Category Archives: Q and A with Authors

Interview: Haunting and Horror Writer Pamela Morris Talks Books, Women in Horror, and Historical Locations #WIHM #womeninhorror #historicalhorror

Tomorrow is the last day of February and the closing of Women in Horror Month, but I know that I for one won’t stop celebrating women all year long. Stay tuned in March for a little announcement on how I will do that even more on schedule than I have before on this site, even though a majority of people featured here has always been predominately women.

Today, join me for a last segment in my mini women in horror month series. Pamela is a cool horror writer I met online years ago through our mutual friendship with horror author Hunter Shea. She likes her ghouls and haunts and history and so this will be a fun and interesting interview to read. Enjoy!

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Hi Pamela, welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so glad you could join us. I have strong coffee or tea, whichever you’d prefer, or stiff drink. Take your pick, and if the former, tell me how you take it.

Pamela: Hey, Erin. It’s nice to be here. *checks the time* Coffee sounds great, with a double shot of Jameson and some whipped cream sounds about right after that chilly walk over here.

Erin: That sounds incredibly wonderful! Let’s carry them into the dining room and begin our chat!

I’ve known you for quite a few years, meeting you online from Hunter Shea. I know you are a fan of the paranormal and write many books in that vein. Can you tell my readers a bit about that and what you write?

Pamela: I have always been interested in all things occult and paranormal. It was something I grew up being very curious about and was never discourage away from learning. I’ve also been an avid reader all my life, so I guess the two just went hand-in-hand. First you read it. Then, in my case, you start writing about it. My first paranormal story was a three-page tale titled “The Strange Well” that I wrote when I was ten.

As I grew older, the stories got longer until now, I focus mainly on novels. My first two supernatural novels also happened to be murder-mysteries and are set in Barnesville, the fictionalized version of the small town I grew up in. Barnesville is home to a secret coven of witches who keep an eye on things. Currently I have four books set in Barnesville and there will be more eventually. These books lean towards the YA crowd.

In addition to The Barnesville Chronicles, I have a psychological horror that is very dark and deals with some taboo subject matter: abuse, rape, incest, murder, etc. Not YA in the least. Lastly, I wrote ghost story where a lot of the story is told from the perspective of the three ghosts involved. You don’t just see or hear what they are doing, but you get to know them as they were in life and why they are doing what they are doing, not just to the living but to their fellow trapped spirits.

Erin: What is your newest book and what’s that about? What did you find the most fun about writing that one and why?

Pamela: Last year I released a novel and a short story. The novel was the second part and conclusion to “The Witch’s Backbone” one of my Barnesville books. It’s very much a coming-of-age type tale. Five kids living in a small town decide to find out the truth about their local urban legend. The legend involves a witch named Rebekkah Hodak who is rumored to haunt a narrow ravine just outside town. It’s said that if you go to where her body was found, see her, and meet her gaze, you’re cursed to die an early, and possibly gruesome, death. One of the kids, twelve-year-old Tara Fielding, accidently sees what she believes to be this witch. Her panic and belief in the legend are what spawns the organization of a camping trip into the nearby woods. Horror ensues.

The short story is all about my personal fear of spiders, “Because, Spiders.” It’s about a nine-year-old girl whose fear is even greater than my own. She’s convinced there’s a giant spider hiding in the shed behind her house and she’s pretty sure it caught and ate the neighbor’s dog, too.

Erin: Do you feature any strong female in starring or supporting roles in your novels and stories? Tell us about a few and what their traits are?

Pamela: Most of my lead characters are women. In The Barnesville Chronicles, that would be Nell Miller. She’s the local small town librarian, who also happens to be a member of the coven mentioned earlier. She’s very out about being Pagan and confident in her magic abilities. She’s a bit of an instigator, always wanting to know more, do more, take action. She’s no Nervous Nellie, that’s for sure. She’s not one to turn down a challenge and will often drag her reluctant friends into helping her out.

In “Dark Hollow Road”, the psychological horror, one of the lead female characters is Mary Alice Brown. She’s the eldest of four and after the death of their mother, she’s the one responsible for taking care of all the rest. She struggles a lot with all that entails, including dealing with their abusive, alcoholic father. She does her best to protect them from him, even if that means she gets hurt in the process. She’s very shy, not well educated, and the victim of a lot of bullying both at home and around town, but she retains her sense of what is right and wrong, she has her hopes and dreams. She’s a fighter.

Erin: I love mysteries and historical research as well. How do those two loves of yours factor into your work?

Pamela: Every year for many, many years I’d get at least four Nancy Drew books for Christmas. I’d have them read by the end of January and craving more. That’s where my love of mysteries started and what greatly influenced what I write. Later I’d graduate to Agatha Christie and Wilkie Collins, but Nancy Drew was really the one that taught me that a mystery doesn’t always have to involve a murder.

My maternal grandmother was really interested in family genealogy so I think that may be where my love of history started. She liked antiques and all that. From 2004-2011, I was an American Civil War reenactor. That required a lot of research to know what the heck I was doing or talking to others about as my living history persona. The two main ghosts in “No Rest For The Wicked” are from that time period. I like to keep things as historically accurate as I can so all the research I did for my reenacting, was poured into them. The witches of Barnesville are descendants of the people accused of witchcraft in Connecticut from 1647 to 1663. No Salem witches for me – too typical. I wanted to be different, at last a little bit anyway. So, yeah, lots of real history worked in to everything I write – including that secret Barnesville coven that allegedly existed in my real hometown when I was a teenager!

Erin: What is one piece or location of history you’d like to explore of have explored for your writing or just for general interest? What interesting things have you found?

Pamela: Probably the Salem Witch Trials. I wrote my final high school English paper on the possible causes of the events that took place there. At the time, my mom was working at the main research library at Cornell University and that gave me magical access to the collection of documents housed there on the topic. I got to sit in a locked room with nothing but a pencil, paper, and some of the original document from which I took notes. With those and a few other books I owned at the time, I put together my paper. In 1989 my first husband and I went to New England for our honeymoon and decided we needed to spend the day in Salem. It was a rather whirlwind tour of the place, but still pretty neat. It wasn’t until many, many years later that I’d learn one of the women accused was a distant relative! It was also much later while doing some genealogy research for a friend that I learned about the Connecticut Witch Trials that preceded Salem by about thirty years. It was from this research that I drew the founders, and first coven members, of fictional Barnesville.

Erin: That’s so cool!! How hard do you feel it is to write mysteries and tie up all the points? How do you do so? Outline? What are the challenges and what are the rewards?

Pamela: Only my first two books were murder-mysteries and it was a lot more difficult than I’d initially thought. I’m normally a pantster (meaning I don’t outline … at all), I just write and kind of know where I’m headed or want to head. The mysteries wouldn’t allow that much freedom. Not only do you have to know who committed the murder, why, and how – but you have to come up with believable alibis for all the suspects, the reasons they might have committed the crime, and a secret they have that would cause them to lie about their whereabouts or motivations. Good grief! Plus, if you’re going to touch on police procedures that’s another layer of research to look into. All this is a bit more restricting than I like being, but … the reward of pulling it off, for misdirecting successfully, and it all still making sense in the end feels great.

Erin: You grew up watching horror, I believe. What are some of your great influences and what do you prefer to watch now? Same then with the reading, let us know reads you’ve loved and those who influence your work.

Pamela: Yes, I’ve been watching Horror since I was a wee thing. It started with the local Saturday afternoon horror show, “Monster Movie Matinee’. With the cartoons over, it was time to sit on the floor with a little tray of lunch and take in the creature feature. They showed mostly Universal movies – Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, Abbot and Costello Meet The Wolfman, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken – family friendly horror, I guess. I grew into the Friday and Saturday night programming after that, darker stuff that started after the 11 o’clock news. Hammer Pictures, a lot of Christopher Lee. I love me them vampires! “Let’s Scare Jessica To Death”, “Night of the Living Dead”, “The Haunting of Hill House”, and “The Legend of Hell House”, “The Other” and “Dark Secret of Harvest Home” are the most memorable ones. Once in a while they’d have a great Made-For-TV movies on. “Night of the Scarecrow” was terrifying to me and my novel “Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon” was directly inspired by it. Elements of “The Other” also come into play in my book. Lastly, being from Rod Serling Country in Upstate New York, I adored both Twilight Zone and Night Gallery.

Oddly, I have a harder time coming up with books that influenced my writing. The style of certain authors inspired me, but maybe not so much the stories themselves. Tanith Lee, a British author, had a collection of kind of Horror\Sci-fi stuff that involved twisted fairy tales. Before her, I’d never heard of doing such a thing. I thought it was super cool and tried my hand at it with varied success. The fine art of short stories eludes me, though I keep trying. I liked Stephen Kings whole ‘small town – weird secret’ theme, too. That can be found in the Barnesville books. Of course, there’s good old Nancy Drew, again. I really enjoy books that make me think more about what’s going on, stories that misdirect the reader and have a lot of unexpected twists, endings that make me sit there and go, “Huh. I never saw that coming at all.” That’s what I try to do.

Erin: I’m a history buff too, and I know you were a Civil War re-enactor for a decade. What role(s) did you play? What was exciting about it? What type of horror or haunts did you learn? Have you used any of your time doing this in your writing?

Pamela: I played the wife of a field embalmer – aka an undertaker. It was very uncommon at the time, but not unheard of. It was also a very lucrative business. A lot like selling life insurance. My job was to gather the personal items of the deceased, write the letter home to his family, and mourn the poor soul appropriately. That involved sitting next to the coffin while dressed in black, wearing a black veil, and weeping (or pretending to weep). Those Victorians viewed death a lot differently than we do, mourning and a proper Christian burial was paramount. Embalming was a new science – formaldehyde hadn’t been invented yet so there was a variety of embalming fluid recipes. All very morbid to a lot of people. A lot of visitors wouldn’t even stop at our display. As I mentioned earlier, the two main ghosts in “No Rest For The Wicked” are from this time period and the man, Beauregard Addams, was the owner of a funeral parlor as well as having been a field embalmer and surgeon during the war.

Erin: That’s so interesting! Also, a mutual fan of road trips, do you take any to historical or haunted locations?

Pamela: No, we have not intentionally sought out haunted or historical locations. My husband isn’t into the whole paranormal or horror thing as much as I am, though I did manage to drag him to Granger, Texas to see the house used in the 2003 remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s not far from where his mom lives. So, that was cool. I also dragged him out to Terligua in West Texas for the Day of the Dead in the cemetery there. He humors me in all my ghostly, cemetery, haunted weirdness ways.

This summer we are hoping to make a delayed trip out to Boston Harbor to see the USS Constitution, might swing by Salem, but I want to go to Danvers, Massachusetts to see the homestead of Rebecca Towne Nurse who was one of the woman accused and hung for witchcraft back in 1692. She was also my 7x great aunt so I’m kinda curious about all that. We also plan on swinging over to Plimoth Plantation followed by Fall River to see Lizzie Borden’s old stomping grounds then west to wander through Sleepy Hollow for a bit before heading home.

Other road trips are much shorter, day trips or a weekend long adventure on the motorcycle. Anything beyond a four hour ride gets a bit sore on the old bottom!

Erin: Oh nice! That came in once near where son is in DC (the USS Constitution and other tall ships) and he loved it. He’s huge on that stuff (me too). That sounds like some amazing road trip stuff! I want to do all of that too. haha!

What are you working on now and what are your plans for the near future in terms of your writing?

Pamela: I am just finishing up the 4th draft of what I’m calling a Texas Gothic Horror titled “The Inheritance”. It should be ready this summer. I’m a big fan of the classic Gothic genre, old stuff, like Bram Stoker, Poe, and Wilkie Collins and really wanted to write something along those lines. But, I also wanted it to be contemporary, so I set it in the West Texas desert, added some bad ass bikers, and a band of really pissed off Apache spirits. Good times! This was great fun to write! And using the traditional plotting schemes of a Gothic novel really made things zip along. The most fun maybe was doing the research for this – ya know, actually being in the West Texas desert and taking notes, soaking it all in. Creating the biker gang was a blast, too.

Erin: What tips do you have for other women in horror in support of each other or sharing work?

Pamela: I’m really happy that I’m seeing more and more female writers in the Horror genre. There were so few that I knew of as a kids and for as much as I loved King, it would have been every nicer to have had more women to look up to.

I’ve always written what I loved to read and that’s the first thing you need to do, male or female. If you love monsters and freaky creatures, write about them. If you love vampires, write about them. If you love ghosts facing off against bad ass biker chicks, write about them! Your personal passion will come through in your writing. Start there and run with it. Read other female Horror authors. I’ve found their work so much more relatable. Where the men tend to go for the more violent, blood-slinging slasher, women, at least in my readings, tend to be more subtle and devious. But, hey – if you’re a lady and enjoy wielding that machete or ax, swing away!

Enjoy yourself and with any luck at all, those who read your work will enjoy reading it as much as you did writing it. It’s all about having fun after all, right?

Erin: Thanks so much for joining us today, Pamela! You’re welcome anytime, especially if you’ve got a good haunting story. Haha! Let us know where readers can find you, please.

Pamela: It was great chatting with you, Erin. All my titles can be found on Amazon and everything is available in both paperback and Kindle formats. I also have a website, pamelamorrisbooks.com. There are a few free short stories there and a blog where I babble about crows and other random weirdness, sometimes Horror-related, sometimes not. On Facebook, I can be found at Facebook. Folks are welcome to Like an Follow me there, of course. I’m pretty active on Twitter if folks want to follow me there, @pamelamorris65.

Thank you for having me over and letting me babble on about my work. I must say, you make a mean Irish coffee. And with that, in the words of Morticia Addams, “Have a delightfully dreary day!”

Erin: HAHA!! Anytime. It’s rather snowy here so I shall have a freezing night for sure. 😀

Pamela Morris Biography –

PamelaMorris_2019_2Raised in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, but forever longing for the white sands of her birthplace in New Mexico, Pamela has always loved mysteries and the macabre. In high school she quickly found herself labeled ‘That Witchy Chic.’ And school dances? Forget about it! You’d be far more likely to find her at the local small town library on a Friday night or listening to a Horror movie soundtrack in her darkened bedroom.

When her nose wasn’t buried in a vampire novel or any number of books penned by her favorite authors such as Poe, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Bram Stoker, Tanith Lee, Shirley Jackson, and Wilkie Collins, Pamela was probably watching ‘Monster Movie Matinee,’ ‘Twilight Zone,’ ‘Kolchak: The Night Stalker,” and a myriad of Hammer Films that further fed her growing obsession with Horror.

All grown up now, Pamela has raised two children and enjoys drawing and painting, watching bad B-Movies, remaining ever vigilant to the possibility of encountering a UFO or Bigfoot, an taking road trips with her husband on the Harley. She feeds the local murder of crows in her back yard and still hasn’t quite figured out how she became the Cvlt Leader for The Final Guys Podcast.

TWB1_Curse_CoverFrontThe Witch’s Backbone – Part 1: The Curse

It’s 1980 and the dog days of summer have settled over the small farming community of Meyer’s Knob. Five friends have spent their time at the local creek swimming and gathering crayfish, riding bikes, and mostly just trying to avoid boredom.

When tomboy Tara Fielding reports she’s spotted what she believes to be the witch of their local urban legend, and is now subject to that legend’s deadly curse, her friends rally ‘round and decide they’re going to prove there’s no such thing. After lying to their parents about where they’ll be, the friends head out to The Witch’s Backbone where, the legend claims, the witch waits for foolish travelers who dare pass that way at night.

What the group witnesses during this late summer field trip and what they find out after they return to civilization, does little to put anyone’s mind at ease, least of all Tara’s. Not only do they now believe this long-dead 19th century witch is real, but that she has friends who are still practicing the Black Arts, friends that will see to it that the legend’s curse is carried out.

Are there evil witches stalking the woods and sun-starved ravines between Meyer’s Knob and the neighboring town of Barnesville? Or have the kids just let boredom, the oppressive summer heat, and their own imaginations get the better of them?

Link to Amazon

NRFTWfront_coverNo Rest For The Wicked

 Theirs was a hatred that lived beyond the grave.

A powerless domestic who searches for escape. Naked and screaming, the ghost of Sadie Price wants nothing more than to strike terror into all who dare enter Greenbrier Plantation.

A murderous wife who seeks justice. Lucy thought shooting her philandering husband and his mistress would bring her peace, but her subsequent suicide only creates a more hellish existence for her in the afterlife.

A sadistic doctor who refuses to relinquish control. Dr. Addams stalks the house and grounds of Greenbrier Plantation using his dark powers to control his Earth-bound spirits and anyone living who dares get in his way.

Can peace ever come to these tortured souls or are they eternally damned to walk the earth as proof that there really is no rest for the wicked?

Link to Amazon

DarkHollowRoad-FrontOnlyDark Hollow Road

 A past filled with terror.

On Dark Hollow Road, Mary Alice Brown and her siblings know little more than poverty and abuse at the hands of their father. Getting rid of their tormentor seemed the answer to bringing joy back into their lives. But when that doesn’t work, Mary takes it upon herself to see that justice is served.

A present full of dread.

After an unusual visit from an elderly woman looking to borrow sugar, the theft of his coloring book, and complaints about other kids bothering him in the middle of the night, six-year-old Brandon Evenson, who lives within sight of the house on Dark Hollow Road, goes missing.

A future obsessed with revenge.

Desperate, Brandon’s parents seek answers from Lee Yagar, a local who’s warned people time and again of the dangers lurking at the old Brown place. But, Lee’s suggestion that Mary is involved in Brandon’s abduction makes little sense.

Mary is presumed dead, as she’s not been seen in decades, but is she? And is the house truly as empty and abandoned as it appears to be?

A psychological horror driven by hate, fear, and every parent’s worst nightmare.

Link to Amazon

WiHM11-GrrrlBlack

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Filed under HookonWiHM, Q and A with Authors, women in history, women in horror

Interview: Michelle Renee Lane about Diversity, Race, New Orleans, and Her Book Invisible Chains #WIHM #WIHM11 #diversityandinclusion

As promised, I finally have some content coming for women in horror month! I have several interviews, which will start today with Michelle Lane, a couple guest articles, and some reviews. Women writing horror is not new, but it’s a phenomenon that’s hitting like a wave. There is so much to share and learn. I know each year I’ve met someone I hadn’t heard of before. The reviews that don’t get snuck in will appear during the roll over to March. I have no problem featuring women all year.

Without further commentary from me, let’s begin. I wanted to invite Michelle here today so I could learn more about her myself, and hopefully, let you learn along with me. I’ve been interested in her work since the release of her book last year, Invisible Chains from Haverhill, and I’m always about supporting other women and diversity. I really would love to talk to more women of color about their experiences and how it influences their writing. I hope you enjoy learning more about her with me because she gave some wicked interesting answers. Invisible Chains just today became a Bram Stoker Award nominee, and with its historical horror elements (and New Orleans vibe and vampires and strong female protagonist…I could go on), I’m anxious to read it.

Hi Michelle, welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so glad you could join me for Women in Horror Month. I’ve really been looking forward to talking to you. I have some coffee or tea? Let me know your pleasure and how you take it, please. Or a cocktail if you prefer!

