Monthly Archives: June 2016

The Pasture’s Always Greener: Interview with Michael Wehunt

Welcome back! This week, I’m pleased to present author Michael Wehunt. Michael’s work has appeared in such venues as Cemetery Dance, The Dark, Unlikely Story, and Nightscript. His debut short fiction collection, Greener Pastures, was released earlier this year from Shock Totem Publications and has been receiving rave reviews ever since.

Michael and I recently discussed Greener Pastures as well as how he became an ardent fan of horror.

A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

Michael WehuntI think the larger part of me had always dreamed about it, felt it in me, but I let a very simple fear push me back for far, far longer than I care to admit. I didn’t take a deep breath and decide to try this until late 2011.

I have gained a lot of favorite authors since I began writing, but Flannery O’Connor and Stephen King were my first true loves. Flannery has continued to burn in me ever since, though I still obediently read every King book. I discovered Robert Aickman a few years ago and have joined his ambiguous cult. Laird Barron is still the only writer I’ve ever read who can genuinely write creepiness in a visceral way, and for that I’ll always swear fealty to him. Proulx, Nabokov, Welty, Faulkner, Oates, McCarthy, Agatha Christie (I’m a sucker for Marple and Poirot), Stephen Graham Jones, Reggie Oliver…and so many more. And poets! Mary Oliver, James Dickey, Louise Glück, Rilke, Plath…

Congratulations on the recent release of your debut short fiction collection, Greener Pastures! What was the process for curating this group of stories? Were certain ones left on the proverbial cutting room floor, or did you have an exact vision going in?

Thank you! So far it’s been wonderful and surreal.

I wanted a group of stories that really fit together, with direct and indirect threads binding them here and there. I very much wanted to resist the urge to have a collection just for the sake of having one. I don’t have a tremendous body of work to draw from yet, but I did feel as though I could collect a thematically unified, tone-specific book in which I believed every single story deserved to be in there. I wanted the collection to have a weird slant (which wasn’t difficult, considering I usually lose my balance and fall off the fence into the weird pasture anyway) so long as the great majority were still decidedly dark and in the horror camp. So that was my guiding hand.

Once those stories were together, I realized how prominently trees figure into my work, something I’d never truly noticed before. They’re everywhere, either in the foreground or background, but this was accidental. Less accidental was the theme of loss. There are a lot of stories here that deal with various shades and types of loss, and how people cope with it. Write what you fear, and that’s exactly what I fear. But I knew I had to provide a variety of moods and voices to bear these losses and keep things interesting for the reader. And, of course, a variety of darknesses, including some good old terror.

There were many stories I knew right away didn’t belong in the book, and there was only one story that was cut after the book took shape, a nasty little flash piece called “A Coat That Fell.” One of my editors fought for it, but ultimately we all decided that it wasn’t quite as strong as the others. I had one other story that was written for an anthology that’s coming out this fall. I was sorely tempted to take that story away from them and put it in the book as a last-minute original—it would have fit so well—but I decided to be nice.

You often write about creepy and darkly fantastical themes. Was there a certain story or film that made you know you wanted to write in the horror genre in particular, or was your love for the strange and terrifying more slow-growing over the years?

Both, kind of. I mentioned that King was a childhood obsession for me. But curiously, I never really read horror outside of him. I did love scary movies, though, which for some reason my mother would let me watch from around the age of seven. I remember reading Koontz as a kid and not being impressed, so I suppose stupid young me assumed King was the only good one…I’m not sure what snuffed out my curiosity. It’s one of my biggest regrets, not fully exploring horror until much later, just a few years ago, in fact. But part of me is glad, because I read a great deal of other stuff instead. There’s a lot of bleak wonder outside the dark fiction world, and much of it is incredible. I’m very grateful for all the Eudora Welty and Julian Barnes and David Mitchell I absorbed in those intervening years. Later, I would circle back around to Annie Proulx’s short story “The Half-Skinned Steer” and realize that it’s one of the greatest weird fiction tales ever written, in its way.

