Category Archives: Interviews

A Sinister Quartet: A Roundtable with Mythic Delirium

Welcome back! This month, I’m thrilled to feature a two-part spotlight on Mythic Delirium and their new collaborative book, A Sinister Quartet! This expansive omnibus features a brand-new novel from acclaimed author C.S.E. Cooney, a novella from Mike Allen, and the debut novellas from Jessica P. Wick and Amanda J. McGee.

Recently, I talked with all four authors about this fabulous new project, from its inspiration to why they’re writing in the horror genre!

Tell us a little about your latest project A Sinister Quartet. What inspired your particular story in the book?

C.S.E. COONEY: I feel like I always say this–only it isn’t always true!–but this one came from a dream I had. I don’t remember much about the dream, but I remember I was living in Rhode Island at the time, with my mother. I remember the scene with the sacrifice pretty vividly, and later a wild attempt at escape that ended by drowning in a river. I remember it had something to do with the movies, the desert, and strange angels. After my first (failed) attempt, I contacted a filmmaker friend of mine–Magill Foote–for some resources on the history of cinema, a subject I know very little of, hoping to give my secondary-world fantasy a bit of foundational structure through late 19th/early 20th century technology.

AMANDA J. MCGEE: I wrote “Viridian” about a year after my honeymoon in Vermont, where we had some excellent adventures. Vermont was just one of the places we visited, but we had so many odd and serendipitous experiences there I knew I wanted to write about it at some point. About a year after that I lost my favorite new aunt-in-law to cancer, which rekindled some old memories of similar losses that I found myself suddenly dealing with. The whole process of getting married was oddly stressful, though it turned out well, and I think I had that in the back of my mind when I started working on the story. It’s not exactly what I intended to throw in when I set out to write a Bluebeard retelling but I guess the best writing is personal.

JESSICA P. WICK: I wanted to write about a sister and brother and have their relationship be the important one in a story. I also wanted to write about a katabasis, a fairyland, and people making decisions that weren’t good for them. Then Ravenna pretty much just took over the story and told it to me. There’s definitely some Tam Lin influence here, maybe also a little of my trip to Central Europe. I know when I began writing “An Unkindness,” I had no idea how it was going to turn out, or even what was really wrong with Ravenna’s brother. Next project, I want to focus on a story about ladyfriends who are grown ass adults with lives.

MIKE ALLEN: “The Comforter” continues the story begun in (and expands the monster mythos invented in) my horror tales “The Button Bin” and “The Quiltmaker.” I didn’t write “The Button Bin” with intent to write a sequel, much less multiple sequels, but at the end of “The Quiltmaker” there are two children left alive whose situations are . . . let’s say, markedly different, yet related. After the publication of “The Quiltmaker,” I started wondering what would happen if, a few years later, one child tried to contact the other, which led to the couplet “how you and I are kin / my mom stole your mom’s skin.” The rest of it grew tendrils from that morsel.

I perhaps made a risky choice in presuming that “The Comforter” is so strange that it won’t matter that much if readers come to it without having read the earlier stories, but reactions so far seem to indicate I made a winning bet, whew!

How did A Sinister Quartet develop? Had you done a collaboration like this before, or was this your first time putting together a project with other authors?

C.S.E. COONEY: Mike Allen has probably answered this, but we’d been playing with the idea of combining our novella forces for a while, and either shopping something out or putting something together ourselves. It burgeoned from there into something rather more symphonic. I’m so pleased, both to have virtually “met” Amanda J. McGee and her wistful, lucid prose, and to see more work by Jessica P. Wick, of whom I’ve long been an ardent admirer, out in the world for others to slaver over.

AMANDA J. MCGEE: This is my first time participating in any kind of anthology really. It’s been a project of firsts for me — first published novella, first time working with a small press (or any press for that matter), first contemporary work. I’ve really enjoyed all of it. Mike, Claire, and Jess have been wonderful to work with, and I don’t think “Viridian” would have been as strong of a story without their input.

JESSICA P. WICK: The credit for A Sinister Quartet coming together as well as it does all goes to Mike Allen, who I’m sure will have more intelligent things to say about its making. I was familiar with Mike’s button bin world (pause here for a deep shudder) and I’ve long been an ardent fan of C. S. E.’s work, but I had no real idea what I was getting into with their pieces here, and this was my introduction to Amanda McGee’s awesomeness. The fact that these works all echo one another and seem to be playing on the same themes — to me, that was just a really marvelous surprise. Mike Allen’s a sharp, apparently tireless editor and co-creator, and I’m really just honored to have Ravenna included in the project.

