Monday, February 28, 2011

Interview with Kathryn Ptacek

Kathryn Ptacek is the author of many novels in several different genres including horror, historical fiction, historical romance, fantasy and suspense. Her horror novels include Shadoweyes, Blood Autumn, Kachina, In Silence Sealed and Ghost Dance. She edited the anthologies Women of Darkness, Women of Darkness II and Women of the West. She is also the editor of a market newsletter, The Gila Queen's Guide to Markets. You can find out more about Kathryn at her website.

What drew you to the horror genre?

I guess I’ve always been drawn to dark things.  If goth had been around when I was a teen, I’m sure I would have been one.  I read Dracula when I was 14, and I think I was pretty much hooked from then on.  Everything I wrote as a teen had a dark aspect to it, and even when I first started writing historical romances, my agent remarked that a current of darkness ran through them.  So I guess it was a natural progression to horror.

What scares you?

I find personal things scary--loss of a loved one, a horrible illness in the family ... that kind of grim reality-based stuff.  I’ve faced all that, and I guess I survived somewhat intact, and I don’t know that much scares me after that.  I do get creeped out occasionally with supernatural things, but it’s usually ghost-type material.  I like to read about werewolves and vampires (not so much since they’re everywhere in the genre now) and unusual critters/monsters.  As for zombies ... I’m not a fan, although there are a couple of zombie movies I like.  I enjoy psychological horror/thrillers, but not the torture stuff.  Thanks, but no thanks.

Why do you think there are fewer women writing horror than men?

I don’t know.  Maybe there’s a perception that horror is for guys, romance for women ... and yet I’ve known men who write romance.  I think there are lots of women writing horror, but I just don’t think there are as many “big” name women horror writers.  Again, with the perception thing--I know that women are often thought to write “soft” horror, and that’s not at all true.  Good horror is just that, no matter the gender of the writer.

You were the editor of Women of Darkness and Women of Darkness II, horror anthologies comprised of stories by women writers. How did they come about?
Back in the ‘80s I was reading a lot of anthologies, and one day I realized that few of these books had many women contributors.  And then because I get a little obsessive about things now and then, I started looking through dozens of anthologies and counting the women writers ... Most books had one or two women contributors; that was it.  The exception was the Shadows series, edited by Charles L. Grant.  Yet I knew there were lots of women horror writers out there, but for whatever reason their stuff just wasn’t showing up in books.  So I decided to do something about it, which is why I came up with the Women of Darkness anthologies.  By the way, I was accused by some folks as being sexist.  That really irked the heck out of me, I have to say--especially when I pointed out that these same people weren’t saying the same thing about the all-male anthologies.  All I wanted to do with those two books was feature the women I knew who were “out there” waiting to be read.

It’s never been about quotas.  I don’t think you have to have a certain number of men or women in a book; it would just be nice to see more of a mix.

And I would love to edit a third Women of Darkness volume ... Stay tuned!

Who are some women horror authors that you admire?

Heh ... I don’t want to step on any toes here, so I’m going to say that I enjoy a number of stories and novels by horror women, past and present.  How’s that for waffling?  Heh.

What is your advice to aspiring women horror writers?

Write, write, write.  And keep sending your stories and novels out.  And don’t get upset when your work is bounced; send it back out the next day; don’t let it sit around any longer than 24 hours.  I was reading some posts on a list one day, and a woman had her novel rejected, and she was practically taking to her bed--she was that despondent.  I don’t recall if she was sobbing, but it was close to that.  Really, you have to be tougher than that.  If each rejection hits you so hard you go into such a tailspin that you can’t function for days, then you’ll be an emotional puddle before long and won’t get much done.  You have to have a thick skin in the writing business.  This doesn’t mean you don’t have to like rejections, of course--no one does--but you have to realize, too, that everyone gets rejected.  You just can’t let that stop you ... or even slow you down.

What are your favourite horror novels?

Hmmm ... where to start.  I’m partial to mine ... of course!  And I loved the Oxrun Station novels that Charlie wrote.  Well, this list could get quite lengthy, I think.  Stoker’s Dracula will always have a special spot for me.

What is your favourite novel you’ve written and your favourite character you’ve created? Why?

My favorite novel is In Silence Sealed ... which is the TRUE story of what happened to Byron, Keats, and Shelley.  I just really enjoyed doing that book ... bringing all the stories of those three young but doomed poets--plus Mary Shelley--together ...

My favorite character is Chato from Shadoweyes. He’s an Apache in modern-day New Mexico; I’d like to use him in some mysteries.

In addition to horror, you’ve also written historical fiction, romance, suspense and fantasy. How did you end up writing in so many different genres? Do you have a favourite genre?

I enjoy reading many different genres, so it was only natural that I write in several, as well.  I do believe it’s not good to write just one kind of thing ... if there’s a down-turn in that genre, then you’re stuck.  But if you can write many different ways, then you have numerous options open to you.  I also encourage fiction writers to try their hand at nonfiction or poetry.  My favorite genre is pretty much historical anything.  I just really enjoy it ... I have a lot of history in all my books, and someday I’d like to write a straight historical novel.

You are the editor and publisher of the market newsletter, The Gila Queen’s Guide to Markets. When and how did you start it? Do you have any advice on getting published?