When I had my little micro-epiphany and decided to try writing a story for real, I searched on Amazon and found Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year Volume Three. It had the word “best” in it so I bought it. I didn’t know a single name in the table of contents. I was loving it, feeling like I’d found my family, and then I came to Laird Barron’s “–30–” and a hole opened up. I crawled into it. It was warm and wet and I was home. I knew this was something like I wanted to write, but hopefully refracted through my own lens. That story was my true introduction to weird fiction as well as cosmic horror. I’d read “Crouch End” and “N” by King and loved them, but they were still just King stories to me. I was woefully, shamefully under-read in this world—I’m not sure if I should admit this publicly. But “—30—” opened the door, and I traveled backward, reading Lovecraft, Machen, Blackwood, Michael Shea, Ramsey Campbell, and the lot. I’ve been playing catchup ever since. Who knows—perhaps doing it in this roundabout way helped make me the writer I am.

Greener PasturesThe last few years have been prolific ones for your short fiction career, with publications in The Dark, Cemetery Dance, and Shadows & Tall Trees. What does your writing process typically look like? How many hours per week do you tend to write, and do you have any particular writing habits, such as writing at the same time of day or writing to certain music?

This is all a work in progress, as I don’t get much time to write and am striving to be better at time management. But typically I write for one hour in the evening, and sometimes I’m able to eke out 30-40 minutes during my lunch hour, chaotic as that can be. It’s not much but the routine is vitally important. With it I can sink into a groove and be consistent. Without it I’m unmoored and have to reacquaint myself with a story every time I should be adding to it.

I used to write in complete silence, but somewhere along the way I started listening to music while I work. Mostly a lot of drone and field recordings. I have an LP of a thunderstorm on a farm that I’ve listened to maybe 200 times while writing. One story will get ambient techno like The Field looped for days. Another will get the ugly drone of Indignant Senility. Occasionally classical or jazz, but those often require too much engagement with the music.

All writers have to deal with rejection. What advice do you have for other writers out there who are just starting out and might take the rejection of the publishing industry a little too much to heart?

If you acknowledge that rejection is part of the process, it helps tremendously. Because that’s truly what it is. Part of the process. Especially when you’re starting out. You’re learning not just how to write at a certain level of skill and structure but also how the world of publishing and audiences works, so there will be a lot of rejection. If you get rejected 95% of the time, you’re doing extremely well compared to most. And you have to level up more than once. There is a lot of frustration and a lot of joy. Many people say to read the anthologies and magazines you’re trying to get into, and while that is absolutely helpful, if you start trying to mold your writing for those places, just make sure you keep yourself in it. Make it something you would want to read. Make sure it carries your unique voice. It’s the only way, in my opinion.

What other upcoming projects have you got up your sleeve? A novel perhaps? More short fiction?

I’m finishing up a longer story called “The Tired Sounds/The Waking,” which will be published by Dim Shores late this year as a standalone chapbook with cover and interior art by the amazing Justine Jones. Dim Shores is a treasure. I’ve turned in a few more stories for upcoming anthologies. And I’m pretty sure I’ve decided to try out this whole novel thing in the fall. That will be another big learning experience in a couple of years that have been full of them. They’ve all been lovely and enriching.

Big thanks to Michael Wehunt for being part of this week’s interview series! Find him at his author site as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

Happy reading!

Tower Princesses and Pushing Boundaries: 4 Stories to Surprise and Inspire

June is almost over, and what a month it’s been! Recently, I marked a pretty big occasion in my writing career. The May/June issue of Interzone features my fantasy tale, “The Tower Princesses.” Needless to say, it is so thrilling to have a story in an issue of Interzone, a magazine I’ve long admired, and it’s also been a wonderful honor to work with editor Andy Cox.

Interzone 264 The Tower Princesses

So what’s this story all about? Weirdness, for one. Otherness, for two. “The Tower Princesses” concerns a group of teenage girls who become encased in movable towers and must cope with rampant xenophobia from those who don’t understand their condition. The narrator, who is not a so-called “tower princess,” strikes up an unlikely and secret friendship with one of the ostracized girls, and things take a few grave and life-changing turns from there. Since its release, the story has already been called bizarre, strange, unusual, even provocative. It’s a little bit fairy tale. It’s a whole lot something else. It’s dark and worthy of trigger warnings. It’s also probably the most polarizing story I’ve written so far. I’ve gotten feedback from readers who have loved it, and a couple readers who were, well, we’ll say less than thrilled with it. Suffice it to say, with themes of bullying and isolation and two scenes that allude to sexual violence, it’s perhaps not the easiest read.

