Tag Archives: Sanitarium Magazine

Lady Death: Interview with Jamie Wargo

This week, I’m excited to feature author Jamie Wargo. Jamie is the scribe of numerous short stories as well as a first reader as part of Sanitarium Magazine’s Faculty.

Jamie and I recently discussed her inspiration as an author as well as what writing plans are in store for her burgeoning career.

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

Jamie WargoI think I’ve always wanted to write, but it wasn’t until the last few years that I actually started writing. I remember my second grade teacher handing out blank books and instructing the class to write a short story, my classmates grumbled but I couldn’t wait to get started.
As far as my favorite authors, I would have to say Stephen King has always been at the top of my list, as well as Anne Rice, HP Lovecraft, HG Wells, Poe, and way too many short fiction authors, yourself included, to list. By the way, “All the Hippies Are Dying” is great!

You’re a slush pile reader at Sanitarium Magazine. When you’re reading a story, are there certain things you’re looking for that help you determine whether you will say yes or no, or is it more of a feeling that a story inspires in you?

I guess it would be the feeling that a story inspires in me. When I’m reviewing a submission, I look for that “wow” factor. If it make me think the rest of the team really needs to see it, it’s definitely getting sent over for further review. It’s a team effort at Sanitarium but the final decision comes down to our Editor in Chief, Barry Skelhorn.

You’re currently based in my beloved home state of Ohio. Do any local landmarks or even the general Rust Belt aesthetic of the area ever creep its way into your work?

SanitariumDefinitely! A couple of the stories I’ve written are based on a friend’s property in Noble County, it’s in southeastern Ohio so it’s more rural than Rust Belt. I actually wrote “Residual Haunting” while on a camping trip there.The story is fictional but the house is real, and it sits on the property where we camp. I looked at the old house one night and thought, “there is a creepy ghost story in there somewhere.” I spent the next day writing on a cabin porch, thirty feet away from the actual house.

I also have a story I’m finishing up called “Coyote Ridge.” It’s another one based on that property. We found a coyote den not far from the camp site and my writer brain went “what if they aren’t normal coyotes?”

If forced to choose, which is your favorite part of the writing process: developing characters, crafting dialogue, or creating atmosphere or setting?

I would say I like to create setting. In “Residual Haunting,” the setting was a real house but I added some fictional elements and changed the layout to make it work for the atmosphere I needed. In another project, I played with the landscape, adding a dry creek bed that becomes a hazard for a character, and a forest line the characters need to get to, but it’s too far away. Throw in a cloudy night and an explosion, and you end up with a very intense scene.

What upcoming projects can we expect from you?

I am currently working on a couple of novellas, but I think they want to be novels so I am just along for the ride at this point. I hope to have them finished before the end of the year. I have a few short stories I’m getting ready to send out and with a little luck something will be published soon.

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

I would like to be writing full time, from my own lake house.. A girl can dream, can’t she? In case that doesn’t happen, I would be happy to see my work on a bookshelf, even if only a shelf in my office.

Big thanks to Jamie Wargo for being this week’s featured author. Find her online at Facebook and Twitter!

Happy reading!

Paranormal Legacy: Interview with Lloyd Green

Welcome back once again! For this week’s interview, I’m thrilled to present the awesome Lloyd Green. Lloyd is a writer with quite an impressive resume. He’s penned numerous short stories and novels, and he has an impeccable eye for research in his historical genre-blending fiction.

Recently, Lloyd and I discussed ghosts, horror, and how his incredible writing career came to be.

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

Lloyd GreenFirst of all, Gwendolyn, I’d like to thank you so much for the opportunity to be interviewed.

I’ve been writing short stories since I was a teenager and I’ve always been interested in reading science fiction and horror novels. I didn’t seriously think about being a writer until seven years ago. A high school friend, who now lives in another country, located me through Facebook. I proceeded to email her pages and pages of narrative in an attempt to bring her up to date about decades of relationships, jobs and family. She repeatedly commented that what I was sending her seemed more like a fascinating book and asked if I had ever considered writing. Some of the material in those letters, I eventually used in my first book Reflections of EL: In Search of Self. So my need to seriously write science fiction and fantasy really began with this first fan and it expanded from there.

Without a doubt, Stephen King is my all time favorite writer. I’ve been reading his work since Carrie first called out to me from the retail bookshelf. The man writes his characters and plots as if he were standing there watching the action. Second is Frank Herbert because of his effective world and history building as shown in his Dune series and finally there’s Orson Scott Card beginning with his book Ender’s Game. I admire the plot twists and secrets in this book and also the following ones in the series.

You and I share a bit of educational background: we both hold psychology degrees. Has your education ever worked its way into your writing in surprising ways, and do you have any advice to newer writers out there about how to get inside the heads of their characters?

If I’ve learned anything, I recognize not to compartmentalize a character. When writing about a criminal, don’t just figure that he must have had a dark past and he has to be evil to the core. His course might have begun with the purest of intentions. The real core of the character is the reasons for the decisions he makes. The more his reasoning feels similar to the reader, the more a reader will identify with the criminal and understand the path that he takes in an attempt to accomplish his goals. Understanding the criminal’s motivations also means the reader understands that there are layers of good and evil in all of us. We are all complicated beings but above all else, we yearn to be noticed and heard.

