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What One Wouldn’t Do Review & Interview with Editor Scott J. Moses

What One Wouldn’t Do Edited by Scott J. Moses [Book Review]

As an avid consumer of horror media, I’ve found myself desensitized as of late. Plot points and story beats have grown tired, blood and guts have grown tiresome, ghosts have grown cliché. My inner skeptic has made my suspension of disbelief near non-existent, whether it’s film, book, audio, gaming. My fatigue was so great that I burned out on my work and have lived nearly a month of nothing but vapid, meaningless media consumption, unable to delve into the narratives I once treasured, be them my own stories or the stories of others. 

Then, I picked up What One Wouldn’t Do, edited by Scott J. Moses (Hunger Pangs, Non-Practicing Cultist). The anthology is subtitled “An Anthology on the Lengths One Might Go To”. The stories and poems collected here push characters to their extreme, often extorting their inability to reconcile with loss and sending them across some natural line of transgression, whose traversal is an abomination to the universe and reality itself. These stories do not end well. There is a reason that the authors collected are masterful in their rendering of the subgenre ‘Grief Horror’, and they show their literary and emotional prowess in a barrage of impactful tales, each removing one of the reader’s organs and devouring it outright—and yet, I offered more of myself to each author who came next in some macabre, cathartic ritualistic fashion, eager to give them another piece and leave me desolate.

From the outright, author Laurel Hightower (Crossroads, Whispers in the Dark) provided one hell of an introduction and set the emotional stage for the horror which was to follow. Immediately I could tell that this anthology would be special, and the first punch to the throat came with J.A.W. McCarthy’s (Sometimes We’re Cruel) story “With Animals”.

book cover for What One Wouldn't Do by Scott J. Moses


And the punches kept coming. “Moira and Ellie” by Marisca Pichette; “Cry Me A River” by Stephanie Ellis (The Five Turns of the Wheel); “The Witch of Flora Pass” by Editor Scott J. Moses; “I Married A Dead Man” by Joanna Koch (The Wingspan of Severed Hands); “I Have Become A Graveyard” by Lex Vranick; “The Last Word” by Laurel Hightower; “Silver Dollar Eyes” by Eric Raglin (Nightmare Yearnings, Cursed Morsels Podcast); “The Thread That Dreams Are Made Of” by Hailey Piper (Queen of Teeth, The Worm and His Kings); and “They Don’t Eat Teeth” by Jena Brown. All of these stories burrowed into my bones. That’s not to say that the others didn’t as well, but those listed above were more impactful to me among such a strong collection. I enjoyed every story here, and if I did not list yours by name, know that I still thoroughly enjoyed your work. 

What One Wouldn’t Do was a breath of fresh air and made me feel actual, genuine fear from literature for the first time in forever. I read most of these stories in well-lit, social environments, and yet these stories crawled under my skin, had me looking over my shoulder. There’s something arcane in a story which manages to quicken your pulse and instill sincere fear while Mickey Mouse Clubhouse plays in the background. These stories brought me to tears, had me afraid to turn the page, and that, my friends, is quite a feat. 

This anthology’s greatest strength is its diversity, both in terms of its contributors and the characters which grapple in the stories collected, but also in terms of the format. Interspersing poetry between stories and author notes and author biographies gave this anthology a heartfelt intimacy, where an emotional connection was forged between me and the words on the page. Characters are phenomenally written. Prose is exquisite throughout. The stories are emotionally gripping and equally devastating. The concept of grief and the lengths one would go to either absolve said grief or reverse the inciting action entirely is extremely effective in Moses’s hands, as he understands that such emotions are something every human who has struggled with grief understands—the desire to part the veil, to call back loved ones, to become omnipotent, to find knowledge. Moses has done a fine job of curating this anthology, and, as his first foray into the Editor seat, we “sat down” to chat about the curation process. It was a pleasure to speak with him, both as colleague and friend. 

