Interview: Matthew M. Bartlett

Happy February! It’s the first Wednesday of the month, so that means it’s time for another Author Interview! This month’s interview is with haunted radio jockey/author Matthew M. Bartlett!

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Hello Matthew! I’m very excited to be interviewing you today! I like to start my interviews off with the lord of all softball questions: tell us a little bit about yourself. What made you want to be a writer? What do you do when you’re not putting words on a page?

When I was little, I wanted to write a magazine about the neighborhood kids. I named it Magazine Magazine. It never made it to even the first issue. To be fair, I was maybe seven years old. So the desire was there long, long before the ability.  That desire hit me early on, because I was a reader. I read a lot of Hardy Boys books and Alfred Hitchcock’s Haunted Houseful, and whatever I could get my hands on, Reader’s Digest, books based on the television show Get Smart, stuff on my parents’ and grandparents’ bookshelves. Then my grandparents, knowing my love for the Universal Monsters (I’d never seen the movies but was transfixed by the pictures), bought me King’s Christine, and the novelization of the first Omen movie. I was on the cusp of being a teenager then. I still wanted to write, but couldn’t manage to put anything decent together. A lot of writing was intimidating; writers seemed to know a lot about the world that I simply didn’t. In college I wrote poetry for classes, and I’m proud of a lot of that stuff. I admit that I’ve pilfered some lines from my old poems for my fiction. At that time I was reading a lot of American novelists like Mailer and Kesey and John Irving, and the Beat Generation writers, too. In my thirties I found my way to Lovecraft and Ligotti and Aickman, and I read all the King I could get my hands on, still. It wasn’t until I started up a fiction page on Livejournal, writing short pieces that ended up in Gateways to Abomination and Creeping Waves, that I essentially taught myself to write fiction. That was in 2004. I was 34 years old, and I didn’t put out Gateways until ten years later. During that ten years, I didn’t really think of myself as a “writer,” because I did not have the need to write every day, or even every week. That has changed.

When I’m not writing, I’m either at my job or lounging around watching television or movies with my wife and cats. Or else I’m reading. I’m not exactly living a fast-paced, exciting life. I hope you weren’t hoping I’d say “rock-climbing” or “body-surfing” or “traveling to distant lands.”

I think your creative voice is wholly unique. I find it dream-like, each horrifying image like a flashbulb in the dark. Anyone that knows their horror can spot a Matthew M. Bartlett story from across the room. Can you talk about what goes into a short story for you? What does your process look like?

It always starts with a vague concept, or a word or a phrase, one overheard or one that jumps into my head. The way I work is, if I sit down and open up a work in progress, or open up a new blank document with an idea in mind, I write. It’s automatic. If I don’t, I don’t. So I get myself to that computer every day and I open up that document. I rarely have a map in my head of where a story will go. Most times I have only the beginning. Sometimes I have that and the end, and no middle. And I just go where my mind takes me. And I do a lot of internet and book research, sometimes just to get tiny details right. I usually have a few projects going, so if I find myself stuck on one, I bounce over to the other.

You have a novella being published by Darkscape Press later this month. It’s called If It Bleeds and it looks absolutely incredible. What can you tell us about this new book?

This is a book very much in the vein of Gateways to Abomination, in that it’s a stringing together of short pieces that connect with each other in angular ways. They all revolve around a singer, and a song, and a deal with someone who isn’t quite the devil.  There’s a visit to a home for wayward boys, a strange incursion at a Gentleman’s Club, a grisly scene in a building near the National Mall in D.C., and a lackluster performance by a local band on a town green. There are beheadings, at least one shooting, and a few stabbings. So, essentially, it’s a love song, a sing along, a homicidal radio play without a if it bleedshero. The book basically serves as a prologue to the third full-length book about my fictional radio station WXXT, with Gateways being part 1, and Creeping Waves being part 2. The third book will have a lot of stuff about the FCC, or at least my version of it, which involves corruption and black magic. Right now I see it as a traditional novel, not a mosaic novel like the first two. The book has a cover and a frontispiece by the incredible Yves Tourigny, and gorgeous interior color illustrations by Luke Spooner. Incidentally, Nightscape will also be publishing a three-book set of illustrated hardcovers including my book Gateways to Abomination, Jon Padgett’s Secret of Ventriloquism, and a book of short story collaborations by me and Jon. It’s called Secret Gateways. Secret will be illustrated by Harry O. Morris, Gateways by Aeron Alfrey, and something special is in the works for the third book.

A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any advice for any writers looking to get published?

