The interview is by Rayne Hall, and I’ll do a review at the end.
INTERVIEW: MYK PILGRIM
(compiled by Rayne Hall, 14 January 2022)
What’s your experience of cemeteries?
My most enduring memory of a graveyard: I was a pallbearer at my grandmother’s funeral in South Africa where I used to live. The earth was dry, the grass bleached to beige by the heat, the gravestones were well kept, but the only thing I could think of was don’t slip, don’t fall. I spent the entire experience terrified to screw up. The hypothetical thunk of Grammy’s head slamming into the side of the casket as I lost my footing and the other solemn coffin carriers did all they could to right the box.
Thankfully it didn’t happen. Though I do remember one of my distant cousins, being high as a kite, and another auntie filling her handbag with funeral food. So I guess if I had slipped and nanna’s casket had hit the floor, it probably wouldn’t even have been in the top three things that people would have remembered.
Do you ever wander around cemeteries, read the inscriptions on strangers’ headstones, and wonder what their lives were like, how they died, what families they left behind?
There is a single gravestone that I visit often, a girl who would have been my age. She died right about the time I came to the UK this time. Her parents have erected this shrine to her, with a laser-cut eulogy, a photo of her under glass, and ornamental floral flourishes. I wonder about her in the way you do about people you never had the chance to meet.
One way or another she will find her way into my stories about my fictional Scottish town Driech and she will make a splash.
What kind of headstone would you like on your grave? What inscription would you love?
I’ve always been in love with the phrase “Death by misadventure” though as I google it, I’m finding that it doesn’t seem to be related to Bram Stoker in the way I’ve always thought it was, which makes me sad.
Though, on consultation with my wife, she assures me that it would say “It’s pronounced MIKE not mick” and lacking a better punchline here, that’s what I’m going with.
Or “I’m with stupid”, depending on which of us goes first.
What scared you when you were a child?
In all honestly, South Africa. There was always something terrifying happening, there wasn’t really any space for imaginary monsters when the world was so violent. I was lucky enough to be in a privileged position, but the reality of murder and rape was never far from my mind.
Kids accept the reality of the situation they find themselves in because that’s all you know.
Also boarding school. Being trapped in a room with your bullies 24/7? Yeah, that will do things to you.
Have you ever seen a ghost? Tell us about the experience.
My first flat was a weird place, I’m not one to talk about bad juju, but truthfully that’s what it was. But thinking about it in retrospect, maybe we brought it with us.
I sound like I’m about to try to sell you a jade egg, so apologies for that.
It was Friday night, or a day that we deemed to be Friday night. My friend and I sat on milk crates in the sparsely furnished living room. Then I saw it in the corner.
It was a heat haze, a formless mirage of distorted air that gave off malevolence. I looked up, my friend had seen it too, we both sat there frozen for a minute staring, my heartbeat a deafening bassline.
I yelled at it, told it to go away, and after a moment it did. We drank a lot more the rest of the night.
A lot of weird stuff happened in that flat.
What do you personally, as a reader, like about anthologies?
Anthologies are the equivalent of “from and inspired by” albums from back in the day. You get a whole bunch of new stories from people you might never have otherwise discovered. You don’t have to love everything, but you always come away having discovered someone new whose work has touched you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, MYK PILGRIM
Myk Pilgrim is partially bald by genetic mishap but totally bald by choice.
He lives with his wife in a tiny cottage, in an even littler Scottish town where he spends every free moment consuming stories and watching films.
He writes supernatural horror fiction with a sense of humour and an unapologetic cathartic streak – but only when he runs out of excuses not to.
Myk’s work has appeared on the Wicked Library podcast, 13 Wicked Tales, Dark Faces Evil Place 2, Frisson Comics, Sirens Call Magazine, and in Bite-sized Horror collections Poisoned Candy, Bloody Stockings, Rancid Eggs, and Devil’s Night.
ABOUT THE BOOK,
This anthology, edited by Rayne Hall, presents twenty-seven of the finest – and creepiest – graveyard tales with stories by established writers, classic authors and fresh voices.
Here you’ll find Gothic ghost stories by Robert Ellis, Lee Murray, Greg Chapman, Morgan Pryce, Rayne Hall, Guy de Maupassant, Myk Pilgrim, Zachary Ashford, Amelia Edwards, Nina Wibowo, Krystal Garrett, Tylluan Penry, Ambrose Bierce, Cinderella Lo, Nikki Tait, Arthur Conan Doyle, Priscilla Bettis, Kyla Ward, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul D Dail, Cameron Trost, Pamela Turner, William Meikle and Lord Dunsany who thrill with their eerie, macabre and sometimes quirky visions.
You’ll visit graveyards in Britain, Indonesia, Russia, China, Italy, Bulgaria, Thailand, USA, Australia, South Africa and Japan, and you can marvel at the burial customs of other cultures.
Now let’s open the gate – can you hear it creak on its hinges? – and enter the realm of the dead. Listen to the wind rustling the yew, the grating of footsteps on gravel, the hoo-hoo-hoo of the collared dove. Run your fingers across the tombstones to feel their lichen-rough sandstone or smooth cool marble. Inhale the scents of decaying lilies and freshly dug earth.
But be careful. Someone may be watching your every movement… They may be right behind you.
Purchase Link: mybook.to/Headstones
The ebook is available for pre-order from Amazon at the special offer price of 99 cents until 31 January 2022. (After that date, the price will go up.)
The paperback is already published.
The flies lick at Mbali’s face, but the only thing she can think about is the body in the bag on her back.
Now, this is an intriguing story, a cultural torment for the character, and an insight into the lengths people go to when they need to complete a task, even when it involves carrying a dead body through the streets, carrying them on buses … after they’ve been dug up and adapted to fit into the carry bag.
Hyena-laughs, BMWs, sweat and worn sandals on stony roads – it’s all there, as Mbali trudges toward the destiny promised …
This is one of the most different stories I’ve read in a long time. It’s not the style or the subject matter, but the culture and subtext that cling to the bones of the creation. This is magic, and with a purpose.
Trust me, this is different. Well worth the read. And then tell me what you think.