Today we talk with WO Cassity about his writing, his life, his faith and his politics. Cassity is the author of numerous horror short stories and a fantasy novel. He has led a fascinating life which included being a US Marine for a time, a self-taught computer expert, a homeschooling dad among many others.
- Tell me a little about your background. Where are you from? What was your childhood like? What kinds of things were you exposed to as a young man that later influenced your development as a writer?
My childhood was pretty rough. I’m the youngest of three children. My two sisters are 12 years and 8 years older than I. My parents divorced when I was two and my father remarried. My father had custody of my sisters and my mother had custody of me, but he took me once when I was with him for a visit and he fled the state with his new family, myself and my siblings. This created a lot of social anxiety issues for me and I introverted. It was about 4 months later that I was returned to my mother. This actually got a lot rougher from there, but these were the events that left me feeling that I didn’t have a voice. It was later that I used writing to find my own voice and to gain an understanding of who I was and who I wanted to be.
My first memory is a dream that I had when I was 3 years old about a T-Rex picking up my house and looking inside to see me hiding under my bed. I could only see the eye looking through the window. It was exactly like the scene in Jurassic Park. From that earliest time, I had a fascinated and wanted to explore the meanings of dreams and this became one of the primary influences into writing when I was around 12 years old.
- Tell me about your education. Where did you go to college and what did you study? Did you plan on incorporating that knowledge into your writing?
I never went to college. I really wanted to go, but with little money and little confidence in myself to earn scholarships, I enlisted in the Marine Corps. While I was in, I had an allergic reaction that resulted in a grand mal seizure and I was medically discharged. This left me lost.
So I turned my attention to computers as a self-study and passed my Comptia A+ certification and then later became certified for my MSCE. I invested nearly twelve years in expanding my knowledge starting with computers when I worked at Dell Computer Corporation in early 2000. From there I went to work at Verizon Wireless and incorporated my IT knowledge and applied it in the field of Telecommunications. Somewhere in that time, my passion and love for computers went away, so I chose not to include this into my writing for fear of losing interest in it as well.
- When did you know you wanted to be a writer? When did you first realize that “ah-ha there is a person who created this book I’m enjoying!”
I think I’ve always been a writer, but never made the conscience effort to create stories until I was 12. When I was 14 years old, I began playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends in middle school and this helped me with character development and world building skills. It became a living, breathing character development exercise for me.
I never intended to published, but dreamed of it often. You will find a lot of that in my life. As I mentioned earlier, I am obsessed with dreams and I actively enjoy daydreaming. As my children grew, my oldest daughter talked to me about becoming a professional writer. I encouraged her and lifted her up and said she could do anything she put her mind too because she’s incredibly gifted and creative.
Then she asked me, “Why haven’t you published?” Reluctantly, I followed my family’s urging and released my first self-published fantasy novel, “Heir of the Blood King: Adventures of Adam Book One”.
- What are your main themes as a writer? What do you find yourself returning to over and over again?
Fantasy was such a powerful influence on me due to my interest in roleplaying games. Between gaming and writing, I learned a lot about myself and discovered the idea of critical thinking. For so many years, I simply did what I was told to do and never questioned anything. It was a struggle that I still fight against within myself today. This is also why I consider myself a Free Speech advocate because not having a voice is the most terrifying thing in the world to me.
Speaking of terrifying, writing horror is my passion. I’m constantly searching for new, gripping stories to read and to explore the darkness to face the danger head on. I guess that since I’ve been through so much in my childhood, this was one of my coping mechanisms. What didn’t kill me most certainly made me stronger. I never wanted to be a victim again and to be honest I wouldn’t change any of the experiences that happened to me. Those experiences molded me and I was able to toss aside my bonds. I’m not afraid to talk about those things, but the subject matter is too heavy for this interview.
- You’re very politically active on Gab, what role does politics or political philosophy play in your writing? Is it something you consciously incorporate, or something you try to stay away from?
Oh, I would love nothing better than to never discuss politics ever again, but Free Speech is important to me because it did take me so long to find my voice. The idea that someone can suppress what I have to say and shame me into not saying it is terrifying. I will shout my opinions from a rooftop with a hundred guns trained on me. I’d rather die than to ever be silenced again.
So when I talk about politics, I’m looking to the future. Not just my own, but my children as well. I put a lot of work into my kids to help them express themselves and to be open about their ideas, while at the same time arm them with critical thinking skills so they can navigate this life in their own way.