Michelle: Hello Erin, thanks for having me. I drink a lot of coffee and I enjoy tea, but it’s been a rough couple of weeks. So if you’re making cocktails, I’d love a Bourbon and ginger. And, you should probably make it a double.

bourbon

Erin: Excellent – a lady after my own heart with the Bourbon! We’ll just bring this in and sit down so we can chat. Let’s get started.

I first was introduced to you via my friend and client Stephanie Wytovich when she interviewed you a year or two ago. I was excited to hear of your book Invisible Chains at the time it came out and now that it’s been listed on the preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards. For those readers that don’t know of the book, would you mind telling us about it?

Michelle: Sure. Invisible Chains is a supernatural slave narrative. When I say that, a lot of people ask what that means. So, like a traditional slave narrative, it’s told in first person POV in the voice of a young female slave, Jacqueline. What makes it supernatural are the elements of magic, monsters, and travel between worlds, or at the very least dimensions. However, the true horror found in the novel comes from the historical violence experienced by slaves under institutionalized slavery in America. I tried to place this institution under a microscope and focus in how the system of slavery negatively affected men and women, both Black and White. Jacqueline lives in a world where violence is always on the table – sexual violence, physical torture, psychologically damaging and dehumanizing verbal abuse, and the ever-present threat of death.

Erin: Where did your inspiration for your book come from?

Michelle: I thought I wanted to write a book about vampires. I have been obsessed with vampires since I was very young and my gateway drug to vampire fiction was a copy of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire I received as a Christmas gift when I was eleven. I read everything Anne Rice wrote after that, including the books she wrote under her nom de plumes, Belinda and the first three books in The Sleeping Beauty Quartet. I fell in love with her vampires and wanted to write books like hers. That is until I read Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Jewelle Gomez’s The Gilda Stories, and Octavia Butler’s Kindred. Vampires are great, but I wasn’t seeing myself in vampire fiction, and for the most part, I didn’t like the depictions of people of color in horror novels and films. When I read Morrison, Gomez and Butler, among other women of color writers like Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, Audre Lorde and Tananarive Due, I saw myself and connected with their words and their characters who were women of color. I still wanted to write about vampires, but from a different perspective. I wanted to tell the story of a young woman who survives what seem to be insurmountable challenges while dealing with grief, abuse, and extreme poverty as she creates a place for herself in the world on her own terms using her intellect and power.

Erin: How did you choose the setting of New Orleans and how much research into it and the time period did you do, and how?

Michelle: When I was nineteen, I met a girl at a party, and we started talking about what we were currently reading and our favorite books. At some point in the conversation we both realized that most of the books we were talking about were set in New Orleans. Neither of us had ever been there and she suggested a road trip. Like most conversations I had while partying, I assumed that while her enthusiasm for the trip was real, I didn’t think she meant that we would really go. But, the following week, she contacted me about getting youth hostel passes and picking dates. During Winter break that year, she drove us from Pennsylvania to Louisiana. It was my first trip to the city, and it was amazing. I’ve visited the city several times since and made a point of getting to know as much as I can about the food, cultures, history, and my favorite part, the ghost stories and haunted history. I haven’t been to New Orleans in several years, but it is one of my favorite places on Earth and one day, I hope to make it my home.

A lot of research went into this book, including reading about slavery in general, slavery in New Orleans specifically, what people ate, what they wore, what things cost, etc. The house that Jacqueline works and lives in is a house I’ve toured twice, the Gallier House, located at 1132 Royal Street. I read actual slave narratives to get a sense of how they were told/written. I read as much as I possibly could about Voudon, Hoodoo, and the West African pantheon of gods. I tried to incorporate the Creole French spoken by slaves. I studied maps of plantations from the 1850s. I re-watched a lot of vampire movies and TV shows to capture the appearance, demeanor, and personality of my antagonist. While his name comes from a person I knew in real life, he’s a compilation of characteristics from Aidan Turner’s John Mitchell on Being Human (UK), Jonathan Frid’s Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows, and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers’ Dracula on NBC’s adaptation of Dracula.

1200px-GallierHouseBelowA

Gallier House New Orleans / Wiki Commons

Erin: That’s ALL amazing, from wanting to live in New Orleans, to the research, to creating your characters.

Let’s talk now about the formulation of your characters. Which one was your favorite to write? Which one was most challenging? How did you decide to form them and did that also include research into history, culture, dialogue, etc.?

Michelle: My favorite character to develop and write was my antagonist, Carlos Velazquez, a Spanish vampire whose backstory I’ve only begun to tap into. I have a lot more to say about him and hope to start working on either a short story or novella told from his POV, and then I’d like to work on the sequel to Invisible Chains. He uses Spanish words occasionally in his dialog, and while he appears to be White and wealthy, he is quite aware of the injustices suffered by people of color under slavery.

Jacqueline was the most difficult, because I wanted to get her voice just right. I wanted her to sound intelligent and authentic to her time period and station in life. Some reviewers have pointed out anachronisms in her use of language, but I made every effort to avoid that. What made that especially difficult is the fact that while this story is set in Antebellum New Orleans, there are a lot of parallels between Jacqueline’s time and this time. Racism, sexism, poverty, sexual abuse, violence, controlling women’s bodies, policing brown bodies – these are all things that are still very much current events. My voice and emotions would sometimes get tangled up with hers.

She lives a dual life and must wear masks to keep herself safe. She can’t appear to be too intelligent around Whites, because if they find out she can read and write, she will be punished severely. Incorporating Creole French into her dialog was necessary in my opinion to give her voice authenticity. She must balance her speech between self confidence and being subservient, which is a tightrope walk many people of color have had to navigate.

Erin: Your plot also includes a mystery. How difficult was it to write that type of plot and tie up all the points in a debut novel? Did you outline?

Michelle: You know, I didn’t realize I was writing a mystery until I was more than halfway through the book. So, when that finally occurred to me, I went back through the book to make sure that things made sense and that there weren’t any missing pieces. Honestly, I’m still not 100% sure I accomplished that. I rarely use outlines while I’m writing, but because there are so many plot points, themes, and characters, I would sometimes outline what should happen next in the story. Scenes or snippets of dialog usually come to me first, so I had to figure out how to connect all those pieces. I began to think of the book as a quilt that I needed to stitch together. Scenes and dialog have started to present themselves for the second book, but I think outlining will be a must to maintain continuity with the first book and keep things on track for where I believe the story is headed.

Erin: I’m a pantser too so I totally get it! But I can see why with a mystery or a series an outline would be advantageous.

Your lead is a creole slave, and primarily, I believe, readers are following her journey. You’re a strong woman yourself who’s been through a lot and is a single mom. How much of yourself or other strong women did you write into Jacqueline? What kind of traits are you proud of giving her?

Michelle: That is an excellent question, Erin. I really appreciate you asking it. I think for a lot of women, being strong isn’t optional. Depending on who you are and your economic status, women deal with sexism, racism and classism on a daily basis. Microaggressions pile up faster than you might think and add an extra dimension to the stresses associated with work and parenting. Throw sexual relationships into the mix and that’s another level of stress even if you’re enjoying yourself.

There is a lot of me in Jacqueline, and while I was writing Invisible Chains, there were times I needed her to be stronger than me to face the challenges I created for her. Writing this novel was an extremely cathartic process for me and I cried during and after writing certain scenes. The extremely dysfunctional relationships Jacqueline has with certain characters are reflections of relationships I have had and needed to find the strength to avoid in the future. I’m proud of her because she doesn’t give up no matter how bad things get, she faces and slays her demons, and learns to believe in her own strength and power. And, slowly, she allows herself to trust others, which is no small task when you have been abused your entire life.

Erin: I hope you don’t mind me asking, but I want to address these points so that people can grasp diversity a bit better. As it’s Black History Month as well as Women in Horror month, your book ties in perfectly to those awareness campaigns. How important is it that voices not only for women in horror but for women of color in horror are heard? Why do you feel your protagonist as a person of color is important to the genre?

Michelle: I recently wrote a Women in Horror Month guest post for The Horror Tree that was featured on their website February 17, titled “Redefining the Horror Genre.” In the article, I began by examining the famous Lovecraft quote, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” I argue that for people of color, women, and anyone who lives on the margins of society, there are plenty of things to fear in the real world. Fearing the unknown seems like something reserved for people privileged enough to not have to feel like they’re in danger every day. There are plenty of things to fear, past and present—racism, sexism, slavery, the Holocaust, the systematic rape of women in extremist cultures, child abuse, gay bashing, the murder of transgendered people, or the genocide of native cultures world-wide—that make fearing the Elder Gods seem a bit ridiculous.

By including more diverse writers and characters in the horror genre, fear becomes more personal, more tangible, and in the words of second-wave feminist Carol Hanish, “The personal is the political.” Gender and race politics are important aspects of daily life for many of us, so for horror to be relevant and horrific, I think it needs to meet people where they live.

Our ever-changing sociopolitical climate is having, in my opinion, a positive effect on horror fiction. As more diverse voices emerge within the genre, I think that we will have more stories that redefine horror on a very personal level. Stories that look at identity politics as well as horrific experiences that can only be told from the POV of people who have experienced them.

Erin: Speaking of all of that: How about the inclusion of slavery into your work? How important do you feel that it is in history and culture today to include these events not only in the historical genre but in other genres, reaching other readers?

Michelle: Slavery happened. It is part of our history. It was terrifying and violent. A lot of people would like to believe that slavery wasn’t so bad for the people who suffered under it. Bullshit. People were tortured and killed. There’s nothing idyllic or romantic about this gruesome chapter in human history.

Here’s an idea for a story: The ghosts of slaves haunt a plantation house that has been renovated and rebranded as a place for destination weddings and terrorize the bridal parties. Honestly, I don’t care how many coats of paint you use or how many rose garlands you hang, there is something very dark about using a place where human beings were sold and treated like animals as the spot to celebrate what is meant to be one of the happiest days of your life.

So, yes, I think it’s still important to talk about slavery in its historical context as well as how it has shaped our current economy, political system, and social interactions in the United States.

Erin: In your bio and on your site, you talk about writing about women of color who battle their inner demons while falling in love with monsters. What do you mean by that and how do you feel you do that in your writing?

Michelle: You know, I’ve been thinking about my bio a lot lately. I do write stories about women of color who are dealing with issues of identity, past trauma, and often the reality of every day, plain old racism that is just part of living while Black and female in America. We all have our demons — trauma, addictions, obsessions, failed relationships, greed, lust, and any of the other five deadly sins. Confronting our demons is never easy, but when we take the time and make space for that process, healing can begin. I’m not sure that we’ll ever be able to heal the wound that slavery and racism have carved into the American consciousness, but talking about it and reading stories written by diverse writers can help open new doors to understanding and allow for people to build community around healing from these issues.

That bit about falling in love with monsters relates to the fact that I enjoy love stories, but if you write horror and dark fantasy, those romances don’t always have happy endings. Vampires, werewolves, and demons can be quite attractive in their own ways and they make more interesting sexual partners than the nice guy who bags groceries at Trader Joe’s, at least in fiction.

I read a lot of paranormal romance and there are common themes in that fiction, especially vampire romance, in which vampires are depicted as being ideal mates. But when you examine these relationships more closely, vampires are really narcissistic, controlling and often abusive partners. I’ve been writing a blog series about that very subject over at Speculative Chic, “With This Ring, You’ll Be Dead: Violence Against Female Protagonists in Romantic Vampire Fiction.” And still, I find monsters very attractive and write about some of my favorite monsters on my own blog, Girl Meets Monster. And, they will continue to show up in my fiction, because I love writing about monsters. Because they often occupy the role of outsider, I believe they make good companions for my female characters who are often just as damaged.

Erin: I read your recent article on Medium “I was a Teenage Tragic Mulatto.” It was a brave piece, and as a fellow woman, and woman of abuse, I’m really proud of your strength in sharing your story. How do you feel more of these stories could be heard and understood better? How do you feel you fit as a woman of horror AND as woman of color in the horror genre?

Michelle: Again, I think that having a more inclusive genre that allows space for diverse voices with new perspectives on what horror means, will enable people to tell their stories. Not everyone is comfortable sharing the details of their own traumatic experiences. Thank you for referring to that piece as being brave. I struggled with whether or not to share it. It was a piece I had been thinking about writing for months and I finally sat down and wrote it. I shared it with two of my friends who I trust to be honest with me, and they both thought it was good and gave some feedback that made the piece stronger. That story could have easily been a piece of fiction, but honestly, that story makes its way into my fiction one way or another, because it is part of me and my female characters are a reflection of me.

For a long time I struggled, like most creatives, with the idea of imposter syndrome. I questioned whether or not I was really a horror writer, because people kept telling me that my story wasn’t a horror story. They wanted it to be historical fiction, which it is. They wanted it to be dark fantasy, which it is. They wanted it to be women’s fiction, whatever the hell that is. But now that other people have read it, reviewed it, and expressed how uncomfortable and emotional and terrifying the story was for them, I have no doubt that I wrote a horror novel. I am a horror writer.

Erin: Yes!!! I’m tired of people trying to define horror for others!

What can other women of horror do to support women of color in the horror genre (or in general)?

Michelle: Read and review our books. Invite us to participate in opportunities like this that showcase our work. Befriend them at conferences and have real conversations over cocktails. Invite them to submit to your next anthology, even if it isn’t strictly about race or gender identity. Ask questions and share your stories.

Erin: I love your blog.

Michelle: Thank you. I love writing for it and giving other writers the opportunity to talk about their work and what their writing process looks like. It’s fun and I get to learn new things and meet new writers.

Erin: What other writing have you done, or do you plan to do? What’s next for you?

Michelle: What’s next? Well, I have a short story in the charity anthology, The Dystopian States of America that will be released on March 3, 2020. There are two more parts to the series I’ve been writing for Speculative Chic, and I expect to be writing other things for them, including a review of Grady Hendrix’s soon to be released novel, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, which I’ve been dying to talk about for months. I’m hoping to write more articles for Medium, and I’ll be submitting more short stories over the next few months.

People keep asking me if I’m working on the sequel to Invisible Chains. Technically, I am. I even have a working title, Blood Work. I’ve started doing research, I’ve drafted a few chapters, and I’ve introduced some new characters, but I haven’t set aside dedicated time to work on the manuscript. Not yet, at least. But I’m hoping to start working on the book in April, if not sooner.

Erin: Thank you for joining me here on my site and know you’re welcome anytime! Best of luck both to you and to Invisible Chains. And thank you for supporting other women and writers on Girl Meets Monster. Can you let people know where they can find you there and elsewhere?

Michelle: Thank you for having me, Erin. You asked a lot of thought-provoking questions and I really appreciate your interest in supporting other women writers. Yeah, so people can find my blog, Girl Meets Monster here: https://michellerlane.com/. You can check out my author archive at Speculative Chic here: https://speculativechic.com/author/chellane72/. And, you can always drop by and say hello to me on social media. I’m on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Michelle Renee Lane, Biography –

Michelle_Lane_PhotoMichelle Renee Lane writes dark speculative fiction about women of color battling their inner demons while falling in love with monsters. Her work includes elements of fantasy, horror, romance, and occasionally erotica.

Her short fiction appears in the anthologies Dark Holidays, Terror Politico: A Screaming World in Chaos, and The Monstrous Feminine: Dark Tales of Dangerous Women. Her debut novel, Invisible Chains (2019), is available from Haverhill House Publishing.

Invisible Chains, Synopsis –

invisiblechains_v2c-cover-2 (1)Jacqueline is a young Creole slave in antebellum New Orleans. An unusual stranger who has haunted her dreams since childhood comes to stay as a guest in her master’s house. Soon after his arrival, members of the household die mysteriously, and Jacqueline is suspected of murder.

Despite her fear of the stranger, Jacqueline befriends him and he helps her escape. While running from the slave catchers, they meet conjurers, a loup-garou, and a traveling circus of supernatural freaks. She relies on ancestral magic to guide her and finds strength to conquer her fears on her journey.Women in Horror

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“This assured first novel delivers emotional and visceral beats to delight and disturb in equal measure.” – Frazer Lee, Bram Stoker Award finalist

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Watch for more upcoming Women in Horror pieces and/or go to view schedule of pieces from previous years HERE. If you would like to feature a woman in horror ANYTIME of the year on my site by doing an interview with them or an article, please contact me.

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Review/Interview: Jennifer Loring on Conduits, Japanese Folklore, and Writing Mental Illness with Empathy #horror #mentalillness #womeninhorror

In mid-November, I read a short book that I had meant to finish as an October read. I’m glad I didn’t give up on getting it read. Conduits by Jennifer Loring wouldn’t stop demanding my time. It’s categorized, so I thought, as a horror novel, but it deals more with the horror inside your own mind. So psychological suspense mostly with some Japanese folklore and it’s a brain trip for sure. I’m glad I checked it out. You’ll be able to read my full review below, then join me for an interview with Jennifer.

As many of you know, since in my life I’ve dealt with some pretty heavy and emotional topics, so do I write stories with these themes as well as read them. Some people who go through trauma and then have triggers so badly they can’t write, read, or watch about them. That’s just not me. But I understand if it’s you. So if suicide or mental illness is a trigger for you even in an otherwise amazing read, then you might consider that before reading the below interview or the book. They deal with some dark subjects. However, I hope you’ll read them both and be moved or maybe heal. It’s categorized as horror, but it’s due to the mental illness component and the horrors of our own minds. It’s really more psychological suspense.

Conduits

Conduits, Review –

The book was touching and heart-wrenching all at the same time. I like books that make me feel to this level. This little novella Conduits was first published by another publisher and then re-published by Lycan Valley in Spring 2019. I was drawn to it as I love Japanese literature and horror and it was in shorter form (love short form horror). I initially was unsure when it started about some of how the words were catching instead of rolling off my tongue (and flowing in my head) but quickly that was put to rest as I learned her cadence and the content (protagonist) sent my mind into circles. A literary dreamscape of a piece not unlike horror you’d watch in a episodic tv  show. It’s its own shard of glass (you’ll know what I mean when you read it) in an otherwise cookie cutter world. It’s so original and free-flowing and truly showcases the art our mind can create when allowed to roam freely. I found this truly beautiful even though some of the content was sad, as we get down on mental illness so many times, and yet, people who struggle with it sometimes have the most amazing ability to see things we cannot otherwise see in this blinded world. The emotional weight this tiny book carries is huge, and I’m relating and scared all at the same time. It was touching my deepest recesses of pain. It will touch all the pain you have too.

I loved how she interwove Japenese folklore into the book and I think she did an extremely good job of showcasing the inside of mental health facilities. By the end, you don’t know who to believe or what is going on, except for in the protagonist’s heart. Which is really all that matters that in terms of people, isn’t it?

It may need a second read to fully grasp every component and nuance but it certainly has the feels if you like your horror emotionally-driven, ambiguous, and thought-provoking. Read this one and enjoy every word. Loring truly does have her own writing voice. I’d be interested to see how others interpret the ending. It’s suspenseful, psychological, dreamy in an Alice down the rabbit hole sort of way. It’s a quick read but I’d read it when you have a little of time on hand to think it through and ponder on it.

Join me for an interview with Jennifer about Japanese folklore, research, mental illness, and the future of horror! Enjoy.

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Hi Jennifer! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I recently read your book, Conduits, and was intrigued by it so I wanted to ask you a few questions. I’m very happy you’ve dropped by. You can head and have a seat at the dining table, those chairs have comfy seats, and I’ll bring in some hot tea. Or if you chose something else, say the word!

