Jay Wilburn Used to Take Advantage of an Old Lady During Halloween — Interview

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Jay Wilburn’s story “Lucy’s Arrow” can be found in our latest horror anthology, Truth or Dare. The anthology is a shared-world collaboration between many different authors in the horror industry; each story takes place in the same town, on the same Halloween night, at the same bonfire. Each story is different and unique in its own way. We asked Jay to stop by today and answer a few questions to celebrate the anthology’s recent release. It is our intention to ignore the fact that October is over. Halloween is only finished when we stop celebrating, and why would we ever stop?

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What was the inspiration for your Truth or Dare story, “Lucy’s Arrow”?

The first line came to me as a layered mystery. I knew it meant one thing to the characters involved, but something else to all the listeners. It took a few drafts to flesh out what the layers meant and how the price of the secrets would be paid. That was the creation of “Lucy’s Arrow.” High school, small towns, and the shame of growing up are full of painful secrets. I tried to capture that truth in the violent unraveling of Lucy’s story.

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What is your best Halloween memory?

In the 1980s I hit that magically short time between childhood and teenage where I was young enough to still trick-or-treat, but old enough to go out with my friends without adults. That age was a bit younger in the ‘80s than it is now. We teamed up and planned our route in detail including being sure we had time to make the return up the street before porch lights went out. One side of the street had the cul-de-sacs. There was a complex loop in the deep middle of the neighborhood with an impossibly steep hill. Past the creek bed and marsh was the far back of our neighborhood which split to go miles to the expressway in one direction and miles to the mall in the other.

Even in our candy-lust addled minds, we did not imagine we could cover it all. There were energy costs, time factors, and life involved sacrifices. We knew some houses had childless couples that went to parties after a certain hour. Some of them would cut their lights. Others would leave the candy with a sign that said, “Take two, please.” Without your parents, you could split it evenly among your team members. “Two handfuls?” we would joke every year as if the joke was made new by the renewal of the year. Pillow cases instead of buckets—more space and more durable. Face paint instead of the cheap, plastic masks—we were on a marathon and the masks collected moisture from breath, sweat, and spit. The years that Halloween fell on a Friday or Saturday—priceless. The years it rained—why, God?

The specifics are mashed into a fog of sugar fever and darkness. One year, the old lady that just arrived in America misunderstood her son’s instructions and dropped entire bags of candy in our bags when we got to her first. The next year we skipped to her house first, but her English had improved and she was wise to the ways of the world—one fun size each as we looked at each other realizing the moment had passed. We split and made our way home as we reached the front of the neighborhood again. My dad opened the door as I hauled the swollen pillowcase smeared with face paint over my shoulder and then we searched the candy for opened pieces that might be laced with LSD or stuffed with razorblades. He tried a few suspicious pieces himself just to be sure I stayed safe. By the time I was a teen, the team had all moved or gotten into the kind of trouble that gets kids sent away. It was the same configuration of streets, but it was not the same neighborhood by the time I could drive.

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Have you ever played Truth or Dare? Any memorable stories to share?

Yes. As I remember the game, it was mostly trying to trick girls into talking dirty or taking their clothes off and them refusing. Some of those kids turned into very dangerous adults in surprisingly short order. Their fascination with vandalism, diving in dumpsters for credit card carbons, and their ability to mix explosives should have been a powerful set of warning signs.

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What is the scariest film you’ve ever watched? What was so scary about it?

The Exorcist. I watched it way too young. Before the current era of special effects, what was done in that movie was twisted and terrifying.

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Likewise for books.

The Amityville Horror. It scared my father. I was five when he told my mother about reading it late at night. Anything that scared my father, terrified me. I read it years later and the memory of my father’s fear intensified the act of taking it in myself.

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Why horror?

Horror feels more true to the secret darkness everyone carries and every family hides somewhere. It allows a story to conquer the things that need conquering the most, even if those things are just in our heads.

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What do you have coming out in the near future?

At the Next Exit will be coming out despite my best efforts to screw up and bog down the editing. It will contain novellas for four great authors, and me, too. I believe it will be something special.


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Jay Wilburn is the author of Loose Ends, Time Eaters, and The Great Interruption. He is currently working on the series based on the world created in his celebrated short story “Dead Song.” He taught public school for sixteen years before losing his mind and becoming a full-time writer. Follow his many dark thoughts on his Facebook author page, at JayWilburn.com, and @AmongTheZombies on Twitter and Ello.