The current political landscape puts all that I worked for and my children at risk. I simply cannot be silent about that.
- How would you describe yourself politically? What are some of the most important issues facing America or the world, in your mind?
I’ve always called myself Independant to avoid a political label. Over the last two years, I’ve identified more as an Anarchist Libertarian. I’m socially progressive because I do not believe I have a right to tell others how to live their own lives if they are not hurting anyone, but I’m also fiscally conservative. If someone chooses to avoid responsibility and live their life and make many mistakes, it shouldn’t be assumed that I’m ok with them expecting to live off my hard earned tax money and my personal sacrifices so they get a free pass to continue to live with no responsibility due to government entitlements. I’m not certain if I clear by what I mean on that, but well, there it is. It makes sense to me.
- Do you consider yourself a person of faith or unbelief? Can you expand a little on what your beliefs mean to you and how you find them manifest in your writing?
Without faith, I wouldn’t be here today. As I mentioned before, my parents divorced when I was 2 years old. My father was a member of the Assemblies of God and my mother was a Southern Baptist, two radically different religions at the time, but not as much so today. So I always had questions about why one church believed one thing and the other something else. Although I was taught not to question God’s Will, noticing the differences in these two doctrines naturally led to me questioning what I was taught.
I remember getting baptized when I was 5 years old, but when I turned 9, I became saved and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my savior and was baptized again. Looking back, those were the darkest years of my life. One marked the beginning and the other the end. Without faith, I honestly would have not made it past that time in my life.
When I turned 19, I faced a new series of challenges when I left the military, calling everything I knew and believed into question once more. All my life I was told that God had a plan for me and so I waited, always looking for a sign. It never came. There was a point in my life in high school that I believed I had been called into the ministry, but as I “read the signs” around me, it felt like everything worked against me and I started to believe that I was wrong and God was blocking my way. That’s when I began to drift from being a firm believer into an agnostic.
I’ve had a few religious awakening experiences since then and for a brief time I considered that perhaps I had become an atheist. Reason and evidence is important to me today, but there was such a confusing and overwhelming series of events that happened in my childhood that I cannot outright dismiss that a force greater than myself was at play. Yes, I understand it defies reason. Yes, I understand that I was probably quite PTSD and my mind may have worked against me. So this is the reason I do stand to support the freedom of religion. If I’d had been an atheist as a teen, I would have just killed myself. The only thing that stopped me was that I didn’t want to disappoint God. But I digress.
- Talk a little about your #GabBookClub project, and what you hope to see it become in the future. Have you had a lot of support from the #GabWriters?
The outpouring of support from the #GabCommunity has been amazing, especially the #GabWriters.
My idea is to collect a virtual library of stories and novels written by people who choose to stand against the wave of Regressive politics that threatens our freedom. I still have a good number of posts to make from the information I’ve collected thus far, but what I want to do is help forge this community into supporting one another through what I’ve called the #GabMicroEconomy. Why do we spend so much of our purchasing power on companies and individuals who want to censor or silence us? Why would fund our own self-destruction?
For this reason, I see the #GabBookClub as an early organization technique to encourage readers to search Gab for new authors to explore before going to sites like Amazon. If we can create the early building blocks of success there, perhaps this will motivate other talented members of the #GabFam to offer their products or services there as well.
In the future, I envision a place that is powered by its own trade and consumerism. That’s my dream.
- To you what makes for a “great book” i.e. the kind of book that should be included in every high school English classroom? How do you define the word “classic?”
I have one simple rule for me to consider a great book: The story has to show the struggle and perseverance of the human spirit to triumph over adversity. Sometimes, this may lead to the death of a beloved character, but if solution is found within that loss, it is a sacrifice worth respecting. There may also be times where there may be a sense that there is no meaning, but if the character experiences a journey within themselves and grows an understanding about who they are or might be, that’s also enough for me as well.
What I would consider “classic” is subjective to me. If I’ve read it at least 3 times, it’s a classic. I love reading something new so if I’ve gone back to a work that often, then it truly is something special to me.
- You seem to be interested in werewolves. Where does this interest come from, and what are some of the best werewolf stories in your opinion?
I have an interest in all things horror. What makes werewolves interesting to me are three specific things.
When I was around 3 years old, I remember watching “The Wolf Man” with my two older sisters. My sisters were both out of my life by the time I was seven, so it is one of the few memories I have of all three of us together.
