Category Archives: Interviews

Angels and Regret: Interview with Simon Bestwick

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today I’m pleased to spotlight author Simon Bestwick. Simon is the author of Wolf’s Hill, Breakwater, and Angels of the Silences, along with many short stories that have appeared in venues including Black Static, The Devil and the Deep, and Best Horror of the Year.

Recently, Simon and I discussed his new collection, And Cannot Come Again: Tales of Childhood, Regret, and Innocence Lost, as well as his inspiration as an author and his writing plans for the future.

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

Simon BestwickI honestly can’t remember how it started – I’ve been making up stories, or trying to, since I was very young. When I was at school I would turn any essay I was given into an excuse to write a story, usually horror or SF. I attempted my first novel at 14. (It was terrible.) In my late teens I decided to be an actor but retained an interest in writing, trying my hand at screen and stage plays. But it wasn’t until I left university and got stuck in a soul-destroying day job that I really buckled down and got writing fiction again in earnest. I didn’t need money or a movie camera or a cast of others to write a story. And by then I felt that if I wanted to call myself a writer, I had to actually write. So if I made a decision at any point, it was then.

I struggled to write anything I remotely liked through the back half of 1996, and then, on Boxing Day, I wrote my first proper short story, ‘Once’. After that I wrote a story a week, firing them off to the small press magazines that were everywhere at the time. And that was the start.

Oh God, there are so many favourite authors, and my list is ever-changing. Joolz Denby is one favourite – she’s an extraordinary poet and novelist (her novel Billie Morgan is utterly devastating). Another is Ramsey Campbell, who’s still producing consistently excellent fiction fifty years after he started. Joseph Roth is one I’ve recently discovered – The Radetzky March, Confession Of A Murderer, The Legend Of The Holy Drinker. Ray Bradbury for the extraordinary lyricism of his writing. Many individual books have stayed with me – Trevanian’s The Summer of Katya, Sarah Hall’s The Carhullan Army, Simon Louvish’s The Therapy Of Avram Blok. There are a lot of newer and emerging authors whose work I love too – Priya Sharma, Laura Mauro, Steve Hargadon, Helen Marshall. I also love the work of Cate Gardner, although she never likes me saying so in public because I’m married to her! Come back tomorrow and I’ll give you another list.

What can you tell us about your new collection, And Cannot Come Again?

It’s out now in ebook, paperback and hardback from ChiZine Publications. The subtitle is ‘Tales of Childhood, Regret and Innocence Lost’ – those were the themes the half-dozen stories I most wanted to include seemed to share, so I pulled the rest of the collection together around that.

It’s a bit of a retrospective, because there are stories in there from my first three full-length collections, along with previously uncollected tales and an unpublished novella that gives the book its title. I’m very proud of it – I think it’s a strong and varied selection from the stuff I’ve done. It also has an introduction from Ramsey Campbell, which is definitely one off the bucket list.

What draws you as a reader and a writer to horror and weird fiction? Do you remember your first experience with horror and/or weird fiction? Do you have a favorite book or film in those genres?

Horror and SF were always blurred together for me when I was little, probably due to growing up with TV programmes like Tom Baker-era Dr Who and Blake’s 7. Terrance Dicks’ Dr Who novelisations were some of the first books I read that weren’t specifically for children. Thanks to the local library, I also discovered huge numbers of horror anthologies and collections. Helen Hoke edited a series of alliteravely-titled anthologies (Demonic, Dangerous and Deadly was one) filled with great quality horror fiction: there were stories by Joseph Payne Brennan, John Collier, Fritz Leiber, Stanley Ellin, Robert Graves and many, many others. The Gruesome Book (edited by Ramsey Campbell – that name pops up again!) caught me with the title. Mary Danby’s Fontana Books Of Horror (the fourteenth volume, which is very hard to find, has a story called The Boorees by Dorothy K. Haynes that scared the hell out of me and is still superb.) Barbara Ireson edited anthologies like Creepy Creatures and Fearfully Frightening which included works by Joan Aiken, Theodore Sturgeon, Patricia Highsmith and so many more.

But one of the biggest formative works for me was a thick tome that belonged to my grandfather, called A Century Of Thrillers. It was my first introduction to the works of Edgar Allan Poe, among other things. ‘The Masque Of The Red Death’ terrified the hell out of me, and I loved it.

As you can tell, I first encountered horror literature in the form of short fiction, which is often where it’s at its best. I went through a period of deciding genre fiction, especially horror, was trash (probably after reading far too many trashy ‘80s horror novels!) but was lured back into it by Nicholas Royle’s Darklands anthologies, which demonstrated brilliantly that you could use horror fiction to write about anything at all.

As for TV and film… I’ve already mentioned the influence of Dr Who and other 1970s and ‘80s TV programmes. There was a huge amount of excellent work done in that period (along with a lot of pulp – maybe that luxuriance, and the freedom to experiment that kind of popularity brings, is why it was such a fertile time) which has had a huge influence on my generation. You can see it particularly in the films of Matthew Holness (A Gun For George, The Snipist) and particularly in last year’s brilliant and unnerving Possum.

There were the BBC’s Ghost Stories For Christmas, The Nightmare Man, the old Hammer films I’d be able to watch on a black and white portable TV if I could stay awake late enough. I saw John Carpenter’s The Thing and John Landis’ An American Werewolf In London when I was about eleven or twelve, and was alternately terrified and awed. (In the case of American Werewolf, I also laughed out loud on many occasions. And then there was Jenny Agutter. Possibly one of my first crushes there…)

In terms of what’s out there now, the wealth of new material – good new material – is possibly as rich as what was around in my boyhood. Films that have impressed me lately include Willow Creek, Grave Encounters. The Perfection, Hereditary, Get Out, the aforementioned Possum, and many others. Books? Any of Reggie Oliver’s story collections, or Lynda E. Rucker’s. Laura Mauro’s Sing Your Sadness Deep; Priya Sharma’s All The Fabulous Beasts. Gateways To Abomination by Matthew M. Bartlett. Any of the late Joel Lane’s story collections. I suppose I shouldn’t say that I’m looking forward to reading yours too, Gwendolyn, but I am!

In addition to your own writing, you also run an interview series on your blog. What inspired you to become an interviewer, and what, if anything, have you learned about the craft of writing from talking to other authors?

Partly curiosity about how other people work, partly because it was an excuse to chat to authors I like and admire, and partly out of a kind of enlightened self-interest. If you have a blog or website, you obviously want people to visit, but if all you ever do is talk about yourself and your achievements, no-one’s going to be interested. Making it as much about other people as you can is the best way to make your blog/site as interesting a place to visit as possible.

The interview I’m proudest of isn’t on my blog, however: back in 2012 I interviewed Joolz Denby about her work for This Is Horror. She still rates it as one of the best-researched and most interesting ones she’s done.

As to what I’ve learned – that virtually every writer of any worth has long periods of thinking they’re rubbish, and that everyone has different working methods. It’s about finding what works for you, putting in the hours, and not giving up.

You’ve written both short and long fiction. Do you have a preferred length as a writer? Also, how does your approach change (or stay the same) depending on the word count of the story?

It does change. With short fiction, it’s easier to dive in with only the vaguest idea of what you’re doing (with a single opening image or line or a situation or incident in mind) and winging it from there. For longer work, I usually need to sketch out some sort of outline, however vague. I have done a couple of novels where I outlined in incredibly fine detail before getting started, but generally, I prefer to keep it light, maybe outlining individual chapters as I get to them.

Up until about 2008, I was mainly a writer of short fiction, although I racked up a number of unpublished (unpublishable?) novels. Then I wrote Tide Of Souls for Abaddon Books, and my focus has tended to be on longer work ever since. I find it harder to write short fiction now; the advantage of longer work is that you can just sink into that world and write another 1,000 or however many words each day. That works on novellas too; I’ve written two this year which I think are as good as anything I’ve done.

