Anthony Ferguson is Resting in Pieces
Anthony Ferguson is an author and editor living in Perth, Australia. He has published over seventy short stories and non-fiction articles in Australia, Britain and the United States. He wrote the novel Protégé, the non-fiction books, The Sex Doll: A History, and Murder Down Under, edited the short-story collection Devil Dolls and Duplicates in Australian Horror and coedited the award-nominated Midnight Echo #12. He is a committee member of the Australasian Horror Writers Association (AHWA), and a submissions editor for Andromeda Spaceways Magazine (ASM). A four-time nominee, He won the Australian Shadows Award for Short Fiction in 2020. His short story collection, Rest in Pieces will be published by IFWG in August 2023. Visit his website at https://anthonypferguson.wixsite.com/mysite
Facebook – anthonypferguson
Twitter – AnthonyFergo
LinkedIn – anthonypferguson
Instagram – Anthony.p.ferguson
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m a long-term member, and committee member of the Australasian Horror Writers Association (AHWA). I was born in the UK, but have spent most of my life in Perth, WA, apart from a six-year stint in Canberra.
My writing is mostly focused on horror and true crime, given that I have had a long and probably unhealthy obsession with serial killers, which shows up in my fiction and non-fiction work. It has been a long hard road to achieving some moderate success as a writer, but. As listed in my bio, I have been fortunate enough to have around seventy short stories and n/f articles in print, dating back over fifteen years.
In addition to this are one novel, two n/f books, and most significantly, my forthcoming debut short story collection, Rest in Pieces, with IFWG Publishing International, to be released on 1 August.
Which one of your characters would you least like to meet in real life?
Probably Jerry, the psycho Vietnam vet from my novel, Protégé. Only I actually did meet him. He haunted the late teenage years of my life, and was the inspiration for the book that followed. Naturally I jazzed it up a bit and made the narrative a lot worse than what really happened.
Jerry also appears in a short story I recently had accepted in a forthcoming US anthology. That one is called The Last Ray of Summer. Should be out later this year.
Other than the horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?
Believe it or not, I took a lot of early inspiration from the lyrics of my favourite musical artists, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, and Nick Cave. Waits especially, weaves narratives about the type of folk who live their lives on the wrong side of the tracks, where bad things happen to bad people, and to good people.
The poetry of Charles Bukowski does a similar thing. I have collected many volumes of his work.
The old Twilight Zone, the first early sixties series, with its twisted morality tales, was also an influence on my style.
Lastly, my six years as a bachelors and masters student in literature brought me into contact with quite a few dark literary works, like Dante’s Inferno, for example, along with a range of philosophers who work and lives covered some pretty dark themes.
The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations. What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?
I think horror is whatever the individual reader or viewer wants it to be. To me, supernatural horror, with ghosts, demonic possession, and all the various monsters, is great catharsis, especially in comparison to real life horrors like cancer, war, poverty, substance abuse, racism, and murder. To me, real horror is your kid not coming home from school or the dance, it’s that empty room with the indentation of the missing loved one’s head in the pillow, their smell permeating the empty room. That’s real horror, that emptiness.
As to the general public perception of horror as trash media, the best thing we can do is present quality stories that interest and excite mainstream attention. Like the way Alien resonated as a cultural phenomenon. Arguably the best horror/sci fi crossover ever. Think also, Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, Carrie, The Shining. These were all successful novels before they hit the big screen.
A lot of good horror movements have arisen as a direct result of the socio/political climate, considering the current state of the world where do you see horror going in the next few years?
Truth is always stranger than fiction. For example, who would have foreseen that a certain former US President would ever get near the oval office, let alone that millions would excuse his offensive behaviour and continue to support him. If you had written that as fiction, you would have been laughed at.
I think in the near future there will be a lot of apocalyptic fiction on the theme of climate change. Probably also on gender-based issues, over-population, and genetic monstrosities created by our biological manipulations.
AI and artificial intelligence gone astray – anything that causes a stir in the media is good fodder for horror.
Given the dark, violent and at times grotesque nature of the horror genre why do you think so many people enjoy reading it?
Simply because it’s cathartic. If you lead a stressful life, as many people do, with money, job and family concerns, delving into a good horror book or film and watching complete strangers suffer a gruesome end from some sort of impossible supernatural event takes you out of your own skin for a while. It’s the aural equivalent of a roller coaster ride. The endorphins are popping and there’s a great sense of relief (hopefully) when it’s all over.
Also, some people are just sickos.
What, if anything, is currently missing from the horror genre?
Who am I to say? Could do with a bit more dark humour perhaps. A lot of my work is tinged with dark humour. Life is absurd after all, as is death.
What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice of?
Right. No point giving props to my colleagues in the Oz horror field who are already established. I’m in Western Australia, which is pretty geographically isolated, most of my friends are online, or imaginary. There are a few West Aussie horror writers I can give props too. Ben Matthews is a young WA author on the rise. He has a story in the excellent new IFWG anthology, Killer Creatures Down Under. Paul Sheldon is another guy you should watch out for. Also Bernie Rutkay, keep an eye out for her stuff. These are my mates in the AHWA Wild West. I’d give props to the others, but they are all long-established.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
I’m not that well established so that a lot of people have commented on my work thus far. Though I was pleased to see a number of reviewers praising my story, Bait, in the Killer Creatures Down Under anthology.
Another story of mine, Brumation, which appeared in Midnight Echo, and won the 2020 Australian Shadows Award for short fiction, drew a lot of praise from judges and readers.
What aspects of writing do you find the most difficult?