I do, for what it’s worth. A lot of it is common sense and nothing you won’t hear elsewhere. Read widely and often. Put your head down and put in the work. Write wherever and whenever you can. If you’re serious, and want to be a professional, don’t let video games and television take over your free time. Writing should bring you enjoyment, but remember that it is work.  Aim high. Don’t give away your work. If you receive feedback, try to put aside your ego and see if there’s any worth in it. Understand that if one venue doesn’t want your story, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad story; it rangel-body.jpgmight not be to that editor’s taste, or it might be not quite what he or she was envisioning for the work they’re putting together. Behave on social media. Know how to read the room, so to speak. Read what people in the writing community post for a long time before you wade in. If you have a book you want people to buy, don’t push it on them. Don’t friend writers, editors, and publishers on social media and then immediately ask something of them, like “look at my book, like my author page.” Self-promote only in spaces where self-promotion is explicitly requested. This is important because the genre fiction community on social media is smaller than you think, and we all talk to each other. Bad behavior gets around. Keep trying, if publication is what you want. Discouragement and rejections are part and parcel of writing. A thick skin and a belief in yourself are assets. Finally, and this may be a hard pill to swallow, if writing brings you nothing but misery, if you’ve given it all you’ve got to no avail, there’s no shame in stopping.

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?

I’m currently reading Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias, who is a true poet and a compelling writer. The new Simon Strantzas collection Nothing is Everything is in the mail, on its way to me. I’ll soon be starting A Rather Haunted Life, a Shirley Jackson biography. I’ve pre-ordered Carnivorous Lunar Activities by Max Booth III, and Wounds by Nathan Ballingrud, who is one of my absolute favorites. I also have House of Windows by John Langan to look forward to, and I’m really looking forward to his next collection. I stalled out on Don DeLillo’s Mao II, but may pick that up again for a re-try. Otherwise, I dip into the massive amount of collections and anthologies both old and new I have sitting around my house.

Where can people find you online?

My website is www.matthewmbartlett.com. I have a Patreon site where you can see and hear not-yet-published pieces and readings. I occasionally tweet but mostly retweet at @MattMBartlett. I’m on Facebook a lot.


Thank you for joining me, Matthew! This ends today’s transmission… Try not to pay to much attention to the voices hidden in the static…

Interview: Trevor Henderson

It’s January 2019 and that means it’s time for another interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month’s interview is with artist and cryptid king Trevor Henderson!  

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For my first question, I like to keep things simple. Tell us a little bit about yourself! What made you want to be an artist and a writer? What other hobbies do you enjoy in your free time?

Okay! So I’m an illustrator who lives in Toronto! I love horror in all it’s varied forms. I’ve been an artist who is interested in drawing monsters and scary things since I was very, very young, and this is entirely my Dad’s fault, him being a big horror fan who introduced me to horror films at a very young age. Both of my parents have always encouraged my art. I wouldn’t say I’m a writer, the little snippets I post with my art are more just me exploring a little bit. I was moved to start including them when I ran a tabletop horror game this past year and had to come up with a developing horror plot on the fly. It was so much fun, I started incorporating the written word into my art.

As for other hobbies, I listen to podcasts, play video games, board games, read horror fiction, and see a lot of movies. I was on a couple podcasts this year and it was a lot of fun. I’d love to do it again.

I think that your fame in the horror community comes from your absolutely jaw-dropping found-footage art. The power of your art certainly comes from seeing the supernatural lurking among the mundane. Can you talk about your Sirenhead.jpgart? 

Thank you so much! The supernatural co-mingling with the every day word in subtle and horrible ways is one of my favourite ideas in horror. The whole thing started as an idea to see if I could replicate a found footage horror film and boil it down to a single image and a couple sentences. The response has been so amazing that it has really encouraged me to continue playing around with the format, and it’s lead to me creating continuity between certain images, with a couple specific monsters popping up more than once, and some basic lore being developed. I’ve always loved found footage horror, and think that at it’s best, it provides a unique film-going experience.

You’ve released two books so far featuring your art and your fiction. The first, ‘Odd Noises in Empty Rooms’, is a collection of short horror stories and ghost drawings. The other is a book of short horror comics called ‘Bad Things Coming’. Greats titles! What can you tell us about those two books?

The first book, “Bad Things Coming” is a collection of four short (really short!) horror stories done entirely in pencil, with a risograph printed cover. The idea was to pay homage to the format of one of my favourite horror manga, “Fuan No Tane (Seeds of Anxiety)“, which manages to be terrifying in only a couple pages per story. I don’t think a lot of the book holds up, but there are a few drawings in it that I still love.

Odd Noises in Empty Rooms” is my newer book, and it’s a collection of scratchy black and white ghost drawings, with little one-page accompanying ghost stories. It was inspired by the work of Stephen Gammell, who is most famous for doing the terrifying art for the “Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark” books. They were hugely formative for me as a little kid, so I wanted to pay homage!

