Adam Cesare, CAS/COM ’10, started writing fiction before his freshman year of college. A fan of horror literature and movies, he turned to writing darker stories. Since then, Adam’s work has been featured in numerous publications, including a short story in Shroud Magazine, which hits stores this month. You can learn more about Adam on his website, brain-tremors.com. The story he submitted, Flies in the Brain, appears after this short interview.
When did you start writing?
A little before college. I’d always been doing screenplays, but I’d never really finished anything. I feel like it was once I really sat down and was like, ‘okay, now I’m going to put on my writer’s hat.’ I count when I actually finish stuff, and that was a little before freshman year. So I’m a latecomer to the game as far as writers go.
Did you start out writing horror?
I wanted to start out doing something I enjoyed. My main interest, since I was a little kid, has always been film. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family where we weren’t allowed to watch T.V. 24 hours a day, so I read. I read a lot, and I had a very free-minded family, so I was allowed to pick up whatever I wanted, and I gravitated towards a lot of the darker stuff. But I always try to diversify. My favorite author is probably Cormac McCarthy, who’s not a horror writer, per se.
How have you worked on improving?
If you read any kind of writing book, and I think everyone does when they first think they’re going to try and do this, you know that you have to read a lot and you have to write a lot, and you’ll just incrementally get better. And I hope I have. I hope the story I wrote this week is better than the story I wrote in Myles freshman year.
Talk about how you started to sell stories. What gave you the confidence to start to do that?
I completely was just BSing, thinking that I was just doing it for myself. And then, one night I was just futzing around on the internet, and I found listings for magazines, and I was like, ‘oh, I’m sure they get thousands of people sending in wanting to be in these things. Why don’t I just add my name to the pile?’ I kind of liked this one story, so I sent it in, and then about a month later I got an acceptance, and I went through the roof. I was so happy about it.
After you submitted your first story, what did you do?
It’s funny because you’re supposed to get a million rejection letters, you’re supposed to have stacks and stacks of rejection letters before you get your first acceptance. So, I got such a swelled head getting the one acceptance letter. And then when I finally started getting rejection letters, I was like, ‘why is this happening to me? Why am I suddenly getting rejection letters?’
But it’s just one of those perseverance things. You keep going. Sometimes you get form letters, sometimes you get personal rejections, which is a lot better than getting a form letter, and you just keep pushing. And now I’ve gotten a couple more [acceptances], and a few paid ones.
How did you get the idea for Flies in the Brain?
I had heard that line at the beginning that the father says to the son about ‘in medieval times, they thought that there were flies in people’s brains, and that’s what made them crazy.’ I literally don’t even know where I picked that up from. So I just took that and ran with it. But it’s a bunch of things. I like stories that take place in bars. It’s a very Ketchum thing to do. So I figured I’d set part of it in that kind of a Bukowski-esque drinking man, down on his luck reflection, so I could get some pathos into it. And then, of course, copious amounts of insects.
What do you want people to take away from this story, and your writing?
I’m very interested in highbrow meets lowbrow. I don’t like it when people in the really high-culture, artsy community pooh-pooh on the stuff I like. But then again, I really like some of the stuff that’s really held up by the art community. So I see myself as the ground floor guy on the very bottom looking up. So I write with very pulpy, very “silly,” air quotes there, material, but I always try to at least have something in it than can be some kind of artistic expression, even if it’s in the most obvious of ways.
As far as Flies in the Brain goes, it’s kind of about loss, it’s kind of about sadness. I wanted to infuse loss and themes and tones like that into a fun story.
I hope people are entertained, but they can think about it when they’re sitting in bed at night.
Think about it, or be kept awake by it?
I’ll take both. That would be perfect.
Read Adam’s story Flies in the Brain on the next page.