MIKE ALLEN: I’ve worked with both C.S.E. Cooney and Jessica Wick before, as both publish-er (the Mythic Delirium zine, the Clockwork Phoenix anthologies, C.S.E.’s World Fantasy Award-winning collection Bone Swans) and publish-ee (C.S.E. edited my novel The Black Fire Concerto for Haunted Stars, Jess published my poetry in Goblin Fruit), while Amanda McGee is a new recruit. I consider A Sinister Quartet the unofficial sixth volume in the Clockwork Phoenix series.

As for how it came together, to try and keep it concise: about four years back C.S.E. and I had discussed appearing together in a book that would’ve been like one of those old Ace Doubles, two novellas (in her case it ended up being a full novel!) back to back with two front covers. That proposal never got off the ground — but I made the call that the book that could have resulted deserved to see daylight in some form, and set A Sinister Quartet in motion without quite knowing yet it was going to be a quartet. At about this same time, I read an early draft of Amanda’s “Viridian,” and C.S.E. put Jessica’s “An Unkindess” in front of me, and I saw threads that could connect.

Each of you has written in numerous genres, including fantasy and science fiction. What inspired you to write this book that focuses more on horror?

C.S.E. COONEY: I didn’t set out to write horror. I’m not sure I ever set out to write any particular genre; it’s only, I sort of see the world mythically, even the one I live in. That we’re living in dark times, that the dream upon which my story was based had embedded nightmarish aspects, and that I knew I’d be in a collection with Mike Allen—whose own “gross-outs” of fiction are epic—and therefore decided to up my own grotesque game a bit, probably all informed my prose on a subliminal level.

AMANDA J. MCGEE: It’s funny because I don’t know that I intended to write horror when I set out. I saw “Viridian” as more of a contemporary fantasy ghost story thing. I wasn’t sure how to market it. Mike, of course, immediately saw it for what it could be. I didn’t think of myself as a horror writer before that but I can see horror elements in some of my previous work now. It’s kind of freeing actually.

JESSICA P. WICK: I think I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that my natural inclination is just to wander my stories through the Dark. I give credit to fairy tales and a love of mischief and a hope/despair relationship with the human race, all of which lends itself well to telling darker stories. But I certainly didn’t think before, just for example, writing a certain scene in “An Unkindness,” ‘I want to make sure this is so horrific that when I express squeamishness irl to someone they’ll exclaim ‘YOU, who’s so cruel to [REDACTED]’ in tones of disbelief.’ (And yes, that did happen to me. And made me laugh. But it was unexpected.)

MIKE ALLEN: You may have noticed my co-authors laying the blame for this at my feet, hah, hah! I am certainly the capital-H Horror writer in the set, though I don’t limit myself to that.

It kind of goes back to the seed of the whole project — had that original proposal come to fruition, the book would have come out from a house known for horror and the Weird, and my half of the “double” was always going to be “The Comforter,” which is cut from the same mercilessly nightmarish cloth as its predecessors. It made sense for the other stories included to incorporate macabre turns and dark themes.

Huge thanks to the authors of A Sinister Quartet! Head on back here next week for Part 2 of our roundtable discussion!

Happy reading!

Appalachian Horror: Interview with Timothy G. Huguenin

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight author Timothy G. Huguenin. Timothy is the author of Unknowing, I Sink and the forthcoming Schafer.

Recently, he and I discussed his inspiration as an author as well as how his home state of West Virginia inspires his work.

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

Writing is the one thing that I can almost always remember wanting to do. In first grade, I got in trouble for Xeroxing all the pages of a Nate the Great book because I wanted to “make my own book”. That was my first lesson from my parents on copyright protection! Mom told me then, if I wanted to make my own books, I would have to write them. In second grade, I wrote and illustrated my first short story called “Tom and the One-eyed Dragon”. Dad kept it and we both forgot about it until our family moved when I was in high school and he had to clean out his office. To read it now, it’s pretty hilarious.

