Category Archives: Interviews

Fear and the Feminine: Part One in Our 2019 Women in Horror Roundtable

So welcome back for the official kickoff of our Women in Horror Month Roundtable! I’ve already introduced my fabulous interviewees last week, so in the spirit of the season, let’s just charge forth, shall we?

First off, welcome to this year’s Women in Horror roundtable! Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your latest or forthcoming releases.

Stephanie M. WytovichStephanie M. Wytovich: Thank you so much for having me, Gwendolyn!

I’ve been working in the horror industry for a little over seven years now, and I write, teach, mentor, and tutor writing (fiction, poetry, and nonfiction) for a living. I’ve had five collections of poetry published through Raw Dog Screaming Press, one of which (Brothel) brought home the Bram Stoker Award in 2016. My graduate thesis, a religious horror/dark fantasy novel titled The Eighth was published in 2016 by Dark Regions Press, and it also helped earn me my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.

My latest book, Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare came out in 2017 and it’s a collection of poetry that is more or less a confessional dirge filled with ghosts, heartache, and naturally, a little (just kidding—a LOT) of blood.

Christina Sng: Hi Gwendolyn! Thank you for inviting me to this year’s Women in Horror roundtable. I’ve been writing horror for as long as I can remember and began submitting work in 2000. My first sale was to Dreams and Nightmares. I took a decade off writing to raise my kids (not much of a multitasker I am) and returned with my first full-length dark poetry book A Collection of Nightmares and a science fiction chapbook Astropoetry in 2017. This year, I’m back to putting poems into collections and hoping they find a home.

S.P. Miskowski: I’m a fiction writer with a lifelong respect for horror. My childhood reading was eclectic, anything from Vladimir Nabokov to Ira Levin.

Generally speaking, my work is about the nightmares just below the surface of everyday life. Many of my main characters are women, often doing and saying things women are not supposed to—in other words, being human. I think equality means being respected, and perceived as human and therefore fallible. My obsessions are existential: What does it mean to be human in a universe entirely indifferent to humanity?

My latest book is a short novel, The Worst Is Yet to Come (published by JournalStone/Trepidatio). It’s a stand-alone horror story about two very different teenage girls and how they alter one another’s lives, but it overlaps with and is related to four previous books comprising the Skillute Cycle (published by Omnium Gatherum), set in a fictional town in Washington State.

Julia BenallyJulia Benally: Hi, Gwen! Thanks for having me here. This is so much fun. So, a little about me. I’m an American Indian who used to have a fish. I love to cross-stitch, I enjoy singing, dancing in my room where nobody can see me, and I love driving through the mountains and listening to beautiful music, because it stirs my muse. So it drives me insane when someone gives me a ride and turns their music off so they can do small talk with me. As of now, I’m getting my second reprint for 2019. It’s called “Kittylyn,” and it will be featured in Another Realm Magazine. This little story kept getting rejected by editors left and right, and now suddenly it’s in demand. It’s almost like a Cinderella story, but I didn’t mean for it to be. Therefore, saying I had put my own twist on Cinderella wouldn’t be right. Also, my book Pariahs is out, and I am so excited, and thrilled, and I touch it and look at it every day, still not exactly sure if it’s a hallucination. This one’s about a twelve year old boy being terrorized by a fallen demon-killer who’s claimed him as his son. This world, and this story, is full of monsters and soulless creatures. I’ve seen it classed online as not only folk horror, but also adventure and thriller.

Sarah Read: Hi, I’m Sarah Read. I write horror and dark fantasy fiction. I have a few dozen short stories scattered about (soon to be unscattered into a collection from Trepidatio Publishing), and my first novel, The Bone Weaver’s Orchard, was just released. I’m also the editor for Pantheon Magazine. Our latest anthology, Gorgon: Stories of Emergence, has just come out and is not to be missed!

Saba Syed Razvi: Thank you so much for Inviting me to participate in this Roundtable. I think Women in Horror Month is such an important endeavor, and I’m honored to be here — and to hear about the experiences and thoughts of the other panelists!

I’m a writer who feels an interest in the intersecting spaces among and between genres, ideas, and experiences, so I find that my own work overlaps many spaces, but tends to find itself most usually settled in darkness and in shadow. Not that I’m into being morbid for its own sake, necessarily, but I find a certain beauty in the grotesque, and in the ways in which we approach the macabre and the morbid, the ephemeral and the phantasmagoric, the occult and the elusive. I tend to trace these threads in my work, no matter the genre, whether I am working on academic scholarship, short fiction, essays, or poetry. I like the weird and the strange, the way it nudges us out of the ordinary into something more real. It is my hope that my feelings of fascination come across in the work I write, too. I feel that language is in many ways itself haunted, that it haunts me, too…and I think that comes through in my work. My most recent collection of poetry is “heliophobia”, and I’ve been really enjoying the chance to give readings from it. I’m recording some of the poems for those who may want to hear them, and posting them on SoundCloud at times; that’s been an interesting project because I don’t have any experience with recording, but I have a great enthusiasm for giving readings!

Saba Syed RazviAs far as new material goes… I have a few things in the works, at the moment, but they are in process, which is an exciting phase to be in. I’m finishing up work on a long collection, a cycle of poems that center around a man who has murdered his wife and is sculpting a replacement of her…sort of erasing her consciousness rather than uploading or preserving it; the work focuses on the notion of artificial intelligence, and how our own biases inform the way we can know things, the way we define them or delineate between them, the way we attempt to negotiate our fears through our relationship to them, and it pays a lot of attention to the idea of dissection, taxonomies, destruction, and disempowerment, of a fear and terror born of powerlessness. It focuses on a darkness that is somewhere between the exhilaration of experiment and the clandestine cover-up of a crime, building its fragmentary narrative through currents of violence and violent impulse, as investigated through the materiality of the language and the flat plane of the page. I’m also working on completing a long poem about a predatory game hunter and a ghostly faerie woman that he has captured; it takes place in a castle in Ireland, along the Blackwater (a river) and tackles ideas about freedom and domestic imprisonment, the monstrosity of obligatory motherhood as a stifling condition, and the desperation in magic borne of captivity. Lately, I’m interested in this space between magic and making, and my short fiction is wading its way through representations of madness and the occult. I’m really drawn to the paranormal in my short fiction, so I hope to share a bit of that in the forthcoming year, too.

So, I think I have a lot of things sort of…. in the works, but they may be a little while in the works before I can say they are forthcoming.

Emily B. Cataneo: Thank you so much for putting this together, Gwendolyn! I’m a writer and journalist originally from New England and currently based in Raleigh, North Carolina. My stories fall into several different literary categories—fantasy, realism, magical realism, etc.—but almost all of them are tinged with some kind of creepy, gothic, or horror element. If you’d like to check out some of my recent work, you can read a piece of mine in Nightmare called “Seven Steps to Beauty for a Girl Named Avarice,” which is about murderous witches, or a reprint that just came out in Lightspeed, called “The Emerald Coat and Other Wishes,” which is about a coat that transports its wearers to a realm from which they can never return.

How did you first learn about Women in Horror Month, and what are your thoughts on it? Do you think over its decade of existence that it’s helped to raise visibility for female horror creators?

Stephanie M. Wytovich: I got on the WiHM train back in 2014 after I graduated with my MFA, and I thought that it was such a fantastic concept to highlight women and their work in the horror industry. Mind you, I think every month should be WiHM, i.e. we shouldn’t stop celebrating women’s voices when February is over and long gone, but I do like the concentrated support it gives everyone.

And sure, it’s frustrating that we still need something like this, but for better or worse, I think anything that showcases new/seasoned voices and allows women to be seen and heard is a good thing.

A Collection of NightmaresChristina Sng: I first learned about Women in Horror Month on Facebook. I think it is awesome and there’s a sense of sisterhood around it, which I love. It has definitely raised visibility for female horror creators and it’s wonderful to see.

S.P. Miskowski: Like most people, I heard about WiHM via social media. I tend not to think of myself while writing. By that I mean I don’t think of myself as a person who fits a category. So a reminder that, in fact, my writing may be identified (by the world) by my gender—this is always startling, at first. Then I remember, “Oh right, I have this layer of identity, like a bulky suitcase, to carry around with me. People who see me will reduce me to this one thing and make assumptions about my gender, my age, my life, my beliefs.” It’s a pain in the ass.

Of course we all deal with this, all people have to deal with some degree of objectification. People of color face many more assumptions about who and what they are. The world is a place where you’re constantly told who you’re supposed to be, and anything you do to upset the status quo counts against you. The smaller the community in which you reside, the more that community tries to keep you in one category because it makes life simpler.

I don’t know how much WiHM has helped. Has it made women horror writers more visible? Maybe. Does it let people off the hook, so they only have to think about women in the genre once a year? Probably. Is it an annual reminder that a shocking number of people can still only name two or three women—all dead—who wrote horror? Definitely.

Julia Benally: So the first time I ever heard of Women in Horror was from you, Gwen. I was totally confused about it, but now I think it’s really fun. I like having a month dedicated to women horror writers. I’m pretty sure it has raised visibility, because now lots of people know about it, and it’s their chance to find new authors to read, and for authors to find new readers. That’s the most important to us authors than anything else.

Sarah Read: I don’t remember exactly how I learned about WiHM. Twitter, probably? I do think it has increased visibility, yes. Women in Horror Month lists and features were the first places my name ever appeared as a horror author, and it’s where I’ve discovered other names that have since become some of my favorite authors. From an editor’s perspective, I know those lists are a great place to look when I’m reaching out to writers for new work.

Saba Syed Razvi: I first learned about Women in Horror Month through the Horror Writers Association! I hadn’t known anyone else who was involved in it or who worked with it, but a stray mention on the website caught my attention.

HeliophobiaRight away, I loved the idea of celebrating women in horror, especially because, so often, women are victimized by horrific and violent acts or creatures in horror stories and film. Because I am interested in how gender is represented in literature and pop culture, and also how it plays a part in the ways in which we interpret it, I found myself immediately fascinated. A simple search on YouTube brought up so many videos that I really enjoyed watching and listening to — and brought my attention to so many writers whose works I had not yet read. I was pretty excited about that. Because my emphasis has traditionally been on the mainstream or experimental “literary” approach, and often moored in academic presses, I hadn’t encountered many of the names or books mentioned. Women in Horror Month also opened up my awareness of indie publishing in a big way, too. And, I imagine that when people stumble across the idea, they suddenly have at their fingertips a lot more resources than they knew about before.

I definitely think it has brought more visibility to the female creators of horror — but I also think it has built a sort of community, an awareness that women’s voices do matter in this space, the validation of the idea that horror can be much more than simple male aggression, that Medea is just as scary as Freddy Krueger and therefore just as meaningful however disparate they seem, and a sense of dynamism that invites more participation. For me, knowing that a designated month existed in which we could honor women in the field reminded me of all the nuances of it, the many ways in which horror could be enlivened, shared, and appreciated. I can say that my searches online since that first discovery have introduced me to the work of many writers whose material I would not have encountered otherwise, many frameworks for exploring and discussing them that I did not have before. As a movement, it has brought not only awareness and visibility for women writers and creators of horror, but also a reminder that these voices are not anomalous interlopers, but artists who should be celebrated. I love the positivity of the movement!

