Category Archives: Interviews

Beneath the Streets: Interview with Daniel Hale

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m pleased to feature Daniel Hale. Daniel’s fiction has appeared in The Myriad Carnival, All Hallows’ Evil, and Strangely Funny III, among other publications.

Earlier this year, he and I discussed how he became a writer, the inspiration behind his recent stories, and what he’s working on next.

What first inspired you to become a writer? Also, do you remember the first speculative fiction story you ever read?

Daniel HaleI’ve been playing with the idea of writing since I was in high school, though back then it was mostly just one-off scenes handwritten in notebooks that didn’t really go anywhere. I didn’t seriously try it until college when I figured there was nothing stopping me. I suppose inspiration as we know it didn’t really happen until I read Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman, and specifically the introduction in which he explained the work that went into each story in the collection. It made me realize that writing is work, and takes a while and that a story can come from anywhere.

The first book I can remember reading for actual pleasure is One Day at Horrorland by R.L. Stine. One day I hope to write my own original take on a theme park of horror and will dedicate it to him in thanks.

Your story, “Plague Automata,” appeared in The Myriad Carnival, an anthology edited by the talented Matthew Bright. What can you tell us about your inspiration for that particular story?

“Plague Automata” was inspired by the old penny machines that played little tableaus. I liked the idea of these little arcade machines that acted out a story through animate, uncanny sculptures, and wanted to see how they would fit in at a place as strange and unworldly as the Myriad Carnival.

You’ve also had stories appear in two anthologies—Strangely Funny III and All Hallows’ Evil—from Mystery and Horror LLC. I’m a huge a fan of editors Sarah Glenn and Gwen Mayo, so I always love talking about the fiction they publish. So in that vein, what was the process behind those two stories that appeared in their anthologies?

All Hallows’ Evil was the first anthology I ever submitted for, and I’m still deeply pleased by the reception my story, “Pact of the Lantern,” has received. One day that will be a book.

Strangely Funny IIIThe story came from my own fascination with Halloween and the things I learned about the holiday visiting the town of Salem as a boy. It also stemmed from my sadness that so much of the holiday is fading from common practice. I’m still worried that one day my son might not be able to go trick r’ treating the right way, from house to house lit by lanterns. The day trunk r’ treating becomes the norm is the day that I am officially done with the holiday.

Strangely Funny III featured one of my more enjoyable stories, “A Familiar Problem.” It was surprisingly easy to write, too, being so distrustful myself of smartphones and other modern, labor-saving technology. I figured wizards might have the same problems that they think can be solved with the right gimmicky time-saving enchantments.

You are originally from Massillon, Ohio, which has a special connection for me (since it just so happens to be my birthplace). Have you found that the Rust Belt in general or Massillon in particular has figured into your fiction in any way?

My grandparents live in Massillon, and the house of the wizard in “A Familiar Problem” is partly inspired by theirs. I also wrote a few short pieces for the ongoing “Big Trouble in Little Canton” project by Jason Daniel Myers. Oh, and the Buzzbin in Canton became the Din Den in my story “The Miasmatist,” which will be featured in my upcoming collection.

So as yet it’s mostly just been minor places in the area that I’ve borrowed for my stories. My most recent attempt at a novel took place in the area and featured the melon heads and the lizard lady of Akron, and other local bits of folklore.

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

My Halloween stories have tended to be my personal favorites so far. “Pact of the Lantern” and the stories I’ve written connected to it have received the most praise. One of my ongoing projects is a collection of stories that feature Halloween and Christmas stories together.

What upcoming projects are you working on?

The Library Beneath the Streets will be my first published book. Editing with Zumaya Publications is finally wrapping up, and we’re hoping for a release in April at the latest.

I’m also working on two other collections: my holiday collection, tentatively titled Hallowed Days, and Sleepless Nights, a more general collection of mostly unpublished works. It also includes “Faith and Folklore,” my last attempt at a novel, as the penultimate story. I’ve yet to find the right combination of focus and time to write a proper one.

I’ve got a publisher in mind for Sleepless Nights. I’ll keep working on it as I wait for them to open for submissions.

I’m usually working on a short story at any given time. Right now I’m trying for a crossover between two obscure fairy tales, “How Six Made Their Way in the World, and “The Bird, the Mouse and the Sausage.” We’ll see.

Huge thanks to Daniel Hale for being part of this week’s author interview series! You can find him online at his author website and on Twitter.

Happy reading!

In the Red: Interview with Christa Carmen

Welcome back! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight the awesome Christa Carmen. Christa is the author of numerous short stories that have been released in venues such as Unnerving, Tales to Terrify, Mad Scientist Journal, and DarkFuse Magazine. Her debut fiction collection, Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked, is forthcoming from Unnerving. Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to meet Christa at StokerCon in Providence, and she is truly as delightful and fabulous in person as I’d hoped!

Earlier this year, she and I discussed her inspiration as a writer, the way her stories develop, and what she has planned 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?

Christa CarmenI’ve been submitting my work for the consideration of publication only within the last two and a half years, but I’ve always considered myself a writer. The idea of writing professionally, writing consistently, writing for something other than my own enjoyment or for catharsis, writing with intent for the work to see the light of day rather than fade and wither in the bowels of a desk drawer somewhere, this was a foreign concept to me for quite a long time.

It’s strange, because I’ve always been enamored of everything to do with books; with the stories themselves, and the authors who wrote them, with movies that were adapted from books and literary series that told sweeping or genre-bending tales, with the illustrations that graced the covers of my favorite novels and the libraries and bookstores that housed them. But the idea of becoming a writer myself was stymied by a longstanding preoccupation with alcohol and drugs. I’m sober now, and have been for a while, but throughout much of the time I could have spent determining if the passion I’d always had for writing could have translated into a viable career option, I was struggling to keep my head above water while the metaphorical eight-hundred pound gorilla clung to my back. I don’t regret that this was the case; while my commitment to writing may have been delayed, the experiences I endured, and how those experiences shaped me as a person, inform my writing today.

As far as some of my favorite authors go, the list is pretty expansive, but I’ll try to keep it brief: Carmen Maria Machado, Kelly Link, Stephen King, Sarah Waters, Jack Ketchum, Ania Ahlborn, Shirley Jackson, Joe Hill, Caroline Kepnes, Ruth Ware, R.L. Stine, Dean Koontz, Jessica McHugh, Michael McDowell, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Roxane Gay, Peter Straub, Agatha Christie, Dan Simmons, Damien Angelica Walters, Mark Z. Danielewski, Harper Lee, H.P. Lovecraft, Annie Hartnett, Cormac McCarthy, Edgar Allan Poe, Sarah Pinborough, J.K. Rowling, & B.A. Paris.

As a horror author, are there certain themes that you find yourself returning to again and again, those concepts that really get under your skin? On the other hand, are there topics or themes you’re eager to try as a horror writer, or even ones you’re not quite ready to explore yet?

When it comes to writing horror, the themes that I find myself returning to are more psychological in nature. We know that what one individual finds horrifying may not even register as a blip on the fright radar to another. While a great horror story might err on the more conventional side of what human beings find scary, I think that the truly frightening stories are those that deal with the darker parts of the human psyche, those parts that many of us repress or deny. Home invasion thrillers can inspire security system checks to rival those of an obsessive-compulsive; zombies and vampires make us read of the latest swine flu outbreak or blood-borne virus discovery with an increasingly mistrustful eye. But psychological horror done right exposes our universal vulnerabilities, makes us experience those unpleasant, unsettled, uneasy feelings we work so hard to avoid.

As for topics or themes I’m eager to try as a horror writer, or ones I’m not quite ready to explore yet, I think it’s pretty safe to say that anything that pops into my head as a subject or theme I could potentially write about, I’m willing to pursue. That’s not to say that uncharted thematic territory won’t require more of a time commitment than a subject or theme I’m familiar with. For example, I have an unfinished horror novel called 13 Sessions, about a thirty-something year old woman who pursues acupuncture as a personal infertility treatment with monstrous results, and an unfinished short story, “I Have No Mouth For I Mustn’t Scream,” about a woman whose pregnancy complications have rendered her mute for the entire forty weeks of gestation, so that should tell you a little something about how confident I am with themes related to that subject.

You have a story appearing in Unnerving Magazine #5. Could you tell us about the inspiration behind that piece?

Unnerving #5The inspiration behind the story appearing in Unnerving Magazine #5, “Red Room,” is probably a great deal more interesting than that of my other stories. The story is about a woman who, despite her fiancé’s belief to the contrary, is convinced she should be concerned by the gruesome photos appearing on her phone, and whose fear proves justified in a rather ghastly, albeit unexpected way.

On April 13, 2017, Tor.com published an article by Emily Asher-Perrin entitled, “The Peril of Being Disbelieved: Horror and the Intuition of Women.” The piece examines one of the most overdone tropes in horror: that of the woman who feels that something is off, but is disbelieved and brushed off by everyone, right up until the moment the chainsaw begins to rev, or zombies break down the door. The article discusses how every woman knows what this feels like, and how “women know that it’s their responsibility to prevent harm from coming to them.”

Not long after reading this article, something odd happened. I woke up the morning after a wedding to a series of photos on my phone that I did not take. The photos were of two men in a bar, and they had an eerie, old-fashioned feel that lent them a patina of wrongness as palpable as any Instagram filter. The next day, at a post-wedding brunch, the topic of the inexplicable photos came up. The reaction from several men in the group was that, one way or another, I had to have been the cause of these photos appearing on my phone. “You probably just screenshotted them from a website,” or “you must have accidentally downloaded them.” As I mentioned previously, I’m not a drinker, so the activities of the night before were clear in my mind. This complete unwillingness to believe that the photos had appeared through no action of mine collided in my head with the echoes of Asher-Perrin’s article, and “Red Room” was the result.

You currently live in Rhode Island, a state with its own haunted and cosmic horror history. Do you find that your home state often inspires your work, or do you tend to look for creepy inspiration elsewhere?

Rhode Island does often inspire my work! I’d say 95% of what I write takes place somewhere in my home state; the novel that I’m currently working on is set not only in my home state, but in my hometown of Westerly, with much of the action occurring along the coast, in Misquamicut and Watch Hill, and many of my short stories take place in Mysticism, a fictional town that exists somewhere between Westerly and Charlestown, and borrows a portion of its name from Mystic, Connecticut.

I think the consistent use of RI as setting can be attributed to a combination of two factors. First, there is absolutely something haunted and horrific about the smallest state in the US. Especially in the beach communities at the southern part of the state, there’s such a sense of isolation in the winter, of things lurking in the cold and waiting to awaken. Additionally, while I don’t necessarily subscribe to the oft-repeated ‘write what you know’ adage, I find that in terms of place, setting a work of fiction in a locale with which you are intimately familiar makes for fiction that’s more dynamic to read, and more enjoyable to write.

As a short fiction writer, do you have a specific approach when you’re crafting a new story? Do you tend to start with an image or a character or a theme, and write toward exploring that idea? Or does it entirely vary from project to project?

Something Borrowed, Something Blood-SoakedThe reason I wrote that the inspiration behind “Red Room” is worthier of reveal than that of my other stories is because my approach to writing short fiction is usually fairly straightforward. I have a designated ‘Ideas’ notebook with a section for singular, striking images, and when I see something I find haunting or unusual, I write it down. Sometimes an image connects rather quickly with an idea, for example, I took a long course on legends through the Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic, and became captivated with the internet legend of the ‘Stairs in the Woods’ (google ‘Stairs in the Woods Reddit’ if you want to fall down that particularly eerie rabbit hole). I’d already been tossing around the idea of writing a story inspired by some of the women on the methadone clinic at which I was a clinician from 2010 to 2013, and when I thought more about the image of a staircase in the forest, and the type of person who might find the idea of walking up that mysterious staircase to an unknown destination appealing, the story unfurled from there.

