Alyson- Hi Sarah and welcome to the Horror Tree. Growing up, what books did you read and love?
Sarah- A very wide range of books. Enid Blyton’s school stories were always a huge favourite. I do know they were unbelievably classist, of course, but I did love them, and there does seem to be an echo of them in today’s young adults reading the Harry Potter books – boarding schools and all that goes with them, although Enid Blyton certainly didn’t dabble in magic.
I also remember plundering my mother’s own store of school stories – Angela Brazil mostly, and being fascinated by the glimpses into that far-off world.
And I absolutely loved Pamela Brown’s Blue Door Theatre books – I still have the entire set.
In my teens I was fascinated by Dennis Wheatley’s black magic books as well – I can still remember devouring and being terrified by The Satanist and, of course, his classic story, The Devil Rides Out.
Alyson – Have you always been a writer? When did you start to think of yourself as one? Was there a definite turning point? Have you pursued other jobs along the way?
Sarah- I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. At school, I wrote plays for the Lower Fourth to perform – it was a convent school, and the nuns were always very enthusiastic about encouraging that kind of thing.
As for jobs – I had a wide variety, from newspapers, to the legal profession, and property selling. But I used to write in my spare time. In fact, for years I lived a kind of double life, because when most people were heading for the TV or a wine bar after a day’s work, I was pounding an elderly typewriter on the end of the dining table with Mozart on the stereo. I would turn up at the office each morning, pink-eyed from lack of sleep, giving rise to a belief that whatever I did in my spare time, it might be somewhat colourful.
Alyson- How did you get your first novel accepted and published? How did you deal with the rejections which are so much a part of a writer’s life?
Sarah -It took four years of writing and of submitting work to various publishers. I finally had a series of light historical mysteries accepted by a publisher who is now (sadly) no longer in existence. At the end of that time, I acquired an agent. Writers do need one or two bits of luck along the way and being taken on by my agent was certainly a massive piece of luck for me. She’s been an unfailing support and a very good friend.
As for rejections – they have to be accepted and any advice that might be dished out has to be taken on board. You just have to keep believing you can get there.
Alyson- Do you have a writing routine? Or a dedicated space? Pen or pc or iPhone? At home or on the go? Music playing or complete silence? Coffee or tea?
Sarah- Desk and computer – sometimes the laptop from a prone position on the sofa, but that’s usually late at night, or maybe if I’m working on editorial re-writes. Mugs of tea throughout the day.
I usually work from around 8.30 am to lunchtime – which can be anything from 12 o’clock if work’s going badly, to half-past two if it’s going well. Then a couple of hours’ break in the afternoon, and back to the desk between around 4.30 and 6.30.
As for where I work – after the eventual transition from working by day and writing by night to becoming a full-time novelist – I initially thought I might adapt the attic for a study. The idea was to emulate the romantic 18th century poets starving in garrets, and I was all set to buy a skull as a paperweight when it was pointed out that at its highest point the attic was only four and a half feet deep. That meant I would have had to work lying down or scrunched into one of those peculiar and painful positions like medieval torture victims locked in cages.
So, in the end I turned the corner of a bedroom into a study. My desk faces a framed photograph of a Victorian actor-manager called Sir John Martin Harvey – one of those soulful young men with black hair that needs cutting and an alluring line in dishevelled Edwardian evening dress. (Think Aiden Turner after a night on the tiles). In the photo, Sir John is portraying the all-time romantic anti-hero, Sydney Carton, in his own stage version of A Tale of Two Cities.
Mozart is usually on the stereo, or Classic FM, while I work.
From the desk, if I look to my left there’s a view of trees and fields through the window, and around dusk an owl emerges from the foliage of a large oak, surveys its realm in lordly fashion for a few moments, then silently glides across the sky. Lovely.
Alyson – How long does each novel take to research and write? (e.g. your latest ‘Song of the Damned’) https://www.amazon.co.uk/Song-Damned-Phineas-Fox-Mystery/dp/0727888145/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1536230034&sr=8-1&keywords=sarah+rayne+song+of+the+damned
Sarah – On average about a year – some of the time is taken up with research, which I tend to do as I go along. Some, of course, is taken up with staring in indignant frustration at the blank screen, vainly trying to think what happens next.
Alyson – How much do your interests – history, music, theatre and old houses – shape and influence your writing?