Emily B. Cataneo: I think Women in Horror Month is something that shouldn’t have to exist; in a perfect world, we wouldn’t need it. However, we don’t live in a perfect world, and I do think that Women in Horror Month has helped raise visibility for female horror creators over the past decade. I also think that the publishing industry as a whole, although it has a very long way to go, has slowly started to awaken to its representation problems. It could be that Women in Horror Month is part of a larger shift in the industry. Is this a lasting change? I certainly hope so.

So that’s part one of our interview series! Head on back here next week for even more Women in Horror Month celebration!

Happy reading!

Women in Horror Month 2019 Roundtable Coming Soon!

Welcome to February, and more importantly, welcome to Women in Horror Month! I am super thrilled that I’m once again doing a roundtable interview series to celebrate the month!

So before I start unveiling the Q&A next week, allow me to introduce our incredible authors who are part of this year’s interview series!

Julia BenallyJulia Benally began on a dark and stormy night on the Fort Apache Reservation. She loves to run around in the mountains, snow is her element, and wonders at strange people who love the desert. In 2009, she graduated from Brigham Young University in Utah and began her long painful climb up the writing mountain. Her book Pariahs came out almost without her knowing because she wasn’t sure how to work the publishing button, and went through a slight panic attack. She’s been published in several magazines over the years, including The Horror Zine, Hellbound-books’ anthology Graveyard Girls, Liquid Imagination and Enthralled Magazine.

Emily CataneoEmily B. Cataneo is a writer and journalist. Her work has appeared in magazines such as Nightmare, Lightspeed, The Dark, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and her debut short fiction collection, Speaking to Skull Kings and Other Stories, was released from Journalstone in 2017. She calls New England home, and is currently based in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she’s completing her MFA at North Carolina State University. She’s a 2013 Odyssey Writing Workshop and a 2016 Clarion Writers Workshop graduate. She likes hats, crafts, and dogs.

S.P. MiskowskiS.P. Miskowski is a recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. Her stories have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies including Haunted Nights, The Madness of Dr. Caligari, Darker Companions: Celebrating 50 Years of Ramsey Campbell, and The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Ten. Her second novel, I Wish I Was Like You, was named This Is Horror 2017 Novel of the Year, received a Charles Dexter Award from Strange Aeons, and was a finalist for a Bram Stoker Award. Her books have received three Shirley Jackson Award nominations. Her latest novel, The Worst Is Yet to Come, is available from JournalStone/Trepidatio.

Saba Syed RazviSaba Syed Razvi is the author of the Elgin Award nominated collection In the Crocodile Gardens (Agape Editions) and the new collection heliophobia (Finishing Line Press), which appeared on the preliminary ballot for the Stoker Award, as well as the chapbooks Limerence & Lux (Chax Press), Of the Divining and the Dead (Finishing Line Press), and Beside the Muezzin’s Call & Beyond the Harem’s Veil (Finishing Line Press). Her poems have appeared in several literary journals, as well as in anthologies such as Carrying the Branch: Poets in Search of Peace, Voices of Resistance: Muslim Women on War Faith and Sexuality, The Loudest Voice Anthology, The Liddell Book of Poetry, Political Punch: Contemporary Poems on the Politics of Identity, The Rhysling Anthology, Dreamspinning, & The Horror Writers Poetry Showcase Volume V. Her poems have been nominated for the Elgin Award, the Bettering American Poetry Awards, The Best of the Net Award, the Rhysling Award, and have received a 2015 Independent Best American Poetry Award. She is currently an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Houston in Victoria, TX, where in addition to working on scholarly research on interfaces between contemporary poetry and science, on mysticism in speculative and horror literature, she is writing new poems and fiction.

Sarah ReadSarah Read is a dark fiction writer in the frozen north of Wisconsin. Her short stories can be found in Gamut, Black Static, and other places, and in various anthologies including Exigencies, Suspended in Dusk, BEHOLD! Oddities Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders, and The Best Horror of the Year vol 10. Her novel The Bone Weaver’s Orchard is now out from Trepidatio Publishing, and her debut collection will follow in late 2019. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Pantheon Magazine and of their associated anthologies, including Gorgon: Stories of Emergence. She is an active member of the Horror Writers Association. When she’s not staring into the abyss, she knits. Keep up with her at www.inkwellmonster.wordpress.com.

Christina SngChristina Sng is an award-winning poet, writer, and artist. Her work has appeared in numerous venues worldwide, including Apex Magazine, Dreams and Nightmares, Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, New Myths, and Polu Texni. She is the author of the Bram Stoker Award winning A COLLECTION OF NIGHTMARES (Raw Dog Screaming Press, 2017) and Elgin Award winner ASTROPOETRY (Alban Lake Publishing, 2017). Her poems received nominations in the Rhysling Awards, the Dwarf Stars, as well as honorable mentions in the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and the Best Horror of the Year. Christina is also an avid gardener and an accomplished musician, and can be found most days in a dark corner deadheading her flowers while humming Vivaldi to the swaying branches. Visit her at http://www.christinasng.com and connect on social media @christinasng.

Stephanie M. WytovichStephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her work has been showcased in numerous anthologies such as Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Fantastic Tales of Terror, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 2, The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 8, as well as many others.

Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction. Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare. Her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press.

Follow Wytovich at https://www.stephaniemwytovich.com/ and on twitter @SWytovich.

So those are the seven fabulous women that I’ll be featuring in the coming weeks! As always, be sure to head on back here throughout February for all the interview goodness!

Happy reading, and happy Women in Horror Month

Monsters, Devils, & Other Beasts: Interview with Orrin Grey

Welcome back! Today, I’m excited to feature author Orrin Grey. Orrin has written numerous short stories, which have been published widely as well as collected in Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, and his most recent book, Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales.

Recently, Orrin and I discussed his new collection, the influence of slasher films on his fiction, as well as his upcoming appearance at The Outer Dark Symposium in March!

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

Orrin GreyI’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I think that at some point, when I was a kid, I realized that writers were the people who made up all the stories I loved, and from then on I wanted to be one of those people.

As for favorites, I could go on forever. My single biggest influence, always, is Mike Mignola. He’s who I want to be when I grow up, but I can’t draw, so I do this instead.

When it comes to Old Dead White Guy authors, the big three for me are Manly Wade Wellman, William Hope Hodgson, and E.F. Benson. I was also hugely influenced by early Clive Barker, not to mention, just, tons of others. Just tons. One of the reasons I like to do my author’s notes in my collections is so that I can call out influences as they happen, because there are always way too many for questions like these.

Congrats on the recent release of Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales! How did you select the stories that were included in this book, and what themes in particular were you looking to explore?

Your first two collections, Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings and Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, were released in 2012 and 2015 respectively. How was your process different (or the same) in putting together each of your collections? Do you have different considerations for each book, or do you approach all your collections in a similar way?

GuignolSo, I decided to cheat a bit and answer all of these questions in one block, because the answer to one of them informs the answers to the others, and vice versa. Basically, each of my three collections was assembled differently, in no small part because I was in a very different place in my career when each one came out. Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings was my first collection, but I had been writing stories for years, so when I was putting it together it was just kind of a situation of, “what are the best stories I’ve written so far, and which ones fit together.”

When it came time to publish Painted Monsters, I had a lot more published stories under my belt, and so I had the opportunity to do something different. With it, I had a very specific theme in mind. I had written a lot of stories that dealt with horror film–either head-on or more surreptitiously–and I decided that I wanted to release a collection that mapped the history of horror cinema, from the German Expressionist films of the silent era to the found footage ghost movies that were in theaters when I was writing.

With Guignol, I didn’t have the same kind of theme in mind, but I was also drawing from stories written across a smaller period of time. The stories in Painted Monsters span years of my writing, with a few of them having been written back before I was writing for a living. By contrast, all the stories in Guignol were written over the last couple of years, and they were written during a time when I was dealing with a lot of stress and trauma, which found its way into my writing. As such, while Guignol doesn’t have the high-concept of Painted Monsters, there are certainly themes that run through all the stories in it, about dealing with trauma, and the ways in which the past is never as far behind us as we might like.

With any collection, only certain stories are going to “fit,” and sometimes what that actually means is as nebulous as a gut feeling. In the case of Guignol, I had originally intended to include a story called “The House of Mars” and not to include the story “Dream House,” but I couldn’t make the collection come together. My wife is the one who suggested that “House of Mars” didn’t fit, and after dropping it out and putting “Dream House” in, everything suddenly snapped into place.

Your recent story, “The Hurrah (aka Corpse Scene),” appeared in The Dark last summer. What was the inspiration behind this story? Also, did you have any specific actresses in mind as the inspiration for the mother character?

There were a lot of factors that went into me writing “The Hurrah” how and when I did. I wanted to write about horror conventions, and I wanted to write about my own changing relationship with the genre, which I’ll talk a bit more about below, but mostly, I had seen the 2015 film The Final Girls, which is this surprisingly touching movie about a young woman trying to establish some connection with her dead mother through this low-rent slasher film that her mom was in once.

I loved that idea, but the movie tackled it so well that I knew I couldn’t just borrow it whole cloth, so I ended up taking it in a different direction.

In the story, I mention Jamie Lee Curtis and Jessica Harper, and if I had any one person in mind, it was probably the latter. But if I was going to dedicate the story to someone, it would be the women who played all the other girls in those slasher movies. The ones who didn’t get to be final girls. The promiscuous best friends and the caustic sorority girls. Nancy Loomis in Halloween or Margot Kidder in Black Christmas.

Painted MonstersStill keeping with this theme, what in your opinion is the perennial appeal of the slasher film? Do you remember the first slasher film you saw, and do you have a personal favorite?

Actually, when I was younger, I didn’t much care for slasher movies. I watched the later installments of the big three (Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street) of course, and I’m of the age where Scream was a big thing for me, but I tended to dismiss slashers in the same way that a lot of people do: as little more than rote body count movies with (for me) boring monsters, or no monsters at all.

It wasn’t until I re-examined the slasher genre from a new perspective–which I picked up thanks to writers like Adam Cesare and Stephen Graham Jones–that I started to get the appeal of the form. To some extent, then, writing “The Hurrah” was a way for me to chart my own changing relationship with slasher films.

As for favorites, my top pick from among the many titles that aren’t part of the big three franchises would probably be the much-maligned April Fool’s Day.

You are slated as a guest for The Outer Dark Symposium this March in Atlanta. You were also a guest last year at the symposium in California. What makes this convention one that you’re eager to be part of? Also, in general, do you tend to get out to a lot of conventions, and if so, what’s made the experience a worthwhile one for you?

I’ll be completely honest and say that part of the reason I made it a point to go to last year’s Outer Dark Symposium is because it was held in the Winchester Mystery House, which is someplace I have always wanted to visit. But I would probably have gone anyway. The Symposium is just a really interesting experiment to me–one long track of panels that everyone attends, so no one misses anything, and laser-focused on the Weird in fiction and media–and the people who put it on are always great fun to hang out with.

I try to do one or two conventions every year. I think the most important thing about them, for me, is just getting to meet people. I find that once I’ve interacted with someone in person, even once, it changes my interactions with them online. I can put a voice, a face, a set of mannerisms to the words on the screen that helps me to interface more naturally and easily. Plus, as someone who is a bit of a homebody, they’re among my only bits of in-person socializing each year.

