Brett Neveu joins us today – a longtime horror fan, he not only writes but teaches the subject! Brett’s play The Chair of Death is the third piece in Motel 666, and has been reviewed by New City as one of the stand out pieces of the production.
Do you consider yourself a horror fan? What is your favorite genre of horror?
Yep. I’m a horror fan. So much so that I teach horror script writing at Northwestern. My favorite genre of horror would be stuff with a more supernatural vibe, from pure ghost stories like “The Others” to more mixed fare like “A Tale of Two Sisters.”
What was the first time you encountered horror in entertainment? Was it a book, a movie, a play or something else?
That would probably be in two different spots. One being the Jaycees Haunted House from my hometown, which scared and thrilled me to no end, coupled with watching the “Salem’s Lot” miniseries with my family back in 1979. That scene with the boy scratching on the outside of the window? Damn.
What is the main challenge to creating short form horror stories? Have you done any horror writing before, or is this your first time? What is your favorite part about writing a horror piece?
I suppose that would be capturing tone and controlling mood. It all happens very quickly and a good genre audience will be looking for overused tropes and easy escapes at every turn. Attempting the true scare in short form is difficult, but there’s always a way to mix it up and plan for surprises. It’s also good to think about how the piece can linger in the imaginations of the audience well after they leave the theatre. This makes for sustained horror that bleeds into their waking (and dreaming) lives. I’ve written a number of horror pieces, from screenplays to television scripts to a medium-sized pile of horror plays (ODRADEK, produced by The House Theatre Company 2011 being one of my favorites). In fact, the second play I ever wrote was called “Arrrg! And… You Shall Never Return!!! Arrghhh!” and was an adaptation of three H.P. Lovecraft short stories set in a rural haunted house.
How have motels played a role in your life?
My dad was a salesman and had a large midwestern territory, so he was always staying in small, roadside hotels. I had a notion that these places were both spooky and interesting, so from a young age I was interested in these weird little spots. I also travel a lot (like my dad, but instead it’s for plays), so I end up in hotels for extended stays. Sometimes these temporary digs are nice, but sometimes they’re especially creepy, like the time I stayed at a Elizabethan hotel in Stratford, England. It felt like the place was alive with ghosts, but it was probably just the weirdness I felt from the low-hanging wooden beams and bathroom the size of a broom closet.
Are you a collector of bar tales and have you heard one that sticks in your mind?
Not especially, mostly because if I’m at the bar, my friends are talking way to loud to fully understand them and I’m not sure if what they’re saying would qualify as a “tale.” I will say that I do like a good ghost story told in any location, whether it’s a pub or a basement or someone’s backyard over by the grill. A story that sticks with me best is the one I heard most recent, and that’s the story by the grill. It involves some friends living in what they believed to be a haunted house and finding a stick-and-string ornament inexplicably stuck to their back door. This, coupled with moving objects and figures seen in the dark, made for a pretty great story shared by the hot dogs.