Myk Pilgrim is a horror writer, or at least that’s what he likes to tell people.
He lives in a town just north of the wall, where he spends his time sharing cappuccinos with his inner demons, binge watching horror movies with his equally demented lover and writing partner Pippa Bailey, shaving his head, annoying the locals, and generally just counting down the days until Halloween.
Also, sometimes, he writes stuff.
Myk’s work has appeared alongside Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Jack Ketchum, Joe R Lansdale, and his partner in crime Pippa Bailey in Dark Faces Evil Place 2.
His stories have been published in Hundred Words Horrors 2, featured on the Wicked Library podcast, Frisson Comics, Sirens Call Magazine, & Holiday themed horror collections with his partner Pippa Bailey Poisoned Candy: Bite-sized Horror for Halloween, Bloody Stockings: Bite-sized Horror for Christmas, & their forthcoming 2019 collection Rancid Eggs: Bite-sized Horror for Easter.
Myk, thank you for agreeing to this interview. You have self-identified as a horror author, which I think most non-horror authors would agree are a strange breed of writers. We always wonder if the writer picks the genre or vice versa. How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing and pigeonholed you into this genre?
First off, Josh, thanks for having me; it’s always a hoot hanging out with you – also I’d like to go on record that when pigeonholing, it is advisable to use lubrication. There is always time for lubrication.
Honestly, I think I was weird before I knew what weird was. I was that kid who’d be mooning the family camera that split second it was too late for mom to back out. Also, being a non-sporty South African is like being a non-swimming fish – so I was already off to a bad start.
My upbringing has been strange, we moved around a lot; so, I never really had a chance to settle in and make permanent connections before I’d get uprooted only to have to start as the new kid all over again. So, by necessity lonely or not, I became “self-contained”. I did the things that I liked and was very much a child.
The real start of my personal shift was when I discovered the Goosebumps books.
But things really changed when my high school English teacher introduced me to the film Terminator 2. I was utterly terrified by the liquid T-1000 and its ability to impale foster parents through milk cartons. It was very much not a Disney film and scared the living shatner out of me. But once I got over the initial shock (which took longer than you might imagine) I absolutely could NOT get enough.
That summer holiday, I spent down at the local Video Town (they had a giant logo painted on the front of the building which was a shameless knock-off of Bugs Bunny) I rented every film with an interesting looking cover I could lay my hands on. This was of course in the days when you could take ten tapes for a week for a fiver – so naturally I went nuts.
I loved horror VHS covers because quite frankly they were gnarly, and quickly concluded that I wanted to watch them all.
Blade (the blood rave scene is timeless), Event Horizon, Faust (which is somehow even weirder now than it was then), John Carpenter’s Vampires, Jason Goes to Hell (the cover alone justifies its existence), The Rage: Carrie 2 (Judge me all you like, I love the hell out of it) the list goes on and on and on.
If it had blood and boobs I was all over it – and what was more, in a pre-internet South African life I had no-one to share it with. It was just mine. I was in my thirties before I got the chance to talk horror with real, flesh and blood horror people. Up until that point, I always just assumed that it was something that I would always be alone with.
The internet is a wonderful place.
Do you ever come up with anything so wild that you scare yourself, that leaves you wondering where that came from? Where do you as an author draw the line on gory descriptions, etc.?
The things that scare me most (excluding people) are demons and possession. I’ve had enough brushes with the supernatural to Nope! Nope! Nope! the hell out of any and all situations of that nature. The idea that you can’t fight back against an invisible entity that drags you out of bed, turns my insides to slithering eels.
Every now and again I’ll be writing something and have to stand up and turn on all the lights because I’ve got that crawling feeling up the back of my neck like something is watching me. The last time it happened, I was working on a story about a shadow thing that (of course) stands at the end of the bed and watches you sleep.
I don’t really have any lines drawn about what I won’t write gore-wise. So long as it is to a purpose and is not just “torture porn” I’ll write anything. Folks are reading/watching horror to discover something about themselves, to become stronger so looking away from the hard truths sort of defeats the purpose of the exercise.
Over the years you have reviewed horror movies—the good, the bad, and the ugly—including a couple of Deadflicks Horror Reviews. In your opinion, what is the best and worst horror film you have watched to date?
The worst thing a movie (or book) can be is boring. Its purpose is to entertain, but if it enriches AND entertains then you’ve got something special.
I think the worst film I’ve seen is The Bigfoot Tapes (or rather the movie that comes to mind right now.)
On the DVD box it reads “INTENSE…ALMOST MADE ME JUMP OUT OF MY SEAT” something which should have been a dead giveaway. It was an unscripted and boring, but worst of all – it was a waste of my time.
For best film vs worst film, because I’m drawing a blank, I’m going to say something that is probably going to annoy a few folks. #sorrynotsorry
I think that John Carpenter’s “Halloween” isn’t just criminally overrated, it’s boring. Other than it being the “first slasher” it really has nothing else to it. The characters are drab and uninteresting, it is not a compelling watch – and believe me I have tried hard to like it but I can’t. Black Christmas is a far better film on all counts and is actually the first slasher film.