Jennifer: Hi, Erin, and thanks! I’m glad to be here.

Erin: There is some cream and sugar on the tray too if you need it. And I’ve brought in some ginger scones. I’ve been trying out new holiday recipes!

Jennifer: Sounds yummy! Thanks for reminding me that I still need to bake ginger cookies!

Erin: Let me ask you a few things about your book – which I suppose readers could get a jest of from my review. How did you become interested in Japanese literature and folklore?

Jennifer: It was because of Japanese horror movies and video games that I started researching Japanese mythology. In the early 2000s, Asian horror was the big trend. I’d also begun playing games like the Fatal Frame series, Kuon, and so forth, which rely heavily on Japanese folklore and myth. The yūrei—the ghosts we all know and love with the long black hair and white clothing—are such striking figures that I knew I had to incorporate them into a story at some point. It was many years before I actually did, but that’s where the seed for Conduits was planted.

Japaneseyokai-yufurei-meijiera

A yūrei / From Wiki

Erin: Did you research or utilize any particular customs or legends for Conduits or was it all fiction?

Jennifer: I used actual Shinto customs as well as the concept of the miko (shrine maiden) in her original form as a shamanistic figure. Shrine maidens used to perform spirit possession and takusen (dream revelation), so this was the ideal figure for me to use as the antagonist in Conduits. I made up the part about the miko carving into herself with glass in her function as an intermediary between the shrine’s god and the villagers, but most of the other stuff was taken from real Shinto rituals.

Erin: Did the legend of the suicide forest in Japan inspire any of your story?

Jennifer: Not directly, no. But I’m very familiar with the legend, so it may end up in future work. 😊

Erin: I only asked that question because a part of it reminded me of that. Mmmm…well, I suppose the over theme is there in terms of this. Suicide is a difficult topic and hard for people to read. I’ve had it hit close to home for me and I’ve written about it in some of my work, but for others they shy from it. I’ve been having a debate about that for a few years online in terms of trigger warnings. How do you feel about writing about topics that push people’s sensory boundaries and how do you feel about warnings?

Jennifer: Suicide hits close to home for me too, which is one of the reasons I’ve written about it a few times now. I understand why some people want warnings, but I also think that some use them as an excuse not to have to think critically about or be challenged by things they don’t like. Everyone has triggers, but it’s not realistic to expect that the world can be sanitized so that no one gets offended by or exposed to difficult topics. We learn to deal with them by confronting them, not by pretending they aren’t there. In horror especially, I think there should be a reasonable expectation that characters will encounter a lot of unpleasantness. Besides, a good blurb will generally indicate the type of content you can anticipate.

Erin: I agree. Mental illness and cutting also play a big role in your story. How did you bring this to the page in such a humane way? Did you research them and/or asylums?

Jennifer: Mental illness is a running thread in a lot of my work because of its impact on various family members and myself (having dysthymia as well as generalized and social anxiety disorders). When you’re dealing with it first-hand, it’s easier to approach it in a more humane way, I think. You know how you’ve been treated and how others treat you. I’ve had family members in psych wards too, so I have had the opportunity to see that world in person. A lot of Mara’s time there came from my sister’s experience both as a patient and as a psychiatric nurse.

Erin: How did you intertwine the themes of mental illness with legend and paranormal so that the reader is never quite sure what’s the truth? Was it plotted out and you created each link, or did it simply spill out of you stream of conscious? It certainly felt like we were in her confused mind.

Jennifer: I honestly didn’t make a conscious effort to create an unreliable narrator in Mara, so it was a happy accident that it all turned out the way it did. Once I realized what was happening, I just tried to get out of my own way and not overthink it. I’ve never been much of a plotter, so it was fun to discover ways I could link the paranormal with both mental illness and quantum mechanics as I was writing.

Erin: I am a pantser too, not a plotter. I love to see where the mind takes us as wrtiers. Your imagery was unique and unnerving. Was it your intent to make the reader as uncomfortable and confused as your protagonist? Why?

Jennifer: Yes. (Laughs.) I love the idea that we never truly know the nature of reality, which is unnerving in itself. A lot of the imagery from Shinto can be pretty unsettling to Western audiences, so I used that as much as possible to set the scene. I researched some of Japan’s paranormal hotspots and incorporated imagery from those as well, like the ruins of Nakagusuku Hotel on Okinawa.

Nakagusuku_Kogen_Hotel_ruins

Nakagusuki Hotel Abandoned / Wiki

Erin: You don’t particularly write HEA endings, but do you feel this ending, without spoilers, was full of sadness and gloom or calming in its own way? For some reason I sort of felt the latter. How do you feel overall about writing endings in horror?

Jennifer: I think of it as calming, too. I like to imagine that Mara is existing as happily as she can in that state of being. In general, I feel that “unhappy” endings are more realistic, especially in horror, but as with Conduits, the definition of that is open to interpretation.

Erin: You’ve described yourself as a more literary writer (I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere), what does that mean to you and to readers? What is the difference in literary horror from other labels?

Jennifer: For me, it means that I love playing with language and exploring the human condition. I think the latter is fairly common in horror, but I remember Gary Braunbeck once talking about his dislike of “pedestrian” writing, and it’s the same for me. How you tell a good story is as important as the story itself. Anyone can tell a story, but not everyone can do it with craft.

Erin: Gary has a lot of good thoughts like this! That’s VERY true and something most people just don’t understand. I also read you think that horror lends itself well to shorter works. I love that because I feel the same way. I love to write and read shorter horror works. But can you explain why?

Jennifer: It can be hard to maintain the kind of tension horror requires over the length of a novel, without a lot of it feeling like filler. I’ve read—and you probably have, too—quite a few novels where you can tell the author was padding it to reach a certain word count. And that just saps the tension for me. I think Thomas Hobbes’ concept of life as “nasty, brutish and short” really applies well to horror fiction, too.

Erin: What’s next for you in terms of writing? What are you working on now?

Jennifer: A lot of new short fiction (of course!), and I’ll be starting my PhD work in Creative Writing next September, so I’ll finally be working on a new novel. I’m already contracted to appear in four anthologies next year—hopefully more on the way! And maybe another novella…

Erin: How do you feel about the market and the genre currently?

Jennifer: I think it’s a great time to be a horror writer, and I hope this boom continues. There are so many talented writers finally getting the recognition they deserve (like Nathan Ballingrud, who deserves it more than just about anyone).

Erin: Where can readers find Conduits and you?

Jennifer: You can buy Conduits from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

I’m on Facebook, Instagram, and occasionally Twitter.

My personal site is http://jennifertloring.com.

Erin: Thanks so very much for stopping by to talk to me! Feel free to come back anytime. I enjoyed my experience reading Conduits.

Jennifer: Thank you for having me! It’s been fun. 😊

About Conduits

ConduitsMara is a Japanese-American girl with a history of personal tragedy. Though she still cuts herself to quell the pain, she thought the worst was behind her. But her boyfriend’s sudden death, and a visit to one of the most haunted places in Washington State, sends her into a spiral of madness, landing her in a psychiatric ward.

Already suffering from dreams of a strange, ghost-infested house in the woods, Mara begins to question the very existence of reality. She is forced to confront the truth about her older sister’s death and the reason the ghosts have chosen her as their conduit.

“An evocative journey into the darkest realms of a troubled psyche. Part ghost story, part psychological suspense…” —Tim Waggoner, author of The Way of all Flesh

Jennifer Loring, Biography –

Jennifer LoringJennifer received her MFA from Seton Hill University’s program in Writing Popular Fiction, with a concentration in horror fiction. In 2013, she won first place in Crystal Lake Publishing’s inaugural Tales from the Lake horror writing competition, which found her published alongside her mentor Tim Waggoner in the anthology of the same name. DarkFuse released her psychological horror/ghost story novella Conduits in September 2014 (which was re-released by Lycan Valley Press in 2019); her debut novel, Those of My Kind, was published by Omnium Gatherum in May 2015. She has since appeared in anthologies alongside some of the biggest names in horror, including Graham Masterton, Joe R. Lansdale, Ramsey Campbell, Steve Rasnic Tem, and Clive Barker. In addition, Jennifer has presented her academic horror research at StokerCon 2018 in Providence, RI, the International Vampire Film and Arts Festival (IVFAF) in Sighisoara, Romania in 2018, and NecronomiCon in Providence in 2019.

Jennifer lives with her husband in Philadelphia, PA, where they are owned by two basset hounds and a turtle. She is currently at work on a number of projects, including more short fiction.

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Thanks for joining us today to learn about Jenn!

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Interview/Review: Talking with Duncan Ralston about Ghostland, Theme Parks, and Food. #horror #hauntings #amusementparks

I’m really excited today to introduce you to my friend, the Candian author Duncan Ralston, and if you already know him, then you can learn more about his journey to creating his newest book, Ghostland! In full disclaimer, D is one of my closest friends, but my friends know, I won’t go bananas on your work unless you’ve proved it warranted (also, yes I know D is allergic to bananas – but he can have my virtual screaming bananas!). So though we are friends, I suppose it’s his creativity and personality that drew me to him in our friendship, and so in that vein, I also enjoy his story ideas and his written pieces. There is no bias here, I just really want you all to get to know his mind and to experience Ghostland. Ghostland is like nothing I’ve read this year, and really, maybe ever. I fully enjoyed it. So I hope you’ll take my review and recommendation for what it is and then enjoy the interview below – you’ll learn a lot and probably laugh along with us as well.

Ghostland Duncan Ralston

Ghostland, Spoiler-Free Review –

I read a lot of horror, and especially over the years reading slush, editing books, promoting books in horror, I tend to start to see same plots and themes and characters emerging. Not with Ghostland. It’s totally unique. I think I really appreciated that freshness this year. That creative juice and the bravery to go outside the box. I have to say it’s the best book in the genre I read all year and I’m so thrilled I got to read an early copy. It gave me entertainment and fun in a read that I was really desiring and didn’t even know it. I was beginning to go outside other genres again to feel through reading what I needed. I can’t even think of what category it belongs in – it’s too entertaining, but also not in a corny way. It’s coming of age, but not in a melancholy way. It’s scary but not in an atmospheric paranormal way. It’s PURE FUN.

It’s for adults – it’s terrifying in parts – so don’t get me wrong, it’s horror. It reminded me a bit of tv shows American Horror Story’s Murder House and Channel Zero, but it features two young protagonists. I love how he used this viewpoint of characters of a younger age (seniors in high school) without it being strictly YA. I love that he utilizes the male and female friend relationship as well – and how much depth he created in the characters. I could feel their emotions and was both sad and hopeful, as well as understood the pain and love that shone through. the bits of humor. You can have all that in adventure horror novels too and Duncan pulled it off well. Duncan does a great job with characters in his other books and here it’s no different. He delivers psychological themes but easily dispersed throughout the story. I could relate to the subjects of illness and death, walls and trauma, forgiveness. He creates the sort of intermediary/host as the psychiatrist which also worked really well too I thought. He has heart within a story that is mainly an action-filled journey at the most amazing horror theme park in the world.

What’s not to love?

He writes thrillers, he writes ghost stories, he writes horror stories, he integrates virtual reality in a cool way, and he seems to have easily rolled all that up together in this bundle of entertainment called Ghostland. You’re going to hear a lot about Ghostland, I’m sure. His marketing plan was dynamic and bold. I could talk often about it and it can be an example to a lot of indie authors. It should be nominated for awards and noticed for its innovation as well as its well-written prose, for its creative ideas and description, and for its character development.

There is interactive fun too – within the book on Kindle you can click to learn about the ghosts and attractions this way. On the print, you can read about the attractions in the back. There’s a park map. What other books in horror are penned with an innovative experience inside in which you can click and learn more on each haunted locale or ghost you encounter along with the characters at the park? He even goes the extra mile and has an AR technology component for print buyers. And all the attractions are so neat and cool!! (And scary!!) A haunted lighthouse (check), a pirate ship (check), a circus (check). I’m feeling happy with just those, but there was so much more.

If you haven’t read this book, you’ll need to get your tickets soon because the park is open and they can use all hands on deck to keep the ghosts inside. This would make a great gift for someone for the holidays along with a Ghostland t-shirt! People who enjoy video games from teens (who might read some dark fiction) to adults will especially like the virtual game component of this novel.

So much to love. Buy it today.

Without further rambling, here is our interview:

Interview, Duncan Ralston –

Hi, D! Welcome to my Oh, for the Hook of a Book! site. I’m excited to talk to you today about your newest endeavor, a novel and interactive experience called GHOSTLAND! I got up early and baked a carrot cake AND we have the entire cake to ourselves, so have a seat in the big comfy chair in my library and I’ll be right in with some giant slices. Also, what would you like to drink? Rye and Diet Coke? I’m figuring on it, so I’ll go ahead and pour. I think I’ll opt for a hot rum toddy myself.

Carrot_cake_1

Duncan: Hey, E! Thanks for having me! Man, that carrot cake smells good. Is that cream cheese icing?? Yum yum! And yes, Rye and Diet Coke, of course.

Erin: Let me just set this all down on the coffee table and we can enjoy while we talk. Just don’t get any crumbs in my cushions! Later, we can move to the dining table for dinner. If it was much warmer, we could sit out back and eat under the trees, but you know, it’s just a bit too cold in Ohio now. I’m sure you’ve had similar weather in Toronto?

Duncan: Been warmer and drizzly the past little bit, but I can’t complain. At least it’s warm inside.

Erin: I don’t have any heat on. Don’t take off your hat and gloves! I’m kidding. (I set the tray on the table). Let me take your hat and coat. It’s all cozy here. (I walk over and hang the coat on the rack, put gloves in pocket). Help yourself to your drink and cake, and I’ll start the questions or the masses will get hungry and want cake too!

I know that everyone asks this question, so bear with me since some of my subscribed audience is a bit all over in terms of readership and genres and probably need something to start with. What IS Ghostland about and where did you get your inspiration?

Duncan: Ghostland is about two former best friends reconnecting over a mutual love of horror. The setting is a theme park where the exhibits are actual haunted places and objects. It’s clear from the start things aren’t quite right at this theme park – are the ghosts real or VR? And if they are real, are they being held captive? That element plays a big part in the proceedings once the park tech goes haywire, freeing all of the ghosts on the unsuspecting guests.

I drew a lot of inspiration from my love of Stephen King’s books, particularly in my youth. The teenage protagonists are horror fans, like I was (and still am). I like to think of this book as The Shining meets Jurassic Park, though it has elements of a lot more than just those two books. Several readers have correctly pointed to the 2000 remake of Thirteen Ghosts. But those two books were the biggest inspirations for Ghostland, aside from horror video games, which I still love to play when I get a chance.

Jurassic park 2.jpg

Erin: What type of reader is Ghostland for – adults only? Does it appeal to YA readership? It’s a ton of fun with ghosts, but how extreme is it? Is it for seasoned readers of horror only or what other types of readers might try it?

Duncan: It would definitely have appealed to me as a kid. It is a tad darker than standard YA, although from what I’ve been hearing YA horror is taking more risks these days and adding more dark content. The main protagonists are in their late teens, just about to head off to college. But the story is adult-oriented. I think that’s an age most of us can recall relatively clearly. High school and those first few years of setting off on our own path seemed to be burned into the psyche of most adults. It also deals with finding your own path and discovering what you want to do with your life, coming of age, finding and pushing your limits, childhood trauma, etc.

Erin: Yes, YA horror reads quite a lot darker these days. I mean there even IS YA horror. I love that it encompassed all those themes.

Working in marketing for many years, I was quite intrigued by your plan to set the stage for social media users to create excitement for the book. Can you tell us the backstory to Rex Garrote and your short prequel story The Moving House? If readers missed out on that early fun, can you tell them about it?

Duncan: Rex Garrote – and let’s be clear, he is not a real person – is the main antagonist/Big Bad in Ghostland. He was a semi-famous horror author from the late’1970s to the late-’90s, when he took his own life. In my media campaign I pretended Garrote was an author whose work I grew up with – but nobody else remembered. I can’t recall why I settled on this idea, though it seemed to spark people’s imaginations and curiosity.

It was good fun pretending Garrote was a real person. Most people who were initially fooled seemed to enjoy it as well. The only problem is the book I “remembered” became the focus of the campaign – and though I was planning to write The House Feeds at some point, the demand for it means I’ll likely have to write it sooner rather than later.

“The Moving House” is a ghost story on a smaller scale. The creator of Ghostland‘s tech, Sara Jane Amblin, and the current owner of Garrote House, Christopher Hedgewood, enter the house for the last time prior to moving it to the Ghostland park grounds. It’s their first time being there at night. Things do not go well for them.

Read about Rex Garrote here.

Erin: If you’re using the Kindle app to read, you have a great interactive built-in in which you can click in certain spots and read more about the apparitions and such. How do you think this has added to people’s experiences and how much fun did you have creating that within the book? Do print readers miss out or how does that work?

Duncan: Quite a few readers (and reviewers) have mentioned that they enjoyed the semi-interactive elements of the book a fair bit. I based the idea off of the Thirteen Ghosts DVD, which had backstories on the ghosts within the movies. Originally I’d woven these backstories within the narrative, but they were killing the flow of the story. I came up with the idea of doing them as a clickable “guide” much later on and wasn’t even sure if I had the ability to do such a thing. With some research and a bit of help from fellow writers, I figured it all out and I think it worked out about as well as it could have given my budget and technical skills, or lack thereof.

Print users lose out on the clickable aspect, but the guide is still within the book, as endnotes. One thing print readers get that ebook readers don’t is the “Interactive Ghostland AR Experience.” If you scan the QR code found within the paperback, you will be able to see the cover in Augmented Reality. There’s a fun surprise there which ties into the novel, since the park uses a more sophisticated form of the technology for guests to see the ghosts.

There’s also the companion website, which is as much a guide to Ghostland as it is a story in itself. This will tie into future releases within the Ghostland universe.

Erin: Are all the ghosts and attractions made-up in your book or are any real or based on something or someone real? Did you have to do any research?

Duncan: Most of them are made up. Some are inspired by “true” ghost stories. A few “real” ghosts are mentioned in passing. I don’t want to spoil which is which. But there are a few you might have spotted from some of my other stories – those are definitely not real.

Erin: What was your favorite ghost or attraction you created?

Duncan: I said in another interview that my favorite ghost is Morton Welles, a mental patient from the 1900s who was psychic driven by his psychiatrist to become a sort of sleepwalking murderer called the “Bright Falls Zombie,” like the old German expressionist movie The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. I’ll stick with him for now.

calgari

Erin: The friendship between your two main teen characters was very real and very meaningful, even though this was a book seeped in entertainment. Do you feel teens will relate and not mind the horror? Furthermore, do you feel adults can relate and why? You have strong character development, why do you feel that’s important to the reader?

Duncan: I feel like without interesting characters, there’s no reason for me to care about what happens to them, as a reader and a writer. It’s one of the reasons I don’t tend to like a lot of slasher horror – in many of them, the main characters are unlikable, interchangeable teens.