As I think most creative types can attest, it’s not always easy to stay on that treadmill. Life gets in the way, and sometimes the words and the art don’t want to flow. Have you ever experienced that? And what tactics do you use to keep it at bay?

It can be a real struggle. I work a full-time day job, and sometimes it’s nearly impossible. When I paint ghosts into photos in my found footage art, I find I can manage when I’m tired and don’t feel like drawing, because the background image is already there. I can look at the photo and be inspired to imagine what kind of creep is lurking in the background. In this way, I’ve been able to be productive and produce one or two found footage images a day, more or less, for the last couple months. It can be so hard, though. As long as you’re making SOMETHING every couple of days, you are improving. But at the same time, don’t push yourself. It’s understandable to be too tired to be creative after working a job all day.

Time for a dream job scenario: You’re given an unlimited budget and the ability to work for any company, with any characters. What is your dream project? (For me, It’s writing a Batman novel or five.)

Oh man, that’s an exciting question. I’d love to be hired on as a concept designer for the television show “Channel Zero“, in my opinion the best horror show on the air. It’s constantly showing off these fantastically designed and executed monsters, and I’d love to have a hand in helping to develop their next iconic entity.

Last question! Where can people find you and your works?

Hands in the Forest

Oh yeah! You can find me on most social media, but I use Twitter the most. You can follow me at https://twitter.com/slimyswampghost. I’m also on tumblr at http://slimyswampghost.tumblr.com/ and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/trevorhenderson/!

Author Interview: Gemma Amor

Chestnuts roasting over a horror fire…

Or something. It’s December, and that means it’s time for my final interview of the year! In case you’re new to the blog, every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month’s interview is with horror podcast maverick Gemma Amor!

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I’m very excited to be doing this interview with you today! I like to start my interviews off with an easy question: tell us a little bit about yourself! Why did you decide to become a writer? What other hobbies do you have in your spare time?

I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. It was never really a conscious decision for me, but simply something I always did. I spent a lot of time by myself as a child, and writing was a natural byproduct of that and being a ferocious reader from a young age. Over the years I began to take it more and more seriously, and then, eventually, I realized I couldn’t live very comfortably without writing, and would feel anxious, frustrated and upset the longer I went without putting pen to paper. So it became my way of life, and is now my main source of income (which is why I only eat every other week).  All of this means I don’t really have many other hobbies, because I don’t get a huge amount of spare time. I am also a parent, which is tantamount to pouring any free time that remains into a vast, black hole. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You seem to have an affinity for spooky podcasts! I first discovered your work on a recent episode of the stellar No Sleep Podcast (the Halloween episode). I saw you’ve got pieces slated for several new podcasts in 2019! What can you tell us about your podcast work?

Podcasts are my addiction, and I found the podcast community to be an instantly welcoming and warm place full of like-minded people. I realized that although I love writing fiction, I also love hearing audio adaptations of my work. Once my first story was accepted by NoSleep, I was no sleep podcasthooked, and began writing more and more stories for audio. Writing for audio demands a lot of a writer in different ways to straight fiction, so I learned a lot as I continued to submit stories and reach out to other, similar shows such as Shadows at the Door, and the Grey Rooms. Most importantly, however, getting involved in podcasting meant that I built connections with actors, producers and mentors who possessed so much knowledge and expertise that I’m now producing two of my own shows, both of which are out in 2019. Calling Darkness is a horror-comedy show that I’ve co-written with NoSleep stalwart S.H. Cooper. It stars Kate Siegel, from Netflix smash-hit The Haunting of Hill House, as our narrator, and a whole host of other great voice talent from the world of audio-drama, including David Cummings, Graham Rowat, Dan Zappula, and many more. It’s an irreverent, female-led audio drama co-created by myself, Cooper and so many other talented people. Kate is just wonderful in it- I’ve listened to her raw audio for the first four episodes, and can’t stop smiling.

I’m also writing, producing and acting in forthcoming audio drama Whisper Ridge, which is again slated for release in 2019. It’s a serious audio-fiction series set in the post-gold-rush era of the American frontier, and follows the journey of a young Sheriff who comes to the town of Whisper Ridge only to encounter strange phenomena. It’s quite different to my other work, and I’m really excited to record the pilot, which will be out soon.

I saw your first collection, Cruel Works of Nature, releases in December of this year! I signed up for your newsletter so I can get eyes on it when it releases! How did this collection come about? What can we expect from the stories within?