It’s probably not much different from what Stephen King says about where his ideas come from in On Writing: “…good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.” I’d say that’s a pretty solid explanation for my process.

You were married on Halloween 2016 at the Stanley Hotel (congratulations, by the way!). That hotel, of course, served as the inspiration for The Shining. When did you first visit the hotel, and did anything spooky or strange ever happen to you there? Also, have you visited other horror landmarks in your travels?

Thank you so much! Getting married at the Stanley Hotel was exactly as amazing as my now-husband, John, and I had hoped it would be, and I’m thankful that our families had as enjoyable an experience as we did. We stayed at the Stanley (where The Shining plays on a constant loop on one of the hotel’s television channels) for ten days, and in addition to stalking the Estes Park elk herd (I admit, having become accustomed to regular old white-tailed deer in New England, I was quite taken with the elk, although John might go so far as to say I was obsessed), and venturing into Rocky Mountain National Park on more than one occasion, we participated in as many ‘haunted’ activities as we could fit into our schedule. We played Monster mini-golf and saw Ouija: Origin of Evil at the local cinema. We signed up for a historical tour of the hotel, as well as a ‘spirit’ tour, on which guests are introduced to the “active” phenomena and ghostly folklore surrounding the 100+ year old hotel, and educated on how to interact with the type of activity people have claimed to encounter in the past.

On our second night of vacation, I bought a ticket to attend Illusions of the Past, a theatrical séance put on by the Stanley’s in-house illusionist, Aiden Sinclair, in the Billiards Room of the main building. The show made use of ‘haunted’ artifacts to summon the ghosts of past hotel guests, and the audience got to manipulate actual historic antiquities from events such as the hunt for Jack the Ripper and the sinking of the Titanic.

Feeling bold, I volunteered to participate in a séance, for which I and four other women chose either a black bead or a haunted pearl from an opaque drawstring bag. The illusionist would have no idea who had chosen what, and we were to go around the room declaring “I have the pearl,” despite each participant being uncertain as to whether or not that was true. When the individual who did have the pearl declared as such, the planchette would flip off the Ouija board and into the air, coming to rest on the ground when the spirit had departed.

When it was my turn to state, “I have the pearl,” I did so with lots of hesitation and little amounts of faith. I felt something stir within my hand, a disturbance among the molecules of whatever material my clenched fist concealed. With a screech of metal against wood, the planchette flipped, the room grew cold, and in the mirrored walls behind the illusionist, I watched as something scampered away for the abandoned quarters of the hotel before its presence could be more widely-discerned.

John did not attend Illusions of the Past, however he was in for a supernatural phenomenon of his own. On the night of our wedding, while I stood on the dancefloor with my sister and three sisters-in-law, channeling Winifred Sanderson and belting out “I Put a Spell on You,” John felt a hand on his shoulder, as unambiguous and concrete as the feel of my fingers on the keyboard as I type. He spun around and looked up, expecting his mother or another family member to be standing over him, but there was no one there. An undigested bit of beef, perhaps, or a fragment of underdone potato? Your readers can be the judge as to whether there was more of gravy than of grave about my and John’s experiences, whatever they might have been.

As you mentioned, the Stanley served as the inspiration for The Shining. In 1980, of course, King’s novel became the basis for Stanley Kubrick’s film of the same name. The exteriors of Kubrick’s Overlook were supplied by the Timberline Lodge, located on the slopes of Mt. Hood in Oregon. John and I would love to celebrate a future anniversary at the Timberline, and at some point we will undoubtedly return to the Stanley. As for additional horror landmarks, I can’t say that I’ve visited too many other notable locations. I’ve been to Lovecraft Square in Providence and on the Universal Studios set of the Bates Motel, but I’ve really got to up my horror landmarks game! Ooh, I have also been to Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA; I read in your Times Reporter interview that you were raised in New Philadelphia, and while I know that’s almost two hours outside the city, I wonder if you’ve had the chance to visit the old, crumbling prison before…perhaps on Halloween, for their “Terror Behind the Walls” attraction? (Gwendolyn’s note: Alas, my New Philadelphia hometown is the Ohio one, not the Pennsylvania one! So I have not yet been to Eastern State Penitentiary. Hopefully some day, though!)

Beyond our shared love of horror, you and I have something else in common: we both have graduate degrees in psychology. As you’re crafting characters, do you find yourself returning to your education as a guide for how to realistically depict behavior? Are there any perhaps unlikely ways that your degree has impacted your writing?

I have a Master’s in Counseling Psychology, and I’ve been a mental health clinician at a detox center, numerous methadone clinics, and I currently work per diem on an inpatient psychiatric unit. I absolutely try to rely on both my education and work experience as a guide for how to realistically depict behavior. I also fall back on my knowledge of psychology in general to inform broader challenges within my writing. I think having a solid foundation in psych helps keep writers from plunging into the pitfalls of stereotypes and overdone tropes. How many times have we seen villains whose sole basis for evil is sociopathy, schizophrenia, bipolar, and/or psychosis? How many times have we seen characters pigeonholed into the ‘bad guy’ role because they’re a ‘junkie’ or a ‘crackhead?’ A lot of my short fiction has dealt with addiction and mental health, and the first novel I ever wrote is sort of a Silence of the Lambs meets Trainspotting, where something sinister goes down at a Maine manor-turned-drug-treatment-center.

What projects are you currently working on?

From January 26th-28th, I attended the Borderlands Press Writers Boot Camp to workshop a horror/crime thriller I’ve been plugging away at over the past year, called Coming Down Fast. Last August, I met author and artist Dean Kuhta at NecronomiCon, and I’m putting the finishing touches on a short story called “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge” for Issue #2 of Outpost 28, a Lovecraft-inspired dark fiction magazine Dean invited me to be a part of. I have additional work forthcoming from Quantum Corsets’ Her Dark Voice 2, Black Ice Magazine Volume 2, Space Squid, and Dead Oaks’ Horror Anthology Podcast. I have about ten other short stories in various stages of completeness, and my goal is to finish one a month over 2018, keeping in mind that new ideas will inevitably strike during that time, as well as to participate in a second short story collaboration with author David Emery, whom I met while judging a short story contest through The Write Practice and Short Fiction Break literary magazine.

Tremendous thanks to Christa Carmen for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at her author website as well as on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Goodreads!

Happy reading!

Love, Horror, and Fetuses: Interview with Ian McDowell

Welcome back! Today’s interview is with the awesome Ian McDowell. Ian is the author of the Mordred’s Curse series, and his short fiction has appeared in numerous venues including Cemetery Dance, Mondo Zombie, Amazing Stories, and Asimov’s Science Fiction, among others. I was fortunate enough to meet Ian last August at NecronomiCon in Providence, and he is a wealth of knowledge, enthusiasm, and fantastic anecdotes about his time in the publishing industry.

Recently, Ian and I discussed some of those fabulous anecdotes as well as how he became a writer, his inspirations as an author, and what he hopes to accomplish next in his fiction.

A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer . . .

The first thing I ever remember writing was a poem titled “The Enchanted Forest.”

In the enchanted forest where the trees are old
in the enchanted forest where the leaves are gold
there’s a unicorn with a silver horn
in the enchanted forest where the trees are old.

That was probably before my sixth birthday, I think. I recall my mother being still being healthy and active, and putting it up on the fridge.

Ian McDowellI can’t recall anything of the years immediately after she died, but by the fifth or six grade, I’d written a couple of science fiction or horror stories that caused my teachers to shake their heads and ask why I couldn’t write about something nice like dogs or fishing or Jesus. I spent much of high school plotting and drawing sketches and maps for a godawful fantasy epic novel on which I never actually wrote a word other than making up some Cool Fantasy Names. In early college I tried to write poetic Celtic-inflected fantasies that showed the influence of Tanith Lee, Poul Anderson and Peter S. Beagle, but which generally sucked because I had no idea how to plot. I still don’t, but have gotten better at disguising it.

Back when I was in high school, I’d tried out for the role of Mordred in a Fayetteville Little Theater production of Camelot, in which the famous future horror movie makeup master Tom Savini played Arthur. I didn’t get the role. A very talented young man did, but then he disappeared and nobody knew what had happened to him until his headless body was found beside a country road. He hadn’t died from decapitation, but from a hit-and-run (no, not caused by me, I didn’t drive yet), and a dog or other scavenger had stolen the head. That poor kid was better than I would have been in the role, but his understudy was awful, and watching his dreadful performance on opening night, I started thinking about the character, and of retelling the story from his point of view.

I struggled with that through four years of college, but it wasn’t until right after graduation that I managed to do anything with the idea other than a couple of writing class assignments. In the summer before grad school, I sold my first stories, which were set in Camelot and narrated by Mordred, who I initially depicted as a picaresque cowardly lecherous rogue not unlike George MacDonald Fraser’s Harry Flashman.

But then I wrote a more serious take on the subject when I was in the MFA writing Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, which went into the past history of Mordred and Arthur and had real pain in it. The fantasy gaming magazines that had been buying my earlier Mordred stories recoiled from this one, saying it was too long and too sad and too pretentious, and when I sent it to Asimov’s Science Fiction, either George Scithers or Darrel Schweitzer sent it right back, saying it “reeked of a modern attitude of fashionable despair.” But then they left the magazine and Shawna McCarthy took over and I sent her an edited and better-typed draft (I was a few years away from using a computer) and she accepted it and it got reprinted in several anthologies and people approached me about turning it into a novel but it took me seven years to do that, for no good reason other than my being a general slack-ass fuckup.

. . . and who are some of your favorite authors?

Before she died, my mother got halfway through reading me The Lord of the Rings, a chapter a night, with my dad taking it up at some point after Gandolf’s encounter with the Balrog. That was a huge influence, even though I only once actually read the book, for a high school paper. She also read Where the Wild Things Are and Kipling’s The Jungle Book and Just-So Stories, which I love more than I love Tolkien.

In the 5th grade, I discovered Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft, and they were my literary gods until Junior High, when I suddenly found myself understanding Bradbury, whom I’d always bounced off of before. And Lovecraft led me to Ramsey Campbell, although I didn’t like anything but his earliest and crudest stories until I was in college and understood Demons by Daylight and realized he was our greatest living horror writer. I loved Salem’s Lot and The Shining in college, but then grew increasingly dissatisfied with every Stephen King book after that. I loved Clive Barker’s Books of Blood, but couldn’t finish his novels.

These days, my favorite writers, some still in their prime and some long dead, include Angela Carter, Shirley Jackson, Fritz Leiber, Ian Fleming (despite all the awful thoughts he expresses in really good prose), Kelly Link, Neil Gaiman, M. R. James, T. H. White (his “The Troll” is my favorite short story), Saki, and Sonya Taaffe.

Do you have any specific habits as a writer? For example, do you write at a certain time each day? Music or no music in the background? Likewise, are there any patterns to the way you draft and edit your work, or does each project dictate its own terms?

No real routine. No music. My only habits are bad ones, and generally involve finding every possible reason not to be writing.

You’re an incredibly prolific writer who’s been in this industry for many years. What’s your secret to weathering the storms of publishing? How have you kept going, even through the lean and difficult times?

That’s very kind of you, but I’m not really prolific. In fact, in the early 00s, John Pelan described me as “talented but unprolific.” I took seven years to write my first novel, a year to write my second, and haven’t written one since. Published a handful of short stories in the mid-eighties, and more at a fairly steady rate in the 90s, and couldn’t write any fiction from 2002 until 2014.

