TITLE: Dreams of Lake Drukka / Exhumation (Short Sharp Shocks!, #31)
AUTHOR: Mike Thorn
AGE RANGE: Adult
“Dreams of Lake Drukka” and “Exhumation” explore the unearthing of horrific, long-buried family secrets. Journeying into the darkest recesses of the past, these stories depict the dire consequences of discovering the truth.
DESTINY: Hey Mike! Thanks for joining us here for the first EVER Howling Libraries author interview! Can you start off by telling everyone a little about yourself and what types of stories you write?
MIKE: Hi, Destiny! It’s an honor to be the first interviewee on Howling Libraries. I’m a fiction writer and film critic currently living in Calgary, Alberta. I tend to produce a lot of work that falls under the “horror” umbrella, but I’m passionate about all kinds of fiction and cinema. I also teach English composition at a local college. I’m enthusiastic about shock rock and legumes.
DESTINY: Today, we’re talking about your new two-story bind-up, DREAMS OF LAKE DRUKKA & EXHUMATION. When we spoke before, you mentioned to me that these two stories weren’t originally written to go together. When did you originally write these stories?
MIKE: If I remember correctly, I wrote “Dreams of Lake Drukka” in early 2018, probably sometime around February or March. I think I finished “Exhumation” a little while later, in May or June 2018. I let both stories sit for a while before coming back to them this spring. After polishing them up, I sent “Drukka” to Demain Publishing sometime around April. After some correspondence with Dean Drinkel at Demain, I decided to submit “Exhumation” for inclusion as well.
DESTINY: What made you decide to piece them together for this Short Sharp Shocks! installment?
MIKE: It was partially a pragmatic decision, because Dean at Demain told me that “Dreams of Lake Drukka” was a little short for a standalone publication. When he asked me to look for a companion piece, I went back through a lot of my unpublished work to search for possible options. Although I wasn’t aware while I was writing it, “Exhumation” works well as an alternative expression of many ideas central to “Drukka”: both stories portray supernatural manifestations of repressed memories, both concern dark familial pasts related to untimely deaths, and they share an emphasis on atmosphere and mood.
DESTINY: I really loved both short stories, especially how they wove together these unresolved family traumas and memories with current terrors. I was especially chilled by the twist in DREAMS OF LAKE DRUKKA – I’m still getting that haunting image out of my head. How do you come up with the ideas for your stories, and do you ever scare yourself?
MIKE: Thank you! My ideas usually come to me in pieces—I take a lot of inspiration from day to day experiences. I also draw from books, conversations, dreams, news, films, music, etc. I try to keep my antennae up for anything that might lend itself to a compelling piece of fiction. I was inspired to write “Dreams of Lake Drukka” after reading Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, although my story ended up sharing very little in common with that novel! I don’t often scare myself, but it happens on rare occasions. I had a surprising goosebumps moment while working on my latest story last weekend. Whenever I feel that uncanny sense of “wrongness” while I’m working, I do my best to capture it through words. That’s always the challenging part.
DESTINY: Can you let us in on your overall writing process a little bit?
MIKE: Lately my writing process has been all over the map… I’m neck-deep in grad school applications, exam prep, and my teaching load, so this semester I’ve just tried snatching a couple hours of writing time every weekend. In the past, when dealing with saner workloads and schedules, I’ve worked in many different ways. For a while, I woke up at 5am daily and wrote for an hour before work—those were some of the most productive writing sessions I’ve ever had, but I found it difficult to maintain that schedule. I got exhausted after a few months. I’ve also been an evening writer in the past, and for a while I worked according to daily word quotas. In terms of the actual writing process, I usually sit at my laptop and chip away until the energy fades. I don’t work according to outlines, but with longer projects I tend to have the general shape laid out mentally in advance.
DESTINY: The other work of yours I’ve reviewed here on my blog (and loved) was DARKEST HOURS, another collection of short stories. Is there something that draws you to short stories as opposed to longer works, and can you see yourself releasing a full-length novel in the foreseeable future?
MIKE: I have a novel that I’ve been sending around. I wrote it before anything in Darkest Hours was published, although I have revised it many times over the years. It’s a violent, quasi-experimental adolescent horror novel set in suburban somewhere. It takes a lot of inspiration from Hubert Selby Jr. I’m hoping it finds a good home. I’m also working on a new novel that draws a bit from the Satanic panic of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. I originally conceptualized it as a period novel, but it developed into something more contemporary. Once that’s finished, there’s another novel I’m mentally outlining, which I’ve been itching to write. I always write short fiction and long projects simultaneously. Since longer projects can take a while to develop, I find some satisfaction in tackling smaller pieces intermittently. I’ve been invited to contribute to two anthologies that I’m very excited about. I’m about midway through drafting a piece for one of those.
DESTINY: What can we expect to see from you next – any big projects you want to talk about or announcements you’d like to make?
MIKE: Fiction projects in-progress aside, I should have an article on Rob Zombie’s 2010s output coming out sometime next month. I’ll be sure to share that on all my social media channels when it goes live.
DESTINY: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me today, Mike. It’s always a pleasure talking with you. Before we wrap this up, is there anything else you’d like the readers of Howling Libraries to know about you and your work?
MIKE: Always a pleasure talking with you too, Destiny. If the readers of Howling Libraries would like to get in touch or learn more about my work, they can check out my website (mikethornwrites.com) or connect with me on Twitter (@MikeThornWrites). Thanks so much for having me!
I loved Mike’s Darkest Hours collection a while back, so when he reached out asking if I’d be interested in reviewing more work from him, I couldn’t possibly say no. Mike Thorn has this incredible talent for delivering atmosphere, backstory, and chills in as few pages as possible, and these two short stories were no exception to that rule.
Dreams of Lake Drukka follows a young woman whose mother passed away years ago in a drowning accident, and something has been drawing her back to the incident ever since, never letting her rest — always convincing her that something about that terrible, fateful night was not what it seemed. In a desperate need to know more about what happened, she drags her sister along as they return to the infamous lake of their nightmares, and what they find there is downright awful. I had literal goosebumps reading the descriptions in one scene because it was so immersive and easy to lose myself in imagining how petrifying it would be to be a fly on the wall of that scene.
Exhumation takes a very different note; in it, a young man visits home to attend an estranged family member’s funeral, but is stunned when another family member not only accuses him of something particularly sordid, but even manages to prey upon repressed memories that had long since been buried. This one is bizarre and I wasn’t quite sure where it was going or how it connected to Drukka at first; after I finished it, though, not only were the parallels clear (unresolved family traumas and otherworldly evils, most of all), but I found myself remarkably satisfied with the direction its ending took.
All in all, Mike’s writing is concise and powerful, and his descriptions left me with a spine-chilling sense of “wrongness” that lingered for a few days after — and that’s truly one of the best compliments a horror author can receive from me. I can’t wait to see what he does next!
All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to the author & publisher for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
violence, gore, drug abuse, murder
You can’t go wrong with Mike’s creepy, quick stories. They deliver a punch in as few pages as possible while offering plenty of atmosphere and are sure to chill!
WOULD I RECOMMEND IT? Yes!
— destiny ♥