Stephen King is, of course, one of my favorite authors. And it’s not just his scary stuff—my favorite of his books is 11/22/63, which isn’t even a horror novel. Edgar Allan Poe introduced me to the genre when I was a teenager, and he continues to be an inspiration to me. I’m very interested in Appalachian literature, especially writers from my home state of West Virginia, which has produced some truly phenomenal writers who don’t get enough attention today. I’m thinking primarily of Davis Grubb (author of Night of the Hunter, among others) and Denise Giardina (her book set during the Mine Wars, Storming Heaven, is one of my favorite books of all time). Over the last few years, I’ve really been digging into the weirder side of the horror genre. In my opinion, Thomas Ligotti is one of the most innovative and unique horror writers of our time. I also really like Robert Aickman, though I haven’t read as much of him as I would like. Michael Wehunt has the perfect combo of weird horror and lyrical Appalachian prose. I love Greener Pastures, and I can’t wait for his next book.

Congrats on the recent release of your new novella, Unknowing, I Sink. What was your inspiration in writing this book?

Thank you! And congrats to you on Boneset and Feathers and your deal with Saga Press!

You know what, I can’t for the life of me remember where I first got the idea for Unknowing, I Sink. But I reckon the novella shows some influence from Ligotti and Aickman. I started it at the beginning of last year as a short story, but then it just kept going. And it took me quite a while to write, only making progress in fits and starts for most of the year. I was going through some pretty hard bouts of depression that year, which slowed me down a lot. But that dark season also informed a lot of the story and character development. It certainly wouldn’t have turned out the same if I was in perfect mental health the whole time. Still, I wasn’t able to make serious progress and finish the story until after I had rearranged my life and got a bit of a grip on my depression and anxiety.

Your book, Schafer, is due out in 2021 with Bloodshot Books. What can you tell us about your process in writing this one? How is it different from (or the same as) your previous work?

The idea for Schafer came to me while I was re-reading Poe’s “A Tale of the Ragged Mountains.” Though I ain’t sure Poe meant it that way, I found the concept of a personal hypnotist/physician very insidious, giving yourself completely to someone’s control like that. Nearly immediately, the character of Doctor Wolfgang M. Schafer entered my head, and I sat down and wrote the prologue. I don’t think a passage has ever come to me as fluidly, quickly, and completely as the opening of Schafer. Even after revising the novel several times, I probably changed at most two or three words of that prologue. In fact, I posted it on my blog soon after writing it, if anyone wants a taste:

The rest of it wasn’t nearly as effortless, but still a lot of fun. I found out that Poe had a strong fascination with the then new “science” of mesmerism and animal magnetism, so I read the other stuff he wrote in that vein and incorporated more of his ideas into my book. None of the hypnotism in Schafer is scientifically accurate, far as I know; I purposefully wrote it as if the quackery rampant at Poe’s time was somehow true. As I wrote, I realized it was becoming something of a vampire novel, though without any literal vampires. I kept that in mind and leaned into it some as it developed.

Like almost all of my other work, Schafer is set in West Virginia—Augustus Valley, in fact, which is a fictional town that has shown up in some of my shorter works, including Unknowing, I Sink. Though I generally set my novels and short stories in the present, or some nondescript time period, Schafer is set in the early 1990s. It has a bit of a Stranger Things vibe, in fact, as the main characters are in high school at the time.

You’re located in West Virginia. How, if at all, does the area inspire your writing?

I grew up in Davis, West Virginia, and I’ve lived in several different parts of this state. WV is an extremely unique place, misunderstood and often neglected place by many people—you wouldn’t believe how many times we have to tell others we’re not a part of Virginia. We’ve been our own state since 1863, thank you very much. There is a particular sense of place here, an identity and loyalty West Virginians bear which I have not found to the same degree in most other places. I love these old hills and the people. That is a big reason I continue to set my fiction here. There are enough outsiders writing about WV who don’t understand us. I want folks to see my own take on horror and West Virginia, kind of like Stephen King with Maine. Also, West Virginia just drips with natural beauty, in every season. So description of the natural setting really shows up in my stories a lot.

Sometimes I tell people West Virginia is almost like another country. It is beautiful and quirky and mysterious and old and crotchety but not without hope for growth. I’m afraid that I could write about WV all my life and still not be able to paint a thorough and appropriately nuanced picture of her. But I’ll probably keep trying.

You’ve written short stories, novellas, and novels. How is your approach the same or different depending on the length? How do you decide whether a work will be short fiction or longer fiction?