Because this story deals with some weighty issues, I promised myself when I was writing the first draft that I wouldn’t hold back, no matter how difficult it became. It can become tempting to temper your writing, especially when you know dealing with subjects like sexual assault can limit your ability to sell the story in the first place. Some markets issue automatic rejections based on strong subject matter alone. However, I stuck to my original vision with “The Tower Princesses,” raw as it was, and in retrospect, I’m so glad I didn’t waver, despite how painful it was at times.

As a reader, I seek out stories that will push me outside of my comfort zone. When it comes to literature and art in general, I want my mind to be twisted and taken to places that maybe I never cared to go on my own, but that once I’ve returned, I’m grateful—-and albeit a little wary—from my travels.

So in honor of the release of “The Tower Princesses,” here are four stories that made me uncomfortable, that pushed my buttons, and that turned the world upside down, even for a moment, and set me back down a slightly (if not wholly) different person. Consequently, these four stories did their jobs very, very well.

“Three Small Slices of Pumpkin Pie” by Wendy N. Wagner
With beautiful prose and a strong but tragic protagonist, this short story transposes the burden women bear in society into a literal pumpkin they must carry with them everywhere they go. It’s a seemingly simple concept that quietly and effectively comments on gender issues in a way that is wholly original and thought-provoking. Indeed, this one has really stuck with me, and when I featured it on my list of Must-Read Short Fiction of 2015, I mentioned how this is exactly the type of darkly allegorical story that will embolden and inspire my own writing. And now, nearly a year after I first read “Three Small Slices of Pumpkin Pie,” thoughts and images conjured by this story continue to creep through my head. That’s a powerful story, and one worth reading (or rereading) promptly.
Read “Three Small Slices of Pumpkin Pie” for free here.

 “Armless Maidens of the American West” by Genevieve Valentine
Using the fairy tale imagery of an armless maiden, this story explores what happens when tragedy befalls someone, and everybody just looks away, desperate to forget. An armless maiden lives just beyond a golf course in a wooded area, but no one except the narrator cares to get close to the abandoned girl. That is, until a researcher comes to town and reveals that this armless maiden isn’t the only one of her kind. Many readers have taken this as a parable for the aftermath of sexual assault, but this story is so effective and cuts so deep that it could be taken even further: the armless maiden is a stand-in for the apathy we feel toward all victims of senseless tragedy, the way we as a society might be captivated and shocked for a moment, only to look away and try our best to pretend it never happened. However, this unforgettable story does its best to ensure the reader will never make that same mistake.
Read “Armless Maidens of the American West” for free here.

“The Haunted Girl” by Lisa Bradley
Although the thread between the two might be a tenuous spiderweb, this poem published in the always awesome Goblin Fruit makes an appropriate companion piece for “Armless Maidens,” with both works exploring women’s place in a world that does not welcome them, a world that has discarded them and might pretend they don’t exist at all. This is otherness in its rawest form, and the language in this poem is by turns beautiful, ethereal, and coarse, but never anything less than superb.
Read “The Haunted Girl” for free here.

“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin
Way back when I was only twelve years old, I discovered this brutal little tale, and my perspective on the world has never been the same. In my mental catalog of favorite speculative stories, I include “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” in the same category as Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” In each, the author explores a seemingly idyllic small town and the rot that lies just beneath the surface. That’s a theme that might shock—after all, “The Lottery” received more hate mail when it was published in The New Yorker than any story before it—but it’s an unfortunate truth whether we admit it or not. “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” challenges us to never dismiss suffering simply because it’s tucked away and for the so-called greater good. A necessary message, and one that resonates just as deeply more than forty years after this story’s first publication.
Pick up a copy of “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” here.

Happy (and Contemplative) Reading!

