Bryan W. Alaspa is the author of the short story VERMILION in the
NEW Vampire Anthology
They say the town of Vermilion, Illinois is cursed. If you were to see what it has become, you might be willing to agree. Like so many things that happen around these parts, it goes back to a story about Native Americans.
The tale goes that the town of Vermilion was once on the fast track to becoming one of the biggest cities in the entire state. That much is known fact, as there was even a time when the city became the capital of the state of Illinois. Sitting high on the banks of the Mississippi River, Vermilion was a transportation hub for the steamboats of the time.
As my great-grandfather told it, there was a thriving community here and in that community lived a wealthy man who ran most of the town. He had a daughter, and that daughter was willful and wouldn’t listen and she fell in love with a Native American fellow back in a time when Native Americans were still called things like Featherheads, Cochise and Injuns.
Needless to say, the father did not take too kindly to this and he forbade his daughter to ever see the “Scalper” again. Of course, like most of these tales go, she didn’t listen. She and the boy went sneaking around and it was only a matter of time before the father confirmed his suspicions. He then paid some men to find the young Native American boy. And do you think he turned the boy over to the police claiming some false crime, or just ushered the kid out of town, threatening him never to return? No, he did neither.
The father had the young man beaten and then tied to a large log. The young man lay there, bleeding, arms outstretched like a familiar religious symbol, and the father pushed the log off into the rushing waters of the Mighty Miss. This is where the curse comes in.
Reportedly the Native American boy cursed the whole town of Vermilion, proclaiming the river would eventually swallow the wanna-be metropolis like a giant serpentine devil, wiping it from the face of the earth forever.
Whether or not there ever was a Native American boy, bound by love and killed by hate, no one knows for sure. But there certainly seems to be an air of doom around this place.
Vermilion did go on to become a thriving city, but there came a flood one day and most of the town was washed away. See, when the water receded a bit, it didn’t recede the rest of the way, essentially turning the city into a small island in the middle of the Mississippi River. We are now a tiny township with rushing water on all sides, technically part of the state of Illinois, but with the only bridge taking us into Missouri.
So go figure.
The town has flooded several times since then. The Ole Miss is one mighty bitch when she wants to be. The last time I remember it being completely flooded was back in ’93. The entire town was covered in something like nine feet of water. Those of us that were left, just about 30 people at that time, were evacuated. We all came back and many of us said we would stay here until the island was gone, but most of the young families that had been away on vacation moved away permanently, and several of the evacuees decided they’d had enough.
These days there are just fifteen of us, all of us descended from those founding families of long ago. There are a couple of young folks, but most of us are older, like me. Heck, I’m one of the younger of the older folks being only in my fifties. And the rest of the town looks like something out of a museum.
There’s the downtown area with a small store and a restaurant that barely does any business. Thank goodness for the legend of the curse or we’d have no tourists at all. There’s a few houses and there’s even a park, complete with playground equipment, even though there are no kids to play on them anymore. There’s also a small city hall with mostly empty offices, a library and a church at the far end, with mostly empty pews. It’s a pretty town, with lots of trees and green grass, but it is also very quiet, with empty houses where there were once families. Quiet that is, except for the always constant rushing sound of the river when you’re outside. People live in fear each spring when the rains come and wonder if this will be the year when the curse finally hits for the last time.
I awoke in absolute darkness the night the stranger came. The weather people had been predicting a bad storm all day. The year before, we’d had a drought in the area and people joked that maybe Vermilion was going to become part of Missouri and join the rest of civilization again. Then came the hard winter, with lots of bad snow storms, one after another after another and the town stayed buried in snow. Then came the rains that spring. READ MORE
Bryan W. Alaspa is a Chicago native and published author of over 20 works of fiction and non-fiction. He has written books in the genres of horror, thrillers, suspense, true crime, history, mysteries, young adult, paranormal and even romance.
When he’s not writing, Bryan enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife, Melanie, and their two fur babies, Gracie and Pippa.
