Interview with Peter Straub
by Jennifer Lawrence
Photo: Peter Straub
Peter Straub is an accomplished horror author whose writing career has spanned four decades. He has won the Bram Stoker Award, World Fantasy Award, and International Horror Guild Award. His novel Ghost Story was made into a movie in 1981. His latest release is A Dark Mater
JL: You were struck by a car and sustained serious injuries when you were seven years old. How do you think learning about your mortality at this young age helped you to become a successful horror author?
PS: My childhood trauma demonstrated to me very bluntly that the world was not at all benign, and that anything could happen to anyone at any time. The fear that this recognition induced was undoubtedly very helpful to me as a horror writer. I knew how fear tasted and how it worked. You really cannot beat first-hand knowledge.
JL: You also started reading at an early age. What sort of books were you interested in as a child? As a teen? Now?
PS: When I was a child I read a ton of books about dogs by Albert Payson Terhune, a lot of books about horses, including Frog, by Col. Sp. P. Meeker, plus the Hardy Boys, and whatever I could find in libraries. Street Drag, by Henry Gregor Felson, turned me on. When I was in my early teens, I discovered science fiction and read tons of Heinlein, Asimov, Van Voght, and many many others. One day when I was a freshman in high school, I went into the fiction room of the school library and came across a book by Thomas Wolfe called Of Time and The River . The title appealed to me, the book more so: it seemed nearly to be about me! After that, science held no more interest for me, and I was launched into the world of adult fiction. These days, I love Donald Harington, Elizabeth George, Dennis Lehane, Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, Stephen King, Joe Hill, Kelly Link, Bradford Morrow.
JL: Which one of your books was the most difficult to write? Why?
PS: In The Hellfire Club, I cut half the material from my outline to make a briefer book and wound up taking twice the time I should have spent on it. I had no idea what my subject was any more. It took me about a year to come up with a villain necessary to the story, a real ordeal.
JL: I'm often asked how I can bear to read as much horror fiction as I do. How difficult is it to write horror? Did you get questions of concern from your friends and loved ones when you started writing it?
PS: I don't think any of my friends felt anything like concern for me, and some of them were frankly envious. As for difficulty, it's exactly as difficult to write horror as it to write any other kind of fiction. So the answer is "very."
JL: Do you have a process for writing? How far in advance to you plan your books? Do you write at a certain time of day? Location?
PS: I make notes, I ponder, I try to cook up a kind of scheme. Very often I have created an outline, but the outlines fades away as I move along. I write from four five hours a day, most of them in the afternoons.
JL: Have you had any strange experience at book signings or other bookish events? Crazy fans, odd questions, etc?
PS: No, thank goodness.
JL: Name one interview question you detest answering.
PS: What's it like to work with Stephen King?
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