All of it. Seriously, getting started is the hardest part for me. Once I get into the flow, I find I quite enjoy it and times zips by. If anything, I don’t have enough time to write, or to procrastinate about writing. I’m still working full-time.
When I am trying to write a short story to a particular theme with a deadline for an anthology, I have a painful time trying to come up with an idea and a hook. I sometimes sit there, night after night, staring at the page or off into space. Sometimes I think I’ve got an idea, start writing, and realise it’s not right. Scrap it and start over. Those are the hardest moments.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
I try and stay clear of going into detail about sexual assault and cruelty to children. I’m also not a big fan of gore, though writing it is easier than watching it. Eyes being gouged out is my particular bete noire. Yuck!
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years?
It sort of happened organically. One day I just noticed that, hey, I’m getting pretty good at this. The truth is it was a long painful journey, filled with hard knocks. I joined crit groups, networked, read loads and loads of short and long stories by my peers and by the genre masters. I gave and received numerous critiques. I learned from everyone. I learned to pace a story. How to create good characters. To get a draft down and walk away and leave it. Then re-write and re-write again. Then get multiple beta-crits. It was hard work. It is hard work. I saw myself slowly getting better through dedication and bloody-minded persistence. It took me five years to get my first story accepted. I still get more rejections than acceptances. This is normal. This is good. I stay grounded.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?
Don’t give up. I think it was Rob Hood that said that to me many years ago, when I was crap. “Never give up” is also a personal mantra I apply to my life in general.
Which of your characters is your favourite?
Oddly enough, it’s probably Jerry, the psycho Vietnam Vet from my novel, Protégé, and the forthcoming short, The Last Ray of Summer. The surname changes but he’s persistent. My most loved and most hated character. Maybe the best characters are loosely based on real people, and he haunted my formative years.
I’m also fond of Shayna, a salt of the earth bogan trying to make sense of the world (and Satanism) in my story, Love Thy Neighbour, and also Dave, an ordinary Aussie bloke just trying to survive the zombie apocalypse in With a Whimper.
Which of your books best represents you?
Rest in Pieces, my forthcoming debut short story collection with IFWG Publications International.
This is my baby. It represents fifteen years of my growth as a short story writer. My published stories for back even further, to 2001, but to be honest, most of the early ones are naff, and I understand why they didn’t make the cut by my editor.
Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
I rather like the feel of this one from a story of mine that is still unpublished: “He was treading water in a sea of doubt when he saw the first dorsal fin break the surface.”
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
I already mentioned my forthcoming short story collection, Rest in Pieces, with IFWG Publications.
This year I have been punching out a bunch of new short stories, and I hope to knock out a few more by the end of the year. Several have been accepted in forthcoming magazines and anthologies, happily. Not as many that have been rejected mind, but that’s par for the course.
I also have another novel on the boil. It is currently with an editor for assessment, and will need another serious re-write. It’s called Gap Year, and it’s about two English girls with a dark secret who flee to rural WA to undertake the requisite 88 days slave work on a remote farm, populated by some rather unsophisticated men, with a few dark secrets of their own. Suffice to say it does not go well… for the men.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
Ooh far be it from me to dictate what… oh alright. Why oh why, in almost every slasher movie, does the random victim run away from the killer screaming at the top of their lungs? Especially in a woodland setting. Take the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre for example. Random victim runs screaming into the woods, slowly pursued by the lumbering chainsaw-wielding lunatic, Leatherface.
Girl, he’s a fat bastard. You’ve easily outpaced him and left him a hundred metres behind. You’re in the woods. STOP SCREAMING and he’ll never find you. STFU. Your screams are a beacon.
Also – does every single basement have to be a gateway to Hell? Jesus H. Christ, Americans, Stop building basements! There’s a reason we don’t have basements in Australia.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
I was very impressed with Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. I finally got round to reading it last year. I saw the film back in 1981. Someone told me the book is nothing like the film, and holy Hell, they were right. The book has much more depth, and is completely bloody terrifying.
Disappointed me? I don’t like to put other authors down. I’m an eclectic reader and I love reading. Collecting books is my favourite hobby. Let me just check the archives (I keep annual lists of every book I read – I’m a Virgo). Ok, there was a book on heavy metal history I read (but didn’t keep it and can’t recall the author). It pissed me off because it didn’t even mention Danzig. You can’t write a history of metal and ignore Glenn Danzig, dude! Also, a biography on the nefarious WWE owner, Vince McMahon (I warned you I was eclectic) that spent 200 pages recalling the in-ring storyline history from 1990 to today, and failed to delve into the sordid scandal that got McMahon removed from the company. I already know the history, brother. I lived through it.
What’s the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
Q Can you sign this book contract for half a million dollars?
A Where do I sign?
Rest in Pieces by Anthony Ferguson
- Publisher : Ifwg Publishing International (1 Aug. 2023)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 232 pages
A grieving gator-man enacts a terrible revenge on the killer who wronged him. A cab driver struggles to eke out a living in a post-apocalyptic world plagued by sex-crazed zombies. A serial killer’s desires are impeded by his arachnophobia. A would-be thief encounters an unexpected obstacle in a very protective sex doll. A jilted lover finds that black magic ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. A middle-aged bachelor finds his aging mother mysteriously reinvigorated. A young soldier discovers horrors worse than the enemy in Vietnam. Rest in Pieces is the debut collection of short stories from Australian Shadows Award winner Anthony Ferguson. Spanning over fifteen years, this infernal showcase contains the best of Ferguson’s published short fiction and four brand new tales.