Music, Magic, and the Macabre: Interview with Maria Haskins

Welcome back! Today I’m thrilled to spotlight author Maria Haskins! Maria’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Flash Fiction Online, Gamut, and Capricious, among other outlets. At her blog, she maintains a monthly roundup of her favorite short speculative fiction (which has featured this very humble blogger right here), and she is also an accomplished music journalist.

Recently, between her many wonderful projects, Maria and I discussed her most recent publications as well as her inspiration 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?

Maria HaskinsI’ve been writing stories as far back as I can remember, and becoming a writer was always something I wanted to do. In a way, I’ve decided to become a writer twice. I grew up in Sweden and debuted as a writer there when I was 20, and had several books published in Swedish. After doing many other things (including going to university, traveling, moving to Canada, and having kids), I ended up stuck in a long spell of terrible writer’s block. I wrote almost no fiction at all for over 10 years. Then, last year, I kind of decided again to become a writer, and to take the step to write in English, the language I’ve been living in and with for over 20 years. I’m hell bent on making it stick this time.

I have a lot of favourite authors. My “old standbys” – writers I’ve been reading since my tweens and teens and keep coming back to – include J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula K. Le Guin, Ray Bradbury, Swedish writer Vibeke Olsson, Alan Garner, John Le Carré, and Umberto Eco. Newer favourites are Kai Ashante Wilson, Carolyn Ives Gilman, Angela Slatter, and N.K. Jemisin.

Your flash fiction piece, “Scent,” recently debuted in Flash Fiction Online. Quite a beautiful and haunting tale! What inspired you to weave together a story using a cache of perfumes and a highly complex mother-daughter relationship?

Thank you for the kind words about my story! The initial inspiration for “Scent” was the memory of my mom’s perfume collection. To be clear: my mother is nothing like the story-mother (thankfully!) but she has always had a lot of perfumes, and I can vividly remember being a child and looking at all those beautiful bottles with all these amazing scents. It was a very strong sensory memory of smell and touch and sight. From that, the story sort of spun itself, and it came to me with that image of a cabinet full of perfumes and a child reaching for a bottle. I did have the intention to write something fairy-tale-ish, because I believe that there is a lot of truth in the way that fairy tales describe childhood as perilous and often fraught with danger and fear. This was one of those stories that just seemed to arrive more or less fully formed: I wish that happened all the time!

In addition to your fiction, you are also a music journalist. How did you first become interested in writing about music, and do you often find music creeping its way into your fiction? Also, which songs are on your current playlist?

Dark FlashI started out writing about music a few years ago when Brian Basher of Hard Rock Nights (a great online radio show) asked me to write reviews for his website. Before that, I had been getting into a lot of new rock and roll, listening to new, often unsigned bands, and realizing how much great music was out there. I was still in the midst of my writer’s block and felt unable to write any fiction. Writing about music was a way for me to write (and have fun writing) even when I wasn’t writing, if that makes sense. A couple of years ago, I started up my own music blog, Rock And Roll, and I’ve just kept writing about bands and music I like as a way of sharing the love, I guess. Right now I have two wonderful writer friends (Maria Savva and Darcia Helle) who contribute to the site as well. I think it’s part of my personality to want to jump up and down and tell everyone about things I like (whether it’s music or stories), and blogging and sharing things on social media is a good place to do that.

It’s only more recently that music has crept into my fiction. One of my recent short stories called “Metal, Sex, Monsters” was accepted by the new magazine Gamut (I am deliriously excited about that), and it was inspired by rock and metal music in general, and Judas Priest’s music in particular.

My current playlist is extensive. I’m always listening to both old stuff and new stuff. Right now, it’s mostly a mix of tunes including Judas Priest, Black Star Riders, Thin Lizzy, Rival Sons, Ragdoll (a fantastic Australian band), the latest EP from Graham Greene called The Guitar Vinci Code. And some Crucified Barbara and Monster Truck and Trucker Diablo… Stop me now! It’s a long list and I will keep going on and on forever!

If forced to choose, which is your favorite part of the writing process: developing characters, writing dialogue, or establishing mood?

Ouch, that’s a very tough choice! If you twist my rubber arm I’d probably pick establishing mood. I love that part of writing: thinking about how to describe things and places and people in a way that conveys the mood I want to capture in the story. The mood of a story is probably one of the first things I have to make clear to myself before I can really write, because it influences everything: the characters, the POV, and the voice I use within the story.

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

Hopefully able to write and sell a lot of short fiction. Hopefully also hard at work on novellas or even a novel. Just… still writing, I guess. After not being able to write for so long it’s an amazing feeling to be writing again, and I don’t want to lose that.

What projects are you currently working on?

Lots of short stories! It’s really my passion right now and the ideas are flowing for me in a way that hasn’t happened in…probably forever. I love short stories: reading them, writing them… My main project right now as I’m doing this interview, is a short story that does involve music. It’s a story that’s been giving me some trouble, but I think I’ve finally cracked it.

Big thanks to Maria Haskins for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find her online at Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, and her official website!

Happy reading!