What’s next for you?

I’m a pretty dedicated short story writer, so the answer to “what’s next” for me is almost always “more short stories.” I recently wrapped up a “story cycle” of linked tales that either have appeared or are slated to appear in various places, and I would love to get them collected together in the near future. I’m also trying to do more film writing. At the moment, I regularly contribute Blu-ray reviews to Signal Horizon and Unwinnable, and I’ve got a follow-up to Monsters from the Vault, my book of essays on vintage horror films, coming out later this year.

Where can we find you online?

My website is orringrey.com and I’m Orrin Grey on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Phil Gelatt is trying to get me to sign up for Letterboxd, so when I do that, I’ll be Orrin Grey on there, as well.

Big thanks to Orrin Grey for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Breathe Deep: Interview with Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi

Welcome back! Today, I’m thrilled to be featuring the amazing Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi! Erin is the author of the dark fiction collection Breathe. Breathe. as well as numerous short stories and poems. Erin is also an avid supporter of her fellow writers and can often be found on social media promoting dark fantasy and horror releases.

Recently, she and I discussed her inspiration as an author, her work in public relations, and how the Ohio landscapes influence her writing.

When did you first decide to become a writer? Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

Erin Sweet Al-MehairiOh, I don’t think I ever made it a point to decide. I just WAS a writer. I never believed in myself much about anything as a kid, but I dabbled in many creative types of things. My parents taught me to be an avid reader and my mom kept me busy in arts and crafts; I kept myself busy playing in the woods and carrying back mud and clay from the creek. I think eventually around junior high I just started to play around with words much as I did with any other art form, as a means of expression. However, I can’t remember the first story or poem I wrote. I wish I could!

My junior year of high school my English teacher encouraged me by saying I should consider writing long-term based on what I wrote for her. I enjoyed reading a lot and thought what it would be like to write a book, specifically at that time Sue Harrison, internationally best-selling author of Mother Earth Father Sky, but thinking I’d never be capable, but at that point she became an inspiration to aspire to lofty goals (and many years later I’d get to become friends with her and let her know!). Poetry seemed a natural start to dabble in and I loved Poe, Frost, Dickinson, Longfellow. During this time, I had written some poems, one of them after my aunt passed from ovarian cancer, which later won a regional contest, and a holiday essay, which won our local newspaper’s contest. For the latter, I got to meet the editor and attend a luncheon and tour the newspaper building.

After that experience, in my senior year, I became editor of our high school newspaper, got the Journalism bug, and then got a substantial scholarship to a university for their Journalism/Communications/English program. At the university level, I became absorbed in using all my writing, and a few years in with my editing (being news editor of the university newspaper), for journalism and non-fiction narrative and didn’t have much time for creative writing outside of classes, except a little poetry. I joined their poetry press organization (as an assistant editor), which two of my English professors managed. They were/are award-winning poets in my state and I was lucky to be able to work on some projects with them. During dark or lonely nights awake, I still put my pencil to notebook and wrote my feelings down that way, in lyrical or poetic styles, experimenting with words, but only for myself.

Ultimately, I wanted my writing to make a difference one day on environmental, animal, political, health, and cultural issues. I wrote and edited plenty of stories, but they were all non-fiction, at first. There are all forms of being a professional writer, and I’ve been a writer and editor for twenty years now in various jobs. My poetry carried through much of that time, though it always remained on the back burner. I wrote a few stories after I had my first child, but all my binders (I write mostly using pencil and paper first) were thrown out by my ex! This is still a huge loss for me still today. The only writing I have is whatever is still at my parent’s house from before I went to college or were written within the last thirteen years. So, like I said at the start, I honestly can’t remember the first fiction stories or poetry pieces I wrote as a youngster before college, but they usually had to do with nature, animals, or fantasy, or dealing with life moments – I wasn’t into writing horror or dark fiction then – and most of my writing still features those elements.

To make a long story short, I think I just evolved into a writer… and being a writer and editor, claimed me in so many ways. I thought I could only do right by my family though being a professional non-fiction writer and editor or have a respectable job in this or a journalism and PR field. No one ever taught me or encouraged me about writing fiction or poetry to put into print that others might read. I lost decades of fiction and poetry to this mind-set. I’m only trying to make up for it now.

And you better believe because of this I encourage all three of my kids in various writing or art endeavors. My eleven-year-old even has an Instagram page of her poetry!

Your dark poetry and short fiction collection, Breathe, Breathe, came out through Unnerving last year. What can you share about the process behind this book? How long have you been working on the pieces in the collection, and how did you choose which ones to include?

Breathe. Breathe.I had some of the poetry written in my stash of unpublished poems. They were a way to allow myself release from the pain I had experienced in my life. Some were a release of my emotions, some were offering hope after looking back over a decade of pain, some were channeled into characters. I re-edited these with a current look and saw a foundation in some of them to build on. I gathered those, and wrote a couple more, plus two short stories, for a chapbook version. When Eddie at Unnerving gave approval for an expanded version, then I put fire to my pencil and I wrote more. My head was all in the same space with the themes within Breathe and I didn’t have too much trouble including almost all of the new ones I’d written. It was as if the collection was writing itself, causing me to meditate, release, grow, and heal, all in a very short period.

I mostly decided which ones based on the major theme of ‘breathing,’ in all its various forms, including ‘not breathing,’ which can be breathing through pain, anxiety, murder, restlessness, trauma, etc. I looked at what I had and then what I needed to write. Next, I chose based on sub-themes of domestic violence, abuse, sexual assault, healing from trauma, if they were Gothic in nature and fit the theme, and finally, I chose to focus on writing about creatures and monsters from nightmares that my mind created or from folklore. I let myself explore humanity, within all these various themes and subjects, and address how far we’ll go as humans to heal pain. Fear was also a major component. All of that encompasses breath, and how when we can’t breathe, we are stuck inside our minds.

Beyond that, I tried to choose an array of poems and stories that really showed off all my writing and touched elements of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, literary, crime, and which highlighted various types of poetry forms and dabbling. I possibly covered way too much ground with this one collection, but I also feel that in explaining all of that, it also did bring itself together in a magical way I can’t explain.

I wrote or chose everything to be in line with the major theme and all the sub-themes to tie threads through it all as a cohesive piece. Sometimes it was subtle, but all of them had some sort of breathing element to it, even if it was just subliminal breathing through fear, pain, loss, or just being chased, murdered, or anxiety-ridden, to simply, literally not being able to breathe. Sometimes it was an unstated statement of “this is what happens when you can’t breathe anymore and anger overtakes you.” The collection is divided up into Acts 1 and 2: breathe through fear and breathe through pain for the poetry and then the section on short stories.

Do you have a specific approach when you sit down to write a piece? Also, does your process differ depending on whether you’re writing fiction or poetry?

I don’t really have a ritual or set approach. I don’t outline, currently. I’m a pantser. I believe in writing full force, just letting it all spill out first, and then doing multiple revisions. With my writing and editing clients, or writing friends, I give them this advice too. It’s what I live myself, so I don’t get too caught up and held up because I only have infrequent moments of writing time. Many people overthink a piece and then never finish. It’s important to get down a first draft, then go back and work on it. I try not to be too calculated, or I can freeze. My mind seems to work best when I don’t “think” and just write. Of course, that probably works best with short stories and poetry, which at the moment is what I’m more productive on, so I do feel the process varies. I often won’t know where a story is going until my pencil scratches it onto the page (yes, pencil and paper). I find myself lucid about 4 or 5 a.m., right after the witching hour, and I scrabble down ideas, poems, or a few pages on a short story. Some longer stories I might stay up past sunrise working on, others I’ll take the idea and formulate a more fleshed out piece later. I write more in the winter, because I have more time then, and that affects my process too, but I’m stealing from all the ideas I had from a summer outdoors too. I’ll often edit something an embarrassing number of times, or leave it sit for months and come back to it and edit it again. As for writing on novels, that’s a bit more complicated. There is more in-depth research. There are more things to tie-up and flesh out. I haven’t used an outline in writing any that are works in progress, but I do formulate ideas ahead of time. The process differs here in that I have to carve out time and really concentrate in chunks and also there is much more editing time. I edit things an overwhelming amount of times. Like this interview I spent six months editing. LOL!

You are currently based in Ohio, my former home state and beloved birthplace. How, if at all, do you find the landscapes of Ohio figuring into your work?

Haunted Are These HousesLandscapes of Ohio feature predominately in my work, as does the whole of nature. Author Mike Thorn said in his review of Breathe. Breathe., in reference to my poetry, “…often depict speakers seeking solace (or warding off danger) in the ludic spaces of the ‘natural world’ – rife with references to forests, lakesides, nonhuman animals and insects.”

I am very inspired in my writing by outdoor places like rivers, forests, lakes, and oceans from all over the world, but most often the Ohio landscape too because of Lake Erie and all our amazing rivers and waterfalls. Water and nature have always been a great love of mine and have always touched my writing somehow. I grew up reading thinkers and poets like Frost, Thoreau, and Dickinson and they inspired me to write about my love of nature. I like to be outdoors when the weather is nice, which is why half of the year in Ohio is often hard for me to endure – though I do try to pull references into my writing from the other seasons as well. In the winter I am so melancholy, which I suppose also seeps into my dark fiction/poetry!

I enjoy hiking and being by the water in Ohio, frequenting Lake Erie shorelines, and you’ll find many references in my past work, and in my upcoming work, to the landscape of the Great Lakes. For instance, my poem “The Lighthouse Keeper’s Tale” was inspired by our lovely Marblehead Lighthouse and “The Driftwood of Wishes” came to me after I walked past a very large half of a tree, with its mangled roots prominent, that had been stripped bare by the water and washed in to the shoreline of Lake Erie where I was taking a walk. Sea glass and seashells from the lake have also been a common theme in my work. “The Lure of the Witch” came during a springtime drive, before the trees bud or flower blooms, in the time after winter in Ohio where everything is wet, bare, and rain and the creeks run high. My Rumpelstiltskin-like short story in Hardened Hearts, where you and I share a TOC, called “The Heart of the Orchard,” was inspired by my love of the many apple and peach orchards in Ohio.

I also like to road trip to rural places in Ohio, on the byways and highways, and off-beaten paths, being a history lover, and I enjoy all the historical elements and architecture our state has to offer. This all inspires me creatively. The rural areas bring thoughts of haunted, creepy things or tales of loss as it’s so old (and you know… rusty!), as well as its own blend of domestic horrors, and the cities, like Cleveland, bring about motivations for characters and setting. The artistic scene in Ohio inspires me too and I often come away with an idea after I’ve been to a gallery or museum or library (so many historic ones – the architecture and stained glass – Oh!) or garden. There are so many little towns and road way stops along the old highway routes, the method travelers used more often before the interstate was built, that are dilapidated but timeless. A bygone era, a step back in time, a horror story waiting to happen. Often times, real horror stories do. It’s also quiet, desolate, and removed from society. I love traveling these roads and picture all the stories going on around me. You’ll often find me telling people that a story or poem first breathed into life when I was riding in the car.

In addition to your writing, you also work as a marketer and publicist in the publishing industry. Has your work in marketing the books of other authors changed how you approach the marketing for your own books? Do you have any advice you’d like to share with writers out there about good tips for promoting their work?