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After buckets of blood, sweat and tears, it’s finally out! Which is so surreal, and it’s delightful to finally have something tangible and published that I can hold in my hands. I’ll be updating my mailing list very shortly with links to the book on Amazon. Cruel Works of Nature is a hand illustrated collection of short stories, some of which have been adapted by the NoSleep podcast, others which are exclusive to the book. Each story deals with some aspect of nature or the natural world that has gone horribly awry. I have a thing about the great outdoors, animals, flora and fauna, and skewed realities. I also have a thing about monsters, and so this book is a love-letter to the upside-down, as it were. Its been really well received so far, which is lovely, and has spurred me on to write the next collection, which I’ll release in 2019.

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?

I’m reading so many books at the same time that I need to stop, and catch up. I have a collection of short stories by H.G.Wells to get through, and then I might revisit Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, which I try and read once a year simply because I love it so much.

A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any advice for any writers looking to get published?

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 My advice would be not to give up. Even if you send one story to a thousand people, and it gets rejected each time, don’t give up. Do consider, however, getting beta-readers involved for constructive criticism, or a writing mentor who can help you learn and shape your words more effectively. There is nothing that cannot be re-written and improved upon.

And always, always, ALWAYS follow the submission guidelines, no matter who or what you are submitting to. Guidelines are there for a reason, and ignoring them will piss editors off no end.

You’re enjoying a cup of coffee in a crowded café when the door dings. Your favorite author walks in and asks if he/she can take a seat in the empty chair at your little table. You nod your head and they sit down. Who is that author? And what will you talk about? No subject is off limits.

Dear God, I could never choose one author, and I’m so socially defunct that I would never invite them to sit with me and make awkward conversation! But if I had to, at gun point, I would talk to the following:

Angela Carter, about female characters rooted in magic realism, about fairy stories, and about Bristol, where I live and she studied.

Stephen King, about anything he wanted, but primarily writing horror as a means of coping with your own personal demons,

Stephen Hall, about grief and allegory,

Hanif Kureshi, about short stories and love affairs,

Mary Shelley, about her utterly bonkers life,

Robert Jordan, about world building in the Wheel of Time series.

But it’s far more likely I would turn a deep shade of red, sweat a lot and mumble something incoherently about the weather!

 

Thank you Gemma! To find out more about her work, check out her website at gemmaamorauthor.com. This interview is the 6th I’ve done for my site, and I hope to continue going strong into 2019. Every writer/creator I interview offers a new perspective and excellent advice about their craft and lessons writers like me (or you) can truly learn from. Stay awesome everybody, and tune in next week for my end of year review.

Author Interview: Kelly Robson

It’s November 7th and that means it’s time for this month’s Author Interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month’s interview is with Nebula Winner Kelly Robson.

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Kelly Robson. Photo Credit: Maxwell Ander

Hello Kelly! I’m very excited to have you here on the blog today! I like to start my interviews off with the ultimate softball question: tell us a little bit about yourself. What made you want to be a writer? What do you do when you’re not sitting at your keyboard?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid. Book have always been the most important thing in the world to me. But I caught the short SFF bug when I was sixteen and picked up my first issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. Contemporary short SFF just blows my mind. It’s so powerful, so flexible.

I have a nine-to-five office job in downtown Toronto, which is only a fifteen minute walk from my apartment. I love not having a commute — it gives me time and energy for writing after work.

I discovered your writing through Tor.com late last year. It was ‘A Human Stain’ that drew me in. After I saw Sam Wolfe Connelly’s incredibly creepy art, I knew I had to read it. This story is a perfect example of how amazing speculative fiction can be. I think you must have performed some kind of gothic-magic to cram that much atmosphere and detail into 40 pages. Your story rightfully won the Nebula for Best Novelette. Can you give us some background on ‘A Human Stain’? What was it like to win that award?

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Isn’t that cover art amazing? I love it so much. Ellen Datlow edited “A Human Stain,” and she put me through FIVE rewrites. One of the great things about horror stories is the sensory detail — it’s not horror if you can’t feel it! The story wouldn’t have won the Nebula if Ellen hadn’t pushed me to perfect it, and at the end, neither she nor I could really tell if the story worked or not. So winning the award was a complete surprise. I really expected not to win, and my co-finalists are all people I know and like so I was rooting for them. Then at the ceremony, I was busy live-tweeting the results on my phone, and was poised to take a photo of the winner when my name was called. I sat with my mouth open for a full ten seconds before moving.

Your book ‘Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach’ landed on shelves in March of this year. Though I haven’t got a chance to read it yet (it’s in my teetering TBR pile) it looks like you’ve created a very unique world. How did you go about writing this book and managing all the demands that world-building requires?