Speculative and Savvy: Interview with Charles Payseur

Welcome back! Today I am super excited to feature author and reviewer Charles Payseur. If you’ve been paying attention at all over the last year, you’ve come across Charles and his work. In the span of mere months, he has firmly established himself as an up-and-coming voice in speculative fiction with stories in Lightspeed, Nightmare, and Unlikely Story, among other venues, while he’s been working simultaneously (and tirelessly) at his site, Quick Sip Reviews, to survey more speculative short fiction than pretty much anyone else in the industry.

Recently, while he was between reviews, writing, and convention appearances, Charles and I discussed his inspiration for Quick Sip Reviews as well as how he balances his own writing career with the demands of being short fiction’s premier reviewer.

A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

Charles PayseurOh plops, I think I actively started wanting to be a writer in sixth grade. There was a visiting writer to my middle school and I was a bit enchanted by the idea of it, by writing stories. I had done things with stories before then, but that’s when I guess I wanted to “be a writer.” And it didn’t really let up. I wrote poetry since then (really, really bad poetry), and then in high school found short fiction and it’s been going ever since. As for favorite authors…I think Guy Gavriel Kay was an early favorite/influence who I still very much enjoy. I’ve loved basically everything I’ve read of Alaya Dawn Johnson’s and glob I love Emily Carroll’s graphic stories and there’s so many short fiction writers who are doing amazing, amazing work (yourself included) that I don’t think I could list them all.

You are the founder of the consistently awesome Quick Sip Reviews. What inspired you to create a review site, and what has been the most surprising or challenging part so far?

So I started QSR pretty much because of my experience at Tangent and because of The Monthly Round, which I run through Nerds of a Feather. Not that I dislike Tangent, really, but it became impossible to divorce myself from the harm that Tangent did without, well, divorcing myself from the site. I still like what I did there, and still think it can be a home for excellent reviews. But I guess I wanted a place that I could own and where I could talk about stories without having to worry about editorial oversight and where I could look at poetry as well and nonfiction and everything. I will say that I learned a lot at Tangent and I wouldn’t be the reviewer I am without that experience, but I’m very glad I started QSR. Plus I was trying to read a lot so I could make informed decisions for The Monthly Round and felt rather bad that I wasn’t reviewing everything that I read (because The Round only highlights 9 stories a month). As for what has been the most surprising or challenging…probably just finding the time to read everything. I read fast but I also have to read a lot and finding the time can be hard. Early morning and lunch breaks and, well, a lot of my time is reading and reacting to short SFF.

In addition to how insightful and fun your reviews are, what also impresses me about Quick Sip Reviews is how much you engage with the material. I myself can be a skeptical reader, and your reviews have helped me to open up a bit more and really go back to stories and reexamine them. Have you always been such an open and non-skeptical reader?

I…think so? I think part of my reviewing philosophy is that I want to be the kind of reviewer I would want reviewing my writing. And again, part of my frustration with Tangent and some reviews I have received was that they didn’t engage. There was a sentence about genre and a sentence about it being good or not good and that was it. And I wondered at what good those reviews were doing. So when I write a review I guess I’m trying to react genuinely and then examine that reaction. So in some ways my reviews are at least as much about me as about the story. I try to use a lot of “I think” and “to me” language because I don’t feel comfortable pretending that reviewing is some sort of objective weighing of merit. That way even if no one else takes anything from my review I still do. I’m still examining me and thinking about what I read and finding why I like something or why I’m uncomfortable or why I had trouble with some aspect. And readers hopefully can take something from that, can gauge how they might respond or like a piece, and writers hopefully can take something from that, from seeing how a reader has connected with their work. It’s always been how I like to talk about books, in part because I always felt elbowed out of conversations that focused on plot and genre. I was (and still am) accused of “over-analyzing” things when I read or watch or play something, but I feel that without approaching a work openly I have no place reviewing it. It’s not helping me and it’s probably not helping anyone else looking either to really make up their mind on what to spend their time reading or trying to crystallize their own thoughts on what they have read. Not that I think other people are wrong in choosing how they want to review or what works for them, but for me, personally, I want to strive to be open when approaching what I review.

Nightmare Magazine Issue 31You have such a wonderfully eclectic career. Not only are you a prolific reviewer, you’re also a prolific fiction author, with stories ranging from fantasy and science fiction to horror and erotica. How do you balance such diverse interests? Likewise, do you have any tips to maximize the writing hours in a day?  