It’s hardest to promote your own work, I think. If I hadn’t had the community support for my work, I don’t know how I’d have done it. I force myself, as a role model to my clients and other authors, to push my work, because I don’t want to be a hypocrite, and because I know it works, but yes, I get massive anxiety every time I post about myself. It really does work best, especially around release, to have lots of other people sharing links, posts, reviews, etc. That is one of the major keys to success in indie horror, I believe.

I don’t think my approach has really changed. I’ve done public relations, media relations, marketing for so many years for so many different things (a healthcare system, a hot air balloon festival, clothing, music, art, government, libraries, non-profits), so I usually take what it is and look at it individually to see all its positives I can offer to promote it. Each author I work with now I view as an individual brand and business. Identify the brand, its target, its current reach, its positives and negatives, and come to a solution, advice, method of play. It’s really no different with my own, except I do believe it works best when an author works with someone (and their publisher) as a team. As I said, someone else supporting and word of mouth is huge.

Hiring a publicist in indie doesn’t mean you can sit back because you’re shy or too busy, generally, depending on how well known you are, your likability factor, your back catalog, and what not. Readers and social media followers are still going to want YOU. So, hire a publicist, and better yet, what I’d prefer to be viewed as, a public relations professional who can consult with you and help you grow. Listen to them when they give you advice on how to present and focus yourself and sell your own work alongside what they are putting out for you. You can’t just hire a blog tour company, or a publicist, and sit back and expect it to work and produce all sorts of reviews and sales for you. It doesn’t work that way.

Hardened HeartsI find that a majority of writers are stubborn. What I’ve done for my own book is put into action what I can’t get most other authors to do (bless the ones that listen). And that’s build yourself as the brand. Once readers like you and support you, they will buy anything because they like your writing and will always read you or they will want to support you at least. I looked at my collection and all the sorts of themes I could pull out of it for various targets and I used that to push out cool references and facts, especially on Twitter. I focused on folklore for a while, tagging #folklorethursday for instance in statuses where I mentioned something folkloric in one of my poems or stories, other months I’ve mentioned my advocacy for domestic violence awareness and showed how my book helped me start to heal, and I also promoted my reviews, but the main thing is I’ve jumped on as many interviews as I could whether print or podcasts. I wrote guest articles with good SEO tags for my book because those are lasting ways for people to find you in a Google search as well as a way for readers to get to know you better.

I’ve been easily promoting my book in any spare time I had for a year now and people are still buying and promoting it, because others are still talking about it on social media. I’m still getting asked for interviews, I just wrote a handful of guest articles for a one-year anniversary celebration, and reviews still roll in.

I’ve been around the indie horror and historical book world for eight years and the voluntary promotion of OTHERS is a must. I still do reviews when I can and host people on my blog. I share other’s work on my social media (and not just those who are my clients). Once you help others, for years before you put out a book, or ongoing, or after you put out a book, people will support you. The right people will, anyway.

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

Picking a favorite piece of writing work is like choosing my favorite child. I have three children and I could never pick a favorite, so though I have many more pieces of work that are my babies too, it’s still hard. I like different ones for various reasons.

From Breathe. Breathe., most people’s favorite is “Dandelion Yellow” due to how they said it was shocking and unforgettable, and I did enjoy writing it, even if it is painful, and consider it one of my best pieces. However, I feel my personal favorite short story so far is “Life Giver of the Nile,” about a woman in modern Egypt’s encounter with the goddess Anuket. This not only stems from my love of Egyptology, but also channels scenes from a re-occuring nightmare of my childhood in which I was being drowned, and I’d wake up gasping for air. I loved being able to write about the streets of Cairo, the Nile, and enjoyed creating the characters.

As for my poetry, from Breathe. Breathe. I’d say maybe “Earl Grey Tea,” which was inspired by the writings of Agatha Christie (and to his horror, a gift of a beautiful tin of this favorite kind of tea of mine from my son). The poem blends my love of mystery, history, and the 1920s and is one of many domestic horror pieces in poetry or prose that I like to create.

I also liked the one I wrote for Enchanted Conversation: a fairy tale and folklore magazine, called “Chained by Love,” about the medieval mermaid Melusine and her lover Raymond. I have an obsession with mermaids.

What upcoming projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on a poetry-only collection featuring water elements, in which the writing is fairly completed (paper and pencil, need to type and edit). Water has always been a huge source of inspiration for me, as stated above, supplying me with energy, both physically and mentally. I feel at peace by the water, but also the anger and danger in its depths. I can channel emotions, and give and take emotions, near the shoreline. I believe water has special power for me. There will be sadness in this collection, but also sea monsters, ship wrecks, and coastal village intrigue. I’m a huge fan of the last three. I hope others like it, but I’m writing it because it’s fun for me! I’m looking for a publisher for it.

I’m also working on a short story collection based on the works of Van Gogh. In larger works, I’m working on a novel still that I’ve been picking away at for years. It’s a revenge novel, featuring an abused woman and the ghost of Emily Dickinson. It takes place in Emily’s hometown. I’m excited for this one.

And since writing my Vahalla Lane series in Breathe. Breathe., I’ve had some good response to it and so I’m writing on a novella when I have the chance featuring the story of one of the women, both in prequel and in sequel to what happens.

And I am going to be working soon on a few pieces for several anthologies I was invited into for 2019 and some poems and short stories for magazine invites as well.

Hopefully, my friend Duncan Ralston and I will start to flesh out some work on a novel together which features our mutual interest in cults.

Besides that, I’ll be editing more novels and coaching authors starting in January and I will be looking for more options available in which I can curate and edit another anthology.

Big thanks to Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at her website as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.

Happy reading!

Slaughter in Dreamland: Interview with Sara Tantlinger

Welcome back for my final interview of 2018! And what a delightful interview it is! I am positively thrilled to spotlight author Sara Tantlinger. Sara is the author of the poetry collections Love for Slaughter and The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, as well as several short stories.

Recently, Sara and I discussed her favorite authors, her inspiration as a poet, and her future plans as a writer!

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

Sara TantlingerI had been interested in writing since I was a kid, but I didn’t get serious about it until halfway through my undergraduate career. I dropped my education major and instead focused on English literature and creative writing at Seton Hill University (SHU). I stayed at SHU for my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction and am so glad I made that choice.

Edgar Allan Poe was my first poetry love, but some other writers who have really influenced and inspired me are William Blake, J.K. Rowling, Catherynne Valente, Sierra DeMulder, Richard Siken, Gillian Flynn, Caroline Kepnes, and Clive Barker.

First off, congratulations of the success of your poetry collection, Love for Slaughter! What was the inspiration for putting together the book, and how did you select which pieces to include?

Thank you! It’s so cool to still see the book receiving good attention after having been out for over a year. Love for Slaughter was inspired by the whole concept of folie à deux, which sometimes gets referred to as “madness shared by two.” I was fascinated by the idea of how something as pure as love could actually be twisted and mutilated into bloody, morbid poems. I was also inspired by the darkest parts of love and how such a powerful sentiment could lead people into madness over obsession or lust.

Horror and romance are the genres that tend to elicit the most visceral reactions from people since they really are the genres of emotion. Horror and romance writers have to overcome a lot of stereotypes from both readers and from writers in other genres, so I was excited to mesh the extremes of both concepts together in Love for Slaughter and have dubbed it a “horrormance” collection.

I ended up writing way more pieces than I needed to include for the collection, so when I went to finalize it all, which took a few tries, I mostly looked to cut pieces that seemed too similar or that just weren’t as powerful to me as others. I hate the idea of quantity over quality, and I think it’s wise to be aware of how many pieces you’re putting into a collection and how long it’s going to be since reading poetry is a different experience than reading prose.

You are currently accepting submissions as editor for the Not All Monsters anthology. What inspired you to get into the editing side of the industry, and what are you looking for in terms of submissions?

Yes! I am insanely excited about this anthology, and I cannot believe we have over 100 submissions already with more rolling in daily. This project is especially close to my heart since we’re seeking out women writers, so being able to actively do something that promotes women in horror means the world.

I also genuinely love editing. I have a few different jobs rights now, but if I ever get the chance to make a full-time career out of editing, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Having the opportunity to help other writers through edits and revision and assisting in strengthening their manuscripts is really fulfilling. I get to do what I love while watching writers succeed.

For Not All Monsters, I am looking for polished prose with character-driven stories that convey powerful messages. I love poetic prose and anything gothic and macabre. I want to see women kicking ass and refusing to be victims. Women are so strong, and it is important fiction reflects that, especially in horror. For any ladies thinking of submitting, definitely check out the theme and full guidelines here:

Strangehouse Books seeks women writers for horror anthology ‘Not All Monsters’

You write both fiction and poetry. How is your process different (or similar) depending on the medium?

The Devil's DreamlandThat’s a great question. Every time I think I have my writing process figured out, it seems to change. For poetry, the writing tends to come much easier and more organic for me. I’m much better at translating a powerful emotion or event into a poem than I am at prose. Sometimes it helps to write a poem from the point of view of my characters and then use that to help flesh out exposition.

Short stories have long been the bane of my existence, but I started to sell some this year and it’s really motivated me to keep writing more and to continue crafting a short story into something memorable. Outlining has become my best resource for fiction recently. I used to be way more of a pantser, but outlining and becoming more organized has been slowly saving me as I work on future projects.

Like me, you’re from Pennsylvania! Do you find the landscapes or overall feel of the Keystone State sneaking its way into your work, or do you try your best to get as far away from the state as you can when writing?

Oh yes, the landscape and scenery often creep into my work, especially since I live in the woods in the middle of nowhere. The setting is so prime for horror inspiration – old woods, big farmlands, abandoned places, weird animal noises in the middle of the night…I love it! After visiting the abandoned turnpike and tunnel near Breezewood a few years ago, I loved it so much that I set my thesis novel for graduate school around that area but in a much darker world.

In the future, I definitely hope to play with different settings, but Pennsylvania really has some fantastic inspiration. Every town here feels a little different, and there’s so much to explore and then plot into stories. I visited the destroyed Kinzua Bridge in PA earlier this year, and it gave me some twisted story ideas that I’m excited to play with.

As a female horror writer, what are your hopes for the future of the genre? What do you think is going well, and where would you like to see change?

My biggest hope is to see the continuous rise of women in horror fiction, films, and more. Recently I have seen open calls looking for women in horror, and other editors really doing their best to encourage women in the genre to submit their work. The Ladies of Horror Fiction website/social media that recently came about is an amazing resource, and it’s fantastic to see all they are doing to help promote women.

I think it’s a good time to be a woman in horror right now, not that there still isn’t work to be done. Horror has long been dominated by men, so I hope to see more diversity in anthologies because I still see collections that are nearly all men with maybe one token woman in the contents, if any women at all, so that’s something I certainly hope to see shift to be more diverse as we continue celebrating women in horror.

What projects are you currently working on?

My next poetry collection, The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, will be out with Strangehouse Books very soon! (Gwendolyn’s note: since this interview, the collection has been released, and it’s amazing!)

Currently, I am sending around my thesis novel from graduate school and a poetry collection that actually isn’t horror, so they are both floating in market space.

My WIPs right now include a weird novella that’s taking me in some strange directions, and a historical horror/dark fantasy novel inspired by Ranavalona I of Madagascar, who sometimes gets cited as one of the most murderous women in history. I am having a blast with the research for this one.