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I go about world-building in an organic way, by reading a lot of interesting non-fiction and then synthesizing the best bits. I don’t really take notes, I just try to get an understanding of how the world works. So my Earth of 2267 is based on a lot of information from David Graeber’s terrific economics book Debt: The First 5000 Years combined with my own understanding of the professional services world to create a unique economic system. I really believe economics is the physics of world-building. Once you understand that piece, everything else falls into place.

A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any advice for any writers looking to get published?

I tell new writers that the writers who make it are the ones who don’t quit, so to make it, you have to find the survival strategy that works for you. That’s going to be different for everyone. Maybe that means doing what I did: write a lot but not submit stories until I knew my stories were good enough to sell to the bigger SFFH markets. Other people find a way to enjoy the submission grind. Others go to a lot of workshops, and get tons of feedback on their drafts. So just do what’s right for you and don’t quit. If you never quit, you never fail.

What’s next for you? Any new books or stories on the horizon?

Right now, I’m working on a sequel to ‘Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach’. And I’m discovering that second books are really difficult.

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?

I’m reading an arc of Caitlin Starling’s The Luminous Dead, which is an SF Horror and it’s simply terrific. It’ll be out next year. I’m reading a lot of horror right now. And I’m desperately looking forward to Annalee Newitz’s next novel, which I think should be out next year, too!

Last question: You’re stranded on a desert island with one historical figure from any point in history. Who’s it going to be?

Such a hard question! I think it would have to be Oscar Wilde, because I’d really like to collaborate with him on a decadent, epic space opera.

Author Interview: Orrin Grey

It’s finally October and that means it’s time for this month’s Author Interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month I’ll be talking to horror fiction’s favorite skeleton Orrin Grey.

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Hello Orrin and happy (28 days from now) Halloween! I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy autumnal schedule to have a quick chat with me. I’d like to start with an easy question: What made you want to be a writer? What turned you into the skeleton you are today?

I’ll be completely honest and say that I don’t know what originally made me want to be a writer. For as long as I can remember, it’s all I ever wanted to do. My mom had this book where she kept my report cards and class photos and stuff from all my years of elementary school, and for every grade it had a space where I could write what I wanted to be when I grew up. From about third grade on all it ever said was, “writer.”

That said, a lot of different things formed the specific writer that I am now. I went through various phases when I was younger, writing fanfic, trying (and failing) to write big epic fantasy sagas, all that jazz. I know that reading Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber was a turning point for me, in part because it was a very different kind of writing than I had read before then, and the zest with which he mixed and matched genre tropes was thrilling to me at the time.

Of course, I’m known by now for writing about and around film quite a bit. I’ve always loved movies, but I didn’t get into the older horror films that have become some of my chief influences until after I had graduated from college. When I was a kid, though, I used to have these Crestwood House Monster Books, which some readers may remember. They were little board books that I would check out from my school library, filled with black-and-white stills from old monster movies of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. I used to pore over those things obsessively, mentally conjuring the movies that I imagined went with those images.

Probably the biggest turning point for me was getting into Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comics. Here was someone who was doing so much of the stuff I wanted to be doing, who was bending and blending genres, telling numinous supernatural stories built around chewy pulp centers (and vice versa), but perhaps more importantly, who was wearing all of his influences on his sleeve, so that reading his stuff became a gateway to countless other writers, artists, movies, and more that have since become huge influences on my work. Mike Mignola tells a story in interviews about how reading Dracula made him realize that all he wanted to do was draw monsters. Reading his work did something similar for me, but I can’t draw, so here I am.

I love your work. Your stories find the perfect balance of cosmic horror and creepy beasties. ‘Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts’ should be made mandatory reading for all young ghouls and ghosts. I’ve heard tell that you have a new collection getting ready to come out. What can you tell me about it?

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Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales should actually be out by the time this sees print! It’s being released by Word Horde, the same publisher who put out Painted Monsters, and I’m extremely lucky to be working with Ross Lockhart again. He was an early booster of my stuff, and I owe a lot to his faith in me and my weird stories.

Guignol collects fourteen of my spooky tales, four of which have never seen print before. Of the ones that have, several are hard-to-find, out-of-print, or seldom seen, so I think it’ll be a treat Orrin Greyfor fans of my work. There are two novelettes in the book, “The Cult of Headless Men” and “The Lesser Keys” and I’m really excited for people to check it out. Like Painted Monsters, it draws a lot of influence from movies and the theater, and its title, in fact, comes from the one-two punch of the Theatre du Grand Guignol, an early French horror theatre known for its bloody and lurid plays, and “Contes Cruel,” both a subtype of horror story and the title of a couple of early collections of same.

