Welcome to this week’s Author Spotlight! Today, I am thrilled to present the talented K.Z. Morano. Ms. Morano is a speculative fiction writer whose fantasy, science fiction, and horror stories have been widely anthologized. Her book, 100 Nightmares, features–you guessed it–100 microfiction stories based on her own bad dreams. This is one writer who’s driven, prolific, and ready to take on the world. In between writing her super cool fiction, she was kind enough to answer some of my questions about how she became an author and where she plans to go from here.
A few icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?
I used to work as a ghost writer. I used to write articles about fashion, beauty, health, and other lifestyle topics. Seeing my work out there with other people’s names and bios attached to them kind of made me sad and then I told myself that someday, I’m going to get my work and my name out there. And then I started a blog, The Eclectic Eccentric. It was meant to be a fashion blog, really. But then it ended up being something else. I posted everything there—photography, poetry, haiku, anything that I felt like publishing. That was when I encountered writing prompts.
The photo prompts got me started. It’s easy for me to find inspiration in photographs. I started writing fiction and shared my stories on my blog. I started getting some positive comments from readers and blog followers. The support that I received urged me to keep writing. They told me to send my stories to a publisher or to a magazine and so I did.
I’m an eclectic reader and my list of favorite authors ranges from Clive Barker to Jane Austen. My favorite horror authors are H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and Neil Gaiman. I love authors like Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin, and F. Scott Fitzgerald and their readgasm-inducing prose.
What drew you to speculative fiction, and do you often find inspiration in sources beyond literature (e.g. film, television, or art)?
I’ve always been a bibliophile—ever since I was a little girl. My nose was almost always buried in books. When I was younger, I used to read a lot of romance novels and when I say a lot I mean boxes and boxes of them! I also read a lot of whodunits by Agatha Christie. Apart from horror, fantasy is also one of my favorite genres. Speculative fiction not just provided me with an escape from the mundane aspects of life. It also provided me with a way to see the world through a different pair of eyes.
I find inspiration in everything. Most of my writing inspirations come from everyday life. I could be doing something utterly boring or something totally exciting and then the idea will just hit me. One of the stories in my book, 100 Nightmares came to me while I was doing the laundry. That story was aptly titled “Laundry”. LOL
Your book, 100 Nightmares, is a fascinating concept and quite an impressive work in terms of breadth. What was your inspiration behind the book, and what was the most surprising aspect of writing it?
First of all, thank you so much for reading the book. I’m glad you enjoyed it. As for the inspiration, I’ve always loved writing micro-fiction. It’s where and how I started. In fact, my very first published story is a 100-word tale in Popcorn Horror Presents. Popcorn Horror hosted a writing contest, I sent in my very first horror piece, and I ended up being one of the finalists. So my drabble got published in the book.
I used to post a new 100-word story on my blog every single week. I started getting supportive feedback from readers and fellow writers from a group called Friday Fictioneers. The support and even the friendly competition helped a lot. Someone told me to compile a few of my stories and get them out there. So I did. Also, even though my stories have appeared in various anthologies, I wanted to do a solo project.
I had a blast writing 100 Nightmares but that didn’t really come as a surprise. The most surprising thing about it all was the reception. I really had no idea that it would be so well-received. I just wanted my stories to be read and they are! Another pleasurable surprise was the illustrations. I worked with the artists closely but I really had no way of knowing how they were going to interpret my written words and embody them with their art. In the end, all four artists involved did a fantastic job with the drawings.
Micro-fiction is a growing field in genre literature. Why do you think both writers and readers are drawn to these pithy tales?
Because it goes straight for the jugular. It’s not because the readers have short attention spans or because their lifestyles are too busy. It’s more because micro-fiction has this amazing capacity to capture and hold the readers’ attention from beginning to end. With micro-fiction every single word counts. There’s no space for anything unnecessary, no room to bore the reader out of his/her wits. Some people think that micro-fiction has no depth but that isn’t true. When done correctly, it can have everything that a story in a traditional length can possess, even the occasional surprise ending. You think there isn’t going to be a twist. It’s impossible. There are only 10 words left. But at the final sentence, the conclusion is revealed, the entire story changes right in front of your eyes, the blow is delivered, and then you are left utterly horrified.
If forced to choose, which part of the writing process is your favorite: developing characters, crafting dialogue, or establishing mood?
I’d say establishing the mood. The most challenging part in writing micro-fiction is setting the mood and then getting to the point in just a few words. But that’s also the most exciting thing about writing it.
Out of your published pieces so far, do you have a personal favorite?
My personal favorite would be my most recently published piece, “The Ghost in the Freak Machine” in the Undead Legacy anthology. It’s my very first zombie story and it delivers a fresh take on the living dead. It’s violent, it’s hardcore, it’s transgressive, and it’s real. I love it when editors don’t have too many crazy rules on what’s “appropriate” and what’s not.