Veterans in Horror: Interview with David Curfiss
David Curfiss is a veteran of the U.S. Navy. He served onboard the USS Kinkaid as a Gunners Mate before transferring to the Naval Special Warfare community as an armorer where he had the privilege to work with the elite Navy Seals and SWCC Operators. After eight years of honorable service, David transitioned to civilian life.
Prior to his naval service, David had a passion for apocalyptic themed stories and adventures. He spent his youth living in fictional worlds, battling zombies, vampire nuns, hostile aliens from far-away planets, and other creatures of death. It was while he was in seventh grade that he wrote his first apocalyptic story. Little did he know then, it was the spark that has led to his novel writing path today.
Visit his website, www.davidcurfiss.com, to learn more about his work and sign up for his newsletter to receive the latest details about new books, cover reveals, and giveaways.
Tell us a bit about your military service. Years? Branch? Specialty?
I started my military years in the US Navy fleet, serving onboard the USS Kinkaid (DD-965), Spruance-class destroyer. My official service rating was a Gunners Mate (GM), and I managed all of the destroyer’s weapon systems. This included our big guns, the Mark 45, 5-inch 54. When I wasn’t working on the big guns, I was managing our ship’s armory. This room stored all of our smaller weapons (.50 cal, M-60, M-14, and 9mm). Between the two, I preferred running our big gun mounts. They were complex, behemoths that were as fun to light off as they were challenging to work on. After my time in the fleet was up, I moved off the sea and set up shop in the Naval Special Warfare armory for Special Boat Team 12. My time there was short but afforded me an opportunity to deploy to Naval Special Warfare Unit 3 (NSWU3) in service of Operation Enduring Freedom from 2004 – 2005. It was at NSWU3 that my career changed for both the better and the worse.
At NSWU3, I serviced all the forward deployed Special Operators weapons. I ran an armory out of the Bahrain Naval base and was fortunate enough to meet some of the worlds most elite fighters. Sadly, a large group of my friends were killed on that deployment. But a conversation with one of them days before their mission changed my life forever and for the better. I never made it back to BUD’s to get my trident, but I did change career paths and do what I can to carry their memories forward in my writings.
What role, if any, did reading and writing play during your military service?
Although I didn’t do much reading or writing on any of my deployments, the memories of those I served with help shape many of my characters in my writings now.
What inspired you to start writing?
I started writing in middle school but stopped sometime in high school and didn’t pick it up again until I had a mental health episode in 2013. It is amazing what you can learn about yourself when I hit new lows but have the will power to push on and on and on. I struggled, still do, but found a new happy place in my writings all thanks to the concept of journaling for health. At first, I rejected the notion of logging my thoughts. I ultimately caved and found it to be a mundane process so instead of logging my emotions and random thoughts, I started writing short stories. That is actually how my short story, “Michael’s Home” was born. It was a journal entry that I kept expanding on. You can read a copy for free on Kindle Unlimited. I also added that story to the back of my hardcover editions of, A Thousand Miles to Nowhere.
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
I like the darkness it carries with it. I find comfort in the shadows and horror provides that comfort I need to feel good. But more than horror itself, I love the apocalypse. I have an obsession with trying to fathom our beautiful world without humans in it. I play a lot with the idea that humans are merely Earth’s cancer and our soul purpose is to destroy her. But she wins that fight more often than not.
What role, if any, does your military experience play in your writing?
I mentioned it earlier, how the lives of those we lost and those I was fortunate enough to be part of (in some fashion) drive many of my characters qualities. I use half names, features, characteristics I remember, moments we had. Without my time in the Navy, I don’t think I’d have much in the way of stories to tell. It is the foundation for the characters I write about on all levels. I owe my life to keeping their memories alive in one way or another. I only hope I do them justice. If not, may they haunt me for all eternity.
What is your favorite depiction of military service in all of literature? Why?
I really enjoy reading military science fiction. I use military non-fiction (after-action, first-hand accounts) for study, but reading it for pleasure doesn’t carry the same catharsis as reading fictional works does. I need that escape fiction provides but still like the occasional nostalgia military science fiction offers.
How do you feel military veterans and the broader military experience has thus far been represented in the horror genre?
I think writers do what they can to pay their respects and represent military personnel in their stories. Often times, writers who are Vets or still on active duty, tend to avoid writing about their field as a way of escaping their normal world. Afterall, stories are an outlet. But I could be wrong, I don’t know many military veterans who write. I hope that this initiative by the HWA helps me meet more author veterans out there. I tend to be reclusive and not active on social media, so I don’t have much engagement with others in the field.
Who are some civilian characters in horror that you think would have made for great soldiers?
I like Brad Wolgast from Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy. He had the headstrong personality needed to thrive in the often evolving, ever ass kicking world that is the military. He would have exceled as a Sailor, Soldier, Marine, or Airman. The man was legend, and I won’t hold his title of FBI Special Agent against him.
What’s something about veterans most people don’t know?
That is a tough one, and I don’t have an answer.