Terry M. West is a prolific author in the horror fiction industry. His numerous novellas have received critical acclaim, achieved outstanding commercial success and made a lasting imprint on the genre.
Terry’s latest novella, Honger, could possibly be his magnum opus. I had the distinct honor and privilege to deconstruct the multi-layered Honger in an official review – you can read it HERE.
I wanted (needed?) to get inside Terry’s head and ask him the tough questions about Honger’s evolution from an idea to a manuscript to a brilliant novella.
And the answers floored me.
What inspired you to write Honger?
The biggest inspiration was the film Martin by George A. Romero. The film was very slow, quiet, and moody. But when that violent Tom Savini gore kicked in, it was jarring and unsettling. The thing I wanted to do differently was eliminate any ambiguity about Willem, the main character. I wanted the reader to understand that he is a monster. I am Facebook friends with the star of Martin, John Amplas. And he indicated to me that there was no supernatural element to the Martin character. He said that Romero told him that Martin was just crazy. That made me sad on a certain level. And one thing that always intrigued me was the what if? concept of Martin actually being a vampire and discovering another like him. That is where the idea of Honger grew.
Honger contains many Dutch myths and folklore boogeymen. Why did you choose Dutch folklore specifically?
When I was writing story notes, I wanted a title that was a variation on the word Hunger. I also wanted the main character to have lived in the general area of Piermont, NY. I liked the Dutch spelling, HONGER. Very much. So I researched Tarrytown, since many Dutch immigrants settled there. I put a week or so of research into the Dutch. When I stumbled across the legend of the Boeman, the Dutch version of the Boogeyman, I found a nice way to tie it all together.
You refer to Nietzsche’s work during a certain climactic scene. As my favourite philosopher, I have to ask why you used Nietzsche subtext to build your novella?
It was to give the antagonist (who I won’t mention by name, as I don’t want to ruin the surprise) some substance. But then it began to spill out and color the story itself. I think if you were an immortal, amoral monster, Nietzsche would speak to you. The monsters in this tale have little to no emotional capacity. Nietzsche wrote that there are no rules for human life and no absolute values. You have Willem, who is trying to follow a set of rules and values. Versus his nemesis, who sees himself as a Übermensch. A super-human.
The ending is an extraordinary example of efficient metafiction. Why did you go down that route? Do you think metafiction has a place in modern horror?
I wanted to show the cycle of the Honger curse. Originally, I had planned an ending where Willem simply mops up the mess and moves on. Sort of like the ending to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. One of the things people mention about my work, is my tendency to make a reader believe they are traveling down a road they have been on before. And then jerking the wheel and taking them somewhere else. Willem has been living a pretend life. He works in a video store and has little contact with the outside world. For him, incorporating a Hollywood/film convention to the finale, with The Omega Man playing in the background, makes perfect sense. He is an actor, and self-concious about how his performance will play to the audience. In the final moments of the tale, he rehearses words that he wishes were true and real. It is his way of humanizing the end. It plays to his own self-denial.
Where did Basilius De Vries come from? In other words, what occurred during his creation process?
Basilius was the Boeman, plain and simple. The name, Basilius, can mean king or emperor. I had intended for him to come across as the alpha of his kind. But decided it would be better to portray him as just another victim. He is a Dutch trapper who has carried the curse for a long time.
The novella is quite gory, which I personally adore. What are your views on shock gore in horror fiction?
I don’t consider myself a splatterpunk or extreme author. The publisher, MorbidbookS, asked me to write something a bit darker this time. And extreme gore balanced this particular story well. There are fans of extreme gore who want to enjoy the story on more of a surface level. And there are other horror readers who want to explore it on a deeper level. I hope I am able to meet the expectations of both. But I know there are going to be some gorehounds who don’t think it gets wet enough. And others who think it goes too far. But it is what it is, how I felt it needed to be.
You obviously know your Charlton Heston dystopia trilogy. Is there a meaning behind this? Why did you bring it into the novella?
I felt Willem could identify with those stories. Hell, he is one of few that could survive those landscapes. And maybe he wonders if he would be the hero or villain in the movies. Because we all think we’re heroes, in our narrative. Willem has a deep appreciation for I Am Legend, of course. How could he not?
Will there be a sequel?
I am writing a tale that explores the Honger condition, but it isn’t tied to Willem’s story in an obvious manner.
What attracted you to the novella structure? Why not a novel?
I write tight and spare prose. I am not an overly-descriptive author. I find it hard to say okay, this is going to be 300 pages, because people prefer novels to novellas. I don’t want to drown or dilute my writing with padding. 15000 to 30000 words is my sweet spot. I’m not saying I’m not capable of writing a novel. Dreg was 80000 words. Night Things: Dracula versus Frankenstein was 40000. I always say that a story will be what it becomes. Short, long. It is what it is.
What is your biggest fear?
I have many, believe me. Some of them aren’t appropriate for public discussion. The biggest, lately, is the future we are building for our kids. The prospect of this planet, on its current course, scares the shit out of me.
Grab a copy of Honger by clicking HERE
Written by Renier Palland