We’re a bit late in the month for this (I feel like I’ve said that a lot this year…oh well!), but I am very pleased to have had the chance to finally “sit down” with July’s featured author, Max D. Stanton, author of this month’s Featured Story from the World Unknown Review Volume III, “The Hero of Madgeburg.” The more I discover the horror genre, through both my own writing and my reading experiences, I grow increasingly impressed with the wide range of possibilities, the way a good horror story can tap into so many of the typical conventions of the genre, yet still bring something new to the table. That’s the sort of story “The Hero of Madgeburg” is; that’s the sort of author Max D. Stanton is. Have a seat, get comfortable, and read on to see what I mean.
L.S.E.: So, who is Max D. Stanton?
M.D.S.: Just a morbid oddball trying to craft some quality horror fiction.
Your story, “The Hero of Madgeburg,” is probably my favorite out of the World Unknown Review this year. It hooked me right away, since I’m a sucker for historical fiction, and then there was no chance of escaping once we got into the more mysterious, occult aspects of it. What was your inspiration for Jan’s dismal tale?
I’m flattered that “Hero” was your favorite, given what a strong collection it was! I thought that “A Comedy of Edwards” had terrific character work, and that “A Good One” was just splendid.
I started writing “The Hero of Magdeburg” around the time that the first season of True Detective came out, so the idea that time is a flat circle was spinning in my head. The thought of suffering the same fate eternally without hope of reprieve is so powerful and terrifying. You see it in some of the Greek conceptions of Hell, with Sisyphus and Prometheus. I wanted to tap into that vein of horror.
One of my favorite aspects of the story are the grimy, dirty, visceral visuals, and how each one took me to a different level of grotesque. It made me think of some real heavy metal shit. Do you think that’s a fair comparrison? Am I right to assume that you’ve got to be a fan of the genre?
There’s a lot about heavy metal imagery that appeals to me, but I’m far more into country-western and folk. There’s a spare, haunting, southern gothic element to a lot of country music that I just love, and I appreciate the storytelling that a lot of the best country artists work into their songs. The song that the drowned woman’s corpse sings in “The Hero of Magdeburg” is meant to be sung to the tune of “Mary of the Wild Moor,” a chilling murder ballad by the great Louvin Brothers.
“The Hero of Madgeburg” taps into a lot of different mythology and historical details. Did you do a lot of research into these details, or did they mostly develop organically from the original idea?
The mythology was fairly familiar to me from a lifetime of horror fiction and Dungeons & Dragons, but I did research the Thirty Years’ War and the destruction of Magdeburg. When it comes to absolute brutality and madness, it’s very hard to think of anything worse than human history.
Who would you cast in the roles of your characters if you were in charge of a film version of your story?
Jan: Mads Mikkelsen. I’ve had a weird crush on him since Hannibal.
Maiden: Emma Watson
Mother: Laura Dern
Crone: Character actress Margo Martindale.
Devil (voice): Mark Hamill, the clown prince of voice acting.
A crush on Mad Mikkelsen in Hannibal is not weird at all. Or, at least you’re in good weird company. Have you read any good books lately?
I was blown away by Philip Fracassi‘s Behold the Void. Masterful character work and pacing. I’ve also been re-reading William Gresham‘s Nightmare Alley for the fifth time or so. It’s an absolute classic, I never get tired of it.
Do you have a method for your writing? If so, what’s it like?
I don’t know that I’ve got a method, but there’s three writing tips that I try to keep in mind. A ghost story is never about the monsters – it’s about the people who are haunted. Every character should want something. And every story should include at least a glimpse of beauty.
What’s next for Max D. Stanton?
I’ll be attending NecronomiCon in August, which is always a treat. And I’ve got plenty more story ideas kicking around inside my head trying to get out.
Where can we find more of your work?
I’ve published stories in Subcutaenous Magazine #2-3, Sanitarium Magazine #34, Disturbed Digest #8, and the Candlesticks & Daggers and Under a Dark Sign anthologies. I’ve also got a couple of pieces on the horizon that I’m very excited about. My story “The Black Dog” is forthcoming in Hinnom Magazine, and my story “The Voyage of the Jericho” will be published in Lovecraftiana!
And there we have it! I’d like to thank Max for taking the time to chat a little about his writing, his story, and his influences, and I definitely look forward to see more work from this talented and engrossing author in the future. And thank you, too, readers, for taking the time to get to know him a little better along with me.