Are you the type pf person that always checks the backseat before getting into your car?
Sirens Call Publications has recently released Legends of Urban Horror: A Friend of a Friend Told Me and as a special treat for each of you, we’ve asked the authors to provide us with a few words on the inspirations to their stories. Today we are joined by Alex Chase who contributed his story The Curse of the Devil’s Tree to this collection of ten chillingly fantastic tales.
Alex Chase is a 19-year-old man currently pursuing bachelor’s degrees in English and Psychology. He is a horror aficionado, video game lover and coffee enthusiast. He is also the author of Heartbreaker, which appeared in issue 04 of the Siren’s Call e-zine, and A Touch of Malice, a self-published novel for which he is now seeking traditional publication. You can connect with Alex on Twitter, Facebook, or on his blog.
And now for Alex’s inspiration…
Dark Ideas from Bright Days
I’ve found that inspiration comes from all sorts of places. Sometimes we hear, see, or experience something that strikes just the right chord and we suddenly want to write about it. Other times, our muse takes over and we write whatever dark and twisted story it commands us to. Some of us use writing as a way of expunging our own pain and misery.
While I can certainly be a dark and twisted person, my inspiration for this story wasn’t nearly as dramatic as any of those situations. In fact, it was borderline comical.
I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was eight. Some joked that I heard the Sirens calling me to this profession. After hearing about Siren’s Call Publications and their call for submissions, I knew I had to send a story in. This anthology was the first time I had a story accepted for print publication. Irony, or fate? I’ll leave you to decide.
In creating the story, I began thinking of all the local lore my home state of New Jersey had to offer. While discussing my idea to use The Devil’s Tree with a friend, he proceeded to say, “What’s so scary about a tree?”
My response, in the words of Barney Stinson, was: “Challenge accepted!”
All I had to do now was think of the setting, characters, and events that would allow me to fully flesh out the darkest portrayal of a tree that I could possibly come up with.
Foremost, when I write fiction that takes place in a realistic, contemporary world, I like to use a little dash of truth and fact to make the situations I come up with that much more believable. Nothing makes a person’s skin crawl like looking up the details and saying, “Wait, he wasn’t kidding.” This anthology was, in a sense, ideal for me since I could extrapolate on the real and tragic nature events that surround The Devil’s Tree while still altering and using them in my own way.
I am a firm believer that lore stems from life; in some way, things we hold in supernatural regard earned that reputation – for better or for worse. We don’t simply take a tree and say, “Oh hey, let’s pretend this is a portal to hell. You know, for shits and giggles.” For those of you who have never read Weird NJ, there were lynching ceremonies held at that spot.
That’s right, folks – The Devil’s Tree really is known for all manner of executions, suicides, hangings and other random acts of violence.
Whether or not you believe you’ll die from trying to cut it down, or that Satan himself will run you off the road just for visiting, is entirely up to you. I cannot confirm or deny such rumors, though I have often wanted to try.
As for the event that prompts the story, the notion of Hell Week seemed to stick out. I mean, it fit too perfectly. A couple of rowdy college kids, seeing who has enough balls to throw down with the Prince of Darkness’s favorite flora? As soon as I happened on that idea, I was ready to write.
The characters themselves were the biggest challenge; admittedly, the most daunting task for me is making sure the characters have enough breadth, depth, and chemistry to carry the story. It might be the awkward nerd in me thinking back to my pre-college years, but I tend to scrutinize that aspect the most.
That, quite simply, is why I try to have the biggest mix of personalities that I can and have them do mundane things during conversations. Real life can be exciting, but it isn’t always heart-poundingly so. If I were to write about my day, you’d be bored into a coma (I woke up, went to class, tutored, ate lunch, and typed this post – I hope you’re still with me!).
Those moments are essentially what inspired this piece. Sure, I knew I wanted to write about four typical college guys who try to tangle with the wrong tree, but those ‘common ground’ times are what really drove me to craft it into a publication-worthy story. Sorry if you were expecting something more macabre – I promise a darker tale will come next time!
In a nutshell, though, one could say my inspiration was a dash of history, good friends, and times where I’ve enjoyed doing absolutely nothing.
Legends of Urban Horror: A Friend of a Friend Told Me
We’ve all come across them. The warnings told by a friend of a friend – don’t go in there, I wouldn’t if I were you, did you hear about…? Or perhaps your mind leaps to the cryptozoological realm – creatures barely glimpsed, and yet to be identified. Other spheres of existence – they can’t be real… certainly not until you’ve experienced one!
Maybe the real horror lies in the minds and hearts of others just like you. People with a slightly bent perspective that feed on the fear in others. Twisted souls that would take advantage of the weak, or vulnerable. Those who believe they are doing good for a higher power, or to gain power simply for themselves. Petty vengeance that breathes a life of its own once unleashed.
Whatever your poison, the ten stories in Legends of Urban Horror: A Friend of a Friend Told Me are sure to intrigue, and perhaps bring back fears long forgotten.
Run, don’t look back… or should you?
Contributing Authors include:
Morgan Bauman, Kimberly A, Bettes, Matthew Borgard, Alex Chase, Austin Fikac, K. Trap Jones, Sean Keller, Lisamarie Lamb, Jon Olson, C.M. Saunders
Interested in Purchasing a copy?
And now for a quick excerpt from Alex’s story The Curse of the Devil’s Tree in Legends of Urban Horror: A Friend of a Friend Told Me…
“Man, you think they’re close to done with this crap?” Denver whispered. Mack wasn’t sure, but he was really getting tired of pledging.
Joe, one of the seniors, stepped forward. He was dressed from head to toe in a lavish ceremonial robe, but the most ostentatious part of his wardrobe was the pompous grin that had been plastered across his face. “You’ve done well, future-brothers. We’re all very impressed by your dedication to our fraternity and are pleased to say that you are all still being considered. However, we, the brothers of Mu Lambda Phi, have decided that Hell Week should wrap up with something particularly daring for the few members who have yet to really push their boundaries.
“John, for painting our entire house despite the fact that no brother asked you to do it, you are exempt from the final challenge.
“Maurice, the fact that you were able to convince John to paint our house, even though we asked you to do it, shows an extreme managerial skill that we would never turn away. As such, you are exempt.
“Dylan, you are an extremely active member of several clubs. We respect the time and effort you invest in both your curricular and extracurricular endeavors too much to waste your precious time with the following challenge.
“As for the other five,” he waved dramatically at the remaining men, “your journey is drawing to a close. You have been traveling through Hell, but the only way to escape to the other side is to cross paths with the Devil himself.”
Joe paused, beaming at the theatrics of it all. He fancied himself the ringleader, staring down at a bunch of circus animals.
“Your task is to go to the Devil’s Tree… and bring back a piece of it.”
Denver didn’t seem to react – though it wasn’t clear if he didn’t care about the challenge or if he was hiding his emotions. Mack felt a violent wave of nausea, but shook it off, while Julian looked confused. Neil paled, but gulped loudly and nodded.
Paul stood, looked at the other four pledges and said, “There’s no way I’m doing that. Sorry fellas.”
Joe feigned offense, “Paul! But why? Are you scared? I guess it’s better that you leave, then. This is a group for men, not scared little boys.” The brothers snickered. They’d seen this trick during most, if not all, of the initiations they’d witnessed. It was rule number one of gaining frat members. Emasculate and embarrass; their honor is worth more than the price of any challenge.
They fell silent when they witnessed something that had never happened before. Paul shrugged and smiled. “I’m a running back – I don’t need your approval to feel like a man…
Don’t forget to come back tomorrow when we’ll discuss inspiration with Jon Olson!