The same holds true for the intellectually disabled individuals who I worked with for decades. Recently, I wrote a short story, “Poor Interfaces,” which describes the relationship between a staff person and the one that he cares for. Being able to relate to the disabled as people who have something in common with you instead of people who are different, moves the relationship from administrator or direct caregiver to one of friendship. There will always be the professional side that has to be maintained but in the long run we are more drawn to help our friends because we feel that we are also helping ourselves.

Your work often touches upon a variety of paranormal elements. Have you always been a fan of the horror and fantasy genres?

The Green LegacyAs far back as I can remember. As a child, I was scared to death of horror movies. When I finally understood that my imagination and what I thought might happen was scaring me worse than the actual event, everything changed. After this realization, I began to look forward to the presentation of the rush of fear that the writers and/or directors were serving up.

I’ve always believed in otherworldly life. We usually become afraid of whatever cannot be concretely explained. I’ve only had one paranormal experience and to this day, I’m not certain if it was real. One morning in 1994, I woke up to find an elderly woman standing a few feet away from my bed. From behind her, sunlight softly bled through the sheer window curtains. Her entire form was shimmering as if she were glowing. Her stringy hair was bleached white and her outstretched gnarly hands reached out towards me. She did not say a word and for this I was thankful because I feared what message she might present to me. I shut my eyes in terror, praying that this horror was not real.  When I was brave enough to open one eye, she was not there. I’ve never been able to determine whether the entity was real or a dream.

In my writing, I use mystical and/or frightening characters that are just a bit too human. I get the reader to identify with the seemingly odd character by writing about them as if they were a close friend or family member. This would slowly get the new acquaintance crawling under the reader’s skin because they feel they understand the character. In spite of the character being frightening, this finally leads to the reader caring when the creature is not making appropriate decisions. A successful writer has learned to realistically portray the monster, which lives in all of us.

In some of your work, including The Green Legacy, which takes place in the nineteenth century, you interweave elements of historical fiction. What is your research process when writing a time period piece?

I love historical fiction because there is a frame of reference that the reader might already be familiar with. After I decide on the time period, I dig into finding as much information on the town and its people as possible. There will always be fact-finders who will stop what they are reading in order to look up the background circumstances that the writer is describing. Since I’m going through the trouble of documenting and presenting, it only makes sense that I deal with information that can be proven. It cuts down on arguments and it’s a lot less embarrassing when others begin to pick apart facts.

While putting together my book, The Green Legacy, I started with a search of my own family tree. I came across a branch that held two different names for the same distant relative. That made it difficult to verify who this person was and her true place within the family. In this case, I collected as much history as I could from relatives and again explored Ancestry.com in an attempt to verify her place in the Green family lineage. Only after all of this did I begin to include this person as part of what I call factual family history. After this foundation was set, I then moved into the fictional story that I really wanted to tell, which is about a sixteen-year old with psychic abilities who is sold into slavery and her secret agenda.

You’ve written both novels and short stories. How is your process different (or similar) depending on the length of the work?

Not really different. I write out my general ideas but I eventually turn it all into a chart. How extensive the chart becomes will sometimes determine the length of the story. The chart is necessary to ensure consistency between plot twists and secrets. As most writers know, you can never say, “I’m going to write a 350-page speculative fictional story today.” Stories take on a life of their own and they will be as long as they need to be. My outline simply helps with consistency because it drives me nuts to proofread and find facts out of place or secrets mistakenly revealed too early.

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

That’s easy. “Halloween – 1979.” It was published through Sanitarium Magazine. It’s a short story about two couples that decide to visit a well-know haunted house on Halloween night. One participant discovered that the creeping fear was not contained within the established house of horrors. The basis for this disturbing story is based on a factual personal event.

Huge thanks to Lloyd Green for being our featured author this week! Find him online at EndlessPerceptions.com and at LloydGreen.org. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Happy reading!

Mangled and Macabre: Interview with Justin Hamelin

Welcome back for another author interview! This week, it’s all about author Justin Hamelin. I first became acquainted with Justin’s incredible horror fiction through his story, “Sick Love Potion,” in Issue 32 of Sanitarium Magazine. Since then, I’ve enjoyed reading his interviews at his site, Mangled Matters, where he was kind enough to spotlight yours truly a few months back.

Recently, Justin and I discussed his inspiration growing up in Ray Bradbury’s hometown along with the future directions of his very promising horror career.

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

I fell in love with reading and writing at a very young age. I was fortunate to be raised in a household that really encouraged creativity, reading, writing and just about anything that stimulated the mind, so I was pretty young when I realized I wanted to do something that involved excessive creativity at a young age. Some of my favorite authors include R.L Stine, Stephen King, Joe Lansdale, Poe, Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury. Stine and King were huge inspirations for me growing up.

You and I have talked about this so much already, but it bears repeating: you live in Waukegan, Illinois, hometown of the inimitable Ray Bradbury. How has growing up surrounded by Bradbury lore affected you as a horror writer? Any great Bradbury-related trivia you can share with those of us unfamiliar with Waukegan?

Bradbury still is, rightfully so, a huge part of the Waukegan scene. I actually only started reading Bradbury late in high school. I would tell people I wanted to be an author, and a few teachers of mine suggested I do some research and learn about Mr. Bradbury. My first experience in the world of Bradbury was Something Wicked This Way Comes, and I immediately fell in love. I’ve also done a few Bradbury tours, both official and unofficial, around town and it’s really simply inspiring. As far as Bradbury in Waukegan today, the most exciting info is that the city is really working on opening a Ray Bradbury museum at the city’s old library location. The old library is actually a Carnegie building and it’s just the coolest little spot on a corner in downtown Waukegan that I think would be absolutely amazing to hold a Bradbury museum in!

