The following is an interview with writer Corey Niles regarding the recent release of the horror novel, Blood & Dirt. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Niles about the creative process of bringing the story to life, how the story may connect with its readers, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of Blood & Dirt! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise?
Corey Niles: Thank you so much. I would say that at its core, Blood & Dirt is a gay horror story about surviving death in every sense of the phrase. Set in Pittsburgh in 2017, the story follows Vincent, a University of Pittsburgh student, and his boyfriend James who fall victim to a violent hate crime that results in James’ murder. Weeks after his funeral, James reappears, unharmed but changed. In the face of an apathetic police force and a growing number of missing gay men, Vincent and James work to identify the criminals who attacked them and uncover what truly happened on the night they were attacked.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in bringing the story to life, and what (or who) have been some of your creative influences?
CN: A lot of the novel was born out of living in Pittsburgh in the wake of the 2016 election. The election seemed to embolden hateful people in a way that I’d never seen in my lifetime. On top of several queer people going missing in the city under questionable circumstances, my boyfriend and I were threatened when we were out with friends by some man who was enraged at our apparent queerness. That incident, and wondering what I would do if something awful happened to my boyfriend, was what formed the basis of the novel.
I had the opportunity to develop Blood & Dirt in Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction (M.F.A.) Program. While drafting, I studied the genre of popular fiction, particularly horror. I learned that horror stories often came from myths, legends, and folktales to warn children of the evils of the world, and I studied horror fiction like they were textbooks. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Stephen King’s Pet Sematary were two novels I returned to many times in the development of the novel. I think my reverence for them, as well as the horror genre as a whole, is apparent in the novel.
BD: If given the opportunity, do you foresee expanding the world of the book or its characters into subsequent stories?
CN: I have spent an afternoon or two exploring where the characters who survive end up after the close of the novel, but I don’t know if any of their stories after the last page would warrant another tale or novel, at least not now. That being said, I adored writing Sam, and if I ever considered putting one of these characters through more hell, it would probably be her to get to know her better. I am ardently opposed to the unnecessary sequel though, so it would have to be something special to make me want to return to her.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that this story will connect with and impact readers?
CN: I have always loved the horror genre because it not only provides an escape, but it is also an informative genre. You aren’t only enjoying a story, but through following or rebelling against the decisions of the characters, you are learning to survive the world.
I often turned to the genre growing up because these insurmountable obstacles in my life didn’t look all that different from a man in a hockey mask or an eternal monster. I often told myself that if Laurie Strode or Sidney Prescott could rebuild their lives after what they went through, I could certainly survive the hardships I faced.
If a reader picks up Blood & Dirt, forgets about their problems for a couple hours, and has a chance to process something about life, death, or losing someone, then my I did my job.
More than anything, I hope it connects with queer readers. As a fan of the horror genre, I was often saddened that the characters who I identified with the most were some of the first to be slaughtered. I wanted to put a gay character in the driver’s seat and create a character who is far from perfect, but one who is as flawed and as lovable as the many heroes and heroines who have graced the pages of horror fiction.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
CN: I have been working on a few different projects since I wrote Blood & Dirt. I took a break from prose after finishing the final draft of the novel to work on poetry. A lot of those poems are now making their way into anthologies and magazines like “much to be mourned,” which will appear in Nightmare Magazine in September. I finished a queer poetry collection that is rooted in the psychological and historical research of cults that I recently started shopping around for a publisher. The past year, I have been working on a queer post-apocalyptic novella that is entering the final stages of editing, so I am excited to hopefully start querying that soon. I’ve also started outlining my next novel, which is shaping up to be more of a thriller, so a lot of exciting works to come.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Blood & Dirt and your other work?
CN: My website, coreyniles.com, is the best place to keep up to date with news on Blood & Dirt and my other publications. I have recently published an essay about the writing process and inspiration of the novel on the site, as well as a visual tour of the setting of Blood & Dirt. I also include where to find me on social media if anyone wants to connect online.