Usually when I plan to write a novel, I’ll have maybe a general concept and a character or two and let them stew in my head a while until I think they got enough of their own life for me to start writing something. So far I haven’t  tried to write a novel and had it become a short story or even a novella (though I have abandoned a couple novels). But like I mentioned earlier, I have started some stories I intended to be short and had them turn out much longer than anticipated. I usually take Stephen King’s advice: just let the story decide how long it wants to be.

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

Probably the polishing part. As much as I love discovering a new story and new people as I write, ain’t nothing like having written something. I find a lot of satisfaction in the sense of completion I get after finishing a first draft, even knowing that I still have revision work ahead of me.

What projects are you currently working on?

Last July I finished another novel called Order of Worms. After that, I felt pretty emptied out for a while. Just this week I finished a new short story, currently titled “The Yellow Carousel”, that’s all I’ve written since Order of Worms. Other than that, mostly I’ve just been trying to get an agent for OoW.

I’m also letting a few bigger project ideas slosh around in my head until one of them gels into something I can work with. I’ve been wanting to try a screenplay for a while. I also want to see if I could write a few middle grade books. But I might play it safe and do another adult horror novel. Who knows?

Where can we find you online?

My website is If you have trouble remembering how to spell that, you can also use I love to connect with readers and writers! There is a contact form on that page that anyone can use to send me a note. I am also on social media, unfortunately. Here are links to all that:

I use those mostly begrudgingly, but I really do love email. If you want a sure way to connect with me, use my website contact form, which goes straight to my inbox. You can also use the address

Thanks so much!

Big thanks to Timothy G. Huguenin for being this week’s featured author!

Happy reading!

Electric Horror: Interview with Mackenzie Kiera

Welcome back! Today, I’m thrilled to feature author Mackenzie Kiera. With Lisa Quigley, she’s the host and creator of the award winning Ladies of the Fright podcast. Mackenzie’s new book, All You Need is Love and a Strong Electric Current, is out now with Unnerving.

Recently, Mackenzie and I discussed her inspiration as an author as well as her favorite parts of the writing process and what she’s got planned next.

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

I don’t remember not wanting to be a writer. Although, it was very important that I wasn’t only going to be a writer. See, I was afraid of people telling me: “you will never make any money as a writer” so I always paired ‘writer’ with ‘paleontologist’ or ‘archeologist’ or whatever science I was reading about. I was never concerned with if being a writer would make me money. My dad worked in advertising as a writer, so I knew it was possible. Just, no one else seemed to think so. Some of my favorite authors? Oh, man. Right now it’s got to be Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Alma Katsu, Grady Hendrix, Stephen Graham Jones, Rebecca Roanhorse, John Scalzi are my new shiny favorites—amazing people, all of them. A couple of books that I think will always sit on my shelf are the GOT series, Catch-22, Swan Song, Nos4A2, The Red Tent, Dante’s Inferno, and the Sookie Stackhouse series.

Congratulations on the release of your debut, All You Need is Love and a Strong Electric Current! What was the inspiration for this story, and how long did it take you to develop it?

Thank you. This happened in a couple of short bursts. I wrote the short story version on a dare in a sitting or two. I made it to the final round of a couple anthologies, but ultimately it was turned down because it was too graphic. I drawered it for a few years until Lisa turned me on to the possibility of sending a pitch to Eddie Generous over at Unnerving Press for the Rewind or Die series. At the time, my son was about five months old and I worked full time from home. I couldn’t imagine taking much else on, so I pitched CURRENT to Eddie, fully expecting for it to get turned down, and then I could at least say I tried, right? When he got back to me, he seemed pretty jazzed on the idea, which means I had to write the novella. I think it took me a couple of months? I drew heavily from some choice slashers Stephen Graham Jones told me to watch as slasher homework, and then, while I wrote, I was listening to the soundtrack to Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

What in particular draws you to horror fiction?

The truth. I think horror tells the truth in ways other genres can’t. For instance, after the traumatic birth of my son, I had debilitating anxiety and felt like unless I stayed in my son’s nursery that something large and toothy was waiting to eat him around every corner. I didn’t want company. Horror pulled me up. Horror had how I felt, but on the page. I read Laura Purcell’s The Silent Companions and felt like I could breathe again. After a healthy dose of slashers, I felt a lot better. To me, horror is brain medicine. It lets me know that I’m not crazy, that monsters are real. But, horror also holds the secret that even though there are monsters in the world, they don’t always win.

You’ve written short fiction, and now with your new novella, you’ve also tackled longer fiction. How is your approach different or the same depending on the length of the work?

