Category Archives: Interviews

Dead and Breakfast: Interview with Gary Buller

Welcome back! Today I’m excited to feature writer Gary Buller. Gary is the author of Dead and Breakfast as well as numerous short stories.

Recently, Gary and I discussed his inspiration as an author as well as his latest work and how he’s writing his way through 2020.

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

I started ‘writing to submit’ around 2016, pretty late to the game at 34 years old. Until that point, I’d barely written a paragraph of fiction since leaving college. I was inspired by the story of a friend of a friend who published a couple of short stories in speculative fiction magazines. I contacted him for some advice, and it all came together from there. A publisher picked up my first short story within a couple of months. I couldn’t believe it when I received the acceptance. It was amazing. I think I did a little dance around my bedroom.

In addition to the usual suspects (Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Joe Hill, Shirley Jackson), I really like Adam Nevill’s work. I think The Ritual is one of my favourite books. MJ Arlidge and his Helen Grace novels are also fantastic if you like crime novels. Start with Eenie Meenie. It has a Saw-like vibe to it.

Congratulations on the release of Dead and Breakfast! What can you share about the inspiration for this horror collection? 

Thank you! Dead and Breakfast has roots in the horror anthology movies of the eighties, inspired by Creepshow, Twilight Zone, Tales from the Crypt, and Cat’s Eye, not to mention the British anthology series Hammer House of Horror. It is a novella-length anthology encapsulated with a wraparound story. Each dark tale differs from the last, drawing on a variety of different themes and genres, and the wraparound story pulls it all together.

There is a definite thread of nostalgia running through the collection, and I had a lot of fun drawing on my childhood for inspiration. With Dead and Breakfast, the aim was to scare the reader, but also offer them a fun and exciting ride in the process.

What first attracted you to the horror genre? Do you remember the first horror story you read or the first horror film you ever saw? 

I grew up in the age of video nasties when movies like The Last House on the Left, Cannibal Ferox, and The Evil Dead were banned in the UK. That said, the video rental scene was huge, and my dad frequently rented horror movies. I remember watching Predator, Robocop, Child’s Play, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street 3, and Dolls (1987) on home video when I was pre-teen— without my parent’s knowledge, of course.

There was something about that cover art too; Fright Night, House, and Return of the Living Dead Part 2 instantly come to mind. As creepy as they are memorable. I visited my local video rental shop every day after school until they agreed to give me their Child’s Play poster, and I hung it on my bedroom wall. These movies were all around me, all the time- I couldn’t help but be inspired by them.

The first horror movie I saw was likely The Company of Wolves, Jaws, or Dolls. I thought all three were both terrifying and amazing.

The first horror book I read was an illustrated Poe collection I received one Christmas from my parents. As I grew a little older, a neighbour gave me The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson and IT by Stephen King. Both blew my mind. These were my first visits to the world of adult horror.

What is it about short fiction in particular that you find appealing as an author? Do you have a favorite horror short story author? 

I like the way short fiction encapsulates broader ideas in a nutshell. There is something satisfying about being able to absorb so much in relatively little time. In terms of writing short fiction, the medium enables me to work on an eclectic mix of ideas quickly, one after the other– as and when the ideas come to me. I see short fiction as the necessary foundation to learn the art of writing before stepping up to novellas and novels.

I would say Bentley Little is one of my top short story authors, but my favourite short stories include; The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, The Landlady by Ronald Dahl, and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

This year has been a horror story of its own. How have the events of 2020 affected your work, either in the topics that you’re writing or your own creative output?

I thought I’d have more time to write given the lockdown here in the UK, but schools and nurseries closed too, and as a father of two young girls, this has meant a lot of childcare and home-schooling in addition to my day job. My output has reduced significantly, averaging one short story a month.

It hasn’t been the best of years for any of us, especially in terms of mental health, but when life gives lemons, best make lemonade. The show must go on.

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

I do enjoy the challenge of character development in short fiction. Condensing and then evolving descriptions, dialogue, and thought as the plot develops. As a relatively new writer, it is something I still need to work on, but it can be effective when done right.

What are you currently working on? 

My cloud drive is full of stories in various stages of completion. Sometimes I write something and then forget about it, only to stumble upon it again months down the line. The ones I like, I resurrect and then work on them with a fresher set of eyes. Currently, I’m working on four short stories, and I have a novel-length collection out for submission.

Big thanks to Gary Buller for being this week’s featured author! Find him online at Twitter!

Happy reading!

 

Hope for the Future: Part 4 of Fright Girl Summer Roundtable

Welcome back for the final part of our Fright Girl Summer Roundtable! Today, I talk to our seven featured authors about where they’d like to see the horror genre go as well as what you can expect from them in the coming months!

So let’s take it away!

What are your hopes for the future of horror? In what ways do you feel like we’re making strides in representation, and where does the publishing industry still need to do the most work?

EDEN ROYCE: I hope horror eventually becomes a genre that isn’t frowned upon as “lesser”. I actually hope that happens for all of speculative fiction versus literary fiction. For as much as it’s maligned, horror can be a brilliant, sharp, and lingering way to express what we hold sacred as well as who and what and why we fear.

I’m seeing more discussions about the work of non-cis white male horror writers, more publishing announcements showing deals for these writers, and more attention being paid to writers who have traditionally been excluded from or minimized in the canon of horror writing. Much of it starts with gatekeepers – those who read slush or otherwise have the job of sorting through submissions. Have more people who understand different methods of storytelling. Look at your staff: are they all one demographic? Consider expanding that.

Also, look at how and to whom your books are marketed. Think more widely about how you describe and position your books in the marketplace. Do you want more BIPOC readers and reviewers? Seek them out; ask them if they will read your books and don’t assume they’re always aware of your releases.

GABY TRIANA: I would love to see more Latina/Hispanic voices, as well as more Black, Asian, and transgender voices in horror. There’s simply not enough. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still more work to do. One way to achieve this is by hiring editors who are Latina, Black, Asian, transgender and any other underrepresented group out there. Reading about a variety of people is how we learn about the world, how we develop empathy, and it’s time to get diverse.

LINDA D. ADDISON: My hope for horror is the same as my hope for the world: for differences to be embraced and enjoyed. The way to increase representation in writing is to have gate-keepers/editors that include the underrepresented, how else can different kinds of writing be selected. The publishing industry has to be mindful, put in extra work to seek out and include others in their platform. Old patterns don’t change by thought alone. We’ve had projects called out that are clearly not putting the work in to create inclusive anthologies, etc.

A recent example of a change in approach is The Twisted Book of Shadows anthology with editors Christopher Golden and James A. Moore. Chris put together a diverse editorial committee to read blind submissions; widely circulated the submission guidelines with a clear message of wanting work from everyone. In the end, Chris and Jim were given a list of fiction from the edit committee that could have filled three anthologies out of over 700 submissions. They made the final decisions on fiction from the committees’ selection. The anthology was on the final ballot for the HWA Bram Stoker award® 2019 for Anthology, and won the Shirley Jackson Award in Anthology.

Another anthology that changed the paradigm, Sycorax’s Daughters, was a HWA Bram Stoker award® finalist, gathered great reviews and was edited by Prof. Kinitra Brooks, Prof. Susana Morris and myself. The original idea was Prof. Brooks’ to create an anthology of horror fiction and poetry written by Black women.

The HWA has created outlets, like the monthly column The Seers Table, to introduce membership to underrepresented creatives.

There’s much work to be done, but these are examples of what can be done.

V. CASTRO: Again, we need more people of color represented in horror, and not as characters. We need to support writers of color so they continue because it’s very easy to become discouraged in publishing. It’s falling and getting up again. The more we show writers of color it is possible to be seen and heard, the more diversity we will see cropping up. The more opportunities offered to people of color will also boost morale.