Well I’m not sure I’d call my fiction writing prolific, though recently I’ve had some better luck in placing what I write. I really suck at what people call “branding,” though, perhaps because I’m still relatively new to publishing. I do tend to range all over, as long as it’s speculative. I’d wish to say that it’s all out of passion but some of it is just trying to find what will work. It’s easy to get frustrated when rejections start piling up and I think part of why I bounce around is because I have no idea what publishers want. I like writing basically everything SFF (which is probably why I love to read everything SFF), so I feel a bit rudderless at times. That said, erotica sells. Not as much per story as non-erotic SFF, but it’s therapeutic in many ways because it’s just really fun to write (for me, because where else can I get paid to write Thor/Loki erotica?) and because it feels really good to get acceptances. And there’s constantly calls for erotic short SFF, so when I’m feeling wrecked as a SFF writer I do have a tendency to retreat to erotica to recover. I assume this is why some writers still do fanfiction or similar things, too, because the reality of trying to make a splash in short SFF can be utterly crushing. As for maximize writing hours? I typically need large chunks of time to write fiction, so most of my days are spent sneaking in reading and reviewing time. Reviewing tends to keep my skills sharp (nonfiction writing is still writing, after all) so that when I can get some hours to stitch together for fiction I’m not completely cold. So I write reviews over lunch breaks and early in the morning so that I can have more time on the weekends to fiction. That said, I probably am lucky to get 10-15K words of fiction done a month.

Is there a particular part of the writing process that is your favorite?

The beer and cheese floofs! :p

I actually don’t know what I would call my favorite part. Probably when it’s working, when I’m firing at all cylinders, when the words feel powerful as I type them. Before I have to see them again, before editing, before rejections, before any of that. It feels gone a lot of the time since I’ve started writing to sell, but occasionally I still feel that spark that first drew me to writing, that rush from creating that makes me smile, that makes me feel like I know what I’m doing. Also the first five seconds after an acceptance, when I’m super happy and excited and before the fear sets in that I’ve made a huge mistake and everyone will hate my story.

What upcoming projects of yours should we be looking for?

There’s been a lot of good news for me recently, so for now at least there’s a bunch to look forward to. Perhaps the most exciting is that I have stories coming out in the first Book Smugglers Quarterly Almanac (with cover art based on my story!) and in the upcoming Journal of Unlikely Observances from Unlikely Story. I also have a cute urban fantasy M/M romance novelette coming out at Dreamspinner in June and plenty of smut coming out at Torquere Press and even an M/M/M erotic fairy tale that will be in Fairytales Slashed vol. 8 from Less Than Three Press later this year. And I’ll be at WisCon at the end of [May] doing my first ever convention panels (so excited and terrified!). So it’s a bit busy, but in the best of ways.

Any links you’d like to share?

Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together
The Postcard Chronicles (a fun project with fellow Wisconsin writer Jes Rausch)
Dreamspinner Author Page (actually compiles Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and more)

Big thanks to Charles Payseur for being part of this week’s author interview! Be sure to check in regularly with his latest reviews and publishing news at Quick Sip Reviews!

Happy reading!

Poet Extraordinaire: Interview with David Ishaya Osu

Welcome back! This week, I’m pleased to spotlight author David Ishaya Osu. David is a fiction writer and a poet as well as an editor. His work has appeared in numerous journals, including Watershed Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, and Taos Journal of International Poetry and Art.

Recently, David and I discussed his favorite authors, his tenure at The James Franco Review, as well as his future writing plans.

A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

I started reading and writing poetry in 2010. I do not remember making any deliberate statement about becoming a writer, except for the unexplainable fascination with words, metaphors, meta-worlds and beauty that consumed me and still consumes me each day of this life. Stating a favourite author is like choosing one out of all the blinks my eyes have had so far. The more I read, the more I encounter favourite authors. I enjoy Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Uche Nduka, Kim Hyesoon, Tomas Transtromer, Lidia Yuknavitch, Xandria Phillips, Rainer Maria Rilke, Michael Ondaatje, Michael Echeruo, Kathleen Jamie, Brenda Shaughnessy, Cynthia Cruz, Emily Dickinson, Doreen Baigana, francine j. harris, Solmaz Sharif, Ana Castillo, Walt Whitman, Safia Elhillo, Gloria E. Anzaldua, Luce Irigaray, Anais Nin. ASA’s songs are a fave. Also, I study Francesca Woodman’s photography with the same intensity I do poems.

