Kill Switch Origins

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Addicts, have you ever wondered what inspires an author to write a horror story? What event sparked terror in a writer’s brain? Well, wonder no more. Some of our Kill Switch authors have been kind enough to provide us with a peek inside their twisted minds. We hope you enjoy these Kill Switch Origins.


Subroutines: Writing from the Scrap Heap of Memory

I checked through the drafts in my Ulysses app and discovered I wrote the original version of “Subroutines” for an online writers’ group two years ago. I believe the theme of passing through doorways. (The other writers’ doorways led to heaven.)

Most likely I was working on a second story or poem that involved code, and the link from entrapment to endless loop was a natural segue.

I don’t believe in waiting for inspiration to write. I work with scraps and found images I drop into memory and then fish them out at random. Most of my stories begin with an image, dust motes dancing in sunlight, a woman’s hair spreading into the water, a spot of blood on a pillow. It doesn’t matter what image I retrieve, that’s the one I work with.

Once I find it, I fashion the image into a metaphor that represents character flaws, motivations or self-deception. The endless loop in subroutines is a metaphor for the patterns that define our lives. The loop traps us but escaping the loop derails us as often as it resets our course.

Once I fashion the metaphor, I turn it loose in the story’s garden to see where it crops up. Sometimes I get flowers, sometimes I get weeds, which is fine. Weeds and wildflowers cover my lawn (which pisses off the neighbors who like their yards neatly trimmed). I want my mind as messy as my yard.

~Phillip T. Stephens


As regards the origin of my story, “Go Gently,” honestly I can’t recall…it’s been years of rejections and rewrites…all I have is the memory of the preacher Gene Scott—I think that’s his name—asking for Kruggerands on his weekly message. He was the model for Dr. Jack Carl in my story.

~ Garrett Rowlan


My short story, “HAÜS,” was inspired by a discussion I had with a relative who installs digital security systems in homes, commercial buildings, and public facilities. I wondered, “How diabolical would it be to have an advanced security system so effective and deadly that even a small child who was ‘home alone’ for a while would be safe against armed Intruders?”

~ Garth von Buchholz


[“In the Eye of the Beholder”] I worked in the field of User Experience Design for a few years and saw a number of interesting design concepts for augmented reality. Combining the digital world with the real world has been technology’s inevitable direction for a while now. Considering how connected our lives are through social media, this combination is increasingly problematic. What is privacy in a world where everything goes online? What’s happens when our digital selves merge with our actual selves? And what happens when they start to take over?

~ Daphne Strasert


[“Soultaker 2.0”] I always liked the idea of a sinister power claiming parts of us as we play video games. There have been so many studies on how video game playing can affect our bodies and minds while playing. What if the effects were irreversible?

~ Emerian Rich


My story was inspired by a real invention. It’s a small white box which uses ultrasonic sound to repel pests (spiders, mice, etc.) from your residence. My husband and I bought these devices online. You just plug them into any outlet and switch them on.

After a while, (when the device no longer worked. I guess the mice grew accustomed to the sound) I began to wonder about these things. What if they could repel pests, but attracted something else to the house? The idea bumped around in my head until I heard about the Kill Switch submission call. Then the whole idea clicked into place and “Phantom Caller” was born.

~Naching T. Kassa

Kill Switch Chilling Chat: 10 Quick Questions with Phillip T. Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens writes and rescues cats in Austin, Texas. He publishes several times a week for Medium. He is a  contributing author to our new anthology, Kill Switch

1.)    How old were you when you first discovered horror?Phillip T. Stephens

Other than life as a Baptist Preacher’s Kid in general? I don’t remember my exact age, but I remember the event. I was in elementary school, and my father insisted I accompany him to a youth retreat for high school students. The facility was creepy, but the moment of crisis occurred when he showed a movie at midnight (don’t laugh) Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy. Toward the very end of the movie is a quick shot of the mummy’s bones, which for some reason I can’t explain having watched the movie a dozen times as an adult, scared the living bejeezus out of me. I couldn’t sleep that night.

The next day we went for a hike around the lake. (If you’ve seen Tarkovsky’s Solaris, think of the lake at Kelvin’s parents’ house.) We rounded a bend and I spotted a moss covered stick poking from the water, a stick which, at that moment, I mistook for a human finger.

I couldn’t sleep by myself for months. Instead, I slept on a cot in my sister’s room, which probably contributed more to my adult neuroses than the moments of terror I experienced at the retreat.

2.)    What author has influenced you most?

Walker Percy, but I suspect you mean horror writer. From a literary standpoint, Peter Straub, but from a writer’s standpoint Steven King. I lived for each new release for several years until The Stand, which became the manual for everything I never wanted to do as a writer. I loved the story, but the prose was atrocious. I continued to read him until It when I couldn’t pick up another book.

This doesn’t change my respect for what he’s accomplished, and I faithfully followed his exploits with Joe Bob Briggs (John Bloom), redneck film reviewer as long as Bloom’s column ran.

3.)    What inspired you to write your piece, “Subroutines?”

I was working with a writing group on the topic “passing through a doorway.”

4.)    How much control do you exert over your characters? Do they have free will?

If I like the direction they’re taking, they’re free to do as they please. If I think they’re interfering with the story, I’ll slap them down in a heartbeat.

5.)    Do you listen to music when you write? Who do you listen to?

I have, but I also write with the TV on.  Looking back, I’d say my biggest influences are Laurie Anderson, David Byrne, and Brian Eno.

6.)    Where do you find inspiration?

I’ve trained myself to take inspiration from scraps of information and passing thoughts. I often riff off (aka rip-off) strands of conversation. But it could be a reflection in a window, an asshole ordering coffee, or something that passes the corner of my eye.

7.)    What is your favorite horror novel?

William Browning Spencer’s Zod Wallop. Think night terrors wrapped in a meltdown and surrounded by a mind fuck. Spencer is a brilliant writer that few readers know.

KSCoverSmall8.)    Favorite horror movie?

Tarkovsky’s Stalker. Many consider it science fiction, and it is, and others find it tedious, but this movie exemplifies Tarkovsky’s ability to make beauty from debris. The movie explores the premise: what happens when you discover what your heart truly desires?

9.)    Favorite horror television show?

Twin Peaks. Nobody twists angst into terror better than Lynch.

10.)  What does the future hold for you? What do we have to look forward to?

That depends on the publications to which I submit. My life is in the hand of good editors like you. I’m making the final corrections to the novella version of my #TweetNovel Doublemint Gumshoe which I posted Tweet-by-Tweet for the better part of a year. Think the mob, digital gangs, the tech industry, aliens, nanobots and the dumbest detective who ever lived. We’ll see what happens.

You can find Phillip on Twitter and Instagram.