American short story author Michele Cacano is one of the writers whose stories are featured in the soon-to-be-published anthology The Haunted Train: Creepy Tales from the Railways. Here she answers our questions about train journeys and writing.
What fascinates you about trains?
I love the sound of a train whistle in the distance. Trains are romantic, mysterious, and represent a yearning to travel and connect to other people and places. There is so much magical energy in train travel, and I think the metal rails are amazing conductors for that energy. Being a fan of history, I think trains are a wonderful vehicle of transportation both in time and space, which gives them rich storytelling possibilities.
What’s the weirdest experience you’ve ever had in a train?
Probably the weirdest train experience I ever had was the inspiration for my story in this anthology. I was in Tokyo with my husband in 2009. Our train stopped a few minutes after we got on, and stay stopped. “Jinshin-jiko,” the phrase repeated by the train conductor translates to “human accident” kept us in place on the rails for nearly two hours, while they cleaned up…the accident.
Another time, I was taking the train from Rome to Calais, France. Not speaking Italian, I had a terrible time even purchasing my ticket. A lovely German couple came to my rescue, interpreting between the ticket-seller and me. Several hours later, the train conductor asked to see my ticket. He told me the train had split, and I had gotten on one car too far, and was now headed for Brussels. He told me to get off, but one look out the window gave me pause. It was one-in-the-morning, somewhere in Switzerland, and the train station was filled with a neat row of armed guards. I pretended to gather my things, but remained on the train until morning. At eight, the sun was out, and I departed onto a rural platform, alone. Two men in overalls and berets, carrying what looked hobo sticks, traipsed through the vineyard surrounding the platform. They waved and said, “Bonjour!” and I waved back. Soon, I was on the correct train, resuming my journey north to Calais.
As a writer, what do you like about the short story format?
One, I can finish a short story much faster than a novel! That feeling of accomplishment keeps me going. Two, it’s fun to write those punchy endings and unexpected twists. For my slower, creepier stories, I find the atmosphere and tension building is much more sustainable in a short story.
As a reader, who are your favourite short story authors, and why?
Currently, I just love Kelly Link. I discovered her a few years ago, and am so impressed with her writing. She has that magical element that I look for, where unseen worlds and hidden beasts are filled with wonder and hope, just as much as fear and dread.
ABOUT MICHELE CACANO
Michele is a writer, artist, and massage therapist in Seattle. She lives with two cats and one husband. She enjoys books and movies – comedy, horror, science fiction – and comes from a long line of novelty music lovers. She cherishes her vinyl record collection, and still has too many books, DVDs, and VHS tapes. She loves to travel and always collects regional ghost stories. Other interests include language studies, folklore, and the Roaring Twenties. She grew up among ghosts and has had many paranormal experiences. She has been published in anthologies and magazines such as Haunted Waters’s From the Depths and Bag of Bones Press. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @MicheleCacano. She runs and facilitates Seattle Writers Meetup, a weekly critique group (est. 2007) @SeaWritersMeet and is a founding member of Camp S’more Writers (est. 2020) @CampSmoreWriter.
ABOUT THE BOOK THE HAUNTED TRAIN: CREEPY TALES FROM THE RAILWAYS
Come on board for a Gothic journey in a funicular railway in Victorian England, a freight train in the Carpathian mountains, a high tech sky train in Bangkok, an underground railway in Tokyo. Visit stations which lure with the promise of safe shelter but harbour unexpected dangers. Meet the people who work on the tracks – stationmasters, porters, signal-men – and those who travel – commuters, tourists, dead bodies, murderers and ghosts.
In this volume, editor Rayne Hall has collected twenty of the finest– and creepiest – railway tales. The book features the works of established writers, classic authors and fresh voices. Some stories are spooky, some downright scary, while others pose a puzzling mystery.
Are you prepared to come on board this train? Already, the steam engine is huffing in impatience. Listen to the chuff-chuff-chuff from the locomotive and tarattata-tarattata of the giant wheels. Press your face against the dust-streaked window, inhale the smells of coal smoke and old textiles, watch the landscape whoosh past as you leave the familiar behind and journey into the unknown.
But be careful: you can’t know the train’s real destination, nor your fellow travellers’ intentions. Once you’ve closed that door behind you and the wheels start rolling, you may not be able to get out.
The ebook is available for pre-order from Amazon at the special offer price of 99 cents until 31 January 2023. (After that date, the price will go up.) https://mybook.to/Train .
The paperback edition will be available soon.