Tremendous thanks to Sara Tantlinger for being this week’s featured interviewee! Find her online at her author website as well as on Twitter and Instagram.

Happy reading!

Cosmic Monsters: Interview with Victoria Dalpe

Today, I’m thrilled to feature author Victoria Dalpe. Victoria is the author of the novel, Parasite Life, as well as numerous short stories. I was fortunate enough to meet Victoria at Readercon this past summer, and she’s as fabulous a writer as she is in person.

Recently, she and I discussed her inspiration as an author, her hometown of Providence, as well as her future plans.

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

Victoria DalpeI’ve been writing and telling myself stories for as long as I’ve been around frankly. As a total bookworm, I’ve just always loved the storytelling either as the reader or the writer. I didn’t start seriously writing, with the intent of it being read and/or published until I moved back to Rhode Island from NYC. I was doing a career change, as I’d gone to art school and majored in painting and film studies, then I’d worked in NYC museums. I wanted to be more creative in my day to day. When we left the city and decided to do the house and kids thing, I decided to seriously try my hand at writing again. That was about 7 years ago and 1 published novel and about 15 short stories in collections later.

Favorite authors is always a tough question, like a favorite movie, or song etc. I’m a monster person and frankly, rarely read stuff that doesn’t have the inhuman in it. Some all-time formative favorites: Anne Rice, Poe, Lovecraft, Poppy Z. Brite, Tanya Huff, Tananarive Due, Barker, Daphne Du Maurier, Nancy A. Collins. I’m a die-hard splatterpunk fan, so Skipp and Spector for sure. I’m an unabashed fan of urban fantasy, which I fully embrace, and so Kelly Armstrong, early Laurell K. Hamilton, Carrie Vaughn, Ilona Andrews. I’m also a big New Adult/ Fantasy Reader so Laini Taylor is def on top of my list there. I love good characters, monsters, a love story, anti-heroes and a hearty dose of grue and horror. And so many super interesting and talented writers are coming down the pike lately, Nadia Bulkin’s She Said Destroy was excellent, for example.

Your YA novel, Parasite Life, was released earlier this year from ChiZine. What can you share about the behind-the-scenes of writing this novel? How long did it take you to complete? Were there any surprises along the way?

I wrote it over the course of a year, it was a little story I think I’d had living in my head for ages. I’d been reading a ton of YA around that time and found myself, time and time again, getting angry at the books I was reading. I found the relationships not only problematic in these books but also a little bit dangerous, considering the age of the readers and that they are being sold as romantic (and not toxic or even abusive). So I wanted to explore the more unsavory aspects of being in a relationship with a vampire, which is as toxic and unbalanced a pair you could conceive of. I think the challenge as I was writing it was keeping it YA, but also wanting to stay true to the story I wanted to tell.

Then off it went to a slush pile at ChiZIne Publications, a favorite publisher of mine, and remarkably they picked it up. A few years later and here we are.

You are also an accomplished writer of short fiction. What was your inspiration behind “The Wife,” which appeared recently in Tragedy Queens from Clash Books?

As a monster lover, I am often drawn to the stranger critters. I’d read in some monster book about a lady monster out of Asia who flew around on her hair, terrorized people, had a huge hole in her neck etc. BUT if you caught it and stuffed all the hair in a hole you could marry one. I found this story absolutely fascinating because who would want to take some crazy flying lady home? Would she be a good wife? And my story answers that question.

Parasite LifeYou reside in Providence, the cosmic horror capital of the world. How, if at all, does your hometown affect your work?

A ton! I definitely think there is something in the water in New England, in general, that makes it ripe for horror. Perhaps it’s the history, as one of the oldest parts of the country, perhaps it’s the long dark winters and long oppressive summers. But whatever it is, there is a certain something that permeates the land and its people. I’m a huge Lovecraft fan, and have been published in two Lovecraft Anthologies as well as co-editing the 2019 Necronomicon Anthology with the fabulous and talented Justin Steele. I love weird fiction and the directions it has been going in the last few years, and the critical attention it’s getting. Providence just has a vibe to it, that something is just a little bit off, that is quite inspiring.

In addition to your writing, you’re also an actress and producer. How does your process differ when you’re working on film versus fiction? Conversely, how is your approach the same?

Well, the actress part is solely because I was around! My husband needed some sucker to do a body cast and so I got the part. For being a big personality, I’m actually a pretty terrible actress, never been comfortable being vulnerable on stage or screen- too stiff. My husband is a filmmaker as are a cluster of our friends, so I’ve been lucky enough to help with all sorts of projects. The thing about a film is that it is entirely collaborative, every person is a cog in the machine. Writing is often the entire opposite creative process, the writer sets the scene, fill in the players, the sets etc. Film you need to assemble a team that can help get the vision off the paper and onto the screen.

If forced to choose, what’s your favorite part of the writing process: crafting setting, developing characters, or writing dialogue?

That is a tough question! Honestly, I think my favorite part is starting something. I love the beginning of a story when it can go anywhere and the limits are basically your imagination. I also love finishing a project! There is something so satisfying about wrapping something up, even if it’s just the first draft.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m editing a collection of my short stories currently as well as my second novel. On top of that, starting to read through the submissions for the Necronomicon 2019, think it’s going to be awesome and a fun challenge to be an editor.

Huge thanks to Victoria for being part of this week’s author interview series. Finder her online at her blog and Amazon page as well as on Twitter and Facebook!

Happy reading!

Darkness and Entropy: Interview with Brian Fatah Steele

Welcome back! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight author Brian Fatah Steele. Brian is the author of Your Arms Around Entropy and Other Stories, and There Is Darkness in Every Room as well as numerous short stories.

Recently, Brian and I discussed his inspiration as an author, his work as an interviewer, and his writing plans for the future.

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

Brian Fatah SteeleIn the mid-nineties I started going to Kent State University for Fine Arts. I wanted to be an illustrator, possibly work on comic books, but I dropped out after my junior year. I had become very disillusioned with visual arts, but I realized when I still worked with it, I was constructing stories in my head to go along with the illustrations. Both my parents were educators and I had been raised on a steady diet of books growing up, so I decided to try writing as a creative outlet. All I had backing me was about 25 years of reading fiction and one high school creative writing class I had enjoyed immensely. To my surprise, I found myself far more fulfilled by writing than I ever had by visual arts. Now cresting into my 40-ies, I absolutely identify as a writer who simply dabbles in art.

My big three influences are Clive Barker, Brian Lumley, and Warren Ellis. I read The Books of Blood far too young, and it made me want to write outside of traditional horror tropes. Lumley taught me that I could throw whatever I wanted into a story and not be confined. Ellis showed me that you could have a message amidst all the brutality. I love a mix of authors – Edward Lee, Neil Gaiman, Anne Rice, James Rollins, Grant Morrison, S.M. Peters, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, Mary SanGiovanni, Laird Barron, Nate Southard, John McCallum Swain, Michelle Garza & Melissa Lason, John Claude Smith, Christopher Moore, H.P. Lovecraft, and too many more to name.

Congrats on the recent release of your collection, Your Arms Around Entropy and Other Stories. What can you share about your process while writing this book?

This book came together after about five years of submitting short stories to anthologies. I realized most of them had a cosmic horror theme, or in some cases, were a straight-up Lovecraft homage. After penning the title story, I felt it was ready to share. Some lean more cosmic than other, but all the tales I feel have a certain nihilistic vibe to them. I’m not necessarily a pessimistic person, but hopelessness translates great in horror, and I’m especially interested when we would find it abhorrent and vast.

You write short stories as well as novels and novellas. How does your approach differ (or stay the same) depending on length?

I’m very much a plotter. I’ll think about a story for days up to months before I ever type out a single word. Even then, everything gets a summary first. All characters get names, I know my locations, the movements, even some of the dialogue. A short story will simply get written out, the word count whatever it ends up being. It’ll get edited afterwards for a variety of things.

I’ve got my novel/novella system down now, one that works best for me. Lots of short chapters, usually shifting POV. My chapters are usually around 1000 words, and I outline a novel to be between 50 to 60 chapters. The goal is to get at least one chapter done a day. Sometimes I get two chapters done, sometimes I don’t get any. Regardless, this works for me. All my novels tend to have ensemble casts as opposed to focusing on one main protagonist, so this also benefits my style. Sure the story sometimes veers off from the outline a bit here and there, but never too much.

What first drew you to the horror genre? Do you remember the first horror movie you saw or story you read?

There Is Darkness in Every RoomWe have a Carnegie Public Library in my home town of East Liverpool, and when I was very young they had this series of book in the children’s section that I gravitated to. Hardbound books that fictionalized the old Universal horror movies – Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein, Lon Chaney Jr’s Wolfman, etc. There must have been twenty of these things, and I checked them out regularly. I was probably only like seven.

I believe the first adult horror movie I saw was the original Halloween. Maybe it was The Fog. I recall seeing both around the same time. Either way, John Carpenter terrified me as a child. Today, he’s my favorite director. And I’m pretty sure the first adult horror I read were those original Books of Blood I snagged. I still have them, and I think they might be the original American printing. They say 1986 inside, so if I bought them even a year later, my dumb ass read them at 10 years old. That explains a lot.

You are currently residing in my beloved birth state of Ohio. I, for one, think that the Ohio landscapes—rusted-out factories, unending fields of wheat and corn, creepy little small-town neighborhoods—are absolutely rife with horror possibilities. How does living in the Buckeye State impact you as a storyteller?

I absolutely agree! I feel like “Rust-Belt Gothic” needs to be explored more. I dive into the concept of the “Creepy Farmhouse” in my novel There is Darkness in Every Room, and in a story within Your Arms Around Entropy. I explore the idea of the “Dying Town” also in my latest collection as well as it being a central theme in an upcoming novel. Ohio has blistering hot summers and withering cold winters, we are a political swing state, and we have Amish communities only a stone’s throw from metropolitan cities. There’s abject poverty and a rising drug epidemic, yet you’ll trip on a college campus if you’re not paying attention. I’m Bipolar so I can say this – Ohio is Bipolar as fuck.

It’s actually hard not to set more of my stories in Ohio, because I honestly believe the setting here is so malleable and ripe for use. That said, I don’t want to be that guy.

In addition to your fiction writing, you also run the 7Q Interview series on your site. What made you decide to become an interviewer?

Your Arms Around EntropyIt seemed to me authors were only getting interviews when they had books coming out, and even then, it appeared to be the same authors all the time. I can’t really blame these sites, most of them have day jobs, plus they’re also doing reviews and juggling additional articles. It occurred to me that if I did an interview series, the same interview every week, I could feature a great deal more authors, some who might be falling through the cracks. Some who hadn’t been interviewed before, or who maybe don’t get two books a year out, so their presence has faded a bit. That’s not to say I don’t want to interview authors with a new book out, or bigger names, but I can feature everybody when that’s all I focus on.

What projects are you currently working on?

My next novel Bleed Away the Sky will come out from Bloodshot Books in early 2019. It’s a sort of Cosmic Horror/Urban Fantasy piece. I have another novel, similar in style, making its rounds to publishers now. Currently I’m working on what I’m calling a character-driven-splatterpunk-novel-with-supernatural-elements.

