Tag Archives: LampLight

In the Blood: Interview with Catherine Grant

Welcome back! Today I’m thrilled to feature author and editor Catherine Grant. Catherine’s fiction has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies, and she’s served as an editor at both LampLight and Shock Totem.  She was also recently named Assistant Director of NecronomiCon Providence (congrats again, Catherine!).

Recently, she and I discussed her work as an editor, her inspiration as a writer, as well as the release of her new chapbook, Power in the Blood.

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

Catherine GrantI’ve wanted to be an author since I was a little kid. I wrote stories all the time in grade school and then when I was fifteen I took a crack at writing something longer. There is a single copy of that story that lives with my best friend and I’m hoping it will never see the light of day. In fact, next time I see her I might steal it and burn it.

When I was a kid, I was in love with Roald Dahl. I read Matilda over and over because it appealed to me as an intelligent, sensitive little girl living in a world where adults were terrible and sometimes abusive. Matilda’s frustration, loneliness, and, eventual revenge, was so satisfying to me, that I’d imagine Roald Dahl himself must have dealt with abusive relationships with adults as a kid and knew that pain all too well.

My favorite author now is Jeffrey Ford. His writing is beautifully written, vivid, engrossing, original and he has the ability to craft a satisfying ending better than any author alive right now. I will fight anyone who tries to argue this. I wish to someday be half the writer Ford is. His work doesn’t conform to one genre, it is just good story craft, and I think that is also something I’ve recognized as a goal in my own work.

What initially drew you to horror and dark fantasy? Do you remember the first horror film you saw or the first horror story you read? As a writer, what are your favorite mainstays of the genre, and which tropes do you wish would just go away?

I think I’ve always been drawn to darker subject matter, because it seems more genuine to me and evokes more sincere emotion. I started with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and then somehow skipped straight to reading Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King and Anne Rice. Most of that reading was facilitated by the fact that I had a Little Professor Bookstore within walking distance to the house my parents were renting, and plenty of babysitting money to get whatever I wanted, unchaperoned. This is how I ended up with a copy of Nighmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King at age twelve. That book basically changed my life and made me a lifelong horror fan.

I love any horror story that is really about a family in peril, such as The Shining or The Babadook. One of Stephen King’s strengths is that his horror really isn’t about the monster, it is about the relationships between people and how delicate and complex they are, how easily destroyed or lost to “evil.” I think any “trope” can work as long as it isn’t really about the monster, but about more complex inner and outer conflict that really anchors the story. So, in short, I don’t think any tropes should go away, I think they just need to work harder at capturing audience attention, especially right now when so much media is being done so well.

You are an editor at LampLight, and you have worked as a slush pile reader at other publications in the past. What in particular do you look for in stories? Also, what has editing and reading slush taught you about writing that has helped you as an author?

LampLightEditing and reading slush has taught me so much about my own writing. I recognize more easily what doesn’t work and what will capture an editor’s attention. Editing has taught me a lot about the structure and pacing of short story writing that I don’t think I could have learned by just writing.

As far as what I’m looking for, I seek out stories with a good hook that get me engrossed in the story right away. I love fiction with a powerful, consistent voice. I want the voice to feel like melted butter on a biscuit as I’m reading it, or like gravel underneath my tongue, whatever works best for the tone and subject matter of the piece. It also needs to be emotionally compelling. Pull on my heartstrings. Make me cry or laugh or want to kick someone’s ass.

I’ve read for both Shock Totem and Lamplight Magazine, and both publications were very different in what the senior editors were looking for. I look for pieces that fit with the tone and vision of the magazine, which has been difficult because there have been pieces that I have loved as a reader, but as an editor, they just didn’t fit. This is why I tell writers that “isn’t for us” doesn’t really mean anything as far as quality and should never be taken as an insult. I have rejected some fantastic pieces just because they didn’t fit with the tone of the magazine and I hope those authors re-submitted elsewhere immediately and were published.

In addition to your writing and editing, you are also a reviewer at New York Journal of Books. What drew you initially to reviewing, and do you have any tips to share with other reviewers out there?