Carpenter’s film “The Thing” on the other hand is fanfreakingtastic. It has depth, well-drawn characters, it’s an entertaining watch, that keeps you engaged right through to the end. It’s a solid story that keeps you invested (even though it is by all accounts a total sausage-fest).
So short answer, what I want from a film is entertainment – is that really asking too much?
You and your better half, Pippa Bailey, have pieced together a couple of “bite-sized horror” books, including Bloody Stockings and Poisoned Candy. What was the inspiration behind these books? What were the pros and cons co-writing and publishing with your significant other?
First off, I appreciate how you have identified Pippa as the better half of this partnership, normally I self-identify as the dumber half of the team.
It’s refreshing that you’ve saved me the trouble of pointing that out.
So, I owe you a beer.
Honestly, I’d like to say that there have been cons to our partnership, but really, I’d be lying. We drink and laugh and write and that’s really the whole story. Pip is insanely good at all the things that I superhumanly suck at: organization, admin, actual planning – also she works fast and is ruthless when it comes to editing. Seeing her do all these things really pushes me ahead.
The stuff I’m good at (or so Pip tells me) is writing emotional characters and picking out specific issues in stories. I’m the one saying “You need to go at least six steps deeper to find the gold nugget that will truly surprise folks”.
I’m also the “graphic designer” in the team – if one was to use both the words “graphic” and “design” in their most loose terms.
I think the biggest pro we have is that we are (as Stephen King puts it) each other’s ideal readers. When I write, I write what I know Pippa would love, and that does a lot to keep us both on the right path – even if we’re more likely to sneak off to the pub to drink cider and play board games.
It was in such a cider-soaked situation, after getting new notebooks that Pip said “Hell, why don’t we use these to write a drabble book for Halloween?”
So that’s what we did. I think we turned the whole book around in about five weeks.
It was a heck of a learning experience. I’ve never laughed so hard or been so goddamn exhausted in my whole life. We had such a hoot.
Then we went out for burgers – life is good like that.
Your horror short stories have been published in several anthologies, including Lupine Lunes, The Awethology: Dark,and Dark Places, Evil Faces 2. Do you have a favorite story you have written? What is it about?
Brownie – no contest.
It’s about the young Mason family and the issues they’re having with their little daughter who is less than thrilled at the prospect of being eclipsed as the center of her parent’s universe by the new baby. There are some wonderfully creepy bits that I had heaps of fun writing, also there’s a subtle Lovecraftian prequel woven into the tale if you know where to look for it.
It’s available in Dark Faces, Evil Places 2 and all the proceeds raised are donated to Rethink Mental Illness.
Though, for some reason my drabble Firedance from Poisoned Candy: Bite-sized Horror for Halloween always makes me smile. It has all the things I like in the genre. Nudity, creep factor, and a sense of humor.
The naked women prancing around the flames are anything but slender and lithe. Their wrinkled sagging breasts flap like old leather in a tempest.
They chant, callous voices echoing through the hollow. They call to the nefarious things on the other side of the veil; things that creep and slurp. They promise them delights of pleasure and moist flesh.
Sometimes, the demons attend, sharing their secret wisdoms whilst they bed the witches down on the frigid grass.
But when the beasts do not come, the aged crones wrap themselves in homemade blankets and knit itchy jumpers for their in-laws.
What can we expect from you in 2019? Anything more you would like to add?
2019 is already shaping up to be a fun year, we both have several projects in the works. My first installment of my looooong overdue series Pumpkin Guts is due out later in the year. I can’t quite explain how excited I am to share that with the world.
All the stories happen on the same Halloween night in a town called Riverside, where there are hungry things lurking in the shadows that give off the scent of fresh baked goods, sadistic trick or treaters, carnivorous Jack ‘o Lanterns, and skanky costumes as far as the eye can see.
Following that I’m working on a short story collection of folktales set in the same area called The Nightmare Jar & other Folktales from Ashbourne County which is giving me a chance to put down the sort of weird ideas that come to me when I wake up at to pee at 3 AM.
Pippa and I are both working on stories for an unannounced anthology which will be out in October – we’re rather excited about that.
We both have stories in Hundred Words Horrors 2 which is due out a little later this month (Feb 2019).
Also, we’re in the process of putting together our next Bite-sized Horror collection, Rancid Eggs which will be available in time for Easter.
Pip has a novella called Bodies of Water that she’s busy editing. It’s a real 80’s creature feature throwback, boys riding bikes, camping out in the back yard and ya’know slimy monsters.
She’s also working on an erotic comedy series titled The Girl with the One-Track Mind which is as saucy as it is funny – and it’s VERY funny.
It has been a pleasure, Myk! Please tell us where fans can find you online or in the upcoming year at events.
Plan so far is to hit Edge-lit in July this year (UK 2019) but to be honest there’s very little else on the convention front after the main UK horror con company went under last year.
We’ve also got some big plans for live shows on our Deadflicks channel which should result in more than a few severe hangovers and barrels of tasteless hilarity.
DEADFLICKS – Terrible reviews for Horrible people
PUGNACIOUS PRESS – Publishing Peculiar Horror for Peculiar People.