You’re also a blogger at your site, Mangled Matters. How do you balance your nonfiction writing, such as your regular interviews, with your fiction work? Does one frequently influence the other?

It can be quite a juggling act! I love my blog and sometimes I do get sidetracked by one or the other, either the fiction or the nonfiction. Sometimes whichever one I’m working on less often does get put on the back burner inadvertently. I make a conscious effort to try and keep a pretty fair balance, though, between things like interviews and taking time out to write fiction.

I’ve been blessed to speak with so many amazing people, whether they be authors, filmmakers, actors and actresses, or simply horror fanatics like myself. Sometimes the conversations do lead to some inspiration for stories and such, but usually when I’m speaking with somebody for the blog, it’s almost solely on their work and celebrating their awesome achievements!

Your horror collection, The Darkest Corner, earned some fantastic reviews. The book is currently out of print; any plans for a second edition?

Oh man, I cannot wait to get that collection back in print! It was an amazing learning experience to get that first book published, and I was blessed to have a incredible group of friends, family, and horror fans from around the world really support me and that book.

I’d like to think that The Darkest Corner will be available again sometime very soon.

Sanitarium MagazineOn the personal side of things, I’d like to say congratulations on your recent wedding! Just from Facebook and our previous conversations, I know what a major influence your wife, Krystina, is on your writing. Is she a first reader on your work? Since writing is at times such a solitary pursuit, do you have certain ways that the two of you work together when you’re writing a story, such as brainstorming in the early stages or editorial suggestions in the later drafts? Also, is she a writer or artist in her own right?

Thank you very much! It may be a cliché, but it’s absolutely true for me—Krystina is my world. She is my muse, my biggest fan, my most honest critic and I love the heck out of her for putting up with hours and hours of brainstorming, reading ideas, and really just supporting me in anyway possible.

She knows and completely respects that I usually write alone; however she is always there to provide feedback or whatever I may need to keep a story idea going. Once the story is complete, she is always the first to read it and usually offer insight, suggestions or questions that tend to make the story 100 times better!

While she is not a published writer, she is one of the most creative people I know and dabbles in just about every artistic angle you could think of!

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

My favorite would have to be the one that was featured in Sanitarium Magazine alongside your awesome work! “Sick Love Potion” was a blast to write. It practically wrote itself but I absolutely love it.

I also have a fairly personal one from The Darkest Corner, titled ‘The Man Next Door’. There is a lot of emotional weight in that story, for me personally.

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

Simply put, I just want to continue to write and have a great time doing it! A career as an author certainly would be awesome, but I don’t write for the paychecks. I’d be awfully broke if I did!

I’m challenging myself to submit as many stories as possible this upcoming year, and I have a few half-baked ideas that deserve to be finished and put out there.

Big thanks to Justin Hamelin for being part of this week’s author interview series! You can find him at his Facebook author page as well as his site, Mangled Matters. This writer of weird fiction is definitely one to watch.

Happy reading!

Drabble Master: Interview with Thomas Kleaton

Welcome back to my author interview series! For the first spotlight of 2016, I’m pleased to present Thomas Kleaton. Thomas is an accomplished writer of short fiction, and his work has appeared at The Horror Zine, Riding Light Review, and Sanitarium Magazine among other outlets.

Recently, he and I discussed his influences and his long-term plans in the publishing world, along with his recommendations on how to write a great drabble.

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

I started writing two years ago. I could say that it’s something I just started on a whim, but that wouldn’t be the case. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years, but thinking about it doesn’t work and it all comes down to sitting in a chair and typing words on the screen. It’s important to write on a daily basis, but I have no Bad Thoughts (sorry, I can’t help referencing “It’s a Good Life,” one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes) for someone who doesn’t write every day. Writers need a break now and then as well.

As for my favorite authors? I won’t deny it; I was heavily influenced by Stephen King, and am definitely a Constant Reader. Dean Koontz is another; his Sole Survivor and Intensity really bowled me over. Peter Straub’s Ghost Story is a personal favorite. I also have newer favorites, writers like Rose Blackthorn, Richard Schiver, and Aaron Gudmunson.

As a writer, do you have a particular genre that’s your favorite?

Horror, horror, and more horror. Actually, although I like horror best and it seems to be the most flexible genre, I do enjoy a good science fiction story here and there. Stories like Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.”

In addition to short stories, you’re a prolific drabble writer. Because the medium permits only 100 words, is your approach to crafting a drabble different than crafting a short story? Do you have any pointers for other drabble writers out there?

Spooky DrabblesA drabble is all about the core idea. For instance, in my drabble, “Whistling Past the Graveyard,” found in Spooky Halloween Drabbles 2015, I kept seeing this little girl playing Patty Cake with her mother. Then playing Patty Cake with her dead mother. The situation came next, which was of a father bringing his little girl to visit her mother’s grave. Only her father is a killer, and his mother is buried in a shallow grave. Shallow enough for hands to stick out and…


But I think you get the picture. It’s all in the details. Once you have the story worked out, it’s time to condense it down to 100 words. Easy, right? I’ve spent hours on one drabble! But it’s worth it when you see the final product.

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

I do. A short story titled “Birds and the Bees,” found in Sanitarium Magazine issue #31. I saw a photo in a magazine in which a woman’s seed-filled hands were outstretched near a bird feeder. Chickadees sat on her palms eating the seed, and I imagined a little girl seeing her grandmother doing this, and wanting to impress her grandmother by imitating her. Only she can’t find any birdseed in her grandmother’s garden shed. Not one to give up, the little girl finds a substitute. That puts a sting into things.

