Lean, spare, and quiet, George Galuschak looks like the kind of guy who writes horror, the kind of guy with a placid surface who has unsuspected dangers lurking in his imagination’s depths. “I spent most of my childhood summers in a house in the woods. The house has a history: it was a hotel, and it used to be owned by Willie Sutton, a bank robber. Sutton is the guy who, when asked why he robbed banks, said ‘because that’s where the money is.’
“I went to camp during the day, but I had tons of free time on my hands. So I read lots and lots of books. The surrounding area had lots of resorts back in the 30’s and 40’s, and it hasn’t really changed much since then, just sort of decayed, so it’s kind of like the land time forgot. It’s got a creepy vibe, and I definitely picked up on that. Plus, there’s a graveyard in the back yard!”
The atmosphere of the old hotel shaped George and his taste in the macabre. “I’m not sure if I chose horror, or horror chose me. I call myself a speculative fiction writer now, because I think the horror genre is going through some tough times. A lot of the horror I read nowadays boils down to domestic abuse, serial killers and flowery prose about flash-frozen body parts. Lots of ‘hair on the wall’, to quote Truman Capote.”
I’ve read some of George’s stories, and while gore is present, psychological horror is predominant. George’s stories play with your mind more than your eye. “I try to surprise the reader. I hate starting a story, and knowing how it will end halfway through.”
It doesn’t happen in George’s stories. Middle-Aged Weirdo in a Cadillac specializes in the unexpected, getting beyond the predictable hitchhiker picked up by a motorist vibe, and making an interesting statement about the causes of suffering in the world. One of the attractions of George’s work is that the reader doesn’t know which way it will twist.
George’s day job is a librarian. His work is separate from his writing. “I used to run my library’s book group, and they wanted recommendations, so I made a few, and then they told me not to recommend any more books because I have strange tastes. That hurt my feelings, until I realized that most people want to read Danielle Steele and James Patterson, and that’s fine. On the other hand, some of my favorite books of the past few years have been book group choices: Michael Collins’ The Resurrectionists and Robert Goolrick’s A Reliable Wife come to mind.“
Among the writers that have influenced George are Stephen King, James Herriott, J.R.R. Tolkien, Mario Puzo, and H. P. Lovecraft. “About ten years ago I was on a UK writer’s kick. I read authors like James Kelman, Irvine Welsh, Patrick McCabe, and Roddy Doyle.” Finding his time to read limited, George tries to read 25 pages a day, which he says “adds up over the long haul.”
In addition to reading widely, George has read a lot of comic books. “My all time favorite title is Jeff Smith’s Bone. Stuff I’ve read and liked nowadays: RASL, Nexus Archives, Love & Rockets, Fables, and Invincible. I have a fondness for Deadpool; if I still bought individual issues, I’d buy that one. The last Deadpool trade I read featured Hit-Monkey, a hitman who also happens to be a monkey.”
George feels that comics combine the best of two worlds, movies and books. “That’s why there are so many comic book movies around, nowadays. Comics used to be very compressed, which I like. You told a story in 21 pages, sticking to a certain structure.”
At this point, George is working on mostly short stories. “One of these days I’ll write another novel. I just signed up for NaNoWriMo, so maybe by the end of the month! Novels require a different mindset. When I try this novel, I’ll do the first draft by hand and then transcribe it to the screen. I know writers who do it this way, and it works. Unfortunately, it’s hard on the hand, but for me staring at a blank piece of paper is better than staring at a blank screen.”
One of George’s stories that is a favorite of mine is On the Making of a Dead Man’s Hand, which combines horror and humor. “Horror and humor go together; they both have to do with tension. Horror raises tension, humor defuses it. I don’t know if Dead Man’s Hand will ever find a home. The feedback I’ve gotten from places I’ve sent it out to boils down to, ‘this is funny; therefore, it ain’t horror.’”
The elements of writing craft George takes seriously. “I try to leave stuff out. Hemingway said something about writing being like an iceberg; you only see about 10%, the other 90% is beneath the surface. Hemingway isn’t one of my favorite authors, but he was right about that. I think people tend to over-explain in fiction, or try to tell their audience how to feel. Don’t tell me how I should feel. Make me feel that way! It’s a fine line, because I’ve written things where I left too much out, and people didn’t know what I was talking about. But it’s something to work towards.”
“I think workshopping is very important,” George comments. “Workshopping really helped when I was writing On the Making of a Dead Man’s Hand. I went through four drafts on that one, and the feedback I got helped make it a stronger story.”
“I actually made almost no changes at all on Middle-Aged Weirdo (most of the feedback had to do with overuse of semi-colons), and it worked out for me. But that’s an exception. I did make changes to Jimmy Nazareth, my other VP story, based on the feedback, and it helped make it a stronger story.”
In addition Middle-Aged Weirdo in Strange Horizons, linked above, George has published in a variety of venues:
Sitting in the Sunshine of the World’s Last Day in AlienSkin, a microflash story. ( AlienSkin was a great online ‘zine that featured an alien dancing to disco music on a flying saucer. They’re gone now, unfortunately, and so is the story. )
Hillbilly Frankenstein (I won third prize in The Garden State Horror Writer’s Short Story contest for a story called, but it’s not available anywhere, which is probably for the best.)
The Blue Weed, is available at 365Tomorrows.
The Big Splash is available at Strange Horizons.