markgunnells (markgunnells) wrote,

BOOK HAVEN Story Notes

I'm the kind of reader that loves when an author includes story notes with a collection. I really enjoy getting that little glimpse behind the curtain. Therefore, if I release a collection without story notes, I usually try to put them here on my blog. These are the story notes for my most recent collection BOOK HAVEN AND OTHER CURIOSITIES.

"Book Haven" - I've spoken in a lot of interviews about how the title novella came about, so here I will talk about an aspect of writing this story that I had a lot of fun with. I set it in Greer, SC, where I currently live with my husband. Only the second published story I've set here, but I really enjoy using the places I know and frequent as the setting for my fiction. It gave me a thrill to scope out the town and figure out where I wanted to place certain scenes.

"Human Bones in a China Cabinet" - This story is the result of a contest. When my earlier collection FLOWERS IN A DUMPSTER came out, I held a little contest where anyone who bought the book could send me some kind of receipt and be entered into a drawing. The winner would be sent an extensive questionnaire about his or her life, and I would use that to craft a story, something wholly unique that couldn't exist without them. I've done that before, and I'm doing it again now, and I always love that challenge. In this case, a very unusual hobby served as my inspiration.

"Welcome Home" - This story is the third story in a series. The first two stories - "Welcome" and "Welcome Back" - appeared in FLOWERS IN A DUMPSTER. This trilogy was never planned as such. I wrote the first story thinking it was a standalone, until suddenly I had an idea for the second. Then again, I thought I was done, but then I came up with an idea of a way to conclude this little series.

"C U Soon" - I had the initial idea of someone so attached to their cell phone that they were buried with it. In this day and age where people are so attached to their devices, didn't seem a far stretch. I'm not letting myself off the hook either, if I forget my phone I feel adrift. Anyway, that initial idea led to another. What if someone started to receive text messages from the deceased from beyond the grave? I then came up with a twist for the ending that pleased me.

"End-of-the-World Benediction" - This is one of two poems in the collection, and this one was originally written for a weekly flash fiction challenge hosted by Shock Totem. I can't remember what the prompt was now, think it might have had to do with a man in a stadium addressing a crowd, but I decided to do something different and create a little narrative poem.

"Going to See a Man About a Dog" - I got this idea from my life. When I was very young, my father would leave sometimes and I'd be told, "He's going to see a man about a dog." I really thought he was considering getting the family a pet, and I was so ecstatic. When I got older, I realized that was simply what they said when he was going to buy drugs. That gave me the kernel that became this tale.

"The Sandbox" - This is what I consider one of my Twilight Zone-inspired tales. I can't remember where the initial germ of the idea came from, but I enjoyed doing something that I wanted to be evocative and surprising and maybe even a little moving.

"Wrong" - This is one of the older pieces in the collection. Funny story about the was lost and forgotten. I happened to be looking at my Facebook memories one day, and from 8 or 9 years ago I had made a post that I just finished a story called "Wrong." I didn't even recall that one, so I went to my short story file and could find no such story. I even checked an old laptop but nothing. So I turned to my friend Shane who reads all my work to see if he had a copy. He did and emailed it to me. Once I read it, I remembered it, but without the Facebook memory this story wouldn't be a part of the collection.

"Evolution" - Another story that is a follow-up to one that appeared in FLOWERS IN A DUMPSTER. In that collection, I included a couple of tales that dated back to my college years, one of which was a post-apocalyptic piece called "Survival of the Fittest." At the time I wrote it, I envisioned it being the first in a series of stories about the characters of Dru and Lowell...but then I never wrote anymore. Actually polishing it up and publishing it inspired me to go back to that world. Thus "Evolution" was born and a college dream came true.

"The Bracelet" - This story was born when my husband bought me a little bracelet. I'm always incredibly touched when he gives me these thoughtful gifts. However, one day shortly after receiving the bracelet, I accidentally destroyed it. I had placed it on a table where it had apparently fallen off onto the floor. When I went to vacuum, the bracelet got sucked up into the vacuum and broke. I felt horrible and apologized profusely to my husband, who assured me it was okay. I believe he said something along the lines of, "It's not like anyone died." My mind being the way it is, I turned that around for a while and came up with this story.

"Click Bait" - This is what I like to call micro-flash, a very brief story that is less than a page long. I'm always seeing people posting video links on social media that say things like, "THIS VIDEO WILL MAKE YOU LOSE YOUR MIND!" And I thought, okay, what if that was literal?

"A Day Like Every Other Day" - The other poem in the collection. When I first got this idea of a man whose life is so routine that he wonders if he keeps reliving the past, I thought it would be a story. Yet I couldn't make it work, and eventually I realized that was because it wanted to be a poem.

"The Man Who Watched the Ocean, or Twelve Steps Down into the Sea" - This story was inspired by a trip my husband and I took St. Simon's Island. We went up into the lighthouse and I started to get an inkling of what would become this piece, but what really kicked it into overdrive was when I realized I could link it to an earlier story, "The Girl Who Watched the Ocean" which was in my collection CURTAIN CALL. Both can be read on their own, the link isn't obvious, but I think they both have a great emotional core.

"The Desk" - This story seems to surprise people. They think it's going to go a certain way, and then it goes in a completely different direction. I won't lie, that was my hope. I had a lot of fun delving into this story, and it's one of my favorites.

"When Gas Was 52 Cents Per Gallon" - This story came from a challenge an old college friend put to me, to write a story set at an abandoned rest stop or gas station. I seriously doubt this was the kind of story he had in mind, but inspiration takes me where it takes me and I just follow along.

"The Little Boy Who Lived in the Library" - Another Twilight Zone-esque tale, this one was actually born from my desire to write something set in the library I grew up with in my hometown. I wrote a coming-of-age novel THE SUMMER OF WINTERS in which I revisited a lot of the places important to me as a child, but I didn't fit the library in. The library in that town has been expanded and remodeled since my childhood, so for this story which I set in the 80s I rebuilt the library as it stood in my childhood.

"Waiting for the Fall" - I've always loved autumn, it is by far my favorite season and I could just live in autumn forever if possible. That got me to thinking about dying in autumn. This little emotional piece took shape from that musing.

"Tanner" - A Facebook friend once posted a picture from inside a tanning bed. Down near his feet, the way the bed was made almost created the illusion of a face. So that gave me the bizarre idea of a haunted tanning bed.

"Go to Sleepy Little Baby" - The cracked lullaby in this story is one my mother used to actually sing to me. I shared that with my husband, who found it amusing that my mother would sing me something so creepy. Thinking back on it led to this story.

"The Farm" - I have my friend, fellow author, and sometimes collaborator Aaron Dries to thank for this one. A few years ago he traveled from his home in Australia to the States, during which he did a little tour of locations used in horror movies. I was envious of this, because I'm just the kind of fan would love to visit the places my favorite movies were filmed. That also helped me create this story.

"The Hidden Cemetery" - The closing story in the collection came from actually discovering this little cemetery in my hometown that I never knew existed. I mentioned it to my mother, and she was equally surprised. She's lived in that town her entire life and never realized it was there. She later found out my older brother and sister were aware of it and used to go there to smoke and make out. As with everything in my life, it became a story.

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