Micro-interview: Ryan Harvey

Candle in the Attic Window, an anthology of Gothic horror, is the latest release from Innsmouth Free Press. We are interviewing some of the book’s contributors. Today Ryan Harvey talks about his story, “The Shredded Tapestry”.

What makes your story Gothic?

To me, the core of the Gothic is Medievalism, a tributary from the Romantic movement that was rejecting Classicism. Although my story takes place in 1821 (I don’t mention that in the text, but that was the year I selected for research and my own consistency), it is steeped in the medieval. It takes place in an old Catholic monastery and is based on a piece of Middle Ages legendry regarding Regensburg, a Bavarian city that, even today, is so relentlessly medieval that if the Black Death hit the place, nobody would notice. The story also uses a common plot device from Gothic stories: A character in a remote place at night seeks shelter in an old building filled with strange, furtive people, who are obviously hiding a horrid secret about the past, and the visiting character starts digging around. This plot structure has been around a long time, but there are still so many possibilities for it and most of the ghost stories I loved as a child use this same framework.

What was the source of inspiration for your story?

Algernon Blackwood and the city of Regensburg. When I set out to write “The Shredded Tapestry,” even before I had a plot in mind, my goal was to write my own Algernon Blackwood tale. I think Blackwood was the finest author of supernatural horror and I was eager to see how he did what he did through writing something he might have tried. The two Blackwood stories that directly inspired “The Shredded Tapestry” are “Ancient Sorceries” (A man gets off a train at a village of cat people) and “Secret Worship” (A man gets off a train at a cursed Protestant brotherhood school). When I thought about the setting, I gravitated toward something I knew: I’ve been all over Bavaria and the city of Regensburg particularly fascinated me because of the preservation of its medieval architecture (The city avoided most of the bombing of World War II). A tour guide told me a legend about the city’s famous 12th-century bridge, which, supposedly, the Devil tried to break when the bridge-builder reneged on a pact. I had three elements I needed: A traveler arrives at the cursed home of a religious brotherhood, a huge supernatural cat, and the Devil in Regensburg. The Stanley Kubrick film Barry Lyndon, which I love to an insane degree, influenced some of the dialogue and gave me the opening.

What are your favourite Gothic movies and books?

One of my favourite Gothic movies will probably surprise people: Batman Returns (1992). Tim Burton re-wrote the superhero movie as a crazed, Gothic nightmare/black comedy. I think it’s an underrated gem in Burton’s career and the Penguin is one of the purest of Gothic villains. I also love the Hammer movies of the 1950s-70s, which created a new Gothic style in Technicolor. I have to mention The Gorgon (1964), because it is so often overlooked in the Hammer canon, and I think it’s brilliant. I love the Universal classics, as well, especially The Black Cat (1933), a Gothic story that looks like the Bauhaus students designed it during deep clinical depression. For books: anything Algernon Blackwood, all of Poe, Arthur Machen’s The Three Impostors, Frankenstein, and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, which I staunchly believe is the best horror novel ever written. I love haunted house tales in general and, if I had my way, I would live in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.

If you were a star of a Gothic TV show, what would your character be like? Would you be good or evil?

Many people fantasize about being a vampire. Not me: I’ve always wanted to be a vampire slayer. So, in a TV show, I would be the “Peter Cushing character”. I’m the good guy – in fact, I’m probably the only defense you have against the terrors of the night. However, I’m bizarre, monomaniacal, clinical, and intimidating. I know what these monsters are; you are underestimating them. If you don’t listen to me and do exactly as I tell you, all of you will die horrible deaths and your souls will suffer in eternal torment! And that is why I am going to drive a stake through your sister’s heart and make you watch!

Bio: Ryan Harvey has crossed the Regensburg Bridge and seen much of Bavaria (thanks to his sister living there), but has spent most of his life in Los Angeles, where he resides with an ever growing and space-gobbling collection of books and Blu-rays. He is a recent winner of The Writers of the Future Contest, and his winning entry, “An Acolyte of Black Spires,” is collected in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Vol. XXVII. He has worked as a columnist for Black Gate magazine’s website for three years and has two upcoming stories in the print edition. His fiction will also appear later this year in the anthology Roar of the Crowd (Rogue Blades Press). Aside from writing, Ryan is a pulp literature nut, avid swing dancer, and wearer of 1930s fashions in L.A.’s vintage scene. His Latin is far better than his German.