I think women are making strides everyday in publishing, however, there have been a string of stories of harassment. We don’t just need our stories to be published, we require respect and dignity. We require to feel safe. If men can’t do that then they have no place in publishing and are just taking up valuable space. They can fuck right off.

R.J. JOSEPH: I see a lot more women being welcomed into the fold, as well as an inspiring number of men in the genre who understand why they need to proactively work towards equity for all horror writers. I hope this extends more fully to writers of color, at some point. There’s still way too much policing of the types of ethnic enactments that are “acceptable” and those that gatekeepers don’t want to support. A horrifying number of reviewers who approach books by own voices authors as alien works they just can’t relate to…pretty much because they just don’t want to expand their world views to include anyone not like them or the stereotypes they’ve built up about other folks inside their heads. I’d love to see all those walls broken down so that future horror writers of color never have to read reviews of their work written by people of other ethnicities bashing how they’ve chosen to write about their own experiences, or watch everyone around them (including less talented writers) get opportunities that are never extended to them.

G.G. SILVERMAN: I’d like to see horror get the same respect as literary fiction. As for representation, I feel like more women are getting represented in horror, but I’d love to see more intersectionality, more BIPOC folks represented, more LGBTQ folks, more disabled folks. and not just as writers, but in all areas of publishing. And I’d love to see all of us reaping the financial rewards, contract-wise, that white male writers get. Representation isn’t enough. The true financial support of the industry—that would go farther.

SONORA TAYLOR: I hope we’ll see less gatekeeping, both in the fandom and in the publication world. I can’t count the number of times I see people having the “What’s real horror?” debate. Horror is wide-ranging. It isn’t just monsters and blood. It isn’t just Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft (with a passing mention of Shirley Jackson to throw women a bone). Why spend all this time debating the intricacies and shouting down fans when you can just read it and enjoy it? Though I will say for every gatekeeper, I see 10 or 20 awesome fans who are open to all kinds of stories and all kinds of storytellers.

This is where publishing needs to keep up. People are only going to talk about King if you only promote King, if you only offer your entire horror marketing budget to King, if you only ask King to blurb new books coming out; and if your non-King authors are all almost the same demographics as King. The next Stephen King doesn’t need to be another white man. All kinds of storytellers should be given a chance to have their stories told on a widespread level.

What projects are you currently working on? Also, what works of yours have been recently released or are set for release?

EDEN ROYCE: I mentioned Root Magic earlier – that’s due to be released on January 5, 2021. I’ve turned in another middle-grade to my editor, this one is a Southern Gothic fantasy (magical realism !!!) and I’m working on a YA horror novel. You’ve also got me thinking about this romantic horror crime noir, so that will be percolating in my head as well!

GABY TRIANA: Right now, I’m writing a witchy occult novel called MOON CHILD. It’s in the beginning stages, so I can’t say more than that. I’ve also co-written a paranormal horror novel with two celebrity individuals. Sorry to be vague, but they’ll be making an announcement at the end of the summer! Also, I have a short story called “Don’t You See That Cat?” coming out in DON’T TURN OUT THE LIGHTS: A Tribute to Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (September, 2020, HarperCollins) and a flash fiction piece called “Gut Instinct” coming out in Issue #365 of Weird Tales Magazine, slated to release at the end of 2020, soon available in print, e-book, and audio.

LINDA D. ADDISON: I’m finishing edits on my first novel. This has been a grand adventure because it’s a new form for me to play in. For 2020 I have work in the following anthologies: Miscreations, Don’t Turn Out the Lights, Chiral Mad 5, and Weird Tales Magazine #364. I’m also excited about the 2020 release of a film (inspired by my poem of same name) “Mourning Meal”, by producer and director Jamal Hodge.

V. CASTRO: I have 3 short stories out.
“Asylum” in Lockdown from Polis Books
Cucuy of Cancun in Worst Laid Plans from Grindhouse Press
“Templo Mayor” in Graveyard Smash Vol.2 from Kandisha Press

Next year you can expect The Queen of the Cicadas from Flame Tree Press and Goddess of Filth from Creature Publishing.

R.J. JOSEPH: My most recent academic essay, “The Beloved Haunting of Hill House: An Examination of Monstrous Motherhood” appears in the essay collection edited by Kevin Wetmore, Jr., The Streaming of Hill House: Essays on the Haunting Netflix Adaption. I also have a poem appearing in the upcoming HWA Poetry Showcase VII.

I’m currently fleshing out screenplays for my short stories “Left Hand Torment” (historical horror from the Black Magic Women anthology) and “To Give Her Whatsoever She May Ask” (contemporary horror from the Sycorax’s Daughters anthology). I’m also pulling together a story collection that I plan to have done by the end of next month. I hope to have something exciting to say about those three projects at some point in the near future.

G.G. SILVERMAN: Currently, I’m working on a feminist speculative short fiction collection that lies somewhere between dark fantasy and horror. I still need an agent, and a publisher, but my proposed collection was a finalist for the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund (for feminist writers and artists) so I feel like the collection has potential.

I’m also working on a dark, feminist poetry collection. And hoping to shop that around next year as well.

As for recent releases, I had a story come out at Speculative City’s WEIRD issue, in celebration of Weird Fiction that defies the previously white male conventions of the genre. The story is called “I’m sorry, I tried, I love you” and can be found here: http://www.speculativecity.com/fiction/im-sorry-i-tried-i-love-you/

And, in a deep nod to my immigrant heritage, my gothic Italian sea monster story, The Miraculous Ones, is in the NOT ALL MONSTERS Women in Horror anthology, from StrangeHouse Books.

Soon, I’ll also have a witchy faux micro-memoir out from Rough Cut Press, which will be available online.

I feel so lucky that I get to do this work.

Thanks again for having me, Gwendolyn! Your work inspires me, and it is an honor to be here today.

SONORA TAYLOR: Right now I’m writing short stories. I’m submitting to journals, and I’m also planning to release my fourth short story collection in late 2021. It’s called Someone to Share My Nightmares, and it will largely focus on romantic and erotic horror.

My third novel, Seeing Things, was released this past June. It follows a teenage girl who discovers she can see the dead, but none of them want to talk to her. It’s a contemporary Gothic novel and I’ve been pleased with the reader response to it so far!

I’m also featured in the anthology Women of Horror Vol. 2: Graveyard Smash from Kandisha Press. It features 22 stories, all from some of the most exciting voices in horror right now.

V. Castro and I are also talking about ways to expand Fright Girl Summer into a year-round event. Stay tuned!

And that’s a wrap on this month’s roundtable! Tremendous thanks to our seven fantastic featured authors! You can also catch even more Fright Girl Summer by heading over here!

Happy reading, and happy Fright Girl Summer!

This is Horror: Interview with Michael David Wilson

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m thrilled to feature the fantastic Michael David Wilson! Michael is the founder of This is Horror, an amazing website and resource for the horror genre, as well as an accomplished author in his own right. His new book, The Girl in the Video, is out now from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing.

Recently, Michael and I discussed his inspiration (and almost-origin story) as a writer, his new and forthcoming work, as well as his favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process.

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

I’ve recently heard several writers, including Nick Mamatas and Max Booth III, say writers need to get better origin stories so I’m tempted to tell you about when I was four years old and a group of men wearing horse masks and brandishing machetes stormed the house and held my family hostage. They only agreed to release us if the firstborn made a blood oath there and then vowing to become a professional writer. As the firstborn, that responsibility fell to me. I say tempted because none of that actually happened so I’ll have to disappoint Mamatas and Booth and tell you something more cliched but at least authentic.