I started the newsletter back in late ‘88.  I had just had an operation, and I was looking for something fun to do ... I was between book projects.  For a while I’d been sending market news to friends in letters, and I kept joking that I ought to start a newsletter with all these bits of info I was collecting.  So then I got to thinking that maybe that wasn’t a bad idea.  The newsletter started out as a page or two, then kept getting larger and larger and more elaborate until finally I had a lengthy newsletter (never less than 20 pages and often more than 30) coming out on a monthly basis.  This was back in its print days.  I did that for many years, and it involved a lot of hard work, but I really enjoyed it.  Then eventually I changed the newsletter to an E-mail format; it now comes out six times a year.
I’ve read a lot of guidelines from publishers over the years, and the one thing that almost all magazine editors say is:  Read several issues so you know what we’re all about.  I think that’s the best thing a new writer can do ... read those back issues!  Do you homework!  Be prepared!  On the other hand, don’t be afraid to send something “out there” now and then ... you just never know.  A fiction writer can do this more easily than a nonfiction one; magazine editors look for something particular in the articles they buy, so do adhere to their guidelines.

Do you own an e-reader? How do you think e-readers are changing the publishing industry? Do you plan on making your older novels available as e-books?

Currently, I don’t have an e-reader, but I will probably get one fairly soon.  I had been resisting for a while, because I don’t much care for reading things on a screen--I spend so much time in front of the computer, so I do want to get away from that. But e-books are the way of the future--or one way--so it’s good to know about them.  Plus one of my novels, In Silence Sealed, will be published as an e-book, and that’s made me a whole lot more excited about e-readers and e-books.  Heh.

I think that print books are here to stay, but I think they will be sharing mental shelf space, as it were, with e-books.  Everyone I know who has an e-reader says they’re not giving up their print editions, and they buy both.

I do hope to make my backlist available in the e-book format ... and in print again as well.  I don’t think any writer can ignore e-publishing; it’s here to stay, and we might as well find a way to make money from it!

What do you hope readers get out of your work?

I hope readers will be entertained.  And maybe if they learn a thing or two that would be good as well.

What are you currently working on?

A friend wants to collaborate with me on a novel, and that will be interesting.  I’ve co-written some short stories years ago, but never written anything that long with another person.  Also, I have some other items that have been floating around for a while; maybe it’s time to tether them and see what I could make of them.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Interview with Allyson Bird

Allyson Bird is the author of two collections: Bull Running for Girls and Wine and Rank Poison. She has co-edited with Joel Lane the anthology, Never Again. Her debut novel, Isis Unbound, is due out in the summer from Dark Regions Press. She won The British Fantasy Society award for best collection, for Bull Running for Girls, in 2009. You can find out more about Allyson Bird on her website.

What drew you to the horror genre?

It started in childhood. I lived at the entrance to a dark wood and during the day I would run out of the house and down the wide path into it. I could be totally alone to think about stories. At night from my bedroom window, the entrance looked like an enormous abyss, and I imagined that anything could dwell there. I had quite a lot of freedom from the age of ten and would wander through the wood to the village graveyard and sit amongst the graves reading the names and dates. One headstone was for a family who had died of the plague in the sixteen hundreds. I liked ghost stories and anything to do with witches, goblins and monsters. I read anything I could get my hands on, including Marvel Comics.  DC Comic Wonder Woman was a favourite. My father was a fan of American pulps, so I read Edgar Rice Burroughs, and detective stories. I read horror stories to have my emotions heightened, in other words I wanted to be afraid, and feel the excitement from that.  

As an adult I can't think of a better genre than horror to convey emotion and I've used it to explore the horror which is actually in the world around us as well as the strange and weird. Everything from misogyny, to genocide, to personal loss, and fear of the unknown. 

What scares you?

The thought of losing my mind one day. When my sister was very ill she said she saw demons and the thought of that is horrible. Doesn't matter if they aren't there...if you believe they are, they are. The thought that the supernatural could exist is a frightening prospect, too. Something that happened a long time ago terrified me. I either had a breakdown, or was drugged, or the supernatural really does exist. I wrote about what happened to me in "Shadow Upon Shadow," in Bull Running for Girls. I'm damn well sure the circumstances that led up to it won't happen again...well, I hope not. The problem is if you really believe that something strange is going on you can create your own reality, and that way leads to madness.

Also the horror and suffering we see around the world each day. The thought that there is a country not far away where people stone women and men for adultery. Shocking. The thought, that on the orders of some despot, or other, people can 'disappear.' That sex slavery exists and that witch hunting still happens in Africa.

Why do you think there are fewer women writing horror than men?

Men will write to a publisher/editor and ask to be included in an anthology...women seem to hold back a little. They don't seem as confident as men in the genre. Nancy Kilpatrick goes into it in great detail in her interview on this site. It wasn't such a long time ago that it was a common belief that women couldn't or shouldn't achieve in the areas men had traditionally dominated, including writing, especially horror, even though Mary Shelley wrote one of the most memorable horror stories of all time.

Who are some women horror authors that you admire?

Lisa Tuttle is outstanding. I'll forget someone if I mention others.

What is your advice to aspiring women horror writers?

Never give up. Push yourself forward and if that means self-promotion just get on with it. Publishers expect you to now, anyway. The small press have no budget for advertising so it really is up to the author to tell people their news about their books where ever they can. Women have been practically invisible to some people for long enough. We have spent years in the background and have been forgotten by history, in science and in the arts. Don't let it happen to you.

