Rio Youers is the very talented author of Mama Fish, Westlake Soul, End Times, Old Man Scratch and the collection Dark Dreams, Pale Horses. Here he talks about his Spectral Book of Horror Stories take “Outside Heavenly” and taking inspiration from folk like Clive Barker.
1. Can you remember the first horror story you read that made an impact on you?
There’s a story in the 16th Pan Book of Horror Stories called “Revolt of the Ant People.” I read it when I was maybe nine or ten years old. I can’t remember if it was any good or not, but what I do remember is that it made me physically nauseous, like I’d been sniffing corpses or eating toenails. Somebody else’s toenails.
But I’d say the first short story that really made an impact (in a good way) was “In the Hills, the Cities,” by Clive Barker. Beautifully written, fabulously imaginative, completely outrageous. It made me want to be a better writer, and it probably sits alongside “The Monkey’s Paw” as my favourite short story of all time.
2. What inspired the story you wrote for this anthology?
Movies like Angel Heart and Southern Comfort. Writers like Michael McDowell, James Dickey, Cormac McCarthy. My short fiction is set all over the world: Australia, Brazil, Italy, the Philippines. I go wherever the story takes me – a wonderful escape. I got the idea for “Outside Heavenly” and it cried out for the southern gothic treatment. I was happy to oblige.
3. How would you describe the kinds of stories you usually write and does this Spectral Book of Horror story depart from that?
A few years ago, PS Publishing released my anthology, DARK DREAMS, PALE HORSES. I chose that title because I think it sums up my short fiction: some of my stories are incredibly dark and nightmarish; others are more fantastical, lighter in tone and approach.
But the important thing, of course, is the story. I work incredibly hard to make my fiction – in whatever form – engaging, readable, and alive with strong, believable characters. In this respect, I hope “Outside Heavenly” (a dark dream, for sure) isn’t a departure at all.
4. In your heart of hearts do you prefer your horror to be of the slashy variety or of a more subtle psychological stripe?
There’s a place for both, but my preference – as a reader and writer – will always be for subtle, under-the-skin horror. It’s more difficult to perfect, but when it’s done well … it’s a thing of beauty.
5. What are you currently reading?
Life by Keith Richards.