrote a sequel to one of his stories, so, I took it as a writing challenge–another problem to solve–how to make a sequel of my own and build on the scarecrow theme. Typically, I go to sleep with a problem in mind and my subconscious figures it out or at least will show me the where I need to go to for my answer. “Black Lung Hay Fever” is my psyche’s logical (illogical?) conclusion for a second scarecrow tale.
AR: Is there more to Black Lung Hay Fever? Is it part of a larger story in your mind?
SEC: Scarecrows, like mannequins and puppets and other human-like effigies, are so ripe for weird horror and my existential leanings that I can’t rule another story out. Presently, nothing’s in the works, however.
AR: Have you tried your hand writing in any other medium?
SEC: When I started writing I dabbled in poetry. I have had several poems published including one in the Horror Writers Association Poetry Showcase which was the first thing I ever wrote that I got paid for. For now, however, I have all the challenge I need in writing a good, coherent short story.
AR: What kinds of stories do you like to read?
SEC: I like to read weird fiction that has a philosophical bent, something that challenges conventions and that is difficult enough to give me something to reconcile.
AR: Do you have a favorite author that you find particularly inspiring?
SEC: When I was a teenager, I read a lot of Michael Crichton books. I knew reading him that I could never write anything like that: way too technical. Same with mystery/ whodunit books like Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie– they’re so impossibly clever, who thinks of this stuff? The first book I ever read that I ‘got’ was Clive Barker’s ‘The Great and Secret Show’. It was all raw imagination and odd ideas that while obviously very weird, still made perfect sense to me. I still remember that moment of realization that while I can’t write the ‘Andromeda Strain’, I can do something like this. And then after that, Thomas Ligotti wrote the type of stories in tone, mood, and existentialist gravity that particularly captivated me. Above all other writers, I reread and studied Ligotti’s stories long before I ever made the decision to write word one, if just to figure out was buried inside that so both unnerved and fascinated me.
AR: If you could have personally witnessed anything, what would you want to have seen?
SEC: The Hindenberg. Okay, not at all. I can think of a lot of things, all of which would get me in trouble. A PG-13 answer would be to be on the set of the first “Hellraiser” film. If a Russ Meyer production was filming in the next studio so much the better.
AR: If you could wake up tomorrow in the body of someone else, who would you pick and what would you do?
SEC: Another minefield. I’ve come to the conclusion I don’t ever want to be famous; it sounds miserable in a lot of ways. And to be powerful is a similar curse. I would want to be one of those Buddhist Monks and just spend a day where I am at peace with everything and all my anxieties and resentments fall away, although I am skeptical that they aren’t any better off than we are, and only have better poker faces.
AR: Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to talk about?
SEC: I have a short story coming up in an exciting anthology titled Monsters Exist to be published by the Deadman’s Tome in July of this year. There will be fifteen or so stories written by some great authors who I have gotten to know in my few years of writing. Coincidentally, one of which, S.J. Budd, has had a story, The Forgotten House, published recently in Aphotic Realm! I have another story, The Long Way Home, to be included in an upcoming issue of Weirdbook (November 2017). I am also hoping to self publish a collection of Christmas horror stories by the end of the year.
AR: Excellent! We will certainly look forward to those! Thank you for your time today!
You can find more of S.E. Casey’s work at the links below.