Calvin Demmer reached out to us at Horror Bound to share his latest collection and have a chat about his work and the horror genre. Joe read the book and reviewed it below, and Charlotte interviewed Calvin, also below. Let’s dive in!
I don’t read much flash fiction and I certainly don’t read it in bulk like this, so when I found out this was a flash fiction collection instead of a short story collection I was excited and also nervous. I was worried if I didn’t like reading a flash collection I would do the author a disservice. But I wasn’t prepared for what Calvin Demmer had in store for me with THE SEA WAS A FAIR MASTER. This collection was fantastic.
Each story, though short, packs a huge punch and before you can recover from one story the next one is right there to throw another punch at you. You’re left plowing your way through story after story each one leaving you breathless and unprepared for the next shot that is right behind it.
The stories range from supernatural horror to science fiction but they are all strange, weird and terrifying. Among my favorites were “Yara,” which is literally heart-breaking, “Voodoo Child” instilled a new fear in me that I didn’t know I had. “The Snakes or the Humans” is a touching story about family and the lengths people will go for someone they love. “Like a Spanish Guitar” is creepy and weird in all the right places for me. Finally, “Hangman” which, if forced to choose one, would be my favorite of all the stories in this collection. And it makes me happy that I didn’t have to take Extreme English in high school.
Flash fiction is different in that there are only so many words the author can use to get their point across. But even with these restrictions, I never felt like the characters were not rounded out. Demmer is able to work so much detail into the smallest amount of words and though I was able to read through most of these stories in four or five minutes apiece, I felt as though I was reading full-fledged 6,000-word short stories which I think is the goal of most flash-fiction.
I’d recommend this collection to just about anyone, horror fan or not, it was touching and terrifying and tremendously fun.
How did you get started in flash fiction?
I kind of stumbled upon flash fiction while taking a break between short stories. A few other writers I followed mentioned having flash fiction stories published. I was intrigued and then quickly saw it as an opportunity to have fun, experiment, but also to tighten up my writing.
For those that don't know what flash fiction is, how would you describe it?
I see it as a story 1,999 words or under. Some people have different views and see it as tale that is under 1,500 words or even 999 words or less. No matter the word count you decide upon as your limit, it remains a very short work, that for me, should either have a twist, pack a punch, or feel like a full tale even though it has a limited word count.
Do you have any plans to expand on any of these and perhaps turn them into a longer piece of work?
I didn’t really have any plans, as I have so many ideas for stories that I wanted to just move on to the next thing; but I did end up getting sucked in by one of the tales (“Restroom Finds”), and I found myself writing a rough novella length draft based on the story, which is about a little girl hiding out in a gas station in a post-apocalyptic world. It still needs rewrites and editing, so I’ll see if I get back to around to it, but it was fun to explore.
If you could turn any of these stories into a film, which one would it be, and why?
I think there are a few stories in the collection that could be expanded, but right now I’d probably go with “On the Seventh Day,” which is a tale about a crew at sea who interfere with the ocean’s will. There a lot of scenes and ideas I had for that story that never made the final cut.
Which story means the most to you?
There’s no one story that means the most to me. I enjoy each one for what they are, what my goal with them was, the challenges they provided, what I learned, and their uniqueness in the collection. I can tell you that a story like “The Snakes or the Humans?” came together really easily, while something like “Graves” was a few rewrites, lots of editing and cutting. Yet, they both have the same value in meaning to me.
Where do you get your ideas from?
That’s tough to answer, as they can come from anywhere, really. I do find that the good ideas tend to swirl around in my head longer, and the bad ones tend to disappear. I will usually have an idea in my head for a while before actually writing it down. Sometimes I think of things to add to the stories, or elements to combine with it. Once a couple of things begin to fit, I get excited.
Your flash fiction covers science fiction and horror, are there any other genres you'd be interested in delving into?
I don’t really see any genre as off-limits to me. It just depends on what I am feeling for the idea I have. I’ve also written stories in the fantasy, crime, western genres, and some of my stories even have romantic elements to them. I do tend to lean toward the darker side of things no matter the genre I pick, though.
As this is a horror site, we've got to ask - what is your first memory of the horror genre?
Probably watching Candyman as a kid. I loved that film, but it also creeped me out. I then went and watched as many horror films as I could, trying to see what else was out there. Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, Candy—
Who are your top 5 favorite horror authors?
There are so many great authors that I’d spend forever trying to decide on five favorites, but there a few that have greatly influenced me, or surprised me, especially early on… Dan Simmons, Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Clive Barker, Richard Matheson, Lauren Beukes, and Jeff VanderMeer come to mind.
Do you love horror movies? If so, which are your favs?
Of course. Instead of running off a never-ending list of my favorites, I will mention some that are more recent which I enjoyed: Bird Box, Happy Death Day, Upgrade, It, Get Out, and Halloween. It’s great to see so many horror films being successful lately.
Thank you so much to Calvin for chatting with us! Check him out yourself at the following places:
You can check out his book on Goodreads
You can purchase his book for yourself at Amazon
You can check out his website
Follow him on Twitter
Follow him on Instagram