Recently I did an interview with author Chanté McCoy about her story in the first volume of The Crimson Pact. Her very interesting story is called “Inside Monastic Walls.” The transcript of our interview follows.
Interview for “Inside Monastic Walls”
Okay, so walk us through your story. Can you give us a synopsis?
“Inside Monastic Walls,” is set in Greece at one of the monasteries atop the otherworldly Metéora. A priest arrives on the scene, and then strange things begin to happen. The story is told from the perspective of a naïve pre-adolescent boy, who has a limited understanding of what is happening, but the reader picks up on clues, that quickly suggest demon possession.
I particularly liked your description of where the first priest is holding his hand over his chest and his eyes are rolling back. Very interesting description, very vivid.
Where did you get the story title?
The title refers to the setting which is in a monastery. I woke up too early one morning, hoping to fall back asleep. Instead, as my mind jumped around, I started thinking about Metéora, this cool UNESCO site in Greece that my husband and I visited a few months earlier.
Metéora is this collection of tall, pillar-like mountains, and a handful of monasteries perch on them. The mountains alone are interesting, but add in the isolated Greek Orthodox monasteries, and wow. What a fascinating place.
I started thinking about what life must be like there. Then, because I’m free associating and apparently have a bit of twisted mind in the wee hours of the morning, I thought about, what if one of the priests were possessed? I’d recently drafted a novella on a variation about zombies, and the cross-over with demon possession, is that, at the heart of both story types, there is a sudden personality change, that new capacity to hurt even those who are closest.
So, that was the starting point, the germination of “Inside Monastic Walls.”
Very cool. I loved the setting, very easy to get involved in your writing, into the environment. So do you plan to write a sequel?
Why, by golly, I have written a follow-up short story. The story continues down in the village, at the foot of the mountains. Phideas is on the verge of “giving birth,” but he manages to find Darrius Papadas. Unfortunately, Darrius isn’t who Phideas imagined. He’s a goat herder and whether he can help do anything is a big question mark.
So, is it a flash piece or is it a short story?
It is a short story.
So, I was reading a little that you’ve been writing for a while as a corporate writer?
Yeah, I’ve been writing for a long time. That’s like asking how old I am.
Oh, I wasn’t trying to go there. I read in your blurb after your story in “The Crimson Pact,” the first volume, that you’re a corporate writer and that you prefer writing the good stuff as opposed to the technical stuff.
Oh, yes, I much more enjoy what I think of as “creative” work. I certainly never intended, as a child, to become a technical or marketing writer.
I started dabbling with short stories and really bad poetry about horses in fifth grade. I guess I received enough feedback to continue and have been writing since. So, it’s been awhile. I don’t want to throw a number on it because it makes me feel ancient. Suffice it to say, I’ve made a living as a writer, albeit a corporate one, but now I’m seriously submitting my fiction and articles, and getting the ball rolling on writing that I find more interesting.
I also read that you’ve published some children’s literature. What have you published?
I’ve published a handful of pieces, including an article in “Boy’s Quest” and some stories in “Confetti.”
Why are you switching from children’s fiction to more adult fiction?
I’m planning to continue with the children’s also. Going to try to juggle both.
Very cool. That’s kind of fun. I’m glad to see your flash in Crimson Path. It’s a great story.
At the end of the story, do I understand correctly that the boy is pregnant?
Essentially, he is carrying another life within him. He’s not pregnant in the traditional sense. Obviously, he doesn’t have an uterus.
What projects are you currently working on?
Well, I have two big pieces brewing. I mentioned earlier the novella with the zombie variation. “Scabbies.” My take on them is that they’re not brain-dead and slow. On the contrary, they’re still intelligent and fast, which I think makes for a far more frightening antagonist.
It has a comic tone, so I had a lot of fun being cheeky with it while building this apocalyptic world.
At the center of the story is a relationship breakup because the protagonist’s girlfriend has turned. So, it’s more personal too, not just some deranged stranger out to get him.
Here’s the quick pitch for “Scabbies”: Dealing with the end of the world is hard enough, but dealing with heartbreak might be the death of Jim. Hell hath no fury like a Scabbies woman, and his ex-girlfriend has set her sights and dinner plans on him. If he survives this break-up, he swears, really, seriously this time: no more relationships. Next time, he’ll get a cat.
“Scabbies” is in the polishing stage, so I expect to be submitting that soon.
My other project is a novel in the works, tentatively titled “Summer of the Pine Needle Bonfires.” I don’t have a nice, neat pitch for it yet. It’s a coming-of-age tale about a young girl in the summer of 1974, as she deals with the fall-out from her infamous father’s imprisonment and escape. While her father pays the price for his crime, a price is exacted from his family too. The girl, buffeted by events and the whims of adults, resorts to imaginative outlets to deal with all this, to create a safe place and to survive. It’s part fairy tale, part reality, where the edges begin to blur.
You’ve been busy. [laughs] The novella, the novel, the flash…
Well, I’m easily distracted.
Well, I’m very interested in reading all your stories.
In his free time Justin loves to read, write, and play games. He enjoys his close friends, and loves to make people laugh. To learn more about Justin, or his work, you can visit him at www.justinswapp.com
Justin is the author of The Magic Shop. He has also been published in several anthologies, including The Crimson Pact (Volumes 1, 2, and 5), The Memory Eater, and Short Sips: Coffee House Flash Fiction Collection 2.