What are your favourite horror novels?

Horror...for me, can be within the strange, the weird, the fantastic, and the cruelty and terror in every day life so I'll not mention any particular novel. I'd like to mention my two favourite strange/weird collections. The Wine Dark Sea by Robert Aickman and Nest of Nightmares by Lisa Tuttle. Both writers have been a great influence on me.

Who are your favourite authors? Who influenced you the most?
Mikhail Bulgakov, Angela Carter, Sylvia Plath, Robert Aickman, Lisa Tuttle, Peter Hoeg, Ramsey Campbell, Ray Bradbury, and Shakespeare. Of all I think Angela Carter has influenced me the most. And I've always appreciated poetry, especially William Blake, Swinburne, Keats and Yeats.

You’ve written several short stories. Do you have a favourite? Why?

Two of my favourites are companion stories. The Black Swan of Odessa, is a homage to Mikhail Bulgakov and will appear in an anthology dedicated to him, this year. It is, on one level, about the actual chair in a play by Ilf and Petrov, Russian writers in the 1920's, and the second story, The Twelfth Chair, is set in modern day, in the same place in Odessa, and is connected to the first. One theme in the first is greed and the dominant theme in the second story is abuse of women.

Your first novel, Isis Unbound, is coming out soon. Can you tell us about it?

Inspired by Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley's, Prometheus Unbound, and Rider Haggard/R.E.Howard to some extent, Isis Unbound is set in 1890's Manceastre, Britanniae, ruled by a new governor general, Clovis Domitius Corbulo. He is related to Cleopatra LV descendant of Anthony and Cleopatra who won the battle of Actium two thousand years ago. Only a god can kill a god. Nepythys has killed her sister, Isis, and therefore the dead cannot pass over to the underworld. Ella, eighteen and Loli - age ten, are the daughters of Ptolemy Child. The sons and daughters of embalmers are expected to begin instruction in the embalming process at an unusually young age. Against this background we follow the girls on their adventure in Manceastre and Alexandria to discover the greatest mystery of all - involving Isis herself. An Isis who will stop at nothing to ensure her own survival…  

You were a co-editor for the anthology, Never Again, which features stories against fascism and racism. Can you tell us about it?

Joel Lane asked me to co-edit the anthology with him and we are happy with the depth and scope of the work sent to us. There were a few reprints we went after...actually Joe Lansdale gave us the choice of three and we chose The Night They Missed the Horror Show instead of the longer Mad Dog Summer. I definately wanted Rob Shearman's, Hitler's Dog, and Stephen Volk's After the Ape in there, too. We had twenty three stories in all. We very much knew we were preaching to the converted in that those who would buy already had strong feelings about injustice, intolerance and persecution. The authors asked to contribute felt that they wanted to nail their colours to the mast. Some quite amazing stories have been written. I'm delighted to say that Amnesty International have agreed to stock the book, also.

Do you own an e-reader?

I don't own an e-reader. At the moment I prefer the feel of an actual book but will consider it in a year or two.

What do you hope readers get out of your work?

Enjoyment. Transportation away from every day life for a time. Empathy.

What are you currently working on?

I'm working on a few short stories for anthologies and about to collaborate on a book with the artist, Dani Serra. 

Interview with Monica J. O'Rourke

Monica J. O'Rourke is the author of the novels Suffer the Flesh and Poisoning Eros (with Wrath James White), the collection Experiments in Human Nature and was the editor of anthologies Decadence, Decadence 2, Dreaming of Angels (with Gord Rollo), Fear of the Unknown (with Kfir Luzzatto) and Royal Aspirations III.
What drew you to the horror genre?

My paternal grandmother was a big horror fan. I remember as a kid curling up beside her on the couch to watch b-movies. They scared the heck out of me. Then I moved on to the horror novels she read. Even though she probably would have given me permission, I would sneak them. I felt like I was doing something wrong. I was the rare ten-year-old reading The Exorcist, Amityville Horror, and Jaws. Flowers in the Attic has an incest scene that made me drop the book.

What scares you?

Serial killers. Drunk drivers. Pedophiles. “Real” monsters.

Why do you think there are fewer women writing horror than men?

There aren’t. We just aren’t as aggressive about getting published. Besides, there are plenty of women who have written “horror”—Toni Morrison, Flannery O’Connor, Alice Sebold, Alice Walker, Sylvia Plath, Joyce Carol Oates, et al.—but they are published mainly as “mainstream” writers.

Your books have a reputation for being extremely gruesome. Are people surprised that, as a woman, you would write something so gory? Is there a misconception that women aren’t comfortable with gore?

Absolutely! In fact, my co-author (Wrath James White) said he approached me to write Poisoning Eros with him after reading Suffer the Flesh because he was shocked a woman had written it. I get that a lot, how people are surprised a woman could write something so extreme. I’ve been told I “write like a guy.”

Some of my favorite “extreme” horror writers are women, such as Elizabeth Massie, Poppy Z. Brite and Charlee Jacob. P. D. Cacek wrote a story called “Metalica” that’ll make any woman keep her legs crossed for a week. There are some women (some people) who aren’t comfortable with gore, and I can appreciate that. I can’t stand reading stories where animals are hurt or killed (yet even I wrote a story, “Ginger,” involving the potential death of a dog). I’ll try to skim or skip those parts of the book. For example, in King’s It, a dog is locked in an abandoned fridge and doesn’t die for days. That scene has stayed with me for twenty-five years now. I’m pretty sure I regret not skipping those pages, lol.