The INTERVIEW with Fiona
Name: Bryan W. Alaspa
Where are you from: Chicago, IL
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc.: Well, I grew up in the Chicago area. I am the oldest of two brothers. I have always had the support of my parents, who always encouraged me to write. In fact, I never would have discovered my love of writing without their love of reading and the fact that my mom left out her electric typewriter once when I was in the 3rd grade and I wrote my first short story. I went to Webster University, where I ended up studying communications and falling in love with broadcasting, particularly radio. I spent quite a few years trying to get a full time job in radio, then spent 8 years working in human resources, before going back to writing and what I loved back in 2006.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I just published a horror novella called Strange Fruit and the Slender Man, which is my take on the Slender Man phenomenon. This past year also saw the publication of my first YA Novel – Sapphire, which has garnered some of the best reviews of my career. I just had a vampire short story published in an anthology called Wrapped in Red. This Christmas, the third novel in my Sin-Eater series is due to be published. I plan to publish the first novel in a four-novel Young Adult series next year. I am currently also writing TWO novels, both of which I intend to release in a serialized format. Whew…
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I remember loving books for as long as, well, I can remember. I was fascinated, as a kid, by sharks and during my young days (in the mid-70s) everyone was reading JAWS. I remember being fascinated by the cover, with that big shark on it, fascinated that someone had written this story. I wrote my first short story when I was in the third grade – and it was a total rip-off of Jaws. I loved the feeling of creating my own characters, my own world.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably after I self-published my first novel. This was back in 1998 and it is still out there – lurking. It is an overly-ambitious sci-fi action novel called The Ballad of the Blue Denim Gang.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Well, my actual first novel was handwritten in high school and my early years in college. It will always stay forever in a binder on my bookshelf because, well, it’s awful. It’s a murder mystery called Among Friends and all of the characters are based on friends I had in high school. The murderer kills off all but a couple characters, this making the mystery not quite mysterious.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Not that I am aware of. I like to vary my style. I wrote my thriller novel After the Snowfall during my Cormack McCarthy days and didn’t put any quotes around the dialog. I have done first person and present tense. I always like trying new things to keep myself intrigued and interested.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I wish I knew. The titles just come to me – much like the stories. When my brain settles on a title, however, it is virtually impossible for me to change it.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I write to entertain. I don’t usually have a message. In my novel VICIOUS I did try to convey a message about cruelty to animals, in particular dogs, but I also wanted to just entertain and scare people.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
I try to set my books in reality so that the audience can relate. However, most of my horror involves a supernatural element introduced into the real life part.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
There are quite a few characters based on real people in my life. The events in the novel are usually wholly fiction.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
Gosh, that is hard to say. Jaws, obviously, since it was the first thing to inspire me to write. Stephen King’s work in general has been the biggest sole inspiration. Some of my other big inspirations: HG Wells’ War of the Worlds, Robert R. McCammon’s Boy’s Life, Blake Crouch’s RUN, Thomas Tryon’s Harvest Home and The Other. I am sure there are more – and I discover new authors all the time.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Right now it is Scott Nicholson’s novel After: The Shock.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Blake Crouch, Iain Rob Wright, Ian Woodhead, Patrick Greene, JA Konrath, Scott Nicholson, Bryan R. Dennis, Ronald Malfi – to name a few.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
See above! I have so many, and I still work a full-time day job. I hope I can get to them all.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My teachers. I had two great teachers in my life: my six grade teacher Mr. Tatone, and my high school Composition teacher Mrs. Rundio.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I dream of it every single day. I long and ache for the day when I can spend my days just doing my stories and writing my novels. I write both fiction and non-fiction, and I would love to write my books all day instead of the day job, you know?
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Mostly finding the time. These days I get up very early to work on my writing before I have to start my day job.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My current novella cover was designed by a friend named Tim Bliznick. The covers to my novels Sapphire and Vicious were designed by Stephen Bryant. My covers for One Against Many and RIG were designed by Erin Engelmann.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Always write. Never give up and never let the world tell you that you cannot do it. Even if you write for just a few, write. Write even if you just put your work in a drawer for now.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Always remember that indie writers, like me, rely on feedback and reviews that you find on Amazon. Word of mouth is so key to us achieving any kind of success, so telling others about a writer and work that you like is key. READ MORE