Oddly, horror markets have never been that receptive to me, even though so many of my early stories featured either fetus-eating or monsters that looked like giant fetuses. I got into Love in Vein through virtue of knowing Poppy, but while my story is the one everyone remembers, nobody ever reprinted or nominated it for anything. I used to have this weird little quasi-career (hobby, more like it) of selling fantasy, usually with a darker element, to newsstand science fiction magazines, but those hardly exist anymore.

Maybe because it’s something instilled in me by my mother’s early death and my father’s alcoholism and financial instability, I’ve grown up with a habit of dealing with bad times by going on emotional autopilot, and just plodding on, day by day. That’s what I did when I was being treated for leukemia. Dealt more with the hourly minutiae rather than worried about whether I was going to die.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given as a writer?

That’s a tough one. Lots of people have given me great advice that I generally haven’t taken because I’m a fucking dumbass.

Mondo ZombieI do recall a conversation I once had with John Skipp about “Dead Loves,” the story he solicited for the ill-fated anthology that was eventually published as Mondo Zombie, but which I thought of as The Last Fucking Book of the Dead on the Edge of Fucking Forever. I told him I was thinking of an opening scene with a zombie Dolly Parton, but it didn’t have much to do with rest of the story. Skipp said “dude, if you have a damn scene with a zombie Dolly Parton, you stick it in anywhere you can, preferably right up front, no matter what the rest of the story is about. Always lead with Zombie Dolly.” That strikes me as very sound advice.

Probably the best criticism I ever got was “what’s with all the fetus-eating in your stories?” I realized I was falling into a rut, and my characters stopped eating fetuses well before the end of the 20th century.

In addition to your fiction writing, you’re also a journalist. How does the research element of your journalism work overlap or contrast with the research you do for your fiction?

I tend to excel at “journalism” where I can tell tall tales and then question whether or not they really happened, so there’s that. But really, research is research. I’ve not done it yet, but I keep intending to pitch my editor at the Encyclopedia of Alabama an article about the only pirate attack in the state’s history. The research I do, if I do it, won’t be that different from that I did for “Under the Flag of Night,” my Asimov’s story about Anne Bonny. Researching 1860s Guilford County, where I live now, for an article about its REAL Civil War history that made one member of the local “Southern Heritage” bubbasphere threaten to stick a Confederate flag up my ass wasn’t that much different from researching the town of Tombstone in 1881 for “The Hard Woman,” the last novella I sold to Asimov’s.

You’ve accomplished so much in your writing career. What goals remain for you at this point? Total world domination perhaps?

Somebody actually wanting to buy “Black Boy, Black Bird,” the novella I think is the finest thing I’ve ever written, but which everyone rejects for being too literary or too genre, when they think it’s a story at all. It’s sort of a reworking of Old Yeller with a white teenaged girl in the early 70s rural south who has a prehistoric Terror Bird for a pet and meets an African-American teenaged boy from the city, and I think that my problem in selling it may be that it’s more about the boy than the bird, but the real problem might be that it sucks, despite all the damn fine writing I labored over.

Beyond that, I really really want to see a collection of my short fiction get published as a real physical book. I know this is financial insanity, but I’d rather see that happen before another novel, if I ever write one.

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

I think my recent work is much better than my earlier work, but not everyone agrees. “Dear Dead Jenny,” which I wrote for Richard Chizmar and Robert Morrish’s October Dreams 2, may be the story other than “Black Boy, Black Bird” and “Archie and Mehitabel” (currently under submission at a magazine that’s published me before) that I’m proudest of. It was the first fiction I was able to complete in over a decade, when the experience of nearly dying somehow made it easier to actually finish something. It draws upon my childhood as Monster Kid growing up near Tom Savini, who did a lot of community theater with my father back in Fayetteville, NC, and whose monster masks I used to borrow.

Unfortunately, that anthology, which was supposed to appear in time for WFC in 2014, didn’t come out until March, 2015, not the best time for a Halloween-themed book. The few reviews I’ve seen called my story one of the best in it the book, but that’s about all the notice it got. It is a pretty traditional ghost story, nothing groundbreaking, but still very personal.

What projects are you currently working on?

“The Long Arm of the Sea,” which is another Anne Bonny story. A novel based on “Geraldine,” my infamous abortion vampire story in Poppy’s Love in Vein, which made more money over a longer span of the time than anything else I’ve ever written (alas, the royalties dried up after the death of Mary Greenberg, who’d handled all that stuff for Poppy). Zombie-Con, a short “exploitation novel” based on a film treatment I wrote for a friend before we realized that shooting a micro-budget movie at a real comic book convention was a nightmare of legalities and logistics. It’s about several cosplayers who find themselves battling undead fanboys at a Southern convention where the crazy British author of the classic graphic novels Watching the Defectives and The Revenger’s Comedy accidentally casts a spell that turns their friend into a voluptuous skull-faced Goddess of the Dead like a Richard Corben illustration come to life, and who turns fanboys into her zombie army.

Where can we find you online?

I really should do a website, but haven’t, other than an old blog I can’t get into anymore. Mostly, I fuck around on Facebook and try to get people to share my articles on Twitter.

Tremendous thanks to Ian McDowell for being this week’s featured author!

Happy reading!

What’s Next: Part Four of Our Women in Horror 2018 Discussion

Welcome back for the final installment of our Women in Horror Month roundtable discussion! These last four weeks went by all too fast!

Last week, in part three, we discussed the best advice our nine authors had to offer to newer writers as well as their hopes for the future of horror. This week, I’m turning the spotlight back to them by highlighting their upcoming work as well as their final thoughts on this year’s Women in Horror Month. So let’s get to it, shall we?

What projects are you working on now, and what releases can we expect from you in the next year?

Wicked WitchesCatherine Grant: I’ll be working on the June issue of Lamplight. I am writing short stories and submitting. I made a promise to myself to write one new short story a week. Nothing new is pending for publication. I am working on a witch novel set in the Bridgewater Triangle that I am hoping to finish this year. I’m also working on another secret project that I’ll be publishing under a pseudonym.

Denise Tapscott: Right now I’m polishing up a short story called “The Price of Salvation”, which deals with bullying, vengeance and redemption.  Bullying is unacceptable, especially in this day and age and I wanted to put an interesting spin on it. I’m not sure if I want to release the story by itself, or with a collection of other short stories, but I definitely want to release it this year.  In the next year you can expect the sequel to Gypsy Kisses and Voodoo Wishes called Enlightening of the Damned as well as a novella inspired from one of the smaller characters from Gypsy Kisses and Voodoo Wishes.  It’s a character that speaks to my heart often and I have to share his story with everyone I can.  I need to do a lot of research about the Native American culture for this story; I want to honor their traditions and culture. The horrible situation with the Dakota Pipeline and Native Americans really weighs on my heart;  Water is Life. The least I can do is speak out about it, in a creative way.

Mantid Magazine Issue 3Nadia Bulkin: I have a few stories in anthologies that I’m not sure have been officially announced yet, but my main focus this year will be trying to see if I can get a non-fiction, non-horror “passion project” off the ground.

Carrie Laben: All my best stuff is information-embargoed or uncertain at the moment, but I have at least one new piece of fiction and one essay coming before spring, and as you read this my first novel is in the hands of an interested editor, so fingers crossed! (Gwendolyn’s note: In the weeks since this interview was done, the third issue of Mantid Magazine has officially been announced and released, and it includes a couple of those aforementioned under-wraps stories from Nadia and Carrie as well as tales from Brooke Warra and myself!)

Sumiko Saulson: I am attached as a writer to a film project, 7 Magpies, conceived of by Lucy Cruell. It is seven stories written and directed by black women, a sort of Creepshow or Tales from the Hood format. Not sure when we will see it made. As mentioned before, I am putting together 60 Black Women in Horror FictionBlack Magic Women with Nicole Kurtz and Mocha Memoirs Press. 100 Black Women in Horror is coming out. I am working on two novels – Akmani, the fourth installment in my very dark paranormal romance series Somnalia, and Disillusionment, the sequel to my debut sci-fi horror novel, Solitude. One of them should be out before the end of the year, perhaps both, not sure… it depends on how fast the rest of the writing and editing goes.

Kenya Moss-Dyme: I spent all of 2017 in a weird state of suspension. I had things in progress but just couldn’t find my voice. I’m going to make 2018 count and release those things that are gathering dust. If I take too long on a project – for whatever reason – I lose interest and don’t even want to finish, so that’s what I’m struggling with right now. But I plan to release a new collection of horror with a love-theme, and my long awaited, highly anticipated (haha) urban apoc story, Dead Zoned.

Rebecca Allred: I’m actually on a writing hiatus for 2018 (remember that part about giving yourself permission to take a break?) and currently only have one story slated for publication this year. “Behind the Veil of Pretty Pink Lies” will appear in Pickman’s Gallery (Ulthar Press), and is scheduled for a March release. I’m still shopping a few short stories and one co-authored novella, so that number may still (hopefully!) change.

Anya Martin: Unfortunately I can’t talk yet about my biggest release coming this year yet, but let’s say I am working on some new stories and longer works. Also, I’ll have a flash fiction in Zine Trio from Ladybox Books, that was postponed from last year but should come out in 2018. Aside from writing, I’m continuing to assist Scott Nicolay as associate producer on The Outer Dark podcast, which features interviews with Weird and speculative fiction writers and airs most weeks on This Is Horror. And we’ll be throwing the second annual The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird Saturday March 24 at the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose which CBS News just dubbed one of the 10 most haunted places in the United States, not to mention a movie! It hit me recently that we are the only conference currently dedicated to contemporary Weird fiction. Among the women joining us this year as guests are Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Sumiko Saulsen, Rios de la Luz, Tiffany Scandal, Rebecca J. Allred, artist Liv Rainey-Smith, and filmmakers Heather Buckley and Izzy Lee! We still have memberships available (at least at press time), so I urge any writers and readers of the Weird to come!

Brooke Warra: Stories, stories, and more stories! My monster story, “The Scritch,” will appear in Mantid Magazine’s Volume 3 this month, and you can expect to hear my stories on The Lift podcast, as well as The Wicked Library. Aside from commissioned pieces, I am also writing a novella I hope to finish in the next few months. It’s going to be a busy year!

Any final thoughts on Women in Horror Month for 2018 (or any thoughts about what you’d like to see for Women in Horror Month for the years to come)?

Denise: I love the idea of Women in Horror Month.  I hope that more women are encouraged to celebrate each other, and to allow themselves to be celebrated. How wonderful would it be to have 30 days of women in horror on AMC and many other mediums?  Ladies, we rock.  We should applaud women from the past, present and future for our unique voices.

Nadia: I hope we get to the point where we don’t need it. But that would require much broader change at the societal level.

Carrie: I really hope that when we do this next year, I won’t be exhausted from protesting and marching all day when I finish answering these questions – but I’m not banking on it.

Black Magic WomenSumiko: I really want to get a book reading going on in SecondLife for WiHM! Maybe we can make it happen in 2019, if not in 2018.

Kenya: I was thinking, how cool would it be if the movie channels did marathons of female-centered horror during February? And I don’t mean women as the victim because that’s all of the time, but if, in honor of this month, they showed a specially selected stream of movies like the XX collection, 28 Days Later, AVP, etc. Movies by women, starring women. Or if Amazon prominently featured women in horror on their main page with special deals on our books, just for the month. Maybe one day, the WIHM will be that widely celebrated!