The questions are as follows. Scott’s answers have been edited for formatting purposes only—the content remains verbatim to his words.

full cover wrap of What One Wouldn't Do by Scott J. Moses
Author Scott J. Moses

Interview with Scott J. Moses

Montgomery: Thank you for “sitting down” with me today to talk about your anthology, What One Wouldn’t Do. This is my first author interview, so thank you for bearing with me! 

We’ve talked for quite some time now and have swapped projects back and forth frequently. As such, I’ve gotten a pretty good look at your creative process. But curating an anthology is far beyond the tribulations of the word trenches as a creator, so as an author first and foremost, how would you describe the feeling of sitting in the editor’s seat for the first time? Was it a daunting task?

Moses: Well, first and foremost, it’s eye opening. It’s like peeling back the curtain and seeing how everything works back there. It’s something I’d always wanted to do, but I’m not sure I knew the amount of work I was in for in doing it all on my own. Still, I think every writer could benefit from editing an anthology or magazine. I can honestly say that it changed the way I think about submissions, and especially, rejections. They still suck, sure, but there are so many factors when it comes to all that. It’s anything but personal, and I try to remember that now as I’m rejected near every week as any other writer is.

What, if anything, sparked the idea for this anthology?

Moses: My own writing has always followed the thread of what many call “Grief Horror,” but it wasn’t until I read Laurel Hightower’s gut-punch of a novella Crossroads that I asked myself, “How has no one done an anthology on this sub-genre before?” It would be a few months until I seriously considered putting together WOWD in a hotel room in Salt Lake City. But as soon as I did, I reached out to Laurel Hightower for the introduction that same day as well as George Cotronis for the cover art.

The blend of short stories, poetry, and author notes meshes quite well. I remember your debut collection, Hunger Pangs, having story notes, and I’m glad to see it continued here. Was their inclusion a choice made from the out-right, or something you added later? 

Moses: I’d always known there would be story notes. I love seeing them in collections and other forms of media, and I appreciate that look into the artist’s process. Not to explain the story, mind you, but more to give insight as to where they were when they wrote it or perhaps what sparked the idea. I’m a sucker for that stuff.

Do you think that, considering the heavier material/theme of the anthology, that the story notes are cathartic for the authors, as it gives context to these stories which are quite emotional and grief driven?

Moses: And in regard to the question on the notes, perhaps? With some of them I was tempted to pry further, but I figured I’d put myself in the same boat as the reader and leave the rest up to imagination. Some writers straight up told me their stories were based or influenced by true events that happened in their lives or the lives of those they were close to, so I imagine, they were cathartic in that regard.

Could you describe the curation process? What were some of the pleasures and frustrations of editing WOWD?

Moses: Well, I can honestly say without exaggeration that if you follow the guidelines in a submission call, you will already be in the top 70% of submissions. There just isn’t time to read something that goes against the guidelines when there’s so much to do. Submitting earlier than the window begins was another big one. You want to stand out to an editor with your story, not by blatantly disregarding their guidelines. Now, we’re all human, and I get that, and I’ve made mistakes when just starting out myself, but first impressions are lasting ones, you know?

Another frustration was the size of my wallet. I received enough stories I thoroughly enjoyed to have an anthology at least twice as long, but I just didn’t have the funds. Another thing I ran into a few times was where two stories would have similar themes, endings, and tone, but to have both in the anthology would be redundant—those decisions were tough. That happened quite a few times. So that brings me to rejections again. When it came to this call, the stories we’re all pretty great quality, but when you begin curating there’s this unseen flow you can’t quite put your finger on, and when you pick up on that, you just know if a story belongs or not, regardless of its quality.

What is the main thing you want readers to take away from What One Wouldn’t Do?

Moses: You know, I hesitate to answer this one because I think everyone should take away what they take away from it. I hope this answer works because in the end, it doesn’t matter what I want someone to take away, you know? Just the fact that someone is leaving with something they didn’t arrive with is good enough for me, actually, it’s everything.

