Great question. Great mystery. Really, it’s something I’m still trying to answer for myself, but, here’s what I’ve got so far: I think I have a hard time making sense of the world. Writing scary stories gives me the opportunity to at least pretend that things make sense, or, at least examine why they don’t. I think that’s probably the purpose of any story, really, no matter how horrific; to help us overcome the things that threaten to overcome us.
When I was a kid, I loved stories for that reason. I think I had a lot of hidden anxiety that didn’t make sense to me, something to do with growing up gay in the 90s in a small town, I’m sure. I wrote a lot. Then, I was seduced by film and I pursued that instead. So, most of my formative years were ruled by the likes of George A. Romero, Clive Barker, Dario Argento, John Carpenter, and, of course, Wes Craven. Craven is probably the one whose work inspired me the most. I often thought to myself that I’d love to make a movie that was as smart as Craven, poetic as Barker, fun as Raimi, gorgeous as Argento and politically charged as Romero… Big shoes. After attending film school in Toronto, I figured out just how expensive my ideas would be to make. Thus, I decided to return to writing so that my stories might live somewhere other than just in my own head (where they had begun gnawing).
2) Tell us about your book, Worship Me, and what inspired you to write it.
So, Worship Me is my first novel. It’s a novel that’s supposed to scare you, challenge you, and maybe make you puke a little, like any good horror does. But, that’s not the only reason why I wrote it; I wrote it because I had to.
The story came about as part of my grieving process. Now, this part of my journey with Worship Me gets a little dark, as a warning. 12 years ago, my sister was diagnosed with a brain tumour. 7 years ago, she died from it. Before she died, she suffered quite a lot, as anyone who has had experience with brain tumours would know. It’s harrowing. Slow. Torturous. And something I decided a while ago to speak bluntly about. Watching someone you love go through something like that rips apart everything you think you know about life, death and spirituality. I found that in order to deal with that horror, I needed a place to put it; and that place became the little country church in Worship Me.
3) Take our readers through your writing process. Do you have any spaces you always write in or anything special you do to get into the right mindset?
My writing process is erratic. I rarely sit down to write; it’s more like the writing sits me down. I can be riding a bus, cooking, sleeping, and my mind just starts rambling. And I’m like, “Okay, that’s nice. Sleepy now.” And it’s like, “Sleep is for the weak. I have words for you.” I have yet to be stricken with writer’s block. That doesn’t seem to be a problem for me. Writer’s laziness, on the other than, I have suffered from that.
I find that music really helps to bring me back to a character if they’ve gotten lost. I will often write different pieces of music for my stories, scoring them like a film. That’s been a great help. You can check out a few of the tracks on my website if you’re interested:
4) Your writing deals with the themes of religion and atheism, care to expand on those topics with regards to your projects?
I was raised as a church goin’ boy. It didn’t stick. For me, it was partly due to my sexuality. It’s hard to buy into an organization that doesn’t really want you around. Things are different now; churches seem, at least on the surface, far more accepting. But, that’s just because they’re in their death thralls and are desperate to fill those pews, and collection plates. Do I think that if progressive society didn’t pressure them to open their doors to LGBT people, that they would have opened them on their own? Seems unlikely.
But, that was only half of it; the other half concerns what happened to my sister. When someone has a brain tumour, they go through many traumatic changes. These changes are brought on by a small piece of tissue in the brain that shouldn’t be there. In other words, it becomes terrifyingly clear that the whole of a person is contained within their fragile brainpan. Nothing more than that. Nothing less. And if that’s true, if we are altered when our brain is altered, then where does that leave spirituality? Or, God? I didn’t set out to write a book that was aggressively atheistic, but, I did want to explore the issues of flesh vs. faith. And I think the book speaks for itself on that matter.
5) What’s one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in creating your books?
Sometimes, characters don’t want to shut up. It’s a wonderful surprise. I was writing a chapter a while back and introduced this character named Zelda. She was a side character, just supposed to serve the plot. In and out. But, she stuck around. She kept talking. Before I knew it, a pivotal scene was hinged on her. How did that happen? Where did she come from? Is there a fine line between split personality and writing?
6) What’s your next project?
So glad you asked! My new book, Follow Him, which is a sister novel to Worship Me, is being released by Hellbound Books in the fall of this year. It’s about a man who joins a mysterious cult called The Shared Heart, but is kidnapped by his ex-fiancé, who attempts to deprogram him with horrifying consequences. If Worship Me is about religion, then Follow Him is about love. I’m very excited to see how people react to it.
7) Where can people follow you online to keep up with all your updates?
I’m fairly active on twitter. You can check me out @TheCraigStewart. I also have a website, everythingcraigstewart.com. There’s also a little Facebook thing, www.facebook.com/CraigStewartAuthor.