Rebecca: My hope every year is that everyone, myself included, finds a new writer or two and falls in love with their work.

Catherine: I really hope that the horror community can get through another WIHM without some twatwaffle sticking his foot in his mouth. It seems to happen on a regular basis, and instead of focusing on women authors, we all pile on the woman-hater who happened to open his mouth at the right time to catch the attention of the social media pitchforkmobile. Spoiler: He was a douchebag and a misogynist the other eleven months of the year, too. Can we avoid that distraction? Can we celebrate the women in the genre and keep the conversation about the feminine? Don’t let someone steal our voice. In fact, please let that rule extend to the rest of the year.

Strange AeonsAnya: Just again that one day I’d like to think we won’t need Women in Horror Month! But I am certainly excited to see all the interviews and articles that will appear this month putting the spotlight on some talented women!!!!

Brooke: It’s been such a privilege and a pleasure to meet and bond with so many great WIH and I have made what I hope are life-long friendships with those women in the writing community. I am ecstatic about the future we are shaping together and mostly just excited to see what we do with it.

And that’s our Women in Horror discussion for 2018! Thank you to everyone who read the series this year! Here’s to a great Women in Horror Month, and an even better celebration of Women in Horror for the rest of the year!

Happy reading!

Advice for the Future: Part Three of Our Women in Horror 2018 Discussion

Welcome back for Part Three in our Women in Horror 2018 round table!

Last week, in part two, we discussed how political and social upheavals have affected our nine authors’ writing, as well as the underrated stories they’d recommend readers check out. This week, we discuss what advice they have for writers who are just starting out, along with their hopes for the future of horror. So ladies, take it away!

For all the newer female horror writers out there, what would you like them to know? Specifically, what advice do you wish you’d had as an author when you were first getting started?  

Brooke WarraBrooke Warra: Don’t wait to write the things that scare you, don’t wait to be brave in your work, don’t wait for permission or validation. Just write it. Don’t put your ideas on the backburner, waiting for approval from the community to tackle those tropes or those issues. I think when I was first starting out, I would scribble down ideas and think to myself, “I’ll write that when I am a better writer” or “I can’t write about that! What would people think?” and I hate to admit that, but it’s truly how I spoke to myself. I don’t anymore. And I would encourage a younger me, and anyone new to the genre, to just put that pen to paper and write your heart out.

Carrie Laben: If you’re like me, you start out feeling like everyone else is cooler than you and has more to say. They might at that but you won’t know until you press the absolute limits of what you can say and how cool you can be, whatever that means to you. Especially don’t assume that because someone older and/or male told you something in a declarative, confident tone of voice that it’s therefore a fact.

Kenya Moss-DymeKenya Moss-Dyme: Don’t be afraid to be different. The beauty of our chosen genre is that anything goes, there’s nothing too outrageous or unbelievable, because it’s all fantasy and imagination. So don’t be afraid of thinking out of the box, in fact, I highly encourage it. Sure, there’s a million zombie stories already, so make yours DIFFERENT. Sometimes you’ll get an idea and then discourage yourself because you think it’s already been done. So do it again, but make it stand out in the crowd.

Nadia Bulkin: Don’t try to imitate successful writers’ stories. Write the kind of stories you want to write and want to read, and submit to places that you would want to publish you. At the same time, sometimes the only way to find your path is to try different things. Always err on the side of challenging yourself rather than staying in your comfort zone. Be true to your truth. And on the publishing side, submit constantly, edit judiciously, and never ever take yourself out of competition. Give them a chance to reject you. Believe that you have a seat at the table. I think the number one thing is just don’t give up, though that’s way easier said than done. Oh, and there will be a lot of people pushing back against the particular effort to carve out space for women in horror. Ignore those people.

Rebecca J. AllredRebecca Allred: You’re asking me?! I still feel like I’m still getting started! I don’t think I have much advice to offer that you won’t find in any number of places, but the things I’ve found to be most helpful are: a group of people I can trust to give me honest feedback, even when it hurts; giving myself permission to take a break when the words just aren’t coming; and reaching out to other authors who are still in the trenches. I wish I’d done the latter much sooner. I’ve learned so much from just talking shop with other writers, and it doesn’t hurt to have someone behind the scenes who understands what you’re going through when you need to blow off some steam.

Denise Tapscott: I consider myself as a newer female horror writer. My advice for newer writers in general and soon to be female horror writers is please, please, please, read and write. Choose to share your scary stories with the world. It seems overwhelming and frightful at first, but trust me there are a lot of great women (and men) in the world of horror that are supportive. The feeling of finding your tribe is an amazing experience. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Enjoy the process, learn as much as you can, and ask for help when needed. The world wants to hear your voice and experience your stories.

Anya Martin: Just hang in there, I guess. Get good critical beta readers who will not be afraid to put you through your paces. And if you really try to write from an authentic female perspective, expect some rejections not because the story isn’t good but because some editors—and this isn’t exclusively limited to cis white male editors—won’t get it. Be strong and send that story back out. I’ve also put some stories away for years and then taken them back out and found that they sold with only minor changes.

Sumiko Saulson: You should network with other women in horror. Don’t let the glass ceiling slow you down. Ignore anyone who tells you that women can’t write horror. Shrug it off if anyone says you write soft horror, or tries to euphemize away your style with feminizing adjectives of any sort. You’re going to hear a lot of people say “I just don’t read horror” or “I would read your writing if you didn’t write horror.” Don’t believe them. Getting your friends and family to read your books is like pulling teeth. They won’t read them until someone else reads them first and tells you that they are good, and it doesn’t matter a whit what genre the book is in. They’re just using the fear of the horror genre trope as an excuse. Ask people for their honest reviews, and try not to be offended if not all of them are good. You need reviews to get on the radar of book sellers, and a bad review is better than no reviews at all.

Catherine GrantCatherine Grant: Be fierce. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself, even if you get labeled as “that bitch.” I think there are a lot of women in the industry who are afraid of calling out misogyny because they don’t want the drama to affect their careers. They play this game where they try to be sweet, unassuming and friends with everyone to avoid pissing off someone who could keep them from getting a book deal, story acceptance, or award. As a result, they are an ally to no one but themselves. If you are feminine, misogyny will affect your career no matter what you do. Might as well trample the patriarchy while you’re at it.

Looking forward, what is your hope for the future of horror? What would you like to see more of in the genre, and what would you like to see less of? 

Brooke: I’ve really loved that the horror genre has become an art form in its own right, and I would love to see more literary, cerebral horror. I think it’s been grossly underestimated as a valid expression of art and I think we have seen that view change especially over the last few years. I’d absolutely love it if we stopped seeing violence against women as plot devices. We are so much more than the victims of crimes and we so often rise above and beyond those crimes against us. I’m beyond weary of revenge tropes, when the women I know in real life have lived through so much, and used that strength to move forward in life, rather than being consumed or destroyed by it. I’d like to see that perseverance reflected in horror. Where female characters tend to be stereotypes, I think we are ready to see ourselves as well-rounded, complex, strong characters. It’s time.

Carrie: Horror, rooted as it is in primal anxieties, can be profoundly liberating or profoundly regressive. I obviously have a preference as to which I’d like to see more of. On the aesthetic plane, I love that folk horror of all kinds – horror that connects to the rhythms of the natural world and a sense of ancient lore – is having a day in the sun, but with that inevitably comes The Darkderivative and plain bad work. And nothing is worse than the contrast between the whole grand sweep of the cosmos and the linguistic stylings of some twerp who photoshopped a spooky tree onto the inside of their eyelids.

Catherine: I’ve heard that Weird Fiction is the next big thing, and I am really looking forward to opportunities that might bring to Weird Fiction authors that deserve more universal success because they are mind-blowingly talented, but write in a genre that can’t seem to get literary recognition from large publishers. At the same time, I’d like to see less snobbery in the genre regarding pulp and trope-centered stories. There is an audience for stories about glittery vampires, right? Why not embrace that? Why not kick the idea that horror is low-brow and doesn’t sell right in the fucking face in the same breath, because no genre is one-note?

Kenya: I’m really enjoying the return of horror in sci-fi. It used to be that sci-fi was mostly aliens and spaceships, exploring outer worlds. We had Twilight Zone and Outer Limits but those types of anthologies had fallen off in production over the years. The last few years, we had some really great ones, like Galaxy of Horrors: really mind-bending stories that blend those worlds. At some point, you’ve exhausted all of your ideas about horror on earth and you gotta start looking into other worlds – or creating those worlds yourself!

Nightscript IIINadia: I hope for more subversive horror that challenges the status quo. More unsympathetic characters, more critiques of powers-that-be, more unconventional narratives. More interrogation of horror tropes and the reason those tropes exist. More unhappy endings, or as I like to call it, more payment of “the price.” I hesitate to say what I’d like to see less of because I think almost anything can be done well. I personally think that very internal horror based on underlying mental illness is very tough to do because most of us don’t know what severe mental illness looks like. So that’s one I’d like to see folks be more careful with.

Rebecca: I’d like to see a broader range of voices and more experimentation with story telling. Much of what I read these days is good, but in the same way I thought The Force Awakens was good. While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery (and I’d be lying if I said I don’t sometimes try to mimic some of my favorite authors) it leaves readers standing at what at first appears to be an endless buffet, but in reality limits their choices to chicken, chicken, and more chicken.

Gypsy Kisses and Voodoo WishesDenise: I would love to see more character driven stories with a woman’s point of view, where she doesn’t have to rely on a man to save her. Maybe she does the saving. I’d also like to see more scary stories with more people of color with things they find culturally frightening. For example, I’d love to read more stories from an Asian woman that reveals something about her culture or folklore. I want to see far less stories about self-entitled teenagers who are lost in some place they were never supposed to be with gory storylines. We’ve been there, done that (the classics like Jason are always cool, so they are the exception). Someone show us something different. One of my goals is to reflect more people of color, more women, and more non-traditional American stereotypical characters in my stories.

Anya: I’m really excited about the expanding openness to different perspectives. There are more markets open to horror written by women than ever before, as well as people of color and LGBT writers. I’m not saying previous markets were closed per se to women and others, but what we’ve seen is a shift towards editors being more open to publishing stories that don’t fit into over-used tropes and long-held standards within the canon. Also I’d like to see more stories by writers from other cultures and countries make it into English translation. I’d like to see less of the same tropes used again and again in the same ways, especially vampires and zombies.

Sumiko: I would like to see more diversity in horror. If they had enough people of color to represent us as a percentage of the population, the old trope about the black person in the movie dying first wouldn’t be a thing, because there would be more than one black person in the movie. Women need to have more powerful roles than scream queen. The Walking Dead has some issues with its treatment of people of color as disposable, but they are doing a bang-up job of bringing feminism into the genre. Although there is still way too much macho chest banging, the toxic hyper masculine types are usually villains like Negan. Michonne, Carol, and Maggie are all very affirming characters for female viewers. I hated the way they killed off Abbie Mills and Jenny Mills on Sleepy Hollow so that they could make a more traditional, white male-dominated storyline with Ichabod Crane and his less than liberated wife. I loved the fact that the show went off the air afterwards, showing television moguls that this is not what people want.

And that’s part three of our discussion! Next week, we’ll wrap things up by finding out what these incredible authors have in store for the rest of the year and beyond, as well as any final thoughts they have on this month-long celebration!

Happy reading, and happy Women in Horror Month!

The Underrated and the Political: Part Two of Our Women in Horror 2018 Discussion

Welcome back to part two of our Women in Horror 2018 round table!