I actually truly hate writing short stories. I enjoy writing non-fiction or craft directed essays, but I struggle with the short fiction format. I’ve written novels (unpublished and probably for the better) so the novella form actually felt like a perfect length.

In addition to your fiction writing, you’re also co-host of Ladies of the Fright! How if at all has podcasting changed your approach to storytelling?

Oh, that’s a really good question. Considering I’ve been writing the whole time, I don’t think it has changed much. Our interviewing may change a bit, now that we can interview authors as authors ourselves, but considering the idea is to spotlight our guests, I can’t imagine much changing.

If forced to choose, which of the following is your favorite part of the writing process: developing a character’s voice, establishing mood and setting, or mapping out plot points?

Ha! Oh, the voice and plot points. I enjoy hearing how my characters speak and fine-tuning their quirks and favorite phrases. Plot points are fun too because I tend to map those out with a glass of wine late at night in one of those cheap drugstore composition notebooks.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am working on a new novella titled: The Attic Man and Madeline. It’s a possession story with a trope flip. Lots of demon sex, some intense black magic, and one crazy bitch. It’s been a fun time writing it, is what I’m saying. We also have some really great plans with the podcast, but that’s a secret!

Where can we find you online?

Best place to find me is on Twitter. I’m Kiera1Mackenzie. My website is (although I’m not sure it’s 100% up to date) and then the podcast is, and LOTFPod. Be sure to check out our blog as well! We have some new stuff happening in those corners.

Thank you! This was so much fun.

Huge thanks to Mackenzie Kiera for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

Withering and Wonderful: Interview with Ashley Dioses

Welcome back! Today I’m thrilled to spotlight author Ashley Dioses. Her brand-new poetry collection, The Withering, is due out soon from Jackanapes Press.

Recently, Ashley and I discussed her inspiration as an author, her awesome new book, and what she’s got planned next!

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

It seems I always wanted to be a writer. I don’t exactly know what triggered the exact moment, but I was writing short stories since elementary school. My dad was a writer and that’s probably where I got it from. I grew up reading J. R. R. Tolkein, Brian Jacques, and then later Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Edgar Allan Poe so those authors will always be some of my favorites. Later on I read Clark Ashton Smith and fell in love with his writing. Favorite contemporary writers include Nicole Cushing, Damien Angelica Walters, Christine Morgan, S. L. Edwards, and many others.

Congratulations on the forthcoming release of your poetry collection, The Withering. What can you share about the book?

Thank you! It is a collection of horror poetry from my teenage years. I wrote a lot of dark stuff during that time and that’s really when I started focusing poetry over other kinds of writing. It has 55 poems broken up into 4 sections. The themes for each section are nature horror, supernatural horror, psychological horror, and body or gore horror. There are ten full-page artworks by Mutartis Boswell, who also did the front and back covers. There’s also an introduction by John Shirley. I also include an afterword, a few notes on various poems, and a chronological list of the poems.

You write both poetry and fiction. How is your approach the same or different for each medium?

For poetry, all I need is an image or a line for me to take off and write a full poem. For fiction, I really need to be organized and have a plan. I need beginning, middle, and ending ideas before I can even start writing a story.

What draws you to horror? Do you remember the first horror film you saw or horror story you read?

My dad was a big fantasy and horror fan. When I was young he started me off by reading me fantasy stories which led me to reading them on my own. It didn’t take long though before he started getting me to read and watch horror. Probably one of the first horror films I saw was probably The Nightmare Before Christmas followed shortly by The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I also remember watching The Crow late at night in my room when I was supposed to be asleep. One of the first horror books I read, that I remember, is The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. I was also fascinated with witches at the same time (not that that has changed) so I got my hands on every book about witches I possibly could.

How if at all has living through 2020 shaped your writing?

It really hasn’t changed much except for the fact that I’ve written less this year than previous years. I’ve been focused on reading more to get fresh ideas.

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

When it comes to fiction, I love creating characters. My favorite part is to create a believable person and give them ambitions and conflicts and personal demons they have to live with or get through. For poetry, it’s definitely establishing a mood. The atmosphere has to be perfect.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a collection of Gothic and Decadent poetry called Diary of Vampyress. The ‘diary’ belongs to the vampyress, Countess Nadia. The book opens up with a sonnet cycle based around her and her character. It currently has over 60 poems and is divided up into sections by subjects. After the sonnet cycle, the sections are Vampires and Devils, Witches and Werewolves, Daemons and Death, Other Dead, Halloween, Femme Fatales, The Seven Seals sonnet cycle, and Translations.

