The following is an interview with writer Craig Stewart on the release of his debut novel, Worship Me. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Stewart about the inspiration behind the novel, his creative process, what he hopes that readers will take away from the story, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of your debut novel, Worship Me! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the novel’s premise?
Craig Stewart: As much as I’d like to ramble on about the story, I’ll try to be succinct. Worship Me is about the congregation of a small country church that gets held hostage by an ancient being claiming to be their god… but, it’s not the god they asked for; it’s something much, much older. In order to do battle with such a beast, the resistance, led by a struggling single mother of one, Angela Morris, must let go of their faith and honestly face the horrors scratching at their door. Whether or not that’s even possible, well, you’ll have to read to find out.
BD: Having written and directed several horror short films, what inspired you to transition your work in horror to written prose?
CS: In a word: Freedom. Filmmaking takes money. Lots of money. It’s a money eater. It also takes people. So, it’s also a… people eater? I love film, really, but, for some of the stories I want to tell, it’s just not feasible. Writing needs just my brain, fingers and a computer. Pretty cheap in comparison. The film world has also become a lot more conservative over the last three decades. Gone are the days of moralistically muddy monster mayhem. Now, most horror films that make it to the big screen are, to put it politely, neutered. I blame demographics. Novels, however, since you’re not asking for a 50-million-dollar investment, you are free to tell whatever story you think should be told. And for that reason above all others is what attracted me to write a novel. And to keep writing!
BD: Were there any previous creators or works that impacted your approach to the story?
CS: Oh, yes, for sure! Lots. But, I think mostly, probably, Clive Barker. One of the main themes of this work is flesh vs. faith: How does one hold onto spirituality if we are, at the end of the day, bags of meat? How do you define someone’s “spirit” if trauma to their very real, very fleshy brain can change who they are? How can we be anything beyond the mush inside our skull? The way Barker deals with flesh was a huge inspiration for me, as well as his penchant for sympathetic monsters. I always enjoy stories that end up making you pity the thing you once feared, as I’ve found that to be mostly true the older you get.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in working on this book, and what do you hope that readers will take away from the story?
CS: I started this book mostly for therapeutic reasons. My sister died of a brain tumor when she was in her late twenties. It was a horrific loss – an absolute nightmare for everyone who knew her. When you’re forced to watch the slow deterioration of someone you love, everything you once believed comes into question. No pillar is left unshaken, including your religious convictions. At that point in my life, I had already lost my faith, having drifted away from the church after discovering, quite gradually, that I was gay. But, I found religion flood back in around my sister’s illness. Frankly, it disturbed me. So, I decided to explore these themes in a story. That story became a screenplay and that screenplay became a book. I hope that, through this book, people might be able to explore the questions they dare not ask about faith, death and life. Questions that might let them examine what they really believe from a neutral position. That is what I think stories are for, after all; to help us face the things we’d otherwise run from.
BD: Do you foresee expanding this story into subsequent novels?
CS: Funny you should ask, because I never thought about writing a sequel, but then, suddenly, like a bolt of lightning, it just hit me. Now, I’ve written a second novel, Follow Him, which will hopefully be released in 2019. I got this idea from the late, great George A. Romero. Each of his Dead films uses the zombies as a metaphor for different social issues (Night was racism, Dawn was consumerism, and Day was existential crisis.), and that’s how he kept the dead fresh. (Fresh… get it?) I’m stealing that technique. If the first book tackled religion, then this second book will tackle love. I’m pretty excited about it!
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
CS: If you check out Worship Me and like it, then please keep an eye out for Follow Him.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Worship Me and your other work?
CS: Check out my website for all my film and written work.