Who are some women horror authors you admire?

See above. I also enjoy Teri Jacobs’s work. She’s a close friend, and it’s a shame she’s no longer writing. Sèphera Girón writes stuff that blows me away. Lisa Mannetti is an amazing writer, and I adore Charlaine Harris’s “Sookie” series.

What is your advice to aspiring women horror writers?

The same as I would say to any person (myself included): keep writing. As Wrath told me recently (admonishing me for not writing often enough), “It’s just five hundred words a day. You can do that!”

What are your favourite horror novels?

The Exorcist (Blatty); Let’s Go Play at the Adams’ by Mendal Johnson (such a shame he died before anything else of his was published). It’s extreme extreme, this book. Just about anything by T. M. Wright (trust me—the man’s books will blow you away); Off Season (Ketchum); The Talisman; ’Salem’s Lot; Speed Queen (Stewart O'Nan); most Richard Laymon novels are fast, fun, nasty reads (read The Cellar). There are so many horror novels I’ve enjoyed, but the ones I’ve mentioned here are those I’ve read more than once and make me keep coming back for more. And more.

Who are your favourite authors? Who influenced you the most?

Well, going with the cliché, Stephen King made me want to be a horror writer. I was twelve when ’Salem’s Lot came out on TV, and it scared me so badly I read everything the man had written until then. And then I discovered Clive Barker because King had blurbed his Books of Blood. (My first really “extreme” story, “Experiments in Human Nature” was inspired by Barker’s “Dread.”) Jack Ketchum is a favorite writer (he has a lean, mean approach to writing, conserving his words, yet somehow his prose is often beautiful). Dennis Lehane should be required reading for anyone, especially aspiring writers.

I turn to Poppy Brite, T.C Boyle, Joe Lansdale, Carson McCullers, James M. Cain, Linda Addison, Cormac McCarthy, Peter Straub, T.M. Wright, Flannery O’Connor, and others for inspiration. Their writing is so beautiful and amazing, it makes me scream in jealousy.

Who is your favourite character you’ve created? Why?

It’s a new character I’ve been introducing to more and more of my short fiction, and he’s the focus of the novel I’m (still!) working on. He’s a Nephilim named Sheshai. Kind of a nasty bugger without a conscience, yet he seeks knowledge. Kind of a dangerous combination, considering his methods for obtaining that knowledge. I’m enjoying the no-holds-barred approach to writing whatever I (he) wants.

Can you tell us about your upcoming releases Poisoning Eros Part I and II?

Wrath (James White), my co-author, and I are very excited about this. Tom Moran is not only the publisher (Sideshow Press), he’s our illustrator. Some of his illos seem nastier than Wrath’s and my words! Tom’s an amazing artist and publisher, and we’re thrilled to be working with him.

Poisoning Eros Part II has never been published before. Poisoning Eros’s publisher shut down shortly after the first book was published, so very few people have had a chance to read it. This created quite a buzz about the book, and an underground following. One copy sold on eBay for $325. For a trade paperback.

Poisoning Eros Part I and II is about Gloria, an aging former porn star, and her rapid fall from the top. Of course this story is nasty as can be, and it’s supernatural (her journey includes Earth, heaven, and hell). It’s quite disgusting, actually. One “reader” told us she had to stop reading in the middle of the first page. This is exactly what Wrath and I were hoping for. Well, not for people to stop reading. But we did want them to be shocked and disgusted. I’m fairly sure they were.

Wrath and I have been writing “torture porn” (together and separately) long before “torture porn” was even a phrase. I think we were both inspired by writers like Edward Lee, John Skipp (“Mr. Splatterpunk” himself), Dick Laymon, and other extreme horror writers.

Do you own an e-reader? How do you think e-readers are changing the publishing industry?

The only e-reader I use is a free download (from either Amazon or BN; I forget which!). You can download a book or story for a buck or two and read them online. I never bought an e-reader like a Nook or Kindle because when I was still living in NYC I started working from home as an editor and no longer had to commute to work on the subway. I didn’t see the need to buy one, since I can (and do) read a regular old book at home. When I travel, I bring along paperbacks and notebooks (I tend to write when I travel). Again, no need for an e-reader.

But yeah, it’s not like I don’t recognize the technology. I’m sure I’ll get one eventually. And anything that gets people to read, no matter the format, is a good thing. Smart, ahead-of-the-curve writers like J.A. Konrath have been quite successful launching an e-reader platform approach to publishing.

What do you hope readers get out of your work?

The older you get, the more your ambitions change and hopefully grow (says the woman-of-all-clichés). So ten years ago, I just wanted to shock readers or gross them out. Now I want them to enjoy the story and hope they’ll come back for more. And, occasionally, I hope something I write makes people think. And still get grossed out. ;)

What are you currently working on?

I keep dusting off my post-apocalyptic vampire novel because I think it has merit. I refuse to give up on it and may one day finish the edit. I’m working on my Nephilim novel (still). I just wish I wrote more often, but it seems every chance I get I’m editing someone else’s book (for work).

