Monthly Archives: August 2015

Madness Intervention: Interview with Casey Chaplin

Welcome back to the last post of August! That means farewell, summer, and hello, autumn! But before we get to the Halloween celebrations, let’s delve into this week’s author interview. Today, I am pleased to introduce Casey Chaplin. He’s the author of Lizzy, a terrifying story of one unusual girl’s descent into madness. But don’t let the serious material fool you. Casey isn’t above cracking a joke, especially mid-interview. Here, we discuss writing and all the psychological trappings that go with creating true horror.

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

Well, I think I’ve always had an interest in writing. I remember the first story I wrote back in the 3rd or 4th grade – Mumbles the Monkey. I’m still shocked that it hasn’t been adapted for screen, directed by Ben Affleck, and won an Oscar. So sad. Sorry, got a bit off topic. Anyway, I think I’ve always wanted to write, and be a writer. Favorite authors though? Oof, that’s a good one. I’m a fan of Douglas Adams, Christopher Moore, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz. I know, a weird mixture of comedy and horror… You could say it’s a comedy of horrors…no? No, that played out a lot better in my head.

Your novel, Lizzy, deals with the mental instability of the titular protagonist. How did you prepare to write such an in-depth psychological exploration?

Generally I’m a pretty laid back guy and will be the first to crack a joke, or be the least serious guy in the room, but when it came to Lizzy, I did have to make some mental preparation, and if truth be told, I really had to change my demeanor. I went to a dark, dark place, which, honestly, affected my job and life at the time. I watched and read a lot of dark literature and film – American Psycho to name one. I also used a bit of method acting, getting into character, so-to-speak, hence why it hit some parts of my life. I thought about how Lizzy would act, or react to a certain situation, and would play it out that way in real life… Minus the whole killing thing.

Lizzy a NovelSome people believe that when it comes to horror, “everything has been done.” How would you respond to such criticism?

Sadly, I would agree to a degree with those naysayers. There’s still some innovation in the field, but it’s hard to be original when the masses don’t necessarily want original, or the big productions of movies, or even A-list books need to make millions in order to succeed. Taking a risk is almost too much for a lot of people who want to be successful. I think a lot of the best and new ideas come from the little guy, the ones that publisher and firms are too afraid to pick up. The indie genre, or field, or whatever the kids call it now-a-days is the best place to see new and fresh thoughts. I’m sure I’m not the first to tell you that either.

If forced to choose, which part of the writing process is your favorite: developing point of view/voice, crafting dialogue, or establishing mood?

Tough question, truly. I kind of like to do all of the above. I find that developing that voice, the character’s personality is fun as Hell. You can really get inside somebody else and create what feels like a new being. But generating the interaction with other characters and having the outcomes be a surprise to even me is exhilarating. On the other…other hand, the mood and atmosphere is so important to storytelling. I find this to be the most subtle part of the process, which requires a certain craft to nail down. I honestly don’t think that I could pick a favorite, as you need all of those aspects to create something awesome. That, and if you think about it, they all tie into one another – they’re all equally important.

In what directions would you like to take your writing career? Another novel? Shorter fiction? Perhaps a combination of the two?

I’ve got a few other stories on the go. I tend to write in spurts, so some have been sitting on my hard drive for years, others a few months. But as of right now, they’re all novel length, or will be. I’d like to write shorts, maybe an anthology one day. As well, I also really enjoy script writing and poetry. It’s hard to say where I want to go with it all. However, I know I’d like to try my hand at something different than horror coming up. Maybe comedy. Who knows.

Thanks to Casey Chaplin for being part of this week’s author spotlight. Be sure to check out Lizzy’s website at!

Happy reading!


Fearsome Feminist: Interview with Caitlin Marceau

Welcome to this week’s edition of my author interview series! Today I’d like to present Caitlin Marceau. Caitlin is a horror fiction writer from Montreal. Her work has appeared in Saturday Night Reader, Morpheus Tales, and Sanitarium Magazine among other outlets. This fall, she will work with co-producer Dan Foytik on the horror podcast, The Lift.

Recently, Caitlin spoke with me about how her childhood fears and her devotion to feminism play into the creation of her macabre fiction.

When did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

Caitlin MarceauI knew I wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl. My grandpa used to tell me “made-to-order” stories—which is when I’d tell him how many goblins, witches, castles, etc. I wanted in a story, and he’d come up with a tale that fit the specifications — and that really got me into storytelling. My parents also stressed the importance of literacy from a young age with my brother and me, and they pushed us to get the most out of our education. I really think it made all the difference for me.

As for my favourite authors, I was a huge J. K. Rowling and Tamora Pierce fan when I was growing up. As I grew up I also fell in love with Bentley Little and Stephen King’s works, and I adore everything by Kelley Armstrong. It’s great to see a successful Canadian author who writes strong female leads in horror. She’s definitely an inspiration.

