Featured Author: Tim Mucci
Happy Halloween, Transgressors!
As a special treat for this most excellent of holidays, we are kicking off what I hope will be a continuing feature here on Literary Transgressions about local up-and-coming authors. Today, we are joined by Tim Mucci (@timx13), author of, among other works, the excellently eerie (and very Halloween-appropriate) short story “The Tree.” (Click here to read it!)
Tim recently sat down for a digital chat with us to discuss his work, the future of the short story, and creepiness in general:
Literary Transgressions (LT): Could you talk a bit about the inspiration for your writing broadly and for “The Tree” more specifically?
Tim Mucci (TM): I write because I’m a story addict. I love the way literature works, I love the power it has over our minds. A good story can make you completely forget about yourself and your bills and your discomfort and your general life. To be able to do that by simply translating your own thoughts onto a page is mystical to me, and so I write.
More specifically: Back in the days of LiveJournal, when ‘flash fiction’ was all the rage, I wrote a series of micro short stories that I called ‘everyday horrors.’ I wanted to take things that we interact with everyday in our daily lives and try to inject some of the horrific into them. I also find trees to be intrinsically creepy, and I’m fascinated by how our childhood memories shape so much of our adult personalities.
LT: More generally, have you ever tried to write a creepy story that just didn’t translate on paper?
TM: Yes! I spend a lot of time thinking about a story before I ever put pet to paper, or fingers to keyboard. Writing a creepy story, for me, is like putting together a puzzle. For horror to be the most effective, it needs to be rooted in the mundane. It needs to happen, happen fast, and leave you doubting the true nature of reality. Gratuity leads to mundanity. I have books filled with notes about stories that I just couldn’t make work. Or that I can’t make work *yet*! All puzzles have answers.
LT: What do you think about short stories as a genre? Amid recent publishing hysteria, there has been some debate over their validity as a form, their use to authors (and by readers), and their profitability. What are your two cents?
TM: The bulk of what I read is short fiction. I subscribe to The New Yorker and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I love short stories. Artistically, I’m somewhat galled that the validity of the short fiction format would be called into question. For me, it’s a perfect delivery system for fiction, but I also read a lot, and anything that helps me cram more ideas into my head, quickly, is important. Salinger, Hemingway, Poe, Kafka, Nabakov all brilliant short story writers. Short Fiction is its own animal, and is by nature a cagier beast that deals in vagueness and allusion. I feel like it has the ability to connect more strongly with the reader because they can inject so much more of themselves into the story.
As to profitability, well, art can’t always be profitable. Nor should it be. Publishing as an industry is nothing if not mercenary. When I was a kid there was no such thing as a ‘graphic novel.’ Now most big publishers have their own graphic novel imprint. Publishing didn’t create the graphic novel, it certainly existed long before they figured out how to sell it, and I don’t think businesses figuring out how to sell something should reflect that strongly on the thing itself.
LT: What sort of response do you generally get from your readers?
TM: Generally positive, the bulk of the feedback I get is from the readings that I do. I’ve never received an email from someone who has read one of my stories and felt moved to contact me. At readings it’s positive, but no sane person is going to approach someone who just read on stage and tell them that their story stinks. So, I guess the fact that people are approaching me at all is a good sign.
LT: Who are your favorite authors and what is some recommended reading you can suggest to complement your work?
TM: Umberto Eco and H.P. Lovecraft are far and away my two favorite authors. They both are able to warp reality in a way that there is only the tiniest of borders between reality and fiction. “Foucault’s Pendulum” is my favorite by Eco. Lovecraft is trickier, but I would suggest “Shadow over Innsmouth” as a kind of primer, and then tackle “The Call of Cthulhu” but really pay attention to the timeline of Cthulhu, and the tiny little stories within the story. Lovecraft’s world building is unparalleled, and the fact that he does it within the confines of a hundred pages or so is revelatory. Beyond Eco and Lovecraft I’m a huge fan of Alan Moore, Philip K. Dick, and Jeanette Winterson. Among others, but these are the authors that most influence me as a writer.
LT: What’s your favorite thing about Halloween?
LT: Care to admit your biggest literary transgression? We’ll happily take any size transgression, but I’m curious as to what you think is your most egregious.
TM: Okay. Oh boy. I guess the thing that I feel most ashamed about is that I don’t read much modern fiction. If it’s been on the best-seller’s list within the last 10-years I probably haven’t read it. I tend to move backwards in time when it comes to reading. I find older, denser styles of writing to be a bit more satisfying. If I’m going to commit to a novel, I want it to stand the test of time.
Share your take on the the importance of short stories, your favorite thing about Halloween, or perhaps your literarily-themed plans for the holiday below and check back here for more featured authors in the weeks to come.