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

To a point where I can write full-time. This may not happen, but I will not give up on it, and at the very least I’d like to have a good following by then. After all, the first reason a writer should be writing is because he or she enjoys telling yarns to entertain others. Being told by someone that his/her story really resonated with them can put a writer on the moon.

Big thanks to Thomas Kleaton for being part of this week’s author interview series. Find him online at his website and his Amazon Author Page

Happy reading!

Finding Humor in the Horrific: Interview with Larry Hinkle

For this week’s author interview, I’m pleased to present Larry Hinkle. Larry is a talented speculative fiction writer hailing from Colorado. Like many of the writers previously featured on this blog, Larry and I met through Sanitarium Magazine where we’re both slushpile readers. Below, we discuss the perils of works in progress and how the editing process never really ends.

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

Larry HinkleI’ve only been writing fiction for a couple years, but I’ve been writing ads (I’m a copywriter by trade) for over 20 years now.

I wanted to be a writer when I was younger, and took a couple classes in college, but the feedback was so soul-crushing it convinced me I wasn’t good enough, which is how I ended up in advertising. Now, instead of writing stories that scare people into peeing their pants, I write ads that scare people into buying adult diapers lest they be caught peeing their pants.

Reading On Writing by Stephen King gave me the courage to try writing stories again. I’m never going to make a living at it, but it helps me avoid more dangerous vices like exercise or meditation.

My favorite author is early Stephen King (he’s still a great writer, just not that scary anymore). His son, Joe Hill, has a great collection of short stories, and his last book N0S4A2, reminded me of his dad’s early work. David Wellington is really good. David Wong (editor of Cracked.com) has a couple books that are hilariously scary fun. Same with Jeff Strand.

Tell me a little about your writing process. When do you find time, do you edit as you go, and how long do you typically spend on revisions?

I do most of my writing late at night, after my wife’s gone to bed and before the Lunesta kicks in. Sometimes when I get stuck on writing an ad during the workday, I’ll write a piece of flash or work on a chapter just to get my mind off advertising.

I’m constantly editing. (In fact, I’ve edited these answers at least nine times now.) I’ll give stories to friends to read for me, and by the time they send it back, I’ve already rewritten it another two or three times. Personally, I don’t think a story is ever finished; you just find a point where you’re happy enough with it to let it go. But when it comes back with a rejection slip, that’s also another chance to tighten it up and make it better.

Your published fiction belongs primarily to the speculative genre. Do you plan to branch out into other genres, or is speculative what you prefer to write?

Horror is definitely my favorite genre, although everything I write seems to have a little bit of humor thrown in. So I guess horror-humor is my favorite genre. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of outlets looking to publish such an unholy hybrid.

I used to be a staff writer for a couple of big entertainment websites doing recaps back when recaps were cool, and I mixed in humor and horror and literary/pop culture references whenever I could. I once did a recap of a Mad Men episode mashed up with Night of the Living Dead. Another favorite was WWE Raw mashed with West Side Story, which, now that I think about it, is a pretty frightening concept.

My Favorite ApocalypseOut of your published pieces, do you have a personal favorite?

Probably “The Quantum Dead,” which used quantum physics as a backdrop to explain the zombie apocalypse. It was a good mix of horror and humor, with a nice twist at the end, which are great when they work, but not always required. (I’m looking at you, M. Night Shyamalan.)

My friends would probably pick “The Outpost,” which unfortunately has yet to find a home, so you’ll have to take their word for it. Or my word for it, I guess, since I’m the one saying it’s their favorite.

What projects are you currently working on?

Too many. I’m much better at starting stories than I am ending them. A few of the ones right now that don’t totally suck include stories about a guy who wakes up in a different version of himself every day; a company that helps customers prelive a memory (instead of reliving it); a GPS app that’s also a dimensional portal; a guy who uses his blind spot to make things disappear from reality; and a murderous garden gnome. Will any of them survive to see the light of day? Probably not.

Any links you’d like to share? Thank you to Larry Hinkle for being part of this week’s author interview series! Be sure to check out his stories in publications in My Favorite Apocalypse and in Another Dimension Magazine!

Happy reading!

Film Fanatic: Interview with Austin Muratori

For this week’s author interview, I am pleased to spotlight the work of Austin Muratori. Like so many great authors who have previously appeared on this blog, Austin and I met through the Sanitarium Magazine forum. His varied interests as a burgeoning filmmaker and a genre author set him apart in both fields. Below we discuss the overlap between filmmaking and fiction writing as well as how well-written dialogue makes all the difference in both artistic mediums.

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

Austin MuratoriMy love for writing came at an early age–as soon as I learned how to write, I was hooked. I would write these little stories for my family and then gather everyone I could find, so I could read and perform those stories. I talked a lot as a child, so even before I could write, I would ramble on and on to my family, making up crazy stories.

Then, as I got older and into middle school, I competed in the ‘Young Authors’ contest my school held every year. I actually won three years in a row! That really motivated me to want to become a writer. In high school, I had a creative writing class and learned about the different forms of writing, which really excited me! That was when I found poetry and all the various styles and formats. I also learned actual story structure and that was when things really started to click for me. My teacher played a big part in me wanting to continue my journey of becoming a writer. She pulled me aside one day, and told me that she really appreciates my work, that I have a lot of talent, and that I should certainly continue to pursue my dreams because big things were in store for me.

