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Patrons of Take Cover Books listen in on a conversation between authors Ian Rogers and Richard Gavin at the Haunted Houses and Primeval Woods workshop. Photo: David King.

Everything is Haunted: Take Cover Books Hosts Halloweekend Horror Panel

Written by
David King
and
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November 3, 2023
Everything is Haunted: Take Cover Books Hosts Halloweekend Horror Panel
Patrons of Take Cover Books listen in on a conversation between authors Ian Rogers and Richard Gavin at the Haunted Houses and Primeval Woods workshop. Photo: David King.

On October 28th, Take Cover Books hosted the live event Haunted Houses & Primeval Woods featuring horror authors Ian Rogers and Richard Gavin. The authors discussed their respective methodologies and appreciation of the supernatural, before moving into a question and answer period, readings,, and a book signing.

I met up with proprietors of Take Cover Books, brothers Andrew and Sean Fitzpatrick the day before. Since Arthur last met with the brothers, they have organized a swath of in-person signings and events, but Haunted Houses & Primeval Woods was the first in-store event to have two authors sit down and have a conversation about their craft. The format of the event was something Andrew and Sean had envisioned when opening  their brick-and-mortar storefront, and having two authors “pick each other’s brains” was exciting. The enthusiasm for this experiment was contagious. 

“I'm more into behind the scenes stuff, [...] like learning how records are recorded and books are written,” Andrew told Arthur. “I’m a real nerd for process.”

Andrew and Sean also spoke of their love for the horror genre, and at that point, they turned the tables on the interview and asked me for my “horror hot take.”  I admitted my undying love for Phantom of the Paradise, Brian de Palma’s 1974 rock musical comedy about a songwriter’s Faustian pact with a devilish music producer played by Paul Williams.

This tangent marked the end of the interview and the beginning of a long spiral into the three of us discussing horror manga, professional wrestling, and Norman Finkelstein.  

On the day of the event fellow Arthur journalist Ian Vansegbrook and I convened, ready to tag-team the night. We did not anticipate the downtown Halloween bedlam that ensued, with Hunter Street teeming with costumes galore. The presence of trick-or-treaters gave the night a perfect atmosphere for an event exploring the horror genre.

When we arrived at Take Cover, we were greeted by Andrew and Sean, and met Ian Rogers before we took our seats to enjoy the panel. 

Sean and Andrew Fitzpatrick, proprietors of Take Cover Books, pose with authors Ian Roger and Richard Gavin at the Haunted Houses & Primeval Woods event. Photo: David King.

Richard Gavin began the evening by reading a chapter of grotesquerie, his most recent short story collection. The story “Notes on the Aztec Death Whistle” was a descriptive excerpt on the aforementioned artifact and the aftermath of its user unleashing a piercing shriek. Academic in its confession, this story was incredibly methodical in describing the consequences of unleashing an otherworldly force, the death whistle mired in misconception. The excerpt combined the esotericism that Gavin focuses on in his research endeavours with his work as a fiction writer.

Ian Rogers is perhaps most notably the author of the award winning collection of stories Every House Is Haunted.  His story “The House of Ashley Avenue” is currently being adapted by none other than Sam Raimi, filmmaker behind the Evil Dead films and Spider-Man 2.

Rogers has also penned the Black Lands series of stories, and has an upcoming novel debuting next year called Sycamore. A fusion between the paranormal and the noir genre, Sycamore showcases detective Felix Renn, a Toronto-based investigator that frequently takes cases steeped in the supernatural.

Upon both authors finishing their respective excerpts, Rogers began the conversation between them, expounding upon the points of divergence and the worldbuilding rationale behind Sycamore: he cited how previous novels of the same genre are full of skepticism, calling their respective worlds “full of Agent Scullys.”

The conversation really displayed the relationship between the two authors. Both Gavin and Rogers took to discussing each other's craft, previous stories, and how their methods differ from one another. The conversation demonstrated that the two authors constantly learn and grow from each other. Rogers noted how a book Gavin gave him was a "gateway drug" into a new perspective on his own writing, while Gavin always focused on making esotericism accessible to readers, especially how it adds depth to a pre-existing worldview.

Other highlights of the conversation included the way the authors discussed their markets for writing, what it's like to sell writing, and other facets of the publishing industry, such as how long the process takes, the various methods of publisher interaction, and seeking out specialty presses versus using an agent to send out manuscripts to a Big Five press. Throughout the panel, the pair sought to demystify aspects of their own personal process, as well as pull the curtain back on the illusion of a competitive book market.

During the Q&A, the authors urged an audience member to “carpetbomb a book” to publishers, which elicited some hearty laughter. When asked about their individual influences: Rogers responded by talking about how haunted he continues to be by Richard Adams' classic Watership Down, while Gavin affirmed his love of The Collected Ghost Stories of M.R. James.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the event was how approachable and easy going the authors were. When I approached them after the main event, Rogers was still gushing with praise for Gavin, recounting when they met initially. 

“He’s got blurbs by Clive Barker and Thomas Ligotti, and he's really smart! This guy is not gonna have anything to do with me. I'm all like, Simpsons quotes,” he stated.

When I complimented Gavin’s ability to make esoteric scholarship accessible, he was gracious and spoke about how he hopes to inspire people to dig deeper into these subjects.

“I like putting that work out there to inspire people to, you know, to begin at least entertaining these kinds of ideas and exploring them in their own way,” Gavin said.

Take Cover is the Platonic ideal of small bookstores. The pleasure of attending events like these rests in the opportunity to have meaningful interactions with local authors and fellow bookworms. Events like the Haunted Houses & Primeval Woods panel remind me that authors, as exalted as they are, are indeed just people like you and me, and with practice, you too can have Sam Raimi adapt your writing.

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