Guignol is filled with more of the kind of stuff that readers have come to expect from me, but this is also possibly my grimmest collection to date. While I hesitate to call the stories in it cruel, they certainly aren’t kind. Painted Monsters had a sort of unintended thematic underpinning of death and what comes after, while Guignol is more about dealing with trauma, and how the past, especially the painful past, never entirely leaves us alone.

It also probably has more monsters per page than anything else I’ve ever written, so there’s always that.

You, like so many other awesome folk, love horror cinema. I’m sure you have all kinds of movies ready to go throughout this entire blessed month. As a fan of the genre, what are some of the movies you’ll be watching leading up to All Hallows’ Eve?

I live in the suburbs of Kansas City, and we’re lucky enough here to have a really passionate and active horror film community. We also have a great local theatre, in the form of the Screenland Armour, which does Halloween programming all month long in October, so I’m hoping to catch a lot of that. As part of the launch festivities for Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales, I’ll be presenting a free screening of Mario Bava’s Black Sunday on October 14, and every year the Nerds of Nostalgia podcast hosts a horror triple feature sometime around Halloween, which has become my annual birthday tradition.

Beyond that, I watch a lot more horror cinema than anything else all year long, but as the Halloween season rolls around I tend to gravitate even more toward the old classics. There’s a new Blu-ray release of some William Castle titles on its way that I’m really excited about. Like every other horror fan on the planet, I’ll be watching the new Halloween when it hits theatres, even if I am less sanguine about it than many of my peers. And I am really looking forward to Apostle, the new folk horror flick from Gareth Evans and Dan Stevens that’s coming to Netflix this month.

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A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any advice for any writers looking to get published?

Maybe the best piece of advice I ever got in this business was, “Know your victory conditions.” Know what success looks like to you. It’s easy to lose focus when you’re in the proverbial mines, but if you can remember what it is you’re trying to accomplish, you can work towards it. For some people that means critical acknowledgement or winning awards, for some people that means getting a lot of fans or readers, for some people that means making a living at writing. For some it means something else completely. Those things aren’t mutually exclusive, you may get all of them, but if you know what’s important to you, it’ll help you make the hard decisions when they come, and keep you from getting turned around in the dark.

Also, don’t be in a hurry. It’s better to sell a few stories to good markets than a lot of stories to markets that no one will ever see. It’s better to wait a few years until you have a collection that’s really strong than to break out with a first collection too early.

Let’s talk about books for a minute. What’s in your TBR pile currently? Are there any stories/novels you like to read to get into the October spirit?

My TBR pile is so careeningly, terrifyingly cyclopean that it beggars belief, let alone description. I am so far behind on my reading that I barely know where to begin. That said, I recently finished Matthew M. Bartlett’s first collection (I had already read his later ones, but had missed the first) and, like all of his other work, it blew my mind. He is, for my money, one of the best authors working today, and I am always wowed by his stuff. I’ve got a gobsmackingly long list of stuff in my queue, but right now I’m trying to make my way through William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, which, as I had been warned countless times, is a slog.

never bet

Last  question: Where can people find your works?

Probably the best place is in one of my collections, which I will have three of by the time this sees print. Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings, my first collection, is now available in a deluxe hardcover from Strix Publishing, while Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts and Guignol& Other Sardonic Tales are both available from Word Horde or wherever better books are sold. You can keep up with me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and you can always find out the latest stuff I’m doing on my website. I have a few stories available online, as well, including a recent one at The Dark and several on PseudoPod.

 

Author Interview: Michael Wehunt

Welcome to September’s Author Interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month I’ll be interviewing the spooktastic Michael Wehunt!

Michael Wehunt

Hello Michael! I’d like to thank you for joining me here. Let’s start with an easy one: tell us a little bit about yourself. What made you want to be a writer? What do you do in your spare time when you’re not at a keyboard?

Thanks so much for having me. As you requested, I’m pretending not to see the shockingly large number of human bones in the corner or the strange symbols painted in blood on the floor…

I grew up in Georgia and seem unable to leave. I almost have to answer your first question as if it were, What kept you from being a writer? Because that speaks more clearly to how I became one. I think I wanted to be a writer from the age of eight or so, but it never took deep enough root in me for some reason. I was drawn to horror as a child, developed the usual Stephen King loyalty, watched whatever horror films I could. I didn’t have a lot of ways to explore the genre when I was very young, but there was enough to keep me hooked. Still, I let horror literature drift away from me in early adulthood. I still sought out darkness in most things I read – Southern Gothic is a good example, as is anything about sadness and regret, for there is great horror in the everyday – but it would take me a long time to come back to capital-H Horror. I also let thoughts of myself as a writer (or any sort of creator) drift away from me for too long, and looking back it seems I was both not experienced enough in life to try writing seriously and much too scared to fail at it. The latter haunted me for quite some time, until one day in 2011 – I was reading King’s Skeleton Crew for maybe the fourth time in my life – something just clicked, and I was furious with myself for never having tried my hand at this. I felt I had things to say and hadn’t been letting myself speak. Horror felt like a full circle for me, and I didn’t hesitate for a moment as I began, at last, a shaking in my hands, to write that first creepy story.

