Welcome to our writer spotlight!!! /r/NOSLEEP has many creative writers who share their stories online. We have another great writer to show you, meet Mikey Knutson!
I had the pleasure of chatting it up with Mikey! A horror enthusiast and writer Mikey Knutson regularly contributes to the popular writing horror writing subreddit Nosleep!
1. Nosleep has been a huge source of inspiration for a lot of horror writers. How did you find the community and how did you begin getting more involved in the community? Was there an AHA moment as you were contributing that you rediscovered your love of short stories and decided to become a regular contributor?
NoSleep is absolutely an excellent source of inspiration for writers like myself. I found the community a few years ago when my girlfriend at the time, Christie, used to send me links to various stories that she thought would freak me out. That's also how I discovered Reddit as a whole, actually. Once I got a grasp on how Reddit worked, it became basically a daily competition between us to scare the other one. Good times! As far as an "AHA" moment, I can't say I really had one. It was more gradual for me. I kept reading stories, then discovered the OOC subreddit, and I just kind of started getting that itch again. Before I began posting my own works on a regular basis, I started out doing editing work in the NoSleep Workshop. I believe helping all of those writers out made me realize that I should get back into stories. For years before that, I was pretty much just writing poetry and songs. Now after finding NoSleep, I've come back to horror - where I started.
2. You mentioned that you are currently putting the finishing touches on your first publication!!! Whooohoo can you give some more information on that? When can we expect it?
I sure am! My first publication is titled "Typos Included," which is a collection of songs, poems, and other writings that chronicle my beginnings from about the age of fourteen up until roughly twenty-two. As the title suggests, I'm not submitting it to any sort of editing or revisions. The things I wrote back then were very raw and emotionally charged, which really represents my growth and finding myself. I don't want to take away from that by polishing it. I've also decided to donate 100% of the money earned from sales to a local drug rehabilitation program. I'm looking at an early February release, pending a couple of small details.
3. Whatever happened to Heart Ninjas? Did you abandon the idea pretty quickly when you were young and never went back to finishing it? Are comics something you're still interested in? Have you seen any horror/space comics online you might be interested in reading?
Heart Ninjas will always hold a special place in my heart, but I realized when I was a kid that it isn't really a sustainable concept. Hasn't stopped me from doodling them from time-to-time though! I've considered revisiting the idea since online comics are really popular these days, but the logistics of pulling it off kind of keep me from pursuing it. I still love comics. My all-time favorite right now is LunarBaboon. I haven't come across any horror comics, but there was one sci-fi one that I got super invested into and forgot about until now. I'm gonna have to pause this for a Google break. Maybe some waffles. Okay. That took WAY longer than expected. The comic I was obsessed with is called Drive by Dave Kellet. It's perfect. I recommend to anyone reading this to go read that.
4. Do you have any fun horror/writing communities in Ohio you participate in? What's the horror community out there like? Any pretty cool conventions or perhaps any Nosleep contributors that you have connected with there?
Honestly, there's not much of a horror community out here - or at least around Cleveland. The writers here are kind of pretentious, to be perfectly honest. I've made attempts to integrate into that scene before but I can't stick with it. Super nice people...just super full of themselves. I believe there's a couple of well-known NoSleep contributors in Ohio such as Brandon Boone, a composer for the NoSleep Podcast. I believe he's based in Cincinnati, which is about a four hour drive from here.
5. What's the deal with 30 press? What good stuff do you guys have going on right now? How did this idea become a reality and what's it like keeping it organized when most of the staff have never met?
30 Press is a publishing company that was born out of the NoSleep community. In years past, there have been a few attempts to assemble and build a publishing company for NoSleep writers. Those attempts never gained any traction...until we came along. 30 Press is very much established and there's been a lot going on with it lately! I'm not entirely sure what I'm allowed to announce. Just kidding. It isn't some huge secret. Right now, we're working on putting out our first paperback - the 30 Press Quarterly. There's also a massive, highly classified project we've been working on the past few months called "29." It's like, secret and stuff. *Definitely* not a publication or a story or anything. We wouldn't do *anything* like that. In all honesty, it's a slow process starting a company and we've accomplished a lot but still have a lot to do. I'm quite confident in Jake, Ashley, and Raff and their abilities to take this to great places! One would think it would be incredibly challenging to keep things organized with us being scattered across the globe, but thanks to the internet (mostly Google programs, I won't lie) we're all able to stay in constant contact which also keeps us all on the same page.
6. Are there any other writers that you would like to contribute with for a project or story?
I love the idea of multiple writers on a project! My most popular story to-date, Election Day: 2016 ( https://www.reddit.com/r/nosleep/comments/5bt873/election_day_2016/) was written with the lovely lady behind the legendary Infected Town series on NoSleep. I've also been a regular contributor to NoSleep Teams which is a collaboration competition where teams take turns writing parts of a story. I do have some writers that I'd like to collaborate with, such as E.Z. Morgan. Luckily, some of the others that I've desired to work with have been pretty open to the idea when I reached out. You can expect those soon!