Last week, we discussed how our nine featured authors became enthralled with the horror genre and what Women in Horror Month means to them. This week, we’re delving into how the current political and social climates have affected their work as well as those tales from other female horror writers that deserve even more attention.

So without further adieu, let’s get started!

Far too often, women are underrated in the genre. So to shine a light on those who aren’t as appreciated as they ought to be, what recent story (or stories) have you read in the past year that was written by a female horror author but didn’t get as much attention as you think it deserved?

Anya MartinAnya Martin: That’s a tough one because there are so many women writing great horror today. In terms of collections from the past year, everybody should absolutely get their hands on Nadia Bulkin’s She Said Destroy (Word Horde) and Selena Chambers’ Calls for Submission (Pelekinesis). I was particularly struck by their powerful realistic portrayals of female protagonists. I hope to see both receive awards nominations this year. Also Christina Sng writes incredibly powerful cosmic horror poetry. Her collection A Collection of Nightmares (Raw Dog Screaming Press) is a must-read, especially if you don’t think poems can profoundly disturb. And for a collection, Sycorax’s Daughters (Cedar Grove Books) features horror stories and poetry by both established and up-and-coming African-American women. I was so happy to see that on the Stoker Awards preliminary ballot and hope it makes the final (Gwendolyn’s note: And it did make the final ballot! HOORAY!). For a more classic author I read last year worthy of discovery, Zenna Henderson is better known for her science fiction People stories, but her horror short stories like “Hush,” in which a little boy creates a “Noise-eater” and his babysitter is helpless to halt its hunger, pack a really tough punch. Start with her collection The Anything Box.

Sumiko Saulson: I’ve been really swamped, but I have managed to read some new and not so new women’s horror… How to Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda Addison, Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra by Anne Rice and her son Christopher Rice. You should check out the black female horror writer’s anthology Sycorax’s Daughters, which came out in 2017. I was in an anthology called Forever Vacancy: Colors in Darkness, which includes a lot of black authors, many of them women.

Catherine Grant: KL Pereira’s A Dream Between Two Rivers: Stories of Liminality is a gorgeous, well-written collection that I don’t see on enough lists. Margaret Killjoy’s anarcho-horror-mystery novella The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion was also really well done but I didn’t see it on any lists. Both KL and Margaret write clean, beautiful prose in a very distinct, fresh voice that is engaging to the reader.

Denise TapscottDenise Tapscott: I agree that women are underrated in horror. Female horror authors never get as much attention as they deserve. One of my all time favorite horror writers is Eden Royce. I have an affinity for Southern gothic tales and each of her stories is a treat. When I mention her work to other people, they give me a blank stare. I remind people that there’s more to read than just Stephen King, Then I insist they buy her collection of short stories. Of course, there is also you, Gwendolyn. I love your work! After I drop Eden Royce’s name, I mention you. Your book And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe is a great collection of short stories. I won’t drop any spoilers, but there is one story in particular that creeps me out and I love it! I can hardly wait to read Pretty Marys All in a Row. There are many women in horror that inspire me, and both of you lovely ladies stand out in my mind first when it comes to current writers.

Rebecca Allred: Grass by Anya Martin – This was released as a limited chapbook from Dim Shores, so only 150 copies were available, but I really dug it. I hope Anya finds a good reprint market (or includes it in a future collection, hint-hint) so more people can read it.

Nadia Bulkin: I never have a good sense of how much attention anything gets, but I’ll note here a couple stories by authors I hadn’t read before – I really liked “Mental Diplopia” by Julianna Baggott in Tor, a very soulful yet creepy take on an apocalypse, and “The Name, Blurry and Incomplete in His Mind” by Erica Mosley in The Dark, a really nifty interpretation of a broken family.

Carrie LabenCarrie Laben: Chavisa Woods’ incredible collection Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country wasn’t marketed as horror, but it contains some of the most chilling fiction of the year including a story called “Zombie” that contains no zombies and a story called “Take the Way Home That Leads Back to Sullivan Street” that does contain a ghost. There are also aliens and devil-worshipers, and goths of course, and the vast horrors of the geopolitical situation and the tiny horrors of living in a close-knit small town.

Brooke Warra: Oh wow, there are really so many fantastic women in horror, yourself included, whose stories have resonated with me over this last year especially. Without giving too much away about the stories themselves, I recently read Tales from a Talking Board and Anya Martin’s “Weegee, Weegee, Tell Me Do” as well as S.P. Miskowski’s “Pins” have been haunting me ever since. I think both stories, for me, were about the secret lives we often live as women, and being more than the sum of crimes that have been perpetrated against us, but also, in the end, having to bear the consequences for those crimes, and really, that can be more horrifying than anything supernatural in the plot, or at least it was for me, personally.

How, if at all, have recent political and social upheavals figured into your work? Do you feel that horror as a genre is uniquely suited to address the current state of the world, or not?

Looming LowAnya: I’m not sure about horror per se, because some horror can be intrinsically conservative, i.e. maintaining the status quo. But I’d definitely say Weird horror fiction is. The political sphere in the United States is distinctly and disconcertingly Weird. I addressed this directly in my The H Word column, “The Weird at the World’s End” (Nightmare Magazine, Feb. 2017), and Helen Marshall said she sensed a shift already while editing the Year’s Best Weird Fiction, although Trump had not taken office yet in 2016. The challenge may be with the world so Weird, what is Weird any more? I tried to explore the growing sense of unease in “Boisea trivittata,” which I wrote for Looming Low anthology (Dim Shores). That story came out of an infestation I experienced of these seemingly pointless harmless insects which appeared suddenly at my house last January. In my case, they strangely mirrored the building unease for so many of us during the transition of power from President Obama to Trump. In the story, I tried to suggest a fascist shift without making it heavy-handed—which I think is the challenge whenever directly addressing politics in a story, not overpowering the horror or the Weird with too much explanation.

Kenya Moss-Dyme: Horror and sci-fi are perhaps the best genres to address the craziness in the world we live in! When we see social themes occur in comedy, I think it’s too easy to be entertained and then dismiss it. But when we apply an element of horror to something going on in our world, it gets people to pay attention and it unnerves them. They start out thinking, that’s ridiculous, it could never happen. But then, they wonder…could it? Sometimes you need to really scare people to make them listen. I’m working on a couple of things that have strong social themes that might be a little upsetting to read. But if it makes you emotional then that means you’re thinking about it and talking about it, instead of just reading it and walking away.

Sumiko: More and more of my stories seem to resemble the movie Get Out, or an old Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episode, so I would have to say that I’ve had an uptick in political horror, as well as afrocentric horror. I’ve always written female-centered, multicultural stories. Feminism has commonly been a theme, but increasingly, I find that issues of racial injustice are taking front and center in my stories. It’s a turn off for some of my original audience members, but I’m more popular than ever and being invited to more and more conventions, and to Sycorax's Daughtersparticipate in more and more anthologies, so I guess it’s a trade-off. I am much more competitive as a political horror writer than I was trying to compete with a bunch of mainstream writers and become the next great horror writer or the next Stephen King or Anne Rice. I’m better off sounding like Octavia Butler, even if some find it preachy.

Catherine: Recent political and social upheavals have left me feeling depressed and hopeless, which has affected my work in that it has staunched my productivity. I struggle to form a single, cohesive thought that could translate into a story or novel because I am feeling and thinking so many things at once. Most of my fiction is rooted in a theme that is deeply personal. It is usually a time capsule of a thought that I’ve rolled over in my mind repeatedly, blended with a “what if” scenario. For example, a recent story I wrote is about how siblings often remember their childhoods differently. What if the way they experience a ghost or apparition is affected by how they perceive their memories of that person? I have an inkling that all of what I’m feeling right now about our current administration will eventually roll around in my head until it either is dust or becomes something substantial and is written down.

Denise: Political and social upheavals seem so scary and so painful these days to me, that as a writer I have challenged myself to find a way to address what’s going on. Horror as a genre is perfect for that. We have a larger palette to draw our stories upon.

Rebecca: Parts of my story “When Dark-Eyed Ophelia Sings” were inspired by recent events. And I wouldn’t say horror is uniquely suited to address the current state of affairs, I think sci-fi, bizarro, and other genres also lend themselves quite nicely, but I feel like horror might be the most natural fit for those kinds of stories.

She Said DestroyNadia: I think so much of human existence is horror, unfortunately – the horror we inflict upon each other and upon ourselves. People are cruel. People are desperate. People are afraid. And horror begets horror, of course. I absolutely believe in hope and heroism and virtue; but I believe those things are rare and precious and on a massive uphill battle. That being said, I rarely write directly about things that are actually happening in real-time. I think that’s because I write for the sake of processing, and if events are still ongoing, you don’t have the complete picture yet; maybe also because I believe in putting a little bit of distance between fiction and current events. So I still write about Indonesia in the 1960s-90s through the early years of the post-Suharto era, and then I stop. My story “There Is a Bear in the Woods” (quoting a Reagan campaign ad) is part of an extended alternative universe inspired by a combination of the American Tea Party and the George W. Bush era (which defined my high school and college years), and that’s about as recent as I’ll go. I still believe everything is political, and even a story that doesn’t directly focus on political themes is still written and still read in modern political context. It’s up to the writer to decide how they want to use that fact.

Carrie: Everything that addresses the current state of the world certainly contains elements of horror, so there’s that. For me the source of tension in my writing has always been how precarious life is because the basic assumptions we use to make it bearable are just that – assumptions. I started with the assumption “families love each other” and I’ve recently moved on to the assumption “there’s virtue in hard work” and we’ll see what I termite-chew through next and what collapses.

Brooke: I think now more than ever, the female voice is so powerful and I think horror, and in particular women in horror have the opportunity to address the current social and political climates. Horror has always had the ability to put a face on evils of the real world around us, whether it’s apathy, or prejudice, or violence, horror gives the underdog, the outcast, the preconceived “weak” among us a fighting chance, and so often the things we believe are holding us back turn out to be our greatest weapons in horror. I think it’s a genre that crosses a lot of imaginary lines we draw around ourselves in our daily lives and we can all come together and unite against a common enemy and fight back.

And that’s part two of our Women in Horror Month round table! Come back next week as we discuss these authors’ advice for up-and-coming female writers as well as their hopes for the future of horror!

Happy reading, and happy Women in Horror Month!

For the Love of Horror: Part One of Our Women in Horror 2018 Discussion

Welcome back, and welcome to Part One in our Women in Horror Month 2018 round table discussion! This year, I’m thrilled to interview nine incredible female authors who are creating some of the very best and most cutting edge work in horror literature today.

So let’s get started with the celebration of these awesome women in horror!

As a writer, what attracts you to the horror genre? Was there a particular story or film or even character that made you say, I want to do that, when you were younger?

Sumiko SaulsonSumiko Saulson: Horror is the genre best suited for exercising personal demons and I have enough of them to give me an endless supply of psychologically disturbing and thought-provoking plot ideas. If I didn’t have such a trauma-filled past and sometimes, present, I might have been attracted to a less spine-tingling, chilling kind of genre. When I was a child, my parents took us to tons of horror movies. I think Dawn of the Dead, It Lives, and some sci-fi dystopian films you don’t necessarily think of as horror such as HG Wells’ Time Machine most influenced me to write horror. I also read a great deal, and from an early age, so reading had more of an influence on my decision to write horror than you might imagine. I read my first novel in the fifth grade; Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. I inhaled Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe throughout junior high and high school. Some of the young adult and juvenile fiction I enjoyed was on the scarier side, such as Susan Cooper’s relatively dark fantasy series, Over Sea, Under Stone, of which The Dark is Rising is the most well-known title.