In my spare time, I enjoy not being in a hurry. I’m happiest with my partner and dog in the woods, in inconstant shadow and filtered light. If my dog will allow me to, I like to be still in the trees. Nothing is so calming. It is a sort of cathedral. And, of course, I read as much as I can, with varying success. I try to read twice as much as I write and spend twice as much time outside as I do with a Word file open on my computer. It’s all about balance and peace.

I read and was subsequently floored by your collection ‘Greener Pastures’ when I read it last year. The stories in here are terrifying, but they are also richly drawn and complicated. Can you talk a little bit about how ‘Greener Pastures’ came together? I’d be interested in knowing how the creepy sausage gets made.

Thank you so much! Two and a half years of people saying nice things about the book, and it still seems surreal every time. Greener Pastures started coming together simply because a publisher asked if I was interested, and I realized, with a bit of surprise, that I had more than enough material.
Greener Pastures

Then another publisher asked the same question, and I started to think it could be a Real Thing. A pretty mundane origin. But I wanted to make sure I wasn’t all in on a collection just to have a collection. I needed to be 100% behind every single story I chose, with as close to zero filler as I could possibly get, or else it would be much better to wait.

But when I began to think of putting stories together in a group, I saw fairly obvious thematic threads running through much of my work – loss, grief, the creepy inexplicable bleeding into personal darkness, and the attempts to cope with these different sorts of terrors at once – and the eleven stories I chose seemed to speak together really well, cross-pollinating each other, echoing and distorting those echoes, with a couple of curveballs thrown in. It felt like a collection of the lost. Yet nothing felt repetitive or redundant with anything else, and I began to get excited and proud in a way I hadn’t been before.

One of my favorite stories in the collection is ‘October Film Haunt: Under the House’. I also just read ‘The Pine Arch Collection’ in The Dark Magazine for this interview (Props on making e-mails scary). Both stories feature film in some way. Are you a big horror movie fan? What are some favorites that always draw you back in?

I love hearing feedback about “October Film Haunt: Under the House,” and if readers have a cumulative favorite in the collection, it’s probably that one. It really sparked my interest in a dialogue between horror films and horror literature, which usually flows in The Dark Michael Wehuntone direction – a book is adapted as a movie. I wanted to write a love letter to found-footage horror and modern (or digital) folklore of the sort that you find in internet creepypasta. Last year I decided to expand upon the October Film Haunt world a little bit with another love letter to found footage, “The Pine Arch Collection.” It’s really interesting to try to comment on what horror fiction (both film and prose) truly is and how it connects with those experiencing it. A sort of meta horror, if you will. I find it fascinating to explore, and my novel interacts with it to some degree as well.

And yes, I love horror movies. They have been my one constant connection with horror since childhood, even when, as noted earlier, I foolishly (but perhaps, all things considered, fortunately as well) stopped reading the genre before I was able to drown in it. The Blair Witch Project remains my favorite horror film of all time. I have defended it many times and am prepared to do so many more times (not forgetting to hug all those folks who love it like I do). Nature as horror, the abstract occult, the periphery providing far more chills than the foreground ever could – the movie excels in so many ways, and I find it always rewatchable. It’s been a big influence, and I’ve enjoyed wearing that influence on my sleeve a bit. Kairo, Ringu, Paranormal Activity 3, A Tale of Two Sisters, Don’t Look Now, Let the Right One In, The Witch, Kill List, Picnic at Hanging Rock (if you want to stretch the definition of horror a bit), and Audition are some of my other very favorites. Hereditary is very recent, but I am certain I will be drawn back to it again and again. It’s vicious and unapologetic like few other movies.

A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any advice for any writers looking to get published?

Yes, writing can be deeply discouraging as well as deeply rewarding. In 2016 I wrote a blog post about turning five years old as an author. I tried to give several pieces of advice there as I looked back over what I had learned and how the tired, sounds awake Michael Wehunt.jpgI had learned it. I also wrote a blog post (for Kendall Reviews) after I finished my first novel, which I think could be helpful to beginning writers. The single most important piece of advice I would offer a beginning writer would be to do the best you can with what time you have. Everyone’s life is unique, with different responsibilities, different circumstances, different rejections and different reasons for those rejections, not all of which have anything to do with the author. Try not to be jealous of those who are able to write far more than you do, or those who are finding success more quickly or easily than you are. You have your own variables, your own toolbox, and all those other writers are not your competition. Be happy for them, and they’ll be happy for you. We’re all in this together, just telling stories.