Stories have always been an important part of my life. Since I was a kid my mother would read bedtime stories to me. To begin with it was the likes of Beatrix Potter and Enid Blyton, then when it came to choosing my own stories I selected tales by Roal Dahl and a little later, R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps. I remember reading George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roal Dahl and deciding to write my own rip-off version on an Acorn Computer. I also wrote stories about animals going on adventures because that seemed to be the thing to do (thanks Homeward Bound and Watership Down) and at nine years old I wrote the weird Jack and the Beanstalk inspired tale, James and the Chocolate Tree which I described at great length on an episode of the Ladies of the Fright podcast.

But I think my fascination with darker tales started with my grandmother. When I was young I’d stay over at my grandparents’ house and she’d tell me ghost stories and detail strange supernatural occurrences in England. The lines between what was fiction and nonfiction blurred so much that it would be impossible to tell you which events supposedly occurred and which were just stories. It was then that I experienced my first adrenaline rush as a result of horror stories and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Haruki Murakami, Jack Ketchum, and Ania Ahlborn are up there with my favourite authors. Right now I’m reading Wolf Town by Jeff Strand—I love the witty minimalist dialogue and the way in which he blends horror with pitch black laugh-out-loud humour. I’m also reading Mackenzie Kiera’s All You Need is Love and a Strong Electric Current, coming out later this year via Unnerving. Talk about a book that doesn’t hold back! It’s sexy, it’s extreme, it’s daring, it’s in your face, it’s unflinching, and it’s hilarious. This isn’t for the faint of heart, but for those with the stomach, turn the page, Mackenzie will show you a good time and then she’ll mess you up.

Congratulations on the release of your book, The Girl in the Video! What was the inspiration for this story, and what was the process like as you were writing it?

I was taking part in the ‘write one story per week’ challenge in 2017 when Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing put out a call for their anthology, Lost Films. I love the work that Lori and Max do at PMMP and I think Lost Signals is amongst the best anthologies released in recent years. Naturally I started drafting up ideas for stories that might be suitable for Lost Films. Pretty soon I had a story that was far longer than the maximum word count for stories in the anthology. I mentioned it to Max and he said to send it his way and to my delight PMMP decided to publish it as a stand-alone.

As for inspiration and process, when I’m writing for a theme I like to take the James Altucher approach: if you can’t come up with a good idea, come up with twenty ideas. This is along the lines of giving yourself permission to suck. I’ll start writing down 20 ideas and then seeing which ideas might just work. I’ll often combine elements from each of the ideas until I have a basic premise. For The Girl in the Video I knew early doors that it was going to involve an English teacher in Japan receiving strange videos. I wanted to examine the worst possible outcome when you click that unsolicited link, combined with the claustrophobic nature of being in another country where the native language is not your own, and of course there’s the exploration of the darker side of technology and just how much of our private lives we’re putting out there for anyone to access. The Girl in the Video is pitched as The Ring meets Fatal Attraction for the iPhone generation. If that sounds like your thing and you like dialogue-heavy, minimalist fiction, with dark humour, this one may be for you.

I’m a planner, so I knew the main beats of the story and how it would end before writing anything but I’m not too precious about the plan, if I have to change course during the writing then so be it. Funnily enough, that’s happened a number of times with my collaboration with Bob Pastorella, Peeper Ritual. What start off as a short novella became a 45,000+ word novel.

I absolutely love the cover for the book. Who’s the artist, and how did the cover develop?

That’s Pye Parr. I’ve known him since I worked at Rebellion Publishing (2000 AD, Solaris, Abaddon Books) and he’s done the cover art for a number of This Is Horror titles (perhaps most notably A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman). I knew I wanted him to do the cover art for my debut book and to my delight PMMP were onboard. As I’ve worked with Pye, I trust his judgment and we have the cover art process streamlined—I send him the story, he reads it, he comes up with four rough cover concepts, I tell him what I like and don’t like and then he drafts something up. After that we go back and forth until the cover is perfect. In early drafts the cover was more black and red but as soon as Pye started messing around with all those bright colours The Girl in the Video cover reached the next level. I couldn’t be happier with it and I love how many people have commented on the cover, too. It’s been a delight to see so many people photographing it on Instagram for the bookstagram community.

You’re widely known in the horror community as the founder of This Is Horror. How has your work for the site and in particular your work as an interviewer shaped your writing?

At this point I’ve now interviewed hundreds of writers and heard so many pieces of writing advice over the years. Funnily enough it was you, Gwendolyn, who said “when it comes to writing advice—your mileage may vary”. I take a similar approach to writing and indeed all advice, it was Bruce Lee who said: “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own”.

Now the writing advice is great in terms of the technical aspect of the craft but perhaps what has been more useful for many listeners are those talking candidly about mental health struggles, work-life balance, family-writing balance, perseverance, dealing with failure and rejection, and time management. It’s one thing to teach someone how to write well but you also have to learn how to practically be a writer under your own unique circumstances. A lot of creatives are likely to be far harsher to themselves than they are to others. Don’t say something to yourself you wouldn’t allow someone else to say about you. Be kind to yourself. Work hard and persevere but also give yourself a break.

Perhaps the thing above all that helped me as a writer was giving myself permission to be me and to write in my own authentic voice. For a number of years I wondered if in interviewing masters of horror like Ramsey Campbell and Adam Nevill if I’d inadvertently created a situation where whatever I put out I would disappoint people because the writing I produced bore little resemblance to those I interviewed. Of course this was bollocks, not least because I’ve interviewed such a wide range of authors from Victor LaValle to Nadia Bulkin to Elizabeth Hand to David Moody to Peng Shepherd etc. etc. As soon as I let go of having to write how one might expect the founder of This Is Horror to write and I just wrote as my authentic self, I wrote easier and I wrote better. My writing is minimalist, dialogue heavy, awkward, dark, at times humorous, and above all it’s authentically me. Perhaps it’s horror, perhaps it isn’t but what matters is it’s the fiction that best reflects me as a writer and what do you know people are responding to it well, too. I mean, praise from Josh Malerman, Brian Keene, Alan Baxter, and David Moody—a review from Mother Horror in Cemetery Dance … are you kidding me?! Surreal and gratifying.

Your next book, House of Bad Memories, is due out next year. What can you share about that story?

It lands via Grindhouse Press and I’m pitching it as This Is England meets Prisoners meets Peep Show. I reckon it’s darker and more unrelenting than The Girl in the Video though it’s not without its humour. It’s set in the UK and if it were adapted for film I could see someone like Shane Meadows as the screenwriter and director.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process? What’s your least favorite part?

When the first draft is going well that’s very satisfying. I also like the final draft where I’m just tinkering with word choice and looking at the story on a sentence by sentence level.

My least favourite part is when I wonder “what if this was all a fluke?” or “what if I’ve told all the good stories I have to tell?” or “what if I’m actually just a bit shit?” Model illogical, of course, but what I’m saying is self-doubt’s a bastard.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m just fine-tuning Peeper Ritual with Bob Pastorella which should be out later this year. I’m also in the early stages of a collaboration with Max Booth III called Wounded Duck. My current long-form solo project is called She’s Gotta Die—it’s Kill List meets Weekend at Bernie’s meets The Wicker Man.

Huge thanks to Michael David Wilson for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find him online at his website as well as Twitter and Instagram at @wilsonthewriter. Also, check out This is Horror at its main site and on Twitter and on Instagram!

Happy reading!

Lamplight and Forests: Interview with Christopher Stanley

Welcome back for this week’s interview! Today I’m happy to feature Christopher Stanley. Christopher is the author of The Lamppost Huggers and The Forest is Hungry, among many works of flash fiction.

Recently, Christopher and I discussed favorite authors, inspirations, and what’s next.

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

I’m not sure anyone in their right mind decides to become a writer! It’s always seemed like more of a calling to me – like vampire slaying but with pencils instead of stakes.