Reviews essentially equal support for other authors. I began reviewing just as a way to support fellow writers, both inside the community and outside my social circle. I feel like there’s a huge need for reviewers who have integrity as well. I give honest feedback about my reading experience, even to people I know personally, because I feel like to do otherwise is a disservice to other writers, the community as a whole, and the author.

I never write love letters when I review, but I keep the negative as constructive as possible. Even authors who have books published by large houses appreciate knowing what didn’t work for readers, and for new writers I think this kind of constructive feedback is essential to their careers. However, I avoid being overly negative. If I really dislike a book, I just won’t review it. There’s no sense flogging someone’s work in the public square. It is also a dick move. My advice for reviewers: Don’t be that person.

You reside in Providence, Rhode Island. How, if at all, does being so close to so much horror history inspire your own dark fiction?

I moved to Providence after dating my husband. He lived in this area, and I really fell in love with the city. The writing culture here, and horror influence specifically, has helped to ground me in a community of weird fiction authors that are supportive and a constant inspiration to me personally and professionally.

I will you a secret—I’m not that big of a Lovecraft fan. I recognize his influence in the genre, and the culture. I recognize how important his work is and feel that his legacy deserves to be celebrated, but I’m much more enamored by contemporary authors that are influenced by Lovecraft and are working currently in the genre. I’m not going to name specific authors, because there are so many that I could list, but the work being produced right now is brilliant and beautiful and I’m excited that mainstream publishing is starting to recognize that and reward weird fiction authors for their brilliance.

Out of your own published work, do you have a favorite piece?

Most of my work is highly personal, so this is like picking one of my children. I just self-published a limited edition chapbook from a previously unpublished short story called Power in the Blood that is possibly my favorite right now. It is inspired by a story from Jack Ketchum called “The Rifle” about a mother that realizes her son is a serial killer after finding a hiding spot where he left the corpses of animals he tortured. My story is from the perspective of a son, after his mother makes a similar discovery and kicks him out of the house when he’s eighteen. She then lets people from her church move in with her, and they mistreat her quite badly. So she calls her son and tells him of her problems, knowing full well what he’ll probably do.

Like I said, most of my writing is highly personal. This story is no different. It explores a lot of my angst about religious hypocrisy and familial relationships, specifically between a child and parent. I hope my mother never reads it. Mom, if you’re reading this interview, never read this story, it will just make you upset. I’ve warned you.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on the December issue of Lamplight, as well as reading slush for the June issue next year. Working as an editor does take time away from my own writing, but I wouldn’t stop doing it for anything. I also love collaborating with Jacob Haddon, who is an amazing human being and deserves to be a hundred fold more successful than he is as a publisher. Go check out http://apokrupha.com/ and all the amazing authors we publish, including in the magazine. The latest issue features Damien Angelica Walters and is a fantastic line-up of authors.

I’m working on a couple short stories for various publications that I want to submit to. Nothing I should talk about, but there’s some exciting markets right now that I’d love to be a part of. Short fiction is really my first love, so I try to always keep that skill sharpened by writing shorter work even while working on something larger.

Finally, I’ve been working on a novel that I work-shopped last fall with James Moore and Christopher Golden’s WRITE BETTER FICTION class. If anyone reading this is in the Haverhill, MA area, I highly recommend any class taught by River City Writers to anyone looking to sharpen specific skills or just get an overall critique of their work. I received valuable feedback and a great deal of personal attention from Chris and Jim with my manuscript, so I’m excited to finish that project hopefully by the end of next year and start the editing process.

Where can we find you online?

My website can be found at https://www.authorcatherinegrant.com/, where I can be contacted directly about the limited edition chapbook, or anything else, really. I’m very approachable and am willing to geek out or answer questions, as long as the question isn’t “Will you read/publish my story?” or “Will you buy my story/novel/memoir?” There are proper channels for that, kittens.

My Amazon author page is : https://www.amazon.com/Catherine-Grant/e/B01LZBSYIO. I much prefer that people buy from indie bookstores or from authors directly, but I don’t discriminate, as long as they enjoy my work.

At some point, the NecronomiCon Providence 2017 Memento book will be available here, which features my short story “Strawberry Red,” as well as tons of great interviews, essays and art. If you want one and don’t see one on the site, message the Lovecraft Arts & Sciences bookstore about getting one, or just head on down there and pick one up if you’re in Providence.

