February 2021 4th Circle Interview with Ian Neligh
DESI D: What’s your favorite line in a book/movie? And why?
IAN NELIGH: This is a hard one to pick—Frank Herbert’s DUNE has so many—but if pressed I’d say probably, “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed,” from the first book in Stephen King’s THE DARK TOWER series. As a reader it is almost impossible to read that line and not be instantly hooked into his dark and wonderfully bizarre fairytale. The line is intriguing, simple, and basically the plot of the novel boiled down into twelve words. The first sentence of a novel is important, and few know that as well as Stephen King.
DESI D: As a writer, how would you describe your fascination with history, specifically the Old West? And how does this inspire your story ideas?
IAN NELIGH: For me, history is an endless source of writing inspiration. I suppose if I was living somewhere other than the American West, I’d find insight from other historic sources, but as it stands, the Old West is a perfect subject!
I love reading and writing about history but I’m also passionate about horror writing and the Old West was essentially a time of survival horror in the truest sense. It was a time where everyone and everything could kill you. And it really wasn’t that long ago; I recently interviewed someone who was the great-grandson of legendary frontiersman Kit Carson.
The Old West, after the Civil War, became this country’s shared mythology to help heal its division. That shared mythology (for better or worse) runs through a lot of our country’s psychology, which from a storytelling perspective is extremely insightful.
DESI D: How has journalism influenced the way you write stories?
IAN NELIGH: The exhausted adage “write what you know” should be updated to “write what you’ve learned.” Journalism teaches the importance of getting away from the computer and going out and seeing what we are writing about in person. As a journalist, if you have a question, you routinely find the smartest person in the room and ask them about it. I’ve found these to be great guidelines when tackling a fiction or nonfiction writing project.
DESI D: What is it about the art of storytelling that excites you? And of course, what is the next story we can look forward to reading from you?
IAN NELIGH: Everything from communication to our memories is an act of storytelling. It helps us process our experiences, fosters and develops empathy, and generally serves to make a boring wintery Sunday afternoon into a rollicking adventure. I have short stories coming out in a few anthologies this year and am currently working on a horror that takes place in the modern-day West.