I try to make sure my stories are grounded in reality and a lot of that comes from using things I’ve experienced in my own life as the heart of my main characters. From Ben’s health problems to Lilian’s anxiety about her future, these are things I’ve experienced in my life and many people have as well. I’m not sure people need to identify with characters to appreciate them – but we have to at least understand their wants and needs on some level. I hope that comes through in the book but you never know.

Erin: How did you come up with your character of the psychiatrist that accompanies the teens to the park. Why was she, without spoilers, a key component to your story?

Duncan: I’ve been interested in psychology since I was quite young. I knew early on there needed to be an intermediary with Ben and Lilian. Originally this character was a funeral director obsessed with Garrote House (one of the major exhibits), who acted as a chaperone because they were too young to attend on their own. When I bumped their ages up I thought it would be interesting to deal a bit with PTSD, which Lilian suffers from after having been on headset with Ben while he “died” for several minutes. His heart attack caused them to drift apart. I knew she wouldn’t go to Ghostland without a fight, so Dr. Allison Wexler insists she consider it “exposure therapy” and Lilian goes along with it partly out of spite and partly to show up her therapist.

I think that’s as far as I can say without getting further into spoiler territory. But Dr. Wexler is there out of professional curiosity. She’s concerned about her patient but she also believes long-term exposure to Ghostland‘s Augmented-Reality technology could potentially be harmful to the psyche.

Erin: Did you consider reconstructing it into a YA? If so, why did you decide against that?

Duncan: One of the major reasons I decided against it is that the YA community has started to eat itself alive. I didn’t want to put myself and my work under that sort of scrutiny, especially considering some of my previous books. “Ghostland, the new YA horror novel from the author of Woom.” Probably wasn’t going to fly. (If you’re wondering, Woom was my relatively successful foray into “extreme horror.”)

Also, I intended this to be a book any fan of horror could enjoy. Since I don’t personally read a lot of YA it didn’t make sense to me to write it as YA.

Erin: Your cover is also beautifully done by Dean Samed. He’s a great artist and I’m in love with the cover. Do you feel it captured your book well besides drawing reader’s attention?

Duncan: I really do. It pops. It’s enticing. It’s different. I mean, how many hot-pink horror covers have you seen recently? But it also creates a sense of mystery. How did this haunted house get stuck among these theme park rides? The lights blazing from the windows imply something mysterious and possibly supernatural inside. And the teens standing on the threshold, about to enter – it could go anywhere from there.

Erin: You also had a logo and park map done (which you haven’t showed off enough in my opinion) and there are t-shirts, mugs, stickers, and such. Does this add to the overall experience for readers? It’s almost like you’ve created a real theme park! Tell us about that and where to get some items.

Duncan: That’s exactly why I did it! Like the Rex Garrote character, I wanted the theme park to feel like it could be the real deal. I wasn’t just writing one novel; I’m creating a fictional world where ghosts have been proven real and everyone is having to deal with that fact. It’s still relatively new and some people haven’t accepted it and others can’t fit it into their world view. There are people seeing the proof of the afterlife as a chance to get off the ride. They’re starting to teach kids about death in fifth grade health class. I could lie and say I meant this as a metaphor for some real-life crisis, but I didn’t at all. I just tried to imagine how our own world would deal with the news. A lot of people believe ghosts exist but if they could see them? If they could prove it? It would fundamentally change how most of us perceive death. And what it means to be alive. I just thought there was so much I could do with that concept, why limit it to just one book?

Check those out here.

Erin: Let’s head over to the table and I’ll pull out the fajitas I left warming under cover and eat. I’m starved. You must be after traveling all the way from Canada! Off topic, as I set the table, but have you ever thought of doing a world book tour and what that would be like (if dreams could come true)?

Duncan: Love me some fajitas. Can’t wait.

The idea of a book tour in general doesn’t appeal to me very much for several reasons. The first is, what happens if nobody shows up? That would be mortifying. The second is, I’m weird about praise. A roomful of people there just for me – I appreciate people reading my books but it seems like something I wouldn’t like very much.

I would like to go to some conventions in the future, just to meet and greet fellow writers and readers. But I’d rather go as a fan than a guest.

Erin: It would be cool to set a book signing in haunted locations set around a map though, wouldn’t it? I’m full of ideas. Of course, you’d need a sponsor to pay for it. But you never know? A & E Channel? Ghost Hunters? Ha!

What has been your favorite part about writing and launching Ghostland? What has been the most challenging?

Duncan: Aside from writing the book, which took two years off and on – and was both the most fun part and the hardest – I really enjoyed making the website. It was a ton of work but I feel like it was worth the effort. It’s something that will function just as well for further novels in the Ghostland universe.

Erin: Ghostland would make a really good movie, but probably an even better episodic tv show. It reminds me a bit of Channel Zero and American Horror Story’s Murder House with its own twist of course. You work behind the scenes in TV, so this must have crossed your mind! How would that go?

Duncan: Thank you for saying so! I’ve been considering what I would do with it if I wanted to adapt it – how much I would have to cut for it to work as a film, how much I’d have to stretch it or restructure it to work as a TV series or miniseries. I think it would work best as a miniseries, though I could easily see the story going beyond the Ghostland park – as I intend to with the books. The perfect situation would be a blockbuster, 2 ½-hour movie of the events in the book, followed by a sequel series. Maybe a tie-in, open-world video game, as well.

Yeah, I guess you could say I’ve thought about this a bit. 😉

Erin: Without spoilers can you entice readers with something about some of the attractions? What are they? Who are they? How did they get there?

Duncan: They’ve all been meticulously disassembled down to moveable pieces and reassembled in Ghostland, from all over America. There’s a prison, an asylum, Garrote House, a haunted lighthouse, a farmhouse, a Wild West ghost town, a circus, a funhouse, a pirate ship… virtually anything you can imagine. There are yachts and cars and smaller objects like cursed mirrors and snow globes. Some of them are “possessed,” others are haunted by poltergeists, revenants, all kinds of spirits.

Erin: I just love that concept and how you did that. So creative.

Let’s talk about amusement parks, carnivals, piers of fun like Coney Island in New York. I love them all and have been obsessed with this type of thing for as long as I can remember. I still get giddy if I see a giant Ferris Wheel (did recently at the National Harbor in D.C.). I’m a sucker for these things. What sorts of things (actual places, books, movies, stories…) in this theme do you like (besides Ghostland of course, which I heard is in Maryland on my route to D.C. in fact, so I’ll have to be stopping by *wink*)?

Duncan: When I was little we went to the Canadian National Exhibition. I remember this vividly, though some of it may be embellished by kid me’s fertile imagination. There used to be a large exhibit just called the Carlsberg Haunted House, I think. Presented by the beer company. Free admission. In the same building where Medieval Times is now. It was a huge haunted house with animatronic monsters, paintings whose eyes moved, all kinds of cool stuff like that. I remember being terrified by everything, but the eyes in the painting (I think it was a red devil) followed me into a recurring nightmare. From then on I was hooked, but I didn’t know it yet.

I love funhouses. I love the games, even though most of them are rigged. I love the smell of caramel corn and hot dogs and french fries. I don’t do a lot of rides – motion sickness – but I have been known to enjoy the Ferris wheel.

Capital_Wheel_at_National_Harbor,_Maryland,_USA_(Lit_Up_at_Night).jpg

National Harbor, Washington D.C.  By MamaGeek – CC BY-SA 4.0, WikiMedia

Erin: As I shove my mouth full of food, what is your favorite amusement park delight? 😀

Duncan: If you mean to eat, I love anything deep fried that shouldn’t be deep fried. If you mean exhibits or rides, I’m a sucker for a good haunted house. Even the corny kids’ ones.

Erin: Of course I meant food silly! It’s me. Haha!! I like fried cheese and French fries and elephant ears and…oh, were we talking…haha!

The launch of Ghostland, and how quickly you pulled that all off, must have exhausted you. How do you begin to recover and keep marketing and remotely think of writing something new?

Duncan: If you’d asked me that a month ago I would have told you it wasn’t possible. But here I am writing yet another new novel, ready to do it all over again.

Well, probably not all of it. I think I’ll skip the brand-new website/viral campaign this time around. It was a solid month of work, around my day job. Also, I don’t think it would make sense for this book. It’s a more personal story, along the lines of my first novel, Salvage. Folk horror, I guess would be the best way to describe it. I’m hoping to release that as early as February and will probably start writing The House Feeds immediately after.

Or maybe I’ll take a few weeks off of novels and write a couple of short stories. I might be due to release a third collection.

Erin: Yes, yes, and yes! Can’t wait!

You’ve written a gamut of types of books from extreme horror to thrillers and suspense to crime to a ghost story as well as multiple screenplays. Now, Ghostland is another notch that is just a tiny bit different from everything else. How do you please constant fans this way or do you not? Do you just write what comes or what you like or is there a plan?

Duncan: I never really have or had a plan up until recently, and even now it’s kind of a loose plan as to where I want to go with my writing. My ultimate goal is to keep getting better at what I do. Tell better stories. Learn from every book and every misturn in the road.

I’ve always written what feels right at the time. It may not always have been right for my “career.” If anybody would have told me that writing an extreme horror novel for British author Matt Shaw (Monster, Next Door) was going to be what propelled me to another level in the horror business, I would have told them they were crazy. I just wrote Woom to challenge myself. Somehow, it became one of my most successful books.

After that I wrote a small crime-thriller called Wildfire. Just two women with dark secrets fighting over the well-being of a young boy. Then I put out my second collection, Video Nasties. Then a horror-thriller for Kindle Press, The Method (which won the Kindle Scout contest). Then another crime-thriller, this one an adaptation of A Christmas Carol in which Ebenezer Scrooge is the alias of a hired hitman working for the Bleak House Syndicate. It’s my least successful book overall – I think I’ve sold maybe twenty copies – but I enjoyed it and I think it’s a good story.

Writing in any new genre is going to be a gamble if you’re an indie. I knew that. But these were stories that called to me at the time. I’ve found it’s not wise to ignore those urges. You’ll end up blocked.

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Erin: Absolutely! And I love most all of those. I don’t know why your Ebenezer book doesn’t sell better – what a novel idea and I know so many people enjoy A Christmas Carol and all its many adaptations. Do you hear that fellow Dickens’ Christmas Carol and thriller readers? Go buy this now! Tis the season!

That makes me afraid to ask you what’s next for you, but if you have any cool tidbits on back titles or screenplays, or something cool you’re thinking about in the works, please share with us!

Duncan: I’m going to put screenplays on the back burner for a while. I don’t think I’ll write another unless I’m getting paid to.

Up next for me, in no particular order: The Midwives, the folk-horror story I mentioned, in early 2020. Hopefully The House Feeds (under the Rex Garrote pen name) and Ghostland 2 in 2020 as well. There will be a third collection of horror and thrillers, which will likely feature a return to the world of Video Nasties. A spiritual sequel to Woom, set in the Lonely Motel. And I’ve also been tinkering with a coming of age serial killer novella. We’ll see how that goes.

Erin: Where can everyone find all the scoop and fun on Ghostland from websites to purchase links?

Duncan: You can find everything at https://www.duncanralston.com/ghostland.

Erin: I know also on the homepage of your site at that link, readers can sign-up for your newsletter too. I enjoy it and I highly recommend! THANK YOU so much for coming over and letting me haunt you with questions. You know I loved Ghostland and always love to talk about it. Now we can relax and hang out. If there was a Ghostland video game, we could play it. 😊 I also just realized we had dessert first before dinner. Haha!

Duncan: Thanks for having me over, Erin! Always a pleasure chatting with you. And as for dessert before dinner, that’s a perk of being an adult, isn’t it?

YOU WANT YOUR COPY OF GHOSTLAND RIGHT?

Ghostland Duncan RalstonHere’s the synopsis –

People are dying to get in. The exhibits will kill to get out.

Be first in line for the most haunted theme park in the world – GHOSTLAND! Discover and explore hundreds of haunted buildings and cursed objects! Witness spectral beings of all kinds with our patented Augmented Reality glasses! Experience all the terror and thrills the afterlife has to offer, safely protected by our Recurrence Field technology! Visit Ghostland today – it’s the hauntedest place on earth!

________

After a near-death experience caused by the park’s star haunted attraction, Ben has come to Ghostland seeking to reconnect with his former best friend Lilian, whose post-traumatic stress won’t let her live life to the fullest. She’s come at the behest of her therapist, Dr. Allison Wexler, who tags along out of professional curiosity, eager to study the new tech’s psychological effect on the user.

But when a computer virus sets the ghosts free and the park goes into lockdown, the trio find themselves trapped in an endless nightmare.

With time running short and the dead quickly outnumbering the living, the survivors must tap into their knowledge of horror and video games to escape… or become Ghostland’s newest exhibits.

Featuring an interactive “Know Your Ghosts” guide and much more, Ghostland is over 400 pages of thrills and terror!

Oh – and also, keep an eye on Ghostland’s Restoration Project website.

Get your copy HERE today! It’s available in e-book (and for a short time on Kindle Unlimited) and in paperback or D’s website. Enjoy the ride!

Duncan Ralston, Biography –

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Author photo copyright Josh Silver, 2015

“Intelligent, character-driven horror tales.” – Bram Stoker Award-winning author Jack Ketchum’s review of Gristle & Bone.

Duncan Ralston was born in Toronto and spent his teens in small-town Ontario. As a “grownup,” Duncan lives with his wife in Toronto, where he writes dark fiction about the things that frighten, sicken, and delight him. His work has been reviewed in Scream: the Horror Magazine, Cultured Vultures and Daily Dead. In addition to his twisted short stories found in GRISTLE & BONE and VIDEO NASTIES, he is the author of the novels SALVAGE, THE METHOD and GHOSTLAND, and the novellas WILDFIRE, WOOM, and EBENEZER.

Duncan’s influences include (but are not limited to): Stephen King, Clive Barker, Richard Matheson, Harlan Ellison, Jack Ketchum, Roald Dahl, Irvine Welsh, Chuck Palahnuik, and Bret Easton Ellis.

He runs the small press Shadow Work Publishing, which has published the writing of Jack Ketchum, Wrath James White, Jeff Strand, William Malmborg, The Sisters of Slaughter, Glenn Rolfe, and many others.

Thanks for joining us! Please share!

_______________________

Note:

I was given an early draft of Ghostland and an updated version from the author.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Q and A with Authors

National Poetry Month Celebration: Welcome Bram Stoker Award Winner Marge Simon on Illuminating Dark Poetry #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

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April is National Poetry Month and I do so love to highlight this type of writing I love to do, and also showcase other poets and work when I get the chance.

I hope to change more people’s minds about genre or dark poetry, in addition to poetry as a whole. I think if you’re one of those hesitant readers, give it a chance you’ll find it different these days than what you’re thinking of (being stuck back in high school classes). There is much to celebrate and appreciate!

For the rest of April I’ll be hosting original and re-print poetry, guest articles, interviews, and reviews from some poets I know and love, mostly in the dark poetry or horror poetry categories. If I have time, I hope to write some articles talking about poetry as well  such as diversity in poetry, feminist voice, dark poetry, favorite poets, but if I don’t get this latter done, I will happily feature them at other times during the year. Poetry never dies.

poetry and books quote

I’m proud to begin my celebration of poetry over the next two weeks with none other than veteran genre poet, Marge Simon! Fittingly enough, in her article she also encourages you to give poetry a try and lay the stereotypes to rest. And stay tuned from some poetry examples from her as well.

Perfect post to begin with….thank you so much, Marge!

Marge Simon is a writer, poet, and illustrator living in Ocala, Florida. She edits a column for the Horror Writer’s Association (HWA) Newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side,” and serves on the HWA Board of Trustees. A Grand Master Poet of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, her stories appear in Daily Science Fiction, Polu Texni, Silver Blade, Bete Noire, and anthologies such as Chiral Mad 4 and Tales from the Lake 5.

Simon has won three Bram Stoker Awards, Rhysling Awards for Best Long and Best Short Poetry, the Elgin Award for Poetry Collection, the Dwarf Stars Award, and Strange Horizons Readers’ Award.

Illuminating Dark Poetry

by Marge Simon, Award-winning Poet and Artist

“I hate poetry.”

“Poetry is nice, but I’d rather have a cookie.”

“Poetry is stupid. I wrote one for my girlfriend and she dumped me.”

I’ve actually had people comment like this to me over the years. In fact, most recently, at a Stoker convention, an author looked straight at me while I was signing a poetry collection and informed a bystander that he hated poetry. “Except for limericks,” he added. “Limericks are fine.” Sure, it was rude, but what can you say to that, other than “to each, their own”?

When I’m pressed by people as to what I write, I say “poetry,” but I’ll hasten to add, “It’s genre or speculative poetry, not what you are thinking of as poetry.” And then I change the subject, because I’m sure they don’t know what I’m talking about, and they don’t ask, and they really don’t care. I tell myself that I’m absolutely certain they are just being polite – and that is why I thought I would never write this article. But later, I got to thinking how there is poetry AND poetry. There is poetry for the general public appreciation, and there is also poetry that appeals to the literary community; there is poetry that those who appreciate both formal and speculative dark poetry.

Still what is so wrong with poetry, anyway? Most of it rhymes and is pleasurable to read if you are in the mood. We have these heavyweights of history to thank for poetry in our lives today – bet you have heard them quoted time over:

Shakespeare

Shelley

Byron

Keats

Kipling

Coleridge

Tennyson

Houseman

Not to mention Poe, C.A. Smith, and of course H.P. Lovecraft. You need to check them out – all of them. Take your time. You’ll find elements of darkness within a number of their works. As well, there are non-rhyming poems – poems with interior rhyme, or poems contrived to look like an object, and so on. How about poems that address the human condition? Speculative is my choice.

Here’s a variety of my stuff for examples.

A poem about familial relationships:

Latch Lock & Chain

I follow the stream into the greenwood,

Old Dozer knows the way, I smile as he

veers off, going deeper into the foliage, where

a last burst of sunset falls on the brick hut,

the same I’d built alone decades ago,

crumbling now, the whitewash almost gone.

 

How pleased I’d been that day to add that sign,

“KEEP OUT”, now buried in a pile of leaves.

I should complete my mission before dark,

for the bastard’s sake, as he’ll be waiting.

 

At first at odds, I determine to convey

the truth, not guise it all in falsehoods.

“There’s been enough bad blood between us.

I’ll set you free, if you promise to forgive.”

From inside I hear a croak of assent.

But Dozer growls, looks at me. Whines.

 

“Mother hated you, she believed my lies.

The mine we co-owned is worthless,

I sold the deed to our land years ago,

and I killed that whore you fancied.”

 

The latch is rusted, but the lock still holds.

My key won’t work, I smash it with my torch.

With trembling hands, I free the chain.

Impossibly thin fingers claw around the door,

pushing it open a crack at a time …

Note: this poem actually concerns the relationship between a man and his dog.

crescent moon

A dark poem through a child’s eyes:

Sooner, Later

In the canyon

above a stream

corpse of a lynx,

her foot in a bear trap,

six kits spread dead

in line at her dugs,

and all you say is,

just as well

they’d all die anyway,

sooner or later.

 

I was a kid,

so I thought like a kid,

thought how she might

be thirsty, starving,

thought maybe she

could have eaten

them all, one by one

just to say alive,

but that didn’t happen

and you’d said just as well,

they’d all die anyway,

sooner or later.

 

But you were my brother,

bigger than me,

so I didn’t argue,

and I didn’t cry.