I will also have a booth with New England Horror Writers at the Rhode Island Comic Con this November, so readers can buy from me directly at that event. I look forward to seeing all the horror fans there showing us some love.

Tremendous thanks to Catherine Grant for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

A Year in Fiction: 2016 Awards Eligibility Post

2016 is at last behind us, and here I am with something I’ve never done before: an awards eligibility post. This is a weird thing, mostly because it’s strange to say, “Hey, consider nominating me for things!” but at the very least, it is nice to do a roundup of this past year. So let’s just say that is the overarching point of today’s post with the added caveat of “If you enjoyed any of these stories, feel free to share them in whatever way you would like!”

2016 FictionIn 2016, I’m thrilled to say that I had fifteen works of original fiction published! That’s in addition to eleven reprints, which made for a busy year. It’s also super exciting that a number of those stories were my first appearances in fantastic publications including Shimmer, The Lift, Interzone, Daily Science Fiction, and Bracken, among others.

So here, for the curious, are all those first-published-in-2016 tales, broken down by format!


All the Red Apples Have Withered to Gray” (Shimmer, March 2016)
Poisoned apples, sleeping girls, and a dying kingdom lead a young woman down a perilous path in this dark revisionist fairy tale.

Baby Bird” (Triptych Tales, February 2016)
A YA fantasy of teenage friendship, bird skulls, and learning how to finally take flight.

The Little Girl Who Came from the Sea” (Kraxon, March 2016)
Two seaside siblings discover a little girl dozing in the sand in this childhood ode to the ocean and all the strange gifts the waves send to shore.

Through Earth and Sky” (Bracken, March 2016)
Sisterhood, loss, and whispering bones. While there be magic here, this one is inspired by my husband’s grandmother and her real-life struggle against reeducation as a Native American woman in the early twentieth century.

All the Mermaid Wives” (87 Bedford, September 2016)
Mermaids dragged from their home and made to conform as good wives and mothers. But one “reformed” mermaid isn’t like the rest…

Holiday Playlist for the End of the World” (Daily Science Fiction, November 2016)
A playful apocalypse tale, perfect for a chilly December evening while you’re decorating the tree or reinforcing the windows to keep out the monsters.


Reasons I Hate My Big Sister” (Nightscript, Volume 2, October 2016)
A young girl documents her older sister’s transformation into something grotesque. Think The Virgin Suicides meets The Fly.

The Tower Princesses” (Interzone, May 2016)
A weird fantasy tale of adolescent girls trapped in towers and the lonely outsider who dares to befriend one.

Find Me, Mommy” (LampLight, April 2016)
Little Emma Jo likes the darkness. Unfortunately for her doting mother, the darkness likes Emma Jo, too.

Horseshoe” (The Haunting of Lake Manor Hotel, April 2016)
A disgraced jockey discovers the ghosts of her past are a little more literal than she realized in this installment from Woodbridge Press’s shared world horror anthology.

Gingham Curtains and Electric Shock” (Mental Ward: Experiments, May 2016)
Psychological experiments go awry when two ostracized patients develop an unlikely bond.

The Neighborly House” (Robbed of Sleep, Volume 5, September 2016)
A gossipy small town contends with a miniskirt-wearing enchantress who decides to teach the cruel locals a supernatural lesson they won’t soon forget.


Girl, Alone at Play” (The Lift, Season One, January 2016)
Strange pictures and a misfit photographer mark my first foray as a contributor to The Lift universe.

Storkson Candy: The Perfect Treat for Kids of All Ages” (The Lift, Season One, March 2016)
A glut of candy, a wayward bunny, and a sprightly specter named Victoria make for one devilish Easter.

The Last Costume Change” (The Lift, Season Two, October 2016)
Two teenage cousins sneak out on Halloween, only to find themselves in a haunted building where they must at last face their fears of the past.

In other writing news, 2016 saw the completion of my horror novel, Festival of the Lost Girls, a creepy 80,000-word tale of small-town teenage friendship, mysterious disappearances, and ethereal girls who giggle inside mirrors. Also, as I announced in November, my debut fiction collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, was accepted at the supremely awesome JournalStone and will debut this spring!