Do you write every day? Also, do you have any specific rituals as a writer (e.g. listening to music as you work, or only writing during a certain time of day)?

Because my mind works every day, I write everyday; even when I do not spell something or put words on paper, the nonstop spillage of thoughts is another form of writing. When I was bedridden, I wrote in my head; and when I could use my hand, I pulled out everything saved in my memory and relocated them to a manuscript. I agree with Uche Nduka who said: “The poem has to be written whether by word or by silence.”  Also, my specific ritual is breathing, which, in all truism, is peculiar to every living thing and non-living thing. I am a list of milk, moon, and mirror and ghosts. I listen to both music and silence—ASA goddesses my spirit; maybe you should listen to ‘The place to be’ or just any of her songs, you will fall in love with meteors, I promise you.

You were the poetry editor for The James Franco Review in February and March. How did you become involved with the publication, and what were your goals as editor during your two-month tenure?

Editorship at The James Franco Review rotates around editions. So I was invited to serve as poetry editor for the February/March edition. It was particularly a wonderful experience, reading through hundreds of poems submitted. I was interested in seeing the ninth colour of the rainbow. Remarkably, the entire reading process opened me to new worlds. Because [we] need new worlds to stream in.

As both a poet and an editor, is it a challenge to toggle between the two? Do you prefer one over the other, or do you enjoy the way writing and editing complement one another?

It’s no challenge for me. I enjoy both. I’m simply kept alive by poetry; whether reading, writing or sharing it. The candlelight has its life.

Out of your published pieces, do you have a personal favorite?

Interesting. One poem I do not hesitate to return to when asked is: “When I’m eighteen.

Where would you like to see your writing career in five years?

More poetry, more rejoicing. Books, books. Globetrotting and writing and sharing newer magics.

Big thanks to David Ishaya Osu for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find him online at Facebook and Twitter.

Happy reading!

Miskatonic Master: Interview with Sean Thompson

Welcome back to this week’s author interview! Today, I’m excited to spotlight Sean Thompson. Sean is the co-host of Miskatonic Musings as well as an up-and-coming horror author in his own right.

Recently, Sean and I discussed the genesis of his writing career, his life as a podcaster, and his  upcoming collection, Too Late, scheduled for release this summer from Mcmanbeast Books.

A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

Sean ThompsonI wasn’t one of those kids who knew as soon as he hit speaking age that he wanted to be a novelist. I loved watching cartoons, and television shows, and watched too many films to name, but initially, I just had this nebulous desire to be creative. And poetry always came easy to me, but I guess I rather blithely assumed it came easy to everyone. I was actually really shocked when I discovered that these poems for my middle school class I’d crank out in five minutes the other kids would struggle to produce.

In the years from high school to college, I’d fluctuate from wanting to be a skateboard videographer (I’ve skateboarded since the age of twelve) or a just plain regular filmmaker, to wanting to be a lead singer or a rapper, as I’d write lyrics in my notebooks during class (depending on the year, either hip hop lyrics, or rock lyrics).

In college I took a few screenwriting courses, so initially the first long form things I wrote were screenplays. I went to the University of Massachusetts, and studied English, but my minor was in film. I did write a few short stories in college, egged on by a story I read [that] my ex-girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend wrote for her. I read this thing, and told her “I can do better than that piece of shit.”

It wasn’t until I started dating my current life partner Emily (what do you say if you’re not married, and have a cat child together?) that I started writing again. There was a gap from about 2002 when I graduated from college, until roughly 2007 when I didn’t really write anything. Anyway, somehow Emily got a hold of one of my old stories, and read one of my screenplays, and she encouraged me to keep writing. So, all credit where credit is due, I didn’t decide to become a prose writer until my current girlfriend Emily told me I should.