Where can we find you online?

You can find me on various social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, but to really stay up-to-date with what I’m working on you’ll want to check out

Tremendous thanks to Ashley Dioses for being this week’s featured author!

Happy reading!

Wicked Whimsy: Interview with Madeleine Swann

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight the talented Madeleine Swann! Madeleine is the author of Fortune Box and The Vine That Ate the Starlet, among other awesome works.

Recently, she and I discussed her inspiration as well as her favorite parts of the writing process!

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

I’ve always written in some form or other but stopped when I was working a boring job. Then, after a breakup around 2010/2011, it just hit me what was missing and I started taking it a lot more seriously.

I was always a big fan of Neil Gaiman, Roald Dahl, Haruki Murakami, Lewis Carroll, Dorothy Parker and Leonora Carrington

Congratulations on the release of your new book, The Vine That Ate the Starlet! What was the inspiration for it, and how long did it take you to write it?

Thank you so much! On and off I think it took about a year. I unintentionally wrote a prequel short story (which is on my YouTube channel) and found myself wondering what would happen to the characters after it finished. I still wonder, so I imagine I’d like to do a sequel at some point.

I watch a lot of silent films and really wanted to set something during the 20s. I mostly enjoy stories of glamorous flappers, weird horror or crime and Vine is a combination of them all.

Your collection, Fortune Box, was released from Eraserhead Press in 2018. What can you share about your process for the book?

Before I wrote Fortune Box I wrote a list of potential every day problems, like ant infestation, and a list of solutions, and jumbled them all up and picked out anything that sparked off an idea.

Your work has a wonderful balance of whimsy and menace. Are there other authors out there in particular that you look to for inspiration on striking this balance?

Thank you! Nicholas Day described my writing as malicious whimsy too and I love being known for that. I think the people that have most inspired me in recent years are the Russian absurdists like Gogol or Daniil Kharms. I love Kharms’ anti story thing, a big weird set up and anti climax. Another is The Palm Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola, it’s malicious whimsy through and through, some very silly and very dark moments.

You’ve written both short fiction and longer fiction. Do you prefer writing one length of story to another? How is your approach different or the same depending on the length of the work?

I think you can usually kind of sense when a story is a flash fiction or longer piece of work, I’m not sure how, it’s like an instinct. With a flash I just start writing and see what happens, but anything longer I make lots of notes, and if it’s a novella I’ll also do an outline. If it’s set in the past I do a ton of research, I think that’s really important.

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

I do enjoy dialogue, if you have the characters clear in your mind it can be a lot of fun.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m not allowed to say! I’m currently working on a novella, that’s about all I can tell you sorry!

Tremendous thanks to Madeleine Swann for being this week’s featured author! Find her online at her website as well as on Twitter and YouTube!

Happy reading!

Gloriously Gothic: Interview with Claire L. Smith

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today, I’m thrilled to spotlight Claire L. Smith. Claire’s debut book, Helena, is out this month with Clash Books.

Recently, Claire and I discussed her inspiration as an author as well as how Gothic horror and visual art influence her writing.

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

Icebreakers, awesome!

I really wish I had this epic, super villain-like backstory to tell but this is tl;dr version.

I was fourteen and we were learning about ‘suspenseful writing’ in English class and my teacher gave me back my writing project with a pretty good mark and a note in the feedback section saying how much he enjoyed it. I was an average student at best so this was one of the few times I’d really excelled at something, let alone something that I had enjoyed doing. It was a big ‘what if?’ moment and it gave me that little bit of confidence and encouragement I needed to write outside of school assignments.

It seemed like such a small, insignificant thing but looking back on it, it really made an impact on me. It also makes me appreciate teachers more as well since they have so much opportunity to make a difference in kids’ lives.

Okay, favourite authors! Edgar Allan Poe is an all-time favourite, along with Angela Carter, Sylvia Plath, Mary Shelley and Charlotte Gilman Perkins.

Congratulations on the forthcoming release of your debut novella, Helena! What can you share about this book? How long did it take you to write it, and were there any surprises along the way?

Thank you!!

I can share that it’s coming out on October 13th from the lovely people at CLASH Books and that it’s about a mortician/funeral director named Helena who has the ability to see ghosts. However, this gift is more of a curse as a ruthless serial killer begins to upset the frigid, undead souls that haunt her whilst also drawing a large amount of suspicion towards her.