When it comes to my favorite authors, I would never be able to list them all because I have so many favorites and that list keeps growing and growing. With that being said, some of the authors that have impacted me in a major way are Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, William Shakespeare, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Truman Capote, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, Blake Crouch and Dean Koontz.

How does your work as a filmmaker and as a prose writer overlap? Are there any ways the two are at odds with each other?

Filmmaking starts with a script. In fact, the script is the most important part of the filmmaking process because it is the blueprint for the story you are planning to tell, and without that, you really don’t have anything. Essentially, writing is the most important part to the filmmaking process, just as writing is the most important part of prose writing.

With prose, you have more freedom to explore and develop your world and characters; however, you have to be extremely descriptive in order to create a visual image for the reader to imagine, whereas in filmmaking, you have to show what is happening rather than tell. The screenplay has to be simple and visual; you have to show what your character is doing as opposed to describing it. Filmmaking is a very powerful storytelling medium; you get to create amazing visuals, and that allows the audience to share an experience together. Though prose writing is a powerful medium as well, the difference is that in prose writing, everyone will have a different experience while reading a story because they are forced to use their imaginations and everyone’s imaginations are different.

In film, the audience collectively can see exactly the same thing on screen. The cool thing is that like prose writing, people will get something from the story, and that message means something different to each and every person who sees the film. One other interesting thing is that filmmaking is a process. The script is written and rewritten and [the] film that is written is going to be completely different once production starts and everything is filmed. Then it changes one more time as it is edited. So throughout each different process, the story constantly evolves. In prose, the story evolves through one process, and that is rewriting.

My work as a filmmaker and as a prose writer goes hand in hand. I love the challenges both fields present. I think being a versatile artist is very rewarding! Plus it is really fun! For me, the stories will dictate whether they are best suited as a film or if they are best suited as a short story, novel or poem.

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

Sanitarium MagazineI would say that my favorite part of the writing process would have to be crafting dialogue. I love being able to make a character come to life through dialogue. To be honest, I take pride in making sure my dialogue is realistic and unique to each and every character. Personally, I feel that without good dialogue, it is almost impossible for a reader to not only get into the story but also to relate to the character overall. I also really like developing characters! I find it fun to be able to live vicariously through a character and not only live a life that is completely different from my own but also to do things that I would never do in real life. It is very exhilarating.

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

So far, my absolute favorite is a poem called “The City Within,” which was featured in Sanitarium issue 26. The reason it is my favorite is because while I was working on it, I managed to tap into a flow state that I never had experienced before. Words came easily, and so did the overall emotion of the piece. It has been compared to the works of Edgar Allan Poe, which is really humbling. Also, it was the first piece that I had published, and in fact, it was my first time even submitting anything anywhere. Being a perfectionist, I struggled with being confident enough to submit because I felt like even after a bunch of rewrites that it still wasn’t ready. For this piece, I worked up the courage and made the decision to try and I sure am glad I did!

In what directions would you like to take your work in the future?

I would like to explore more genres and other forms of writing in the future. I have so many short stories, poems and novels that I would like to get published at some point. I also have a lot of screenplays that I would like to get made. Overall I just want to be able to continue to get better as a filmmaker and prose writer and do what I love for the rest of my life. I recently became a faculty member for Sanitarium Magazine and I love it! I really enjoy editing! I hope to do more of it in the future.

Thanks to Austin for being part of my author interview series. Find him online at Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and his main site.

Happy reading!

Fearsome Feminist: Interview with Caitlin Marceau

Welcome to this week’s edition of my author interview series! Today I’d like to present Caitlin Marceau. Caitlin is a horror fiction writer from Montreal. Her work has appeared in Saturday Night Reader, Morpheus Tales, and Sanitarium Magazine among other outlets. This fall, she will work with co-producer Dan Foytik on the horror podcast, The Lift.

Recently, Caitlin spoke with me about how her childhood fears and her devotion to feminism play into the creation of her macabre fiction.

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

Caitlin MarceauI knew I wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl. My grandpa used to tell me “made-to-order” stories—which is when I’d tell him how many goblins, witches, castles, etc. I wanted in a story, and he’d come up with a tale that fit the specifications — and that really got me into storytelling. My parents also stressed the importance of literacy from a young age with my brother and me, and they pushed us to get the most out of our education. I really think it made all the difference for me.

As for my favourite authors, I was a huge J. K. Rowling and Tamora Pierce fan when I was growing up. As I grew up I also fell in love with Bentley Little and Stephen King’s works, and I adore everything by Kelley Armstrong. It’s great to see a successful Canadian author who writes strong female leads in horror. She’s definitely an inspiration.

Your writing often touches upon or delves headfirst into the horror genre. What initially drew you to horror, and for how long have you been a fan?

I used to hate everything to do with horror. I scared really easily as a kid and avoided anything that was even remotely freaky. Like, I saw The Ring and FeardotCom when I was younger and had nightmares for months (to this day I still refuse to rewatch them). I was really prone to sleepwalking and sleep terrors, so I avoided horror with my life.

But as I got older I developed this “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. I ended up delving headfirst into horror films, books, you name it, and I became totally obsessed. I started experimenting with special effects makeup, I’d have Romero marathons, and my writing drastically shifted from fantasy to the macabre come high school.

Recently, you’ve presented your talk “Bikinis, Brains, and Boogeymen: How To Write Realistic Women In Horror” at several conventions. What inspired you to get involved at this level, and what research did you do to prepare yourself for a presentation on such an important and varied topic?

