Nathan Ballingrud On his Wounds story collection, and Writing. | More2Read
 

Nathan Ballingrud On his Wounds story collection, and Writing.



Nathan Ballingrud was born in Massachusetts in 1970, but spent most of his life in the South. He studied literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and at the University of New Orleans. Among other things, he has been a cook on oil rigs and barges, a waiter, and a bartender in New Orleans. He now lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with his daughter in an apartment across from the French Broad River.

His most recent book is called Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell, from Saga PressHis first book is North American Lake Monsters, from Small Beer Press. He has won two Shirley Jackson Awards, and have shortlisted for the World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Awards. His novella “The Visible Filth” was made into a movie called Wounds, from Annapurna Pictures. It’s written and directed by Babak Anvari and stars Armie Hammer, Zazie Beetz, and Dakota Johnson. 



The Interview with Nathan Ballingrud


Lou Pendergrast

Welcome and congratulations on your new story collection, Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell.

 

Nathan Ballingrud

Thank you!


 

Lou Pendergrast

Tell more about these tales what’s the seed and inspiration behind the “The Visible Filth,” adapted to Film, and the whole six in general?

 

Nathan Ballingrud

They’re loosely linked around the idea of Hell. The language of Hell appears in a few of them, including “The Visible Filth.” I’m intrigued by the idea that love is a product of Hell, since it so often leads us to do terrible things. The book is book-ended by two stories that connect to each other directly: “The Atlas of Hell,” which is set in the modern day, and “The Butcher’s Table,” which is set in the heyday of piracy in the Caribbean. As far as “The Visible Filth” is concerned, the title came to me first, and sat around for a while until I found a story to go with it. Smart phones are the fulcrum point of so much unhappiness in our lives: the way we’re suspicious of what are partners are using them for if we’re in a relationship that’s gone bad, they way they funnel all the darkness and hostility of the world directly at us, they way the demolish privacy. I just played around with the idea that they could be used to help usher something much darker into the world, too. 


 

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LP

How tight to the story have they kept the screenplay?

 

Nathan Ballingrud

The screenplay was very faithful, for the most part. There were some variations, but there had to be; movies are a different medium, with different demands. And when I saw it on-screen there were some new things I hadn’t seen in the screenplay. Some of them I wished I’d thought of myself. 



LP

Any novel to come soon?

 

Nathan Ballingrud

Yes, I’m writing a novel right now. It’s due to the publisher later this year, so I suspect it will see daylight either late next year or in 2021.


LP

What theme will the reader be expecting from this new novel?

 

Nathan Ballingrud

This one is quite different. It’s a dark fantasy set on Mars in 1930. It’ll have some elements of horror in it, but it’s a different kind of animal. 


LP

That sounds great can’t wait to read it!

When, where, and with what do you write?

 

I usually write in the mornings, when my brain is uncluttered by the day, but that’s not strict. Writing at midday and night happen too, depending on circumstances. Mostly I write sitting on my couch with my cat curled at my side. I alternate between writing in a notebook and writing on a Mac. If I get stuck, changing modes can help. It makes my brain move at a different speed. 


LP

Story mechanics, do you outline?

 

Nathan Ballingrud

With short stories, no. I like to have an idea of what the end is, and sometimes that’s no more than a feeling, or even a color. But the space between the beginning and the end are a mystery to me. The novel is an interesting contrast. It’s my first one, so I can’t tell you what my regular approach is; I’m learning it myself. What I’ve been doing is setting down certain key points — no more than four or five — which act a little like lamps on a dark road. I don’t know how the road will twist and turn between the lamps, but at least I know where I’m going. That’s been mostly successful so far. 


LP

What key advice would you give to the aspiring author?

 

Nathan Ballingrud

As far as the act of writing goes, just the basics: read and write. Beyond that, all practical advice is subjective. Do what works for you. There’s no One True Path. What I think is more important is the life that you build around writing. Don’t let the internet become your life. Engage with real people in the real world. Practice empathy. 



LP

Writing, what do you hope to achieve with it?

 

Nathan Ballingrud

I’ve already been so lucky on that front. I’ve published two books which I’m proud of and which have gained readers and the respect of my peers. I’ve filled them with stories that mean something to me. I’ve had a movie made out of one of them. A novel is already sold. It seems almost crass to want more. So I guess the answer is that I would like to achieve more of that. I want to continue writing books I’m proud of and that people want to read. I want to continue gaining readers. And sure, I’d like some financial security for myself and my daughter. 


LP

Side hustle do you have any alongside writing?

 

Nathan Ballingrud

Not at the moment. I’ve spent my adult life in the service industry. Only recently have I been allowed to step away from that and concentrate exclusively on writing. That’s precarious. Who knows how long it will last? I’ve punched a clock my whole life, though, and if I have to do it again, I’ll be fine. It might even be for the best; it’ll keep me engaged with the world.


LP

Which authors have been you greatest influences, and their books which ones you reread the and recommend?

 

Nathan Ballingrud

I’ve had hundreds of influences. Sometimes it’s just a single sentence of a novel that will ring a bell in my mind, and I’ll remember that tone for years. Some of the biggest ones are Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Lucius Shepard. Each of those writers were fundamentally important in shaping my idea of what stories are and how they work, to the extent that I can point to particular works and see how they altered my life. Annie Proulx, specifically her short stories. She wrote a story called “The Mud Below” which brings me close to tears every time I read it. Shirley Jackson. Mike Mignola. There are so many more, but these few are monumental to me. 


Lou Pendergrast

It has been an interesting peak into your writing life and inspirations,

thank you for this chat today and all the best with the book and film.

 

Nathan Ballingrud

Thank You!



 

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 12 April 2019