Interview: Nicole Cushing

Hello everybody and welcome to July’s Interview! I’ve got an interview ready just in time for the holiday weekend! If you’re new around here, every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month I’m talking to Stoker Award Winner Nicole Cushing! Her new novel releases next month, and I invited her to my blog to talk about it!

Nicole Cushing

Hello Nicole! I’m excited to be interviewing you today! I like to start with the ultimate ice-breaker request: tell us a little bit about yourself! What made you want to be a writer?

I’ve always loved language. When I was ten years old, I would entertain myself by skimming through the dictionary. I especially enjoyed finding out the backstory of words; how they came to be, their roots in other languages, for example.

Later, as a teenager, I developed an appreciation for fiction. I believe this is because the stories and poems I read in English class spoke to me in a way nothing else did. Emily Dickinson “felt a Funeral, in (her) brain”. Shakespeare stared at suicide. Poe ogled cruelty and disease. J.D. Salinger mocked the phoniness and triviality of common aspirations. Katherine Anne Porter exposed the futility of hope. Who wouldn’t want to join such a lovably degenerate gang?

Your new novel ‘A Sick Grey Laugh’ releases next month! How did this book come to be? And how did it differ from your experience writing your previous books?

A Sick Grey Laugh.jpg

My first novel (Mr. Suicide) won the Bram Stoker Award in 2016, and in the aftermath of that celebration I found my career at a crossroads. I had to ask myself, Where do I go from here? I mulled the pros and cons of writing a second novel very much like my first. But, in the end, I took a different path.

Now, make no mistake: my usual themes of trauma, foulness, and madness do very much lurk within the pages of A Sick Gray Laugh. As does my penchant for gallows humor. But the story unfolds on a far bigger canvas than usual: the canvas of history, society, culture, and politics.

Between your Patreon (The Nightmare Institute) and workshops at places like StokerCon, you have a lot of experience in teaching writing. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

In my Patreon class, I help students learn how to write a good horror story by presenting them with a good horror story from the past, and pointing out what makes it tick. It’s a very practical, hands-on approach. In fact, I like to think of my role as being like an auto mechanics instructor. I “pop open the hood” of a good horror story, remove its engine, and take it apart so I can show my students the various components that make it run well. For those curious, I offer some free samples of classes on Youtube.

The class I’ve taught at StokerCon is similarly practical, but focused on career planning. I help students discover their unique creative identity and then help them determine the publication goals best suited for that identity.

In tying into my last question, do you have any general advice for any new writers looking to get published?

I think it’s important for new writers to realize that when they submit a story (or a novel, novella, poem, etc.) the default setting for an editor’s response is “no”. The vast majority of submissions are going to be rejected. Many of these submissions don’t actually suck, they’re just “meh”. “Meh” isn’t good enough.

In order to be accepted, you have to create something so extraordinary that it pulls the switch off its default setting. To accomplish this, a writer typically needs to spend time honing their craft. In my case, this meant engaging in dozens (hundreds?) of failed literary experiments before I finally arrived on the right path. It took years to develop my skill set. It took patience. But that patience paid dividends.

Let’s talk about books for a moment. What’s in your To Be Read pile right now? Any books you’re looking forward to in the future?

Oddly enough, I made a Youtube video about this very subject last week. (My To Be Read pile is a literal pile taking up about six square feet of my office. Very telegenic.)

But I’m glad you asked the question here, because my T.B.R. pile has changed even since then! I went to the library and picked up two books: an annotated edition of Dracula (with an introduction, notes, and bibliography by Leonard Wolf), and Pushkin’s Little Tragedies.

Last question: where can people find you online?

As well as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Yet another great interview! If you’re interested in reading more of reviews just like this one, click the links below!

The first interview with Lovecraftian extraordinaire Pete Rawlik! 

The insanely talented Kristi DeMeester!

The spooktastic Michael Wehunt!

Horror’s favorite skeleton Orrin Grey!

Artist and cryptid king Trevor Henderson!

Haunted radio jockey/author Matthew M. Bartlett!

Horror podcast maverick Gemma Amor!

Horror author (and birder!) Carrie Laben!

Video game critic (and video game Jedi) Alex Kane!

Strange story specialist Simon Strantzas!

Myth-maker Georgina Bruce!

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