I think on the whole I do prefer the longer work now, but I’d like to write more short stories, even so. As I said, when it comes to horror, that’s often where the strangest, best and most exciting work gets done. Novellas make a nice midway-point between the two.

You’ve been writing for a number of years now. What’s a piece of advice you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?

Write what you love, tell the stories you want to tell, don’t get bogged down in concerns about whether it’ll sell or not. Also: write every day. Draft, redraft, get it as good as you can, then send it out and keep sending it out when it gets rejected. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but always try and learn from them.

What projects are you currently working on?

I try to keep a few things on the go at any one time – so I’m currently rewriting a gigantic epic novel for my agent, while also typing up another novel I basically composed on a dictaphone last year (five minutes of recorded stuff at a time), and working (slowly) on my first screenplay. Meanwhile I’m working on a novella in longhand during my breaks at work. Once the epic’s been completed, I’ll be trying to start a new novel.

Where can we find you online?

I have a blog, which I really need to use more often! Resuming those author interviews would be a good start…

I’m on Facebook, and have a page there too, and I tweet as @GevaudanShoal. There’s an Instagram page also, though I haven’t put that to use yet.

Finally, there’s a Patreon page, where I’m serialising a comedy/SF/horror/thriller novel called The Mancunian Candidate, plus posting stories and an occasional serial.

Tremendous thanks to Simon Bestwick for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Sun Dogs and Singing Sadness: Interview with Laura Mauro

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today I’m thrilled to feature Laura Mauro. Laura is the British Fantasy Award-winning author of numerous short stories, and her debut collection, Sing Your Sadness Deep, is out next week from Undertow Publications.

Recently, Laura and I discussed her new collection, her process as a short fiction author, and what she’s working on next.

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

I guess I never really decided as such. It’s just a thing that sort of happened! I’ve been writing in some capacity or another since I was very young – my mum has poems I wrote at 6 years old. So I’ve always known that writing is something I enjoy doing. During my teens and early twenties I half-wrote epic fantasy novels (inevitably rip-offs of JRPG games I’d enjoyed), dabbled in cyberpunk (and realised I know nothing about technology, so gave up) and wrote a lot of fanfiction for various fandoms. (I still write fanfiction now, when I have the time.)

Around 2011 or so I started writing short stories, just because there were ideas in my head that I really wanted to pry out, and I’d never tried writing short original fiction. At that time, I had no intention of publishing – it just wasn’t something I’d considered. So I posted some of the stories on my then-blog, just so they would be out in the world somewhere. Unexpectedly, I received a message from a writer who went on to become a friend, asking why I wasn’t submitting my stories anywhere. So I did. After a load of rejections I finally sold my first short story, ‘Red Rabbit’, in 2012. It was around then that I realised this was something I actually wanted to keep doing.

Huge congratulations on your forthcoming collection, Sing Your Sadness Deep. How did you choose the stories to include in the table of contents? What particular themes does the book explore?

Thank you very much! My back catalogue is still relatively small, but I knew I didn’t want to just throw everything I’d ever written into the collection. I wanted to curate it so I felt at least that it was representative not just of the writer I am today, but this whole period of my life so far. Because I haven’t been writing that long, relatively speaking, so it still feels like I’m in the process of becoming a ‘proper’ writer! The stories in the collection span the whole range of my career so far, right back to the very beginning. I’m a bit nervous about this, actually. I’m worried that people will either read my early stories and think I’ve lost it, or alternatively will like my later stories but think my early stories are rubbish. But those older stories are still an important part of who I am as a writer, so to paraphrase a very wise friend, you just have to let the book go out into the world and people will make of it what they make of it.

In terms of themes…I don’t consciously write with a theme in mind, but it’s been pointed out to me a couple of times that I tend to write about outsiders, and ‘the other’. And specifically that I approach ‘the other’ with compassion. There’s a quote from my favourite ever book, Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson, which I keep coming back to: “There are such a lot of things that have no place in summer and autumn and spring. Everything that’s a little shy and a little rum. Some kinds of night animals and people that don’t fit in with others and that nobody really believes in. They keep out of the way all the year. And then when everything’s quiet and white and the nights are long and most people are asleep—then they appear.” I’ve always related to this as a bit of an oddball who only really comes alive in winter. So I guess I tend to write about those ‘night animals’, because someone has to tell their stories.

The cover of your collection is an instant classic. It conjures images of fairy tales, horror, and the kind of delightful creepiness that Edward Gorey specialized in. What can you tell us about how that cover came to fruition? Who’s the artist, and did you have any input on the cover’s development?

Thank you, I love it! So the artwork is by Stephen Mackey, whose art is just so gorgeous, these surreal and dreamy images which tread the line between spooky and beautiful. The cover design was by Vince Haig, who I think has done an incredible job of turning a piece of artwork into a fully realised book cover. Michael Kelly at Undertow initially sent me through a selection of preliminary cover designs based on Stephen Mackey’s art, but the moment I saw the fox I knew that was the one. I love foxes anyway, but there was something about the whole feel of the cover, that kind of suspenseful, eerie atmosphere it evokes. I instantly knew that this was the artwork I wanted my stories to be represented by.

Congratulations on your Shirley Jackson Award nomination for last year’s “Sun Dogs.” What can you share about the inspiration and development of that story?

Thank you! ‘Sun Dogs’ was a weird one in that the title came first. The only thing I was certain of initially was that it would be set in the desert. Do you ever go wiki-walking? Where you start off on one Wikipedia article and then click on a bunch of interesting links from that article, and click on links in those articles, and before you know it it’s 3am and you suddenly know everything there is to know about rural towns in Chernushinksy District in the Ural Mountains of Russia? It was like that. I started reading about deserts, then zeroed in on the Mojave, then read about people who live ‘off-grid’ in the desert. And then I fell down a rabbit hole reading about preppers – people who obsessively ‘prepare’ for some nebulous civilisation-ending event, which was both fascinating and a bit terrifying. The story itself spiralled out of those subjects.

You’re an accomplished short fiction author. Do you have a specific approach to writing your short stories, or does each one develop organically on its own?

They all tend to happen organically. Most of the time I have some kind of central concept or event or place that I know I want to write about, but the meat and bones of the story only tend to become apparent once I sit down and start writing. More often than not, I know how a story ends before I sit down and write it, but how I get there is a complete mystery.

In addition to your own fiction, you’re also a reviewer. What inspired you to become a reviewer, and what if anything have you learned as a storyteller by reviewing the work of others?

Reviewing is hard! I strive to be completely objective about the books I review and that can be difficult because obviously you never really want to say anything bad about a book. All writers know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a bad review! But at the same time I think it’s important to be truthful. I’ve very rarely read a book that didn’t have at least one or two good points, so I’ll always try to balance criticism by noting those things I enjoyed. I’ve been lucky so far in that all the books I’ve reviewed for Black Static have been really enjoyable, so it’s not been too difficult to be both honest and positive. It’s very interesting to review books whilst simultaneously wearing your ‘reader’ and ‘writer’ hat. Mostly I tend to note the things I enjoyed for whatever reason and consciously try to replicate that effect in my own work.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am finishing up a Master’s in Modern and Contemporary Literature and am deep in the process of writing a 15,000 word dissertation on liminal physical spaces in horror fiction, which is both really interesting and way more difficult than I anticipated, particularly with the introduction of spatial theory. Outside of university, I am chugging away at a project which I hope will become a novella or novel – weirdly enough, it’s also about liminal spaces. I may be mildly obsessed.

Where can we find you online?

I tweet at @lauranmauro, and I blog here and there at www.lauramauro.com. I’m also on Facebook and Pinterest if that’s your thing.

Tremendous thanks to Laura Mauro for being this week’s featured author!

Happy reading!

Don’t Go Back: Interview with Howard David Ingham

Welcome back to this week’s author interview series! Today, I’m thrilled to be featuring Howard David Ingham. Howard is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of We Don’t Go Back: A Watcher’s Guide to Folk Horror, which is one of my very favorite books from the last year.

Recently, Howard and I discussed their inspiration as a writer, how they chose the films for We Don’t Go Back, and what they have planned for the future.

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

I have always wanted to be a writer, right, since I was a queer and awkward teenager.

True Story. I started writing professionally because of a job I had writing manuals and marketing material for this one horse software firm years ago now. I was asked one day to design a brochure for a new product, and my sleazy boss told me to put a flowchart on the cover and make it look like a breast. In profile. Because “sex sells”, apparently. With like a voluptuous curve here. And a rounded and fulsome curve here. And a pointy bit here. I spent a week following his remit to the letter, while all the time making it not look like a breast, because at this point I still had my dignity (although some years later I’d sell it on eBay. But I digress). After a week of rejected designs, my sleazy, greasy-haired boss came and stood at my desk, staring as I mangled yet another version in Adobe. And he said, “Look. Can’t you just make it a bit more pert?” And that was the precise moment I decided that I needed to go freelance.

My favourite authors? I love Angela Carter. No one writes like she wrote. Flann O’Brien’s work is existentially terrifying and hilarious at the same time, and The Third Policeman is my favourite novel by some distance. I have always loved Jorge Luis Borges’ way with a short, short story, and he’s been a big inspiration to me. As for film writing, no film book has affected me as much as Kier-La Janisse’s House of Psychotic Women. It’s the film book I dream of being half as good as.

Your nonfiction book, We Don’t Go Back: A Watcher’s Guide to Folk Horror, is one of my very favorite books of the last few years. It has been an invaluable resource to me, and it’s also filled with witty and insightful essays about each of the selected folk horror films. You touch upon this in the book, but for those who haven’t been fortunate enough to read it yet, when did you first hear about folk horror, and what were your initial impressions of the subgenre?

Well that’s complex. But in 2016, I heard that folk horror was a thing because of several friends of mine (particularly my frequent collaborator and podcast buddy Jon Dear) who had begun to get enthused by it. I checked it out and discovered that in fact “folk horror” was a name largely given to most of my favourite films and TV plays. And that I’d always been into folk horror, since I was a kid. I just didn’t know there was a name for it until pretty recently.

I grew up in the 80s, the son of a psychic and a magician, and I caught the tail end of that period where daily horoscopes were on the morning news and TV and film were, at least here in the UK, indefinable spooky. Haunted. I grew up with Bagpuss, and Moondial, and as I got older and discovered films like The Wicker Man, Carnival of Souls and the classic BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas (which my father particularly loved), that love of the spooky and occult I’d always had thanks to a childhood steeped in occult ephemera stuck with me.

Were there any films in particular that you would have liked to include in the book but that you decided to omit? Any newer folk horror films that have been released since then that you feel would fit well in the table of contents?

There were only so many 1960s and 70s European and British horrors I could include. I decided for example that I probably could have left out The Devil Rides Out and The (1966) Witches. Tombs of the Blind Dead didn’t make it in because I have a hard aversion to zombie films.

I regret not including either Straw Dogs or Deliverance. I nearly wrote about A Cure for Wellness, but thought better of it. Arcadia literally came out within weeks of the final proof of the book coming out; Apostle and Requiem probably would have made it in if I’d left it a few months but neither is that good, so maybe I dodged a bullet there.

Midsommar, on the other hand, missed the cut by a year, but I can’t imagine not including that should I do a second edition.

So many moments in We Don’t Go Back really stopped me in my tracks, but probably none more so than your decision to include Winter’s Bone as a folk horror film. As a huge fan of the film, that selection—and your subsequent write-up—just blew me away. What is it about that film in particular that first made you think of it as a folk horror film? Considering that’s an entirely realistic film with no fantasy elements, how important of a role do you think the supernatural plays or doesn’t play in folk horror?

I think the main thing that differentiates folk horror as a genre is that it’s primarily the horror of folk, that the hauntings, or happenings, or violence are centred on ordinary people doing ordinary things in ordinary lives. For all that it’s often framed as being a more tasteful sort of horror, a kind of middle class horror (with a very middle class fan base), folk horror is stridently political and concerned with working people. The supernatural is really just a metaphor for the horrors that are visited upon ordinary people and which they visit upon each other.

Winter’s Bone is all about the horror of folk – just because the rural conspiracy isn’t pagan or supernatural, doesn’t mean that it isn’t very much a story about those exact horrors, and its chainsaw-centred denouement is quintessentially folk horror. It’s also really fucking brilliant.

We Don’t Go Back was very appropriately nominated in the nonfiction category for the Bram Stoker Awards this year. Where were you when you found out you were nominated, and what was your first thought?

I was sitting down, taking a rare breather on a Saturday afternoon, and I got a message from a really lovely guy – a HWA member – called Ben Monroe who was the guy who urged me to submit the book in the first place, and without whom I’d probably never have had the stones to. Anyway, Ben congratulated me for being nominated, and then a few minutes later I got a phone call by Steve Horry (who drew the wonderful cover that isn’t unrelated to the book getting noticed long enough for people to consider it for awards) who literally stopped driving his car, full of his family, and stopped in a car park so he could be wildly excited for me.

I thought, no way, there must be some mistake. Especially since in the preliminary ballot there was some heavyweight academic writing.

Then I saw that It’s Alive was also nominated and the world righted itself, because I knew right then there was no way that book wasn’t going to win. But because of that, I just enjoyed what I had. I think that getting nominated for something like the Stokers with a book I wrote, edited, print designed and self-published is a special thing.

Just once, and just for the first time, I won at self-publishing.

What are your hopes for the future of folk horror? Or do you think there even is a strong future for folk horror?

I think when Rolling Stone (or whoever it was) does a profile on Black Philip, the phenomenon is at its peak and I think we’re in a late stage of a latter day folk horror boom. We’re going to see an increasing number of very derivative films – we already are, in fact, I mean Apostle was basically just a frantic game of Folk Horror Bingo, for example. Back in the 70s, folk horror was an accidental genre. It wasn’t that people deliberately made folk horror films, they made films that fit the preoccupations of the time and years later people started calling them folk horror. I mean if you want to be a purist, literally the only folk horror film made before about 2010 was Blood on Satan’s Claw, because that’s the only one that got called that before then. Now, though, people are treating it like a brand, like a Thing, and that means that we’re getting films that fit a formula.

It’s not over, because in a sense these conversations are never really over, but I suspect that in a couple of years the mainstream will find a new sort of horror movie to be excited about.

But not before Kier-La Janisse’s documentary about folk horror Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched comes out, because I’m one of the talking heads in that one and I’ve always wanted to be in a film and I’m proper excited about that.

I’m looking so forward to your next nonfiction book, which is all about identity horror. What can you share with us about that project?

Identity Horror is a term that I came up with independently, but I am about 99% certain I wasn’t the first to come up with it, which is probably a sign I’m on to something.

The Question in Bodies, which is one of several I’m working on (I’ve also got a companion to We Don’t Go Back on the cards and a book called Cult Cinema, which is about bad religion in film) is the title of the project. Body horror is part of it, but it’s also about how that affects who we are. I identify as nonbinary, pansexual and neurodiverse, and a lot of this stuff speaks to me, since a lot of the films I’ve been looking at are about the challenge to human identity in the face of existential threats – inner changes reflect external traumas. Your great book The Rust Maidens is very much an identity horror.

The films I’m looking at are often queer, and they actively queer the human self for better or worse, with odd penetrations, or psychological transformations. You get films about parenthood, gender, race, sexuality. Films featuring doppelgängers and brainwashing. Cronenberg is a touchstone, obviously (Videodrome! eXistenZ! Crash! Shivers! The Brood!) but you can see the themes in a surprisingly large range of movies. Like Possession, with its crazy marriage break up, tentacle infidelity and disease-God; or Upstream Color, where identity theft is something that literally happens to a couple of people who share its trauma. A lot of these films might have difficult content, so you’ve got The Skin I Live In, which I’m still not sure is transphobic or transadvocate, and Lucille Hadzihalilovic’s Evolution where body horror and weird hybridisation is a vehicle for extreme child abuse, making for a super queasy film. And as for Tetsuo, you can sum it up with one word: drillpenis.

Anyway. I’m still staking my claim as to why identity horror is a valid subgenre. I’ll be working on this for a while yet.

You’re also a fiction writer. What are you working on in terms of fiction at the moment?

I’m always writing short stories, and recently I did some for a role-playing game called Threefold and another one, a folk horror game called Solemn Vale.

As for my personal work, the last thing I put out was a collection called this is not a picture. I’m about halfway through resurrecting an abandoned dystopian scifi comedy horror called P Squared, which I stopped working on first time because it was the most depraved, vile and unsettling thing I’d ever written. It’s about the commodification of human identity, and it’s sort of deliberately extreme, all splattered with blood and semen. It’s got a time travel temp agency, a character who accidentally sexually harasses themself, doppelgängers, clones, non consensual brain surgery and ridiculous amounts of sex and violence. The last chapter I edited has a scene where a university department commits an explosive mass suicide, and the slang term a character uses for this is a “hard Brexit”, which I guess is where my head is right now.

Where can we find you online?

You can find me at Room207press.com, but also at M4DeathTrip.podbean.com, where Jon and I are about to begin a new season of podcasts. I’m all about the crowd funding, so I guess I would be remiss not to mention patreon.com/HowardDavidIngham, where most of my blog writing finds its home first before being released out into the wild.

Tremendous thanks to Howard David Ingham for being part of this week’s author spotlight!

Happy reading!

Shining Legacy: Interview with V. Castro

Welcome back! Today I’m thrilled to spotlight the fantastic V. Castro. V. is the author of Maria the Wanted and the Legacy of the Keepers as well as numerous short stories. I was fortunate enough to meet V. at StokerCon this year, and I knew I had to invite her to talk with me here on the blog.

Recently, V. and I discussed her new novel as well as her inspiration and hopes for the future of horror.

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

I’ve always loved books. Writing happened later in life because I never had the confidence to pursue it. A few years ago, I was in a bad place emotionally and felt I had nothing to lose. I was nearly forty and all those insecurities that held me back previously no longer existed. It’s a nice freedom to write with a fuck it all flag in your window. With that being said, my mother recently gave me a vampire book I wrote at nine years old! Masterpiece.

I don’t have favorite authors because I am discovering new favorites all the time. The books that shaped me were; Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark by Alvin Schwartz, The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, The Stand by Stephen King.

Congratulations on the release of your novel, Maria the Wanted and the Legacy of the Keepers. What inspired the book, and what has been the most surprising part of the experience, either writing or promoting it? 

Maria was not a main character, however, the more I thought about her, the more I felt she was important to write. She needed to be fleshed out because my kindle was full of straight white males. No shade, but there is a real need for narratives from females and people of color.

The most surprising part is that people have embraced me. The horror community is AMAZING, and I can’t tell you how many Latinx folks have reached out to me on Instagram excited about a strong Latina with her own story. There is a massive gap in the adult horror market for people of color. Most people don’t see this because they are represented. It isn’t only vampires that don’t see their reflection.

What draws you to horror and dark fantasy? Do you have a first memory of the genres growing up?

The first part of my life was not easy. Horror was an escape. There was no one to monitor what I was doing so I watched most horror films when they were on TV. Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark was my bible for years. The horror I was reading made me forget the little horrors that I experienced in my life.

You’re an incredible supporter of your fellow authors, both in person and on social media! You’re always promoting others and being such a positive force in the industry. In that vein, what advice do you have for other authors just getting started in the industry, especially female authors? 

My first and foremost advice is just be cool. There is never a reason to be rude or dog another author. It makes you look like a jerk and there are enough of those in the world.

I also feel that women are stronger together. The Suffragettes would have never accomplished half of what they did by being bitchy and divided. If we want things to change it should be shoulder to shoulder.

Which part of the writing process is your favorite: writing dialogue, creating setting, or crafting characters? 

Crafting characters because I only write main characters that are Latina. We see so few Latinas as main characters, we need to shine.

What are your hopes for the future of the horror genre?

I want more diverse stories. There are so many folk tales and urban legends from different cultures that are creepy AF. But women are KILLING it. I think the future is female.

What projects are you currently working on?

The big news is I will be co-editing a Latinx horror anthology with Bronzeville Books, Latinx Screams. I can’t wait for this to drop because it is all our nightmares and dreams from our own voices. Given the current climate, I feel this is very important right now. Submissions are open!

I have a ton of projects out and I’m just waiting for those emails.

Where can we find you online?

I am active on Twitter and Instagram as @vlatinalondon or my website www.vvcastro.com

Tremendous thanks to V. Castro for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Fearsome Lullaby: Interview with A.C. Wise

Welcome back! This week, I’m thrilled to spotlight the absolutely awesome A.C. Wise! A.C. is the author of the forthcoming novella, Catfish Lullaby, from Broken Eye Books as well as the collections, The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories and The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again, from Lethe Press, along with many incredible short stories.

Recently, A.C. and I discussed Catfish Lullaby as well as her work as a reviewer and her writing plans for the future.

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

Writing is something I’ve always been interested in, and something I’ve always loved doing. Somewhere around 3rd or 4th grade, it finally clicked in my head that writing was a thing people could do professionally in such a way that people could read their work. That’s when I decided I wanted to be an author someday.

Some of my favorites authors… I swear I’ll try to stick to just a few and not go rambling on and on. Ray Bradbury, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Elizabeth Bear, Neil Gaiman, Caitlin R. Kiernan, E. Catherine Tobler, John Langan, and N.K. Jemisin. I should probably stop there, right? I could keep going…

Congratulations on the forthcoming release of Catfish Lullaby! Could you share a little about your process in developing this story?

Thank you! The novella began life as a short story, and when Scott Gable approached and asked if I had anything novella-length for Broken Eye Books, I realized there was more to the story that I wanted to tell, so I went back and expanded it. The original inspiration came from a song I sort of half heard at a county fair. The sound system wasn’t great, so I couldn’t tell what the singer was actually saying, but my writer-brain decided he was singing about a tall tale type figure like Paul Bunyan either walking into or out of a swamp, and from that, Catfish John was born. So thank you, singer whose name I don’t know, for your song that I probably woefully misheard!

The cover art for Catfish Lullaby is just incredible! Can you tell me about the artist, and how the cover evolved?

The artist is Sishir Bommakanti, who does generally gorgeous work. Seriously, check it out! (https://sishir.com/) All the credit for how the cover came together goes to Scott and Sishir. Scott found Sishir, sent over my novella, and all I had to do was sit back and wait. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the way the cover turned out! I’ve been very lucky with covers in general, between Catfish Lullaby, and my two Lethe Press collections, which had covers done by Staven Andersen and Reiko Murikami – two more incredible artists!

Everything about Catfish Lullaby, from the blurb to that beautiful aforementioned cover art, seems to have a very strong sense of place. I feel like I can hear and smell the swamp just from reading the description of the book. What drew you to this particular setting?

The fictional town of Lewis, where the novella is set, is very loosely based on the town in Louisiana where my husband grew up. Very loosely. I cheated on the geography, made the land much swampier, and rearranged things to suit the story. I can’t imagine setting Catfish Lullaby anywhere else though. There’s a kind of quiet you get there that you don’t get anywhere else, and a sense of isolation that can be both comforting and eerie. It’s definitely the kind of place where a living myth could hide away, and where bits of otherness could easily leak through to our world.

You’re a highly prolific short story writer. At this point, do you have a specific approach to crafting a short story (i.e. specific outlining strategies, a certain rhythm to how long it takes you to finish a story, etc.), or does the process still vary greatly each time?

The process varies greatly each time. Some stories flow, to the point where it feels like they arrive fully formed, and it’s a wonderful thing. Other times, it feels like banging my head against a wall. I rarely outline my short stories, at least not in a formal sense. I do occasionally leave myself notes and waypoints so I have a rough idea of where I was going next time I sit down to work on it, but other than that, I mostly figure it out as I go along.

In addition to your fiction writing, you’re also a very busy interviewer and reviewer. What draws you to interviewing and reviewing, and what do you feel, if anything, they’ve taught you about writing fiction?

Interviewing is a fun way to connect with other writers, and reviewing is an excuse to yell about stories I love. Really, they’re both selfish activities. Short fiction in particular can often get overlooked when it comes to reviews, so that was the other impetus behind the Words for Thought column at Apex Magazine. That said, I feel like short fiction is starting to get more of the attention it deserves thanks to fantastic and dedicated reviewers like Maria Haskins, Charles Payseur, Bogi Takács, Vanessa Fogg, Adri Joy, forestofglory, and the various reviewers at Locus Magazine, among others.

I think one of the main things reviewing has taught me about writing, or fiction generally, is that different people connect with different stories. A story may leave one person cold, and it may blow another person away, and sometimes it can be a matter of that story finding the right person at the right time on the right day, or vice versa, a person just being in the wrong frame of mind for a certain story when they come across it. Which I guess is a roundabout way of saying write the story you want to tell, rather than trying to guess at what you think your potential audience might want.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on edits to a novel so my agent can start shopping it around (eep!), and I have a handful of short stories in various stages of completion sitting open on my laptop.

Where can we find you online?

I blog somewhat sporadically at www.acwise.net. On Twitter, I’m @ac_wise, and there I mostly shout about short fiction I love, and post pictures of my corgis. My regular review columns appear at Apex Magazine (monthly) and The Book Smugglers (roughly quarterly).

Tremendous thanks to A.C. Wise for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Laughter and Freaks: Interview with Nicole Cushing

Welcome back! Today, I’m thrilled to feature the awesome Nicole Cushing. Nicole is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Mr. Suicide and The Sadist’s Bible, as well as numerous short stories.

Recently, Nicole and I discussed her forthcoming books, A Sick Gray Laugh and The Half-Freaks, as well as her inspiration and advice to new writers.

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

I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was still a kid. But I didn’t actually get off my ass and do the work to achieve that goal until I was thirty-five.

As for favorite authors, well, here are some names: Ligotti, Kiernan. Poe. Kundera, Ugresic, Miller, Herlihy, Gombrowicz, Andreyev, Hedayat.

Congratulations on the release of your forthcoming novel, A Sick Gray Laugh! What was the inspiration behind this book, and how did it develop from concept to finished version?

A Sick Gray Laugh has a lot of layers, and each layer had its own inspiration.

Part of the book was inspired by my experiences with depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, and by my various experiences with trauma and grief. Another part was inspired by my life in small Midwestern towns largely devoid of color; towns where the Grayness seems palpable, menacing, and almost sentient. Another part was inspired by my long-held interest in the strange Utopian cults that settled in the Midwest throughout the nineteenth century, and by my general interest in magick and the occult. Another part was inspired by my feeling that the world, in the present day, keeps getting weirder—and not in a good way. From where I sit, each and every social institution seems to be devolving into something absurd.

As you might imagine, weaving all of those subjects together into a single, coherent whole was a challenging task. Thankfully, I was able to learn quite a lot from Milan Kundera’s nonfiction book The Art of the Novel. His discussion of the so-called “polyphonic” novel was a revelation.

Readers absolutely love Mr. Suicide and The Sadist’s Bible. How do you feel that A Sick Gray Laugh fits in with those two books? On the other hand, how does it build on your previous work?

The common thread linking all of my books seems to be their preoccupation with themes of trauma, madness, and foulness (sometimes seasoned with a bit of gallows humor). A Sick Gray Laugh is no exception.

That having been said, A Sick Gray Laugh uses several approaches I’ve never tried before. To take just one example, a significant stretch of the book is historical fiction about a town established by one of those Utopian cults which I mentioned earlier. The novel traces the fate of this settlement over the span of two hundred years. So the book encompasses a much wider canvas than anything I’ve written before. Accordingly, it’s about twenty-thousand words longer than Mr. Suicide.

You also have a novella, The Half-Freaks, due out from Grimscribe Press later this year. What can you share about that book?

The main character of The Half-Freaks is a man named Harry Meyers. He’s a troubled fellow in his fifties who does odd jobs for the residents of a working class subdivision. Unfortunately, he’s also prone to a sad array of sexual compulsions.

Harry has lingered in my imagination since 2014, demanding that I tell his story. I had a perfect image of him in my head. I knew how he talked. I knew how he thought. But I also knew that those details weren’t enough to support a good story. He had to grow into something more substantial than a creep.

Eventually, I found I was able to give Harry more humanity by pointing out the freakishness of the world that surrounded him. For example, his mother dies in the early part of the story and he’s forced to interact with the health care and funeral industries (which are both motivated by a freakish combination of kindness and greed). The Half-Freaks is the story of Harry’s attempt to rebel against the forces of inhumanity and unreality.

What’s your writing process like? Do you write every day, and do you have any writing rituals? Also, is there a certain part of writing (e.g. establishing setting, crafting dialogue, developing characters) that’s your favorite? Conversely, is there a part of the process that’s your least favorite?

I tend to write Monday through Friday. I start my work day at around eight or nine a.m. by reading for an hour. Then I print out the last three to five pages of my work in progress, edit them, and try to add a thousand new words. This keeps me busy until about one or two p.m. Anything after that time is devoted to household chores and/or the business side of writing (reviewing contracts, blogging, posting videos to Youtube, keeping up with my lesson plans for The Nightmare Institute, etc.).

You are an awesome award-winning author with several books and several years of experience behind you. What’s the most important thing you feel that you’ve learned about writing over the last few years? In that vein, what advice do you have for writers who are just starting out?

The best advice I can offer to any writer (whether new or experienced) is simply this: writing isn’t a race. While many writers feel a need to constantly crank out new books, I think quality wins out over quantity.

After all, learning the craft takes time. In fact, I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning new approaches. I want to continually improve. And once you learn about the existence of any given technique, you may need to conduct a lot of failed experiments before you finally figure out how to best integrate it into your work-in-progress. Then, even after you’ve finished integrating it into your work-in-progress, it can take time to polish the completed book.

What projects are you currently working on?

In April I launched The Nightmare Institute, my platform for teaching horror writing classes. That keeps me pretty busy. I’ve also started work on a new novel.

Where can we find you online?

You can find out more information about The Nightmare Institute over on my Patreon page, https://www.patreon.com/nicolecushing

Of course, I’m also available on Facebook and Twitter. I pop up on Instagram every once in a while. And my website is www.nicolecushing.com.

Tremendous thanks to Nicole Cushing for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Memes and Other Unusual Ghosts: Interview with S. L. Edwards

Today I’ve got a real treat: none other than the indomitable S. L. Edwards. Sam is an author, reviewer, and a very active member of the horror and weird fiction community (if you haven’t been parodied in one of his memes, don’t worry; he’ll probably get to you soon). He’s also someone I’m happy to call a friend.

Recently, Sam and I discussed his debut collection, Whiskey and Other Unusual Ghosts, as well as his inspiration as an author.

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

I honestly can’t remember if I ever said, “I’m going to do this.” I remember dictating stories to the staff at the day care center I went to. I must have been three or four. Then through Middle School and High School I was writing for fun and for friends. I used to write a lot of them into my stories, tell them at parties. That kind of thing.

The more impactful story for me, I think, is when I was going to give up writing. I decided I wasn’t cut out for it, and the decision really broke my heart. I think I’m like a lot of people who are happier when they’re writing, or at least when they have ideas, so the idea of just ending what I had come to think of as a part of me was devastating. And that lasted for about two years. I’d like to think I was happy enough, but not nearly as happy as I could be.

Years later, on a bored whim I sent stories out to Benjamin Holesapple and Travis Neisler, who were opening up Turn to Ash and Ravenwood Quarterly respectively. I sent a story called “I’ve Been Here A Very Long Time” to Ben and one called “Movie Magic” to Travis.

They both said they enjoyed my work, and I didn’t believe them. Then they said that my stories were going to be accepted and I was still skeptical. Finally, I had the printed products in my hands, and I was in disbelief. I had a way back in to this world I wanted to be a part of, and I’ve treasured every bit of it since!

I’d saved a bottle of rum for when I sold my first short story, back when I was confident that such a thing was possible. I invited all of my friends over and shared it, kept what was left in case I sold anymore stories. The rum is long since gone.

Favorite writers…woof.

In my adult life I went through a Russian Literature phase. I worked out in New Mexico at a ranch and really got on my co-worker’s nerves talking about my reading habits. Boris Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago and Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate have really influenced me and my writing. Zhivago tends to get written off as a love story, but to me it was really a demonstration of what horror is. Yuri, as good of a man as he thinks he is, is swallowed up by his times. As much as he tries to stay above politics and violence, it finds him. There’s a sequence towards the end of the book, when Yuri has been captured, forced to work for the Forest Army Brotherhood, who are fighting the Whites. And there’s very slow build up, through all of the picturesque descriptions the reader knows this can’t last forever. I won’t get into the details of what finally happens when it becomes clear that the Whites are going to surround the Forest Brotherhood, but it was one of the most gruesome scenes I’ve read in literature. A real master class in what terror is.

Of course, there’s Tolstoy’s War and Peace too, which I read and reread. Those three works really inform my characters and my terrors. They really showed me how to make the macro, political world the more micro and intimate one. For all of the turmoil in those three works, there are still characters trying to live everyday lives. I think there’s something really profound in that.

But that’s really where my “realistic” reading habits drop off. Bolgokov’s Master and Margerita is a wonderful, subversive fantasy story. As is really anything by Gabriel García Marquez. From there, Neil Gaiman is at the top of my “I would die if I actually got to meet them” list. I love his writing. To my mind, Neil Gaiman can do no wrong.

In terms of our weird little world, I’ve made quite a few friends who are some of my favorite writers. S.P. Miskowski, John Linwood Grant, Matthew M. Bartlett, Jordan Kurella, Jon Padgett, Gwendolyn Kiste (hi), Betty Rocksteady, Orrin Grey, Christopher Ropes, Sean M. Thompson, Duane Pesice, Ashley Dioses, KA Opperman, Mer Whinery and Jonathan Raab. Thomas Ligotti is another writer, albeit one who I’ve never met or engaged with, who had a really profound impact on me. Jon’s done a really good job of highlighting how important Ligotti’s influence on the field is through editing and publishing Vastarien. I’m very jealous of what Kurt Fawver and Christopher Slatsky do, and I don’t think I’ve ever read a bad story by Autumn Christian, Brooke Warra or A.C. Wise. My two favorites right now, above all others, are Nadia Bulkin and John Langan. There’s no one else doing what they do right now. It’s incredible and awe-inspiring to watch.

Then there are a few writers who are working on the ground floor of our community, people who are climbing up high and fast. Rob F. Martin has a novella out called “The Doll Keeper,” that’s criminally under-read. Russell Smeaton is someone who walks humor and horror in a way I haven’t really encountered since Robert Bloch. John Paul Fitch writes like he’s fighting for his life, every word is just another bleeding cut. Then whenever I see a table of contents with William Tea, Sarah Walker, Can Wiggins, or Premee Mohammed I pay attention.

I just mentioned Robert Bloch, I think is one of my favorites. The guy leaves such a huge shadow! Yeah, he wrote Psycho, but he also had a touch on all of the anthology-style television shows that came out of the 1950s really all the way up through the 1980s. He had a way of balancing heartbreaking horror and absurd irony that made you laugh and cry at the same time. Matheson was good for that too, but in my opinion not like Bloch. And if I’m going to talk about Bloch, I need to give due deference to Lovecraft, who was one of Bloch’s mentors. For all the flaws I can find in his writing, to this day no one can invoke dread in me like Lovecraft, just like I go back to Clark Ashton Smith if I want to be in awe of what the English language can do.

And then there is Poe. I am a collector of all things Poe. Poe coffee mug, Poe action figure, Poe lunchbox. All Poe all the time.

Congrats on your debut collection, Whiskey and Other Unusual Ghosts! How did you choose the stories to include in the table of contents, and what was the overall process like in putting together your first collection?

Thank you! I’m very excited to share it with people. I had a lot, lot of support over the years. In a lot of ways, Whiskey is a dedication to a lot of friends and a big, supportive family. I know the stories are a bit dark, particularly when it comes to relationships. But honestly, that’s what scares me. In so many ways I have been very, very fortunate in my life. My characters, not so much. So, I hope that these people who held me up every step of the way recognize the collection for what it is. I hope my fellow authors enjoy it, and I hope readers are willing to give me a chance.

Regarding putting the collection together: my favorite stories are ghost stories, or they’re about deeply troubled people. I like ambiguity in my characters, an uncertainty if you’re supposed to be rooting for them or not. I particularly like to see that in antagonists. So, some of the stories in Whiskey have that element to them; certainly stories like “Cabras” and “Volver Al Monte.”

But in Whiskey I wanted to give folks as cohesive and comprehensive a sample of what I like to write and to do so in a way that was thematically connected. If I did my job right, the stories in this collection should be ones where you can remove the supernatural element and still be left with a horror story. Not in the sense of “oh the narrator is insane,” but in the sense that the supernatural is only a catalyst for things that are already there. Depression, self-isolation, addiction, cyclical violence. These are things that scare me quite a bit more than monsters.

And with that, hopefully there’s a sense of humor to some of the stories. I have one about animal hoarding, a puppet show, and movie theatre. There are funny things in our lives that can scare us just as much as the more irregular violence.

What is it about speculative fiction that attracts you as a storyteller?

Oh, the fluidity! It’s constantly changing and that makes it exciting! You have this laundry list of great writers and they’re all doing these phenomenally different things! Some are more sci-fi, some are more horror or fantasy. And increasingly I’m seeing speculative fiction adopting more magical realist elements. It’s really a good time to be a writer, because you’ve got so many peers constantly rewriting the rules.

In terms of my own writing, I’ve always enjoyed horror as a reader. You’ve got an opportunity to tell a really, raw emotional story and to do so in fantastic ways. It gives you a bit of elasticity, because you don’t have to stay in just one sandbox. You can bring in a ghost and give it as little or as much attention as you want. There are no rules.

I think that allows a writer an opportunity to pay as much or as little attention to themes like plot and theme as they want. Now this isn’t always the case, and I don’t want to talk like I’m an authority on the subject, but when I think about fantasy and science-fiction, there are lots of rules. You need to build up a whole world in order to tell a story that could take place over a few hours. Granted, there is a very loud movement in both of those fields to do new and exciting things, but as a writer fantasy and sci-fi seem too intimidating to me.

I like to play fast and loose, to focus on theme and character and not worry too much about the details of the world around them.

In addition to your fiction, you’ve also done reviewing and written nonfiction. How does your approach differ between your fiction writing and your nonfiction work?

Oh wow. When I started writing reviews, it was because I could get paid to read books, which was insane. But I decided pretty early on that I wanted to avoid two types of reviewing: summarizing and commenting. So many reviewers just list the stories and their plots, they don’t really offer an insight beyond “I liked or did not like this.” Then some get into a habit of only commenting “I understand this” or “I don’t understand this.” And they leave it there. That really frustrates me.

So when I was reviewing, I wanted to comment on what I liked about a work, other than just summarizing it or simply stating that I thought it was good. I tried to identify a unifying theme, discuss it and compare it to a few other works. It didn’t hurt to use vivid language in reviews either, it shows a certain amount of enthusiasm for the reader and a certain amount of understanding for the author. I think at the end of the day, authors want to be understood.

When I write nonfiction about literature, it’s a little different. There the purpose is purely commentary. It’s connecting with the theme of what you are analysing and putting it into dialog with something else. To my mind, when I write about someone else’s work, I want to bring something else in. To say something meaningful by bringing my own knowledge and experience to someone else’s body of work.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process: outlining ideas, crafting a first draft, or polishing up a nearly completed work?

It’s gotta be drafting. I’m a big fan of vomiting on the page, just writing at a breakneck speed and coming back later. I always have outlines, but I tend to deviate from them when I get into the actual writing. And there’s something about it. I’m a runner, and I’d compare writing like that to a runner’s high.

I also edit as I write, so usually by the time a “first draft” is finished, it’s polished in terms of plot, character and style. But I am notoriously bad at typos, so I always have to give things a second look-over.

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

Oh, that’s hard. There’s a set of stories that did not make it into Whiskey that I quite like. The Bartred family is one of occult detectives, and Joe Bartred is the main protagonist in those stories. Joe is an interesting character to me, very young and deeply sceptical of himself. Those stories can be found in Occult Detective Quarterly, and ideally once I have enough of them, I can put together a whole Bartred collection!

For individual stories, it’s tied between “Cabras” and “Volver Al Monte.” Without spoiling the fun for those who haven’t read them, I consider “Cabras” to be the more “horror” of the two. It was also the story that I think was the most influenced by my love for Dr. Zhivago. “Volver Al Monte,” feels a bit more like fantasy or science fiction. The terror is muted for tragedy, particularly when it becomes clear that the main character is not a hero.

What’s next for you?

Ideally, I keep writing short stories. A few folks keep telling me that writing a novel is the way to go, and I’ve got an idea, but not the time or discipline.

I’ve got two collections already completed but want to find the right publishers to work with for them. One will be pulp/fantasy, things that I enjoyed but did not fit with Whiskey and the other will be more weird-horror, with a focus on conspiracies. Mind you, not “conspiracies” in the “conspiracy theory,” sense, but conspiracies as in secrets, lies. Perfectly normal and yet horrifying things that happen in the everyday world.

Where can we find you online?

You can find me on Facebook, my blog and Amazon. I’m always posting memes on Facebook, partly because I like to laugh and partly because I like to laugh at myself. So, don’t be scared away with the memes.

Big thanks to Sam L. Edwards for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Spectral Nightmares: Interview with Craig Laurance Gidney

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight the amazing Craig Laurance Gidney! I had the pleasure of meeting Craig in Atlanta at The Outer Dark Symposium, and we even got to hear him read from his forthcoming novel, A Spectral Hue. Suffice it to say, it’s going to be one of the best books of the year without a doubt!

Recently, Craig and I discussed his journey as an author as well as what we can expect from his new novel!

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

I knew that I wanted to be a writer when I was in second grade. At the point at which I could spell and make quasi-legible words, I started writing stories and making stapled chapter books. The books were accompanied by my illustrations. I can remember their titles: The Story of Dum Dum was about a hobo dog, and A Bird of Stars was a book of religious poetry. As I read more widely, my writing started to mimic whatever book I was reading. Around 10 or so I read Southern Gothic short stories—Flannery O’Connor and Eudora Welty. I think O’Connor’s love of the grotesque and her blatant use of symbolism was a formative influence. Patricia A McKillip and Tanith Lee’s work taught me what I could do with language and atmosphere. Octavia E Butler taught me the importance of theme, and that it was imperative that I center black and brown people protagonists, and Samuel R Delany showed me the importance of the queer (and black) point of view.

Congratulations on the forthcoming release of your novel, A Spectral Hue. What can you share about this book? What was your inspiration, and what was the process like in writing A Spectral Hue?

The seed of A Spectral Hue was planted during a college course I took on the Surrealist movement. One of the guest lecturers was a specialist in Outsider Art. I believe he spoke about Henry Darger, the reclusive Chicago janitor who secretly wrote and illustrated an epic science-fantasy novel about child slaves, aliens and the heroic Vivian Girls. I saw slides of his works among other lesser known artists and was blown away by their otherworldly depth. During the summer, when I was staying at my parents’ house, my father, who was a dentist, told me about a patient of his that would give him handmade books of her poetry. He brought one of the books home, and I got the same otherworldly feeling. My dad’s patient was an older African American woman, who, like Darger, had created an elaborate world that centered around a mythic figure, known as the Chocolate Soldier. She wrote cryptic poems about his adventures, and, like Darger, illustrated the work with unearthly collages.

The novel went through a few drafts before I found the right way to tell the tale. At one point, it was a YA novel! I have scores of false starts on my hard drive. The ultimate form was a result of workshopping the book in 2015.

How, if at all, is your approach different when writing short fiction versus longer fiction? Do you outline ahead of time, or is your process more free-form?

It depends on the project.

My novella Bereft was outlined, but not excessively so. I think because it was a young adult and realistic book, I was more controlled than I was with my other stuff.

Most of my short fiction isn’t planned, per se. I’ll have an idea and a character and basic plot and go from there.

I think, though, for the most part, I am a chaotic pantser—which makes novel writing a messy experience. You know how in cooking shows, the host has everything lined up in neat little ramekins? I’m not like that At. All. I’m the flour-stained, gravy-spattered chef.

Your chapbook, The Nectar of Nightmares, was released through Dim Shores in 2015, and was also re-released last year as a standalone ebook. How did this particular book develop?

The novelette itself was one of those spur of the moment things that just jump out from your brain and onto the page. The first part was inspired by the ballet-horror movie Black Swan. The second part sprang from the fact that I was working part-time for a Native American lobbying group. The overall theme, about a sleep demon, had been kicking around in my head for a while. I wrote the story and it just sat on my hard drive, without a particular market in mind.

Then I went to World Horror Con in 2015 and met Scott Nicolay (of the Outer Dark podcast). He was the one who told me about Dim Shores and got me in contact with Sam Cowan. Orion Zangara, the illustrator, had sent me a nice note about my fiction maybe a year earlier. I loved his artwork, and Sam let me choose him for the project.

You’ve been a professional writer for a number of years at this point. How do you feel your approach or perspective on the craft or industry of writing has changed over the last few years? How has it stayed the same?

A few things have happened. There is a renaissance of speculative fiction from marginalized voices, so that there isn’t just one Black or Asian or queer writer—-there’s lots of them. And people, all people, seem to be hungry for different voices, and different stories. We most certainly have a far ways to go, but it’s nice to know that there isn’t a competition for a tokenized place at the table. Now, we are the table.

I know that Social Media can be terrible. But the bulk of my commissions come from Social Media. That’s really changed — and the fact that you don’t have to send hard copies in the mail! I remember making a trek to the post office, sending SASEs and waiting (sometimes for two years) to hear back from markets.

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

My black queer coming out fairy-tale “Circus Boy Without a Safety Net” seems to bring such joy to people. I view it as “the little story that could.”

What projects are you currently working on?

In addition to a couple of short commissions (including a nonfiction essay), I am working on a new novel that explores themes of vampirism, colonialism, gentrification and hoodoo (black folk magic). It’s in the conceptual stage at the moment.

