I’ve made no secret about my fondness for “Selective Memory,” this month’s Featured Story from Volume II of the World Unknown Review, and I’ve equally enjoyed my interactions with its author, Adam L. Bealby. So I was naturally excited to get around to interviewing him for the feature and getting inside his quirky little brain a bit more. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, too, but you won’t know unless you read on, so please, read on and find out what all the fuss is about.
Let’s start out simply: Who is Adam L. Bealby?
A mild-mannered British mandarin prone to bouts of rash irritability and ill-advised humour. I was in Burger King once when they were running one of those promotional offers where you can win prizes from little stickies attached to the drink containers. I got a large meal and they’d run out of the large promotional drink containers and were using the standard ones instead. Having bought the meal I returned to the counter to explain that I had expected The Incredible Hulk meal, and if they’d run out of large cups could they not give me one of the medium cups so I could get my sticky? The woman on the counter didn’t understand what I was talking about – her English wasn’t particularly great. Back and forth we went, the conversation getting more and more heated, until I said: “Please! Just give me the Incredible Hulk cup! You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry!” Naturally she didn’t get the reference and was harping on about calling security as I beat a hasty retreat. I felt terrible about it afterwards. So yeah, that sort of sums me up!
How did you discover the World Unknown Review, and what inspired you to submit your story, “Selective Memory”?
I stumbled upon World Unknown Review through the excellent The Horror Tree submission resource. It seemed a fit for “Selective Memory” – nice range of diverse stories; generous on word length for submissions.
Horror Tree is fantastic; I’ve found so many great things through it! And so many things have come to me through it, too. Case in point, this story. “Selective Memory” is easily my favorite story in Volume II, and I like it even more each time I read it. It’s so engaging and heartbreaking and unique, as well as very well written. Where did you come up with such a interesting concept and character?
Thank you! I wrote a story yonks ago about someone suffering from synaesthesia, the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body. So you might be able to smell emotions, or hear in a spectrum of colour. “Selective Memory” was inspired by that idea. I had a vague notion of a character who stored their memories outside of themselves, in a physical non-organic memory bank; the details of the story came together around that initial conceit.
Another thing that always gets me about the story is your incredible attention to detail. I feel like nothing is superfluous, every t is crossed, every i dotted. Did you employ any particular methods to keep it all straight, or do you feel it came fairly natural to you?
You can thank the benefits of a good re-write for that one.
A few years ago I was sending off stories as soon as I’d written them. But really you need space to see the story for the words. These days I write a story and then forget about it; abandon it in a drawer a couple of months. It’s amazing when you return to it how snugly you can fit yourself into the reader’s slippers.
“Selective Memory” was a good example of that. Re-reading it I got sucked into the narrative, so much so that I felt sick in my gut at what was happening to Maggie. This is good stuff! I thought. And I wrote it! But then the ending fizzled out a bit. Is that it? But wouldn’t it have worked better if it had ended… like this? Hang on half a mo’, it can end like this! I knew exactly what needed to be done, what superfluous stuff to snip out to make it a leaner beast. I couldn’t have done that standing there in my hob-nailed writer’s boots.
Many of the scenes in “Selective Memory” are hard to get through for being visceral and raw, at least that’s how it was for me, and that’s part of why I love it so much. It felt bold; to me, you took risks with this story that really paid off. Did you feel similarly writing those scenes, or were you able to establish a sort of professional dissonance with them?
I was a little uncomfortable around some of the scenes, I must admit. But a writer’s job is to be bold and fearless and explore new territory. I was a tad worried a prospective publisher might take one look at the first page and think it was rape-fantasy trash. Thankfully, you read on!
I won’t lie; it did cross my mind on that first page, but I always give everything a full chance, and I’m so, so glad I did. Who would play your main characters in a film version of your story?
A younger, female version of Richard Thomas, who played John-Boy in The Waltons.
Right down to the mole! Perfect. Tell us about the last book you read.
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon. It’s a sort of literary-noir-steampunk-satire-murder mystery mash-up based on the premise that Jewish refugees established themselves in Sitka, Alaska, instead of founding the State of Israel. There’s a lot of lovely detail to savour and some divisive observations to chew on. Chabon develops his own Yiddish street patois, which I particularly enjoyed.
I need to read some Chabon. He’s been on my list forever. Who are your biggest writing influences and inspirations?
Michael Moorcock, Iain Banks, John Steinbeck, James Joyce. I’m also a comics fanatic. I especially like independent stuff like Roberta Gregory’s Naughty Bits; Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder, and Dave Sim’s Cerebus. Although my guilty secret is that I read far too many G.I. Joe comics!
What’s next for Adam Bealby?
Final edit on a YA urban fantasy novel. And developing a series of stand-alone but subtly interconnected stories about a Ukrainian magician who runs a sort of spiritual detective service called Little Divinities Inc. out of his shop in modern day Nottingham, England. I call it the Dumb Dim Chronicles. You can read the first of the chronicles in Zimbell House Publishing’s Pagan anthology.
Where might we be able to find more of your work?
Numerous anthologies, including Spooked (Bridge House Publishing), Darkness Abound (Migla Press), Once Upon A Scream (HorrorAddicts.net), Sirens (World Weaver Press), rEvolution (MiFiWriters) and Murky Depths magazine.
Many of them are available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Adam-L.-Bealby/e/B01EE49YWW.
You can also catch up with my sporadic ravings at @adamskilad.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just don’t make me angry, okay?
Duly noted! I’d like to thank Adam Bealby for taking the time to answer a few questions and for bringing such great stories into the world. Be sure to read his short story, “Selective Memory,” on the Featured Story page if you haven’t already, and check out some of the other great stories that accompany it in the World Unknown Review Volume II if you haven’t already, especially with Volume III right around the corner.