What’s next for you? Any new books or stories on the horizon?

I am, unfortunately, taking 2018 off as an author. It was a sad but necessary decision. But I have my first novel’s first draft waiting for edits, and my second collection of stories (tentative title: The Pine Arch Collection) is ready to go and will be a bit heftier than Greener Pastures. Before long I’ll be getting those two books into shape and sending them out on submission, so they are very much on the horizon, delayed as they are. Then I will turn to writing something shiny and new. Well, maybe extremely dark rather than shiny, but new all the same.

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?

I am painfully behind on my TBR pile. The books I’m looking forward to have already been out for a while. Julian Barnes’ novel The Noise of Time. Lucia Berlin’s posthumous collection, A Manual for Cleaning Women. Kristi DeMeester’s first novel, Beneath. (Her story collection, Everything That’s Underneath, is really good.) Gwendolyn Kiste’s debut collection, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe. But there’s some exciting stuff out recently. Gemma Files (one of my favorite authors) has a new collection out. Jeffrey Ford’s new novel Ahab’s Return was just published. Simon Strantzas has a new collection in October. In the literary world, it will be a matter of doing some research to learn what 2018 releases I’ve painfully overlooked since being out of the loop. For now, though, I’m trying to focus on the mountain of books that already exists in my house.

Last question: where can people find your works?

I have a bibliography page that lists everything I’ve published with relevant links. I try to post regularly on my blog’s home page when something comes out or semi-regularly about miscellaneous topics such as thoughts on writing or the horror genre. Feel free to follow my blog and stay connected!

Author Interview: Kristi Demeester

Welcome to another Author Interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month’s interview is with the insanely talented Kristi Demeester. Kristi’s short fiction has been featured in numerous anthologies and her collection and debut novel (Everything That’s Underneath and Beneath respectively) have recently been released.

DSaUTF9W

Hello Kristi! I’d like to thank you for joining me here. Let’s start with an easy one: tell us a little bit about yourself. What made you want to be a writer? What do you do in your spare time?

I started as a voracious reader, so story has always been a deep, intrinsic part of my life. But I wasn’t the kid who tried to write her own stories. I didn’t start writing seriously until my early 20s, and then it was because I wanted to be able to write the stories I wanted to read but couldn’t find. In my spare time, I wrangle a kid and squeeze in what writing I can. My spare time is my writing time. 

I’ve noticed that a lot of your stories concern the tumultuous relationships between mothers and daughters. Is there something particular that draws you to that theme? Or does it crop up organically as you work?

That’s a theme I revisit because it’s something I was working through as I was writing those stories and am still working through as I come to terms with it now. There is a lot of emotional fear for me wrapped up in how mother’s can prey on their daughter’s emotions and use it for their benefit. And so I was working through much of that fear in my stories. 

‘Beneath’ was one of my favorite novels of the year last year. It felt like a takedown of toxic religion wrapped in a gonzo horror tale. How did the process of writing the novel go?Beneath

Thank you so much! I started Beneath almost four years before it ever saw the light of day. I originally planned for it to be a possession story, but it slowly morphed into something else. I’d completed about a hundred pages of it, and then set it aside and started writing short stories. The summer of 2014, I finally got back to it and finished it in earnest. After that draft, it went through another draft where I added in Cora’s character. It was truly a labor of love getting that book out. 

A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any advice for any writers looking to get published?

Be the most stubborn asshole you can be. Discouragement and rejection happen to all of us, but pick it back up and keep going. Find a good beta reader who you trust and respect. You’re going to get jealous of other’s people’s success but don’t let it stifle your own work. And don’t be a jerk to an editor who rejects you. As a matter of fact, don’t respond to a rejection at all. Not even to say than you for reading. Just send it on to the next. 

What’s next for you? Any new books or stories on the horizon?

Everything That's UnderneathI have stories forthcoming in Apex, Pseudopod, Shimmer, Ashes and Entropy, Welcome to Miskatonic University, Chiral Mad 4, Disintegration, Eydolon, Lost Films, Lost Highways, Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Vol. 5, and Fairy Tale Review. 

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?

I’m currently reading and loving Julia Elliott’s The Wilds. Next up is Victor Lavalle’s The Changeling. I’m looking forward to reading some Caroline Kepnes and Paul Tremblay’s newest The Cabin at the End of the World. 

Last question: where can people find your works?

www.kristidemeester.com or on Twitter at KMDemeester.