I think I started giving workshops and panels because I felt conflicted over my interests. My mom’s a feminist, my friends are feminists, and I’m a feminist. But there’s this idea that you can’t be a feminist and someone who works within the confines of the horror genre. Misogyny is so intertwined with classic horror, and even some modern horror, that the idea of feminism in the genre can seem ridiculous.

Morpheus TalesAfter I was published a few times through Sanitarium Magazine I decided to create a workshop that would help people write stronger, more realistic, female characters in horror while breaking down some of the stereotypes. I wanted to show people that you can create amazing women in the genre while still leaving them their agency and brain. I hoped that by deconstructing some of these tropes people would take a more humanistic and feminist approach to writing women in horror, as opposed to the archaic gendered one.

The workshop premiered at the 2014 Montreal Comiccon and was also featured in this year’s Ottawa Comiccon. It had a really great reception and inspired me to come out with another workshop, “Witches, Werewolves, and Wraiths: A Writer’s Guide to Monster Making,” which I had the chance to present at this year’s Montreal Comiccon.

As for the research and preparation, it can be a bit overwhelming. I’ve watched a lot of horror films growing up, have gone through tomes of horror literature, and I think that’s all helped in terms of research, but there’s also a lot of academic research that’s involved with it. Lots of feminist theory, theory on how to craft compelling fiction, not to mention I do a lot of independent critiquing and analyzing of the materials. So I try and get as much info from as many perspectives as I can before I come up with my own approach to things.

Name the horror trope you think is most overused.

The half-naked woman running through the woods from the slow, lumbering, monster… only for the creature to somehow get ahead and kill her. So frustrating.

What projects are you currently working on?

I have a few short horror pieces that I’m working on, as well as my first novel (which I could not be more excited about). I also have a play in the works and I’m going to be collaborating with Dan Foytik, of The 9th Story and The Wicked Library, on a project in the near future.

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

Up until June of this year it was my short story entitled “Hunger,” which is about men in the Canadian north during a whiteout (who are simultaneously being hunted by a wendigo). But The Wicked Library actually turned my short story, “Stuck,” into the third episode of their sixth season, and it’s fast become my favourite. The artwork, which was done by Jon Towers, paired with Dan Foytik’s incredible voice acting has definitely made it a standout piece for me.

Thanks to Caitlin Marceau for being part of this week’s author spotlight. Be sure to check out her website, and find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Happy reading!

Sparrow Incarnate: Interview with Julia Benally

Another week, another interview with a fantastic up-and-coming writer! Julia Benally is an author of cool and unusual speculative fiction. Her work has been featured in Sanitarium Magazine and Snapping Twig Magazine. And since I’m the editor, I can also reveal she has a story in the forthcoming fall anthology, A Shadow of Autumn. Below, Julia shares her refreshing perspective on the topic of writing.

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

Julia BenallyI decided to become a writer when I was eight years old. My teacher said that we were going to make books in class and suddenly I saw a gold leaf, leather bound volume of exquisite work. Of course, that day I got sick, so I couldn’t go and I missed it. My mom said we would make a book of our own so I wasn’t so sad. I really wanted to see the books my classmates made, but then they were just wads of paper folded into gray blue construction paper and I was so turned off. Ever since I’ve dreamed of that leather bound book and my fingers itched to write. Some of my favorite authors are C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen, Bram Stoker, Michael Crichton, Timothy Zahn and Harold Bell Wright.

You often write in the horror genre. What inspires you to create darker fiction, and what advice do you have for other aspiring horror writers out there?

What inspires me is the reservation. It’s a place full of superstitions and ghosts. Many times what I write doesn’t come from ghosts, but people. They can be monsters too. For the aspiring horror writer, I’d suggest to leave out the raunchy sex scenes and the blood and guts. That isn’t horror, it’s just gross and depraved. Personally I think the perfect horror is Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. It’s just creepy, especially when  it comes to the Captain’s log, a scene foolishly taken out in all the movies.

If forced to choose, which is your favorite part of the writing process: brainstorming story ideas, writing the first draft, or polishing a piece before submitting it to an editor?

That’s a hard question for me. I can say though that my least favorite is the first draft. It’s shabby, it’s all over the place, it’s downright ugly. So I suppose polishing it would be my favorite part. That’s when I can make it beautiful and play with the words, I can add and drop things, I can find holes, I can tighten it up. For me, it’s in the polishing that the characters come to life.

Sanitarium Magazine Issue 5Out of your published pieces, do you have a personal favorite?

My favorite would probably be my very first one because the first is always special. It’s call “The Bridges” and came out in the Sanitarium Magazine issue 5.

In what directions would you like to take your writing career? Are there more short stories in your future or possibly a novel?

Oh, I want to write for life. I can’t do without it. I have several short stories I’m going over, I have several more out finding a home and I’ve recently had one accepted. Not all of them are in the horror genre–for one thing I can’t stay scared all the time, that’s not healthy. I’ve just finished my first novel, a dark fantasy called Pariahs. That one is searching for a home now and it’s part of a series I’ve had in my head since I was 12.

Big thanks to Julia Benally for being part of this week’s author series. Be sure to check out her site, The Sparrow’s Nest. You can also find her on Facebook and Google-Plus.

Happy reading!