Your writing often touches upon or delves headfirst into the horror genre. What initially drew you to horror, and for how long have you been a fan?

I used to hate everything to do with horror. I scared really easily as a kid and avoided anything that was even remotely freaky. Like, I saw The Ring and FeardotCom when I was younger and had nightmares for months (to this day I still refuse to rewatch them). I was really prone to sleepwalking and sleep terrors, so I avoided horror with my life.

But as I got older I developed this “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. I ended up delving headfirst into horror films, books, you name it, and I became totally obsessed. I started experimenting with special effects makeup, I’d have Romero marathons, and my writing drastically shifted from fantasy to the macabre come high school.

Recently, you’ve presented your talk “Bikinis, Brains, and Boogeymen: How To Write Realistic Women In Horror” at several conventions. What inspired you to get involved at this level, and what research did you do to prepare yourself for a presentation on such an important and varied topic?

I think I started giving workshops and panels because I felt conflicted over my interests. My mom’s a feminist, my friends are feminists, and I’m a feminist. But there’s this idea that you can’t be a feminist and someone who works within the confines of the horror genre. Misogyny is so intertwined with classic horror, and even some modern horror, that the idea of feminism in the genre can seem ridiculous.

Morpheus TalesAfter I was published a few times through Sanitarium Magazine I decided to create a workshop that would help people write stronger, more realistic, female characters in horror while breaking down some of the stereotypes. I wanted to show people that you can create amazing women in the genre while still leaving them their agency and brain. I hoped that by deconstructing some of these tropes people would take a more humanistic and feminist approach to writing women in horror, as opposed to the archaic gendered one.

The workshop premiered at the 2014 Montreal Comiccon and was also featured in this year’s Ottawa Comiccon. It had a really great reception and inspired me to come out with another workshop, “Witches, Werewolves, and Wraiths: A Writer’s Guide to Monster Making,” which I had the chance to present at this year’s Montreal Comiccon.

As for the research and preparation, it can be a bit overwhelming. I’ve watched a lot of horror films growing up, have gone through tomes of horror literature, and I think that’s all helped in terms of research, but there’s also a lot of academic research that’s involved with it. Lots of feminist theory, theory on how to craft compelling fiction, not to mention I do a lot of independent critiquing and analyzing of the materials. So I try and get as much info from as many perspectives as I can before I come up with my own approach to things.

Name the horror trope you think is most overused.

The half-naked woman running through the woods from the slow, lumbering, monster… only for the creature to somehow get ahead and kill her. So frustrating.

What projects are you currently working on?

I have a few short horror pieces that I’m working on, as well as my first novel (which I could not be more excited about). I also have a play in the works and I’m going to be collaborating with Dan Foytik, of The 9th Story and The Wicked Library, on a project in the near future.

Out of your published pieces so far, do you have a personal favorite?

Up until June of this year it was my short story entitled “Hunger,” which is about men in the Canadian north during a whiteout (who are simultaneously being hunted by a wendigo). But The Wicked Library actually turned my short story, “Stuck,” into the third episode of their sixth season, and it’s fast become my favourite. The artwork, which was done by Jon Towers, paired with Dan Foytik’s incredible voice acting has definitely made it a standout piece for me.

Thanks to Caitlin Marceau for being part of this week’s author spotlight. Be sure to check out her website, and find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Happy reading!

Sparrow Incarnate: Interview with Julia Benally

Another week, another interview with a fantastic up-and-coming writer! Julia Benally is an author of cool and unusual speculative fiction. Her work has been featured in Sanitarium Magazine and Snapping Twig Magazine. And since I’m the editor, I can also reveal she has a story in the forthcoming fall anthology, A Shadow of Autumn. Below, Julia shares her refreshing perspective on the topic of writing.

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

Julia BenallyI decided to become a writer when I was eight years old. My teacher said that we were going to make books in class and suddenly I saw a gold leaf, leather bound volume of exquisite work. Of course, that day I got sick, so I couldn’t go and I missed it. My mom said we would make a book of our own so I wasn’t so sad. I really wanted to see the books my classmates made, but then they were just wads of paper folded into gray blue construction paper and I was so turned off. Ever since I’ve dreamed of that leather bound book and my fingers itched to write. Some of my favorite authors are C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen, Bram Stoker, Michael Crichton, Timothy Zahn and Harold Bell Wright.

You often write in the horror genre. What inspires you to create darker fiction, and what advice do you have for other aspiring horror writers out there?

