Welcome back for my final interview of 2018! And what a delightful interview it is! I am positively thrilled to spotlight author Sara Tantlinger. Sara is the author of the poetry collections Love for Slaughter and The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, as well as several short stories.
Recently, Sara and I discussed her favorite authors, her inspiration as a poet, and her future plans as a writer!
A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?
I had been interested in writing since I was a kid, but I didn’t get serious about it until halfway through my undergraduate career. I dropped my education major and instead focused on English literature and creative writing at Seton Hill University (SHU). I stayed at SHU for my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction and am so glad I made that choice.
Edgar Allan Poe was my first poetry love, but some other writers who have really influenced and inspired me are William Blake, J.K. Rowling, Catherynne Valente, Sierra DeMulder, Richard Siken, Gillian Flynn, Caroline Kepnes, and Clive Barker.
First off, congratulations of the success of your poetry collection, Love for Slaughter! What was the inspiration for putting together the book, and how did you select which pieces to include?
Thank you! It’s so cool to still see the book receiving good attention after having been out for over a year. Love for Slaughter was inspired by the whole concept of folie à deux, which sometimes gets referred to as “madness shared by two.” I was fascinated by the idea of how something as pure as love could actually be twisted and mutilated into bloody, morbid poems. I was also inspired by the darkest parts of love and how such a powerful sentiment could lead people into madness over obsession or lust.
Horror and romance are the genres that tend to elicit the most visceral reactions from people since they really are the genres of emotion. Horror and romance writers have to overcome a lot of stereotypes from both readers and from writers in other genres, so I was excited to mesh the extremes of both concepts together in Love for Slaughter and have dubbed it a “horrormance” collection.
I ended up writing way more pieces than I needed to include for the collection, so when I went to finalize it all, which took a few tries, I mostly looked to cut pieces that seemed too similar or that just weren’t as powerful to me as others. I hate the idea of quantity over quality, and I think it’s wise to be aware of how many pieces you’re putting into a collection and how long it’s going to be since reading poetry is a different experience than reading prose.
You are currently accepting submissions as editor for the Not All Monsters anthology. What inspired you to get into the editing side of the industry, and what are you looking for in terms of submissions?
Yes! I am insanely excited about this anthology, and I cannot believe we have over 100 submissions already with more rolling in daily. This project is especially close to my heart since we’re seeking out women writers, so being able to actively do something that promotes women in horror means the world.
I also genuinely love editing. I have a few different jobs rights now, but if I ever get the chance to make a full-time career out of editing, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Having the opportunity to help other writers through edits and revision and assisting in strengthening their manuscripts is really fulfilling. I get to do what I love while watching writers succeed.
For Not All Monsters, I am looking for polished prose with character-driven stories that convey powerful messages. I love poetic prose and anything gothic and macabre. I want to see women kicking ass and refusing to be victims. Women are so strong, and it is important fiction reflects that, especially in horror. For any ladies thinking of submitting, definitely check out the theme and full guidelines here:
You write both fiction and poetry. How is your process different (or similar) depending on the medium?
That’s a great question. Every time I think I have my writing process figured out, it seems to change. For poetry, the writing tends to come much easier and more organic for me. I’m much better at translating a powerful emotion or event into a poem than I am at prose. Sometimes it helps to write a poem from the point of view of my characters and then use that to help flesh out exposition.
Short stories have long been the bane of my existence, but I started to sell some this year and it’s really motivated me to keep writing more and to continue crafting a short story into something memorable. Outlining has become my best resource for fiction recently. I used to be way more of a pantser, but outlining and becoming more organized has been slowly saving me as I work on future projects.
Like me, you’re from Pennsylvania! Do you find the landscapes or overall feel of the Keystone State sneaking its way into your work, or do you try your best to get as far away from the state as you can when writing?
Oh yes, the landscape and scenery often creep into my work, especially since I live in the woods in the middle of nowhere. The setting is so prime for horror inspiration – old woods, big farmlands, abandoned places, weird animal noises in the middle of the night…I love it! After visiting the abandoned turnpike and tunnel near Breezewood a few years ago, I loved it so much that I set my thesis novel for graduate school around that area but in a much darker world.
In the future, I definitely hope to play with different settings, but Pennsylvania really has some fantastic inspiration. Every town here feels a little different, and there’s so much to explore and then plot into stories. I visited the destroyed Kinzua Bridge in PA earlier this year, and it gave me some twisted story ideas that I’m excited to play with.
As a female horror writer, what are your hopes for the future of the genre? What do you think is going well, and where would you like to see change?
My biggest hope is to see the continuous rise of women in horror fiction, films, and more. Recently I have seen open calls looking for women in horror, and other editors really doing their best to encourage women in the genre to submit their work. The Ladies of Horror Fiction website/social media that recently came about is an amazing resource, and it’s fantastic to see all they are doing to help promote women.
I think it’s a good time to be a woman in horror right now, not that there still isn’t work to be done. Horror has long been dominated by men, so I hope to see more diversity in anthologies because I still see collections that are nearly all men with maybe one token woman in the contents, if any women at all, so that’s something I certainly hope to see shift to be more diverse as we continue celebrating women in horror.
What projects are you currently working on?
My next poetry collection, The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, will be out with Strangehouse Books very soon! (Gwendolyn’s note: since this interview, the collection has been released, and it’s amazing!)
Currently, I am sending around my thesis novel from graduate school and a poetry collection that actually isn’t horror, so they are both floating in market space.
My WIPs right now include a weird novella that’s taking me in some strange directions, and a historical horror/dark fantasy novel inspired by Ranavalona I of Madagascar, who sometimes gets cited as one of the most murderous women in history. I am having a blast with the research for this one.