I truly believe the best way to get to know a horror author is to read their short story collections. It gives them the space to do the most devious things with words. Mike Thorn reached out to Horror Bound to share his own short story collection, Darkest Hours, and I’ve spent the last week enjoying every story.
His stories are bizarre in the best way and bring personal flaws and disaster to the forefront. Most of these protagonists are not the greatest of folks but somehow you’re still rooting for them as their lives completely fall apart. Thorn knows how to grab you within the first few sentences and then throw up all over you in the best way. Some of his best stories in this collection are everyday situations that are twisted and given a dash of demon, a dash of murderous ghosts, and some drug abuse. And at the end you’re sweating from the tension.
There’s 16 stories in total all covering a vast range of topics which is refreshing for a short story collection. My favorite was Hair which completely traumatized me and is completely unique - something hard to do in this genre. I get a very clear Clive Barker and Cronenberg inspiration in some of the ways he approaches body horror. But he does what some authors struggle with - he manages to gross you out without GROSSING you out. As in, I don’t want to read this any more, it’s too far. Thorn carefully toes that line. And as I mentioned above, it’s the same way he deals with humanity. A lot of these characters are unlikable and make very bad decisions, but they never go too far to the point that you don’t want to read anymore. You’re invested.
Even though I have compared Thorn to other horror creators, he does bring his own very unique style to the genre. And it’s something that sticks out immediately. It’s this beautiful mix of horror, comedy, sadism and pure gore.
Thorn was also kind enough to let me interview him, so I’m going to stop talking so you can read his own words:
How long have you been writing for?
I’ve been writing fiction for as long as I can remember. As early as elementary school, teachers were already expressing concern about the disturbing content in my stories.
How do your stories come to you?
Most of my stories begin with an image or a concept. “Hair” came from the desire to write about addiction. “Fear and Grace” stems partly from an anecdote a kid in my neighborhood told me when I was twelve or thirteen. I don’t usually know exactly where my ideas come from, but I guess they come from everywhere – observations, conversations, relationships, daily news, dreams, music, books and films. The difficult part is following an idea through to its conclusion – it’s not difficult to find inspiration, but an idea is worth nothing until it has been realized.
Who are your greatest horror influences? In a couple of those stories I got a huge Clive Barker feel.
I love Clive Barker’s work, so thank you very much! I think The Damnation Game is a major novel in the genre. There are too many other influential horror writers to name, but some that come to mind are Edgar Allan Poe, Thomas Ligotti, Stephen King, Kathe Koja, H.P. Lovecraft, Mary Shelley, Joyce Carol Oates, Matthew Gregory Lewis, Algernon Blackwood, Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, Hubert Selby Jr., Shirley Jackson, Robert Aickman, Rod Serling and Charles Robert Maturin.
Which story in this collection means the most to you?
Honestly, every story in Darkest Hours means something to me. They’re all quite personal, even if the connection is generally quite abstract. I’m probably proudest of “Fear and Grace,” which pushed me out of my comfort zone in terms of content and form. I think it got closest to the things that truly, deeply terrify me.
Do you watch horror movies, if so, what are your favorites?
I live and breathe horror movies! Some favorites, off the top of my head: The Black Cat (1934), The Mummy (1932), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), The Unknown (1927), Prince of Darkness (1987), The Ghost of Yotsuya (1959), The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), The Lords of Salem (2012), Torso (1973), Nosferatu (1922), Retribution (2006), Corridors of Blood (1958), Opera (1987), The Living Dead Girl (1982), Black Sabbath (1963), Island of Lost Souls (1932), Witchfinder General (1968), The Wolf Man (1941) and Night of the Demon (1957).
We love promoting indie horror, are there any lesser known horror authors out there that you are currently enjoying?
I don’t know if these brilliant folks qualify as “lesser known,” but I love the work being done by S.P. Miskowski, Farah Rose Smith, Robert Dunbar, Gwendolyn Kiste, Marge Simon and John Claude Smith.
What genre outside of horror is your favorite?
I try to read widely across genres… I tend to like a lot of realist and modernist fiction. Some of my favorite non-horror writers are Herman Melville, Virginia Woolf, Eden Robinson, James Joyce, William Blake, Joshua Whitehead, Jim Thompson, Don DeLillo, Nelly Arcan and William Faulkner.
What are your writing plans for the future?
I’m currently (slowly) writing a new novel. I will definitely continue writing short fiction and film criticism. I’d love to put together another collection once I have enough pieces that fit well together. I think I’ll get there within the next few years.
If you had to choose between eating hair and having your tongue start growing it or getting skinned alive by a ghost, what would you choose?
You had to leave the most difficult question for last, huh? If pressed, I guess I’d have to go with hair-eating over death by skinning.