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Interview with Fran Friel

Fran Friel is the author of the collection Mama's Boy and Other Dark Tales. You can find out more about Fran at her website.

What drew you to the horror genre?

Hi Melissa.  It's a pleasure to be here with you and your kind readers.

The horror genre and I found each other purely by accident, if there really is such a thing.  I was a big sci-fi fan and only a light horror reader, mostly biggies like King, Rice, Koontz and Gaiman, but when I started writing seriously, a friend of mine mentioned The Horror Library (an online group--part of the writing community).  They said that THL was doing a story competition, and the winner would be published with their regular contributors.  Well, I was hungry for publication, so I submitted a story called, "Wings with Hot Sauce" about the devil and his favorite pub food (er, angel wings). The story won first place in the competition, The Horror Library published my very first story, and I suppose you could say, I found a welcoming home in the horror community. They're some of the nicest people I know in the world!   
What scares you?

Spiders creep me out.  Just today on Mark Rainey's facebook page, I saw a picture of a gigantic wolf spider with tiny babies crowded on her back. Gah!  Spiders can't help they look the way they do, but good grief, really?  

Have you ever written something that scared you?

I've never written anything that scared me, but I've written some nasty things that made me giggle. Kind of like, "I can't believe you just wrote that, Fran.  Yikes!  But dang, that's wicked."  So, I guess I've scared myself, wondering how I could be so self-entertainingly twisted. 

Why do you think there are fewer women writing horror than men?

There are likely a number of factors at work there, but I suspect most of us are raised to be good girls, and good girls certainly don't write nasty things, do we?  Or do we? *big grin*
Your flash fiction story, "Close Shave," is one of the most gruesome stories I’ve read. Are people surprised that, as a woman, you would write something so gory? Is there a misconception that women aren’t comfortable with gore?

I'm glad you "enjoyed" that little piece.  It was a 50 word Gross Out Contest winner (3rd place--1st place was fabulously gross!), hence the intense terse language.  And heaven knows where that stuff comes from, Melissa.  I'm really not a big fan of gore myself, but I just get inspired.  What can I say? 

I actually think a lot of people aren't comfortable with gore, but again, I suppose the good girl thing comes into play for women.  We're suppose to scream and say, "Eww..." when the gross stuff comes along.  But in real life, I think women deal with gore better than many men.  We frequently contend with blood, barfing kids, poopy diapers, toxic (hair) chemicals, science projects in the fridge and animal carcasses for dinner.  Heck, have you ever pulled the giblets out of a turkey?  Now that's gross!

And yes, people are surprised that stories like "Mama's Boy" and "Under the Dryer" come from my mild mannered self, but horror is in all of us.  Some of us are just more willing to go there, to take a look and see what's in the shadows.  I was a holistic therapist for many years, and the dark side tends to come up in that business.  If you can't go there personally, you can't go there as a therapist or as a writer, for that matter.  

Like I said earlier, horror writers are some of the nicest people I've ever met.  I suspect purging those dark places in the act of storytelling helps us clear the way to seeing the lighter side of life. Conversely, I hear that comedians can be a pretty melancholy lot.  So go figure. 

Who are some women horror authors that you admire?

These questions always make me nervous.  After the interview is published, I inevitably realize that I have forgotten someone wonderful.  So ahead of time, I apologize to anyone I've missed.  You know who you are!  

Let's see, I read a lot Anne Rice before becoming a writer, so I guess some of her wicked ways seeped into my psyche.  I'm a big Julian May fan.  She's SF/Fantasy, but she writes great gore and suspense!  Cat Valente, Jennifer Pelland, Justine Musk, Lucy Snyder, Elizabeth Massie, Lisa Morton, Alethea Kontis, Lisa Mannetti, Deborah LeBlanc, Louise Bohmer, Sara M. Harvey and so many others--they all inspire the heck out of me!   

What is your advice to aspiring women horror writers?

My advice is the same for all writers: be brave.  Write the story that inspires YOU and write the truth of your characters, even when it's not comfortable, perhaps especially when it's not comfortable.  I personally think all writers should write horror for a time.  I believe it fosters the ability to go deeper, where a lot of writers fear to tread.  The truth is the truth even when it's ugly, and if you can't go there, your characters won't go there, and your work will likely be flat or fluffy.
What are your favourite horror novels?

Stephen King's, It, disturbed the hell out of me.  I read it when I had chicken pox in my thirties.  I suppose being delirious with fever had something to do with it, but that one really got to me.  More recently, I loved King's, Duma Key.  It got mixed reviews, but I swam in the velvety pacing and was in awe the expert handling of his characters.  Made me envious, to tell you the truth.  I wondered if I could ever handle a work of that length with such seamless control and fluidity.

Who are your favourite authors? Who influenced you the most?

Dr. Seuss was my first inspiration as a young writer.  I was completely obsessed with Green Eggs and Ham.  Nearly drove my mother mad with reading and re-reading it, memorizing it and trying my own hand at the a little Seussery.  Oh, that Sam I Am.  My first Seuss-esque poem was published in a community newsletter when I was six.  I was bitten by the bug quite early. 

