This week we’ve been taking a closer look at The Hook by Michael Leonberger, which is part of our Legendary anthology. The story is about a young woman who is working to put her life back together after losing her hand in a horrific car crash but as she does, she becomes the target of a stalker.
Today Michael shares some fun facts about his story.
Our Lady of Scars: 4 Things About The Hook
By Michael Leonberger
Stories very rarely come out of a vacuum, usually accumulating debris from their gestation and emerging proud and Frankenstein-esque. These are some of the things that shaped The Hook.
1. Route 1134.
In The Hook, Tilly is involved in a horrible car accident on Route 1134 — the same road in my novel Halloween Sweets that is notorious for its lethality. Driving kinda-sorta terrifies me, and this fictitious road (named after an old calculator trick) pops up again and again in my work. In fact, a very major character in Halloween Sweets is involved in a car accident on the same road, which leads us to point 2…
2. Christmas Freaks.
In hindsight, the narrative arc of The Hook probably began as an outline for a sequel to Halloween Sweets, a book that I was planning on calling Christmas Freaks, which involved a girl working through the grief and depression she felt from losing someone very close to her in a car accident on Route 1134. Along the way, she was to fall in love with a new girl in town, who was being stalked by a local boy obsessed with her — and murderously angry at her rebuking of him. The whole thing was to culminate in — well, I won’t tell you. Christmas Freaks may very well still become a thing someday, and in the meantime, The Hook came out shockingly thematically similar without my thinking about it much at all. I’m over the moon that it managed to shamble to life at all, and if there is never a Christmas Freaks, I’ll be pleased knowing its ghost lives somewhere, somehow. Plus — you know, these things become real to you when you work on them. Now I know that the reality is this story belongs to Tilly.
3. Born To Run.
“Barefoot girl sits on the hood of a Dodge, sipping warm beer in the soft summer rain” — I was mildly obsessed with this song lyric (and album) in general when I wrote The Hook, and I think it’s manifest in the story’s DNA. No one wears shoes in this story, I promise you they’re drinking beers, and baby, they are born to run.
4. Our Lady of Scars.
Horror stories (and the fairy tales that inspire them) are often a conservative, reactionary bunch, more than willing to make monsters of people who have a disability, who aren’t white, who aren’t straight, who maybe think and look and act a little differently than hetero-Christian-capitalistic-monogamous-society is comfortable with. If you can defeat the monster, so the story goes, you can preserve that society — make it great again, or some horrible nonsense. While I love the genre, my opinion is it’s time to burn that particular kind of story to the ground. In The Hook, the actual monsters are already here, seeded deep in the fabric of something called “normal”, and our only salvation rests on the shoulders of a young lesbian with one hand, with burn scars on her face, with trauma and anxiety and depression swirling around her head, whose actually got what it takes to rise above it all. I would love to write a whole host of stories about her — her adventures, the people she impacts and saves, the wonderful things she ends up doing — and while I imagine it might go the way of Christmas Freaks, it is fun to think about. In any case, I’m glad to know that she’s out there, protecting the vulnerable and the disenfranchised. This is religious, you see — Our Lady of Scars.
Michael Leonberger is a writer and teacher from Virginia, where he lives with his girlfriend and their pet turtle, Tippy.
His writing credits include a novel (Halloween Sweets), several short stories, annual contributions to the online journal Digital America, various screenplays (most notably Goodish, an official selection at the 2014 Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville, VA), and a macabre series of poetry called Death Haikus, illustrated by his girlfriend for Nun Comix.
Urban legends. We’ve all heard them, we’ve all told them. They fill the role that fairy tales once held—morality tales meant to frighten us into sticking with the herd, obeying society’s rules, and not taking any chances. In most urban legends, once someone transgresses, we know things won’t end well for them.
But what if the bright spark of romance also common to these stories refuses to be snuffed out? What if it bursts into a love that fights for its chance to burn? Can love triumph over evil? Forgive any trespass? Heal any wound?
Set off into a dark wood with a young love that won’t go quietly into the night. Bait a vengeful ghost to find family, and love. Ride along with a hitchhiker who won’t vanish for long. Learn to love a touch that is not human. Find passion beneath the scars. Dive into five tales that speak to the heart of myth and find love that is nothing short of legend.
Featuring new stories by Sara Dobie Bauer, Wendy Sparrow, T. R. North, Aisling Phillips, and Michael Leonberger.