Category Archives: Interviews

Fantastical Fun: Interview with Jamie Lackey

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight author Jamie Lackey. She’s the author of Left-Hand Gods, Moving Forward: A Novella of Life After Zombies, and The Blood of Four Gods and Other Stories, as well as an accomplished editor.

Recently, Jamie and I discussed her inspiration as a speculative fiction author as well as her genre favorites and her writing plans for the future.

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

I’ve always wanted to be a writer–the first thing I remember writing is retelling of Disney’s The Little Mermaid when I was in elementary school, and I just never stopped. Though I did stop copying Disney movies. Eugie Foster, Peter S. Beagle, Octavia Butler, and Lois McMaster Bujold are some of my favorite authors.

You’ve written in the horror, science fiction, and fantasy genres. Do you remember your first experience with speculative fiction? What are a few of your personal favorite genre books or films?

I think the first speculative book I read was The Hobbit, in about third grade. The Last Unicorn is one of my favorites for both books and movies. I also really enjoyed both the book and movie of The Martian. I also really love pretty much every Pixar movie.

You’ve written a great deal of flash fiction, which I personally feel is one of the most unsung yet wonderful lengths of fiction. What is it about this particular length of stories that appeals to you?

I like how direct it is. There’s not a lot of time in flash fiction for red herrings or digressions that don’t really matter to the story. I’m a pretty impatient person by nature, so it always makes me happy when a story just gets on with it. I also like how quick it is to both read and write. As a writer, I really like finishing things, and flash fiction stories are about the easiest things to actually finish.

You’ve been a slush pile reader as well as an editor, both at Electric Velocipede and on the Triangulation anthology series. How has being on the other side of things changed your perspective of the writing process?

It helped me to understand that rejection really isn’t personal. It also helped me to see things that lots and lots of people do that don’t really work and try to avoid those things myself.

You’ve written a novel as well as over 150 short stories. How does your process differ between long versus short fiction?

Short fiction is sooo much easier for me. The process is essentially the same, but longer things are so much more work.

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

I think the polishing up is my favorite step. That’s when I think about theme and that sort of big picture thing, and when the story really coalesces into what it’s going to be.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on one novel–a Pride and Prejudice retelling where Mrs. Bennet trades Lizzie and Mary to a witch to make Lydia a boy.

I’m also working on a handful of short stories.
1. An epistolary story where the letters are from an artificial intelligence that can travel from one person to another by eye contact, and addressed to a girl whose mind it lived in for a few years.
2. A fantasy story where the emperor stole all the magic in the world and doles it out as he pleases.
3. A group of angels meeting up to make people’s days better in tiny ways.
4. A hollow earth story with feathered riding dinosaurs.

Big thanks to Jamie Lackey for being part of this week’s author interview series. Find her online at her website as well as Facebook and Twitter.

Happy reading!

Lyrical Curses: Interview with Candace Robinson

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m pleased to feature Candace Robinson. Candace is the author of numerous books including Clouded by Envy, Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault, Lullaby of Flames, and Bacon Pie, among others. She also runs the popular blog, Literary Dust, which features author interviews and reviews.

Recently, Candace and I discussed her new book, Veiled By Desire, as well as her love of horror and her upcoming projects.

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

I first decided to become a writer senior year of high school when we had to do an assignment where we had to write down our thoughts for a certain length of time. Somehow my thoughts turned into the start of a story! But I didn’t actually write my first story until years later! Some of my favorite authors are Holly Black, Sarah J. Mass, Natalia Jaster, and Brenna Yovanoff!

Your new book, Veiled by Desire, is due out this month. What can you share about the process for this book? How long did it take you to write it, and what was the inspiration behind it?

This was actually the first idea I ever had for a book which dates back to 2003, but it literally took me forever to get the full story in my head. I ended up writing several other books before it finally came together. I even ended up writing Clouded By Envy first, which is a prequel of sorts. Anyway, I wrote the first draft within a month in September of 2018!

You’re a fan of horror, and your darkly fantastical work often reflects that love. How did you first fall in love with horror? Do you remember the first horror film you saw or horror book that you read, and do you have a current favorite?

I’ve been watching horror movies since I could pretty much walk, seriously. I’m not sure if my parents should have been letting me watch these movies, but they did lol! The first one I recall ever watching would have to be Nightmare on Elm Street which I still love today! My all time favorite horror movie is either May or The Bride of Frankenstein.

You live in Houston, Texas. How, if at all, do you find your hometown influencing your writing?

Well, I live in Deer Park, and for Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault, I actually used the town as the setting for it. Actually, most of my books that take place in the real world are set around here!

All of your covers are so beautiful! What’s been the process behind the artwork for your different books?