I do remember when I decided I wanted other people to read my stories. I’d just found out I was being made redundant after eleven years in a job, and I wanted to make some changes. So I signed up to Tom Vowler’s excellent short-story writing course, and I joined Bath Company of Writers. These two things turned a hopeless coffee-shop writer into a published, hopeless coffee-shop writer.

As for favourite authors – there have been many. Outside of horror, I’ve enjoyed the novels of Delillo, Franzen, Eggers and Palahniuk. My favourite horror authors at the moment are Paul Tremblay, John Langan, Andrew Michael Hurley, and a multiple Stoker-award winner named Gwendolyn Kiste. Am I allowed to say that? Ah, what the hell.

Can I also give a shout out to Ellen Datlow and all the other editors who work around the clock to produce volume after volume of incredible horror stories?

Congratulations on the forthcoming release of your collection, The Lamppost Huggers. What can you tell us how about how this particular collection developed?

Thank you! I started writing flash fiction when our second child turned out to be twins, because I had neither the time, nor the energy, to continue writing short stories. Being a member of the Bath Company of Writers also nudged me in this direction, because the other members included my good friends Diane Simmons and Tino Prinzi (co-directors of the UK National Flash Fiction Day).

I started writing horror flash fiction after I stumbled across the first volume of The Molotov Cocktail Prize Winners anthology, which is a stunning collection. So much beauty and imagination! I suffered a lot of rejections on the road to winning their quarterly contest with a story called ‘Gettysburg,’ but I got there in the end.

Over the past few years, no one has championed my writing as much as The Arcanist. I think I’m right in saying that my story ‘Oymyakon’ is their most read story ever (or maybe it’s ‘Lepidoptera’ – I’m not sure). After I won their annual flash horror contest for the second year in a row, I reached out to the editors (Josh, Andie and Patrick) and asked if they would consider putting out a collection of my horror flash fiction. The Lamppost Huggers and Other Wretched Tales is the result, and it’s been a real collaborative effort.

Your book, The Forest Is Hungry, was released last year through Demain Publishing and their Short Sharp Shocks! series. What can you share about that project?

The Forest is Hungry is a fast-paced novelette about nature fighting back. There’s something sinister growing in the forest next to main character’s house, something that will threaten the lives of everyone in his neighbourhood before the day is out, starting with his daughter.

I have a lingering sense of guilt about this story. I originally wrote it for a weird nature anthology that got cancelled, so I submitted it to Weirdbook instead. Doug, the editor, passed on the story but very kindly said if I could fix a minor plot point, he’d be happy to see it again in the next submission call.

I fixed the plot point on a sunny Sunday morning in February 2019. At the same time, I noticed a writer friend of mine was having a novelette published by a new publisher, Demain Publishing. I figured there was no harm in sending off a query email, and amazingly The Forest is Hungry was accepted within a couple of hours.

The Forest is Hungry was published as Book #16 in the ‘Short Sharp Shocks!’ series in April 2019. It was my first standalone publication, and it’s been very popular with fans of the series.

But I still feel bad I didn’t send it back to Weirdbook.

What in particular draws you to the horror genre?

House of Leaves. The Haunting of Hill House. The Shining. The Loney. The Fisherman. The Rust Maidens. A Head Full of Ghosts. Shouldn’t the question be: what’s wrong with people who aren’t drawn to the horror genre?

I go to horror because I recognise the landscapes and characters, but I know there’s an imagination at work that means anything is possible. And that’s exciting.

Do you have any writing rituals (e.g. writing at the same time every day, or writing while listening to music)?

I have writer friends who listen to music but it’s never worked for me. Being a songwriter, I have such a strong connection with music that, if I’m listening to it, I’ll probably hear a chord change or a riff that inspires me, and then the story is forgotten while I fetch my guitar.

I’m not sure I have any writing rituals – should I make some up? I write in the mornings before the kids come downstairs but that’s out of necessity. Sometimes I get an hour, sometimes ten minutes, and either way it’s fine with me. With great children comes great responsibility (and frequent interruptions and soul-crushing tiredness). I wouldn’t change a thing.

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

That’s a bit like asking me to choose between my kids. When the writing is going well, I love characters, dialogue and setting equally. It’s satisfying to read stories back after they’ve been published and think yep, I nailed that. But like kids, there are days where these things make me want to scream.

What are you working on next?

Right now, I’m making the final edits to a novelette and a novella, both of which are unlike anything I’ve written before. They’ve both forced me to write about things which are uncomfortable and challenging, and I think maybe this is one of the jobs of a horror writer, but it’s so hard. I guess that’s why I’m not rushing to finish them. I really want to get them right!

I’m also thrilled to say I’ve had a mini-collection of short stories accepted by Demain Publishing. That’s all I can say about this one at the moment, except that there’ll be announcement in due course.

Where can we find you online?
The best place to find me is on Twitter @allthosestrings. I also have a brand new website, christopherstanleyauthor.com. Sign up to the blog for updates on The Lamppost Huggers and my other projects.

Thanks for all the great questions, Gwendolyn.

Big thanks to Christopher Stanley for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Queen of Horror: Interview with Lisa Quigley

Welcome back for this week’s author interview series! Today I’m thrilled to feature Lisa Quigley. Lisa is the co-host and co-creator of the award-winning podcast, Ladies of the Fright, as well as a horror fiction writer. Her debut novella, Hell’s Bells, was released earlier this year from Unnerving.

Recently, Lisa and I discussed her inspiration as an author as well as how music plays into her work.

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

I don’t actually really remember deciding to become a writer. It’s like that Ursula K. Le Guin quote, “When people say, ‘Did you always want to be a writer?’ I have to say no! I always was a writer.” From as early as I can remember, I have been interested in books and stories and writing. I don’t know what it’s like to just read a book and enjoy it—although I do enjoy books—but for me, reading is always, and has always been, accompanied by an inner voice that says yes! I want to do this, too.

I have too many favorite authors to name them all here. But first and foremost, the most formative: Neil Gaiman. In my late teens/early 20s I drifted away from reading and writing (even though both always called to me) but a lot of it was feeling uninspired by what I read and and a lack of confidence in my own abilities. I knew I was a writer, but I didn’t think I had the talent. I didn’t know about things like revision yet! I thought, if it wasn’t coming out in a way that matched the books I read, that was that. Anyway, when I was maybe 19 or 20 or so, a boyfriend gave me Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. I had never read anything like it. Gaiman’s work opened me up to a whole new kind of story, a whole new genre. I really credit that discovery with leading me down the path to where I am now–the road to horror!

I also love Joe Hill, Kat Howard, Paul Tremblay, Josh Malerman, Grady Hendrix, Hailey Piper, Sara Tantlinger, and well, YOU! 😀 But truly, there are so many more authors I’m leaving off.

Congratulations on the release of Hell’s Bells! What can you share about the inspiration for your debut novella?

Thank you so much! I am so excited. It’s so weird because the inspiration for this book came from….everywhere. I pulled so many different pieces of my life from various times in my life and mashed them all together in a story. I think the germ of it, though, comes from my experiences growing up in an extremist-religious household. I had a best friend (who was a Christian) during my high school years, and it was so funky to navigate the intensity of teen friendship coupled with the unrealistic Christian expectations placed upon us. Emotions are already so heightened at that age, and you’re just trying to figure out who you even are in the midst of it. I wanted to write about what that felt like.

Hell’s Bells features a group of girls in the early 1990s, which brings to mind some films from around that time period like Heathers and The Craft. Did any films in particular inspire you as you were creating your group of female friends?

Oh man, I’m so glad you asked that! Clearly, I was a teen in the 90s. My characters are just a little older than me, because I wanted to write about a very specific time in the 90s and I needed them to be a certain age. But yeah, I mean, when pitching my book I have called it The Craft meets My Best Friend’s Exorcism. Those kinds of movies with “girl gangs” were a huge part of my teen years. And as much as I LOVE The Craft, for its nostalgia and cultural iconic ness (is that a word?) I also can recognize from the vantage point of time that it is problematic. There was a lot in that movie that focused on the toxicity of female friendships, and the danger of young women have “too much power.”