7. Do you feel that Nosleep has in a way shaped your writing style? Do you find yourself writing a certain way because of what you have learned in the nosleep community? What are some trends that you have noticed in horror stories that you love and hate?
I would be a total liar if I said NoSleep didn't have an effect on my writing. Having to work within the confines of that community challenges you to write a very specific way that wouldn't normally be found anywhere else. However, with those limitations you tend see a lot of repetition. Personally, I'm more than a bit over reading stories with the same twists, such as the writer being the killer, or a character being a ghost/demon. I haven't seen it lately, but I also hate seeing mental health used as an excuse for why things happen in a story.
8. Grandma's World-Famous Peppermint Bark was one of your most recent popular stories where did you get the inspiration from?
I love that story! The idea for it actually came out of a series of tweets between myself and my friend Anthony Luciano at the Irrational Fears Podcast (https://twitter.com/knutsonwrites/status/814136284377739268?s=09). In short, I ranted about having a day praising chocolate candy. Anthony responded about enjoying peppermint bark, and from there a bet was made where if I could write a disturbing story about peppermint bark, he would feature it on his podcast. Spoiler alert: I won!
9. Writing online and sharing our stories to so many people can be intimidating. I know when I first started on Nosleep and sharing my stories on Eerie Dolls I was constantly worrying about getting a whole bunch of hate filled comments. Surprisingly it played out way worse in my head than in reality. How do you deal with your own insecurities as a writer and have you dealt with any internet trolls so far?
So, it took me a VERY long time to start posting stories online. I suffer from a mild panic disorder and OCD, which can cause me to overthink every little possibility when I do things. My first NoSleep story was a battle. It took me about two weeks of debating on whether or not I could do it, and then after it was written it took another week or so for me to post it. Even now, after having posted over fifty stories and other works, I still get nervous. I still obsessively check everything I post and analyze each comment and criticism. What's helped me overcome my nerves is the NoSleep community. I mentioned earlier how the local writers I've met aren't the most pleasant to interact with. Well, the guys and gals over in NoSleep are quite the opposite!
I've had to deal with my fair share of trolls, but I've found that to be pretty easy. Generally, you can pick them out because of how out of place the comment is and once I know it's a troll, I like to interact with them. I find it fun. They try their hardest to get into your head and shut down once they realize they can't.
The moment we turned the corner and the orange-bricked high-rise came into view, my stomach churned and I winced.
"It's okay, bud." Dad said as he put his hand on my knee. He must have noticed my unease. "Grandma is doing fine. She just needed to live in a place where people can help her when she needs it."
As we pulled into the sloping, cracked parking lot I could finally make out the tiny letters above the forest green awning: Harbour Court. An assisted living facility...my grandma's new home.
Grandma was passing out candy on Halloween when she had the stroke. A little boy dressed up as the Grim Reaper rang her doorbell and as she was leaning out of her screen door to place a candy bar into his pillowcase, she collapsed. Fortunately for her, the little boy ran and got his parents. If he didn't...my grandma might not be here today. Dad liked to joke that she thought "death finally came for her," but I knew the truth - I went with my dad to everything. I was sitting on grandma's old flower-print couch while Dad sat in the kitchen with the doctors. The truth was that she wasn't healthy. Too many high calorie foods and too many sweets. They said it clogged her arteries and it finally caught up with her....and it could happen again. Dad didn't want to take the risk of her being alone next time.
The lobby smelled like lavender body spray and milk, either from the residents or the haggard looking receptionist who checked us in.
"Room 216, elevators are on the left." She croaked. Dad had a hard time trying to hide his laugh.
We rode the elevator up, and as soon as the doors opened we were greeted by a woman wearing scrubs that barely covered her and her tattoos.
"Hi, I'm Megan. Are you the family of Mrs. Lemons?" She asked in an overly bubbly tone.
"Ye-yeah. Yes. I'm her son, Abe, and this is her grandson, Sade."
"Awesome! Nice to meet you guys! Really quick, I just want to go over some things with you before you visit with Mrs. Lemons. Follow me, please!" She walked over to a small, dingy desk with a slight skip in her step.
"So, you guys are like, the first people to come visit her since she moved in aaaaand we don't know how well she's going to do with family members."
"We're her only family. Her daughter - my wife - passed away a couple of years ago. She doesn't have any living relatives." He informed her, almost under his breath.
"Oh. Oh. Okay. Well, you should know that there have been a couple of incidents with our staff in-"
"What do you mean, 'incidents?'" Dad interjected.
"Um. Welllllll...she just gets really weird sometimes. Like, we let her cook to help with her motor skills. But she'll like, make so much food to share with people. But the people don't exist. And she like won't let anyone touch it. She just kind of hoards it." Megan, for the first time, lost her spunkiness. Whatever my grandma was doing genuinely seemed to bother her.
"Guess we'll just have to carry some crosses then, right buddy?" Dad joked as he tuffled my hair with his hand.