And that was my 2016. It was a profoundly strange year, seeing that it was the most successful of my professional life, despite the intense and often terrifying upheavals in the world. Sometimes, it’s hard to keep writing when the world grows darker and more dystopic than any fiction, but I also believe with the utmost conviction that the most trying times are when we have to push back the hardest, no matter how difficult that battle may be from day to day. So to all you wonderful writers out there, keep up the good fight. Now more than ever, we need you at your best.

Happy New Year, and happy reading!

Shockingly Good: Interview with John Boden

For this week’s author interview, I’m pleased to spotlight John Boden. John is a dark fiction writer of many short stories, and he’s also a contributing editor at Shock Totem. His work has appeared in LampLight, Robbed of Sleep, and Once Upon an Apocalypse: 23 Twisted Fairy Tales, among others.

Recently, John and I discussed his favorite authors (Bradbury!), his tenure at Shock Totem, as well as writing fiction based in our shared home state of Pennsylvania.

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

John BodenI have always wanted to be a writer, since first reading Ray Bradbury in school. Then I moved on to Stephen King. I actually sent him a story I wrote when I was maybe eleven. It was about a vampire Vacuum cleaner. I got a standardized postcard back with a little handwritten note on it that I always assumed/hope was from him. I wrote all through high school and what little college I made it through.  I pretty much gave it up for twenty years and only really went back to it when we started Shock Totem. Some of my favorite authors would/could on a given day be:  Agatha Christie, Louis L’Amour, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, William S. Burroughs, Shirley Jackson, Willa Cather, Harlan Ellison, Gahan Wilson, John Skipp, Robert R. McCammon, Robert Aickman, Stephen Graham Jones, Margaret St. Clair, Rod Serling, Jack Ketchum, James Newman, I could go on for days.

The first story of yours that I read was “Possessed by a Broken Window,” featured in LampLight, Volume 3, Issue 3. Without giving too much away, this multi-layered tale deals with grief, illness, and the oppressive atmospheres of hospitals. Although we’d never choose it, most of us can relate to these themes. What inspired this story, and were there any particular challenges you experienced during the writing process?

I wish I could tell you some glorious anecdote here but I can’t.  That story is one hundred percent true, every action in it and person is real and happened. I added a slight bit of the fantastical to make it fiction.  It was one of the hardest stories I ever wrote. It was part of a long series of very sad things that I wrote after my father passed.

Your book, Dominoes, is fashioned in the manner of a Little Golden Book, albeit with some proverbial hardcore horror. Was there a particular moment or memory about Little Golden Books that made you say, “Yeah, I totally need to twist this up and give people nightmares”? And do you have a personal favorite Little Golden Book? (I for one am obsessed with The Color Kittens and their never-ending acid trips.)

It wasn’t quite that thought out. We just thought it would make an interesting presentation to package it as a children’s book. I’m actually still surprised at how well it’s been received as it is far from a linear story experience. As for my favorite Little Golden Book, probably The Saggy Baggy Elephant.

LampLightIn addition to your fiction writing, you’ve worked as a contributing editor at Shock Totem. How has the behind-the-scenes experience in the publishing world informed your work as an author?

It has opened my eyes quite a bit. I’ve been reading all of my life and never really knew what it took to get those books from the author’s head into my eager hands.  You know how if you’ve ever worked in retail, you’re like the most patient and nicest customer ever…because you understand the hell that is that side of the counter?  Publishing is a very similar situation. It made me look at a lot of aspects that I never thought on before.

Like me, you are a resident of Pennsylvania (hi, neighbor!). Does the gloomy weather, sickeningly bucolic hillsides, and complete lack of easy booze access often inspire your dark fiction?

I’ve lived in Pennsylvania all of my life. I grew up in a tiny town called Orbisonia.  It’s nestled in the mountains between Chambersburg and Huntingdon, if that helps anyone.  It’s beautiful there. Booze never enticed me. I’m sort of allergic to alcohol so I don’t drink. I always find myself setting my work in my hometown, regardless of where I place it…it’s always Orby.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve received? And do you always follow it?