Anya Martin: That’s a tough question because I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawn to horror and monsters. For me, the earliest “gateway” that I remember is Dark Shadows, which my parents were watching daily from when I was 2. By the time I was 3 or 4, my dad started me watching monster movies on TV and my earliest memories are seeing AIP, Universal, and Toho films. The only nightmare I ever remember getting as a child from a horror movie was after seeing House of Wax, with Vincent Price. I always rooted for the monster to survive and find a safe haven away from the mean human race. I also was drawn to the giant monsters, King Kong, Godzilla and Gorgo—which probably was connected to my other early passion—dinosaurs. At age 6, I wanted to be a paleontologist and I’m still a huge dinosaur buff. The one thing that did creep me out, to my mother’s frustration, was dolls. They even smelled bad! That rancid rubber smell—ewwwww!!! I got to confront that fear years later with artist Mado Peña in the comics short, “Stuffed Bunny In Doll-Land,” which appeared in Womanthology (IDW, 2012).

Nadia BulkinNadia Bulkin: I grew up in ghost-obsessed Indonesia, and ghost stories have always terrified and intrigued me. I find the idea of the ghost as “a tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again… an emotion suspended in time,” to quote The Devil’s Backbone, to be a very powerful one that incidentally relates very directly to Indonesia’s struggles with traumatic national memory and collective guilt, two concepts I write about a lot. I like to focus on social and political themes, particularly those related to fear and suffering and exclusion and revenge, and in my opinion there’s no better toolkit with which to write about the world than through horror (this may say more about how I see history than anything else!). I’ve always enjoyed the horror genre for the adrenaline and the off-kilter darkness (like the black keys on a keyboard), but it was Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House that made me buy into being a horror writer, because for the first time in any genre I saw a character that I could personally relate to: Eleanor Vance. Reading Jackson convinced me that it was possible to do what I wanted to do within horror.

Catherine Grant: My father gave me a collection of Edgar Allan Poe tales when I was ten after I asked to watch Silver Bullet. I don’t think I was ready to read King at that point, but a year later I found a copy of IT in a box underneath my father’s desk, and then I rented Creepshow on summer vacation and that was it, I was hooked. I found a Stephen King biography in the library when I was twelve. Reading it, it was the first time I realized that being a writer was a career, and I began writing stories with the goal of some day being a published author.

Denise Tapscott: One thing that attracts me to the horror genre is that there is a certain freedom you have creating stories. There aren’t any specific structures or rules you must follow as other writers do in the romance and mystery genres. There’s a short story I read when I was younger, by Stephen King called “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut” that really grabbed my attention. I loved the idea that this woman transformed when she drove her car, faster and faster every day. I wished that it were almost true so that I could do the same (I should mention that I used to be a speed demon back when I had a little 1992 Honda CRX SI). The more I thought about it, I wished that I could come up with a clever story with an awesome twist too. It took some time, but I eventually grabbed a ticket on the writing horror train. It’s been a fantastic ride so far.

Kenya Moss-Dyme: Besides required reading in school, one of the books that made me want to write horror was The Amulet, by Michael McDowell. I read it when I was about 14 and it involved an amulet circulating in a small town; whoever possessed it would commit a horrible act of violence against someone they disliked for whatever reason. What I loved about the book is that the characters were motivated by different things, some for as little as irritation, but it had that small hometown feeling similar to a lot of Stephen King’s stories. They’re sweet normal folks who just snap, for no reason other than wearing or holding the amulet. It was still a few more years before I wrote any actual horror, because I spent the next few years writing about teens doing teen-like things.

Rebecca Allred The CAse of the Strange NoisesRebecca Allred: Writing horror appeals to me because it’s a genre in which I can, more or less, safely explore and attempt to reconcile my own fears and anxieties. Terrible things happen, but there’s a sense of control that comes from creating and resolving conflict, especially if you’re like me and sometimes feel like everything is completely out of your control! The first I’m aware of that I wanted to write stories “like that” was when I got my hands on a copy of Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark. I don’t recall which volume it was, but the story “The Furry Collar” scared the CRAP out of me. Even now sometimes when I’m half asleep and hear my cat coming down the stairs, I imagine a headless girl slowly making her way into my room… That said, I was writing “scary stories” well before I was ten. “The Case of the Strange Noises” is my earliest surviving work. Maybe someday it’ll be a collector’s item!

Carrie Laben: It’s funny, I never identified strongly with horror as a kid (although I did very much favor ‘true’ stories about ghosts and cryptids etc.) I thought I was too much of a wuss for “real” horror, which came in the form of movies where girls got cut up. Everyone around me read Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Goosebumps, and later V.C. Andrews and Stephen King and Dean Koontz – it didn’t set you apart. I do remember reading Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love when I was about 14 and thinking “wow, there’s no limit to how weird you can get and be published” so that probably helped.

Brooke Warra: I have a very vivid memory of being a young child equally fascinated and terrified of Mora (the turtle monster) from The Never Ending Story, as well as the Harpy from The Last Unicorn. There was a kind of cerebral horror in those characters, they are close enough to creatures that exist in our “real world” that the unnaturalness of them, the danger they represent becomes chilling, and I think that as a toddler in the 80’s, growing up in a house surrounded by acres of forest where such creatures could be lurking, I was really influenced by that and drawn to that sort of thing. I honestly do not remember a time that I did not want to write and tell dark stories, but that decade was a wonderful time to cultivate that dream.

As a female horror writer, what does Women in Horror Month mean to you? Do you have any specific activities planned to commemorate Women in Horror Month in 2018?

Sumiko: I’m very excited about Women in Horror Month every year since I first found out about it and participated in it in 2013. This year I am especially excited, because I am working with Nicole Kurtz and Mocha Memoirs Press to put out an anthology, Black Magic Women, which consists of 20 terrifying tales by black women who write horror. I also compile a list called Black Women in Horror, and look forward to reaching 100 women this year! There will be a book, 100 Black Women in Horror – an update to my 2014 title, 60 Black Women in Horror, slated for release in February. Black Magic Women comes out February 15. I’m also producing the third annual SecondLife Women in Horror Treasure Hunt with author Suzi Madron. Come visit us in Avalon if you’re inworld!

Eternal FrankensteinAnya: I’d like to think one day it won’t be necessary, but as long as people—men and women—rattle off their top 10 horror authors or directors, and don’t or barely include women, drawing attention to women authors/filmmakers/artists is needed. I don’t have any specific activities other than this and sharing some of the many great articles which I am sure will be posted this month on social media, but I might do something for my blog ATLRetro.com because there are a number of exciting women horror writers and filmmakers based in Atlanta such as Nancy Collins, Kristi DeMeester, Dayna Noffke, Lynne Hansen and Vanessa Wright who was cofounder of the Women In Horror Film Festival, which debuted in Atlanta last September.

Nadia: I wrote about my feelings on Women in Horror Month last year, and those feelings of frustration at being caught between a rock and a hard place in the midst of this particular culture war hasn’t changed. I think Women in Horror Month comes from a place of good intent, but it also kind of saddens me, and I don’t do anything to commemorate it. What frustrates me these days is twofold. First, the assumption that there is a special “lady-horror” genre and “lady-horror” writer that is separate in content and style from “real horror,” mostly because that does nothing to acknowledge that male horror writers are writing from a particularly male point of view, except that point of view is considered “standard,” though also because I always get nervous when people – including, often, women! – get too specific about the kind of subjects women like to write and read about. I’m all about mean girl drama and witches, but I also do war and sport. Second, mainstream horror continues to astound in its understanding of women primarily as rape victims. Really quite remarkable.

Catherine: Women in Horror Month is a time for the industry to stop doing the dance, look around, and call out peers that might not be getting proper recognition because of their gender. It feels silly writing that out. Should gender discrimination still be a thing in 2018? I’d really love to see a day when special recognition months like WIHM aren’t needed, because our society is so woke that unconscious bias and casual discrimination are no longer a problem. I plan on doing my part by recognizing female authors that have affected my writing, be it as a peer, mentor, or literary influence.

Denise: As a female horror writer, Women in Horror Month means it’s time to celebrate my creative sisters! I don’t have any specific plans to commemorate the month but I will do whatever I can do to support as many women as possible. Perhaps I will find a way to use social media to promote Women in Horror. The least I could do is buy more books! I have lots of stories to read and I’m more than happy to add more to my Kindle.

A Good WifeKenya: This is such an exciting month for us, with all of the focus on the women in horror, not just writers but I love that we spotlight the actors and curators of the genre as well. I always enjoy learning about talent that I wasn’t aware of and especially the look back at how far we’ve come and the contributions to the industry. Of course, we’re focused on US all year round, but it’s nice to have the stage for one month anyway. It really raises the exposure on just how powerful our voices are, from within. I am planning to highlight some kick-ass female-driven horror stories on my page next month so I’m putting together my list now. As authors, even our work doesn’t always feature strong heroines, so I’d like to showcase that this year!

Carrie: This is the first time I’m really actively participating in any explicitly women-in-horror themed activities. I love that this discussion exists, I’d love to see it exist all year, and I love knowing that every February I’m going to learn the names of new writers I should check out.

Brooke: It’s been a really positive experience every year to see women in this genre support and encourage each other. Every WIH month, I come away with new friends and a to-be-read list as long as my arm. This year, I’d like to focus on promoting other women in horror through my social media and blog posts, whether they are authors or bloggers, podcast producers, voice actors, I mean, the list is endless.

So that’s part one of our Women in Horror 2018 discussion! Head on back here next week as we talk about underrated horror stories by women as well as how the social upheavals of the last year have impacted these authors’ stories.

Happy reading!

Women in Horror 2018 Discussion Coming Soon!

Welcome back, and happy Women in Horror Month! Since February is now in full swing, I am beyond excited to announce that this year, I’m doing part two of my Women in Horror round table discussion here on my blog. Last year’s interview series was such a wonderful time, and the 2018 edition promises to be just as terrific.

But before I start unveiling the Q & A later this week, let’s start with introducing the incredible women who are involved with the interview series this year!

*macabre drum roll please!*

Nadia BulkinNadia Bulkin is the author of She Said Destroy, her debut short fiction collection available from Word Horde. She has been nominated three times for the Shirley Jackson Award, and her stories have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies including Nightmare, The Dark, She Walks in Shadows, and numerous Year’s Best volumes. Find her online at her author site.

Sumiko SaulsonSumiko Saulson is the speculative fiction author of both short fiction and novels, including Solitude, Happiness and Other Diseases, and The Moon Cried Blood, among others. Sumiko is also the author of the acclaimed nonfiction book, 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction. In 2016, she received the Horror Writers Association’s Scholarship from Hell. Find her at her author site.

Anya MartinAnya Martin is a fiction writer, playwright, and journalist. Her work has appeared in Tales from a Talking Board, Eternal Frankenstein, and Mantid Magazine, and her play, Passage to the Dreamtime, debuted in 2017 from Dunhams Manor Press. She also serves as the associate producer of The Outer Dark and is the founder of ATLRetro.com. Find her at her author site.

Denise TapscottDenise Tapscott is the author of Gypsy Kisses and Voodoo Wishes, a Southern Gothic dark fiction novel that is the first book in The Zenobia Tales series. When she’s not writing and traveling, Denise is also an accomplished actress, with her work appearing in television series and short films, in addition to her roles as a voice-over actor. Visit her at her author site.

Rebecca J. AllredRebecca Allred is a speculative fiction writer out of the Pacific Northwest. By day, she’s a doctor of pathology, and at night, she crafts dark and malignant tales. Her work has appeared in LampLight, the Bram Stoker Award-winning Borderlands 6, Nightscript II, and Flame Tree Publishing’s Chilling Horror Short Stories anthology. Check her out at her author site.