I also grew up watching allllll the teen movies. And SO MANY seemed to have this running theme of like…”being weird is not okay.” I am thinking of films like She’s All That and Never Been Kissed. In She’s All That, the guy doesn’t fall in love with her till she loses the glasses and paint-spattered overalls. Many of us likely remember the iconic scene of Rachel Leigh Cook walking down those stairs to “Kiss Me,” in that little red dress with her face made up and her hair in a chic cut and her glasses gone. There was also The Princess Diaries, where Anne Hathaway becomes desirable after her curly hair is smoothed into submission and her eyebrows are tamed. Or Miss Congeniality, where Sandra Bullock’s FBI partner doesn’t realize how incredible she is until she is turned into the perfect beauty pageant contestant. I could go on and on, but everyone probably gets it by now.

In my novella, I wanted to call back to that time and those experiences and those films, but I also wanted to subvert them.What if we owned our weirdness? Why should we change for anyone? And what if the girls’ friendship be the ultimate source of their strength, instead of their downfall?

Music is a huge part of your fiction. Do you listen to music while you’re writing, and if so, can you share a sample of your playlist?

It really depends. I go in phases. Sometimes I want to write in silence and sometimes having music on helps me really get in the zone. My writing-music tastes are very different from my listening-for-pleasure music tastes, though. I can’t really listen to music with lyrics or stories while I write. I get too distracted, I want to sing, I want to dance. So I need pretty ambient music for writing. Lately I pretty much only listen to the Interstellar Soundtrack to write. I haven’t even seen the movie, lol. But I was listening to a podcast (Sarah Enni’s First Draft, I believe) and it was recommended. And…I can’t really describe what happens to me when I listen to it. It’s like I escape through some writing-portal and write from a liminal space. There are so many different emotional highs and lows, it’s wonderful. Also, because I’ve used it so much to write to, I pretty much just have to hear the opening notes and it signals to my brain that it’s writing time. I love it!

Some of the other dark ambient music I enjoy while writing: Lustmord, Brian Eno, the It Follows soundtrack, Cities Last Broadcast, The VVitch soundtrack, Sleep Research Facility

The occult also plays a big role in Hell’s Bells. Were you like the girls in your story and fascinated by the occult when you were a teenager? Or has that interest in exploring it in your work come later?

I have always been interested in the occult, but with my upbringing, I didn’t have much room to explore those interests as a teenager. I was instilled with a lot of fear and myth around it all. I mean, I did have a few “non-Christian” friends (rare) who would try “Light As a Feather” at sleepovers, or we’d have “seances” (all inspired by The Craft, by the way.) But it was always half hearted and with a lot of giggles. It always intrigued me, but I had a lot of fear around it to unpack.

As I got older, and as I veered away from a Christian worldview, I was always interested in witchcraft. Reading about the occult and alternative spiritual paths has been a huge part of my own personal development so I think some of that will always seep into my writing. But I also like to approach it all with a sort of “reverent irreverence” (phrase borrowed from a favorite witch, podcaster (The Witch Wave), and writer of mine, Pam Grossman.) I treat my spirituality with a sense of play, never wanting to get too caught up in my own “dogma.”

In addition to your writing, you’re also a podcaster! You and Mackenzie Kiera host the award-winning Ladies of the Fright. How did your podcast come about, and what’s been the most surprising or exhilarating part of doing the show?

Mackenzie and I met in graduate school (UCR Palm Desert Low-Residency MFA program….an incredible experience!) and were pretty much joined at the hip upon meeting. We had always wanted to collaborate, but we weren’t sure exactly how or what that project would be. We had talked about starting a literary magazine or something similar, but it never felt right (or like it was work we actually wanted to take on!)

In the middle of 2017, I moved from California (where I had lived for 11 years) with my husband and 8 week old son (!!!) across the country to New Jersey. My husband is from here, and we really wanted family support after our son was born. There is so much for us here, and it’s clearly where we are meant to be, but I have struggled to root into my new life here. I feel a lot of grief for the life I left behind, the community I worked so hard to build. It was hardest in the beginning, when I was immersed in the underworld of postpartum (which can already be an isolating time) while also feeling severed from my community. I was lonely and sad and uprooted.

I started listening to podcasts while I walked with my son, and one day I texted Mackenzie, we should start a horror book podcast. We’ll just read and talk about the books we like, since we are doing that anyway. Why not record our conversations? Maybe one day we could interview some authors too. She was all about it and in two months, we had the show up and running. We had no idea it would even resonate with anyone! We just wanted a way to feel connected from across the country, and to be creative in a more connected way. Writing is in our blood and it’s lovely, but it can get lonely. And there is a lot of waiting involved. Waiting for rejections (mostly, ha!) and acceptances. This gave us a new project to be excited about—one where we had creative control and didn’t have to wait for a “yes” on, either.

The most surprising and exhilarating part? First—that anyone else listened or cared! We were just doing it for us. In a lot of ways, it was a creative lifeline. We had no concept that anyone might actually be interested in hearing what we had to say. I think the most exhilarating moment was at Stoker Con 2019 (last year, when we could breathe around each other, ha!…feels like a million lightyears away!) We had just finished moderating a packed panel, and afterward someone came up to us, all excited. She told us that she and her husband were huge fans of the show and they listened to the show together. She asked if she could get a picture with us, and said her husband would be so jealous she got to meet us! It was such a surreal and special moment!

What are you currently working on?

I’ve just put the finishing touches on a novel (currently called The Forest, but that could always change if it’s published?) I wrote that book while in the darkest part of postpartum, and the idea came to me when I used to walk in the woods with my son strapped to my chest in a baby carrier. It was my way of processing my experiences of new motherhood and postpartum anxiety. I’m currently shopping it around to a few places, nothing concrete—but the book has my whole heart in it and I believe it will exist in the world some day.

Beyond that, I’m just playing—I’m in the early stages of conceptualizing a few different projects, and enjoying being in this creative space where ideas are percolating but not quite risen to the surface. It’s a very mysterious part of the creative process and I’m leaning in to it.

Where can we find you online?

Social media: I’m on Twitter and Instagram as @ laquiglette. I’m also working on revamping my website, which is down right now, but will be www.lisaquigley.net once I get it up & running again. And of course, you can find the podcast at www.ladiesofthefright.com, twitter @ LOTFpod, and Instagram @ ladiesofthefright.

Thank you so much for having me! It’s been a delight!

Big thanks to Lisa Quigley for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Summer Skin and Night Sun: Interview with teri.zin

Welcome back for this week’s interview! Today I’m thrilled to feature author teri.zin. teri.zin who writes under the name Zin E. Rocklyn has been published widely, including at Tor.com and in anthologies including Sycorax’s Daughters and Nox Pareidolia.

Recently, she and I discussed her inspiration as a writer, her favorite authors, and what she’s planning on writing next.

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

I never really thought I could hack it as a professional, but it feels like i’ve always written. i enjoyed stories and storytelling; it was fun to come up with worlds and make friends with characters. I think I started writing stories in earnest when I read the Fear Street series by RL Stine around 9yrs old. I remember the first character I’d created who I truly fell in love with: MoniLove Monet. She was everything I wanted to be when I was going to be a teenager. Things turned out much different, except for my love of horror, that only increased.

My favourite authors are NK Jemisin, Octavia Butler, Nathan Ballingrud, Clive Barker, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Helen Oyeyemi, Stephen Graham Jones, and Kathleen Collins, to name a few. There are too many!