As for favorite authors: Stephen King, Clive Barker, Chuck Palahniuk, Jack Ketchum, Joyce Carol Oates, Thomas Ligotti, Laird Barron, Michael Crichton, Richard Matheson, Bentley Little, Shirley Jackson, Irvine Welsh.

Along with Charles Meyer, you host Miskatonic Musings, a podcast that focuses broadly on horror entertainment. What was the inspiration behind the show, and what do you and Charles have on tap for listeners in the upcoming weeks and months?

Since my last answer was so goddamn long, I’ll keep this one svelte. I joined a book group run by one Mallory O’ Meara known as the “Arkham Horror Book Club.” Mallory asked if anyone wanted to cohost a horror podcast with her and her friend Charles. Being a secret attention whore (not so secret) I agreed, and the rest was merely a series of trials and tribulations.

The inspiration behind the show was always to cover horror, but to slant towards the weird. To summarize Miskatonic Musings, it’s a horror podcast which has a penchant for the weird, but we also have a sense of humor, and don’t take ourselves, or the show, all that serious.

And if you want to know what we have lined up, you’ll just have to listen.

You’ve got an awesome forthcoming collection of short fiction! I’ve already had a sneak peek, and I can say it’s a lot of ghoulish fun! What was your process when compiling the collection, and what can readers expect from the stories?

Miskatonic MusingsAh, here it is. Wondered when this one was getting lobbed my way.

I’m quite neurotic, and I take a while debating over my fiction; where I want to send it, or if I want to try to shop it at all. I started in 2014 compiling stories from a stockpile of roughly 5 years. There were roughly thirty stories I’d written and shopped, and either had published in small presses or web magazines, or just wrote and forgot about. I paid one editor who will remain nameless to look at the stories, and wasn’t very thrilled with his work. And as projects do, this one got put aside while I focused on other stories that were wandering around in my head.

After a year of shopping stories with very little sales, I got frustrated a few months back and decided “what the hell, why don’t I just self publish some of these dirty little bastards?” Any story I was iffy on I took out of Too Late, so it’s a very short collection now, and went from ten stories to five. I split the fucker in half!

Here’s the thing about my horror fiction… I don’t sugar coat it. This isn’t “dark fantasy.” These stories are violent, morbid, and do not care about you. They represent a universe of chaos, where bad things happen to good people, and evil creatures giggle with glee in the moonlight, be they human or otherwise. That said, these babies are kinetic, seizuring across the pages. So, strangely enough, I’ve often heard these little devils I set to paper in an attempt to scare the piss out of people are often “fun.”

Your work often delves boldly into themes involving mental illness and drug use. Do you ever find it challenging to explore such difficult topics, and in your experience, is it harder to find markets for these stories?

Well, as stated, I’ve had a lot of trouble selling stories in the past year, which was part of the kick in the pants to finally just self publish Too Late. Absolutely it’s harder to find markets for the stories I write.

In all honesty, I’m a firm believer in writing what scares you the most. And you want to know what scares me the most? Relapsing, and losing my fucking mind. Sure, demons, ghosts, aliens, squamous elder things, these are all entertaining. But these things, if I use them, are only for their aesthetic properties. At the heart of all my stories, I’m dealing with pain, addiction, and death.

Where would you like to see your writing career in five years?

I’d like to fucking have one, haha!

No, I have simple aspirations. To sell a few collections, and a few novellas, maybe a novel. I don’t expect to get all that done in five years though. As for an audience, I’ll be happy with what I can get.

Any other projects of yours we should be looking for?

You’ll be the first to know.

Big thanks to Sean Thompson for being part of this week’s author interview series. Find him at his Spooky Sean author website as well as at Facebook and Twitter.

Happy reading!

Voice From Beyond: Interview with Cynthia Lowman

For this week’s author interview, I’m pleased to present Cynthia Lowman. Cynthia and I have been working on the podcast, The Lift, together, and I was so honored in January when she chose my story, “Girl, Alone at Play,” to make her voice acting debut. And what a debut it was! Cynthia is definitely a major voice talent to reckon with, and her fiction is equally amazing.

Recently, she and I discussed her work on The Lift as well as her many upcoming projects.