Note: this speaks to those who look up to older siblings, realizing in the end that you need to draw your own conclusions about life and death

crescent moon

A poem through an alien lover’s eyes:

He Promised Me the Moon

I came here hoping

this world would suffice,

but all I met were flimsy ghosts

playing with fractals and logistics,

as meaningless as gossip –until him.

 

He hired me as his model,

even promised me the moon

before his wife’s death.

I wasn’t planning on this,

to know such human feelings.

 

He begged me to move in, after.

But he sits now, staring at his paintings.

He won’t even let me touch him.

Her flowers shrivel in their pots,

for want of her special love.

 

She was from Orlando,

a crowded, touristy place

of slender women, cocktails

at four, fashion-wise and empty-

headed as the rest of their lot.

 

But I don’t leave him. I can’t.

It makes me wince, knowing

I can assume a liquid form,

a creature foreign to this world,

from a planet of endless storms.

 

Perhaps tomorrow he’ll be aware,

pick up his palette, have me pose.

I don’t care how painful or how long,

I only want him to undress me,

kiss me in familiar places –

 

I’ll find us a moon of our own,

far from Earth.

Note: His wife was from Orlando, bringing this into a realm you can identify with – she could be from any city on earth, actually.

crescent moon

A poem through an ensorcelled puppet’s eyes:

When Again I Feel My Hands

My wooden hands

hang idle on the strings.

Master’s drunk on Holland gin

& sleeps beside the wench

who takes my place.

 

Half human, half wood,

in a world deprived of joy,

I am the fool’s scepter,

a reprieve from tedium,

my simple plays enhanced

by classical compositions.

You cannot know how dear

the price of mirth.

 

With his dark eyes, he wooed me

& with his magic, he prevailed.

Father swore, mother wept

as he swept me in his arms

& then away to foreign lands.

 

Soon he’ll tire of her,

& cast a spell to change her form

as did he mine, to suit his needs.

She’ll bob & bow as I do now,

and he will set me free–

or so he promised, long ago.

 

When again I feel my hands,

I’ll rip away these strings

& as he sleeps, I’ll pull them taut

around his bearded throat,

claim his magic for my own.

 Note: this poor young woman is a victim of falsehoods, a timeless warning.

crescent moon

 Lastly, a poem about your next door neighbor:

               the decaffeinated man

awake, I wander outside,

hearing screams from neighbor’s house,

move close to their bathroom window;

I see the obsessive man

has tried to clean the filth

from his rectum with Drano, and

not to be outdone, his compulsive wife

has just botched a Clorox gargle

for fresh breath and sparkling white smile.

Note: sometimes you just want a really sicko laugh.

Open your mind to the many other realms of dark poetry. The perspectives are countless! Thanks for inviting me, Erin!

Marge Simon, Biography –

Simonphoto-208x258Marge Simon lives in Ocala, FL. She edits a column for the HWA Newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side,” and serves on the HWA Board of Trustees.  She is the second woman to be acknowledged by the SF & F Poetry Association with a Grand Master Award.

She has won three Bram Stoker Awards, Rhysling Awards for Best Long and Best Short Poetry, the Elgin Award for Poetry Collection, the Dwarf Stars Award,
and Strange Horizons Readers’ Award. Marge’s poems and stories have appeared in Asimov’s SF, Silver Blade, Bete Noire, Grievous Angel, Daily Science Fiction, and in the anthologies, You, Human, Chiral Mad, and The Beauty of Death, to name a few. She attends the ICFA annually as a guest poet/writer, and is on the board of the Speculative Literary Foundation.

She has a daughter, Melle Tillison Broaderick, and two lovely granddaughters. She married a long time friend and colleague, Bruce Boston, in 2001. Besides being a fantastic conversationalist and the love of her life, he has taught her a great deal about writing top notch poetry and fiction, for which she is grateful.

In addition to her solo work, she has written collaborative poetry and fiction with Bruce Boston, Charlee Jacob, Mary Turzillo, Alessandro Manzetti and Bryan Dietrich.

You can view Marge’s fiction, poetry, and art, and contact her for freelance art assignments on her website.

Here is but one of her collections –

Satan's SweetheartsSatan’s Sweethearts
by Marge Simon and Mary Turzillo

Satan’s Sweethearts is an evil collection of poetry. Meet the macabre history of villainesses as Ching-Shih, Dephine LaLaurie, and Lizzie Borden.

Find on GoodReads!

WAR
by Marge Simon and Alessandro Manzetti

Look in my eyes. My bronze skin reflects the flames of the battles.

I feed on bullets and shrapnel.

WarI have trenches instead of veins and a bombardier’s whirring plays my favorite symphony inside my big head. This is my story, with some of my best camouflages and disguises, and you should expect your peace plans to fail. Because that’s what I do for living.

Look at my million golden teeth necklace. Ring any bells? Maybe you’re too young. I probably should have mentioned the fireworks over the Baghdad night sky, my new friend, or the live broadcast of two great skyscrapers disintegrating. You know what I’m talking about, right? So, you can call me by one of my many names: Great General, Lock-box of the Powerful, Red Rain, Lord of Steel or, more simply, WAR.

I appear as strife of many kinds, from Stalingrad to Scotland. Africa to Afghanistan, the civil war of Italy and the War Between the States, ghostly wars, drug wars, the battle of the sexes, World Wars I, II and visions of a holocaust yet to come. It’s all herein and more, with poems both collaborative and individual.

Find on GoodReads!

My pleasure having Marge on Hook of a Book! Stay tuned this week for posts featuring Bram Stoker Award winning poet Stephanie Wytovich and Bram Stoker nominated poet Sara Tantlinger, with more to come next week from some other awesome poets.

Have a great week!

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Feature Articles, poetry, Q and A with Authors, Uncategorized, Usborne and Kane/Miller News

Interview: Author Gina Marie Guadagnino on Debut Novel The Parting Glass, Featuring Irish-American Characters

Interview, Author Gina Marie Guadagnino of The Parting Glass

Hello everyone! After over two weeks of respiratory illness in our house, and all time spent recovering, taking care of home and others (partner, kids, parents), the brakes going out on my car and needing fixed, and then mad crazy catching up on my actual freelance publishing work load that pays the bills, I was able to get back to the Oh, for the Hook of a Book! site today. Alas, I missed putting up my usual St. Patrick Day post with books, movies, and treats. I did make Irish Stew on Sunday though!

I read The Parting Glass by Gina Marie Guadagnino before succumbing to the ick, which meant I read just prior to its March 5 release date, and it fittingly has Irish characters set in mid-1800s NYC! I’ll have a review, and others, I’m catching up on, but I was able to conduct an interview with Gina in which we talk about her books, themes (Irish immigrants, LGBT+ characters), and how she writes historical and dark fiction like me. She even gives writers some good advice, with this being her debut novel.

Enjoy the interview and let us know what you think in the comments!

________________________

Hi Gina! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m very happy you’ve joined us today. Not only is it Women in History Month, but it’s the celebration of the release of your debut novel, The Parting Glass, which is a book that combines quite a bit – an NYC historical setting, plight of Irish immigrants and the scene of the day coupled with their various relationships, intrigue, as well as love and LGBT+ themes. We have much to explore, especially since I’ve come to learn you are also a writer of dark fiction like me as well.

Parting Glass Cover

First, come in and join me. In honor of your arrival, though it isn’t relative to what Irish-Americans would eat or drink in 1837, the time period of your book, I’ve baked my Irish Soda Bread with raisins and brewed some fresh Irish coffee. If it’s too early to make yours with whiskey, then just tell me how you’d like it. Have a seat in my plush library chairs and I’ll be in.

Emma's Soda Bread

Acutal photo of the Irish Soda Bread my 15 year old daughter and I baked this weekend for St. Patrick’s Day!

Gina: Hi Erin! Thanks so much for having me. I should be good like my protagonist Maire and refuse a belt on a workday, but how often does a girl get to publish her debut novel? So I guess you can make mine a double! That soda bread smells delicious, by the way.

Erin: Mmm, it does – and cheers to special occasions! Now that we are settled, let’s begin. I work, write, and read in history as well as dark fiction and so you’ll find a mix of those peers and readers following along with our talk. First, The Parting Glass is your debut book. Tell us about it in your own words and your inspiration for writing it.

Gina: When I started writing The Parting Glass, I had recently moved to Florida so that my spouse could pursue a PhD, and I was really missing New York. I had either lived or worked or studied on Washington Square for the ten years previous to our move, and all I could think about was going back, so I started writing a short story set on the Square. My primary focus is on historical fiction, so I started thinking about the kinds of people who would have lived and worked there when the brick row houses were new. At first, my goal was to expose the various strata of individuals in a single house, with almost a Downton Abbey kind of feel, but quickly, the stories of Maire, Seanin, and Charlotte came to the fore.

Washington Square drawing

Houses on Washington Square North, New York / Image sent by Gina

Washington Square North

Washington Square North / Image provided by Gina

Erin: It’s described as having an “Upstairs Downstairs” feel regarding its use of characters that are the hired help intertwining with the NYC elite they worked for at the time. You’ve studied American history, and Irish history, do you feel most people today realize that this concept didn’t end in the New World even as late as the mid-1800s? (These days, I don’t! lol!) What do you feel most people lack to understand about society in NYC then and how the Irish immigrants fit into it?

Gina: I think that most people have a general idea that American retained a robust servant class throughout the 19th century, yes. The massive influx of Irish peasants fleeing the Great Hunger in the 1840s and 50s resulted in a disproportionate number of Irish domestic servants in the latter half of the 1800s, but The Parting Glass takes place in the 1830s. I tried to use the temporal setting to explore the diversity of New York’s servant class, using the Walden’s household as a microcosm. You have Irish immigrants like Seanin, of course, but you also have New Yorkers of English and Scottish extraction, like the housekeeper and butler, Mrs. Harrison and Mr. Buckley. Then you have former slaves, like Mrs. Freedman and her deceased husband, Frank. Mrs. Freedman her son Young Frank, and the scullion Agnes all would have been slaves before they were freed in New York’s Emancipation Act of 1827. Most of the rest of the servants are people who would consider themselves “native” New Yorkers – so you see that, at the time The Parting Glass takes place, Irish immigrants played a much smaller role than they would only a decade later.

Erin: Interesting! What are the types of struggles on the surface that some of your characters are struggling with in society? What public persona is each trying to retain, no matter their social standing?

Gina: In terms of Society with a capital S, Charlotte and Prudence are the characters struggling most with the chafing expectations of maintaining their social standing. Charlotte never questioned that the trajectory of her life would include a grand society marriage before she met Seanin, while Prudence’s love of music had previously made marriage seem a dull prospect. The irony here is that when Prudence actually does fall for someone who would make a society match desirable for her, the potential groom is infatuated with Charlotte. Meanwhile, amongst the society of servants, Maire is struggling to fit in, pretending that she is not Irish. The irony for her is that her brother, who is open about his Irish ethnicity, is better-liked amongst the Walden’s servants than she is.

Erin: What are the challenges they are facing and hiding under the depth of surface? Your characters lead double lives – why did you choose to unravel these themes within your work? What did you hope to show in the parallels?

Gina: I really wanted to subvert the historical marriage plot with which we’re all so familiar. So many books about women set in the early 19th century fixate on the need for women to marry to secure their places in society. Even when those women are conflicted or have other mitigating factors in their lives, respectable marriage is still the ultimate goal. I wanted to explore women for whom that goal was unsatisfactory: queer women for whom marriage was not an option, women who prized art and autonomy over matrimony, women who prized love over status, sex workers who were ambitious about staying sex workers. I wanted to use the hidden narratives to express the unexpected ways in which women like Maire and Liddie were less burdened by societal expectations than more privileged women like Charlotte and Prudence whose lives were laid out before they were born.

Erin: I feel you were courageous in writing these characters, even today. Which was your favorite character to write? Which was the most challenging?

Gina: Liddie was by far my favorite character to write. She’s witty, ambitious, and practical; she doesn’t suffer fools. I had been thinking about writing a character like her for quite a while – 19th century sex workers and brothel owners are a fascination of mine – and she fit so seamlessly into The Parting Glass. Because I love Shakespeare, I gave her a theatrical origin story so that I could have her spouting some of my favorite Bardic quotations. Charlotte was actually one of the hardest characters to write. She’s naturally placid and aloof, very self-contained, and since we only see her through the eyes of the other characters, it was hard for me to strike the right tone with her!

Erin: Of course, your book is well-researched and intelligent in its foundation, but it’s not completely heavy on the themes of the dueling sociality of the characters (meaning it’s an entertaining, captivating read), but also explores love and forbidden desires. What did you decide to push the boundaries of writing and themes for readers? How did you?

Gina: You know, this might sound strange, but I really don’t think I was pushing too many boundaries here. Love and desire are really very basic human emotions that color so much of what we do. That was true a thousand years ago, it was true in the 1830s, and it’s true today. I think that you can write a book with intense political themes and then complicate matters with affairs of the heart and have the whole thing harmonize because that’s just what humans do.

Erin: Of the themes in your novel, what are the primary connections and correlations that you hope readers will leave with? Are you a believer that as people vary, that will vary?

Gina: I hope that people will leave the story aware of how little has changed in our society with regard to the way we legislate women’s bodies, the bias with which we treat immigrants, the marginalization of LGBTQ+ people, etc. And I hope that, being struck by those parallels, people are galvanized to do something about it.

Erin: Your book has been described as having tinges of Sarah Waters, due to its exploration of lesbian characters, but also Edith Wharton mixed with Emma Donoghue (via the amazing author Kris Walderr). To that end, do your characters develop with us in understanding themselves? Does a greater feminine achievement exist or is it a searching of mean for all various people within your characters?

Gina: I think Maire definitely develops along with the reader in terms of who she is and what she’s capable of. Without giving too much away, Maire starts off the book having completely suppressed all her desires in life beyond her desire for Charlotte, and even there, she has ceded her claim to her brother. She is, in many ways, the perfect servant because her mistress’s desires are her own. She doesn’t even believe she has the right to the sexual desire she feels for Charlotte. Over the course of the book, as the secret life Maire has build begins to unravel, as she meets other women who are willing to risk their comfort or their station to achieve their goals, she slowly comes into her own.

Erin: You’ve achieved something all writers search for with a debut novel, to be published traditionally by an exceptional house. How did this process happen for you? What do you feel helped you to accomplish this? (And congratulations!!)

Gina: Thank you! (clink Irish coffees!) It was a slow process. It took me five years to write and revise the novel – I think by the time I got around to querying agents, I was using draft 5. And then it took me about 18 months – and 181 query letters! – before I was offered representation by the amazing Alexandra Machinist at ICM. Alexandra truly believed in this novel – in its messy characters and complicated themes – and she had a vision of the type of editor to whom it would appeal. Trish Todd at Atria (formerly Touchstone) connected with the novel right away, and in our first call together, I knew my book was going to be in great hands.

Erin: In addition, what tips would you have for aspiring novelists?

Gina: I know that everyone says “be tenacious; don’t give up,” and while that’s obviously true in my case, I will also say “find the right allies.” Not every novel is right for every agent or every publisher. So figure out what your core message or values are, and find others who share them. Those are the people who will help propel your vision.

Erin: In looking through your website, I noticed that you not only write short stories like me (I have published a collection of dark poetry and stories and have contributed so anthologies in the genre), but that you’ve written dark fiction as well! I think dark fiction lends itself well to short works. What have you enjoyed about writing darker stories? Which has/have been your favorite(s) you’ve written?

Gina: The thing is, I never actually sit down and say to myself, “okay, I’m going to write something dark.” I set out to write something historical, or something with a supernatural element, or even something comical, and then they just come out dark anyway! I’m not sure what that says about me! Perhaps ironically, the one time I did try to write a truly dark story – about a woman who is unable to remember whether or not she committed a murder – I was unable to get it published. But that was years before Girl on the Train and that whole genre, so maybe I should try submitting it again!

Erin: You should! I was thinking I wanted to edit an anthology of women and crime, and this would be perfect. Now I just need someone to publish it and let me curate it. haha!

I’m wondering if you’re like me in how your writing and reading adventures cover a wide array. Are there darker elements you’ve brought to your longer or historical fiction like The Parting Glass? If so, what or why not? (In my personal opinion, I feel like the obsession element leans toward that!)

Gina: Obsession can be very dark, and lead people to dark places, so that’s certainly an element in my longer fiction, as in The Parting Glass.

Erin: Do you feel you will continue to write dark flash or short story pieces? What about a novel trending more towards dark fiction or horror?

Gina: Can I tell you a secret? I kind of hate writing short stories! It’s so hard for me to be concise and wrap up a short story neatly or satisfyingly. I have enormous respect for talented short story writers because that style of writing is such a struggle for me. In general, I tend to write longer work, with rare and occasional sparks that become standalone short stories. My current work in progress is something I’m calling a “reverse gothic novel.” In a traditional gothic novel, the characters believe that horrific and wild and sometimes supernatural things are happening around them, but in the end, there is a perfectly logical (if sometimes far-fetched) explanation. My latest novel, which takes place in the 1810s, is about a family who prides themselves on being so logical and rational that they never suspect that the events unfolding around them are as wild and outrageous as they really are!

Erin: That sounds fun and Gothic is my thing. Keep me updated!

I believe that you are completing more graduate studies, but in Irish studies this time? What have you studied previously and why, and also, why now Irish studies? How does this help you, or will help you, in your writing? Do you plan to write more historical novels?

Gina: I did my undergraduate work in English with a double minor in Medieval and Renaissance Studies and Irish Studies, and I also have my MFA in Fiction. I plan to write many more historical novels set in Ireland and the Irish diaspora, and I wanted to pursue a degree in Irish Studies to support the research I do for my novels. I find the academic work I do deeply inspirational, and I already have so many avenues I want to explore as a result of my studies.

Erin: Some easier questions now! What are some of your favorite historical reads? What are some of your favorite dark fiction reads?

Gina: Well, we’ve already mentioned Sarah Waters and Emma Donaghue; they’re obviously high on the list. I love the works of Lyndsay Faye – particularly her Gods of Gotham trilogy. For medieval historical fiction, Nicola Grifith’s Hild and Ariana Franklin’s Mistress of the Art of Death – the latter of which definitely qualifies as a dark read! I also love Jo Baker’s Longbourne, and Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni, which certainly has some dark elements to it. And speaking of Kris Waldherr, as we were a moment ago, her debut novel, The Lost History of Dreams, is a delightfully dark historical work, out next month!

The Lost History of Dreams

Erin: We have a lot of reading interests in common! Since it’s Women in History month, who is a woman of history that you feel more people should know about and why?

Gina: I’m going to go with Asenath Hatch Nicholson, who I just learned about in my Irish Women’s History class. She was a social reformer and philanthropist (despite often being in dire financial straits herself) who was deeply concerned with the plight of the Irish in Five Points, and eventually became instrumental in the relief efforts during the Great Hunger. She was a fascinating and complicated woman with a mind of her own. While I don’t agree with all of her political or religious views, she was a true humanitarian, and a unique spirit. Go look her up!

Asenath_Nicholson

Asenath Hatch Nicholson / Image provided by Gina 

Erin: And since it’s March, and St. Patrick’s day was something we recently celebrated (one of my favorites!), can you share with us a favorite St. Patrick’s day recipe, story or legend, or something unique for readers?