I actually suck at designing covers, so this is actually all thanks to the wonderful cover designers! I really wish I could design and do stuff the way they can.

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

I’d have to say Lyrics & Curses. It technically doesn’t come out until November 2020, but it’s set in 1985, and I just love 80s stuff so much! Plus, those characters are my babies!

What projects are you working on now?

I just finished up a short story and am trying to revise another old manuscript, so hopefully I can make those readable!

Where can we find you online?

Website: http://authorcandacerobinson.wordpress.com

Blog: http://literarydust.wordpress.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/literarydust

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/literarydust/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/literarydust

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16541001.Candace_Robinson

Tremendous thanks to Candace Robinson for being this week’s featured author!

Happy reading!

Deep Water: Interview with Chad Lutzke

Welcome back for this week’s author interview. Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight Chad Lutzke. Chad is the author of numerous books including The Pale White, The Same Deep Water as You, Stirring the Sheets, and Out Behind the Barn with co-author John Boden.

Recently, Chad and I discussed the inspiration behind his recent novellas as well as his process as a writer and his future plans.

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

I didn’t really start taking writing seriously as something I’d like to make a career of until 2014. At the time, my favorite writers were the usual suspects: King, Koontz, McCammon, Barker, and Poe, but since then I’ve had a far greater appreciation for Ketchum and Lansdale.

Congratulations on the recent release of The Pale White! What was the inspiration behind the book?

Thank you. I wish I had something cool to give you, but the truth is I don’t really remember. Sometimes ideas just pop into my head. That was one of them.

I absolutely adore the cover for The Pale White. It’s so evocative and tells such a story on its own. Who is the artist, and how did the cover develop?

Thank you. Zach McCain did that cover. He also did Out Behind the Barn, The Same Deep Water as You and Halo of Flies. It was just something I envisioned. I drew a sketch of it and sent it to Zach along with very detailed instructions on how I want the girls to look, the house, the stained glass and even the hues. Zach is great at giving me exactly what I ask for.

Earlier this year, you also released The Same Deep Water as You. What was the inspiration and process behind this book? How did it differ from your process with The Pale White?

The Same Deep Water as You is about 98% nonfiction. It was my life in the year ’89/’90. I took the liberty of adding a few things, but for the most part its autobiographical and an experiment for me to write…my idea of dark romance that was basically just for me. Fortunately, people seem to connect with it. Because nearly all of it’s true, it came out very fast. I wrote it in 10 days in a notebook by hand. The Pale White took much longer. It was something I kept putting on the back burner.

Your work often falls in the novella category. What is it that draws you to this length of stories? Also, how is your approach different or similar when working on short stories versus longer fiction?

I like a small cast of characters in isolated incidents. I’m not into long, drawn-out characterization, going on for pages with character backgrounds, and I’m also not big on description. Mix those dislikes with my love for lean prose and you get a shorter book. Often times the short stories I write are nothing more than me starting with an intriguing opening sentence. Something that hooks me enough to keep writing, with the need to know where it’s going. Eventually things come together and the pieces fit. It sounds messier than it is. While I still pants all of my books, I usually have more of an idea on where it’s headed before I start one.

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

Probably developing characters, particularly if I have no idea where things are headed. I love that spontaneity. It keeps me interested. Once I get a better idea of the character, I fill in the blanks later, but the most fun is getting there.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m finishing up a crime noir book called The Neon Owl and slowly writing another book with John Boden. I’m also writing a book with Boden and Bob Ford, which is in the early developmental stages. I have another project I’m doing with another author, but it’s too early to spill the beans on that one yet.

Huge thanks to Chad Lutzke for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find him online at his website!

Happy reading!

Poetry of the Night: Interview with Cina Pelayo

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today I’m thrilled to spotlight Cina Pelayo. Cina’s an accomplished and award-winning poet and fiction author with numerous books including Poems of My Night, Santa Muerte, Loteria, and The Missing.

Over the summer, Cina and I discussed her inspiration as an author, her gorgeous covers by Abigail Larson, and her future writing plans.

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

I started writing in high school, but non-fiction. My undergraduate degree is in journalism and I worked as a freelance journalist for about 10 years before moving on to fiction writing. I started writing fiction while pursuing an MFA. I have always loved horror. I watched my first horror movie at 5 and was pretty obsessed with all things horror to the point that my mother consulted with her priest about my obsession with horror movies, books, magazines and fascination with the occult. She wound up throwing away my Ouija board, but I put my foot down on horror movies and books and she left me alone from there thinking it was a phase. I guess it wasn’t a phase?

What draws you to horror? Do you remember your first experience with the genre, and do you have a favorite film or book that serves as your horror go-to?

