Ragnar's Saga

The Story Behind the Story

Of His Kind

Posted by Christopher Hivner on May 9, 2010 at 9:05 PM

Sometimes after you’ve watched a disturbing movie, you need to watch a goofy comedy to cleanse your palate. It can work the same way with writing. After finishing a dark, hornet’s nest of a story, I need to write something lighter, even if it’s just a dirty limerick, to get the black thoughts out of my brain.


I discovered it can work in reverse as well. When I wrote Of His Kind I had just written a few stories in a row where the protagonist was a good man. Bad things happened to the character but they remained fundamentally solid human beings. I needed a change. I wanted to write about a real bastard, someone with no redeeming qualities.


So I created Riley Busby in my head. Negligent father, creep of an ex-husband, rotten in every way, I let Riley marinate in my brain for awhile as I decided what to do with him. And he truly was repulsive. Constantly belching and singing filthy songs about bow-legged women. I’d be driving to work and he’d want me to swerve into oncoming traffic to run the other car off the road. I had invited him in and now I needed to get him out.


One of the things I do to help me think when I’m having trouble with a story is to take a drive. There are lots of country roads in the county where I live so traffic is light and the scenery is beautiful. When I wrote Of His Kind, my dog Kayleigh was still alive and her favorite thing in the world was going for a ride in the car. So one day we got in my Cavalier and took off for parts unknown.


One of the things you pass on the side of York County roads in the summer are corn fields in full growth. As we passed by one this day I wondered what it was like inside the field at night when the stalks are over your head. At some point I realized there are probably rats in the field getting a free meal. When I thought of rats I immediately thought of Riley Busby and the images that would become his transformation flooded my head. I always carried a tape recorder with me on these trips so I began writing the story while driving around the back roads of York County with my dog slobbering out the window.


As Riley’s mind deteriorated in the story, I finally got a chance to use a great word I had learned: hagridden (tormented by unreasoning fears). It has a nasty, weary sound to it which I find it very visceral and impactful although it’s not a word you want to use a lot. In fact I believe Of His Kind is the only story I have ever used it in to date.


I was very relieved to get Riley out of my head and onto paper. He was rejected a few times before being accepted by a zine called Dark Starr. Unfortunately it folded before Of His Kind could be published so I chose it to be the lead story of the second half of The Spaces Between Your Screams.

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