Gina: This might sound a little out there, but go with me. My all time favorite Irish dessert is something I once had in a pub in Dublin in 2001. It was a huge slice of soda bread, topped with a scoop of Guinness ice cream, covered in dark chocolate whiskey sauce. Over the years, I have tweaked various recipes until I have perfected my own version of it, which I’ve attached. If you have a soda bread recipe of your own that you love, feel free to substitute that. And, like Ina Garten always says, if you don’t want to make your own Guinness ice cream, store bought is fine!

Irish Soda Bread:

3 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

3 tbs caraway seeds, plus more

1 cup raisins

1 ½ cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425. In a large bowl, mix flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, caraway seeds, and raisins. Add the buttermilk. Dough should be sticky, but easy to handle. Knead into a ball with floured hands. Place in a floured pan or cookie sheet, flouring only under the loaf to prevent burning. Flatten into a 7-inch circle with your hands. To allow expansion, cut a deep cross from side to side in the top of the dough with a sharp knife dipped in flour. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the bread is crusty brown. Cool before slicing.

Guinness Ice Cream:

12 ounces Guinness stout
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups half and half
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
6 raw egg yolks, sterilized

In a large saucepan, simmer the Guinness until reduced by 3/4 in volume, about 8 minutes. Combine the cream, half and half, and sugar in a medium, heavy saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pan and add the vanilla bean halves. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat.

Beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Whisk 1 cup of the warm cream mixture into the egg yolks. Gradually add the egg mixture in a slow, steady stream, to the rest of the warm cream. Whisk thoroughly until thickened. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing down against the surface to keep a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Remove from refrigerator and add the Guinness reduction, whisking until well blended. Pour into the bowl of an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve.

Dark Chocolate-Whiskey Sauce:
2 cups whipping cream
¼ cup honey

¼ cup whiskey
20 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine cream and honey over medium heat until just simmering. Reduce to low and add the chocolate and vanilla, whisking until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in the whiskey. Let stand until cool but still pourable. Serve over Guinness ice cream.

To Assemble:

Lay a thick slice of soda bread at the bottom of a bowl. Add a generous scoop of the ice cream and smother the whole thing in chocolate-w

Erin: WHAT?!! Irish Soda Bread sundae. Oh, my! Thank you for the recipes!

What else do you have planned for 2019 or beyond besides anything you might have already mentioned? What is the future looking like for you? What are you most looking forward to?

Gina: I’m actually headed to Ireland soon on a research trip for novel number three. It’s going to be set in Donegal during the Great Hunger, and I’m hoping start drafting it this summer. I haven’t been to Ireland since 2006, and I’m really excited to be heading back. I’ll be there for over a week, and in addition to my research in Donegal, I’m looking forward to visiting some old favorite spots, and getting to a few new places I’ve always wanted to visit.

Erin: Where can everyone find you online to connect?

Gina: My website is www.ginamarieguadagnino.com, and I can be found on both Instagram and Twitter at @mymarginalia – because you can’t spell marginalia without Gina!

Erin: Thank you so very much Gina for enduring all my questions! I have an overactive curiosity for people, places, things. I hope that you will stop by again in the future and wish you the best of luck with The Parting Glass and all things in the future. Let’s kick back and enjoy a few more drinks before you go!

Gina: Thank you so much, Erin! It’s always such a pleasure to sit down and talk with people like you who have such a deep appreciation for the historical! Thanks for making this a fun visit!

Parting Glass CoverThe Parting Glass, Information –

Pub date: March 5, 2019
Publisher: Touchstone
Hardcover; $26.00
ISBN: 978-1501198410

Will a brother and sister’s steadfast vow withstand their wild devotion to the same woman? THE PARTING GLASS, a tempestuous nineteenth century love triangle threatens all that one secretive servant holds dear, is Gina Marie Guadagnino’s lush and evocative debut.

Posing as a lady’s maid in 1837 New York City, Maire O’Farren must tread carefully. The upper echelons of society despise the Irish and Maire, known to her employers only as Mary Ballard, takes great care to conceal her native lilt and lineage. Nor would the household be pleased with a servant who aids her debutante’s midnight assignations with a stable groom. Least of all would they tolerate a maid who takes a stronger liking to her charge than would be deemed entirely suitable for her sex.

Maire tends to wealthy young heiress Charlotte Walden’s every whim and guards her every secret. Though it pains her, Maire even delivers her brother Seanin to her beloved’s bed each Thursday night, before shedding her clandestine persona and finding release from her frustration in the gritty underworld around Washington Square. Despite her grief, Maire soon attracts the attentions of irreverent and industrious prostitute Liddie Lawrence, who soothes Maire’s body and distracts her burning heart.

As an English baron and a red-blooded American millionaire vie for Charlotte’s affections, Seanin makes calculated moves of his own, adopting the political aspirations of his drinking companions and grappling with the cruel boundaries of class and nationality. As Seanin rises in rank in a secret society and the truth of both women’s double lives begin to unravel, Charlotte’s secrets soon grow so dangerous even Maire cannot keep them. Forced to choose between loyalty to her brother or to her lady, between respectable society or true freedom, Maire finally learns that her fate lies in her hands alone.

Deeply researched and finely rendered, THE PARTING GLASS captures the delicate exuberance of nineteenth century high society, while examining sexuality, race, and social class in ways that feel startlingly familiar and timely. Perfect for fans of Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith and Emma Donoghue’s Slammerkin, Guadagnino’s captivating upstairs/downstairs historical fiction debut will leave readers breathless.

Gina Marie Guadagnino, Biography –

Gina Marie Guadagnino Author Photo by L.M. PaneGina Marie Guadagnino received a BA in English from New York University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the New School.

Her work has appeared in the Morris-Jumel Mansion Anthology of Fantasy and Paranormal FictionMixed Up: Cocktail Recipes (and Flash Fiction) for the Discerning Drinker (and Reader).

She lives in New York City with her family.

Praise for The Parting Glass

Downton Abbey meets Gangs of New York in this darkly compelling debut. A claustrophobic love triangle of stifled desire and class warfare plays out to deadly, devastating effect. A gem of a novel to be inhaled in one gulp.” —Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of THE ALICE NETWORK

“Knotted thickly with secrets both fervid and calculating, to read THE PARTING GLASS is to enter a jungle of passions and lies. Immaculately researched and gorgeously written, this book is noteworthy for its grasp of the agony caused by hiding cracks in the human heart. A thoughtful, lyrical, sensuous, moving tour-de-force.” —Lyndsay Faye, author of JANE STEELE

 Purchase –

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Filed under Q and A with Authors, women in history, women in horror

Interview: On Writing Dark Obsession, Chatting with Author Latashia Figueroa #HookonWiHM #WIHM #Horror

Today I welcome Latashia Figueroa to the site! This amazing lady is always a breath of fresh air and positivity, so laid back –  until she’s slaying on the page! Maybe you’ve enjoyed her dark tale of obsession, Ivy’s Envy? The second in the Want & Decay series, Thomas’s Want, will be published soon.

In full disclosure, I’m working as Latashia’s editor and I love assisting her in this regard – just recently adding her to my client list as I’m editing Thomas’s Want. I can’t help but want everyone to know about her if they don’t already. She’s a great woman to round out my women in horror month tenth anniversary spots I’ve been featuring for February. I hope you enjoy learning about her as much as I did – if you like suspenseful horror, you’ll surely get along with Latashia!

Latashia

Hi Latashia, and welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so happy you’ve joined us. I should let everyone in on the fact that I’m your editor, but it doesn’t make me bias at all when I say I enjoy your work! I love how you bring suspense to your dark thrillers and horror – page turners! Come in and we’ll have drinks and a few snacks and settle in for a chat. What’s your drinking pleasure?

Latashia: Hi Erin, thanks so much for inviting me. I’m an IPA girl. Dog Fish Head or Two Hearted Ale would be nice. Thanks!

Erin: Two Hearted Ale it is! Seems legit to wrap-up February, though it has more to do with the river I think — that’s okay, I love the water too! I’m not an IPA girl myself, luckily I can make any drink magically appear! Ha! For me, I’ll go to my stand-by of rum and coke. 

johns-bells-two-hearted-ale

Cheers!

Let’s get started! You used to work in NYC fashion scene, so what drew you back to writing?

Latashia: Yes, I worked in NYC for years and lived there for a few years as well. I’m actually right across the river now, and I am always in the city. I consider NY my second home. But, back to your question. The NYC Fashion scene was exciting, but grueling, and often, unrewarding. When the company I worked for downsized, instead of heading back to find another job in fashion, I decided to follow my passion. I know, very cliche. I’ve been writing since I was a child. My mom reminded me of this. Yes, I knew I would not be making the money I made in fashion, but the dream is more important. My husband, thankfully, encouraged me as well.

Erin: Give me the scoop, did you meet characters in NYC that you secretly place in your books?

Latashia: Haha, no,not at all. My characters are strictly from my imagination. I did have a young muse for one of my stories. A beautiful little girl who I adore. Her eyes, lovely and haunting. She never got upset when she was disciplined, she just stared at you with those eyes. I would wonder, “What is she thinking? What’s behind those eyes?” That’s how my story Wrapped in Small Flesh and Bone, one of the stories in my short collection, This Way Darkness, was born.

Erin: Where do you get the inspiration from for your books and stories?

Latashia: Strictly from my head. A scenario will just pop in my mind and if I can’t get rid of it, that means the story wants to be heard. I simply oblige by writing it down.

Erin: That happens to me too – all the time! Ha! Your books Ivy’s Envy, and the upcoming Thomas’s Want, are derived from the darkness of obsession. Tell us about them in your own words.

Latashia: Sometimes, obsession can be mistaken for love. It is not the same thing, though people have convinced themselves that it is. Obsession is a dangerous thing, and the stories never end well. The Want & Decay stories follow the entangled lives of three people tormented by lust, jealousy, madness, and murder. Ivy’s Envy is the first installment, Thomas’s Want is the second, and Deana’s Decay will be the last.

ThomassWantFromLH

Recently revealed on Instagram – Cover Reveal for Thomas’s Want! Cover work by Lynne Hansen.

Erin: I believe you also have a short story collection, This Way Darkness? What are those stories like?

Latashia: Yes, This Way Darkness is my first debut short horror collection, and I am very proud of it. The stories are much more horror driven.

Erin: Do you feel that horror reaches into the everyday life often these days, tilting more of the thriller and suspense novels to the dark side?

Latashia: You know, horror is a genre that can be crossed with many genres. Romance, suspense, and especially thrillers. I think horror makes stories more exciting. I am not a reader or watcher of
romance (sorry guys). But add horror or thriller element to the story and I’m in.

Erin: Do you enjoy looking at the human psyche and pulling out characters and stories? I know I enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing psychology into my works.

Latashia: Yes, absolutely. The human mind is interesting and very fragile. It doesn’t take much to push someone over the edge of what we perceive as normal. I think humans are much scarier than any monster that can be thought up. And honestly, when I turn off my light at night, I’m not scared of what creature is lurking under my bed. I’m thinking about the neighbor I got off the elevator with who gives me a smile and a “have a good night,” before he slowly closes his door.

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Erin: Yikes! Haha! Yes, I agree. What are some of your favorite horror novels and movies? And why?

Latashia: Oh, wow. That’s quite a list, Erin. Here’s just a few:

Rosemary’s Baby, both the novel and the movie. Ira Irvin’s tale of Manhattan witches, and Roman Polanski’s screen adaptation, are just sensationally creepy. And it’s done without the blood and gore that horror is known for. The story is subtle and steady with a double-edged climax. *Spoiler Alert!!* Not only has Rosemary Woodhouse been right all along in her belief that her neighbors are witches and her husband has helped orchestrate the unholy contract for his own personal gain, but in the end, Rosemary is committed to becoming a mother to what she has brought into this world. *End Spoiler*

Rosemary's Baby

Burnt Offerings, by Robert Marasco. The book and the made for tv movie is a favorite of mine. A slow burn with great atmospheric tension about a house that slowly comes alive at the cost of the summer renters.

Pet Semetary by the King himself.

Halloween, by John Carpenter. This movie will always be a favorite of mine. Michael Myers represents so much. “The shape,” as he was called in the script, is a terror that stalks you and no matter how much you try to run, try to escape, he/it is there. Relentless in his pursuit of you. Terrifying.

Erin: Who are some fellow Women in Horror you admire or like the works of? What books have you enjoyed?

Latashia: I enjoy Linda Addison, Tananarive Due, Anne Rice, Shirley Jackson. I have taken a real interest in women screenwriters and directors as well. Jennifer Kent, screenwriter/director of The Babadook and Karyn Kusama director of The Invitation and Destroyer.

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Karyn Kusama on set of The Invitation

Erin: I loved The Invitation! How about overall books and movies (not just horror) you have enjoyed? Any gender or genre.

Writers: I like Liane Moriarty, A.J. Finn, Ruth Ware, B.A. Paris, Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen (they make a good writing team). I also enjoy reading stories from my friend John F.D. Taff.

Movies? There are so many. I really enjoy the classics: All About Eve, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? ANYTHING Alfred Hitchcock. I really enjoy movies by M. Night Shyamalan; I feel critics give him a hard time. He’s original and imaginative. My new favorite, Jordan Peele, he understands horror. No one can dispute how terrifying and original Get Out is. I’m looking forward to his upcoming movie, Us. Mr. Peele is also rebooting Rod Serling’s classic The Twilight Zone … Yaaaay! I’m also into binge worthy series as well: True Detective, Ozark, and Sneaky Pete. I adored Killing Eve, looking forward to season 2.

Erin: Wow, we have a lot of things we like to read and watch in common! This could have easily been a good portion of my own list. I am really excited to see what Peele does with The Twilight Zone re-make on CBS.

With all women out there have to do, how do you fit writing into your life? Do you have a plan or structure?

Latashia: I freelance occasionally, my schedule is unpredictable. But, I try to just get up and write. If I’m not in front of my laptop, I carry a notebook around. I could be having lunch with a friend or dinner with my husband and I’ll just stop and write a sentence or a paragraph. It has to get written down or else, it’s gone and I’m cursing myself for not capturing it.

No, I do not plan or structure, I just write.

Erin: Me either. So many I talk to do outlines and have writing times and plans. I write when it strikes me, just as you said, whether it’s at dinner or in the car. It’s really the only way to fit it in. You know, exactly how you said with our jobs, unpredictable. But I am trying hard to make progress at my age with some planning. Haha!

This Way Darkness

Have you had any challenges as far as being a female writer? What and how did you overcome them? Or do you feel that women have challenges overall – what is your advice?

Latashia: I feel like I had more challenges in the corporate world than I do in the writing community. There will always be challenges. All you can do is put your best work forward, your best voice.

Erin: I feel some of that too, especially in the small town I’m living in. What’s next for you in the next year or two? What are your goals for 5-10 years down the line?

Latashia: I don’t plan that far ahead, life is so unpredictable. I go step by step and try to enjoy as I go. I am working on a story right now that I plan to submit to an agent. We’ll see what happens.

Erin: Living in the moment can be a good thing! What do you like to do when you’re not writing or working?

Latashia: I practice Yoga every day, the stretching and the flowing movements helps me to think more clearly. I also take a hip-hop class once a month on Saturdays. I love cooking and eating. So if I’m not in the kitchen whipping up something healthy and hearty, hubby and I are out discovering a new restaurant.

Erin: Sounds amazing! Thank you so much for hanging out with me and chatting today! It’s was fun to introduce readers to you and your thoughts. Talk soon! 😊

Latashia: Thanks, Erin. You’re awesome.

Erin: Back at you!

Latashia Figueroa, Biography –

LatashiaLatashia Figueroa began telling tales at an early age, writing short stories for her mother to read and review. She worked in NYC’s Fashion Industry for over ten years before returning to her love of writing.

She is the author of the short stories collection, This Way Darkness: Three Tales of Terror, the adult thriller Ivy’s Envy (Want & Decay Trilogy, #1) and the upcoming Thomas’s Want (Want & Decay Trilogy, #3).

Latashia is a nature and animal lover. She practices yoga daily and dreams of owning a farm someday …and skydiving over it.

Visit Latashia Figueroa on Instagram (@frayedpages), Twitter (@latashfigueroa), or her website.

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About Ivy’s Envy (Want & Decay, #1) –

Latashia Figueroa’s riveting Want & Decay Trilogy follows the entangled lives of three people tormented by lust, jealousy, madness and murder. In this first book, Ivy’s Envy, Ivy James has had a history of violence with the men she falls for. Her grandmother and parents know what Ivy is capable of when things don’t go her way.

Now Ivy has become obsessed with Thomas Miles, a man who works at her office. She is certain that Thomas loves her too. But there are people who stand in the way of Ivy and Thomas finally being together, like his wife, Deana. Determined to have the love that is their destiny, Ivy will go down a very dark and twisted road to make Thomas hers, and hers alone. But Ivy is not the only one who has dark secrets, and everyone involved will soon learn that pursuing love and passion to the extreme can lead to terrifying consequences.

“I loved this tale of familial obligations, misplaced love and failed seduction. It’s twisted and effed up and that’s how I like my horror to be. Bravo to you, Latashia, bring on the next book!”  – Char at Char’s Horror Corner

“The story was simply all-consuming the entire way through. While I’m usually “too good” at guessing the final outcome well in advance, I have to applaud the author for coming up with something so unique–yet at the same time, perfectly fitting–that I never had even a clue about what was to come. The second book in this trilogy can not come soon enough for me! I’ll be picking up everything I can from this author.” – Kim, Horror After Dark

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Thanks so much to Latashia for rounding out our Women in Horror Month series for February (though there is more to come in March)! I hope you’ve all enjoyed learning about so many women in horror this month along with me!

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Interview: Debut Author and Anthology Editor Sarah Read! #WIHMX #HookonWiHM #Horror

Today I welcome Sarah Read, author of the recently released The Bone Weaver’s Orchard and editor-in-chief of Pantheon Magazine, to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so happy she’s joined me and we find out we have quite a bit in common! You’ll find Sarah to be outgoing, kind, and one smart cookie. I hope you enjoy learning about her debut novel (a Gothic horror mystery for adult and YA readers), what she learned writing her first novel, and tips and advice from an editor on submission processes.

Hi Sarah, and welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so happy you’ve joined us. Come in and we’ll make some coffee, grab some cupcakes from the counter, and settle in for a chat. How do you take your coffee?

Sarah: Hello, Erin! Thank you so much for having me! I’ll take my coffee with milk, no sugar, please. But yeah, I’ll have a whole bunch of these cupcakes!

cherry chocolate

Erin: Aren’t cupcakes the best?! I made them this morning. I hope you like cherry chocolate! It’s a new favorite of mine.. And milk in your coffee it is, I’ll pour it in. Let’s get started! Your newest release is The Bone Weaver’s Orchard. Tell us about it in your own words.

Sarah: My book is a Gothic horror mystery. There’s an old abbey, which is now the Old Cross School for Boys. There is young Charley and his collection of insects and arachnids—and the other students who don’t care for Charley’s pets. There are secret passages and missing persons and abandoned structures and unnecessary surgeries. There are some old legends come to life, and new legends come to death, and, I hope, some dread.