I don’t know that I’ve ever actively asked for advice.  I mean, I’ve sent stories to fellow writers and asked their thoughts. But I know that John Skipp and others have told me in conversation that you need to write honest. I’m sure they’ve said it better. But it really is about that.  I approach a story with the only goal being for it to come out of my head and onto the page with as little mutation as possible.  The mutation usually comes in later.

What upcoming projects can we expect from you?

I start so much and finish so little. Heh. Projects: Michael Wehunt’s Greener Pastures collection is coming soon, I did some editing on that.  It’s fantastic. Personally, I’ve been trying to land a home for my coming-of-age novella, Jedi Summer. I pulled a lot of reading favors from friends on that one and everyone seemed to dig it.  There’s a collaborative thing I did with Mercedes Yardley called Loving The Girl With X’s For Eyes we’re trying to get out there. I have some stories coming out in various anthologies—Borderlands 6, Bumps in The Road and another one I can’t recall the name of right now.  I’m nearly done with the Dominoes-style Haunted House thing and halfway through my novella-mayhaps-novel, Spungunion.  There’s other stuff, too.

Thanks for the opportunity to blather on.  It was an honor sharing a Table Of Contents with you.  [Extends hand for super secret “You-Gotta-Be-From-Pa” handshake]

Big thanks (and secret handshakes!) to John Boden for being part of this week’s author interview series! Find him online at his blog, and be sure to keep up with the great work he’s doing at Shock Totem.

Happy reading!

Funerals, Mourning, and “The Clawfoot Requiem”

This month, my short story, “The Clawfoot Requiem,” made its debut in the March issue of LampLight. The horror tale follows Sabrina, a woman mourning the suicide of her sister. But instead of the usual black garb and graveyard wreaths, she copes by building a shrine to the blood-filled bathtub where her sister died. Gruesome and wistful, all wrapped into one clawfooted package.

The Clawfoot Requiem

Being a horror author, death is a huge part of the job. Not every story I write features mortality at the forefront, but it often sneaks in one way or another. Everything from the threat of dying to coping with loss after the fact is fodder for genre writers.

For me, mourning rituals in particular have always held an especially macabre appeal. Growing up, it seemed like we were attending a family funeral every other month. I quickly learned to hate what I considered the barbaric custom of calling hours. Staring at the embalmed faces of deceased loved ones in coffins became such an abhorrent pastime that by age nine, I lodged a formal complaint with my parents, begging to be released from the funeral parlor circuit. Because they knew how important it was to me, they honored my request, and I didn’t attend another funeral for a full decade.

However, being a bizarrely curious child, my funerary fascination didn’t end there. I started researching why we mourn the way we do. In a truly morbid pre-internet montage, I amassed book after book, some with round-ups of mourning customs, some with Victorian death pictures that haunted me long after the book retired to a shelf. Yes, while other girls my age read teeny bopper magazines, I learned about death rituals. All in a day’s work for a girl who earned the nickname “Gwensday Addams” before entering the second grade.

Flash forward two decades later, and my research never ends. There’s always another custom to learn. Last year, on International Vulture Awareness Day, I went to the National Aviary in Pittsburgh. The Aviary’s all-day event spotlighted the crisis of Asian vultures that are perishing in mass numbers thanks to an anti-inflammatory drug administered to cows. This mass vulture die-off has affected everyone in the area, dramatically increasing the rate of rabies throughout India. It has also impacted groups like the Zoroastrians who can no longer complete a venerated tradition of placing their deceased on top of a dakhma, an elevated structure designed to draw in scavenger birds.

This is where mourning gets really interesting and nuanced. For the Zoroastrians, it’s horrifying when a vulture doesn’t arrive to eat Grandma. But to us Westerners, the notion of leaving anyone—even a complete stranger—out for carrion seekers is more than a little disturbing.

So while keeping a bathtub brimming with blood isn’t exactly in the textbooks as normal, who decides what is normal anyhow? From anthropological and sociological perspectives, it’s a synergy of time and place. Today’s mourning practices could look ghoulish a hundred years from now. By that rationale, my character Sabrina in “The Clawfoot Requiem” might just be a woman ahead of her time.

Has all this creepy talk piqued your interest in a scary story? Check out “The Clawfoot Requiem” and four other unnerving tales in the latest issue of LampLight. Horror lovers won’t be disappointed.

Happy reading!