Promising Newcomer: Interview with Author Rayne Kaa Hedberg

For this week’s author interview, I’m pleased to introduce Swedish speculative fiction author Rayne Kaa Hedberg. Though just beginning, Rayne’s career is off to an auspicious start with a horror story in Sanitarium Magazine, one of my personal favorite publications out there. Below, Rayne and I talk secrets of the writing process and what’s in store for this up-and-comer.

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

Rayne Kaa Hedberg That’s a tough one. I’m not sure exactly when I decided upon having it as a goal, but I know I have always wanted to write in some shape or form. Already as a small child I composed stories, though up until seventh grade I primarily used it for creating stories I would use in my manga. Somewhere around that time there was a break and I became more inclined to writing only. I left the drawings and began to paint with words to compensate for the lack of visual images. Some of my favourite authors naturally include Stephen King, but also Joe Hill, Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman. They all have a way of showing instead of telling, and I enjoy reading their work.

Your short story, “Donor,” appeared last year in Sanitarium Magazine. Can you share a little bit about your process when writing that piece?

Right, so initially I wanted to submit another piece I had written, but as I didn’t become satisfied with it, I had to start over with a completely different idea. I wanted to have a story about a medical error where you left a great deal unsaid. I did my research, as it’s always a big part of the process, and found out some horrifying things about rules regarding organ donors. “Donor” was originally meant to be my finishing project for writing class. I decided it was worth a try to send it in to Sanitarium Magazine as I had been following their process since the very first issue. I thought I could try my luck since the story was the right genre. Later on I could tell my teacher my story got published, which was a pleasant surprise.

Is horror your favorite genre to write, or are you looking to expand into other genres as well?

I don’t think I have a favourite genre to write in. When I write it doesn’t start in that end. I don’t think about writing a horror story and move on from there. A spark of an idea lights up and as I begin to explore it then I see what type of genre it fits into. I do often write about some type of supernatural element present, however. Often I see how I do end up in horror, but I enjoy working in the various genres as long as it’s an interesting idea. I don’t want to get niched on the one genre. I simply wish to tell the stories.

What monsters or general tropes do you feel are most overused in horror?

Sanitarium Magazine Issue 20I would say the hype on zombies is rather big at this time. I don’t necessarily mind that since many of the writers manage to pull it off well, but at times I lose interest when there’s no element of surprise left. With that said, I am an avid fan of “The Walking Dead”, for example, but when it’s the same old thing with the virus, the survival, the struggle without a twist to it, the stories tend to get predicable. One of my pet peeves in horror has to be the vampire struggling with not wanting to be a vampire and refusing to drink human blood. Vampires now aren’t what they used to be. Although I’m glad they don’t all look like Count Dracula, I wish it wouldn’t be romanticised the way it often is now, in different aspects of the word. Their horrifying factor has been diminished over the years.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am working on a surrealistic novella written in Swedish, for once. After that is finished, I have to go through the pile of unfinished novels and try to see some of them through, but I try to stay focused by taking it one at a time.

Big thanks to Rayne Kaa Hedberg for being part of this week’s author spotlight. Be on the lookout for new fiction from this budding author!

Happy reading!

Versatile Virtuoso: Interview with Bill Soldan

For this week’s author spotlight, I’m pleased to present jack-of-all-trades author Bill Soldan. Like several of my previous interviewees, I met Bill through Sanitarium Magazine where we both toil away as slush pile readers. During the course of our interview, Bill shared his thoughts on everything from balancing work and family to what it’s like to hang out at Emily Dickinson’s house. Good stuff all around for both aspiring and working writers!

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

Bill SoldanWell, I’d like to say I sprang from the womb with writerly ambitions, but I first fell in love with the idea around age 12. I stress the word “idea” because, although I was a ravenous reader my whole life, I never really tried to write anything of my own. When I was about 12, I was reading Stephen King’s The Shining and discovered my mom’s electric typewriter at about the same time. The result was about a paragraph of something called “The Deadman’s Shortcut” or something equally ridiculous. I had no idea what I was doing, but King’s novel was the first book to make me cling to the idea of writing stories.

But I was more into visual art as a teenager and didn’t really write fiction after that sad first attempt. There was a period, however, during which I thought I was Jim Morrison reincarnated. I had the role down, too: the attitude, the hair, the reckless abandon, the concho belt—pretty much everything but the leather pants and the talent. But then, I was only like 14 and a total idiot. Nevertheless, that was the beginning of writing poetry and songs for me. I did that for many years, still not knowing what the hell I was doing, and eventually I took a fiction class, because deep down that was still something I had an inkling to do. For the last, say, four years, fiction has been my primary focus. I’m still figuring things out, though.

As for favorite writers, I can never answer this question without listing the following authors: Donald Ray Pollock, Richard Lange, Daniel Woodrell, Benjamin Percy, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Flannery O’Connor, Jim Carroll, Sherman Alexie, Stephen King, Clive Barker, and many other seemingly dissimilar writers. Quite recently, I’ve just discovered the work of people like Craig Clevenger, Brian Evenson, Mitchell S. Jackson, and Denis Johnson (people seem to be shocked and appalled that I haven’t read his work before—and after reading some, so am I). Those are some of the big ones for me right now.

You’re currently working on your MFA while simultaneously teaching undergraduates. How has teaching affected your own approach to writing?

I can’t say that it has. Not yet anyway. I have recognized that I need to practice what I preach a bit more when it comes to certain things: trusting the revision process, reading my work aloud to find the hiccups in syntax, etc.—but this really applies more to my own academic writing. When writing multiple critical papers at any given time, sometimes it’s all you can do to get them written, never mind toiling over multiple drafts. When it comes to my writing, however, especially my fiction, I don’t have this problem so much. I’ll toil as long as it takes, and then some.