The second is this idea of transformation. How someone can be so normal and transform into something powerful that is out of their control. A hidden strength buried deep beneath the surface waiting for an opportunity to claw its way out.
Lastly, werewolves are one of the few horror elements that I don’t consider evil because they operate on instinct not motive. Think about it. Does anyone think of a wolf as an evil creature? No. Most people view wolves as an animal following its instincts to survive.
- Who are some of your major influences as a writer? Whose style and themes do you emulate?
Poe and Lovecraft are my two biggest writing influences because both of them focus on how fragile the human mind can be. The idea of losing myself to trauma or a mental illness is another disturbing thought for me.
As far as movies go, I think John Carpenter helped me to visualize my own nightmares and this helps me to see through the darkness of my stories more clearly in order to put them down into words.
- A lot of horror writers seem to see a connection between horror and comedy. Do you see it? Or do you consider yourself a more pure horror/psychological horror writer?
There is no question that comedy has a large role in the telling of a horror story. In fact, we fire off the same synapsis with each emotional response in our brains.
I tend to lend some comedy elements in my storylines just before unveiling darker revelations about the direction I’m going with the story.
- What work are you most proud of and why? Can be anything from a high school essay to Heir of the Blood King.
My poetry and prose from my early 20’s. I haven’t published any of it and perhaps I might never. I battled within myself between reason and faith. Sometimes my faith won, other times I fell into the apathy of reason that shattered my worldview at the time. It was therapeutic and yet so powerful in my personal transformation through discovering who I am as a person and how my experiences shaped me into someone stronger.
Wait, I think I drifted back to the werewolf question again. I digress.
- You’ve also written a number of shorter works, can you tell me what draws you to short fiction, and do you see a future for short fiction at all? Most traditional publishers are not interested in it because they think it doesn’t sell well enough to justify the resource cost. Do you agree?
Some of my favorite works are by Edgar Allan Poe and were short stories. I do believe that short stories are making a comeback in today’s short attention span markets. My personal thoughts about releasing the short stories was to increase my body of work and something I could give away so readers could take a chance on me as an author without any risks.
- Can you tell me a little about your series “A Short Journey into Darkness” and your collaborators on it? Why did you go with collaborators and what was their role in your stories?
I wanted a way to associate my short works together, so I organized them under that series name. There really isn’t anyone else involved, except for perhaps my editor.
- Can you tell me why you chose to go the indie self-published route instead of going for a mainstream publisher?
I like being independent and with so many other positive things happen in my life, I also like the flexibility to publish at my own pace. Also, in my own personal opinion, traditional big publishing is dying. I see the markets giving away to smaller publishing houses and groups. At some point I expect one to ask me to join them. So long as I get to keep my freedom to create, I would consider that as an option.
- Do you see a future for self-publishing, or is it just vanity publishing? How is it changing the industry in your opinion?
Right now everyone believes that they can write a story or book and publish it to become the next overnight sensation. Once people start to realize that the more saturated the market, the harder it will become to get noticed, people will simply stop participating.
I think the term vanity publishing is out of date. It takes a lot of work to put something together even if it is a steaming pile. There is a merit to creating something out of nothing and if someone finds that fulfilling, I don’t consider that to be vain by any measure of the word. I think it was a coined phrase made by big publisher to pressure writers with potential to not stray from the traditional publishing market.
Personally, I think self-publishing is beautiful because this will give us more works to explore and eventually we will have a system in place to help readers find the quality works that they should consider exploring.
- Are ebooks the wave of the future? Will paper books be relegated to expensive collectibles for hobbyists and bibliophiles?
So long as people enjoy getting back to nature, I feel that people will want to unplug from their technological lives and loose themselves in a good old fashioned book. I don’t think it will ever go out of style.
- Describe your process as a writer. How do you get ready to write, what is your method like? And how has it evolved as you evolved as a writer?
It’s simple now that I have a routine. Usually starts with a good cup of coffee and some music after spending some time with my kids.
That’s the key. Have a routine and stick with it.
- What is next for you?
Since I’ve had such a pleasant response from my horror short stories, I wanted to continue in that vein for awhile, but then I accidentally stumbled upon a stroke of inspiration. One of my short stories has now outgrown that format and I’m working on shaping it into a novel.
- What inspires you?
That’s easy. My wife and children. They’re my everything and I would be nothing without them.