A handful of stories collected grapple with life after death. Was this a prevalent theme that appeared while curating the anthology? Or was it sort of the unspoken theme you had in mind? When it comes to the titular theme, there’s not much worse than the transgression of crossing the barrier of death, and the authors collected have done a fantastic job at showing us why.

Moses: It wasn’t planned, but I knew going in that this would be a well-trodden theme. Hell, even my story revolves around it, but there were quite a few that surprised me in the direction they took. But yes, I’d say at least 60-70% of the stories dealt with this, and that’s alright, because that shit is my jam.

This too is indeed my jam.

In that same vein, the subgenre of ‘Grief Horror’ is something that comes up a lot when I think of your work, in which your stories—especially those collected in Hunger Pangs—grapple with the tragic and bleak aspects of life and the relationships we have. This emotionally resonant style of horror is extremely powerful in your hands. What does ‘Grief Horror’ mean to you? Are you comfortable in that niche, or is it constraining?

Moses: Well, thanks so much for the kind words, Justin. Hmm, in all honesty, I’m not sure if I could tell you why that’s what I gravitate towards other than I always have, though I’ve always heard write what you’re afraid of. I mean, I’ve struggled with depression for as long as I can remember, but I don’t think it’s just that. Darker stories, ironically enough, seem to shed the most light on things. They’ve always resonated with me more, because let’s face it, this world can be awfully dark. And I think there’s an empathy to be had in just acknowledging that for what it is, and then trying to do our part to lighten our portion, help each one another through the darkness, and to always point out the light when it’s there, albeit dim sometimes. Melodramatic? Perhaps. Do I believe it? Yes.

As someone who has also struggled with depression their entire life, I think that’s a partial reason I gravitate toward it as well.

Next, let’s talk about your story, The Witch of Flora Pass. 

Moses: Well, offhand, it’s probably the most difficult story I’ve ever written. Definitely the darkest I’ve published thus far as well. It took around a year of picking it up and setting it back down to finally “get it right,” but I’m glad with the end result.

I’d say you hit the nail square on this one. Genuinely terrifying stuff. Your story also contains my favorite line in the anthology: “In idle stillness, that’s when my grief is the loudest.” Fantastic work all around, Scott.

The release of WOWD is a milestone in your career, as it follows your debut collection Hunger Pangs and novelette Non-Practicing Cultist. So, you’ve had a collection, novelette, and slipped into the editor’s seat—what’s next? 

Moses: Well, thank you, man. I’m blown away with the response to be honest. As some guy who just had an idea one day, it was humbling to see the number of submissions and big names in my inbox. In all honesty, I’m thinking I’ll return to my sophomore collection, of which most of the stories are already complete and either publishing this year or on submission. I’m tossing around the idea of shopping this one, though I’ve really come to love the notion of releasing things on my own, but there are presses I’m extremely interested in working with as well: Off Limits Press and Weird Punk Books, to name some offhand. After that, I’ve been tossing around the idea of a novella-in-parts akin to Stephen Graham Jones’ MONGRELS. That format has always really appealed to me, and I think it’s a nice way for a short fiction writer to phase into long fiction, or to at least don the mask and blend in at the long fiction party, you know? Thanks for taking the time to “sit down” with me today, Justin. I appreciate you and your time.

Thank you for your time as well, Scott, and I look forward to reading more of your work soon.

What One Wouldn’t Do is a rare breed of anthology, one which fires on all cylinders throughout—I didn’t dislike a single story or poem. The emotional core of these narratives and will live among my bone marrow for decades to come. This anthology is not to be missed. If you are looking for genuinely horrifying stories this Halloween season, look no further than this—What One Wouldn’t Do revived my scarred and dead horror heart, pumped new blood through my veins. 

Fantastic work to everyone involved.

Justin Montgomery

Justin Montgomery


I’m an author. I’ve loved literature since I was a child, and my life has revolved around stories, whether they be books, film, comics, or otherwise. I’ve always gravitated toward them, found comfort in the language, the characters, the impossible worlds conjured by authors and brought forth onto the page. It was no surprise when I discovered that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.


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