My more current inspirations:

Gary Braunbeck and John R. Little for their tender humanity and poignant touch.  Gaiman for his whimsy and care of the child within us.  Tom Piccirilli and Lucy Snyder for lyrical word painting. Peter K. Hamilton for precision and control of complex plot lines.  Philip K. Dick for bending my imagination.  Asimov, May, Bradbury, Vance and Ellison for storytelling that makes my mind soar. And AJ Brown for sheer perseverance and love of writing! 

I credit Neil Gaiman for pushing me over the edge to finally choose to write professionally.  My endlessly encouraging husband (my greatest influence, in truth) gave me a copy of Gaiman's collection, Smoke and Mirrors.  Something in that lot of story brilliance just sparked the final blaze for me.  I will be forever grateful to him (or curse him, depending on the day).
What is your favourite character you’ve created? Why?

Dang, that's a hard one.  I truly love them all, even the twisted ones.  I suppose Goliath, the Bull Mastiff from "Under the Dryer" is a contender.  He's noble and deeply loyal.  I would like to sit with him by the fire, stroke his fur, and feed him biscuits.  And there's young Will Pennycock from "The Sea Orphan."  He was a very brave boy, who remained kind and good hearted even in the face of terrible tragedy and danger. 

Yup, too many to mention, but I do love them...and often miss them.

Do you own an e-reader? How do you think e-readers are changing the publishing industry?

I own a first-gen Kindle, a new Kindle (a gift from my husband), and an iPad with Kindle, Nook and iBook apps.  The Nook looks beautiful, but considering my cadre of readers, I can't exactly justify buying another.  Right?  I use my iPad every day for reading, and my Kindle a few times a week. I've slowly moved to reading more on the e-readers than physical books.  It's just a matter of convenience for me.  

I think e-readers are good for the business.  Perhaps an equalizer, in some ways, making more titles available than the large publishing houses are able or willing to produce.  Ultimately, I hope it makes reading more affordable.  Traditionally published books are so darn expensive to produce, transport and market, that the average writer isn't making their fair share of a book's profits.  Plus, our faithful readers are shelling out serious cash, which may limit how much they get to read.  

If e-readers and e-books become affordable (I think many are overpriced at the moment), it seems to reason that more books will be available to everyone.  I love seeing that libraries are getting into the game, as well.  Plus, perhaps we'll see a broader range of books to choose from if the gate keepers (often the marketing folks, not the editors) have a little more competition in the publishing world.  

Also, I believe hardcopy books will be more treasured, as the very beautiful and special things that they are.  Many of us have taken them for granted for a long time. 

What do you hope readers get out of your work?

Escape.  Few things give me the special pleasure that a great book offers--that magical escape from my norm to someplace fascinating with a cast of characters who are there just to entertain me. That's my goal as a writer, to give my readers that same gift I hold so precious. 

What are you currently working on?

I've been on a long hiatus due to illness.  A series of stressful life events hit me with a one-two punch, followed by a good kick in the arse, and I fell into the deep well of clinical depression.  It was hellish and seemed like I would never come to the surface again, but I did, and it was ultimately a good thing.  As I recover, I'm learning to mitigate stress (a brain killer and depression trigger for me), which has freed-up my writing dramatically.  It's actually a pleasure to write again.  For a long time, it felt like pushing my brain through a grinder every time I sat down to write.  I had endless ideas, but getting the words on the page was a form of self-torture.  Ugh.  It was untenable for me to write in that state.  I can't tell you what a relief it is, and on so many levels, to have moved out of that horror show.

So, to actually answer your question, I'm working on whatever tickles my fancy.  I'm enjoying writing again, which is such a blessing.  For now, I have a short story coming out in April with Necrotic Tissue, and I'm working on a novella project for Michael Knost.  I also have two novels in progress. One is stewing away on the back burner, and the other is waiting for my attention in early Spring.  If you're mad enough to follow my antics, I'll keep you posted on the progress at and @franfriel at

Friday, February 25, 2011

Interview with Yvonne Navarro

Yvonne Navarro is the author of novels AfterAge, Mirror Me, DeadTimes, deadrush, That's Not My Name, Final Impact, Red Shadows, Highborn (Dark Redemption Series Book One) and several media tie-in novels. You can find out more about Yvonne at her website.

What drew you to the horror genre?

I really can't say.  I know that's not much of an answer, but for as long as I can remember, I've loved watching scary movies and reading scary stories.  Maybe it's the thrill, that rush of adrenaline in a really good story when
you "feel" for the character.

What scares you?

People.  I'm not kidding.  Do I really think a vampire's going to scratch at my window, or a zombie's going to leap from the shadows at the side of my garage?  No.  Do I lock my car door when I get in it or check to see who's at the door before I answer it?  You bet.  Sadly, the things that people do to people are far, far worse than anything I could ever invent in a story.  That stuff I can read in the papers or listen to on the news every day.

Why do you think there are fewer women writing horror than men?

That's an interesting question, and another one I'm not sure I can answer.  Perhaps it's just a matter of taste, society and culture.  As time passes, we're getting away from the notion that girls should only wear pink bows and ribbons and watch love stories, and more into the realm (at least I hope so) of girls should follow their own tastes.  I was lucky in that my Mom liked pink, boys and love stories, but she also liked blue jeans and Creature Features on Friday nights.  In this day and age, I really believe that women write what they want.  If I've ever had it held against me that I'm a women as to getting my submission read, no one's ever had the ****s to admit it.  Ha ha.

