Fear. From childhood it is instilled in all to fear monsters, ghosts, and other terrors within the realm of the unknown. As adults, we easily forget about the boogeyman who lurked under our bed or in the shadows of a dark corner. Our grown-up fears take on an even more disturbing twist that frequently mingles with reality.
What happens when the things we really fear—the things we can’t bare to lose—invade our lives? The truest form of the human condition is exposed. Whether rational, or irrational, survival—at any cost—becomes paramount, morals be damned. The Lives We Fear is a compilation of short stories that examines these chilling and very plausible scenarios: what does one do when the people one loves are endangered? When life spirals from beyond one’s control? Or, even when one’s humanity is in jeopardy?
From lost loves, to lost friends, wolves in sheep’s clothing, and even getting caught amidst seemingly innocent mistakes, these stories examine just what keeps us up at night and what preoccupies our nightmares when we finally sleep, because it’s not always our own demise that forces us to shiver.
It felt like a movie: the extras standing in the background, overacting their sense of excitement, or sorrow, or terror; the sound seeming to distort, as though the editors wanted the shot to drown out the world, make the audience focus on what just happened, to give them the sense of how important and terrible what they just saw was. There was blood, too, and not the cheap stuff they get for bad indie films, but the kind that looks real as it spreads through the victim’s clothing like a cancer, then falls with the body. The victim, bless his role, should get an award for his performance—bags dropped to the ground, chest and shoulders shuddering from the impact as he fell with a gasp and nothing more. The shooter should at least be nominated for something, his face cold enough to cut himself from the scene, as though he could see it all unfold as a bystander. Maybe he’s the director. If so, he knows exactly what he’s doing—no ad-libbing. The victim falls, and the boys in the editing room know exactly how to work slow-motion, milk it. They really want the audience to see him fall, his head smacking the pavement, and the red wine in one of his bags falling out and cracking open and mixing with the blood around his head and that spilling from his chest (they’ll call it a symbol for a halo). The audience will cringe, maybe shriek, but after the climax, the falling resolution will leave them feeling satisfied, like that was bound to happen. Peaceful. Because a movie isn’t real. Even those “based on real events” aren’t really real. It’s just a bunch of actors, sets, props, directions—but none of it’s real.
Daniel swayed back and forth, gun trembling in his hands. He wished it was a movie. In the movies, it always works out for the good guy. Right? Wasn’t he the good guy? Wasn’t he? It sure wasn’t Jackson. Jackson’s dead.
Really dead. Not like the movies.
Exclusive Interview with Vanessa Kings’ Books
I feel I’m a pretty average college student. I attend the University of Puget Sound, double major in English and religion, minor in business, and work as a floor lead and barista at a café. Apart from writing, I like movies, playing videogames (Super Smash Bros) with friends, and reading. I was inspired to seriously write when I was a sophomore in high school after reading Stephen King’s The Gunslinger. I don’t have a long life story to spin, unfortunately, as I’m merely 21.
How did you come up with the title of “The Lives We Fear”?
It’s a line from one of the stories—Those of Us Left. I always think it’s fun to fantasize about living in a post-apocalyptic universe or through something horror-movie-esque (a lot of my dreams actually are like pseudo-slasher movies in which I and my friends typically die in classic 80s horror film fashion), but if one were to literally live through them…that leads to some serious emotional scars.
What is your favorite character of “The Lives We Fear”?
Daniel Sawyer in Mister Jackson Monroe as I believe, in the end, he’s one of the most selfless people one could meet. It’s unfortunate he has to go through everything he does in order to become selfless, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers. I’m also a huge fan of Lara from Those of Us Left as she’s both incredibly loyal as a friend while being very internalized. I feel I relate to her a lot as I’m not one who necessarily expresses what’s on my mind a whole lot, even to those I’m close to.
What genre do you enjoy writing the most and why?
Thriller/Twilight-Zone-Esque stuff. I love having readers on the edge of their proverbial seats, worrying about what’s going to happen. A good twist ending, one that makes complete sense yet readers really never saw coming…I love that sort of thing, and I only hope I can provide that as consistently as I try to. Not everything I write is like that, but I try to always create some anxiety for the reader.
How would you describe your writing style?
This is such a hard question to answer. I think how I view my personal style versus how those who read my work view it are likely radically different. I also find that declaring what my style is feels overly presumptuous. I’ll leave it at this: I like to think my style is dark, thrilling, profane, surreal, and humorous at times. General, vague, but true. I’d be far more interested in knowing what others think about it!
What authors inspire your writing?
Stephen King. Flannery O’Connor. Bram Stoker. Cormac McCarthy. Brandon Sanderson.
What would you like to be if you weren’t a writer?
What I am now. Although I love writing, I’m quite a ways off from this being my sole source of income. Not only am I still in college working on my undergrad, but I also work as a floor lead and barista in a café. If the whole writing thing doesn’t work out, I’ll probably put my efforts into getting a PhD so I can teach.
What are you working on now?
Two things. One is a group of four novellas all within a post-apocalyptic setting. The second is a horror-esque piece set in a fictional town in central Washington State. I’m not overly far in either, probably about 20k words in the former, 35k in the latter, but when I have more time this summer, I’m hoping to settle on which idea I want to focus my efforts and crank most if not all of one of them out. I can really write quickly when I have the time and get into a rhythm.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Take criticism and ask for it as often as you can. Nothing you write is ever going to be perfect or infallible. Stick up for your work when you need to, but never refuse to change something if multiple people suggest it. Your work will never appeal to everyone, but sacrifices must be made for the greater good of your work. Often times, critiques and ideas people give you end up making your piece stronger as well.
LIVES WE FEAR for 4 winners of the Rafflecopter.