Big thanks to Brian Fatah Steele for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find him online at Twitter, Amazon, and Goodreads!

Happy reading!

In This Goth We Trust: Interview with Chelsea Goodwin

Welcome back! Today I’m thrilled to feature the incredible Chelsea Goodwin! Chelsea is the author of the novel, Pine Hell, as well as the radio host for the fabulous program, In Goth We Trust.

Recently, Chelsea and I talked about her favorite authors, her love of the Gothic, and her favorite songs as a pianist.

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

Chelsea GoodwinI wanted to be a writer ever since I read Nancy Drew. I love pulp formulas and love to use them in my own work like Pine Hell (available on Amazon Kindle) by spoofing, queering and subverting them.

My favourite authors include some mainstream authors like Patricia Cornwell and Dan Brown, but aside from that, the books I revisit the most are Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray, anybody from the old Alfred Hitchcock anthologies, Anne Rice, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, anybody that’s been anthologised by Ellen Datlow, and anything that ever appeared in Weird Tales magazine. Neil Gaiman is of course God as any follower of the Lucifer tv series knows.

As you already know, I’m a huge fan of your radio show, In Goth We Trust. What was the inspiration for starting the show, and how has the program evolved over time?

At the time we started in 2011 I was running a bookstore on Main Street in Pine Hill (which was the setting for Pine Hell only in an alternate universe where my cat is my chauffeur) and a woman tried to persuade me to buy an underwriter’s spot on WIOX. Instead I pitched the idea of In Goth We Trust, a radio show dedicated to all things Goth including Goth music and fashion, Gothic literature, Gothic horror movies, etc. Of all the interviews I’ve done, the one of which I am proudest was with John Astin. We debuted on Hallowe’en night 2011.

I’ve been a fan of Gothic horror in the form of the old Universal and Hammer movies from childhood, as well as Dark Shadows. Perhaps my biggest influences were The Addams Family which I saw first run when I was four years old and The Munsters. I was privileged to meet both John Astin and Al Lewis. In the eighties I was friends with Miriam Linna of the Cramps and was a huge fan of horror rock. However, I also have this other weird side that loves weird fiction and Gothic horror from the late eighteenth century to the present day, with a distinct fondness for Victorian Gothic and Art Deco settings You know of my love of Lovecraft and the school of Weird Cosmic Horror fiction he spawned, by love of dark gaslight fantasy and of course the wonderfully modern baroque stuff that you write.

I wanted to combine these interests with the type of free form radio that was done in the early FM days and on seventies and early eighties college radio. I am particularly proud of my interviews, because I model myself after people like Dick Cavett and Mike Davis who seriously know how to conduct an interview in an adult manner and who realise that the goal is to showcase the artist one is interviewing rather than one’s self.

Music is also very important to me. I’d like to think that I’ve been an important part of a revival of interest in the mad genius Screamin’ Lord Sutch for example.

In one of our past interviews on In Goth We Trust, you discussed how every region has its own form of the Gothic, be it the lonely North York Moors of England or the haunted steel mills of the Rust Belt. I absolutely loved this idea so much, and I even mentioned you and this theory in a recent article about sub-genres of Gothic fiction. In your opinion, what is it about the Gothic that lends to its perennial appeal?

This is a fascinating and multi-faceted question. It forces one to think about what one means by “Goth” or the “Gothic.” I believe that it implies romanticism, an artistic expression of the human soul to the mysteries of love, sex, death and the unanswered questions that we all face. I believe the essence of Goth culture is a bunch of teens getting stoned in a graveyard, or a cornfield, or out in the woods and telling each other stories, some of which are humourous and some of which are intended to freak each other out. I’m describing a scene from my own life in what I call “trailer park New Jersey” with its farms being replaced by strip malls, its junk yards full of antique cars and very little for kids to do except hang out in the woods and wild places like the Pagans of old. I’ve had this conversation with our mutual friend Doug Wynne. Ours was a generation of rural Americans that found our own blend of heavy metal music, dabblings with the occult, discovering love and sex and romance and the writings of Lovecraft all at about the same time. Add to that we all grew up on Dark Shadows and Dr. Shock’s Mad Theatre or similar entertainment, and had all seen things in old houses or out in the woods and fields that we couldn’t completely explain to ourselves. I think it’s all of that combined with a search for beauty and the beginnings of a mature aesthetic sense.

In addition to your writing and radio hosting, you’ve also run a bookstore. How did your own tastes as a book lover play into what titles you stocked?

I sell all manner of books online, but my vision for my brick and mortar store is to combine selling fantasy, horror and science fiction books with an emphasis on weird fiction and Gothic literature with a good listening space where I and others can play my beautiful 1910 Steinway upright grand. I also read Tarot for private clients in the space.

Pine HellI recently learned that you’re also an accomplished pianist! How long have you been playing? Can you share a few of your personal favorite pieces that you love to play?

I was privileged to take piano lessons when I was a kid from ages 5 to 18. One of my teachers was Harry Lee of the Fred Waring orchestra (one of the last and corniest of the big bands). Along the way I developed a preference for ragtime, early jazz, and what is called the American popular songbook (Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Rogers and Hart). I am fascinated by the history of American musical theatre and the role of nonwhite and lgbt people and of course Jews in creating a uniquely American culture. I love the decayed Gothic decadence of old school glamour fallen to haunted house status. I believe that my queer, trans identity and my love of the dark, gothic side of camp are at the heart of my musical performance.

I love to play Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor and Funeral March of a Marionette for their use by Vincent Price and Hitchcock respectively. I always open with the theme songs to The Addams Family and The Munsters. Recently I always also do dark, gothic versions of Sugar, Sugar and Jingle, Jangle both from the 1960’s The Archies tv show and both hauntingly re-imagined for Riverdale, which is, in my opinion the best written show on television these days for the way it subverts and reveals the underlying horror that permeates the America that Riverdale and the Archie comics universe have always represented. My feelings about Sabrina are best illustrated by the fact that I live with a huge black cat named Salem.

What books are in your to-be-read pile?

At the moment Love in Vein, an anthology of Vampire erotica edited by Poppy Z. Brite and Wild Nights! by Joyce Carol Oates are on top of the pile. I’m currently reading one of Cornwell’s Scarpetta novels. I am waiting for your latest to arrive so I can savour it, of course.

Do you have any upcoming appearances planned for 2019?

On Oct 24 I will be performing in The Freaky Mutant Weirdo Variety Show at Roxy and Duke’s Road House in Dunellen, Nj. I’m on the bill with A Halo Called Fred which is wonderful.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on some music, and starting to outline another novella in my Lady Sylvia Dorchester and Dr. Drusilla Styles series.

Tremendous thanks to Chelsea Goodwin for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at her Facebook page and at the In Goth We Trust page!

Happy reading!

Recommended Reading and What’s Next: Part Five of Our October Author Interview Series

Welcome back for the final installment in our October author interview series! Today, we discuss what books our eight fabulous authors are reading as well as what they’ve got planned next!

So let’s take it away!

What books are currently in your to-be-read pile? Likewise, what book has been your favorite read of 2018, and what forthcoming books are you looking most forward to reading?

LORI TITUS: I have a pretty thick list! I’m always reading something but I still don’t get to read as many as I like. Lately I’m doing two at a time with one of those being on audio.

I’m looking forward to reading Blood Communion by Anne Rice when it comes out this fall. I really enjoyed All Systems Red by Martha Wells.

I think my favorite book so far this year is probably a tie between two novels: Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor and Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.

CALVIN DEMMER: To-read next: James S. A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes and Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies (non-fiction).

I’m slow when it comes to reading novels at the moment, so my favorite novel I read this year would be Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne (published in 2017). For a novella, I’d go with Philip Fracassi’s Shiloh, which was a very original and fantastic story set during the Civil War. I’ve recently read Christa Carmen’s collection, Something Borrowed, Something Blood-soaked, which I enjoyed. I liked how she had supernatural horrors and real-life battles, such as substance abuse and mental health issues.

Well, your debut novel, The Rust Maidens, is a book I am looking forward to. I read the synopsis and couldn’t resist pre-ordering it.

ANYA MARTIN: Unfortunately I haven’t read as many novels this year as I would have liked to because I’ve had so many other things on my plate, including my own writing, and my carpal tunnel made it hard to hold up a book during flare-ups, even, perhaps ironically triggered some of those flare-ups. I’m old school and still prefer actual books to a tablet. One way I addressed these limitations was large graphic novels which I could spread open on a table, bed, or my lap. It actually came out in 2017 but I was absolutely blown away by My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris! Also the graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler’s powerful SF/horror novel Kindred by Damian Duffy and John Jennings

Both Michael Griffin’s and Orrin Grey’s new collections from Word Horde are top of my to-read pile, along with John Claude Smith’s Occasional Beasts: Tales from Omnium Gatherum and Damien Angelica Walters’ Cry Your Way Home, which came out at the beginning of 2018 from Apex, and I tragically haven’t gotten to yet. Plus The Future is Female, the new Library of America anthology of classic SF stories by women edited by Lisa Yaszek, Georgia Tech Professor of Science Fiction Studies, who also edited the kickass Sisters of Tomorrow anthology (2016). As for upcoming, I simply can’t wait for Craig Laurance Gidney’s novel A Spectral Hue, set for June 2019 from Word Horde!

DOUNGJAI GAM: what’s not in my TBR pile is more like it…I typically had about 5-6 books going at a time, but my reading habits have slowed considerably in the last couple of years and I need to fix that. currently it’s Buried in Blue Clay by LL Soares, Hannahwhere by John M McIlveen, and a reread of Jack Ketchum’s Peaceable Kingdom. My favorite reads so far this year (none of which were released in 2018):The Fisherman by John Langan, Haven by Tom Deady, and Husk by Rachel Autumn Deering. I’m really looking forward to Bracken MacLeod’s next collection White Knight and Other Pawns as well as pestilent by Rachel Autumn Deering and Matt Hayward.

MICHAEL GRIFFIN: My favorite read of the year was You by Caroline Kepnes, just because it’s so fun, crazy and over the top, with such a compelling narrative voice. It’s not weird fiction and not even really horror either, but I think of it as something like American Psycho for the social media age. I also enjoyed the sequel, Hidden Bodies, though not quite as much as You.

My favorite 2018 read “in genre” would be Corpsepaint by David Peak, a really cool pagan black metal novel published by Word Horde. I hope a lot of people will check this out.

The to-be-read pile is stacked higher than ever, because I’ve spent so much time this year reading crime novels and thrillers. One of those, Laird Barron’s Blood Standard, proves weird authors can write really great crime books! Next up, I’m looking forward to Darkest Hours by Mike Thorn, Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez, Bones Are Made to Be Broken by Paul Michael Anderson and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. Of course there are always more things landing in the pile and this intended reading order is subject to constant shuffling.

LEE FORMAN: My to be read pile is always growing, never getting smaller. But I’m currently reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy. After that I plan to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, then on to Sleepwalk by John Saul. I’d have to say my favorite read this year has been Still Dark by D.W. Gillespie. I’m really looking forward to reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.

CHRISTA CARMEN: One of the books I’m most looking forward to reading is The Rust Maidens, by the lovely and infinitely talented facilitator of this interview. I’m a huge fan of your short stories and the Pretty Marys novella, and S.J. Budd’s early review of the novel has me that much more excited to get my hands on it, rust and all. Others anticipated releases include Stephanie M. Wytovich’s The Dangers of Surviving a Slit Throat, and Stephen King’s Elevation.