Where can we find you online?

I have a site/blog at: craiglaurancegidney.com, and my Twitter (very infrequent) and Instagram are both @ethereallad

Link: to Orion Zangara: http://orionzangara.com

Huge thanks to Craig Laurance Gidney for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Angels and Graves: Interview with Richard Writhen

Welcome back for this week’s featured interview! Today, I’m pleased to spotlight Richard Writhen. Richard is the author of A Host of Ills, The Hiss of the Blade, and his latest novel, The Angel of the Grave.

Recently, Richard and I talked about his favorite authors as well as his new book and all about his writing plans in the future.

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

I had always toyed with the idea, and wrote on and off throughout my life, but would usually just wind up deleting everything. I really didn’t get down to brass tacks until I became a copywriter for a retail website. That was very good writing practice. I had turned thirty-six. Then, I saw an ad on Craigslist that was looking for blog posters, and I thought, what the heck, go ahead and submit. When it comes to literature, I like noir, darkness. Poe, HPL, Dennis Lehane, Richard Price, Paul Tremblay, Daphne du Maurier, Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins.

Congrats on your forthcoming novel, The Angel of the Grave! What was the process like writing this book? How long did it take you, and were there any unexpected roadblocks along the way?

Thank you, very much. This book was like a miasma, a quicksand. It took over two years to write. Thankfully, I had some experience with this, as my first novella took 28 months to write as an amateur. As the second and third one took eight months apiece, I thought this one would be easy. But alas, that was not to be. Every time I wrote a couple hundred words, it became more complex. I almost thought that I was going to die before completing it, that it would go unpublished. One of the narrative arcs in the book was actually part of The Hiss of the Blade originally, but I came to feel that it didn’t fit in with the overall tough-guy-ness of the rest of the book, so I pulled it and used it in the new novel.

Your novel incorporates many aspects of the occult, including witchcraft and divination. What draws you to these subjects, and do you have any strange experiences with the supernatural yourself?

I have always been drawn to those kinds of subjects. I grew up reading Stephen King and Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. I wanted to do my take on witchcraft for this book. The first three novellas feature magic, but it’s not really the focus. So, this one was different. Also, my last novella was about toxic masculinity, and I wanted to address femininity, as it were. I remember going to see Sucker Punch and being very disappointed, as it’s very much a girl power film. Maybe Zack Snyder didn’t set out to create that, but it was the result. A vanity project. In hindsight, I feel that it will probably gain a cult following in the future. It’s kind of an experience, not so much a narrative. I think that my first novel will be like that as well, in a sense. I set out to create art. I’m sure some men will read it and probably be like, “What is this s**t …?!” But, I don’t care.

You’ve written novellas and now a novel. Do you find that the length of a project affects your approach to writing at all? Is there a certain length of story you prefer, either as a writer or a reader?

Jack London set out to write a short story, and it became The Call of the Wild. You have to be true to the work, that’s all, IMO. Length is inconsequential.

If forced to choose, which is your favorite part of the writing process: crafting dialogue, establishing setting, or developing characters?

For me, it’s connections. Easter eggs. Little flourishes that probably no one will even get. But yeah, I also enjoy all the usual processes. I don’t write like most people. I am not only writing the books out of sequence, I literally write the content of the prose out of sequence. Kind of weird. I’m going to try and work in a more linear fashion next book.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

I have one short story that I know I want to do, and after that, I will probably start book two of The Celestial Ways Saga. The title of book two will be The Crack of the Whip. I have some notes, some dialogue written, but I don’t really outline.

Big thanks to Richard Writhen for being part of this week’s author interview series. Find him online at his author site and on Facebook.

Happy reading!

Love and Death: Interview with Serena Jayne

Welcome back for our first interview of April! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight Serena Jayne. Serena is the author of Kiss Me Dead along with numerous short stories, and she’s also a frequent reviewer and incredible supporter of her fellow writers.

Recently, Serena and I discussed her new book as well as her inspiration and her 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?

Serena JayneReading has always been a passion for me. I dreamed of becoming a writer, but pursued science, while taking every single writing class offered in college. After a few years doing laboratory work, I turned my focus to technical writing and eventually management. By 2009, I was burned out. After too many moments like the one in Eat Pray Love where Elizabeth Gilbert describes sobbing and lamenting the course of her life on her bathroom floor at three AM, I knew I needed to make some changes. With a new determination to follow my dreams, I sought out online writing communities, joined the Romance Writers of America, and enrolled in Seton Hill University’s MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction. I met a bunch of phenomenally talented people whose belief in me helped me foster belief in myself.

Some of my favorite authors include Jim Butcher, Laurel K. Hamilton, Randall Silvis, Kresley Cole, Don Winslow, Rainbow Rowell, Blake Crouch, and Sara Wolf. I loved your short story collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, and your novel, The Rust Maidens. Your other works are at the top of my To-Be-Read list.

Congratulations on your new book, Kiss Me Dead! What was the inspiration behind this story?

I took an outstanding intensive course on using tarot cards in writing taught by Devon Ellington. I drew the death card for my protagonist and my reaper hero was born. My draw for the story included a number of major arcana cards, including the magician, the star, and the hanged man. I expanded the story by adding in elements from Greek Mythology and Death’s personal assistant.

I absolutely love Matt Andrew’s art for your cover! What can you tell us about how that cover artwork developed?

Kiss Me DeadAs a huge fan of Matt’s art and writing, I was thrilled when he agreed to do the cover. His attention to detail makes his work shine. We both love retro-style pinups and his vision brought the elements of horror and romance together in a fun and sexy way. He absolutely captured the heart of the story with his stunning artwork. I couldn’t be more pleased.

Your work spans numerous genres, including horror, dark fantasy, noir, mystery, and romance. Do you have different approaches to a story depending on which genre you’re writing?

The genres tend to put me in different emotional headspaces. With romance, I know the main characters are going to end up in a good place. With noir, horror and other dark genres, happy ever afters aren’t necessarily in the cards. One of my professors at Seton Hill taught me that paranormal/dark romance is a subgenre of horror. Everything is connected and life is a mix of all the things—and I want to write about them all.

With all my stories, I tend to come up with the situation or the protagonist or some other seed and let it stew in my mind until I know enough to get started. My process tends to be different depending on the length of the piece, rather than on the genre. For shorter works, I’ll brainstorm a bit and then get writing. With longer works, I need to plot more. It’s not enough to have a beginning and end. I need a more detailed map or else I tend to get lost. My go to move when I am stuck is to hop in the shower. There’s nothing like some hot water and suds to get my subconscious cooking.

Neon DruidIn addition to your fiction work, you’re also a reviewer. What inspired you to become a reviewer, and has it changed your approach to fiction writing at all?

Reviews are crucial to me, both as a reader and as an author. I’ve one-clicked books based on reviews or recommendations from friends. Book seller algorithms make books with numerous reviews easier to discover. A friend got me hooked on NetGalley. Advanced reader copies are the best. I wouldn’t say it’s changed the way I write fiction, but becoming a reviewer has taught me the importance of blurbs. When I find a book on NetGalley that looks interesting, if the blurb doesn’t grab me, I won’t request it.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process: crafting dialogue, developing characters, or creating a sense of setting?

My favorite part of the writing process is developing characters and those precious ah-ha moments when things start to gel. I’ve found each story to be unique. Some are easier to write, while others need to be scraped out of my brain and heart in tiny, bloody chunks.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on several horror short stories and a noir novel. There’s a romantic comedy novel series featuring generation-X characters bouncing around in my brain. I’m hoping to get the first installment written this year, while I’m submitting my thesis, an urban fantasy novel, to publishers. I haven’t published anything 20,000 words or longer yet. I’m hoping to change that soon.

Tremendous thank to Serena Jayne for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at her website as well as on Twitter and Instagram!

Happy reading!