Congratulations on the recent release of “The Night Sun” at Tor.com! What can you share about how this particular story developed?

The beginning of the story was sitting in my notes on my phone for literal years after seeing a drawing that struck me. It was until I went to Viable Paradise in 2018 did I have the opportunity to work on it. I had no idea where it was going when I jotted it down, but the prompts we received helped click things into place. The title came from a brain fart. The moon was full and gorgeous one night on Martha’s Vineyard and I mouthed Night Sun instead of full moon. I’m terrible at titles so I just ran with it.

Last fall, your story, “Birds,” was released in Nox Pareidolia from Nightscape Press. What was the inspiration for this story?

I have a deep desire to explore complex familial relationships, especially between a mother and daughter. Though the story is about two sisters, it is the mother’s treatment of either daughter that influences their relationship. As with most of my stories, it was also born of frustration. I was seeing a lot of calls for diversity but only a certain kind of acceptable diversity. It was diversity through a very white lens, a lens not exclusive to just white people either. So I wanted to write something where there are no heroes and the ugliness of white supremacy could be shown: you can have Black friends, lovers, coworkers you get along with, that doesn’t mean you’re not racist.

Your debut short story, “Summer Skin,” appeared in the highly lauded Sycorax’s Daughters in 2017. What is it about body horror that draws you in as an author?

Growing up, I had terrible eczema and when it was my turn for the chicken pox, I got the blisters instead of the itchy welts (trust me, it’s gross). It was traumatic having skin that was actively attacking itself, creating sores and crusty wounds that kids would point and laugh at or be obnoxiously disgusted by. It was also terribly painful. I battle chronic pain and PCOS, plus I was the kid always getting injured in some way. Horror is cathartic for me. It helps me process when my skin rebels, when my body is twisting upon itself. It helps me externalise the pain of depression and the constant discomfort of anxiety.

Are there are other subgenres of horror that you’re particularly eager to explore in your writing?

I love Gothic horror and would love to tackle it! Sci-fi horror and horror-westerns interest me, too.

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

Aw, man, that’s tough! I’d have to say crafting setting is the most fun for me. I like feeling creeped out and it’s even better if I can create it for myself!

What’s next for you? What projects are coming out soon? What are you currently working on?

I hope to have some work out soon! Right now, I’m working on a dark fantasy novella and several horror short stories. Times are a bit tough for creating, but I’m still plugging away!

Where can we find you online?

You can find me on Instagram at teri.zin or Twitter at intelligentwat. My website terizin.com is still under construction.

Huge thanks to teri.zin for being this week’s featured author!

Happy reading!

Roller Skates and Horror: Interview with Jessica Guess

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today I’m thrilled to spotlight Jessica Guess! Jessica is the author of Cirque Berserk, a new novella from Unnerving’s Rewind or Die series.

Recently, Jessica and I discussed how she got started as a writer as well as her working process and what awesome horror she’s got planned next.

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

In my junior year of college, I watched a Ted Talk on creativity by Elizabeth Gilbert and she said, “Why are we afraid to do the thing we feel God put us on this earth to do?” Until then I was trying to be a doctor or a lawyer, you know, really safe career choices my Caribbean parents would approve of. I hated it. The only thing I enjoyed, the thing I felt compelled to do, was write. After I watched that Ted Talk, I decided to go for it. Some of my favorite authors are Stephen Graham Jones, Gillian Flynn, and Marlon James.

Congratulations on the release of Cirque Berserk! What can you share about how this story developed?

I got the idea after watching The Strangers Prey at Night. The way they used 80s music in that movie was immaculate. That night I got the image of a character on roller skates doing something horrible to another character while DeBarge’s Rhythm of the Night played in the background. I asked myself, why are they doing that? Why are they on skates? Where are they? And the story developed from there. Another thing that helped the story develop was that I wanted to see a slasher story with a strong emotional center. A lot of times, slashers are considered shallow, but I wanted something with a heart that was as strong as the hook.

What in particular draws you to the horror genre? Do you remember your first horror film or horror book?

I know this goes against evolutionary instinct, but I like being scared. It’s kind of a rush. When I was younger, I considered it a challenge. Like, if I could watch something scary and not be completely terrified, then I won. That’s where it started, but now I love it because horror is a genre where the stakes are always high, so it feels like it really matters. I don’t remember my first horror film, but I always say it’s either Brides of Dracula or A Nightmare on Elm Street because those are the earliest in my memory. As for books, it’s probably The Girl Who Cried Monster by R.L Stine. I read that one in elementary school and loved it.

You’re the founder of the fantastic site, Black Girl’s Guide to Horror. When did you first decide to create the blog, and what’s been the most exciting or surprising part of running the site?

I decided to create Black Girl’s Guide to Horror when I finished graduate school and the job search was going terribly. I needed something to take my mind off everything and I wanted to talk about horror movies, so I made a blog and it grew from there. I don’t know if anything is exciting, but there’s a lot that’s been educational. I like learning about all kinds of writing and blogging is its own specific genre. It’s taught me a little about search engine optimization and what audiences like to hear about when it comes to horror.

Your short story, “Mama Tulu,” appeared in Luna Station Quarterly. What was the inspiration for this piece?

Both my parents are from Jamaica and there are always stories about obeah women or obeah men. For clarification, obeah is just what we call voodoo. My mom especially told me some pretty scary stories when I was a kid about obeah women. One day I got this image of a girl walking through some tall grass and bushes in Jamaica. She was on her way to a wooden shack in the middle of the night and I decided to write it. I had to ask why would she be doing this at night? In Jamaica, it’s taboo to go to obeah people. You can be shunned, so it would have to be done in secret and I realized that’s where the girl was headed. The story grew from that.

If forced to choose, which is your favorite part of the writing process: brainstorming new ideas, working on a first draft, or polishing an almost finished story?

If I had to choose, I’d say brainstorming is my favorite. I love coming up with an idea and plotting it out a bit before I write it. I always have to know who my main characters are and what they want and why they want it before I write anything. That’s my favorite part.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on an erotic horror story and a script about a haunted childhood home. Both of them are in the early stages meaning I’m still getting to know the characters.

Where can we find you online?

I’m on Twitter at @jessiguess90 and @BlackGrlsHorror and you can always stop by Black Girls Guide to Horror dot com. You can also pick up my book Cirque Berserk on Amazon.

Tremendous thanks to Jessica Guess for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Dark Blood and Poetry: Interview with Emma J. Gibbon

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m excited to be talking with author Emma J. Gibbon! Emma’s debut collection, Dark Blood Comes from the Feet, is set for release later this month from Trepidatio Publishing.

Recently, Emma and I discussed the inspiration behind her new collection as well as what draws her to the horror genre.

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

It didn’t come all at once for me, I sort of realized in stages. I’ve always been a reader. As soon as I knew how I just read whatever I got my hands on. I started writing poetry at first, in my teens, and then went on to short stories mainly. I think confidence was part of it, and also not really knowing where I fit in, in all of it so getting very close to publishing but not quite. Weirdly, something clicked when I turned forty—just being a lot less afraid of failure and really not caring what people thought. I began making connections in the horror community and getting my work out there and it worked! I started getting publishing credits and such very quickly. I feel like one of those actors who get called an overnight success when actually they’ve been working at their craft for years!

My favorite authors! I know I’m going to forget someone but off the top of my head: Shirley Jackson, Angela Carter, Daphne du Maurier, George Saunders, Kelly Link, M. Rickert, Neil Gaiman, David Mitchell, Donna Tartt, Stephen Graham Jones, Sarah Monette, Mervyn Peake, V. C. Andrews. I do read a lot of horror, but I’m pretty omnivorous when it comes to books. I read all kinds of things.

Congratulations on the forthcoming release of your debut collection, Dark Blood Comes from the Feet! What can you share about this book? How did you choose the stories to include, and is there a particular theme or themes in the collection?

