Horror Luminary: Interview with Sumiko Saulson

Welcome back! For our third interview for Women in Horror Month, I’m thrilled to present Sumiko Saulson! Sumiko is the scribe of Solitude, Happiness and Other Diseases, The Moon Cried Blood saga, and many other fantastic titles. In addition to being an incredibly accomplished author in her own right, Sumiko is also a huge supporter of her fellow writers. In 2014, she compiled 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction, an invaluable nonfiction resource that features interviews, short stories, and biographies spotlighting some of the very best names in horror.

Recently, Sumiko and I discussed her lifelong love of speculative fiction as well as her plans this February to celebrate both Women in Horror and Black History Month.

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

I decided I wanted to write when I was very young. I was an early reader – I was three when I started to read. When I was five, my father asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said a writer, an artist, or a veterinarian. I was writing poetry for money by the time I was in third grade. They were short poems for the inside of custom greeting cards and wedding invitations. I was on my high school newspaper. I got my first job as a writer when I was nineteen, writing for a computer magazine called The Node and its sister music publication, RockHEAD. They were local free newspapers in San Francisco.

Some of my favorite writers are Anne Rice, Christopher Rice, Stephen King., Toni Morrison, Frank Herbert, L.A. Banks, Susan Cooper, Dean Koontz, C.S. Lewis, Peter Straub, and Edgar Allan Poe.

Women in Horror Month 7What in particular drew you into the speculative fiction world? Have you always been a fan, or did your love for horror, science fiction, and fantasy develop later?

I’ve always been a fan. My parents were fans, so I started reading and watching sci-fi, horror, and fantasy at an early age – and particularly, horror and science fiction. My father subscribed to Issac Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine and I read the short stories when I was ten years old. The first novel I read was my mom’s copy of Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. I was in fifth grade. By the time I was twelve, I was reading things like Frank Herbert’s Dune and Stephen King’s The Stand

You’ve been an ambassador for Women in Horror Month in the past. Do you have anything special planned for the 2016 event?

I don’t have anything special planned for WiHM yet this year, but I am doing something special for February: I am hosting a month of African American horror blogs over at HorrorAddicts.net in honor of Black History Month. Many of the writers are black female writers I met when I was putting together 60 Black Women in Horror for WiHM back in 2012 and 2013, but the bloggers are not exclusively women. We have a lot of male speculative fiction writers involved as well.

Things that Go Bump in My HeadYou’ve written both novels and short fiction. How is your process similar (or different) depending on the length of the work?

I write character sketches and plot notes for novels. I never find that necessary for short fiction. I can outline the plot for a short story from beginning to end in my mind, and don’t have to spend much time making sure that the details don’t get away from me, or become convoluted. Sometimes I can get so confused when writing a novel that it seems almost impossible to finish it. I’m there over and over again with the sequel to Solitude, my first novel. It is called Disillusionment. I get so confused about details pertaining to timelines (since this deals with alternate timelines) that I have to go back and re-write things. I hate to re-write in the middle of a first draft. That’s almost never necessary with a short story.

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

Happiness and Other Diseases is my favorite. It’s the first romance I ever wrote. I didn’t think I would want to write anything remotely resembling a love story – not even one that takes place in a dark fantasy world, like Happiness does. I really fell in love with the characters. It’s also the first book I wrote a sequel to. I became very inspired when writing that book. It’s also one of the fan favorites, along with “Warmth.”

Where would you like to see your writing career in five years?

I would like to make a lot more money as a writer. It would be ideal to be able to support myself through writing within the next five years. I have that as a goal.

Big thanks to Sumiko Saulson for being part of this week’s Women in Horror author interview series! Find her online at her author website!

Happy reading!