Interviewed by Heather Cripps

Read Faith Merino’s fiction piece, For the Hillside Boys

Heather: For the Hillside Boys is an explosive and brilliant story with so many twists and turns in such a short time! What was your inspiration for the piece?

Faith: Thank you! I was in a little bit of a funk last year and really wanted to write a story that was just for me—something that would make me happy and feed my soul, regardless of whether it was ever published. I decided that what my soul needed in that moment was boy bands, hot dads, and Satanic ritual sacrifice.

This story has magical and surreal elements to it. Do you often include these in your writing?  

I tend to gravitate to eldritch horror. I love stories that play with perception and knowability in service to dread, and my writing usually ends up incorporating elements of the uncanny and surreal. Lately I’ve been really into stories that deal in more overt horror/magic by putting new spins on familiar horror tropes, like the haunted house, vampires, zombies, etc., and I’ve been having a great time playing around in this space. Nothing beats a good old fashioned demon conjuring!

I love how you have portrayed the teenage girls here. So dislikeable and cruel but also relatable at the same time, for anyone who was once a teenage girl themselves. Do you like writing “dislikeable” characters? And reading about them?  

I don’t.😂 I don’t typically like sneering at characters, but I wanted to write about the intensity of teenage girls’ romantic/sexual desire (so intense!) within a friend group, and how overwhelming and destructive that desire can be. (I remember saying novenas in the hopes of getting to meet my favorite boy bands when I was 13.) The friend groups of teen girls can also just be generally fraught with tension, especially when triangulated by desire, and those relationships can be both affirming and toxic. Everyone knew a Leanne growing up, and some of us were the Leanne in our group—in some iteration or another.

If you could have dinner with one other writer, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you ask them?

I actually DID have lunch recently with my hero, Karen Russell! I ended up oversharing about all of my weird family drama, and now I’m haunted by it.😂 I ended up texting my sister afterward to be like “what’s wrong with me???” But Karen was incredibly gracious and I learned so much from her at the Writing By Writers Tomales Bay workshop, such as how to disarm your reader with humor in a horror story, and how a haunting is the “something-to-be-done,” which is not the same as trauma. She’s incredible, and she even mailed me a book she thought I’d like!

What else are you working on currently and where can we read more of your work?

I’m currently trying to buckle down and finish my second novel without any more side quests, but some of my other stories can be found at Pithead Chapel, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and The Indiana Review, while my novel, Cormorant Lake, is on