gothic anthology from Firbolg Publishing
I was interviewed by Dr. Alex Scully, editor and publisher at Firbolg Publishing, the publishers of the gothic horror anthology Enter at Your Own Risk: Dark Muses, Spoken Silences. My short story, "Poe's Black Cats," a re-imagining of Poe's original story, reveals the "facts" behind Poe's mysterious death in Baltimore. My story received high praise from gothic reviewer Joshua Skye in Dark Media. Dr. Alex Scully's interview is reproduced here.
A.S.: Where did you go for inspiration for your story? Was it only the original tale? Did you do research beyond the story itself?
T.H.: My story, “Poe’s Black Cats” drew directly from Poe’s original “The Black Cat” for many details. This was intentional, as I wanted my tale to “reveal” the “true story” of Poe’s death. Because madmen narrate the original and my story, the reader can reach their own conclusions about the “veracity” of either. In addition to reading the original story many times, I researched Poe’s life, the circumstances of his death, and Nineteenth Century Baltimore. I paid close attention to the waterfront and the hospital in which Poe died, as well as the physician who attended him. I also made use of the controversies and conspiracies that came from his rivals after his death.
A.S.: Did the original author’s intent influence your version? What elements did you focus on from the original to draw out your character?
T.H.: In “The Black Cat” the narrator is in prison awaiting his hanging for the murder of his black cat and wife. Poe as a character does not appear. In my story, I make Poe the man who will hang. The executioner, unseen in the original, becomes the narrator in my story. The hangman, in the course of confessing his role in the death of Poe, reveals the “true” events that led up to Poe’s demise. I don’t want to write a spoiler here, so you will need to read “Poe’s Black Cats” in Dark Muses, Spoken Silences to discover my twist in the plot.
A.S.: What challenges did you encounter (expected or unexpected) in retelling such classic tales from the point of view of a secondary character?
T.H.: I considered writing my story from the point of view of the surviving cat, but that would have made my story fantasy. I wanted a madman’s narration that would have the feel and sound of the original Poe to lend credence to the narrator’s assertions. It was a challenge to write in a voice reminiscent of Poe’s Nineteenth Century style while making it readable for Twenty-first Century readers. It was important to maintain dates and locations accurate to Poe’s life to create an air of authority for my narrator. I think I wrote a story in which my character tells a surprising, yet plausible, alternative to the theories about what happened to Edgar Allen Poe on the night of August 3, 1849.
The black cat, Scout, my unpaid model and muse for "Poe's Black Cats"