To start a piece of work, it takes what I call a glimpse. A glimpse of something that is interesting, unique, and worth building a story around. Being a horror writer, for me that glimpse is usually something terrible. But that terrible glimpse leads to the idea for a suitable protagonist, antagonist, and goal. Then details of the story follow. For Underworld Games, that glimpse was of a kid in a flood tunnel vault in pitch darkness tracing the word “Loser” that was carved on his forehead, and then the terror when he saw light down the tunnel, and footsteps coming towards him. So, that is how this story starts—with the glimpse of terror.
What book from your childhood do you remember the best? Why?
When I was in intermediate school, I saw my father reading a lot of novels by some fellow named Stephen King. I asked if I could read one, and he bought be a copy of Christine (King’s novel about a haunted 1958 Plymouth Fury). I spent the next several weeks reading it and I was hooked on horror fiction forever, from a relatively young age.
What does literary success look like to you?
Having your story told and another person (even if just one person) enjoying, appreciating, or learning from it, is a literary success. The stories or screenplays I write are entertaining for me, and important to me for one reason or another, but I want at least one other person to get enjoyment or gain something from it. Written words make our stories and ideas immortal.
What inspires you?
For me, to start the work, it takes what I call a glimpse. A glimpse of something that is interesting, unique, and worth building a story around. Being a horror writer, for me that glimpse is usually something terrible. But that terrible glimpse leads to the idea for a suitable protagonist, antagonist, and goal. Then details of the story follow. For Underworld Games, that glimpse was of a kid in a flood tunnel vault in pitch darkness tracing the word “Loser” that was carved on his forehead, and then the terror when he saw light down the tunnel, and footsteps coming towards him. So, that is how this story starts—with the glimpse of terror.
In relation to your latest book;
What sparked the idea for this book?
My dear friend Mike is the sole spark for this story. He went on holiday to Las Vegas and told me about the homeless population living in the flood tunnels below the city. He also told me about a drunk fellow he encountered who advised him that it’s better to stay in the Mandalay Bay rather than the Excalibur so that you get a “hooker in the room”…as if that were a standard amenity. From there came the glimpse of someone being taken captive in the flood tunnels, and the rest is here for the Black Hare Press readership to enjoy!
What challenges did you encounter to finish it?
Here is a confession: I have never yet actually been to Las Vegas, the setting of my story (heresy, I know). So, I relied heavily on what my friend Mike told me about his time there along with what I could research about the real-world homeless living in the flood tunnels beneath the city. Aside from my friend Mike, I really must credit Matthew O’Brien for his outstanding ethnography “Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas”. It is an outstanding book and gives insight into the real struggles of people living in the concrete catacombs below Sin City.
Is there a particular message that you hope readers will take from the book?
The message I hope to convey is that we all have vices. We all have weaknesses. That is because we are human, and vice and weakness is a natural condition of our species. The important thing is how we overcome them and rise above the darkness.
What’s your favourite scene?
My favourite scenes are both the Prologue and Epilogue. In the Prologue we see a glimpse of the struggle. In the Epilogue we see the all-too-human and ironic result of the struggle.
Did you base any of the characters on people you know?
Yes, I did. The characters of Zach, Jerry and Candice are completely based on real people I know in real life and care about.
What’s brewing? What projects are you working on?
I’m working on a new screenplay about a mining disaster that causes an ancient Wendigo-like spirit to awaken from the depths of the Earth to haunt and terrorise the inhabitants of a small Pennsylvanian town. I am thinking something along the lines of Twin Peaks meets The Thing. Should be interesting!
More Posts from the Author
Jonathan D. Stiffy lives with his wife, Jessica, and daughters, Taylor, Madelyn, and Emma in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. There he works as a plastics engineer by day and is a horror culture enthusiast by night.
Zach Perry is in trouble.
He got caught up in a most dangerous game in the flood tunnels beneath the streets of Las Vegas—a high-stakes game he played and lost.