Welcome back! This week, I’m thrilled to spotlight Cecilia Dockins. Cecilia is an accomplished writer of poetry and short fiction. Her work has appeared in numerous venues including Sanitarium Magazine and the HWA Poetry Showcase among others.
Recently, Cecilia and I discussed her inspiration as an author as well as her plans for the future.
A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?
I danced around the idea of becoming a writer after penning a script–using the term ‘script’ very loosely here–for my eighth-grade school class project. It was about a group of students murdering their teacher who is then spotted around campus after the fact. Frankly, there wasn’t much of a plot. I most certainly wasn’t the first kid to think of offing a teacher but to my benefit, I wrote the script before the spate of late low-budget 90s films like Teaching Mrs. Tingle and Killing Mr. Griffin. I’m not certain these days you could get away with writing that sort of thing for a school project, but at the time I felt a sense of freedom that I’d never experienced before. As for actively pursuing a writing career, that came much much later. I never knew any authors growing up, and I came from a blue-collar family with a thirst for the Pentecostal religion as well as for the drink. It seemed we never had a pot to piss in, so writing never felt like a practical or attainable choice; it was like saying I wanted to become an actress or an astronaut.
Anyway, I packed my bags and was out of the house before my senior year of high school, and that’s when I started my true education. I read everything I could get my hands on. I didn’t have a compass for what was good or bad fiction. At first, I read mainstream and male authors, but it was only after discovering short stories by women writers in college like Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Kathe Koja, Nancy Holder, Flannery O’Connor, Elizabeth Hand, Theodora Goss, and Shirley Jackson that I truly fell in love with storytelling. In an odd way, it’s like through reading their stories it gave me permission to write my own. They are still some of my favorite authors. Recent additions to that list include Caitlin Kiernan, Livia Llewellyn, and Nathan Ballingrud.
Congratulations on your recent acceptance to the Horror Writers Association Poetry Showcase, Volume 3 for your piece, “3 AM at Clio’s Laundromat”! How is your approach to writing poetry the same or different from when you write prose?
Thank you. My process for writing poetry is completely different from writing prose. Poetry is play. It’s connecting the dots, fitting a puzzle together. Then there’s something about the Southern accent that has a natural rhythm and cadence I’m attuned to, and I can hear it in my poems. Plus, I tend to think in fragments, which lends itself beautifully to the form of poetry. Writing prose feels like work. I outline and obsess. My first drafts are usually very disjointed, but I eventually get the story into shape.
You also have a poem, “The Mother of Monsters,” that will be appearing in The Dark Ones: Tales and Poems of the Shadow Gods anthology from editor Gerri Leen. What can you reveal about that piece?
It’s told from Ceto’s point-of-view as she births monstrous children into the world. It’s about grief and life, and the almost limitless capacity for a mother to love.
You were born and raised in Tennessee. Do you find that the South often creeps its way into your writing? Also, are there specific stories set in the South written by other authors that frequently inspire you?
Absolutely. I think wherever a person spends their childhood makes an indelible mark in the psyche because it’s such a special, fleeting, and confusing time. And yes; I’m frequently inspired by Southern authors. Steve Rasnic Tem’s Blood Kin, a powerhouse Southern-Gothic tale, and Elizabeth Massie’s Sineater are fine examples of novels that have inspired me. Their characters, though Southern, never feel cliché. I find I keep going back to Appalachian folklore, and have a particular affinity for Bloody Bones. My Memaw used to threaten us with him whenever we were getting into trouble.
Out of your published pieces, do you have a personal favorite?
Not really. I think I love and hate them equally. It’s difficult for me to see past the flaws, so I don’t reflect much on the stories or poems I’ve had published. Other than to say, I hope I do better on the next one.
Where would you like to see your writing career in five years?
My inner critic really wanted to take me to task on this question, and I had to shut her up with several shots of tequila. I would love to see the novel that I’m currently working on completed and published. It would be nice to open my email and receive an invitation for an anthology from an editor instead of wading through the slush. To make an actual living at writing . . . respect from my peers. But no matter what my career looks like in five years, I’ll still be writing and submitting. Nothing is free in this life, but I hope it can be earned.
Any links you’d like to share?
You can find me at www.ceciliadockins.com or at my home, which would be creepy. Yeah, so don’t do that. Oh and I’m fairly friendly on Facebook. Thanks for interviewing me, Gwendolyn.
Huge thanks to Cecilia Dockins for being part of this week’s author interview!