Thank you so much! Dark Blood Comes from the Feet is a collection of seventeen stories. Some of them have been previously published, but most are original to the collection. I would say that they come from the last decade of my work. They’re mostly horror, but they do dip into other genres too. “Sermon from New London” is post-apocalyptic, for example. As a reader, I like to see a range of different stories in a collection so as this is my first, I really wanted to show people what I could do. I went for the most variety of styles and moods and settings. I know that one of my strengths is my versatility and I heavily favor first person narrative so I wanted to show that. That said, there are themes and motifs that do reoccur because my own preoccupations find their way into my work. You will find a lot of references to illness and in particular, tuberculosis, you will find women characters who have deviated from “normal” lives, there are geographical places I return to and I often make people who are not usually in the limelight the protagonist. I have a huge chip on my shoulder about being a woman from a working class background so that comes through. In my stories, the monsters usually win and are not necessarily the ones you should fear anyway.

What draws you to the horror genre? Do you remember your first horror film or horror book?

I think it’s just in my DNA, honestly. I come from an ex-mining town in Yorkshire in the UK. There’s a saying “It’s grim up North” and it’s not just the weather! I say this with a lot of love but my people are a morbid, darkly comic bunch. I tell stories to my husband (who’s American) about my childhood and it just sounds…Dickensian. I intend to write a short nonfiction piece about it all. I just need to find a publisher interested in Yorkshire Gothic!

At a very young age, I used to beg my mother to let me stay up to watch Hammer Horror films and Tales of the Unexpected (based on Roald Dahl’s short stories for adults.) I was too young to remember actually watching them now, except for Tales of the Unexpected’s intro, which I highly recommend on YouTube, it’s mesmerizing. When video stores became popular, my brother and I used to go and look at all the covers in the horror department. Our favorite covers were The Lost Boys and Fright Night, but I think the first one we could convince someone to rent was Love at First Bite. When we finally got our hands on Lost Boys, we watched it every day. I still know all the words.

The first horror book I remember was the first book I ever bought for myself at a Scholastic book fair in middle school! It was called something like Ghosts, Spirits and Spectres and was an anthology of classic and contemporary ghost stories. It had a picture of a cursed doll on the front. I read that thing so many times it fell to pieces. My favorite in there was Laura by Saki. I really have been myself for a very long time.

What is it about the short story format that appeals to you as a writer?

It’s definitely the format that I feel most confident in. I love writing poetry, but it has a lightning from the sky element to it that I can’t quite understand, whereas as I reader I have always favored short stories—I’ve always been a big reader of anthologies and collections. I’ve read a lot of them. It’s a place I feel comfortable in. As a reader, I like the way I can fully immerse myself in a space/time in one short sitting. I like the focus of them. I like open endings where I can imagine a life for the characters after.

When I was a teenager, in the golden MTV years of the nineties (in my opinion), I really wanted to be a music video director. I think what I really wanted to do, and what appeals to me about writing short stories, is to convey a very condensed, intense experience where theme and language and imagery can combine in a compact space. You have to get your characters and setting and mood established fairly quickly, and I like the challenge of those constraints.

You write both fiction and poetry. How does your approach to each form differ, and how is it similar?

They’re similar as in they tend to come out of my brain ooze in an almost unconscious way. I mull things over, worry at them, have obsessions that I read and well, obsess about, and it all turns up in my work, no matter the format, and in such a way that I rarely realize until later. I can identify what time in my life I wrote something without looking at dates because I recognize what my concerns were at the time but it’s retrospective. I have no idea when I’m actually writing it.

As I’ve said elsewhere in this interview, poetry often comes to me in a flash. That first draft comes out whole, then I leave it for a while and go back to edit when it doesn’t feel like it’s from me. Short stories are a much longer process. I am getting quicker, but some of the stories in the book took up to ten years to find their “final form.” Ray Bradbury in Zen and the Art of Writing (which I loved) compared ideas to trying to befriend cats. You have to act casual at first, like you’re not that interested. George Saunders said something similar and I can’t find where I read it for the life of me but he talked about seeing it in the corner of your eye, letting the ideas sidle up to you. This is how I write stories. Elements of them come to me and start connecting together, then eventually a piece’ll connect where I am ready to start writing. Then I have to Jedi mind trick myself into believing I’m not really writing a story, no, I’m just noodling around, no pressure…until I have something. As you can probably guess, I’m not much of a planner.

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

Dark Blood Comes from the Feet is my first book so I’m going to say this! It’s been a dream of mine to have my own collection for a long time and now it actually exists! As far as individual stories go, it’s like choosing between children but the two that stand out to me the most as I write this are “Cellar Door” and “This is Not the Glutton Club.” “Cellar Door” is a story that I really wanted to write for a long time. It has some of my favorite things in it—an unreliable narrator, a haunted house, spatial weirdness, which is something that genuinely terrifies me, and the house is based on my actual home. I wanted to write it so badly that I was scared I couldn’t do it justice. In the end, I nanowrimo-ed it so I wouldn’t get in my own way.

“This is Not the Glutton Club” is memorable because I wrote it while bedridden with double pneumonia! It’s my version of a nested story about a group of Victorian gentlemen who catch illnesses on purpose. I couldn’t sit at my desk, so I handwrote the first draft for the first time in years. I realized how much I missed the experience of writing like that, and I’ve been using that method ever since. I also crowdsourced the research I needed for that story using my phone and Facebook because I was so sick—I have very clever and generous friends.

As for my poetry, I would say “Fune-RL” which is up for the Rhysling this year! Not only did it get in Strange Horizons, which is a dream market, but it was one of those rare times when I knew I had something. I wrote it early one morning (which is unheard for, for me. I am emphatically not a morning person) and it just…came out, pretty much as it was published. It was only looking back at it that I could see all of the things that I had been thinking about and worried about all woven into one poem. It felt close to magic.

What projects are you currently working on?

Oof, that’s the question. I’m in a bit of limbo at the moment, partially pandemic related but not entirely. I think it’s about time I wrote a novel and I did write some notes before Covid hit but I’ve got quarantine brain right now and concentrating on anything is hard. I think I’ve got enough material for a poetry collection so that’s a possibility and I have some short stories that I want to write and edit. For now, I’m in input rather than output mode. I’m reading in short spurts (quarantine brain, again), catching up on shows that I missed, re-watching favorite movies. I know that my brain is churning away in the background and I’m hoping it’ll let me know what project I should do next.

Tremendous thanks to Emma J. Gibbon for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at her website and on Twitter!

Happy reading!

Crows and Corpse Flowers: Interview with Ronald J. Murray

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight Ronald J. Murray. His debut poetry collection, Cries to Kill the Corpse Flower, is forthcoming from Bizarro Pulp Press, an imprint of JournalStone.

Recently, he and I discussed his inspiration as a writer and how the Pittsburgh area influences his work as well as what he’s got planned next.

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

My only vivid memories from elementary school are sitting in the library, listening to our librarian read to my class, so I guess it’s fair to say that I’ve always been fascinated by the art of storytelling. However, I found out that writing was a part of me when my seventh-grade literature class took turns reading paragraphs from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” My parents got me The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe the following Christmas, and with a mind full of terrors and mysteries and vicariously experienced losses, I began experimenting with my own stories and poetry.

I’d have to say that my favorite authors are (have I mentioned Poe?) Neil Gaiman, Josh Malerman, Patrick Rothfuss, Steven Erikson, Junji Ito, Sara Tantlinger, Claudia Gray, Timothy Zahn, Robert W. Chambers, and H.P. Lovecraft. This is probably cheesy to say, since you’re the one interviewing me, but I really enjoyed your collection And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, and it’s definitely listed among my favorite books.

