Welcome to WOLF NOTES, where interview questions stray from the rest of the pack. It’s nice to know the usual stuff like where an author gets their inspiration and why they write, but sometimes we need a little fun in our lives.
This week on Wolf Notes, we have Harrison Demchick.
Raised in Baltimore, Maryland on a steady diet of magical realism, literary fiction, science-fiction, and Spider-Man comics, Harrison Demchick spent most of his formative years inside his own head, working out strange thoughts and ideas that would eventually make their way into stories, screenplays, and songs.
He went to Oberlin College to attain one of modern day’s most notoriously useless degrees, a BA in English with a creative writing concentration, but then actually used it, working for over a decade as a developmental editor of fiction and memoir. Harrison is also an optioned screenwriter, winner of the 2011 Baltimore Screenwriters Competition, and an inaugural fellow of the Johns Hopkins University/Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund. His first film, Ape Canyon, is currently in production.
The Listeners, his first novel, was published by Bancroft Press in 2012. Short stories “Magicland” and “The Bead” were published in 2019. Otherguy, his debut EP, launched in 2018. He currently lives in Washington, D.C. with his girlfriend and their two cats with a combined seven legs. He’s working on a series of short stories, a couple screenplays, a pair of musicals, a concept album, and whatever else keeps him distracted from the dark void that will one day consume us all.
Wolf: I beat your BA in English with a Masters in Sculpture. If you had to pick a weapon, what would it be and why?
Harrison: Yo-yo. Because no one ever picks the yo-yo, and I don’t want it to feel left out.
What are we picking this for again?
Wolf: Just curious. Yo-yos are fun – and dangerous. What is the meanest thing you’ve ever done to your characters?
Harrison: Well, I’m a horror author. So.
In my genres (tossing in magical realism and dark fantasy), it’s fair to say that some very bad things are going to happen in some very weird ways. But one thing that scares me more than anything is the notion of losing yourself—of forgetting the basics of who you are, and knowing that you have. Even if your life before was terrible. That happens in a yet-unpublished novelette called Rugaru, Montana, and my protagonists are more or less faced with the choice of letting themselves forget everything or embracing the lives they were desperate to escape. That may be the meanest thing I’ve done to my characters.
Though I also do some pretty mean things to Daniel, the protagonist of my novel The Listeners.
Wolf: Forgetting who you are is mean. I’ve done that to my characters as well. What is the nicest thing you’ve ever done to your characters?
Harrison: I co-wrote a musical with a friend of mine. It was a zombie musical, so terrible things still happened, but at least they got to sing some fun songs beforehand.
Wolf: Too funny. Do you consider yourself a cat person, or a dog person?
Harrison: I’m a cat person. Actually, honestly, I have a major phobia of dogs. But in my defense, this is only because all dogs secretly want to eat you and eventually overthrow humanity. My cats will also eat me, but only after I’m dead, which when you come down to it is more thoughtful than spiteful.
Wolf: Interesting way of looking at things. I hope you don’t mind being interviewed by a wolf. While walking in the woods you come across…
Harrison: Bigfoot. It has to be Bigfoot. I did a school project on Bigfoot when I was in fourth grade. I taught cryptozoology as a college class. I wrote a screenplay about searching for Bigfoot, and now Ape Canyon is my first film. I’ve earned Bigfoot.
Wolf: You have indeed. There is a door at the end of a dark, damp corridor. You hear rumbling. What do you do?
Harrison: Well, hold on. There are a lot of variables in that scenario. First off, from which side of the door is the rumbling coming? And what sort of rumbling is it? Is it the rumbling of a train over tracks? An earthquake? The growling stomach of some unseen monster?
These latter questions will not be answered because I will be heading briskly in the opposite direction. The door is irrelevant. My characters go through these things so I don’t have to.
Wolf: Great answer. What five items would you want to have in a post-cataclysmic world?
Harrison: Oh, I wrote about one of these! The first and most important thing I would want is the most important thing Daniel in The Listeners suffers without: a friend. I happen to have a friend who owns a sword. I think a friend with a sword is a good bet in a post-cataclysmic world.
My second item would be a second friend, which is good to have in case the first friend dies or goes full-on zombie. Or if I do.
Actually, at least four of the five items would be friends. In all seriousness, there are all kinds of basic necessities you need to survive in a post-cataclysmic world, but it’s not worth surviving if you don’t have a reason to live. Friends will give you that. Friends will make the end of the world okay. One of them would be my fiancée, because she makes everything okay.
The fifth item is a guitar. I don’t know how to play the guitar, but if the world has ended I’d have plenty of time to learn.
I shouldn’t have evoked the concept of having time enough at last in a post-cataclysmic context. Now something terrible and ironic will happen.
Wolf: You want to live, not just survive. Friends are important for that. Which of your characters is your favorite?
Harrison: I’ve been writing a lot of shorter fiction the last couple years, and the nature of short fiction is such that you don’t live with an individual character for all that long. So it stands to reason that I become more attached to the ones with whom I spend the most time. There’s a special place in my heart for Cal Piker, the protagonist of Ape Canyon. Though I may identify most with Mindy, the protagonist of my screenplay Time-Traveling Idea Bandits. She’s a wildly enthusiastic aspiring writer struggling with serious self-doubt. That describes too many of my friends for me not to love her.
Wolf: What story are you working on now?
Harrison: I’ve just wrapped up a short story called “Sophie Anne” about a mother, her young daughter, and the Honey Tree Baby (think Cabbage Patch Doll) the mother gives her for her birthday. That sounds like the setup for a creepy possessed doll story. It’s not. Or not in the way you expect at least. It’s actually become one of the saddest things I’ve ever written. I’m very hopeful about it once I start submitting it to literary magazines and anthologies.
Wolf: Hope it does well. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Harrison: Wait—there are other things—?
Wolf: Perhaps not. Thanks for visiting. You can catch up with Harrison at these links: