The 4th Circle: Interview with JOSH SCHLOSSBERG (author of CHARWOOD)
1. What author do you admire most? And why?
So many authors for so many reasons. But I’d have to say the one who most often makes me pause, book in hand, to simply marvel at his prose would be Cormac McCarthy (who sadly passed away this year).
See, there are tons of writers I love who, even if I’ll never evolve to their level of sophistication, I feel are the same species as me. But with McCarthy, it’s like he’d be classified in a totally different kingdom, one that might not share the same basic biology.
2. What book or movie scared the crap out of you? And why?
I first watched THE RING in my early twenties, and though the film itself was a little disturbing (particularly the twisted death faces), it didn’t frighten me too much at the time. However, once it ended, I couldn’t help but think about the characters dying seven days after seeing that film within the film. And how, in viewing THE RING, myself, I technically saw it, too. Still, I figured I’d forget all about it in a day.
That week, I went to visit my aunt in backwoods California. And, sure enough, as day six arrived, I started feeling anxious. So, I was much relieved when I didn’t see a TV anywhere in her house (that’s how the Ring Girl kills you). Yet later that night, much to my chagrin, she rolled a TV out of her bedroom.
The good news was we were already planning to go camping on day seven. No TVs to crawl out of in the woods, Ring Girl! Yet when we drove to the mountain and set up our tents, a violent windstorm kicked up, knocking tree limbs down all around us. I wanted to stick it out, but my aunt insisted we leave, so we went back to her house. With the TV.
All these years later I’m still a little ashamed to admit that, instead of going inside, I unrolled my sleeping bag in the backyard for the night. Which may or may not have saved my life.
3. What is it about biological horror that appeals to you? And why?
The definition of biology is “living creatures and vital processes,” and those are the elements of existence I find the most fascinating…and terrifying.
For instance, I think it’s incredible that the very substance flowing in a creek just happens to be the stuff I need to put in my body every day so I don’t die. On the other hand, I also find organic fragility in general—everything from our frail bodies to the ecosystems we’re destroying—to be quite upsetting.
That’s probably why most of my stories come from some natural inspiration, with even my supernatural tales rooted in the building blocks of life.
4. 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?
I think the main thing is that storytelling occupies my brain, like tossing a hyperactive dog a chew toy so it doesn’t tear up the furniture. I also really enjoy the whole writing process, from the flash of inspiration, to molding ideas into a structure, to polishing the finished product.
My eco Jewish folk horror novel, CHARWOOD, will be published by Aggadah Try It / Madness Heart Press on August 21. Right now, I’m writing and submitting a bunch of short stories that I hope to include in a collection sometime in 2024.