Who are some women horror authors that you admire?

Elizabeth Massie, Sephera Giron, Maria Alexander, Maxine O'Callahan, others I can't think of right now.  Alas, I don't have a statistical brain and I'm just not prone to remember names.

What is your advice to aspiring women horror writers?

Don't write like a woman.  Don't write like a man.  Write like a writer.  Do the best job you can, write a lot.  Let your stuff sit for a week, then read it out loud before you send it somewhere.

What are your favourite horror novels?

They Thirst by Robert McCammon
The Keep by F. Paul Wilson
Pet Sematary by Stephen King
Dark Visions by Maxine O'Callahan

There are a bunch of others, but again, that non-statistical brain thwarts

What is your favourite novel you’ve written and your favourite character
you’ve created? Why?

That's a hard one, like choosing one child as your favorite over another.  It's a toss-up between my first novel, AfterAge, and Final Impact.  The reason is the same: I felt like the characters were really alive, not only to me, but to everyone.  Of course, I strive for that in every book I write.  I've never considered that one of my characters was a specific favorite, but the first character that always comes to mind is Simon Chanowitz from Final Impact.  He was a horribly abused child and a mind reader, and he struggled mightily with his gift through two books (Final Impact and Red Shadows). 

Who are your favourite authors? Who influenced you the most?

Well, see the above list for favorite authors and novels.  Robert McCammon influenced me the most, not only by being a role model and an excellent writer, but by being supportive to me when I was in the absolute baby-stages of my career.  He rocks.

You have written novelizations of television shows and films. How are media tie-in novels different to write than regular fiction? Which do you prefer?

In a media tie-in novel, such as the Buffy the Vampire Slayer books, you're writing in someone else's world and you have to follow their rules.  You can create and add things, but only to a point.  The bigger the series, the more you have to consider the rulebook, whether it's unwritten or not, what others have written in their books, and what's going on in the television series or movies.  It can get immensely complicated, such as in the Star Wars books.  In a movie tie-in, you might try to add some backstory or more depth to the characters, but you're still under someone else's rules.  I prefer (and I think most authors agree with me) to write my own novels, where I create everything and can write absolutely what I want.

Can you tell us about your most recent novel, Highborn?

Highborn is the story of a fallen angel, a demon, who wants to reverse her choice and find forgiveness so that she can revert to what she started as-- a true angel.  She escapes from Hell (and her lover, Lucifer, doesn't take that very well and sends Hunters after her) and comes to Earth, trying to find a way to redemption.  On Earth she must learn to live among the humans she tormented for eons and also empathize with them because they are her only way to the forgiveness she seeks.  Highborn is part of the Dark Redemption Series, and book 2, Concrete Savior, comes out in June 2011.

Do you own an e-reader? How do you think e-readers are changing the publishing industry? Do you plan on making your older novels available as e-books?

I don't own an e-reader I already spend 12 to 16 hours a day (I am not kidding) staring at a computer screen, plus I have a pile of nearly 200 books that are waiting to be read.  I have very little time to read, but I can't stop buying them.  I'm old-fashioned in that I like the look, feel and smell of books.  I think that if I had a virtual stack of 200 unread books, I would just forget about them-- out of sight, out of mind-- and never get the chance to read most of them because they'd be overrun by new stuff all the time.  Others like e-readers a lot, and that's great-- good for them. I'm already moving toward that.  AfterAge is already available in a variety of electronic formats from Crossroads Press.

What do you hope readers get out of your work?

The same thing I get out of a really good book (and I'm REALLY picky): a story that literally makes you forget you're reading, so much so that you don't even remember you're turning the page and everything around you just kind of fades out as the story plays itself out in your mind.

What are you currently working on?

I'm kind of jumping around from idea to idea right now.  I have a series idea that I keep changing around (I think I'm in its third version right now) and it's a lot of fun.  I have a number of things "waiting to be written," including a full outline and 60 pages written on a thriller.   So many ideas, so little me!          

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Interview with Mary SanGiovanni

Mary SanGiovanni is the author of novels The Hollower and Found You and the collection Under Cover of Night. Her next novel, Thrall, will be released from Thunderstorm Books in early- to mid-March. You can find out more about Mary at her website.

What drew you to the horror genre? 

The horror genre has always appealed to me for its scope, for the endlessness of possibilities about worlds beyond our own. I really believe the best horror fiction (and movies) looks at the unbelievable, often heretofore undiscovered strength of the human spirit, and its ability to overcome in the face of incredible dangers.

What scares you?

Realistically, anything bad happening to loved ones. Sickness. Despair. Fire. Probably very, very tight spaces, since I seem to have claustrophobia nightmares lately. I also have a sort of irrational fear of masks, gurneys, hospitals, and faceless things.

Why do you think there are fewer women writing horror than men?

I think horror's pulp roots, following in the footsteps of old-school sf, were written by men primarily for men. Traditional gender roles would suggest that the violence inherent in pulp horror, generally directed toward women, might turn women off. I think there used to be a pervasive belief that women didn't have the constitution to write, read, or watch horror. Our empathy made us more susceptible, maybe. But that's just it – horror is a genre hinged more on the effective conveyance of emotion than nearly any other genre. It's gut instinct and survival. It's the empathic link with the hero (or heroine) that makes us feel the horror they feel. Horror's boundaries have shifted, and what constitutes horror has broadened as well. I think women bring a different psychological bent to horror; we relate to the world in a different way. The industry has realized this just in the decade or so I've been in the business, and I'm seeing more and more readers and members of the general public branching out from the safe horror islands of King and Koontz. I think as we make our mark as equals in society, more people will come to accept the unique, sometimes beautiful, sometimes brutal take that women bring to horror.

