Immortal Alexander here. A while back the very talented author Manen Lyset who writes for the No Sleep Podcast agreed to be interviewed for our little blog. Finally after months of floating through space I finally came back from the stratosphere to ask this very talented
sock puppet writer some very important and scientific questions about the craft of creating horror stories, and about the short story collection From the Ashes of Pompeii: and other dark tales by Manen Lyset.
IA: How did you first become involved with The No Sleep Podcast?
ML: To make a long story short, my sister introduced me to a different podcast, and when I ran out of episodes, I looked up horror fiction podcasts and found the NSP. I fell in love with it instantly and binge-listened to the first three seasons over the course of a couple of weeks. I was so enamored I decided to write a short story and post it on the No Sleep sub reddit just to try it out. The story got maybe 13 votes, and I was blown away because I didn’t think anyone would read it, let alone vote for it. I followed it up with another story that did even better, and then I was hooked. For months after that, I posted stories almost twice a week hoping one of them would be popular enough to catch the NSP’s eye, even though I didn’t actually think I’d be that lucky. Lo and behold, one day I got a private message from David Cummings asking for permission to narrate my story riiiiight before I was about to hit the gym. I was so excited I nearly knocked the elliptical machine off its hinges.
I still get happy shivers just thinking about it. Since I’m a huge fan of the podcast, I think the feeling kind of equates to that of an actor getting cast on their favorite TV show. This may sound cheesy, but it really is a dream come true.
IA: How old were you when you decided to be a writer?
ML: Let’s see…if I do quick math…I was 27? But long before I started writing short stories, I did write, just not in the traditional sense. My favorite pastime is text-based role playing. Basically, you write a paragraph from your character’s perspective, the next person writes a paragraph from their character’s perspective, and so on and so forth. I’ve been doing that since I was maybe 12.
IA: What was your first story about?
ML: It was about a man who was allegedly being held captive, but when you piece things together, you realize he’s actually been reincarnated into the body of a baby. In hindsight, it definitely broke NoSleep’s rules and shouldn’t have been allowed on. Please don’t tell the (No Sleep Sub Reddit) mods on me, though. 😉
IA: Was the first story you wrote for the No Sleep Sub Reddit the first traditional story you ever wrote?
ML: Aside from anything I had to write in high school, yes.
IA: Who are your favorite writers?
ML: Kris Mallory, Michael Marks, and Marcus Damanda. They’re all authors who post on NoSleep and have appeared on the podcast, and they’re all incredibly talented individuals I admire.
IA: When you write a story what do you focus on first (An emotion, a theme, a specific location, a character)?
ML: It depends on the story. One of three things usually happens:
- I’ll be inspired by a song I love, so the emotions and visuals the song evokes leads the way.
- I’ll be minding my own business when an entire story will suddenly beam itself directly into my brain, and then I focus on just getting as much on paper before I forget. I’d say these stories focus mainly around characters.
- I come up with a completely ridiculous idea, and challenge myself to write a story around that. My focus will typically be on turning ‘zany’ into ‘scary’.
IA: In your short story collection “From the Ashes of Pompeii and other dark tales” you cover a range of themes. What was your process for choosing what went into this collection?
ML: I started by picking/writing a couple stories that hadn’t been posted on NoSleep so there would be some new material, then I went with my favorites.
IA: Your story From the Ashes of Pompeii in the collection had a lot of little details in it as it was about archeology. How much research did you do for this story?
ML: Not a whole lot. I used to watch a lot of documentaries, so I have a good knowledge base to draw from.
IA: What was your inspiration for this story?
ML: The song “Resurrection” from Gemini Syndrome. Spoiler alert, it’s about a dark phoenix, the antagonist featured in the novella. Whenever I needed motivation to keep writing, I’d put it on and get pumped. I also have a friend who loves phoenixes, so I always wanted to write a story about one in his honor. When I heard the song, I finally got an idea for a full story, and I managed to flesh it out enough to become a novella.
IA: Did you always have a fascination with archaeology?
ML: Yes! I used to love watching documentaries, especially the ones about archaeologists unearthing ruins of ancient civilizations and trying to piece together stories. I always thought it was fascinating how much they could learn from things as simple as vase fragments or weather-worn columns.
IA: Your story The Mercy Ship was very different from the rest in this collection. Was there a real life (current or historical) event that inspired this story?
ML: It’s entirely fictional. I’m afraid this is another story inspired by a song. In this case, “Survivors” by 10 Years. For some reason, it left me with the mental image of arms thumping against the sides of a ship, so I wrote a story around that visual.
IA: One of your last stories in the collection was called The Pigeons Around Here Aren’t Real. This seems like a story a New Yorker would write. Did you ever live in a big city, and is that where the inspiration came from?
ML: The idea came from a mix of two things. One time, I was on the bus going home from work when I noticed a bunch of pigeons hanging out on the street and casually walking out of the way whenever a car drove too close. For some reason, at the time, I thought, “Man, imagine if a car drove over one, and it ended up being hollow inside.” From that moment on, I became determined to write a story about fake pigeons. About a year later, I read an article about pigeon eggs being replaced with fakes, and I thought, “Man, imagine if one of them hatched.” Boom. The two ideas came together and created my beautiful little evil fake pigeons.
I live in the suburbs and work in the reasonably-sized city of Ottawa, so I see pigeons on a regular basis.
IA: I absolutely love your stories on The No Sleep Podcast. One of my favorites is “I Used to Hack Baby Monitors.“ Did you ever hear something strange on a baby monitor before? My sister said she heard the voice of our grandmother who passed away when we were young.
ML: I don’t think I’ve ever been around an actual baby monitor. I did have a friend in high school who told me her mom used to hear a woman singing softly on her baby monitor, and I’ve heard about many instances of something similar happening. The whole haunted baby monitor thing is also one of those classic tropes, and I like to turn classic tropes around.
I was a huge fan of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” as a kid, and I do think some of its tones sometimes bleed into my stories.
IA: Where can our audience find more of your work?
ML: If I’m allowed to shamelessly plug it, there’s always my book, From the Ashes of Pompeii and other dark tales, available on Amazon. For free content, you can find my stories in my Submit history on Reddit. I only use this account for posting stories, so you won’t need to search through a bunch of random stuff.
Thank you Manen for sharing your time and insight with us, and also for the lovely photos of Roddy (Manen’s Sock Puppet creation)! Let Roddy know that we love the little blue bowtie, and charming smile.