Please welcome Haralambi Markov to The Qwillery. “The Town the Forest Ate” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.
This is the seventh in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!
I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What are the challenges in writing in the short form as opposed to the novel length? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Haralambi: Thank you for having me!
Right, so I don’t have much experience with writing novels. However, I have written a lot of short fiction and the most difficult for me has been restricting myself when I worldbuild. I go for outlandish settings and scenarios that thrive on details and are fattened with backstory, especially when I do a secondary world. Cherry picking what goes on the page and what is a hint left for the reader to figure out has been my greatest hurdle.
I’m a plotter. I outline scene by scene. Then I chart character interactions and what each scene should accomplish for the plot, theme and character. I know some writers will find this a bit suffocating, but it has helped give my work focus.
TQ: You've edited anthologies. How does this affect (or not) your short form writing?
Haralambi: The keyword here is co-edited and assisted in the editing process, which is a different ball game altogether. I imagine that editing an anthology as a one-person-show with all its demands and twists would affect my own craft. Based on the two projects I’ve worked on, I can’t say that I’ve been affected beyond the obvious “this is how you should not do it.”
TQ: Which question about your writing do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Haralambi: I don’t know why, but this is the hardest question. Honestly, I can’t think of anything. I don’t get asked all that much about writing to have a particular question that I feel doesn’t get asked a lot.
TQ: Describe “The Town the Forest Ate”, which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.
Haralambi: Some sins against nature are never forgiven. The citizens of a small town spend years learning this in a forest that will never let them go.
TQ: Tell us something about “The Town the Forest Ate” that will not give away the story.
Haralambi: I’ve written a part of a folk song in English that comes close to echoing what a Bulgarian folk song ought to sound like. It’s not an exact science, but I think it evokes the melancholy.
TQ: What was your inspiration for “The Town the Forest Ate”? Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?
Haralambi: As of recently, I’ve grown interested in Bulgarian folklore and the Genius loci concept does fit with several potential spirits and forest inhabitants. A little digging here and there offered me up the stories associated with the “samodiva” – a wood nymph, which nowadays is only known for her beauty. Turns out that’s not the case… Turns out the samodiva could very well take up Buffy’s mantle in the urban fantasy arena.
As for encountering a Genius loci, I’ve not been fortunate. Perhaps, I need to go deep into a forest or other wilderness, but that may be asking for trouble.
TQ: Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “The Town the Forest Ate”.
Haralambi: Not that it matters: the forest always does as it pleases.
TQ: In which genre or genres does “The Town the Forest Ate” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?
Haralambi: I think this is the straightest horror story I’ve written. You have hauntings of sorts, body horror and the terrifying power of nature at night. At least that’s my definition of horror.
I think genres are a necessary evil. Genres have assumed a purely marketing role to effectively sell books and appeal to people who know what elements they like in fiction and want to go through the same rush. In the most romantic way to talk about genres as categories, it’s like coming home in a way.
However, what’s happened is that writers run the risk of catering to genre categories and spawn formulaic books. I’ve experienced this reading urban fantasy back in the early 00s and I hear people comment on the YA dystopia boom that cashes in on the Hunger Games. The marketing category is shaping the material.
TQ: What's next?
Haralambi: Right now, I’m working on several short stories and adapting my TOR.com short story “The Language of Knives” into a novel titled “The Mythology of Us”. Later this year, I also have stories coming up in Weird Fiction Review, Stories for Chip, The Near Now and Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Haralambi: It’s been a pleasure!
About Haralambi Markov
Haralambi Markov is a Bulgarian critic, editor, and writer of things weird and fantastic. A Clarion 2014 graduate, Markov enjoys fairy tales, obscure folkloric monsters, and inventing death rituals (for his stories, not his neighbors…usually).
He blogs at The Alternative Typewriter and tweets at @HaralambiMarkov. His stories have appeared in Geek Love, Electric Velocipede, TOR.com, Exalted 3 and are slated to appear in Genius Loci, Stories for Chip and Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling. He’s currently working on outdoing his output for the past three years and procrastinating all the way.