Catherine GrantCatherine Grant is a horror and dark fantasy author based in Providence. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Shock Totem, Wicked Witches, and Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull, Volume 2. In addition to her writing, she serves as an editor at LampLight, and was recently named the Assistant Director of NecronomiCon Providence. Find her at her author site.

Kenya Moss-DymeKenya Moss-Dyme is an accomplished author of both short fiction and novels. A writer since her teens, she has released numerous horror books, including Daymares, The Mixtape (Special Edition), and The Pulpit Chronicles: Prey for Me (Volumes One and Two). She is also the author of A Good Wife, an Amazon-bestselling dark romance novel. Find her online at her author website.

Carrie LabenCarrie Laben is a widely published author of horror, fantasy, and literary fiction. Her work has appeared in Clarkesworld, Apex Magazine, and Mixed Up: Cocktail Recipes (and Flash Fiction) for the Discerning Drinker (and Reader). In 2017, she won the Shirley Jackson Award for her short story, “Postcards from Natalie,” published in The Dark. Find her online at her author site.

Brooke WarraBrooke Warra is a horror and dark fantasy writer based in the Pacific Northwest. Her short fiction has appeared in Looming Low, Strange Aeons, The Lift, and Sanitarium Magazine, among other publications. She takes much of her inspiration from creepy fairy tales, Finnish folklore, and the darkness lurking in the woods and along the coast. Find her at her author site.

So those are the authors who were kind enough to take time from their busy writing schedules to be involved in my Women in Horror Month discussion. Head on back here later this week and every week for the rest of the month as these female authors sound off on everything from their inspirations as authors to how the social upheavals of the past year have impacted their work. Lots of amazing stuff to come, so definitely stay tuned. Same horror place, same horror time!

Happy reading, and happy Women in Horror Month!

Marching into the Night: Interview with Daniel Braum

Welcome back! This week’s author interview is with the very talented Daniel Braum. Daniel is the author of numerous books including The Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales from Cemetery Dance Publications, The Wish Mechanics from Independent Legions Publishing, and Yeti. Tiger. Dragon. from Dim Shores.

Recently, Daniel and I discussed his inspiration as an author as well as his forthcoming projects and advice to new writers out there.

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

Daniel BraumI came across the short stories of Lucius Shepard and Tanith Lee on the shelves of one of my local libraries as a teen. They are both favorites of mine and writers that continue to inspire and influence me. I also read Salinger’s and Stephen King’s short stories as a teenager. Both had a big impact on me.

Later in life I came to the work of Hemingway, Tim Powers, and Kelly Link. I think their work is masterful. Only in the last few years I became aware of the stories of Robert Aickman. This was an important milestone for me as I discovered that my work “fits in” best with his lineage of strange tales. This year thanks to and on the recommendation of author Scott Nicolay, I read my first few Tiptree stories, the Quintanna Roo ones. These stories have been very much on my mind.

I don’t remember ever deciding to be a writer. Making the decision to attend the Clarion Writers Workshop in 2002 and to follow through with much of what I learned there is likely the best answer I can give to that.

Your work seamlessly blends elements of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Do you remember your first exposure to speculative fiction or films? What drew you to more fantastical worlds as a writer?

As a child my Dad would tell me about the movies he would see that I wasn’t allowed to watch. He would also tell me and sometimes draw for me what I called “monster” stories.

As a teen, one summer my Mom grabbed a copy of Stephen King’s “The Stand” off the supermarket check-out paperback racks for me because she knew I liked to read. I was lucky because in my experience the speculative had always been lumped together and a part of “fiction”. I didn’t grow up with genre distinctions. I was aware of them but only really learned of them as an adult.

I don’t remember being drawn to writing the fantastic. The fantastic always was such a big part of the way I conceptualized fiction. I figure this is a good a reason as any as to why “the fantastic” is a major part of the stories I write. A relatively early exposure to the work of authors Tanith Lee and Lucius Shepard are also likely a big part of this. In Tanith Lee’s stories anything can happen and often does. Her settings range from the here and now to other dimensions and other planets of her own unique imagining. Her characters are men and women and beings of every shape, size, color, and gender and from every background. This was the norm and default position for me before I even knew of the politics or even ever gave the notions that go along with this a second thought.

Lucius Shepard captivated me with his Central American settings. Much of his stories presented a unique sense of wonder (and horror) in the here and now, even if often that here and now was the “far away” places of Central America. Both authors presented unbridled worlds of imagination that were not only fun they had so much more going on at face value and beneath the surface. Wanting to do the same in my work was always a given.

Your debut collection, The Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales, came out in 2016. What was the process of putting together the table of contents for the book? Were there any stories that you were planning to include that ended up being cut, or any pieces that were last-minute additions? Additionally, did you curate the order of the stories to express a certain theme or mood?

The stories for the Night Marchers were written over 15 years and appeared in publications ranging from Kelly Link and Gavin Grant’s Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet to Cemetery Dance Magazine. Some of the stories appeared in the now defunct zines Electric Velocipede and Full Unit Hook Up which both published interstitial material that crossed genre boundaries.

When the book was acquired by my editor Norman Prentiss for Cemetery Dance the only requirement was that it contain the three stories that had first appeared in Cemetery Dance Magazine, “Across the Darien Gap” (from issue #54 in 2006), “Jellyfish Moon” (from issue #67 in 2012 ), and “The Green Man of Punta Cabre” (from issue #71 in 2014 ).

I started the process of assembling the Table of Contents by thinking about what stories might go along best with those three stories within the context of trying to anticipate which of my stories Cemetery Dance readers might enjoy best and what they might expect from a collection being presented as a horror collection. Cemetery Dance has done an astounding job of publishing a wide range of all kinds of horror over the last 25 years. Reading Cemetery Dance Magazine and Cemetery Dance anthologies and publications showed me just how inclusive a genre horror is. I began to rule out stories that were potentially even outside of this wide umbrella of horror such as stories that overtly featured hallmarks of what we commonly think of as science fiction or fantasy, things like “rocket ships” and “secondary worlds”. ( Some of these stories became the core of my second collection The Wish Mechanics: Stories of the Strange and Fantastic which was published by Independent Legions in 2017 because I realized I had enough material written and published to fill several books. )

The Night MarchersOnce I had the stories chosen for the Night Marchers I worked on the sequence. Factors such as mood, theme, tense, and other factors came into play. I don’t read collections in order of the table of contents and I’m aware not everyone does. I like that the stories in the book can be read out of order and still feel like they are of a kind and of a set.

One story that was initially selected for the project did wind up being “cut”. The story is called “Tommy’s Shadow” and it first appeared in the print zine Kaleidetrope. The story received strong, positive feedback from some authors and reviewers who were reading an early in-progress draft of the book. So when my editor suggested that I select a story and make it “exclusive” for trade edition “Tommy’s Shadow” was eventually selected. But it turned out when I sold the rights to the trade edition, the trade edition publisher did not connect with the story in the way everyone else had and had reservations about including it in the trade edition. The solution was that a story I had just completed “A Girl’s Guide to Applying Superior Cat Make Up and Dispelling Commonly Found Suburban Demons” was included instead. “Tommy’s Shadow” is a story I love and one that goes over well with audiences when I read it, but the timing and series events led to it not making it in to these editions.

“A Girl’s Guide” went on to be well reviewed and reprinted in Great Jones Street project. I read the story at the Night Marchers book launch party at Morbid Anatomy Musuem and is one audiences enjoy when I read it.

I’m taking a different approach to the collections I’m working on now. I have a few collections in progress and groups of stories I am working on with the intent of the stories being presented for the first time together in the collection. This is something I’ve never done before and lends to a very different creative approach.

Also in 2016, Dim Shores released your limited edition chapbook Yeti. Tiger. Dragon., which features a trio of tales that deal with cryptozoology. What research went into crafting these particular stories? Also, since the book is now out of print, do you have any plans at this time of releasing the tales elsewhere, perhaps in another collection?

For those new to the publisher Dim Shores Press publishes small run limited editions of illustrated chapbooks and collections. It was a great experience working with publisher Sam Cowan and thanks to a robust pre-order from Dim Shores subscribers and a well-attended launch party all 150 copies of the book sold out in 5 days.

I don’t think of myself as one of those writers who revels in the research aspect of preparing to write. The three stories in Yeti Tiger Dragon involved very specific knowledge of place and setting and of crypto-zoology but most of what I needed to know to write the stories were things I already knew or “researched” as a labor of love. So I had already done the research when it came time to draft the stories.

So while I don’t have a lot about research to share, I do have a few fun fact that relates to the book. The first story “The Yeti’s Hand” is partially set at the Pangboche Monastery in Tibet. The Monastery is mentioned in Kate Bush song “Wild Man” which is also about a Yeti. While I am a huge Kate Bush fan the story was published in 2004, my first published short story, years before the Kate Bush song. However our approaches to how we portray the Yeti are uncannily similar.

The short story the “Water Dragon” from the book was reprinted in my second collection in 2017 The Wish Mechanics: Stories of the Strange and Fantastic. Due to the limited edition print runs of their books it is Dim Shores’ policy to no longer produce second printings or reprints of their titles.

A repackaged edition of the book which includes an additional story is forthcoming from Crossroads Press.

Your story in Nightscript III, “Palankar,” is a wonderfully chilling tale of what waits in the Palankar reef. What inspired this particular piece?

The story was born from the desire to write a piece about the process of trying to help a person you love- particularly the conflict of the point when one has exceeded the safe limits and would face real peril in trying to help further. This notion was with me for a very long time before I figured out an effective story to embody it within a dramatic structure.

The “surface” story is a tale of two brothers scuba diving. One of them has come to try and “help” the other by trying to convince him to come back to a family and life left behind. There is also a “submerged” story. It was my intent that the events of the story lent itself to explanations both mundane, supernatural, or psychological. With this element not being a given it was my hope that the story becomes more about the characters and their reactions to the magic and mystery of our human lives and maybe even present in roads, understandings, or awareness of mysteries larger than ourselves.

I believe the supernatural or possibility of the supernatural is a potent way to explore the human condition in fiction. In the weird fiction genre the element of doubles, twins, doppelgangers and or submerged selves are often presented. It is an element I am very interested in. I think the themes these kinds of stories lend themselves to and the tension between whether characters are experiencing something natural (such as nitrogen narcosis) or something supernatural (such as monster or doppelganger), are interesting to portray and explore in fiction.

As someone who has been involved in the publishing industry for a number of years now, what advice do you have for those writers who are just starting out? On the flip side, what was the worse piece of advice you were given in the early stages of your career?

All of my works to date have been published with small press and micro press. So what limited experience I can report on is in that area.

I think any advice or any given writers choices depends upon their individual goals and what they want out of publishing their stories. On its face that sentence seems like a given or a piece of over-generalized advice, but when one really investigates what is out there one realizes there are many models and choices to publishing a story. Each comes with benefits and drawbacks and strengths and weaknesses.

I like to recommend to those seeking advice to take the time, think about, and be clear on what you want. And thinking through in advance if the benefits and drawbacks line up with what one wants and one’s goals.

For example while self publishing might allow the “benefit” of bringing the story to market faster it also comes with the necessity that an author be proficient in design and marketing and accounting which could be a “drawback” to one not anticipating or desiring this part of the equation.

I was fortunate enough to have a ton of great people around me when I was starting out and I was alerted to many pitfalls. The best advice is to focus on one’s writing and to control those elements that one can control. Write. Finish stories. Continue to improve one’s craft. And continue to keep your stories in front of editors is a solid model to follow. Try and steer clear of or at least reasonably manage anything (or all the things) that do not serve writing and submitting.

