Interdisciplinary Iconoclast: Interview with Nicole DeGennaro

For today’s author interview, I’m pleased to introduce Nicole DeGennaro. She’s a speculative fiction writer with stories appearing in numerous anthologies. Her upcoming project called 341 is a fantastic interdisciplinary project that involves both authors and artists in an unusual hands-on way. Plus, Nicole cites both Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson as her horror inspirations, so there’s no way to deny this author knows her stuff.

Below, we talk about her upcoming project as well as her favorite part of the writing process.

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

Nicole DeGennaroTo be honest, it was never a conscious decision that I made. I grew up as a voracious reader (and still am), so I’ve always considered it a natural progression that I would go from reading to writing. A few years ago it occurred to me that people other than my friends and family might like to read my stories, and that’s when I started submitting to anthologies and whatnot.

Some of my favorite authors are Ursula K. Le Guin, Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke, and Maggie Steifvater.

Much of your work belongs to the gothic and/or horror genre. When did you first become interested in horror, and do you find yourself returning to certain stories/poems/films for inspiration?

I grew up watching The X-Files (and am SO excited for the new season), and I read some Stephen King when I was relatively young; The Stand is still one of my favorite books. Eventually I branched out into Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury and other staples of the genre. Like writing in general, writing horror was never a conscious choice for me either; most of the ideas I come up with just naturally take a dark turn!

I re-read The Stand often, but it isn’t exactly for inspiration. I tend to seek new sources of inspiration instead of returning to old ones because I’m always looking for ways to improve and expand my own writing, and I feel a good way to do that is to read new authors and stories. I do sometimes re-read the same short story collections from authors like Matheson and Bradbury because those will offer a lot of variety, which I find can plant new story ideas in my head.

You work in New York City. How does the omnipresent bustle of one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas impact your work (if at all)?

What a great question! New York City is such a large and diverse city; it’s great for people watching. You can get glimpses into lives that are completely unlike your own, and also see the full range of human emotions in a very short span of time (especially during the morning and evening commutes). It’s a great way to learn the nuances of human behavior. So I think being there almost every day has a more general rather than specific impact on my writing.

In what directions do you see the horror genre going in the next ten to twenty years?

I’d like to think it’s going to become more inclusive with regard to author and character diversity. This is already happening, but I hope it continues to do so. I also think that as technology continues to advance, horror will follow that. Like the movie “Unfriended” that came out recently (although I haven’t seen it yet). We’ll see more stories that play on our fears related to social media and technology. But I think the classic staples of the genre, like supernatural creatures and psychological horror, will always be around. They feed into a more primordial fear that I don’t think humanity can escape no matter how far we advance. (I should note that I am terrible at predictions.)

You have three works appearing in an upcoming illustrated short story book. What can you share about this project?

I am so excited about this project! It’s called 341; my girlfriend came up with the idea a few years ago, and we asked another of our friends to participate. It’s an interesting concept: each of us wrote one main story, then we read each other’s main stories and each wrote a response. So each author has three stories in the collection. Our responses had to be inspired in some way by the main story, but it was a loose requirement: we could do the same theme, or try to mimic the writing style, or repeat the imagery, etc. Then we each got an artist on board to illustrate our stories, and the artists have to do the same thing, taking inspiration from each other’s artwork. It’s been great fun so far. The collection should be available in October.

We’re hoping to do similar projects in the future and expand the number of writers and artists we have involved. Our Kickstarter for this first collection was successfully funded, so we know there is a good deal of interest in the idea.

Gothic Blue BookIf forced to choose, which part of the writing process is your favorite: developing characters, creating setting, or plotting the story?

Hands down, it’s developing characters. Most of my stories are character driven; I am so interested in how people react to events, how they grow over time, how we can damage and also heal one another. So it’s no surprise that when I do write horror, it’s mostly psychological.

Once I have the characters, the story usually follows. Sometimes I have to write character sketches, just figuring out the inner workings, before I even know what the story involving the character will be.

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

I feel like all writers must dread this question! It’s so hard to choose; they’re each like a little piece of me, and they have their strengths and weaknesses. Currently, though, I think my favorite is “Making Friends,” which is in Gothic Blue Book IV from Burial Day Books. It’s just this creepy story about loneliness, and I really love how it turned out.

Big thanks to Nicole for being part of my author interview series! Find her at her blog where you can learn more about the 341 project as well as her upcoming publications!

Happy reading!