Who are some women horror authors that you admire? 

Shirley Jackson. Sarah Langan. Beth Massie. Poppy Brite (although she is lately working outside of the genre). These women masterfully use the written word to convey the complex and often incredibly disturbing aspects of the human character, and the worlds beyond casual, general human experience.

What is your advice to aspiring women horror writers?

I think my advice would be to consider yourselves writers first; if marketing folk choose to label you a woman writer or a horror writer or an African American writer or any other neat little promotional pigeonhole they can find, let them. Don't be afraid to be both beautiful and dangerous. Say something; I mean, really say what's in your soul, what you feel passionate about – that's what “writing what you know” REALLY means.

What are your favourite horror novels?

The Shining. It. The Haunting of Hill House. Legion. Ghost Story. I'm considering adding Audrey's Door to that as well, but I haven't finished it yet. ;)

Who are your favourite authors? Who influenced you the most?

Stephen King, of course – I think he's influenced my entire generation of writers. Richard Matheson. Peter Straub, who could describe a grocery list and make it sound beautiful. Shirley Jackson, whose subtlety is delicious. Brian Keene, for the utter heart-wrenching realness of his characters. Gary Braunbeck, whose prose can often move me to tears. I'd say I learned something from each of these writers about the beauty of the written word, but also about the psychology of horror, about the true nature of people's fears, and how less is so often more.

Who is your favourite character you’ve created? Why?

Hmmm. I'd have to say Tom Wyatt, from Thrall. To me, he's the quintessential hero: brave nearly to the point of being reckless, selfless to the point of being damn near suicidal, funny and serious, lightning quick and very smooth. I'm also partial to my monsters; the Primary Hollower from Found You, for example. It's mean, it's utterly alien, and it can take the form not only of your worst fears, but of your deepest, most secret and shameful insecurities. The Hollowers are the total of all my worst fears about me.

As an author who was published by Dorchester in the past, what do you think of their switch to trade paperbacks and e-books, eliminating mass-market paperbacks?

Let's see how I can answer this diplomatically...I think that, given that their business model relies primarily on sales from outlets and chains like Walmart, Shop-Rite, airports, etc., that their switch seems an unusual decision. I realize that like any business, the e-book component is their move to keep up with ever-evolving technology. However, I'm not sure all their decisions are in the best interest of the stable of writers, past (like myself) or present. I'm interested to see whether their financial issues are resolved in a way that allows us either the rights back to authors' back-logs, or to the often overdue royalty statements and payments owed to their writers.

Do you own an e-reader? How do you think e-readers are changing the publishing industry? 

I don't, but I often get audiobooks for my iPod. I have mixed feelings about e-readers. On one hand, they're green, they're cost- and space-effective, they give authors new subsidiary rights to negotiate, and they allow for the possibility of literature becoming a more interactive or multimedia-incorporated experience beyond merely reading the story. There could be embedded links to cool side stories or backstory info, there could be interactive cover art, all kinds of cool things. However, with e-reader software comes the facility of making ones own books and flooding the market with work that is sub-par in terms of quality, formatting, editing, etc. I'd hate to see new technologies that could innovate and enhance the reading experience cause some kind of horror boom, bust, and fizzle like it did in the 90's.

Can you tell us about your upcoming novel, Thrall?

This book is my favorite thing I've ever written. It's a story about a man whose life has been one of running and hiding – from the truth about the very unusual things that used to happen in his hometown, to the people he left behind there. After receiving an urgent phone call from his ex about a daughter he never knew he had, he heads off to find them in a town overrun with deadly monsters. The influences are very much visual, and in my mind, capture the tortured and guilt-ridden soul that carries its own demons into the heart of a supernatural and psychological hell – there are shades of Silent Hill in there, as well as shades of Dark City. There are shades of In the Mouth of Madness and Lovecraft's larger-than-life cosmic horror. This is, to date, my big bad-ass monster story, and I really hope readers enjoy it as much as I did writing it.

What do you hope readers get out of your work?

Honestly, I hope readers will feel a sense of connectedness and ability to relate to the characters. I'd like them to feel that they are not alone. I'd like them to believe that all the strengths and tools one needs to survive are inside a person, and that it's just a matter of tapping into what he or she does well to find them. I'd like readers to see my work as scary, terrifying, disturbing, gets-under-your-skin-and-makes-you-think-about-it-days-later kind of writing. But above all, I want to convey the (possibly overoptimistic) belief I have in the innate goodness of even the most flawed humans, and their natural ability to rise above and beyond themselves to keep the nightmares of this world (and others) at bay.

What are you currently working on?

I'm currently working on a new novel and two short stories, all supernatural, all very psychological, maybe moreso than my last three books. Possibly a bit more surreal than the Hollower books, too. They'll still have the subtle connections to the other books, just as both The Hollower and Found You have subtle connections to Thrall. I'm open to taking on new projects, and really building my career from the foundations I made at Leisure and now with Thunderstorm.