Sarah – A great deal, I think. The theatre interest probably filtered through from my father, who was a comedy actor in the 1920s and 1930s, and in ENSA during WWII. He wrote a good deal of his own material. Even in later life he maintained a tenuous connection with the theatre – giving single performances at clubs and for charity organisations. When, as a starry-eyed teenager, I announced I wanted to go on the stage, he guided me towards the amateur theatre instead. I can see now he didn’t want me to have to face the hardships and uncertainties of an actor’s life, but he did it very subtly and tactfully and I did have a very enjoyable time acting and directing plays.
My brother was a music researcher – he was immensely knowledgeable, and in fact there’s a section of a University Library in Cork which now houses his CD collection and has a dedication to him.
My mother loved houses – all houses. When I was very small we used to take walks together, and she would say we would pick out the houses we liked best along the way and think what kind of people might live in them. She, too, wrote – she never attempted to get anything published and she wrote for the pleasure of doing so, in the main. She certainly completed her memoirs and several novels and was still writing almost up to her death at the age of 91.
So most of the influences for my work were all there within my family from the start.
Alyson- Music is very important in your novels. It’s often crucial to the whole plot. How do you choose the pieces of music you write about? Do they reflect your personal favourites or are they chosen for the purposes of the plot?
Sarah -If the plot calls for a certain type of music, I look for something that will fit. If I can’t find anything, I create a fictional piece of music. In the Bell Tower, (Book 6 of the Haunted House series), I discovered the eerie and hauntingly beautiful death song called The Unquiet Grave, sometimes known as How Cold the Wind Doth Blow. It’s believed to date to around 1400, but, incredibly, it’s survived to the present day. Singers including Joan Baez, the Dubliners and Steeleye Span have recorded it, and at the other end of the scale several arrangements of it have been made by the great romantic composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams. The first time I heard it I found it immensely moving, but I didn’t want to use such a well-known piece outright. I did, though, base Thaisa’s Song on it – which is at heart of The Bell Tower, and I’ve paid tribute to The Unquiet Grave in the book.
A few years before that, writing What Lies Beneath I discovered an eighteenth-century opera called The Deserted Village, (composed c.1880) and written about and around Oliver Goldsmith’s poem of the same name (first published in 1770). The plot of the book centres on an abandoned village with all its secrets and its strange tragedies, and the opera chimed so well with the story that I ended in altering my original structure to make more use of the music.
Alyson -You have written a series of thrillers (six) starring Nell West/Michael Flint and then moved on to introduce your current protagonist, music researcher Phineas Fox, in three books. How did you create these regular characters? Do you plan ahead as to how many books each series will have? Or is it more spontaneous? Will you go back to write another West/Flint story?
Sarah- When I wrote the first of the Nell West/Michael Flint books I didn’t know it was going to be a series. I had always written stand-alones, and I thought I would continue to do so. I was convinced that having written an emotional, emotive closing scene, there was nowhere else for the main characters to go. Could you keep them happily together, letting cosy domesticity into the plots, so that they solved murders while shopping or washing up, or disinterred ancient secrets in between choosing new bedroom curtains and worrying about the central heating boiler? Or should you scrub the sunset finale altogether, and let them go along on their own, book by book, from one love affair to the next? Difficult.
But when I finished Property of a Lady, I saw that my Oxford don, Michael Flint, couldn’t possibly be banished to the obscurity of that stand-alone title. Having discovered ghosts – having also discovered a fellow ghost-hunter in Nell West – he was keen, in his own understated way, to embark on more exploits. I was keen, as well, to explore the sometimes difficult, but gradually developing, relationship between the two characters. So what had originally been a stand-alone ended up as a series of six – at least, it’s six so far, because I do hope there are going to be more! Michael and Nell haven’t retired, they’ve just been put on the back burner for a while, and there are certainly more spooks for them to investigate.
The Phineas Fox series, on the other hand, was definitely conceived with the idea of it being a series. I have no idea how many books will result, though.
Alyson- You’ve written under at least two pen names that I am aware of- Frances Gordon is one I remember when I was collecting and reading your entire back catalogue! How did the use of pen names come about? Why the change to Sarah Rayne?
Sarah -It’s simply because I switched genres. Publishers like to pigeon-hole writers. I had written mostly contemporary horror and some fantasy, and I was embarking on psychological thriller territory. So, a different name for a different kind of book.
Alyson- In the last couple of years most of your back catalogue has been reissued in digital format. How did this happen and was it a surprise after so many years had passed since you’d written them? e.g. The Wolfking quartet.