I don’t know if I can narrow down my favorite book of 2018 to a single reading experience, so I’ll list several: Bring Me Back, by B.A. Paris, Florida, by Lauren Groff, The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware, and The Hunger, by Alma Katsu. My current TBR pile consists of Unbury Carol, by Josh Malerman, The Boy at the Keyhole, by Stephen Giles, Foe, by Iain Reid, and Bad Man, by Dathan Auerbach.

GEMMA FILES: My to-read pile is (I shit you not) two full bookcases’ worth and still growing. I used to read faster, or so I can only assume—I can certainly knock out a John Connolly Charlie Parker mystery in two hours or less even now, but then, he’s special to me (The Woman in the Woods is his latest, and it’s excellent, as ever). Most recently, I finally got hold of a copy of Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom and read it all the way through (incredible, from top to tail), then re-read Margaret Irwin’s slim, odd little out-of-print book Still She Wished For Company, which reminds me strikingly of the work of another quietly brilliant historical/weird female writer who most people don’t know about, Marjorie Bowen. It’s about time travel, sort of…time bending, at any rate, crossed with 18th-century rakery and haute magie, plus a really creepy incest-vibe brother/sister relationship, but because it’s seen through the eyes of two people who barely know what’s going on, almost all of it lives in the liminal, between-spaces of the narrative.

But David Peak’s Corpsepaint is probably still my favourite of what I’ve read so far this year: bleak, cold and cosmically horrifying as an explosion at a factory that makes Hieronymous Bosch prints scored to whatever black metal band you find rawest. Next on the list: probably Hitler’s Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich by Eric Kurlander, a series of essays about Nazi “border science,” and The Penguin Book of Witches (ed. Katherine Hoew), which excerpts accounts of witch-trials from 1582 to 1813.  

What’s next for you?

LORI TITUS: More books! I have more short fiction, but also plans for one or two novels next year. A sci fi, a fantasy, and more horror, of course.

CALVIN DEMMER: I have quite a few different projects at various stages of completion. It’s hard to say which I think will see the light next. I’ve been going back to work on some of my Dark Celebrations short stories. Also, I have been slowly looking to put out a collection of short stories, and I am working on my first novella. Lastly, I do have a couple of short stories that will be coming out in magazines and anthologies in the near future.

DOUNGJAI GAM: There’s stuff in the works but nothing that’s coming out anytime soon—a couple of anthology submissions I’m working on, a few short stories that have been begging for attention too. I have plans for a novella and what I think may end up being a novel as well. I’m a very slow writer who gets easily distracted, but I’m really hoping to strike a solid balance soon so that I can get more work out there. I also have three readings coming up in October and November that I’m excited about.

MICHAEL GRIFFIN: First I’ve got to finish one novel, then go back and finish a second that I set aside to work on this one, then go even further back and finish “Armageddon House,” the half-done novella I mentioned that’s been simmering on the back burner for almost a year.

At some point, between these things, I’d like to create a new short story or two. This focus on longer works is fine, but since I have no new work coming out for such a long time, it’s tempting to imagine the world might forget I exist! I know from past experience there’s no pacing these things. Sometimes I have five stories published in three months, then nothing for almost a year.

LEE FORMAN: What I’d love to do next is finish my full-length novel. Now that I’ve got a book or two on the shelf I’d love nothing more than to add a few more. It’s probably going to take some time with all the other projects I have going on, but that’s my main goal—to continue publishing long fiction at least on a somewhat regular basis.

CHRISTA CARMEN: As for forthcoming projects, I’m only a few short stories away (stories that are already in the works) from having enough material to put together a second collection. The tone of this one would be a bit different from Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked, but some of the same themes would abide.

Still, I won’t pursue another collection until I’ve finished the novel I’m working on. I was surprised by how much additional work came with the release of Something Borrowed…, and so I’ve been beating myself up regarding the last few things I wanted to tinker with on this new book, Coming Down Fast. Now that the collection has been released, I’m going to use that relentless self-flogging for actual good, and finish it.

Besides Coming Down Fast and the new collection, there’s another novel I have in the works, about a thirty-something year old woman who writes a blog about the pharmaceutical industry and ends up pursuing acupuncture as a personal infertility treatment, with monstrous results, entitled 13 Sessions.

Staying busy sustains my passion for this crazy thing I love to do. When I first started writing, I kept a folder with me at all times containing a printout of a WIP short story, or several novel chapters. I printed out a quote from Stephen King and pasted it across the front: “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” As silly as it may seem, it reminded me that the only thing I actually have control over is not whether I get published or if readers like my stories, but how hard I work. I don’t use the folder anymore, but the quote is engrained in my mind, and I like that I can use it to hold myself to a certain standard of productivity. When seeing through longer projects, it’s imperative that I feel satisfied with at least the amount of words on the page, if nothing else.

GEMMA FILES: Write a story, send it in. Finish that next damn book. Keep on keeping on.

Thank you again to my eight featured authors for being part of this month’s roundtable interview series! One more time, let’s look at all of their awesome new books, available now!

Something Borrowed, Something Blood-SoakedSomething Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked by Christa Carmen

In her debut collection, Christa Carmen combines horror, charm, humor, and social critique to shape thirteen haunting, harrowing narratives of women struggling with both otherworldly and real-world problems. From grief, substance abuse, and mental health disorders, to a post-apocalyptic exodus, a seemingly sinister babysitter with unusual motivations, and a group of pesky ex-boyfriends who won’t stay dead, Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked is a compelling exploration of horrors both supernatural and psychological, and an undeniable affirmation of Carmen’s flair for short fiction.

 

Soul BondedSoul Bonded by Lori Titus

My soul is in hock, a mystical layaway.
I haven’t sold my soul to the devil, but the deal I made is close enough. I have to work for a demon for the next seven years. If I do my job well enough, my contract is void after that time, and I get the part of my soul back that he took away. Unless he decides I’m more valuable to him than that. I’ve come across worse odds.

The Human AlchemyThe Human Alchemy by Michael Griffin

Heralded as one of the leading voices in contemporary weird fiction, Michael Griffin returns with his second collection, The Human Alchemy. Here you will find eleven magnificent tales of the strange and sublime, the familiar and the disquieting, where dreamlike beauty and breathtaking horror intertwine. Featuring an introduction by S.P. Miskowski.

glass slipper dreams, shatteredglass slipper dreams, shattered by doungjai gam

from glass slipper dreams, shattered: Like a stupid girl with glass slipper dreams, I did everything you wanted with the hopes that one day, you would love me back.

glass slipper dreams, shattered the debut collection from doungjai gam is filled with loss, sorrow, revenge and remorse.

gam delivers devastating punches in this collection of short-shorts, taking our breath away with a turn of a phrase, a dark play on words; every syllable paints unexpected shadows in our imagination.

Sleeping with the MonsterSleeping with the Monster by Anya Martin

Twelve women. Twelve horrors disguised as love. In Anya Martin’s new collection of horror tales: a teenage girl faces the consequences of wishing her dog could live forever; a romantic college student wakes a gargoyle in Paris; and a lonely woman finds her house infested with insects. History’s darker depths are delved as an American jazz singer confronts her lover who has committed terrible war crimes as he descends into madness in post-WW2 Germany; and a couple experiences H.P. Lovecraft’s Resonator machine via found footage from the Velvet Underground. In the publisher’s favorite tale: Actress Elsa Lanchester reveals the true story of Bride of Frankenstein involving the preserved brain of Karl Marx’s daughter in 1923 London. With this book Martin joins the ranks of daring woman delving into the dark fantastical.

The Sea Was a Fair MasterThe Sea Was a Fair Master by Calvin Demmer

The world’s fate lies with a comatose young girl; an android wants to remember a human she once knew under Martian skies; men at sea learn that the ocean is a realm far different from land, where an unforgiving god rules; a school security guard discovers extreme English class; and a man understands what the behemoth beneath the sea commands of him.
The Sea Was a Fair Master is a collection of 23 stories, riding the currents of fantasy, science fiction, crime, and horror. There are tales of murder, death, loss, revenge, greed, and hate. There are also tales of hope, survival, and love.
For the sea was a fair master.

Lee FormanZero Perspective by Lee A. Forman

Lost in the depths of space and time, swallowed by something unknown to humanity, a derelict ship is adrift in an alternate reality. John and his crew board the vessel, the Esometa, on a rescue mission. The ship’s been lost for two weeks with no explanation. When they discover its occupants dead and decaying, a mind-bending journey begins. The Esometa takes them down a path filled with horrid creatures and bizarre events from which there may be no return…

Drawn Up from Deep Places by Gemma Files

Drawn Up from Deep PlacesIn her second collection from Trepidatio Publishing, award-winning author Gemma Files takes her readers on journeys out beyond safe borders—from the trackless depths of the sea, to the empty desert frontiers of the Weird West, even to the edges of cracks between worlds. Here, in these narrow spaces between the known and the unknown, behind the paper-thin curtains of reality, lurk monsters both human and ancient: selkies and avenging revenants, voodoo priestesses and pirate sorcerers, ghosts and vampires, and the most famous murderer of all time. But however strange the things found in these deep places, what draws them up, and calls them back, are forces the human heart knows all too well: grief and vengeance, rage and loss . . . and, most terrible of all, love.

Published over the past fifteen years—some only available online until now—these fantasies of the darkest kind showcase the breadth and scope of Gemma Files’s imagination, seamlessly blending styles, genres, themes, and atmospheres into a dark and thrilling voice like nothing else in fiction today. Newcomers and old friends both are invited to join her in these journeys . . . if they dare to look upon what has been—DRAWN UP FROM DEEP PLACES

Happy reading!

 

Advice, Genre, & Original Stories: Part Four in Our October Author Interview Series

Welcome back for part four in our October author interview series! Today, I’m still talking one-on-one with my eight featured authors, as we cover some very cool topics, including short fiction, genres, and advice for new writers.

So let’s go!

Lori, as the title hints, your new book, Soul Bonded, deals with souls and deals with demons. The synopsis of the book is so wonderful, at once familiar yet filled with new possibilities. As a writer, how do you work with familiar concepts while making them entirely your own?

LORI TITUS: I think as writers we fight against the familiar. In some ways that can be a mistake. There are universal themes that just work, that we’re attracted to. I always look for how an idea can be made a bit different, from a new angle. Little bits of my experience or the lives of people I know work their way in too.

Sycorax's DaughtersTaking a detour into short fiction for a moment, I absolutely love your story, “Asunder,” that appeared last year in Sycorax’s Daughters. Can you tell us a little about that particular piece? Also, do you have any new short fiction coming out soon?

LORI TITUS: Thank you! I really enjoyed writing Asunder. I was working on a romance series for another author at the time and was itching to write something paranormal. Asunder is about a college student who recognizes the strength of her own abilities a little too late. The main character is so sure that she can use magic as a solution for what’s wrong between her and her boyfriend. It’s one of those cautionary tales; be careful what you wish for.

Speaking of short fiction, I have a couple new pieces coming out, one on September 4th. The story is a romance (nothing weird in this one) called Hierarchy. It’s part of Without Limits: A BWWM Collection of Passion and Desire.

