Chilling Chat: Interview with Garth von Buchholz, July 2022

(reprinted from, Episode #210)

Garth von Buchholz

Garth von Buchholz is an author of dark poetry, short fiction, non-fiction, and drama. His poetry books include Mad Shadows and his fiction has been published in various anthologies. Garth is also the founder of the International Edgar Allan Poe Society. He lives in Canada on Vancouver Island. 

NTK: Hello, Garth! Welcome back to Chilling Chat! What did you do during the pandemic?

GVB: During the pandemic, I was working from home instead of in my office, as many of my colleagues were as well. The pandemic was one of those shared social experiences of a disaster, similar to a flood or other natural disaster, where your immediate instincts are survival and you really don’t do a lot of reflection until you’re past that. I remember the first weeks of the pandemic when people were afraid to touch surfaces that might have Covid, and I was washing down my groceries after buying them from the store. The fear was palpable because no one knew how easily the virus could be spread or what it would do to you. It reminded me of Poe’s Masque of the Red Death. Another eerie experience was seeing wild animals walking in the streets when people were staying in their homes. Once I saw a stag trotting down the centre of a main road because there were no cars anywhere. It felt as though the human race could be nearing its end.

NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?

GVB: Probably about six years old. I had a book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, some of which were pretty disturbing for a young mind. But they were so profound and compelling because they spoke the truth about good and evil and death and tragedy, so I loved them. Later I was enamored with some of the classic horror films I saw on TV as well as reruns of old horror shows such as The Twilight Zone.

NTK: What author has influenced you most?

GVB: Edgar Allan Poe is my muse. I’ve written scholarly articles about Poe’s work, was interviewed about Poe for the Washington Post and was the founder of the International Edgar All Poe Society in 2009, the 200th anniversary of his birthday. But back in college, I realized that I couldn’t just mimic him, I didn’t want to try to write like a 19th-century author—I needed to find my own 20th-century voice.

NTK: What is your favorite Edgar Allan Poe story?

That’s so difficult to choose because I am a Poe aficionado, so I feel as though I have to choose one of his more obscure stories that fewer people have read. However, I love the revenge themes in stories such as “The Cask of Amontillado” and “Hop Frog,” which I think were cathartic for Poe to write because he probably fantasized revenge on the many enemies he had made in his lifetime. However, my favorite story may be “The Oval Portrait,” because it’s about an artist trying so hard to portray his beloved perfectly in his art that he neglects her, and she dies. I’ve been guilty of that, in a way, because writing is such a solitary craft, and it can isolate you from the people you love.

NTK: What inspired you to write your piece, “HAÜS?”

GVB: “HAÜS” is about the coldness and ruthlessness of technology. I’ve been working in digital media since the 1990s. A relative of mine owns a wireless security camera company, and after we talked about his work installing security systems in homes and businesses, I wondered if there would ever be a home security system so diabolically deadly that not even a group of skilled home invaders could penetrate it.

NTK: How much control do you exert over your characters? Do they have free will?

GVB: I’m like God—my characters can do what they want while they’re still alive, but ultimately, I know when they will die and how.

NTK: Where do you find inspiration? 

GVB: Many times, my inspiration is from some news story I’ve read. Fact often converts into fiction very seamlessly.

NTK: What is your favorite horror novel?

GVB: How can I decide on one? Legion by William Peter Blatty or The Stand by Stephen King.

NTK: Favorite horror movie?

GVB: The Exorcist III (based on the novel Legion)

NTK: What do you like most about The Exorcist III?

GVB: The 1990 film The Exorcist III, based on William Peter Blatty’s novel Legion (1983) is my fave horror film for several reasons. First, it’s written by Blatty, one of my favorite horror novelists. It stars SIX of my all-time favorite male actors, George C. Scott, Ed Flanders (who committed suicide years ago!), Jason Miller, Scott Wilson, Brad Dourif and Nicol Williamson. And I love the weird, Blatty-ian blend of dark humor and supernatural horror with underlying religious themes. I can almost recite the dialogue between Scott and Flanders where they talk about the carp in Detective Kinderman’s bathtub. And the startling and grotesque image of the old lady creeping along the ceiling like a spider still haunts me.

NTK: Favorite horror television show?

GVB: The Stand (miniseries, 1994.)

NTK: What did you think of The Stand miniseries with Whoopi Goldberg?

GVB: Overall, I thought The Stand 2020 miniseries was quite an accomplishment because it did justice to most of the characters, expanded the pandemic world that we had only seen fully in Stephen King’s novel, and brought the story to a more satisfying finale. The casting was unusual for some characters but seemed to be successful. For example, a black Larry Underwood made more sense than a white one in many ways because of the kind of singer he was. But Amber Heard as Nadine? Omg, that was so jarring and disappointing. They didn’t even have her dye her hair black so we could watch her transition from black hair to gray and then white. Her acting was abysmal, and she was neither sympathetic nor mysterious. As for Whoopi Goldberg, I was glad to see that she took the role seriously rather than trying to re-interpret Mother Abagail. We forget that she’s actually a fine actress when she does dramatic roles.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?

GVB: Well, I do hope to actually give something to look forward to because it has been supportive of my work over the years. I have a horror novel on the backburner and now that I’m apparently not going to die of Covid, I will start working on it again. Here’s a preview. It’s tentatively titled Thy Fearful Symmetry and it’s about a young girl who tries to commit suicide on a mountain, survives her attempt, then has an encounter with a two-headed mountain lion (or cougar as we usually call them in Canada). She takes this as a sign from the universe and starts blogging about it, which creates a huge sensation on the Internet about the two-headed beast. Is it real? Or was it something she imagined or fabricated? I have the entire outline of the novel written as well as the first few chapters.

Addicts, you can find Garth on his Blog.

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