Sarah- Yes, it was a great surprise I don’t write in the same way now, but it’s so good to have that back list in circulation again, and the Wolfking fantasies especially were such fun to write. In fantasy, the rules are different – sometimes easier. For instance, if you write yourself into a corner, you can escape by creating a spell – newly-woven or disinterred from a cobwebbed crypt, or possibly stolen from a sorcerer. And you can have exotic punishments. In fantasy, it isn’t a question of turning up at Court No 3 and being sentenced to two years in the nick, or even an afternoon in the stocks. In fantasy, people can be exiled from kingdoms. They can be turned to stone or drowned in lakes of blood or sacrificed in a ritual specially written for the occasion.
As for the contemporary horror books, they were immensely satisfying to write. I loved investigating the astonishingly macabre life of the Countess Elizabeth Bathory for Blood Ritual, and then creating the ‘Black Chant’ for The Devil’s Piper.
Alyson- Do you have a favourite out of all your thrillers? (For me it’s ‘Ghost Song’, partly because I love the theatre background). https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ghost-Song-condemned-London-deadly-ebook/dp/B002RI99UK/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8
Sarah -I’d usually say my favourite is the one I’m writing at the time of the question. But I will admit that I too have a definite soft spot for Ghost Song, partly for the theatre settings, but also because it touches my father’s era in the music halls. I did, in fact, name a character for him – his stage name was Frank Douglas, and the Frank Douglas of the book is very like him – light-hearted and insouciant, and capable of finding humour in almost any situation.
Alyson- Do you watch films? Are you influenced by any movies in particular?
Sarah- I have a great weakness for old black and white films – usually, although not exclusively, British ones. I love the old Ealing comedies – and films such as The Ghost Train with Arthur Askey. Also, any of the Will Hay movies.
When I was about eleven years old, one rainy Saturday afternoon there was nothing much to do, but the Radio Times was advertising an old film from the 1940s. Those were the mystical days when there was only one TV channel. I thought, vaguely, that it would be boring, with people talking in impossibly clipped accents and ladies with corrugated hair. But I curled up in a chair to watch it anyway. (There may have been tea and toasted crumpets with butter halfway through viewing, which would have added to the cosy eeriness). The film enchanted and mesmerised me. It was never televised again, but I never forgot it. Some people will know it as The Dream of Olwen, and it was also titled While I Live. It’s based on a play called This Same Garden by Robert Bell, and the plot centres on a girl coming into a clifftop house, not knowing who or what she is, sitting down at the piano and playing an unpublished piece of music that had been composed twenty years earlier, by a girl long since dead. For me that film ticked all the boxes – eerie music, secrets from the past, and, of course, a faint whiff of the supernatural. While working out the plot for the book that was to become The Bell Tower, that long-ago rainy afternoon came back to me vividly. Music – specifically a lost, sinister piece of music – and a wild clifftop setting. Some of those elements certainly got into my plot.
Two or three years ago, While I Live was in fact released on DVD. I’ve watched it several times, and it still works the magic for me.
Alyson – How involved are you with social media? Do you do book tours or library visits or speak at book festivals?
Sarah- Moderately involved. I’m on Facebook and I have a Facebook author page, at https://www.facebook.com/SarahRayneAuthor
There are also some YouTube clips which were made a few years ago. www.youtube.com/user/SarahRayneAuthor
I’m happy to speak at libraries or book clubs, etc, if I’m asked, although I don’t particularly seek that out.
Alyson- What would be your top tips for aspiring writers?
Sarah- Write. Just keep writing and keep submitting work to agents and editors and keep looking ahead to the goal of being published.
If a rejection contains advice or suggestions, try to take that on board, because agents and editors do know what they’re talking about, and they’ll often take trouble with a writer they see as a potential author.
Alyson -What are you currently working on? Do you still have unfulfilled writing ambitions?
Sarah- It’s Book 4 of the Phineas Fox series at the moment – scheduled for publication around next August, I think. I’m liking it very much – I’m finding out all kinds of things about Phin that I hadn’t previously known! No title yet, because I find titles harder to think of than plots. Fortunately my editor has a great knack for coming up with a good title.
One day I would like to write a massive theatre saga – on the lines of Clemence Dane’s extraordinary book, Broome Stages.
That’s a book I probably read about once every four years. I discovered it about thirty years ago and lost an entire four-day bank holiday reading it.