I’m too scared that I’ll give too much away so I’ll leave it at that.

I think it took me a good month and half to finish. It was one of those ideas I’d had in the back of my head for a while and I was desperate to get it down on paper (or word document in this case).

There were PLENTY of surprises to say the least. As I was writing it, I was having a really hard time and finishing the manuscript sort of became a part of the chaos. However, it was also a commitment to myself, a sort of promise that I wasn’t going to give up. So, the book is now a kind of physical remainder for me that light can come from dark times and that there is always a possibility for things to get better.

Your novella incorporates many Gothic elements. What draws you to Gothic horror in particular? Do you remember the first Gothic fiction you ever read or the first Gothic films that you saw?

Gothic horror is just a genre I really click with. I just love all the tropes and clichés of it. I also think it can be a very powerful genre. I remember reading books like Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte or other similar works and just feeling so touched by the heroine’s story.

My introduction to the gothic horror genre was Edgar Allan Poe. I remember reading ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ in high school and was just enchanted by the tension and atmosphere of that piece. I think it also sparked my interest in horror in general, since I’d avoided it up until that point (I was the biggest scaredy cat as a kid). I then got into the works of the Bronte sisters, Mary Shelley and Charlotte Gilman Perkins, and before I knew it I was hooked! In regard to films, I think the first gothic film I saw was Crimson Peak and it remains one of my favourites.

In addition to your fiction, you’re also an artist. How if at all do your fiction and visual art intersect? How is your process different for each medium, and how is it the same?

Yes, I’ve actually just launched my Redbubble store which I’m really excited about. I definitely think that my fiction side and artist side intersect because I try to incorporate some storytelling aspects into my artwork and I love drawing inspiration from horror and fantasy genres.

I mostly work in ink and watercolour because I love the texture of those mediums, as well as some digital applications (like photoshop) to refine the piece. I’d really love to expand into other mediums like oil paints as well.

My process more depends on what I’m feeling more than the mediums. I started drawing as a means of meditation and grounding because it makes me feel present and calm. So, when I’m in that zone, I just draw to my heart’s content and don’t have much of a process.

But if I’m seriously sitting down to draw something for a commission or for a challenge, I normally start with researching for references, then I do some brainstorming to figure out the layout of the illustration/artwork before drawing up an outline. Then I go over it in ink pen before moving onto watercolour if I think it’ll fit the piece and if I want to refine anything or want to add colour then I put it into photoshop.

You’re also a filmmaker. How did you get started in the world of film, and what draws you to the cinema?

Filmmaking is definitely a neglected love of mine since I don’t get to do it as often as I get to write or draw. I think one of the first films that really sparked my love of cinema was ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and ‘Black Swan’ because I could see how the medium of film was used to perfectly (and spookily) tell the story. I find it so fascinating and become so drawn into the little details and what went into making each scene. Some of my favourite filmmakers have to be Guillermo Del Toro, Jennifer Kent, Ana Lily Amirpour and Ari Aster.

I started out mostly doing small jobs or roles for filmmaking friends and colleagues, although all that has been put on hold because of the state of the world at the moment, haha. Right now, I’m working on my screenwriting and looking into where else I can apply my skills in the industry.

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

I have to say creating and developing characters is my favourite. It’s really interesting and fun trying to come up with different people, establishing their backstory and coming up with rules about how they act, talk and respond to things. Dialogue is also great fun to write, especially when there’s a witty/sarcastic character involved.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m in the middle of editing another novella (another gothic horror) about two little girls who get lost in a haunted house. I’m also working with author Haley Newlin as an illustrator for the special hardcover edition of her upcoming novel, ‘Take Your Turn, Teddy’ which I’m very excited about. I’m also opening art commissions soon!

Big thanks to Claire L. Smith for being this week’s featured author! Find her online at her website and on Twitter!

Happy reading!

Dead and Breakfast: Interview with Gary Buller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you currently working on? 

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

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

Happy reading!


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

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

So let’s take it away!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy reading, and happy Fright Girl Summer!

This is Horror: Interview with Michael David Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What projects are you currently working on?

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

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

Happy reading!

Lamplight and Forests: Interview with Christopher Stanley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What in particular draws you to the horror genre?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you working on next?

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

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

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

Thanks for all the great questions, Gwendolyn.

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

Happy reading!