I live in inner city Chicago – not the suburbs where most people live who say they live in Chicago. I’ve seen it all. Gangs. Guns. Drugs. My elementary school friend is serving life for murder. A classmate from high school was paralyzed days before graduation. I’ve covered stories as a journalist where I’ve showed up to the scene and the body is still there on the ground for all to see. Those things don’t leave you. They become a part of you. That together with my mother’s wild religious superstitions (We once had a quasi-exorcism in our house) have stayed with me. My mother has also had her fair share of exposure to horrific crimes that she has shared with me. A neighbor girl from her town was abducted and raped and killed and her dismembered body was discarded in her parent’s trash can. My mother also recalls people’s fears of witches and the occult from her town and she’s shared these stories with me. My father has shared stories of strange occurrences from his town as well.

I wish I could say that fiction has been my sole inspiration, but it’s really been non-fiction that has influenced my fascination with the horror genre. Why do people do horrible things to one another? What is their motivation?

In terms of my first exposure to the horror fiction genre it’s seeing A Nightmare on Elm Street when I was about 5-years-old while my brother was baby sitting me. Freddy is forever my first and favorite. In terms of a horror book that is my go-to, it’s The Exorcist. When I think of all of the horror novels that I wish I could write it would be that one.

You’ve written both fiction and poetry. Is your approach to writing the same or different depending on the medium? Is there one you prefer over the other?

Different. With fiction I am much more organized and structured, and sometimes it’s a really grueling experience with editing and rearranging scenes and understanding the logic and motivation behind what is going on. I think of it mathematically sometimes, if this plus this then it equals this, and then I wind up overthinking what is going on, how I am saying it and even where it’s located in the story. Sometimes that overthinking stunts me, I freeze, and I just stall writing.

With poetry, it’s much looser and I feel more at peace with what I am doing. It feels closest to painting for me when I write poetry. Yes, there is some editing and rearranging of things like with fiction, but I really enjoy writing poetry. It’s musical. It’s beautiful, and it’s much more personal for me.

You recently were a judge for the HWA Poetry Showcase Volume 6 alongside Christa Carmen and editor Stephanie M. Wytovich. What was that experience like, and do you foresee more editing work in your future?

Stephanie and Christa are two of the most wonderful horror writers working in our genre today. Both of them are incredibly smart and talented and just very pleasant to be around and talk to. I enjoy their work tremendously and I just enjoy them as overall people. It was a joy to be able to work on this project and I still can’t believe I was able to do that.

I’m not really an editor. I am in awe of those who edit. I’ve been trying to revive my indie press (Burial Day) for some time and that’s probably the most editing I will allow myself to do so that I can focus on creating.

Your books all have such beautiful covers! What can you share about the process of working with your cover artists?

Thank you but I can’t take credit for that. That is really the work of Abigail Larson. She’s a genius and I have been working with Abigail for about 10 years now. She is extremely busy (which is fantastic) and so I am lucky when she has availability. I usually send her a few ideas… all notes and not visuals because I really want her to come at it through her lens. She’s brilliant and always creates something perfect for my work.

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

Poems of My Night is the most personal. Santa Muerte is my first published work so that will always be a special piece for me. Loteria was my thesis, so it’s special because of that. I have really enjoyed my short stories lately. I have one coming out soon for a Puerto Rico charity anthology edited by Angel Luis Colon from Down and Out Books – Pa Que Tu Lo Sepas, and that is my favorite short story I have written in some time. I also really like the short story I wrote for She’s Lost Control.

What projects are you currently working on?

I feel like I have been editing this novel for two years… and that’s because I have. I’m trying to wrap up a detective-horror novel right now. After that, I’m likely going back to my YA horror roots but I’m not completely certain yet.

Tremendous thanks to Cina Pelayo for being part of this week’s author interview series. Find her online at Twitter and her website!

Happy reading!

Angels and Regret: Interview with Simon Bestwick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What projects are you currently working on?

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

Where can we find you online?

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

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

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

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

Happy reading!

Sun Dogs and Singing Sadness: Interview with Laura Mauro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What projects are you currently working on?

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

Where can we find you online?

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

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

Happy reading!

Don’t Go Back: Interview with Howard David Ingham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where can we find you online?

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

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

Happy reading!

Shining Legacy: Interview with V. Castro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What projects are you currently working on?

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

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

Where can we find you online?

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

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

Happy reading!

Fearsome Lullaby: Interview with A.C. Wise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What projects are you currently working on?

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

Where can we find you online?

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

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

Happy reading!

Laughter and Freaks: Interview with Nicole Cushing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What projects are you currently working on?

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

Where can we find you online?

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

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

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

Happy reading!