Talking Cannibalism, Werewolves, and Hallucinogenic Moss With Nick Antosca

The last time I spoke with Nick Antosca it was to discuss his second novel Midnight Picnic, a surreal and incredibly powerful ghost story that took a storied form and made it feel utterly contemporary. A lot has changed since then: Antosca has left New York City for Los Angeles; he’s joined the writing staff of Teen Wolf; his first novel Fires was reissued by Civil Coping Mechanisms; and he has a new book out. The title novella of The Obese pits a group of shallow New Yorkers against a plague of cannibalism that only affects the obese; it’s horror that taps into a cynical, satirical vein. Accompanying it the story “Predator Bait,” which first appeared on n+1‘s website and looks at a young woman hired to work on a To Catch a Predator-esque television show. Both stories, as well as Antosca’s screenwriting work and his YA novel, were among the topics we discussed this time around.

Taken together, “The Obese” and “Predator Bait” read like something of a kiss-off to New York City — or, at least, to some of the more infuriating aspects of living there. Was that at all in your mind as you wrote these?

No, not at all, but I definitely see how they could read that way! “Predator Bait” was actually written in New York, when I had no plans to leave. “The Obese” was written after I moved to LA in 2010, though. I like New York–maybe one day I’ll go back. But I like LA better for now. Now that I’ve been here for two years, it’s saturated my consciousness sufficiently that I’ll write a novel set out here sooner or later. Most of the cliches and warnings I heard about Los Angeles turned out to be false, by the way.

What has the reception been for the reissue of Fires from last year?

It’s been good. The book is pretty obscure but has readers and supporters (like one, Michael Seidlinger, who got it republished) and they always surprise me. It has a special place in my head. Amazon screwed us a little bit because they “found” some copies of the old version (which I don’t get paid any royalties for, because of a dispute with the distributor) in their warehouse and featured those on their site for a discounted price at the expense of the new version, which is annoying. But the main thing is just having the book in print again. I’m really grateful to Michael Seidlinger and Civil Coping Mechanisms for that.

How did you select the stories that accompanied the new edition of Fires?

“Winter Was Hard” just felt tonally appropriate as it deals with similar themes as the novel, themes like love/hate friendship, sexual obsession, revenge. As for “Rat Beast” and “The Girlfriend Game,” I just enjoy those stories and think they’re memorable and easy to consume, so they seemed like strong choices.

Between the film The Cottage and your work on the second season of Teen Wolf, your screenwriting work has become more prominent. How do you balance that with your fiction? Do you find that the two stay relatively separate, or that there’s a thematic overlap?

The script for The Cottage feels related to Fires in many ways. That said, while the script titled The Cottage resembles the film titled The Cottage, I’m not the author of the film. The screenwriter is never the author of the film. There are a lot of authors and, depending on the particular film, they can include the director, the writer, the producer(s), the actors, and random other players in the mix, all of whom make valuable and substantial contributions. I saw a cut of The Cottage recently and it was great fun, so I can’t wait to see the final cut.

When it comes to Teen Wolf, if there’s any overlap, it’s coincidental. The author of the show, in every way that matters, is the creator and showrunner Jeff Davis, who’s an extraordinarily talented and perceptive storyteller. Our job as staff writers is to bring lots of ideas into the writers’ room, help create detailed outlines for episodes, and execute those outlines when writing scripts. Oddly enough, there is a detail early in season two of Teen Wolf that echoes a plot point in Fires, but I wasn’t even the person who thought it up. I think Jeff did.

You’ve been living in Los Angeles for a while now; how is it affecting your fiction?

Even after two years, LA’s just beginning to seep into my sense of being, and I’m not sure how it’ll ultimately affect my fiction yet. Eventually I’ll write an LA-based/influenced novel. For the next few months I’m writing mostly screenplays, but I’m also working on a novella that’s set in New York. My next major fiction project will be set either in LA or in rural Maryland or Virginia.

What are you working on these days?

So I’ve got this novella, tentatively titled The Hangman’s Ritual, which I’ll probably finish a draft of and then set aside for a bit as I work on screenplays. And then I have a few short stories that have been brewing that I’d like to write, and whenever I have time, some more novel/novella ideas I’m excited to devote myself too. I also have a YA novel manuscript sitting around which I love, and which no one will publish. It’s about two brothers who meet a race of giant rabbits that harvest hallucinogenic moss, and they work with the rabbits to stop a serial killer.

Last one, and it’s a total tv-nerd question. Speaking as someone who hasn’t been watching Teen Wolf but is more curious now that you and Ned Vizzini are writing for it — should I be catching up on the first season, or will the new season get me up to speed pretty quickly?

Yes, the show is excellent and you should check out the first season if you have time (although I’m sure a “previously on” will play before the premiere). In 2010 when trying to get our first writing jobs in TV, we read the as-yet-unproduced pilot for Teen Wolf, so we knew it was going to be good, and we were fans as viewers while the first season was airing. When the second season (which starts airing in June, I believe) was picked up, we got hired for that. I can’t obviously talk about what happens, but I can tell you the second season is going to be terrific.

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