An Interview with Richard Chizmar
and Brian James Freeman:
Talking “Odd Numbers” and “How the Wind Lies”
In April, Keith Minnion’s White Noise Press is publishing a “flipbook” of two stories: “Odd Numbers” by Richard Chizmar and “How the Wind Lies” by Brian James Freeman. White Noise Press produces beautiful, hand-crafted chapbooks in very limited numbers, attractive to own and collect. And as the line-up for this latest chapbook attests, readers get great fiction from well-known genre authors.
(Interview conducted by Norman Prentiss)
CEMETERY DANCE ONLINE: Which of you guys did Keith approach first? Whose idea was it to produce a shared chapbook, in “flipbook” style (read one story, then turn it over and upside down, and read the other)?
BRIAN JAMES FREEMAN: Keith asked me if I would like to contribute a story to his line about a year ago, and I jumped at the chance. I love the White Noise Press chapbooks. I’m a huge fan of chapbooks in general, but Keith produces the absolute best in the game. You can tell how much time and thought goes into the pre-press part of the process, and then he carefully handcrafts each and every copy. It’s amazing what he can do.
Then, a few months ago, he mentioned that one of his most popular chapbooks to date had been produced in the “flipbook” style like the old Ace Double paperbacks. He asked if I had another story that would work, but unfortunately I didn’t.
Luckily, Rich has been writing up a storm lately and he had a wonderfully quiet but creepy tale called “Odd Numbers” ready to go.
Keith agreed the story was excellent, and here we are.
Brian, your story “How the Wind Lies” is a kind of western, but it’s also a very effective example of a siege narrative, with one family protecting its homestead against a supernatural threat (I won’t say what kind, since that would be a spoiler). What inspired you to write this kind of tale, and how did you mange to make it so suspenseful?
BJF: The idea for this story first came to me in college, many years ago. I imagined four frontier cabins in the middle of an open plain filled with tall grasses and flowers, and three of the cabins were obviously abandoned while the fourth was home to a family trying to survive all alone in the isolation. I wondered how this family ended up there, what happened to the people who had traveled with them, and also why I thought *something* was creeping along in those tall grasses. I never got around to writing the story until Keith asked if I had one for White Noise Press, but I’m glad I finally did. Things didn’t turn out to be quite what I thought they would be, which is always a blast.
Richard, your story “Odd Numbers” initially seems to be a quirky character study, and not a horror story at all. I love how the sense that “something isn’t quite right” slowly creeps into our minds as we read. How did you research the protagonist’s behavior? It really feels like you lived in his world for a while to get it right!
RC: I did live in his world for a time when I was younger, unfortunately. Thankfully, not to the same degree, but I definitely went through a period of time where the “noise” inside my head affected my daily life. I was able to work past all that, and that’s something for which I’m immensely grateful. I have plenty of friends who still struggle with similar issues, and it’s a daily — sometimes, hourly — battle. I really liked the main character in “Odd Numbers.” I felt for him. I hope readers do, too.
I know you’ve both worked with Keith Minnion before, publishing his atmospheric art and stories in Cemetery Dance magazine. What’s it like to have the tables turned, with him as the publisher, hiring you to write for him?
RC: Keith is the ultimate professional as an artist and writer. Never misses deadlines. Always delivers above expectations. So it’s no surprise that he is just more of the same as a publisher. He’s a perfectionist and a pro and produces amazing chapbooks at an affordable price. It was a real pleasure to switch seats and write a story for him. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Since this is a flipbook, there’s no right or wrong answer about which story to read first. Just for fun, though, I wonder if each of you could suggest the “best” starting point…
BJF: Since I don’t have a good answer, I’ll give a shameless plug instead. If you read “Odd Numbers” first, you’ll get a taste of the unsettling stories in Richard’s new Subterranean Press collection, A Long December, which is due out this year. If you read “How the Wind Lies” first, you’ll be getting a little preview of my first full length collection, Walking with Ghosts, which is due out next year and hasn’t been announced by the publisher yet.
RC: Great question! My not-so-great answer: flip a coin!