T.S. Dann takes us on a tour through the dark recesses of his mind, and reveals what inspired him to write work people have called “grim” and “brutal”.
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“I like to think I chose this, but really it chose me”
A line from my poem Grind and Bear It
So why do I write the things that I write? This is actually a question I get pretty frequently. Why are you so morbid? Why are you so angry? Why are so many of your pieces so depressing? Are you a nihilist? Why do you have so little faith in humanity?
I guess Kayti Nika Raet’s request for me to write this was rather timely since I’ve particularly been getting asked these things with the release of 100 Reasons. People have told me that my work is grim, brutal, insane, confrontational, disgusting, shocking, hateful…continue to add in negative adjectives and you get the point.
As I’ve said in interviews before, I write for myself first and foremost. It’s a form of therapy. My stories, characters, settings, etc are all me. Curse: Lost, angry, melancholic, confused, explosive. That was me when I began writing Nightmarescape in 2004. Banshee: Alienated, traumatized, vengeful, headstrong. That was me in 2009 after breaking my leg. Larry Spectre: Laughing at all the horror, insanity, and carnage. Pretty much me throughout it all.
My poetry in 100 Reasons (and the subsequent volumes) is less of a projection, and more of a soul-stripping. I write most of it when I’m laying down falling asleep. These strings of words pop into my head, and I jot them down. The next day, I’ll transfer them to my computer.
Where does all this come from? It’s hard to remember a time in my life where I wasn’t dealing with some kind of death, trauma, or loss. One of the biggest ones was in December of 2002 when my best friend, Luke, died. His mother and I found him. Nightmarescape is dedicated to his memory along with my mother’s. I also have a poem about losing him in 100 Reasons.
Losing someone I considered a brother was truly a formative life-changing event for me. In early 2004, another friend hung himself. I spent most of that year in a really depressive fugue. When I wasn’t focused on school, I was pretty much doing whatever I could not to think about losing them. During this time, I had almost constant night terrors. They alternated between dreams of finding Luke’s body, me getting into fights I couldn’t win…and a black and white world that looked a hell of a lot like the illustrations from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
There were two ghostly creatures that kept popping up in these dreams. One had a hideous grinning skull face with eyes that constantly bled black fluid. The other resembled an undead version of Vin Diesel. I christened the two of them Larry Spectre and Curse. Eventually there was a female that showed up along with them. I molded her into Banshee. I began thinking about this world that would show up in my dreams and eventually began theorizing all sorts of rules and laws for how presences existed within it. As the year rolled on, I formally began working it into the Nightmarescape.
In November of 2004, I finally began writing the first chapters. At the end of the month, I suffered from a spontaneous pneumothorax (basically my lung collapsed without warning). Two surgeries and a bunch of painkillers later, I was putting a few more chapters to the story. Most of the preliminary parts of the story with Curse spacing out and floating around in darkness were inspired by the heavy sedation I was under.
As I got busy over the years, I put the book aside, working on it sparingly. In 2007, I began a career in law enforcement. It didn’t seem that bad at first, but quickly became an exercise in misanthropic frustration. I put a lot of my extracurricular works into the back of my mind for the time being. It wasn’t until 2009, when my mother died, and I broke my leg in three places that I returned headlong into the world I had created. It was the perfect exorcism for all of the pain and frustrations that had manifested at that time. I worked on it obsessively from late 2009 until spring of 2010 when I got completed the first draft. It got set aside for another couple years as I looked for publishers that weren’t accepting submissions, worked to pay my bills, and eventually became a robbery and homicide detective.
I have to say that being around so much death in different contexts has given me a very interesting perspective on life. From gang and drug related shootings, to suicides, to dead children, to accidents and natural deaths, I can say in the years I’ve held the detective position, that I have seen just about everything.
I’ve stayed up working almost twenty four hour shifts sometimes as the calls and the carnage just kept on coming. I have sat in interview rooms with murderers. Some of them have given me a window into just how cheap a commodity life can be. Others were surprisingly remorseful…but not most. I have heard the countless lies of armed robbers who were caught red-handed. I have seen people who have absolutely no regard for life or anyone else’s rights skirt right out of the justice system only to go out into the community once more and inflict even greater harm. Read my poem Summer of Blood in 100 Reasons. It’s about a kid I locked up for a carjacking, but who was released a little under a year later to be a participant in the triple murder of two women and a baby.
All of this infused me with the energy to finally get Nightmarescape published. Throw in some failed relationships along the way, a whole heaping helping of stumbling blocks, and constant grinding exhaustion to complete the picture.
Now here I am, with two books published. I have more in the works: a sequel to Nightmarescape, two more poetry books, and a novella called The Travellin’ Man. At this point, I have the energy to keep ‘em coming for some time.
So, if you’ve wondered why I write what I write, there it is.
Independent author of the Nightmarescape series. All around ambassador of bad will, ill omens, and misanthropic ranting.
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