In a very general way it’s a family saga, but it’s like no family saga I’ve ever read, before or since. It spans 1715 to 1930 and covers seven generations of a theatrical family. The story begins with travelling players in tavern courtyards and traces the family’s rise – through the Victorian actor managers, those lovely fruity characters who re-wrote Shakespeare to suit themselves – and on into the early years of the 20th century, with the onset of the early movies. It’s about the changing world of the theatre, but it’s also about the Broomes themselves – their loves and hates, and feuds and plots. It’s about their fortunes in the theatre world – the buying of theatres, the building of a theatrical dynasty. A wonderful book, exquisitely written.
Alyson – Where can readers follow you online?
Sarah- My Author Page on Facebook is probably the best way. That’s at https://www.facebook.com/SarahRayneAuthor
I try to put on it brief details about new books and other snippets of information that might interest readers.
I also have a blog – it’s a bit erratic, but I try to post articles on the background to the writing of each book, or odd things about writing/reading/publishing that, again, I hope might be of interest to people. https://sarahrayneblog.wordpress.com/
And my website is at www.sarahrayne.co.uk
Alyson -Your first novel was published in 1982. Your books have been published in the US and elsewhere and translated into several languages. You’ve had a very successful career lasting over 3 decades- is this something you ever thought would happen? Has it all been a surprise? How would you describe the writing journey you’ve been on?
Sarah- When I started writing, I didn’t really look beyond getting a book accepted by a publisher. Since then, I’ve just gone from book to book, hoping after I’ve finished each one that readers will enjoy it. The translations and foreign deals are all lovely bonuses.
Writing books isn’t always the easiest of careers, but when it goes well – when your books are published, and people read them and enjoy them – then without question it’s the best job on the planet.
Alyson – Hi Alathia and welcome to the Horror Tree.Can you tell us something about your roots and upbringing?
Alathia – I was raised in a very religious home environment and was home-schooled until college. My love of books grew from all of the places that I could read about without having to leave home. I was always curious about how each story would end and even did intensive research because of several historical fiction series I found. Moving 35 times by the time I finished college, it was becoming difficult to move my growing collection. Until college I had mostly read only Christian fiction or historical biographies, so when I branched into fantasy and then thrillers – my collection grew again.
Alyson – Growing up what books did you read? And love?
Alathia – The Hardy Boys was my favourite series and I still have them today. Bodie Thoene’s Zion series led me to other books about WWII and fed my love of history.
Alyson – How did you get started writing? Is it something you’ve always done? Or wanted to do?
Alathia – I started writing in Junior H igh and High School and I had two different stories started, but then I went to college and got busy writing papers. With my love of reading, a logical step would have been to become a writer, but I didn’t think I could ever be published, because it was such a long process. When my brother got cancer and passed away, I knew then that life was way too short to wait around so I did NaNoWriMo and looked into self-publishing. I’m in the process of transitioning from my writing being a part-time hobby to a full-time writer.
Alyson – What drew you to writing horror?
Alathia – To be perfectly honest, I hate horror and scary books or movies. I didn’t like Stephen King and zombies are just so gross. I didn’t even watch ‘The Walking Dead’ T.V. show, but my husband and oldest daughter did. I happen to be going by whilst they watched and got sucked into the story. There weren’t even that many zombies (!) and so I ventured in, cautiously. Four days and four seasons later, I was a super fan. They didn’t do things the way I wanted, so I started writing my own series with zombies. Now, I manage to write, without cringing nearly as much.
Alyson – Do you have a writing routine? Daily? On the go? Pen or pc or ipad? Study or corner of a sofa?
Alathia – I’m working on a routine, but it’s more like fast and furious for about two weeks and then I take a break to clean the house and promote things, (such as do interviews- I planned on doing much earlier) and catch up on my reading. I have started using dictation when I’m out of the house and waiting around for the kids, but the computer is my go to and it is in the middle of the living room so I can keep an eye on everything.
Alyson – You mention online participating in a NANOWRIMO Camp – which is also a big writing event in the UK- during November. Was this an important step for you as a developing writer? And did what you write become a novel?
Alathia – NaNoWriMo was the first time I knew there were people out there who wrote that fast. I honestly had no idea how to do it, but since my brother had passed away only weeks before, I decided that the camp would be my best bet to finish a story. It actually took two camps, but it got finished and I pushed the button in 2015.
Alyson – Can you tell us about your publishing experiences? Both the good and the bad? Any advice for writers?