"Right!" I exclaimed. If my dad wasn't bothered by something, neither was I - no matter how scary it seemed.
Megan walked us down the short hall and left us in front of a light brown door with the faded blue numbers "216" adorning the top of the frame.
"If you need anything I'll be right down at the desk." She said as she walked away.
"Jeesh, maybe the phone number for the store where you buy your clothes." Dad chuckled as he nudged me towards the door. "Let's go on in."
I pushed the door in and it let out a loud creak that startled the old, gray-haired woman sitting at a desk.
"Hi Grandma!" I ran over to her and gave her a hug.
"Jesus, Sade! You almost gave me a heart attack! Aw, but you're so big!" She returned my hug, smothering me in her floral print bosom. "Come here, Abe!"
My Dad walked over with a smile on his face, but it slowly diminished as he came closer.
"What's with all this food?" He asked my grandma as he pointed to the wall behind her.
In my haste and excitement, I hadn't even noticed the mountains of sweets piled halfway up the barren, cream wall. Trays, plates, and pans overflowing with everything imaginable. Cookies, cupcakes, buckeyes, peanut brittle...even her famous peppermint bark!
"Just some baking I've been doing. These people are nice to me and don't want me to stop like those stupid doctors do." She snarled at the end. " Go ahead and have some! There's peppermint bark."
"Maybe later, Ma." Dad said quickly.
"Oh honey, don't be stubborn. Everyone loves my peppermint bark. Eat some!"
Dad ignored her and walked over to the large window that was illuminating her room. I followed him over, but not before Grandma handed me a little piece of the bark while holding her index finger up to her lips. It was really hard, so I didn't take a bite.
"They treating you okay?" Dad asked her as he looked out the window.
"What's wrong with my candy?"
"What's wrong with my candy?" My grandma was standing up now, holding a plate of her bark and tears in her eyes. "Eat it, Sade."
"I'm okay. I'm full Grandma, I'll eat it when I get home - promise!" I said with a smile. Dad taught me before that a little white lie never hurt anyone. My dad turned around a stared at my grandma with a concerned look on his face. My heartbeat started tripping over itself as I moved a little closer to him.
"Sade!" She yelled as she dropped the plate. My dad put himself between my grandma and I. She bent down and picked up a larger piece of the candy. "Eat it, Sade. It's delicious - look!"
"Mom!" My dad shouted in a commanding way, but she didn't respond. My grandma took a bite of the bark in her hand. I could hear the crunching across the room. It made my stomach hurt.
"Look, it's fine!" She smiled, letting thick blood ooze out from between her lips. It ran down her chin and fell onto her blouse. Dad didn't move - he just held me behind him.
"I have some stuck in my teeth - can't have that, can we?" Her tongue wiped her teeth clean as she spoke. Then, my grandma took the peppermint bark and dug a pointed edge into her gums, wedging it in all sorts of different directions as more blood rained from her mouth. "There we go!" She gurgled. She took her fingers and pulled a tooth from her mouth. "No more of that."
My dad was a statue, slowly turning white with a hint of green. I stayed behind him hoping he would do something...but he didn't. My grandma kept walking towards us, digging peppermint bark into her gums and ripping her teeth out while blood fell everywhere. She never stopped smiling as she removed all of her front teeth. Grandma stopped in front of my dad and bent down to my level.
"Make sure you brush when you're done eating." She chimed as she turned the bark vertically and began rubbing it between her gums like a toothbrush. She was so close that I could see the cuts being made into her mouth, like a saw cutting into wood. I couldn't take anymore. I ran out from behind my dad and out to the desk where I found Megan.
"Code Three!" She screamed as she ran into the room, closely followed by a bunch of men and women also in scrubs. I ran after them too.
In the room, Grandma was on top of my dad's chest still carving into her gums with the peppermint bark. She was leaning over his face, letting blood squirt into his mouth, eyes, and everywhere it could go. The aides stuck a large needle into her neck and she collapsed to the side. They split parties, some tending to my dad and others to my grandma.
The combination of the sedative they used, her loss of blood, and mania caused her to die almost instantly. She was cremated - a decision made by Harbour Court as no one was claiming responsibility for her. There was no funeral.
After my dad got out of the hospital, he wasn't the same. Apparently having a stroke as bad as his can severely disrupt how the brain functions. We lived very quietly for a few months until some men from the state came and took me. My dad was forced into the local assisted living facility - Harbour Court. While I was in foster care I used to write him letters every week...even though he never responded. Once I turned eighteen I went to Harbour Court to visit him for the first time. When I got off of the elevator an older woman covered in tattoos greeted me in an overly bubbly tone.
"Hi, I'm Megan! Are you here to see Abe?"
"Uh. Yeah. I'm his son, Sade."
"Okay, awesome! Before we go over, you should know he's had some...incidents." She paused. "See, we like, let him bake to help with his motor fun-"
"Sorry, I have to be going." I interrupted her, then walked away.
I've never gone back