Congratulations on the forthcoming release of your poetry collection, Cries to Kill the Corpse Flower. What can you share about how this book developed?

Thank you, thank you! The funny thing about Cries to Kill the Corpse Flower is that I consider it to be an accidental poetry collection. I was going through a pretty severe depressive episode at the time I was writing it. I’d take cigarette breaks at work and just write these bursts of emotion in my notepad app on my phone. I’d go out for cigarettes at home and do it again. I’d just jam my thumbs onto the touchscreen keyboard any time I felt the fiery whirl of anxiety rise in me, whether I was in bed or taking my dog for a walk or drinking my morning coffee. Then, I put them all in a Word document so I didn’t lose them and realized I had forty poems about the same thing, using the same metaphors. So, I put them into a manuscript and gave them a collective title and sent them to Jennifer Wilson to be edited. From there, Nicholas Day and Don Noble acquired the collection for Bizarro Pulp Press, and here we are, with Cries to Kill the Corpse Flower available in print on June 29th of this year.

What draws you to horror poetry in particular? Is horror your favorite genre of poetry, or do you widely read other genres as well?

I feel like I am drawn to horror poetry because dark imagery packed into powerful sentences just resonates with me as a person. I’ve always been a dramatic, emotional person, and I’ve always been drawn to the dark side of life.

I’ve been reading a lot of horror poetry lately! I just finished the HWA Poetry Showcase, Volume VI. There is a lot of great work in there! Other recent horror poetry collections I’ve read is Stephanie M. Wytovich’s Hysteria, Sara Tantlinger’s Love for Slaughter (for the second time; god, I love that collection), and Donna Lynch’s Choking Back the Devil. But, I am a fan of poetry in general, especially love poems and just anything generally moody.

How does your approach differ when writing poetry as opposed to fiction?

Fiction, for me, takes a lot more planning to write than when I am writing poetry. Though, lately, I’ve been playing with discovery writing, or “pantsing,” and just taking notes on important story elements that I want to revisit later in a separate notebook so I don’t forget them. It is more careful and calculated.

When I write poetry, it’s like I’m quietly screaming whatever comes crawling out of my heart at my notebook or notepad app or word processor. Then, I step away from the piece for a couple of days until it becomes a stranger and edit it then.

You reside in the Pittsburgh area. With Romero’s zombie legacy looming large over the region, do you find that living in such a horror-centric city influences your work?

I know that I like to work in the café at the Monroeville Mall Barnes & Noble because it feels good to say I’m writing in the Dawn of the Dead mall! I do feel like the general air of horror interest in Pittsburgh helps to keep me exploring the horror genre. There is also a lot of amazing artistic talent in this city, especially in horror, and being around that talent definitely influences me to keep pushing myself forward in the constant development of my skills as a writer.

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

Developing characters would have to be my favorite part of the writing process. I love figuring out what makes my characters click, what makes them do what they do and where that will lead them and how the consequences of their actions will affect their changes as the plot rolls forward.

What are you working on next?

I just finished a new chapbook of poetry about the pain of failed love, which uses a lot of dark, sad imagery to get its message across. Once I edit that and send it to a second set of professional eyes, I’ll start shopping it around for publication. Otherwise, I’m playing with a lot of ideas for pieces of longer fiction, including trying to solve some seemingly insurmountable issues with a novel I’d been working on for some time. But those projects are still in their infant stages, so I can’t say much about them.

Big thanks to Ronald J. Murray for being part of this week’s author interview series. Find him online at his website as well as Twitter and Tumblr.

Happy reading!

Mythic and Apocalyptic: Interview with EV Knight

Welcome back for this week’s featured author interview! Today I’m thrilled to spotlight the fabulous EV Knight! EV’s debut novel, The Fourth Whore, was just released through Raw Dog Screaming Press to much acclaim, and she has even more horror fiction on the way later this year from Unnerving.

Recently, EV and I discussed her inspirations as well as what it was like writing her first book.

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

I have always been a voracious reader, my grandmother read Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tales to me every night growing up which I think is what made me seek out the darker side of literature. When I was in sixth grade, I read my first Stephen King book–Pet Semetary and I was hooked. I loved the way he wrote, the way he put words together and the stories he told. Not only did I want to read more of his work, I wanted to write like he did. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a writer. Of course, up until then, I wanted to grow up to be a doctor so of course my family preferred that dream and continued to encourage medicine as a career and writing as a hobby. So, it wasn’t until I completed medical school and had been working as a physician that I began to revisit the idea of writing more seriously.

My favorite writers…there are so many. Clearly, I love Stephen King but lately, I have been reading a lot of Ania Ahlborn, Josh Malerman, Victor LaValle, and my literary hero: Shirley Jackson.

Congratulations on the release of your debut novel, The Fourth Whore! What can you share about the inspiration for the book?

The inspiration for The Fourth Whore came during the 2017 Women’s March in D.C. I was there and marched beside so many amazing people. I kept hearing women invoking the name Lilith and after some research, I knew I had to have her in my novel.

What was it in particular about Lilith and the Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse that made you want to tell their story?

After discovering Lilith’s religious mythos, and hearing the phrase “the war on women” over and over that year (2017), I imagined a war started by women. And since I was using Lilith’s religious background, I went to the Book of Revelation and looked into the “end of the world” scenarios. In my mind, Lilith wanted to wipe out the world as is and bring on a new world where women would rule. She wanted to write her own “Bible.” The Four Horsemen, to me made for a good plot of four different ways to bring about the end of the world and could easily be renamed “The Four Whores” because it was the very thing Lilith was “taking back.”

What were the biggest surprises for you as you wrote and edited your first book?

The process of writing a novel is long and complex! You think you know your story and characters and won’t forget details, but you do. And I had to go and decide to write a novel with multiple character’s story lines woven together so keeping track of where I was and where each character was at any given time, was so stressful.

By the time, I got to the end of the story, I didn’t think I ever wanted to look at it again. But then, you have to edit. If I had to do it all over again, I would have probably chosen a more straightforward story for my first novel and worked my way up to something like this. That being said, I learned so much about myself, my process, and the industry in general, it was a good experience.

What draws you to horror as both a writer and a reader?

Horror is the great escape. It’s the endorphin rush, the blood pumping, thought provoking study of all the things that we as humans keep locked away in darkness of our imaginations. All those “what ifs” that never left us from childhood. It allows us to get in touch with our animal brain. I love that about us as a species. The things we, as adults would never admit out loud—that our hearts still beat a little harder and we quicken our steps after turning out the basement light to head back upstairs. When our child swears there is something under their bed or in their closet and we have to look, there is that tiny voice inside that says “there might actually be something there.” I love that. I love feeding that idea.

If forced to choose, which is your favorite part of the writing process: drafting ideas, working on a first draft, or polishing up an almost finished piece?

I am a plotter. I plot overall, and then I replot each chapter before I write it. I love it. I love the brain storming aspect. The planning part is the most enjoyable.

I carry notebooks, note cards, and sticky notes everywhere. I have a giant dry erase board in my writing room for mind maps and note taking. For me, it’s like mining for gold. Working an idea until it shines. That is, without a doubt, my favorite part.

What’s next for you? What projects are coming out soon, and what are you currently working on?

I have a novella–Dead Eyes–coming out in November from Unnerving. It is part of the Rewind or Die series celebrating the 80’s horror film craze. I had so much fun rewatching a lot of those old films from my middle school sleepover days in order to write it.

My next big project is a four novel series centered around a commune that once belonged to a hippie cult calling themselves the children of Demeter. They disappeared overnight in 1973. Since then, the land has been dead and barren, but maybe not everything at the commune has died.

Tremendous thanks to EV Knight for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at Twitter, Facebook, and her author website, and also check out her podcast Brain Squalls!

Happy reading!