Exploring the art of prose


Author: J.M. Tyree

Author’s Note

I’m currently working on a book of horror stories called Vampire Radio. Horror was where I started out in childhood, listening to Alfred Hitchcock anthologies on the turntable with giant headphones at my local library in Wisconsin, devouring Poe and Kafka in the high school library, and watching Twin Peaks with my mom. Horror suits reactionary eras, like the 1980s, when I grew up, and I think the genre fits in with our current predicament rather well. The state of being afraid weirdly connects Americans across the spectrum right now – people who otherwise think they don’t share anything in common. Everyone is anxious, and this universal state of fear puts people into situations where they can be manipulated more easily. The horror genre is a double-edged sword in this regard, since it contributes to the climate of fear but also can offer the chance to confront and challenge our worst fears in a fictional space that makes it safer, perhaps, or more distanced, at least. All this sounds more like theme than craft, but I guess theme is always a hidden or unconscious aspect of craft. I would add that writers don’t set out to create concepts or messages, of course, and yet the work-space inevitably feels invaded by the barometric pressure of the wider atmosphere in which we work. I don’t think that’s anything to fear. Regarding “Parenthood,” I’d like to thank Liz Bradfield for an anecdote that inspired this story.

J. M. TYREE is the coauthor, with Michael McGriff of the story collection Our Secret Life in the Movies (A Strange Object), an NPR Best Book of 2014. He teaches at VCUarts and is Nonfiction Editor at New England Review. His most recent book is a collection of essays, Vanishing Streets – Journeys in London (Stanford University Press).