In terms of how teaching and being a student (and a husband and a father, among other things) has affected my writing routine, well, it can be draining, downright exhausting wearing so many hats. With my writing, it’s become a matter of fit it in when I can. But then, I never had a solid routine to begin with. I’ve tried, but I haven’t found what works best for me in terms of a schedule. I invariably do something writing related every day. Often it amounts to little more than brainstorming or jotting down potential first lines, but some days that’s enough to make me feel accomplished. Some days…

You recently returned from the Juniper Summer Writing Institute in Amherst, Massachusetts. What was the most unexpected or surprising thing you learned during the writing intensive?

I learned a lot while at Juniper and met some terrific people. The workshop I was in was revision based, so I didn’t generate much new material while I was there, but I came away with the beginnings of a few new things, several more pages of a work-in-progress, and some excellent feedback on some of my stories. I was so inspired by the atmosphere and sense of community that I had trouble readjusting to life for a couple days after I got home. The passion and talent there was nothing short of invigorating.

Without outlining specifics, I can say that what I got most from the instructional programming were the tips and insights I received from Brian Evenson and Mitchell S. Jackson.

I had the privilege to work with Brian all week, and frankly everything that came out of that man’s mouth was brilliant. He helped me see some areas in my own writing that worked well and some areas that could be better. He also held a craft session that focused on the distinction between people and characters—it was great.

Mitchell likewise helped me identify some things in my own writing. I had a manuscript consultation with him, during which he went through two of my stories with me line by line, showing me areas where the narrative was strong and areas where I should capitalize more on my strengths, which he said are “the acoustics of the sentence,” “dialogue,” and “description of setting, especially natural setting.” These comments were very motivating and encouraging, as these are three elements of prose that are particularly important to me. He also held a craft session that focused on “the poetry of prose,” which was an absolute goldmine.

What was most surprising, though, was the community of writers. I probably got more from spending time with all these awesome people, from our trips into town, our nightly readings, than from anything else. It was a time I’ll never forget, and I can’t wait to cross paths with some of them in the future.

While in Massachusetts, you posted pictures from Emily Dickinson’s house. In my past travels, I’ve always searched for any opportunities to visit the workrooms of famous authors. What kind, if any, inspiration do you find from visiting the home of famous writers, and how does it inform your work?

Visiting Emily Dickinson’s home was the first time I’d ever done anything like that. The most inspiring part of the tour was seeing her bedroom, which they’re in the process of restoring to its original state. Seeing her tiny writing desk and looking out the same windows she gazed through while penning many of her poems was surreal. (I still want to visit Robinson Jeffers’ home in Carmel, CA. That’s supposed to be one hell of a sight.)

Being there only informed my work insofar as it reinforced something I’ve always believed: that great art can spring from anywhere— if only we pay attention.

In what directions would you like to take your writing (e.g. more short stories, novels, nonfiction)?

I want to do it all. Poetry, nonfiction, novels, story collections—you name it. Right now I’m focused on getting some more of these short stories out of my head and working on my thesis, a (tentative) collection of linked pieces. I do want to tackle a novel at some point, but I haven’t taken that plunge just yet. I’ve got an idea brewing, but I’m keeping myself busy with several other shorter projects for the time being.

I have the urge to write creative nonfiction, but whenever I think of an experience I want to write about, I end up turning it into fiction instead. I’ve come to realize people will believe a lot more of your insane life history when you present it as fiction. Much of my fiction has autobiographical moments, sometimes entire scenes wrenched more or less from memory (a lot more than many people would be willing to swallow if I presented it to them in an essay or memoir) but I’ll leave it to readers to decide which of those are fabricated and which are not.

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

Sanitarium MagazineThough it’s far from my best work, I’m still in love with my story “Patchwork,” which appeared in Sanitarium magazine issue 13. It was the first story I ever completed in my first fiction class as an undergraduate, so there’s some significance there. The story has a lot of flaws, the least of which not being that it’s virtually all surface, meaning there’s little to no emotional undercurrent. I have a tendency to write fairly “detached” first-person narrators, but since doing this for a few more years, I’m learning the importance of emotional weight and resonance, even in characters that at first seem cold and indifferent. It’s something I think I’m getting better at, slowly but surely.

The story I consider to be my best, in terms of published pieces, is one called “Something Special,” which appeared in the Winter 2015 issue of Floyd County Moonshine. Not only do I feel this piece contains an emotional undercurrent while maintaining a relatively hard-edged surface, but it’s much more representative of the type of work I’ve been producing for the last couple years. Most of what I’ve published, with the exception of maybe two pieces, is quite different from (and in many ways not nearly as good as) what I’m writing now. Which is why I’m often reluctant to link people to my earlier work—I’m just not as happy with it as I once was. Nevertheless…

Any links you’d like to share?

If you’d like to read something for free, here’s a link to the only creative nonfiction piece I ever published. It’s a decent blend of the kind of prose I’m writing now and the more “speculative” stuff I haven’t written for a while. A bit of a mashup of fiction and nonfiction. There’s a lot about it that I like and some minor things I don’t. For one, there are some typos, which horrifies me, but I’m human, and so are copyeditors, thus it happens. Anyway, you can read it here: http://www.jennymag.org/fall-13-issue/sad-beauty

There are some others out there. Somewhere in the ether.

Big thanks to Bill Soldan for being part of our author series this week! Find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Happy reading!