Even if it seems like one is not getting fast results, I believe readers, editors, and publishers respond to an author’s unique style, visions and stories only they can tell. Ultimately, so advice that moves one away from the pursuit of this is bad advice in my opinion. A lot of voices out there seem to have institutionalized pursuits that on their face are in conflict with this.

Unfortunately here in New York, I’ve seen bad advice thrown around from people the community expected more from–the kind of advice that hurts people and parts the innocent and unsuspecting from money and opportunity. I’ve seen new writers get hurt, discouraged, and set back as a result. Taking the time to ask questions and investigate the organizations and individuals one does business with is never bad advice.

What projects are you currently working on?

One of my next short story to published will be “Above the Buried City” in the anthology Shivers 8 from Cemetery Dance publications.

At the end of 2017 I had three short stories all come out around the same time “Goodnight Kookaburra” in Walk on the Weird Side, “Cloudland Earthbound” in The Audient Void #4, and “The Fourth Bell” in The Beauty of Death Volume 2.

I’m working on my third novel. The first two will be announced by the publisher very soon. I’ve also been editing anthologies for several publishers. The first one will be announced at the end of the month.

Tremendous thanks to Daniel Braum for being part of this week’s author interview series. Find him online at his website and his Amazon author page.

Happy reading!

Lawful Chaos: Interview with Gordon B. White

Welcome back to our last author interview of 2017! This week, I’m pleased to featured the talented Gordon B. White. Gordon is the author of numerous works of short fiction, and his stories have appeared in Nightscript II, Borderlands 6, and A Breath from the Sky, among other publications. In addition to his fiction writing, he is also an interviewer, including his popular Deep Cuts series at Hell Notes.

Recently, Gordon and I discussed his inspiration as an author, his recent time at Clarion, and what he has planned 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?

Gordon B. WhiteWhile I can’t remember when I first wanted to be a writer, I can remember the brief period when I didn’t. I was one of those kids who loves to read – when I was in elementary school, if I couldn’t fall asleep at night by the time my parents went to bed, my mom would let me turn the light back on and read to myself. So of course I would force myself to stay up late, just so that I could read more.

I wrote all the time in school. I remember being bored in my middle school science class and instead of taking notes on chemical equations, I would write scenes of knights and orcs dueling under purple skies. Even into college, I wrote for fun (and wrote poetry for girls) and took creative writing classes and really liked it. For some reason, though, I decided that I was going to push back against everyone’s expectation that I’d be an English major and instead began a period in the wilderness of other social sciences.

By the time I went to law school, I had convinced myself that I should give up on creative writing. That lasted for a few years. Then, during grad school, my father died and all that grief came out in poetry and stories (you can still see it in some of my recent work, like last year’s “As Summer’s Mask Slips”). I couldn’t deny it any more. So I took the work ethic and discipline I’d developed in grad school, using it to write more seriously and research markets. Now here I am.

As for favorite authors, I feel like that’s a loaded question. For every one I name, I’ll be sure to have left a dozen off, greatly offending anyone who is still alive, as well as the estates of the dead. The last thing I want is angry Facebook friends and hungry ghosts on my case.

What in particular draws you to speculative literature? Do you remember the first speculative story you read or film you saw growing up?

I think there are two things that draw me to speculative fiction: First, I love speculative fiction’s ability to dramatize and externalize human emotions and conflicts. There’s so much poetic and metaphoric potential in the speculative, which makes it not only a useful tool, but also a thoroughly entertaining one to employ. By using speculative elements to create implausible situations, writers and readers can then explore thoroughly realistic and cathartic reactions within those confines. I see speculative fiction on a continuum with mythology and religion when it comes to exploring human relationships and conflicts (although speculative fiction is usually less dogmatic about explaining the “why” of things).

Second, I employ speculative elements in my own writing because I feel that I lack the authority to presume to speak for other human beings, yet I desperately want to understand them. By using speculative elements, I can shift reality enough that I’m still digging into human characters acting in real ways, but by being one step off from true, I’m more comfortable with taking that liberty. As an example, while I have anxiety over something like the demands of being a parent, since I’m not one, I don’t feel qualified to really dig those elements out in a realistic “literary” context. Of course, I can write a story about adopting an alien baby or finding a wolf-child in the woods and, with that little bit of a change, allow myself the freedom to explore.

As to my first exposure to the speculative, I grew up with a mix of fairytales, ghost stories, and too many books, so I was awash in it from the very beginning. My memory is also a bit spotty from my misspent early twenties, so, unfortunately, I cannot recall.

You’re a recent Clarion West graduate. First off, congratulations on such a huge achievement! What was the most surprising part of the experience, and any kernels of wisdom you’d like to share with the rest of us?

To me, the most surprising part was that the camaraderie with my cohorts ended up being just as, if not more, important than the instructional aspects. I learned a ton about writing, really honed in on my particular strengths and weaknesses, and stepped up my writing discipline, but going through the experience with fifteen other writers at the same time was amazing. Despite having lots of online social connections with others, the ability to talk and brainstorm and commiserate and argue with my classmates in person was fantastic. I love and miss them all.

As far as kernels of wisdom go, I’d be here for the next week trying to type out my notes if I was going to offer technical advice, but the thing that sticks with me the most is that each of us has to come up with our own definition of success. There’s no one way to be a writer or to have a writing career, and so being overly concerned with comparing your process and your position and your achievements with others can put you on a never-ending Ladder of Sadness. That, and that the only predictor of “success” is persistence.

In addition to your fiction writing, you’re also an interviewer at Hellnotes. What inspired you to start interviewing authors, and how if at all has the process shaped your own writing?

NightscriptI got started doing this back around the time I started writing seriously again and have done a few dozen since then (I have an archive on my site here). I think I saw a Facebook post or an email looking for people to do interviews and I thought it would be a good way to meet authors writing the kinds of things I wanted to write and, if possible, steal their mojo. The mojo-stealing hasn’t quite worked out, but I’ve been very pleased to be able to run into former interviewees at conventions and use our prior discussions as an icebreaker.

I started off doing mostly promotional interviews for people with new books or other projects, but Hellnotes has been kind enough to allow me to do my own feature series called Deep Cuts. In those interviews, I select an author who I admire and think is doing really interesting work, and then we do an in-depth spoiler-filled discussion on one of their free-to-read online stories. I love digging into all the “deep” aspects of a story – structural choices, themes, influences, symbolism, conversations with other works – so I really like sharing my reading of a story with the authors in order to have as much of a dialogue as the format allows.

In doing these, the process of closely reading (and re-reading and re-re-reading) has helped me become more attentive when revising my own work. Part of the process is asking myself, “Why is this story worth telling? What is it attempting to do other than merely existing?” Moreover, it’s shown me that sometimes symbols are unintentional, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. They may have been unconsciously inserted by the author or they may exist only in the reader’s eye, but they’re there and they influence the reading. This has made me more attentive to the possible interpretations of things I write, and – although I like some ambiguity – I try to write in a way that guides readers away from potentially distracting unintended interpretations.

Also, I’ve recently become an interviewer over at Lightspeed Magazine, too! I do Author Spotlight interviews for them where I try to do the same kind of questions as in Deep Cuts.

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

Of those three, I think it’s probably establishing setting, but that’s an offshoot of how my mind works. I love prose. I’m familiar with the adage that “Story is everything” and greatly envy people who can craft a compelling story with clean, unobtrusive prose, but I have no desire to do that. I love the flow of sounds, the shape of letters on the page. I love poetry and lyrics and rhythm and vocabulary, so all of that is usually at the forefront of my mind when I’m working on a project that really draws me in. Because of that, I typically start with either a speculative premise or a bit of description in prose that I really like, and then I use all my tools to build up the setting using that. In doing so, I can do extra work on building themes and tone and other stuff by hiding them in the backdrop of the setting.

Part of my preference, though, stems from the fact that I don’t have a very vivid visual imagination. I’m not completely aphantasiac, but most of what I visualize is hazy and usually only very isolated details. My drafts sometimes get the “white room” critique, but that’s because that’s how I see things in my mind. However, while I struggle with visualizing settings to translate them into descriptions, I am much more in-tune with assemblages of words and the sort of emotional effects and totality of feeling that they cumulatively elicit from a reader. That’s why neither invisible prose nor visually lush prose speaks very much to me; I need the sizzle and the slam because I feel words more than see sights. As a result, I really like the wide-open area that playing with setting allows.

That’s not to say that I don’t like crafting characters or writing dialogue, it’s just that unless one of those elements is the guiding impetus of a particular story, I tend to let them fall by the wayside a bit. It’s not that I avoid them, I just kind of . . . forget about them . . . and let “good enough” slip through. I’m working on it, though!

Oh, and since I started off by saying “of those three” before making a choice, I’ll let you in on a secret: My absolute favorite part of writing is revision. My mighty struggle as a writer is always to finish first drafts, but when the whetstone comes out, I’m ready to hone.

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

I have a sentimental spot for “Hair Shirt Drag,” which I consider my first “real” publication. It’s the story of a gender nonconforming witch in the rural South and a special coming of age ritual, as informed by RuPaul’s Drag Race. The protagonist in that story is still my favorite character that I’ve ever written. (Hair Shirt Drag first appeared in Sekhmet Press’s Wrapped in Black: 13 Tales of Witches and the Occult, and is reprinted in the charity anthology We Are Not This: Carolina Writers for Equality, as well as a forthcoming audiocast from Tales to Terrify).

I also really like “The Albatrossity Exhibition, or Why I Want to Fuck the Ancient Mariner” which appeared in Milkfist Issue 1. It’s a J.G. Ballard/Samuel Taylor Coleridge mash-up retelling of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in alternatively supernatural and hyper-realistic detail, employing one of my most deliberately non-traditional structures and some of my favorite prose.

What projects are you currently working on?

Well, I’m using NaNoWriMo as an impetus to draft a first (trunk) novel about rural small town intrigue and ancestral memory set in an alternate 1990s where magical plants grow from people’s graves. I doubt it will ever see the light of day, but I’ve never tackled a project of novel length and I’m finding it alternatingly wonderful and horrible, so I’m okay with doing my practice behind the woodshed. While I love revision but sometimes struggle with pushing through those rough spots between beginning and end, the NaNoWriMo accountability is very helpful. I know some people dislike NaNoWriMo’s emphasis on word count, but I find that having daily goals fits in very well with my normal writing process. I definitely prefer to get a first draft down as quickly as possible and then spend my time restructuring, rewriting, and (eventually) polishing, so having to hit a certain number of words each day pushes me to get the story down bit by bit.

Other than that, I have some inchoate projects that I’m sure I’ll jinx by discussing, but here goes: A fragmented cosmic horror story involving cave paintings, but told in the form of static panels and non-narrative background information; research (fiction and nonfiction) for a Weird West legal thriller idea; background reading for something involving capital-F Fate in the mold of Greek tragedies; and some sci-fi flash pieces revolving around cyborg art and fashion.

Where can we find you online?

I recently had to do a bit of re-branding by incorporating my middle initial into things, as there is another Gordon White who is very active in chaos magick and other esoteric areas. As a result, things being published since August 2017 are under “Gordon B. White” and so is most of my web presence.

My website is at www.gordonbwhite.com and I hope to start getting it spiffed up soon, although it currently redirects to my original website (www.grizzlyspectacles.com) where you can find links to all my publications and interviews. I’m also on Twitter as @gordonbwhite and on Facebook.

Huge thanks to Gordon B. White for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!