Erin: This sounds like the perfect read for me. I LOVE Gothic more than just about anything and this sounds like a lot of fun. I read somewhere that this can be read by both YA and adult readers. Can you tell us about that?

Sarah: I hope that it can! I wrote this for the teen me who was bored with the teen horror, which wasn’t very scary, but annoyed by the adult horror, which was full of adults doing adult things. I keep the point of view YA, but I don’t pull any punches on the horror. So far, I’ve heard positive things from both age groups, so I hope I’ve succeeded. Teens don’t need their books softened. They are better equipped to handle horror than adults are. They still believe it can’t happen to them. Adults don’t just know it can—we’re half expecting it.

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Erin: I am in love with cover (I think Miko?)!!! I have to admit I agreed to reading this book BEFORE I found out it had spiders. I’ll still read it, but color me creeped out since I have arachnophobia! Does this have anything to do with your own enjoyment of knitting? Spinning webs of your own through your writing? Why spiders?

Sarah: Oooh, yeah. Oops. Yeah, Erin, there are some spiders. Sorry about that. I mean, I’m not, but… Heh. And yes! Spinning, weaving, knitting—these are words that have been borrowed from textiles and applied to story since as far back as we have written records and fabric on our bodies. It’s why, I think, so many spider deities are storytellers, as well. It all…weaves together.

I do love spiders. I used to be afraid of them, but I was forced through some immersion therapy just by virtue of the fact that spiders love me. I find one touching me more days than not. I find them in my clothes and hair. They’ll be chilling out on the light switch I’m about to reach for. They’ll be suspended in the air in the space where my face will soon be. My car is always full of spiders. They scamper across the wheel as I drive. Basically, my options were to get over being afraid, or go entirely mad. I suppose I chose both.

Erin: Haha!!! I live in Ohio in the woods, so I know what you mean! I love the weaving element. What other themes and elements are in your books for both teens and adults? As the mother of daughters 15 and 11, this seems like a book they’d enjoy with me?

Sarah: I hope that they would! There are some overall themes that I think teens will identify with. Adapting to a new school, a new home. On the adult side of that—wondering if there ever is any such thing as home—is it something that can be made, if you can’t find it? There are conflicts with bullies and cruel teachers, homework that must take a back seat to life’s bigger problems, like a missing friend. There are a lot of references to the parent-child bond, but most of the examples here are not pleasant. Of course, they’re all just pretend. Reality can be much worse.

Erin: I think they would love it, not only the themes, but the adventure/mystery element. This is your debut novel, I believe? What else have you written? How did writing short fiction help or hinder the process for writing a novel?

Sarah: It is my debut novel! It’s the first novel I wrote, though there have been others since. Most of my work up till now has been short fiction. I still love to write short stories, though I’m finding more and more of my ideas accordion-ing out into longer structures and becoming novel outlines instead. I’m not sure having written short fiction helped or hindered at all. I like the freedom that short fiction gives me to experiment, and I love being able to languish in the room given by a novel’s structure. I do find sometimes, though, that my brain is stuck in one mode, and it becomes difficult to execute the other. For example, I’m very much in novel mode right now, but I just had to write a short story on a deadline and it was much more difficult than it’s been in the past. For the most part, though, I love doing both.

Erin: I LOVE to write short stories too!! Where do you get the inspiration from for your books and stories?

Sarah: Well, everywhere, I think! It’s a matter of staying observant and engaged with the world when you’re out in it, then hiding away so you can regurgitate everything onto the page. I find a lot of inspiration in the gothic classics my grandmother gave me as a child. I have shelves full of books we’ve shared.

Erin: Yes, I love the classic Gothic books too. It’s so nice you had her to share that with. What other tips and tricks can you say you learned for yourself (or that can help others) while writing a much longer work like this novel?

Sarah: I’m not sure, having written only a few books, that I’ve really figured anything out, haha. One thing I did notice, though, was that with a novel, writing it is only about 1/5 the work. When I write a short story, the first draft is probably half the work, and then revision is half. But novels are beasts to revise. The work is exponential. And when you fix one thing, it sets off a chain reaction of other things you then need to fix. When I was revising Bone Weaver’s Orchard, there was a continuity error with the time of day/amount of light/chiming of a bell. By fixing it in the scene at the beginning, it introduced a new error in the next scene. Fixing that made another. Till I had to add an entire new scene to bump the events to the next day to make the timing work. Then the details in those scenes had to have their cause/effect…. I hated myself there for a few weeks. Oh, and another tip: don’t set your first book in a labyrinth of secret passages! I had to draw a lot of blueprints to make sure I wasn’t breaking the laws of physics.

Erin: That’s so cool though! I love secret passages in books but I can see how that all could get confusing! Who or what is your favorite character? How did you create? Struggles or successes?

Sarah: I’m not sure I can pick! Of course I love Charley. And his bugs. Sam was a lot of fun to write. I found that the characters emerged as I wrote. While I did try to plan things for them, they developed in ways that often changed my plans. It made it fun to write—the story surprised me as it progressed. But it did make for heavier revisions later, as I had to go back and correct inconsistencies and make sure their voices didn’t change too much. For example, Sam started out much older. As things unfolded, I realized I needed him to be a younger man. So there were a few things I needed to rewrite to make that work earlier in the story. These days I plan a lot more ahead of time. The characters still change my plans, though.

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I pulled this photo from the Pantheon Magazine Facebook Page

Erin: You’re a fellow editor (you edit Pantheon Magazine and anthologies, correct?) and writer as well. I enjoy meshing the two together in my life, even if they are distinctive of each other. How do you feel each one lends to the other?

Sarah: Yes, I’ve been editing professionally for ten years, now. I started off with a large publishing house as an intern, then became an associate editor. While I did that I also began editing Pantheon Magazine on my own time. I left the big publishing company when my youngest was born. I still work for Pantheon, though we’re going on a short hiatus after the release of our Gorgon anthology.

Editing and writing really are two separate creatures. Reading thousands of submissions does help me see what does or doesn’t work in a story, and being a writer helps me understand and empathize with the writers I edit. And when I submit my own work, I have a clearer understanding of the behind-the-desk process, so I’m able to ease some of my writerly anxiety that way. Rejections don’t sting as much, because I never take them personally—because they’re never sent that way. I think I’m also able to edit my own work with more detachment, now. Nothing is precious! Red pen it all!

Erin: What advice as a magazine and anthology editor do you want to give to newer authors as far as submitting stories? How do you get your stories the best look? What do you want to tell veteran authors?

Sarah: Every editor is so different that it’s hard to give general submission advice. The old basic rules still ring true: follow the guidelines, stick to the theme, don’t be a jerk. Don’t get antsy and submit your work before it’s truly finished. I’ve rejected a lot of stories because they just needed one more draft, and we didn’t have time in the publication schedule to allow for a revise-and-resubmit. It’s not only new authors doing this, either. In fact, I think new authors are more likely to take extra care with getting things perfect.

I always like to remind authors that I really, truly want to love their story. I’m not looking for a reason to reject it. I open each story (and I do read every submission that comes in) with the hope that it’ll be exactly what I want. And I’d say easily 75% of the rejections I send are because of a mismatch of theme or tone.

Erin: Having edited an anthology myself, I agree completely with the last statement. I had so many stories that I knew had been written for other anthologies already released that I had read – and must have been rejected – so were submitting to any open call. They didn’t fit the theme I had at all – Gothic by the way!

I believe you have just recently also had an anthology published that you curated and edited? What is it called, who published it, and what can readers find in its pages?

Sarah: Yes! Pantheon Magazine just put out a new anthology called GORGON: STORIES OF EMERGENCE. It contains 42 pieces of flash fiction on the theme of transformation. They’re new myths—some horror, some fantasy, some dark, some hopeful. Change takes many forms. We were lucky enough to get an amazing lineup for this book. We had around 700 submissions and so many were wonderful. My shortlist wasn’t at all short. I think there were over 150 pieces in my maybe pile. Writers really knocked it out of the park—it was agony narrowing the list down. I’m so, so proud of the final result. It just released on February 15 and I can’t wait for people to dig in!

Gorgon Cover V2 (1)

Erin: I’m looking forward to reading it. Another eye-catching cover by Daniele Serra! Flash is something I love to write and read. What was your biggest challenge and your biggest success with it?

Sarah: We did not anticipate the high volume of submissions that we would get for this book, haha. We had to completely overhaul the publication schedule several times so that we could give each submission its due. In the end, it took me six months just to get through it all. Much longer than I liked making people wait for responses—but the submissions were just so good that I didn’t want to rush through. I definitely think it was worth the wait! The final lineup is amazing. So many talented authors sent us their work. The TOC is packed with a diverse lineup of incredibly skilled storytellers.

Erin: I was thrilled to find out that like me you also handwrite your work! People think I am CRAZY. Mostly now I’ve adapted to be writing mostly short stories, poetry, interviews, etc. by hand – or plot ideas or segments in books – on paper with pencil and save the big stuff for the computer to save re-typing time. But I hear you handwrite everything! Tell us about that and your use of ink pens. I adore writing utensils and I want to hear all about it. Any favorite pens you like or would suggest?

Sarah: People think I’m crazy, too! Well. They’re not wrong. I do handwrite everything, even novels and this interview! I usually write with fountain pens, yes. I first started using one in high school, but I really got hooked in college, when I had a professor who wrote with a dip pen and inkwell. He was the coolest human ever, to my nerdy eyes. We bonded over Chaucer and writing instruments.

I’m writing this with a Faber-Castell Neo Slim pen with blue ink in it. Just a standard blue, as this is my work pen right now. Often I use bright orange or sepia tones. Or Turquoise and neon pink. One of my jobs as a stationery enthusiast is writing reviews for Penaddict.com. I’m currently forming opinions on this pen for review. My favorite fountain pens are Sailor Pro Gear Slims, in the bright, fun colors. My favorite notebooks are Midori MD books, especially in the B6 size. I do love pencils, too! So you have to tell me what your favorite pencils are. I’ve developed a love for the Palomino Blackwing ones!

Blackwing-4up

Palomino Blackwing Pencils!

Erin: I like Faber-Castell anything – pens, pencils, markers. I like Ticonderoga pencils – I think the black are cool. But I love to find any pencil with cool décor or style, even if cheap (or stolen from my daughters!). I love orange and turquoise too and writing for a pen site sounds amazing!! I also love any single notebook I can find. I probably should start being more selective. I just love the feel of hand-writing my work. It’s just something that makes my brain think more creatively.

Moving on to talking about Women in Horror Month: Who are some fellow Women in Horror you admire or like the works of? What books have you enjoyed?

Sarah: Oh, there are so many. SO MANY. I’ll list a few authors I’ve enjoyed recently, because the comprehensive list is miles long. Gwendolyn Kiste is amazing. Her collection and new novel are both reading essentials. Jordan Kurella is a genderqueer author whose work is constantly knocking me over with its depth of feeling. Zoje Stage’s Baby Teeth is one of the best horror novels I’ve read, hands down. And if you haven’t yet ventured into Sara Tantlinger’s poetry, that needs to be fixed asap. Gemma Files is one of my perennial favorites and she has two new collections out in the past year! And Carmen Maria Machado is writing some of the world’s best contemporary dark fairy tales that will twist your heart in knots.

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Erin: With all women out there must do, especially those of us keeping track of kids and a job too, how do you fit writing into your life? Do you have a plan or structure or is it as lightning strikes?

Sarah: It very much depends on the day! This week isn’t looking good, haha. Now that my youngest has started some preschool, I did manage to find a few hours a week where he is at school and I’m not at my day job. Sometimes I get to use those to write! Otherwise, it’s often after everyone else is asleep, or in the five minutes between this and that. I always have a notebook and pen (or five) on me in case I get a few quiet minutes to scribble.

Erin: Have you had any challenges as far as being a female writer in the horror genre? What and how did you overcome them? Advice for others?

Sarah: Sometimes, yes, though on the whole, I find the genre very welcoming and supportive. At least, the nice people are—and who would want to work with the others anyway? There have been a few times when I’ve received “this isn’t the tone we’re looking for” rejections for anthologies that then came out to be all cis white men on the TOC. I once got asked out while trying to discuss business with a male editor. I do feel at times as though men in the industry get recognized for their accomplishments immediately and remain visible while women must prove themselves over and over with each new publication, then disappear from the radar until the next thing comes out. I think things are getting better, but we still have a long way to go. For the last few years, I’ve had the rule that I would not buy any anthology that was more than 50% straight white guys. I’ve saved a lot of money! Too much.

Erin: That’s a great rule!

How about overall books and movies you have enjoyed? Any gender or genre.

Sarah: Guillermo del Toro movies are my favorite movies, with The Orphanage at the top of that list. Probably after that comes a long list of historical dramas like Poldark and Downton Abbey! Any PBS or BBC adaptation of classic lit, especially Dickens. I love a lot of non-horror. And true crime documentaries. 😀

My favorite dude writers are Steven Graham Jones, Steve Toase, Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay, Bracken MacLeod, Richard Thomas, and a bunch of others. And they’re all wonderful humans, too. Much love for them!

Erin: We have so much in common. I loved Shape of Water. I also LOVE historical dramas, PBS and BBC adaptations, Dickens, mysteries, and true crime. I am well-rounded and always felt like I didn’t belong because of that. It’s awesome to know that more women out there like a wide range of things like I do! Oh – also SGJ and Malerman are two of my very favorite male authors.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing or working?

Sarah: If I’m not writing, reading, working, doing chores, playing with my kids, or playing with pens, I’m likely listening to podcasts while working with yarn. I knit, crochet, spin, and weave—anything to do with string, really! I also design my own crochet patterns. I have almost as many published crochet patterns as I do fiction pieces, haha. But, as the above might imply, I rarely have time for that hobby anymore.

Erin: That’s amazing, but yes, I can gather for sure that time for all things is on short supply.

What’s next for you in the next year or two? What are your goals for 5-10 years down the line?

Sarah: Well, I’ll be traveling a bit—visiting StokerCon in Grand Rapids and WisCon in Madison in May. I’ll also be at the Chicago Pen Show in May. May is going to be awesome! I’m also hoping to make it to StokerCon 2020 in Scarborough next year. It’s happening just a few miles from where my book takes place—I think I need to be there!

I have a few short stories that should be out this year, and my debut collection will be out from Trepidatio toward the end of the year. It has a few dozen of my favorite previously published pieces and a handful of new ones, including a new novelette. I’m also hoping to finish up edits and start pitching a new novel soon! And I’m planning to finish my current novel WIP this year, as well.

As for the next 5-10 years, my goals are to get an agent and write a ton more books. I have an idea for a series that I’m itching to get started on, and I’ve also outlined a prequel to The Bone Weaver’s Orchard that I’d love to write. Whatever the case, I know I’ll stay busy! I don’t know how not to!

Erin: That all sounds like a solid plan. I am anxious to see what you do! Thank you so much for hanging out with me and chatting today! I have really enjoyed getting to know you better. Let’s sit back and relax and have a few more cupcakes!

Sarah: Thank you so much, Erin! It’s been lovely chatting with you! I will happily take care of the rest of these cupcakes. 😀

The Bone Weaver’s Orchard, Synopsis –

theboneweaversorchard_coverHe’s run away home. That’s what they say every time one of Charley Winslow’s friends vanishes from The Old Cross School for Boys.

It’s just a tall tale. That’s what they tell Charley when he sees the ragged grey figure stalking the abbey halls at night.

When Charley follows his pet insects to a pool of blood behind a false wall, he could run and let those stones bury their secrets. He could assimilate, focus on his studies, and wait for his father to send for him. Or he could walk the dark tunnels of the school’s heart, scour its abandoned passages, and pick at the scab of a family’s legacy of madness and murder.

With the help of Sam Forster, the school’s gardener, and Matron Grace, the staff nurse, Charley unravels Old Cross’ history and exposes a scandal stretching back to when the school was a home with a noble family and a dark secret—a secret that still haunts its halls with scraping steps, twisting its bones into a new generation of nightmares.

“There’s a secret in this book. It’s stunning. It’s dark. And it’s as satisfying as any unknown a horror fan could could ever hope to unearth. So well written, so well paced, Sarah Read’s The Bone Weaver’s Orchard is a thriller with class.” —Josh Malerman, author of Bird Box

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Sarah Read, Biography –

SRauthorpicSarah Read is a dark fiction writer in the frozen north of Wisconsin. Her short stories can be found in Gamut, Black Static, and other places, and in various anthologies including Suspended in Dusk, BEHOLD! Oddities Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders, and The Best Horror of the Year vol 10.

Her debut novel The Bone Weaver’s Orchard is now out from Trepidatio Publishing, and her debut collection will follow in late 2019. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Pantheon Magazine and of their associated anthologies, including Gorgon: Stories of Emergence.

She is an active member of the Horror Writers Association. When she’s not staring into the abyss, she knits. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram @Inkwellmonster or keep up with her on her website.

Thank you to Sarah for joining us and to you, readers, for stopping by as well. I appreciate your support of #HookonWiHM and #WomeninHorrorMonth!

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Interview: Producer, Actress, Screenwriter Comika Hartford #HookonWiHM #WIHMX #POC #Horror

Today, I welcome Comika Hartford to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! Comika is a writer, actor, producer, and phenomenal lady and I am so happy to have been able to interview her as part of my women in horror series for February, which fittingly is also Black History Month. This award-winning woman is certainly making history for women in her field! I usually stick to books here, but we all like film as well, so I felt it would interest readers. Professionally her work in the genres of horror and psychological thrillers interest me and we’ll talk some about that below.

Comika has been working in her career for some time now and has numerous credits to her name. Besides being a TV and short film producer and screenwriter, she’s also an actress. She had a reoccurring role on Saints and Sinners and has been a guest star/co-star on shows such as CSI: Miami, Nash Bridges and in short films such as First Impressions, Hoax, and Unlucky Stars.

As you’ll see during the interview, she’s not only intelligent, but very outgoing and extremely funny!

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Hi Comika, and welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so glad you’ve joined me from Los Angeless in cold, snowy Ohio today – I hope you brought some of your warmth along with you! Come in for some hot coffee and we’ll settle in to talk. How do you take your coffee?

Hey Erin! I’ll have a Vodka and cannabis latte with almond milk. It’s cool if you don’t have almond milk.

Erin: The only milk I drink IS almond milk! Ha! It might be the cannabis I’m short on. Tell us a little more about you and your work so anyone doesn’t know you can become acquainted!

Comika: Well I started writing and performing with Rhodessa Jones’ Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women at the Lorraine Hansberry Theater in San Francisco before attending Emerson college. I specialize in horror/thriller screenplays with a social commentary edge.

Erin: That’s so amazing! I love the poster for Bango as well as the film. But for others, tell us what’s Bango about? Where can one watch?

Comika: Thank you! Bango is actually the first episode of a horror anthology I wrote set in a creepy California suburb called HINTERLAND ZOO where every house is the nightmare next door. It’s about a quiet couple taking a walk on the wild side that goes sideways real quick! You can watch it on Amazon Prime & our website www.bangofilm.com takes you right to it.

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We’re pitching the rest of the anthology later this year so please leave a review on Amazon if you end up watching. Every review helps. And please feel free to be completely honest, if you dont like it just say why… My favorite review so far is “What psycho wrote this?” Mmm… Delicious.