I currently have a new novella called The Culling out; it’s another story in The Marradith Ryder Series.

A new story called Primal Thoughts which will appear in a collection called Alpha’s Call. That one will also go up for preorder in early September. It’s a paranormal romance between a woman and a shifter.

Lee, in the past, most of your work has stayed primarily within the horror genre. Zero Perspective, however, veers into science fiction and shades of the weird. Did that happen naturally as the story developed, or was blending genres something that you set out to do very deliberately?  

Lee FormanLEE FORMAN: Zero Perspective having elements of science fiction was intentional. I wanted to write something that explored sci-fi but retained that horror edge I love to write. The weird fiction aspect of the book came naturally as the story developed. That wasn’t expected. As it went on I kept thinking up stranger and more unusual circumstances for the characters to face. When I got to the end, the bizarre influence had already taken hold and forced its way heavily into the story.

Michael, the novelette, “The Only Way Out is Down,” is original to your collection. What made you want to include this piece as the only unpublished work in the book, and what was the inspiration behind this particular story? 

MICHAEL GRIFFIN: Originally I had something else in mind as the original for the collection, a story called “Armageddon House” about four people living in a deep, many-leveled bunker full of decades-old supplies and rooms for hundreds of people, with the four disagreeing about whether they’d always been there, or had just arrived recently, and what the reasons for it all were. The problem was that the story expanded to the point where it was pretty clearly going to be a novella, and much too long to put in the book. I had to set it aside.

Then I decided I really needed something new and short and simple, so I designed a very straightforward and streamlined idea, the kind of thing that couldn’t become complicated and complex-ified, and grow too long. I wrote it just after selling a house I’d been living in for about twelve years, and although the house was in good shape and sold pretty quickly, there are always a few anxiety-causing issues that come up in the process of getting a house ready to sell. It brought to mind a particularly modern, suburban kind of terror in which your life, which from the outside appears regular and organized and comfortable, might have various different levels of disintegration or rot going on, hidden from view. It’s a story about that kind of bourgeois paranoia, not only homeowner insecurity or fear of financial disaster, but more interestingly, the way our internal fears and subliminal insecurities can manifest in the physical world around us.

I suppose also some readers have suggested I rely too much on nature settings, or troubled creative types as characters, and I liked the idea of writing a story set in an entirely mundane suburban development, with the only characters a fairly generic married couple, and seeing if I could make the narrative feel rich and extraordinary rather than mundane or generic.

doungjai gamDoungjai, many of the stories in your collection could be described as prose poetry. What is it that inspires you to blend fiction and poetical language, and do you feel that horror and dark fantasy are particularly suited for prose poetry? Also, do you have a favorite poet? 

DOUNGJAI GAM: you know, it’s funny…I didn’t set out to write prose poetry, and yet here we are. when I was much younger I wrote a lot of poetry, stuff that will hopefully never see the light of day, haha. a lot of the pieces in the collection, especially the really short ones, got their inspiration from song lyrics. to me, well-written song lyrics can stand toe to toe with poetry written by a college professor—look at Bob Dylan’s work. I don’t get every piece of poetry I’ve ever read, and I don’t know that I have to; if a particular poem speaks to someone, like really reaches out and grabs their soul, it’s done its job. but if someone else doesn’t understand it but can appreciate it and maybe find a snippet of beauty in there, that’s fine too. I read all my WIPs out loud—I look for rhythms and cadence. I like a little bit of alliteration. it does feel like horror and dark fantasy would be natural bedmates for prose poetry…there’s a special kind of magic in the language that you might not necessarily see in other genres. my favorite poet is Linda Addison. her collection consumed, reduced to beautiful grey ashes really spoke to me. if you haven’t read Linda yet, you need to fix that!

Christa and Calvin: your books both serve as your debut collections, and they were each released through Unnerving. With editor Eddie Generous at the helm, Unnerving has become a fast-rising small press over the last year—and one of my own personal favorites. What made you choose Unnerving as your publisher, and what was the process like working with Eddie (knowing, of course, that he might very well read these answers!)? 

Calvin DemmerCALVIN DEMMER: I had a good experience working with Unnerving. My story “What is Love?” was published in their first anthology, Hardened Hearts, so I kind of knew what to expect when working with the editor. Every editor at a publication has a unique personality and different approach, or certain things they tend to focus on. I had read quite a few of Unnerving’s previous releases and could see the standards aimed for. I also felt like the publisher might be open to something a little different, which a flash fiction collection is, and I am glad I made the decision.

CHRISTA CARMEN: At the end of 2017, I placed my short story, “Red Room,” with Unnerving after stumbling across the magazine on Duotrope. The experience of being a part of that issue, which included stories by Stephen S. Power, John C. Foster, David Busboom, Gary Buller, Jake Marley, K.P. Kulski, Sara Codair, and Aaron J. Housholder, as well as your feature, Gwendolyn, “No Happily Ever After Here: Death and Dismay in Fairy Tales,” was a fantastic one, so when I saw the call for novel, novella, and collection submissions a few months later, I knew I wanted to put something together. Eddie Generous is such a beast of an avid reader, consuming mainstream and indie horror fiction with inhuman consistency. He listened to the Tales to Terrify podcast episode that featured the short story version of the “Liquid Handcuffs” novella in my collection, and according to the Jiffy-pop and Horror blogcast he recorded with you for episode #001, this was a driving factor in him wanting to publish Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked. This, of course, tickles me pink as the pig on the haunting, hypnotizing cover he designed. Eddie’s work ethic is contagious, and it is an honor to be among his 2018 catalogue of authors.

I also worked with frequent Unnerving editor Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, via Hook of a Book Media, and thanks to Erin, Something Borrowed, Something Blood-Soaked got into the hands of a great many reviewers I otherwise wouldn’t have reached. Erin also facilitated interview and guest post opportunities, and is generally awesome, supportive, and hardworking. She has become a dear friend of mine over the last six months, and I’d highly recommend Erin and Oh, for the HOOK of a BOOK! to anyone looking to get the word out about a new release.

Anya, “Jehessimin” is a previously unpublished piece in your collection. Can you share a little about the process and inspiration behind it?

ANYA MARTIN: I originally planned to do an original story and a different original novella, because so many people recommended doing a novella for a collection. However when I thought more about what I wanted to write, it seemed like those really were “next generation” works and not thematically consistent. Then last fall I was in an accident that totaled my rental car. Miraculously I walked away with only a slight air bag burn on my left thumb. There were a lot of weird things about the accident, including the fact that I was sure I hit a welding truck that stopped suddenly but there was literally nothing in front of me—an open stretch of dark highway. I’ll spare the details but I didn’t find out for two months that I really did hit a truck that left the scene. I also lost a special jewelry bag—folks, always get everything out of a rental car after an accident because the tow company may not let you back into the car since it’s not yours! I didn’t put all of the actual weirdness into the intro of “Jehessimin,” but it provided the seed.

Meanwhile I wanted to do a story that confronted head-on that feeling of not belonging that many young women have—i.e. maybe you’re a changeling. With the exception of actual adoptees, these fantasies of other parents are of course utterly fictional, vis-à-vis the following story “Black Stone Roses and Granite Gazanias” where the female protagonist has a similar thought and the gargoyle bluntly just tells her “no.” In a sense that story and “Jehessimin” are two sides of an old, old idea I had in my early twenties. The “Tiger Girl” segment comes from an edited fragment I wrote back then. I don’t want to spoiler too much, but as I worked with it more, seemingly endlessly, “Jehessimin” took some unexpected turns. The original concept might have been a bit more romantic though still in a dark way, but by the time I finished it, I hope I pushed myself enough that it morphed into a story where the young woman makes “interesting” non-male-centric decisions. Some readers may label it as more dark fantasy than Weird, but I strived to layer in Weirdness and discomfort, as well as re-reading a lot of C.L. Moore and Angela Carter as its literary “mothers.” I’m interested in finding out what readers think as this is also one of my few stories where the end leaves it open for a sequel, or rather a three-novella cycle.

Gemma, your writing career is an incredible one. You’ve been widely published and award winning, your fiction has been produced for television, and your novel, Experimental Film, has just been included on NPR’s list of 100 Favorite Horror Stories. I, of course, want to ask what your secret is (while naturally hoping that it involves copious amounts of dark magic and blood sacrifice), but I’ll ask this instead: what advice do you have for those of us who are new or still relatively new to the industry? How do you recommend navigating the usual publishing industry pitfalls, and what has made this career one that you love and have wanted to stay with, even through the inevitable challenges?

GEMMA FILES: Okay, so: first off, to hear my career summed up that way still amazes me, because from my perspective, I’m still just hammering away at a computer in my underwear and scribbling down strange stuff that happens to come into my head when I’m listening to music or watching movies. I mean, the computer used to be an iMac and now it’s MacBook, and I used to listen to a SONY Walkman/Discman, then an iPod, while now it’s an iPhone…basically, though, same old same old. I’m being rewarded for having kept going, more than anything else. Maybe that’s Canadian of me to say, but I really do feel like it’s true.

So that would be my first piece of advice: keep going. Don’t stop for anything or anybody. Don’t believe people if they try to dissuade you from practicing “that little hobby of yours.” Write for yourself, and trust that there is someone else out there—possibly many other someone elses—who are waiting to read your stories, most probably because A) they want stories in which they recognize some element of themselves and B) they are looking for a voice which echoes the one they hear deep inside themselves. Find the way in which you differ, and write from that, trusting that other people differ in the same way. This is another thing I’ve learnt from my own “autism journey”; my son and I may be at supposedly opposite ends of the spectrum (hyper-verbal versus hypo-verbal, etc.), but we’re still more alike than we are different, and that spectrum itself is part of a far larger spectrum which embraces all human behaviour, both neurotypical and neuroatypical. Nothing human is completely alien to any human being, no matter how much we want to pretend otherwise.

Which brings me to my second piece of advice, which is to always (at least initially) treat other writers, editors and publishers as potential kin or comrades rather than as competition—treat them the way you’d like to be treated, in other words. Act professionally on the general assumption that they will as well, then wait to see if that turns out to be true before making further judgements. That said, if somebody shows you who they are, believe them.

My third piece of advice is to not worry about things being perfect, especially in the first draft, or you’ll strangle your own stuff unborn. Douglas Clegg calls his initial draft the “puke draft,” which fits, but while you can fix bad writing, you can’t fix no writing. That’s what I tell my students. Get one good paragraph and stick it in a frame, then watch it develop a skeleton, muscles, flesh. Then go over it as many times as you want, but at some point, you have to let it go—throw it out into the world to garner sales or feedback. Other people can tell you the things you’re too close to see, so don’t be shy and don’t take it personally: write, rewrite, resend, repeat. See what happens. Stamina counts for so much more than blazing talent in the long run, and I should know.

And that’s pretty much all the advice I have, I guess, except to say that all writing begins in pastiche, so don’t be embarrassed: embrace the things that make you you, just make sure you also have a wide spectrum of influences and use at least a bit of your own reality to ground it, turning the subjective into the universal. Then keep writing until you can recognize your own voice, and cut away everything that doesn’t sound like that.

And that’s our post for today! Head on back next week for our final installment in the interview series, as these eight fine authors discuss their current reading lists and what projects they’re working on next!

Happy reading!