A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

Cynthia LowmanI’m the typical writer who has been doing it since grade school. I took writing very seriously through high school, but when it came time to choose a career I fell into that trap of thinking I couldn’t make a living as a writer. I canceled my plans to go to the fabled University of Iowa and did “sensible” jobs, which included such moneymakers as waiting tables and telemarketing. It is only within the past few years that I decided the other path didn’t turn out so well, so why not do something I’ve always been good at and loved (most of the time)? About three years ago, I quit my office job to write full time and proceeded to allow everything to get in my way since then.

As for favorite authors, I am not so easy to pin down. I have lots of favorites. I blame it on being a Gemini, which is the only thing that sign is good for. But if you want some names, I do love Jasper Fforde, J.R.R. Tolkien, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Mary Roach, Donna Tartt, Neil Gaiman, and Hannah Kent, even though she only has one book. I know there are some I’m forgetting, but that would fill up the whole interview.

You are currently working with Dan Foytik on his major shared world project, The Lift. How did you become involved in the podcast series?

Dan had been doing 9th Story podcast for a while, and Victoria was a part of that from the beginning. She was not to be ignored. We talked about her a lot, and one day while at a workshop, Dan asks me and another writer friend of ours if we thought this Victoria spinoff with the lift and the building of 9th Story in a Twilight Zone-type structure would be a good idea. Of course, we thought that was great! Since then, Dan and I talked about the details of the building, the world, and, of course, Victoria. She invaded both of our lives quite thoroughly, and we share with one another what she reveals.

I originally thought I would only be a writer for The Lift, because I had a lot going on in my life. I kept referring to myself as the fifth Beatle. Since Dan and I are close friends, and we talked about the project so much, eventually, I knew I couldn’t let this opportunity get away. Now I’m editing and narrating and writing and social media-ing too. So Pete Best, I am not.

Speaking of The Lift, you recently made your narration debut with my story, “Girl, Alone at Play,” and though I might be biased, I think you knocked it completely out of the park! You followed it up with the narration on your own story, “No Such Thing.” Was it easier or more difficult to narrate your own story as opposed to another writer’s story? What were the biggest surprises when doing narration for the first time?

The LiftI cannot tell you how glad and relieved I was to hear you liked my narration of your story! Reading someone else’s work and wanting to tell the story appropriately made it the more difficult one to do. I never want to let listeners down, but letting the author down would be dreadful.

I actually recorded my story first. From the time I had the idea for it, I asked Dan if he would be okay if I narrated it, and he was gracious enough to say yes. There were several things in my story that, as I wrote it, I knew I wanted to convey in the telling. So that one was easy. Well… except when I immerse myself in the character, it can be emotional.

The same went with reading your story. It was even more emotional. I read through it multiple times and marked it up, so I would read it just right. Every read-through was tough, because I was feeling what the character felt. That was the surprise in narrating. It was much more than reading books to kids when I was preschool teacher.

On your website, you blog about your writing and also spotlight details about your in-progress novels. Do you feel that sharing your writing process with others helps to keep you accountable as you continue to develop a story?

I wish! Accountability is my nemesis. I can’t seem to wrangle it into submission. My blog isn’t even kept up to date regularly. The most accountable I am is when someone expects something of me, even if it’s a daily word count or a progress report. I haven’t grown up in that regard. I still need a parent.

What other upcoming projects can we expect from you?

I’m currently working on another Lift story, which I am super excited about! I don’t want to reveal too much, but it is a core story about Victoria, and there is a surprise for the listeners on this one. I will be writing a few more stories for The Lift too.

I started another novel after attempting to revise my first novel and seeing how malodorous it really was. It is now stinking up a drawer where I dream it will transform into a bestseller.

Everyone will get to hear my voice a few more times on The Lift! Narrating is a love I never knew I had. I was recently added to narrate the female characters in the book, Carrot Field, by Vincent Asaro, which I am thrilled about!

Where would you like to see your writing career in five years?

By that time, I better have a novel published, even if I do it on my own! (Who wants to be my parent on that one?) I have no doubt The Lift is going to grow into something great, so I expect that to keep me busy with production and writing. And even though it’s not my own writing, I look forward to expanding my narration opportunities.

Big thanks to Cynthia Lowman for being part of this week’s author interview! Find her at her author site as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

Happy reading!