What inspires me is the reservation. It’s a place full of superstitions and ghosts. Many times what I write doesn’t come from ghosts, but people. They can be monsters too. For the aspiring horror writer, I’d suggest to leave out the raunchy sex scenes and the blood and guts. That isn’t horror, it’s just gross and depraved. Personally I think the perfect horror is Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. It’s just creepy, especially when  it comes to the Captain’s log, a scene foolishly taken out in all the movies.

If forced to choose, which is your favorite part of the writing process: brainstorming story ideas, writing the first draft, or polishing a piece before submitting it to an editor?

That’s a hard question for me. I can say though that my least favorite is the first draft. It’s shabby, it’s all over the place, it’s downright ugly. So I suppose polishing it would be my favorite part. That’s when I can make it beautiful and play with the words, I can add and drop things, I can find holes, I can tighten it up. For me, it’s in the polishing that the characters come to life.

Sanitarium Magazine Issue 5Out of your published pieces, do you have a personal favorite?

My favorite would probably be my very first one because the first is always special. It’s call “The Bridges” and came out in the Sanitarium Magazine issue 5.

In what directions would you like to take your writing career? Are there more short stories in your future or possibly a novel?

Oh, I want to write for life. I can’t do without it. I have several short stories I’m going over, I have several more out finding a home and I’ve recently had one accepted. Not all of them are in the horror genre–for one thing I can’t stay scared all the time, that’s not healthy. I’ve just finished my first novel, a dark fantasy called Pariahs. That one is searching for a home now and it’s part of a series I’ve had in my head since I was 12.

Big thanks to Julia Benally for being part of this week’s author series. Be sure to check out her site, The Sparrow’s Nest. You can also find her on Facebook and Google-Plus.

Happy reading!

Promising Newcomer: Interview with Author Rayne Kaa Hedberg

For this week’s author interview, I’m pleased to introduce Swedish speculative fiction author Rayne Kaa Hedberg. Though just beginning, Rayne’s career is off to an auspicious start with a horror story in Sanitarium Magazine, one of my personal favorite publications out there. Below, Rayne and I talk secrets of the writing process and what’s in store for this up-and-comer.

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

Rayne Kaa Hedberg That’s a tough one. I’m not sure exactly when I decided upon having it as a goal, but I know I have always wanted to write in some shape or form. Already as a small child I composed stories, though up until seventh grade I primarily used it for creating stories I would use in my manga. Somewhere around that time there was a break and I became more inclined to writing only. I left the drawings and began to paint with words to compensate for the lack of visual images. Some of my favourite authors naturally include Stephen King, but also Joe Hill, Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman. They all have a way of showing instead of telling, and I enjoy reading their work.

Your short story, “Donor,” appeared last year in Sanitarium Magazine. Can you share a little bit about your process when writing that piece?

Right, so initially I wanted to submit another piece I had written, but as I didn’t become satisfied with it, I had to start over with a completely different idea. I wanted to have a story about a medical error where you left a great deal unsaid. I did my research, as it’s always a big part of the process, and found out some horrifying things about rules regarding organ donors. “Donor” was originally meant to be my finishing project for writing class. I decided it was worth a try to send it in to Sanitarium Magazine as I had been following their process since the very first issue. I thought I could try my luck since the story was the right genre. Later on I could tell my teacher my story got published, which was a pleasant surprise.

Is horror your favorite genre to write, or are you looking to expand into other genres as well?

I don’t think I have a favourite genre to write in. When I write it doesn’t start in that end. I don’t think about writing a horror story and move on from there. A spark of an idea lights up and as I begin to explore it then I see what type of genre it fits into. I do often write about some type of supernatural element present, however. Often I see how I do end up in horror, but I enjoy working in the various genres as long as it’s an interesting idea. I don’t want to get niched on the one genre. I simply wish to tell the stories.

What monsters or general tropes do you feel are most overused in horror?

Sanitarium Magazine Issue 20I would say the hype on zombies is rather big at this time. I don’t necessarily mind that since many of the writers manage to pull it off well, but at times I lose interest when there’s no element of surprise left. With that said, I am an avid fan of “The Walking Dead”, for example, but when it’s the same old thing with the virus, the survival, the struggle without a twist to it, the stories tend to get predicable. One of my pet peeves in horror has to be the vampire struggling with not wanting to be a vampire and refusing to drink human blood. Vampires now aren’t what they used to be. Although I’m glad they don’t all look like Count Dracula, I wish it wouldn’t be romanticised the way it often is now, in different aspects of the word. Their horrifying factor has been diminished over the years.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am working on a surrealistic novella written in Swedish, for once. After that is finished, I have to go through the pile of unfinished novels and try to see some of them through, but I try to stay focused by taking it one at a time.

Big thanks to Rayne Kaa Hedberg for being part of this week’s author spotlight. Be on the lookout for new fiction from this budding author!

Happy reading!