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Erin: You’ve also written and acted in a horror web-series turned film The Grey Area and it’s won so many awards! Congratulations! Can you tell us about it?

Comika: Yes, The Grey Area has been upgraded to a feature film; It was a lot of work to push that through but it’s on! We just shot the second chapter last November with Zorina Juan directing and my partner in crime Eric Shapiro, who directed Bango, producing and keeping blood off the furniture.

Erin: The Grey Area sounds fun. I know you’ve described it as “the female version of Supernatural that meets the West Coast version of Law & Order on the streets of San Francisco.” With it being a psychological thriller, it’s sounds totally like something I want to check out!

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What’s it like writing and/or producing films or shorts compared to acting in them?

 Comika: Hmm… Sorta like the difference between running a restaurant or dropping in for a meal!

 Erin: Do you ever direct? Or aspire to? Why or why not?

Comika: Nah. I love my director allies, but I don’t envy their job. Directing is like trying to organize changing Baby Godzilla’s diaper. No really! Think about it: There are a lot of people around. Lots of destruction. Lotsa crap to deal with. At least one crying monster. And if it doesn’t come off well… it’s all your fault!

Erin: Haha!! I don’t think I want that job either. And which of all the above do you like better in general and which do you prefer in horror?

Comika: I love writing. I prefer that over everything in any genre!

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Winning an Award for The Grey Area. Photo supplied by Comika Hartford.

Erin: What do you feel women bring to the horror genre that is more distinctive than men? How do you feel women shine in the genre?

Comika: Mmm… well being a woman involves a lot of blood and dealing with rape culture so… Yeah. Horror is kinda our genre. We own it.

Erin: What do you think most people of either gender can do better to support women in horror?

Comika: Watch our movies! There’s a lot of great work happening. The Soska sisters are doing a remake of Cronenberg’s Rabid, Aislinn Clark’s The Devil’s Doorway is on Hulu, and Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer looks creepy af!

Erin: What types of themes do you explore or want to explore in your screenwriting?

Comika: I like to explore religious themes and mythology; I am very intrigued by the idea of vengeance- based deities.

Erin: What is a piece of writing or book or film or all by a woman in horror truly touched you, was memorable to you, or inspired you?

Comika: Kasi Lemmons’ Eves Bayou! It still messes me up.

Erin: Who are some women in horror you admire and who would you recommend to others to get to know?

Comika: Nikyatu Jusu came out strong at Sundance with Suicide by Sunlight. She is definitely someone to watch.

Erin: Have you ever thought of writing short stories or a book in the horror genre (or any other genre)?

Comika: I think I’d like to write a kid’s show… Seriously!

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Comika acting! Photo supplied by Comika Hartford.

Erin: What are some of your current or upcoming releases?

Comika: Well I’m working on a screenplay about Black vampires that travel to the Americas during slavery to rescue their kidnapped relatives. It’s called Legacy and much like American history it’s filled with blood, torture, and genocide… Yeah. Good times!

Erin: Oh, wow! And though true, the film sounds like fun! I can’t wait to hear updates on that.

Where can everyone find you to connect?

Comika: You can find me at comikahartford.com which connects to Facebook, I’m @blamethewriter on Instagram, and you can follow our progress with The Grey Area at:

www.enterthegreyarea.com

Erin: Thank you so much for joining us today, Comika! It was such a pleasure and please feel free to stop back by anytime! 😊

Comika: Thanks Erin… Um, can I have the rest of this Vodka to go?

Erin: Of course you can, how else would you juggle all the horrifying stuff you have on your plate? Please stop back by for me when Legacy is set to air.

Thanks to Comika for joining us!

Comika

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Interview: Sara Tantlinger on Serial Killer H.H. Holmes, Writing Poetry, and Why We Love Horror #HookonWiHM #WIHMX

Today is the second part of a two-part interview I’ve conducted with horror writer and poet Sara Tantlinger, the first being about writing and publishing at The Horror Tree, a site that focuses on being a horror author’s resource. Additionally, I had this interview scheduled and ready to post today as part of my #HookonWiHM series for the 10th anniversary of Women in Horror Month, but I had to come back to edit my interview to offer my congratulations to Sara as it was announced this weekend she secured a Bram Stoker Award nomination for best poetry collection for The Devil’s Dreamland, which we will be discussing below!

I was beyond excited to read The Devil’s Dreamland, which I devoured with a carnal interest I am almost ashamed to admit. It’s a marvelous collection. Most readers know I have a bachelor’s degree in history and LOVE it, as well as am obsessed with learning about true crime and serial killers, so this collection was right up my alley. I’ve always been intrigued with H.H. Holmes, who after coming to Chicago, changed his given name to take on the Holmes, I’ve heard, as a homage to Sherlock Holmes (the fictional detective named by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his famous stories). But I’m more interested in the psychology of how people turn out to be serial liars, thieves, and murderers, especially when they come from so-called religious households or if there was speculation of abuse.

I’m thrilled to talk to Sara about her interest in H.H. Holmes, her research, her writing – particularly in poetry form, and so much more. I think this will appeal to a wide range of readers I have coming to my site – history or true crime enthusiasts, horror fanatics, and those who write or read poetry. I hope you ALL enjoy it as much as I did!!

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H.H. Holmes / Photo from Wikipedia

Hi Sara, and welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I am so glad to have you here with us. It’s snowy and freezing in both our neck of the woods these days. Shall we have some coffee to start? How do you take yours? And I’ll just pull out some warm cinnamon rolls from the oven. It will just be a minute while I frost them.

Sara: Hi Erin! Thank you so much for having me. Mm, cinnamon rolls are one of my favorites! I’ll throw a dash of vanilla creamer in my coffee and be all set.

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Erin: Now that I sound very much like a 1950s housewife, it’s the time I pull out the knife and stab the cinnamon roll…just kidding. But we are here to discuss your newest poetry collection today, The Devil’s Dreamland, and your work in horror. It’s Women in Horror Month so what better time for this all to come together.

Sara: Ha! A lot of my baking ends up with someone, I mean, something getting stabbed. I love Women in Horror Month – it’s so fun to highlight what these amazing ladies in horror are up to. I’m thrilled to be here talking about The Devil’s Dreamland and more!

Erin: I agree. Let’s get started. I’m anxious to hear about the notorious serial killer H.H. Holmes and your desire to write about him for your new poetry collection, which released late last year. What motivated you?

Sara: Well, I really wanted to do something different than my first poetry collection. I watched a documentary on H.H. Holmes, ended up going to a haunted house that was Holmes-themed, and found myself wondering more about the madman after reading Devil in the White City, so it felt like the universe kept giving me signs to write this collection.

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Sara with her collection! Photo provided by Sara Tantlinger.

Erin: Just who was H.H. Holmes? How did you go about researching his life and times before you started writing the collection? What interesting things did you come across?

Sara: H.H. Holmes was born Herman Webster Mudgett, and he was an expert conman and liar. Thus, pinning down who exactly he was is nearly impossible. The accounts of his life conflict, even the memoir he wrote in prison is saturated in idyllic lies. The research was fascinating though. I am now the owner of an ungodly number of books about H.H. Holmes, so my library looks pretty sinister right now. I read just about everything that mentioned Holmes, but even after publishing the collection I learned of MORE research out there involving him.

In addition to historical texts and more fictionalized versions of Holmes, I researched newspapers from his time period, read his own writing (a prison memoir and confession), and even found some records of the court hearings and testimonies that occurred before he was executed.

It was all interesting to me, but I think one of the things that fascinated me the most was that he left his “wives” (there were three, but only one of the marriages was legal) alive. He murdered mistresses and other women, but his three wives and two children, he let alone. He let them live.

Erin: Wow – I didn’t know he was a polygamist, and yes, that is peculiar that his murderous endeavors didn’t carry over with this wives as well!

Of course, writing poetry is very different than writing a book, something most people might think you’d do when researching a serial killer’s life. Why did you choose poetry? Was it difficult to condense into poetry? What was your process in telling your story with your poetry?

Sara: There are a ton of books out there on H.H. Holmes, but I did not see any other poetry collections in existence about the man, so I thought it’d be interesting to try something different. Even when I first had the idea, I knew it’d be my next poetry collection.

There was some difficultly condensing all that I wanted to include down into poems because I probably could have added another 100 poems to the batch about everything Holmes did or tried to do, but I wanted to keep some mystery. Otherwise, poetry allowed me to serve up these jagged slivers of tales because poetry demands that each word counts. Every rhythm, line, image, and more must be sharpened down into what needs to be there without an excess, otherwise the poem loses its ability to puncture wound itself into your mind and fester.

From there, my process became telling a cohesive narrative through the poems and different viewpoints included. I wanted the story to make sense, and I wanted the reader to think about each piece, but at the same time some enigma needed to be kept because that is who Holmes was, a mystery never meant to be completely solved.

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H.H. Holmes. Photo provided by Sara Tantlinger.

Erin: What was the intent you had in mind for readers to walk away with once reading The Devil’s Dreamland? What did you walk away with after writing it?

Sara: I wanted to create a poetry collection that appealed to both regular readers of poetry and those who may be more skeptical. I wrote the collection in a more narrative style, going through Holmes’ life and including different viewpoints from his accomplice, victims, and others.

After writing it, I walked away with pride, which is something I don’t always allow myself to do. Writers, don’t constantly chastise yourself and your hard work! That’s something I am still working on, but with Holmes, I just put so much into that book that I finally let myself feel the sweet sense of accomplishment as it ended.

I also walked away with the Devil whispering sweet, bloody nothings into my head, but, that’s a different story…

Erin: Ha! Many reviewers felt you were able to mix the morbid, grotesque, and horror with the beauty of your words quite nicely, leaving them satisfied with the collection by the end, when you’d think, mostly they’d be unnerved. What drives people to want to read about the macabre, and within writing, what does a writer need to do to soften it “just enough.”

Sara: Hmm, that’s a good question. Personally speaking, I love the macabre because it’s like this grotesque mirror reflecting our most morbid curiosities back at us, inviting us to reach inside ourselves and pull out that darkness to share with others. Bonding with those who share that fascination makes our weirdness feel more “socially acceptable,” but also allows us to build a really cool, twisted community.

I don’t usually try to soften my work because I like working with raw, gritty ideas and images. That said, I have personal boundaries with certain things I would never write about – things I just do not see a need to write about, or to read about, but of course that’s all personal preference. Otherwise, I definitely encourage writers, women especially, to push boundaries and write the stories they really want to, even if that means some people are going to hate it.

Erin: What was something that shocked or surprised you in your research or something you didn’t end up including (or both)?

Sara: I was mostly surprised at how H.H. Holmes was able to get away with the fraud he did for so long. It worked in the 1800s, but what he did would never work today. He really thought everything through in terms of his cons, seductions, murders, and the construction of the Murder Castle. I think that is partly what intrigued me so much about him, how he was able to escape punishments and debts by using his words. Talk about the power that words can hold…

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Murder Castle in Chicago / Image from Wikipedia

Erin: Do you enjoy reading or watching TV or movies about serial killers? If so, what other things did you find interesting? (I am obsessed with watching and reading about true crime!)

Sara: I am definitely infused with some sick curiosities when it comes to learning about serial killers or other strange murders (I binged Making a Murderer way too quickly). I think it’s this morbid vicariousness that allows us to peek into the darkest parts of humanity without bloodying our own hands or souls. The Zodiac killer is another one I continue to be fascinated by – it’s hard to describe why we want to know these gruesome crimes and facts. Maybe we feel like we’re part of the mystery and are amateur sleuths helping to solve something.

Erin: Now that you explored mixing historical true crime with horror poetry, do you think you might try one again? Why or why not?

Sara: I don’t think I would want to do something too similar to the Holmes collection, so if there’s other inspiration I come across and I mix those genres again, I’d go for it. In the meantime, however, I really want to try new things and challenge myself in other ways.

Erin: Earlier in 2017 you also released Love for Slaughter, which is perfect to bring up since February is also the month of love. You slashed and slayed and bit and bled in this one and people loved every minute of it. Can you tell me your thoughts behind it and what went into it? You’re such a nice person, where does all that dark passion come from?

Sara: Love For Slaughter was inspired by this idea that something as beautiful as love can actually be really vicious and bloody. I researched the idea of Folie à Deux (madness shared by two), and read stories about couples doing terrible things to each other, all these crimes of passion, so to speak. I always love playing around with something pure and asking myself how I can slash it up into gory, ghastly bits. I think my interest in dark passion stems from a love of dark literature like Wuthering Heights and The Awakening, or even The Picture of Dorian Gray – they show these darker parts of love and what it can do to an individual who loses parts of themselves for the sake of love, or for the sake of a perceived love. There is something universal about heartbreak, so I wanted to bring that out in my poetry in all the most twisted ways.

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Love for Slaughter. Photo provided by Sara Tantlinger.

Erin: I love those books too! What is it about people, do you think, that they appreciate the dark corners of horror, love, and life? What makes them feed on your imagery and words?

Sara: Sometimes reading horror feels like you’re getting away with something. There’s a thrill lurking in those depraved corners, inviting all of us to imagine the worst parts of humanity without committing the acts ourselves. To me, it feels natural to feed off that black spark of forbidden excitement, and that’s one of the reasons I write horror.

On the other side of that, horror is a place of cathartic writing. There are stories where we can share our phobias, grief, heartache, and more with each other. Being able to write about these aspects and provide human connection through tales of horror is a really special thing.

Erin: How do you feel about the state of women who write in horror? Is it improving, what needs improved, thoughts on how to improve readership and support of women?

Sara: Women are doing amazing things right now, and always, in the horror genre. I do feel like publishers, editors, and so forth are doing better to use their positions to seek out more diversity in the market, but nothing is perfect yet. There are still battles to be fought, and I have no doubt women will keep prevailing through these obstacles. The most important thing we can do is support each other, recognize our allies, do better to support minorities and women of color in horror, and continue to create the work we truly want to be creating and sharing.

Erin: Who are some of your female influences in prose or poetry and why?

Sara: Oh gosh there are so many! I’m going to try and limit myself here. A classic inspiration for me comes from Kate Chopin. The Awakening profoundly changed how I think about life, and from there I consumed Chopin’s writing and was so happily lost in her beautiful words. She captures this dark honesty of the female spirit in her stories, which isn’t surprising given the things she went through in life, but she fought for her independence. She inspires me all the time.

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A contemporary poet whom I adore is Sierra DeMulder. Her books destroy me. She’s another brutally honest writer, using unique, vivid imagery in her poems to unabashedly address womanhood, sexuality, love, loss, and more. I admire her greatly and highly encourage anyone to watch the videos of her reading her poetry live. It gives me goosebumps every time.

Erin: What about overall influences, mentors, inspirations in reading and writing?

Sara: Some other influences and inspirations for my writing would have to include (classic) Edgar Allan Poe, William Blake, Sylvia Plath, and Walt Whitman; and (contemporary) Linda Addison, Mike Arnzen, Clive Barker, Caroline Kepnes, Gillian Flynn, and Catherynne Valente.

Erin: There are a lot of women writers out there purging so many past issues on paper, instead of hiding them away. I’m glad writing can give them this platform. Why do you think women are continually the “monster collectors” and “dragon slayers” so to speak? What in their personalities allows them to write with such clarity and how do you teach young writers to channel the passion into focused work?

Sara: I think our history as women, our fight for equality and representation, all that we have endured collectively, are elements deeply rooted in our brains and very blood. The fight of our ancestors and our fights today to make our voices heard and respected is what makes us so driven to purge out the inner turmoil on paper with raw, visceral imagery and emotion. This is something unique to us that can never be manufactured. I hope young writers today continue to feed off that energy and wield it as a powerful weapon within their words and stories. I encourage them to keep telling their truths no matter who it may anger along the way because we got your back, my horror sisters.

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Erin: I know that you’re editing an anthology that is filled completely with women for StrangeHouse books. Can you tell us a little about that – the idea, the process, the title, etc. When can we expect it?

Sara: Yes! The anthology is titled Not All Monsters and is being planned for a 2020 release. I can’t say too much yet (I’m also still narrowing down the stories I want), but over the next few months the final TOC will be revealed as we spotlight the individual authors who will have stories in the anthology.

But from what I’ve read, and from the stories I’ve fallen in love with, this is going to be an anthology that empowers women of horror so much through its words, and I am ecstatic about that.

Erin: What’s next for you? Will you write a novel or short story collection or stick to poetry?

Sara: Well, you may be seeing more prose from me this year if all goes to plan. Otherwise, I am planning on sticking to my current historical horror WIP about Ranavalona I of Madagascar. There will absolutely be more poetry in my future, but I’m not sure what theme I’ll focus on for the next collection. I can’t wait to find out when it hits me.

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Queen of Madagascar – Ranavalona I / Image from Wikipedia

Erin: The historical horror work sounds amazing. I can’t wait to read it. Thank you so much for joining me for coffee and the chat, Sara. I know there is so much more I could ask you but you’re a busy gal! You’ll have to come back again sometime soon. 

Sara: Thank you, Erin! I have enjoyed your questions and the coffee so much!

Sara Tantlinger Biography –

Tantlinger_2019Sara Tantlinger resides outside of Pittsburgh on a hill in the woods. Her dark poetry collections Love for Slaughter and The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes are published with StrangeHouse books. She is a poetry editor for the Oddville Press, a graduate of Seton Hill’s MFA program, a member of the SFPA, and an active member of the HWA.

Sara’s poetry, flash fiction, and short stories can be found in several magazines and anthologies, including the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. II and V, the Horror Zine, Unnerving, Abyss & Apex, the 2018 Rhysling Anthology, 100 Word Horrors, and the Sunlight Press. Currently, Sara is editing Not All Monsters, an anthology that will be comprised entirely of women who write speculative fiction. The anthology is set for a 2020 release with StrangeHouse Books.

She embraces all things strange and can be found lurking in graveyards or on Twitter @SaraJane524 and find out more about Sara at her website!

Sara’s Latest Collection –

TDDThe Devil’s Dreamland

H.H. Holmes committed ghastly crimes in the late 19th century. Many of which occurred within his legendary “Murder Castle” in Chicago, Illinois. He is often considered America’s first serial killer.

In her second book of poetry from Strangehouse Books, Sara Tantlinger (Love For Slaughter) takes inspiration from accounts and tales which spawned from the misdeeds of one Herman Webster Mudgett, better known as Dr. Henry Howard Holmes. Fact and speculation intertwine herein, just as they did during the man’s own lifetime.

There’s plenty of room in the cellar for everyone in The Devil’s Dreamland.

“…chilling poetry…” —Linda D. Addison, award-winning author of “How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend” and HWA Lifetime Achievement Award winner

“…morbidly creative and profound crime documentary…one of the best works of horror poetry I’ve read in years.” —Michael Arnzen, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Grave Markings and Play Dead

“…fascinating and absolutely riveting…powerful and vivid prose…will stay with you long after you’ve closed the book.”—Christina Sng, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of A Collection of Nightmares

Purchase on Amazon

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And don’t forget to check out my first interview with Sara at The Horror Tree, in which we focus on writing and publishing. 

For more #HookonWiHM, or women in horror, here on Oh, for the Hook of a Book!, go HERE.

 

 

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Filed under HookonWiHM, Q and A with Authors, women in horror