31 Days of Halloween… with HANK SCHWAEBLE

On the eve of the release of his latest novel The Angel of the Abyss (which drops on Halloween from Australia’s Cohesion Press), we are pleased to welcome Hank Schwaeble to the 31 Days of Halloween festivities. He’s also the author of Damnable, Diabolical,  the well-received horror noir collection American Nocturne, and number of short stories.

Personally, I love that for the “scariest scene he’s read” question Hank’s chosen a book/author that’s unfamiliar to me, because that was precisely our hope when we planned 31 Days of Halloween – that our guests would plump up our to-be-read pile, and yours too, dear reader. Because for all of us there comes a time when we need something new to track down and devour.

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31 Days of Horror… with Hank Schwaeble

comecloserDescribe a time when a scene in a horror novel really unnerved you or caused you to turn on all the lights. 
In Come Closer by Sara Gran, the protagonist ultimately succumbs to a demon that has slowly been taking possession of her, and there is a scene at the end where she is in a psychiatric hospital, having completely given in and embraced her fate, and there is just enough of a subtle but unmistakable hint that perhaps the horrible things she’s done in escalating fashion throughout the novel that resulted in her being institutionalized weren’t caused by a demon at all.  The ambiguity is enough to make you, as the reader, suddenly feel complicit in what happened.  I don’t want to describe the scene with any more spoilers than that, but “unnerved” is as good a description as any for how it left me.

In your opinion, what is the all-time scariest horror novel or short story?
The two scariest novels I’ve ever read would have to be 1984 by George Orwell and The Trial by Franz Kafka.  Both the world described by Orwell in 1984 and the climax where Winston Smith finally wins the battle over himself and learns to love Big Brother chills me still decades after I first read it.  And The Trial is one of the books that gets scarier as time goes by, because the message is conveyed through such a surreal tale that it’s like a dream your subconscious keeps trying to interpret.  Kafka touched upon a very real threat that most everyone eventually senses but one that is extremely hard to articulate, the idea that the power organs of society can act suddenly, arbitrarily, and unexpectedly to persecute an individual for reasons that person may never be able to understand–and that even those engaging in the persecution don’t understand.
The scariest short story I ever read was probably “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson.  It’s the only story I read as a kid that has become scarier and scarier in my memory the older I’ve become.  The story that I found to be the scariest when I read it was “The Midnight Meat Train” by Clive Barker.  There was something in the way he described the underground lair of the Elder Ones and the idea of creatures preying on people with the knowledge of authorities that was more disturbing as a teenager than anything I had read before.

theangeloftheabyssWhat’s the scariest scene and/or book you yourself have written? 
In The Angel of the Abyss (set for release on Halloween), I have a scene where the protagonist is transported to a corridor in somewhere on the outskirts of Hell and opens a series of doors.  I’d like to think I did a decent job with the level of creepiness for that. 

Your top three fears?
1)  To be at the mercy or subject to the arbitrary authority of others, because nothing matches man’s inhumanity to man and the history of world is a series of horror stories about what happens when some have power over others.
2)  A darkened doorway in the middle of the night, the void of it a bit blacker than the room you’re in and the shadows around it, when you can tell something is there, looking back, just out of sight.  Waiting.
3)  Eternity.  Because it spreads out forever and we’re either going to exist for the duration of it, or not exist for the duration of it, either prospect being terrifying in its own way.

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