Alathia – The bad thing was I had no idea what I was doing when I was trying to publish my first book. I even changed one character’s name mid-book. Yep, it was horrible! I didn’t have a good editor and after two tries and three books, I finally found one that not only does an amazing job, but could fix the mistakes I’d done. The good thing about writing is that the stories keep coming and I can’t write fast enough to get them all out of my head. I write a summary down and then keep working on my current work in progress. My advice would be- write and worry about the editing when you are finished with it, but do keep writing. You can always go back and correct something later, but it won’t write itself. Do your research because there are a lot of amazing writers out there who are willing to help.
Alyson – You mention having a mammoth book collection (over 6000 books!), so who are your favourite authors – currently? And do you read many horror books?
Alathia – I love Sherrilyn Kenyon, Nora Roberts, Laurell K. Hamilton, Lisa Jackson, S. M. Shade, Bianca Sommerland, Ellie Midwood and many more. I switched to e-readers about the time I started writing and didn’t realize I’d been missing out on so many amazing authors just because they weren’t available to buy in book stores. I now read a mix of both paperbacks and kindle books, since I read at least a book a week and sometimes more.
Alyson – How much does music and/or film inspire or influence your writing or even your mood as you write? (One of my favourite films was World War Z- what did you think?)
Alathia – I love listening to music, while I write, but it doesn’t really do much to influence me except for providing background noise. I do like to watch movies that I’ve seen before and don’t have to pay attention to also while I write. When writing ‘Infected Waters: A Titanic Disaster’, I watched the Titanic movie about 50 times just for atmosphere and have started watching ‘World War Z’ for this latest zombie book.
Alyson – How much research do you do for your novels?
(You have the very successful Nova Ladies Series- is Nova by any chance an anagram of Avon? Just a wild guess- and the Zombies series-the latest of which is the third book- ‘Co-Eds Against Zombies’ (available on Amazon)
Alathia – Yes, the Nova ladies is Avon spelled backwards. 🙂 I do some research, but it really just depends on which book I’m working on and how much I know about the subject.
Alyson – Writing is a solitary business- do you network in person or online with other writers? Do you go
Alathia – I do lots of networking, but I don’t really have anyone look at my writing until it goes to the editor. I spend hours on Facebook talking and posting, when I should be writing! I have a love/hate relationship with people. I need to be around people, but then I can hide away for a weekend just reading with no problem.
Alyson – How important has social media been to your career as a writer? (You have an impressive number of followers on twitter @alathiamg)
Alathia – Social media has been a huge source of inspiration and help to me, learning from other writers from their ideas, motivation and promotion. There are still things I’m learning about social media, but you have to be engaged with other people to gain a following. Just promotion interaction solely doesn’t bring people in to read your books.
Alyson – How long does each novel take for you to write? Are you a planner with a spreadsheet for plot or more of a let’s plunge in and do this?
Alathia – My first books took about 6 months each, but I’ve finally gotten it down to just a month or so. I hope to get a little faster as I get better at it. I’ve been a pantser—writing by the seat of my pants from the beginning, but I’m slowly learning how to make an outline and it makes my binge writing much easier so that I don’t have to stop nearly as often because I get stuck. I take an idea and do a summary. I think over the idea for a few days or weeks adding to it until I’m ready to jump into it.
Alyson – What advice would you give aspiring (horror) writers? Any top tips?
Alathia – Write, write, write. Find your tribe—genre and stick with them and just write. Every day for ten minutes or two hours, whatever you can spare until you type The End.
Alyson – What are your future writing plans? What’s your next book?
Alathia – ‘Churches Against Zombies’ will be out later this fall, along with a short story in ‘The Undead World Anthology’. I am also working on a pen name to write romance novels with a little spice. There might be a superhero-zombie novel in the works as well.
Alyson – Where can readers follow you on line and contact you?
Alathia Paris Morgan Stalker Links:
Author page: www.facebook.com/apmorganbooks
Street Team: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1442476186066361/
Website & Newsletter signup: www.alathiamg.wix.com/books
Pepper Paris https://www.facebook.com/PepperParisAuthor
Alyson – Welcome to the Horror Tree Monique. Can you tell us something about your roots and upbringing? Where you born and raised in South Africa?
Monique – Hi Alyson, it’s an honour to be here. Yes! I was born and raised in Pretoria, South Africa, and I still live here. I come from humble beginnings, but I was incredibly fortunate to have grown up in the rich multiculturalism my country has to offer, especially during the transitioning years from the Apartheid era into a democracy.
Alyson – What drew you to writing? Is it something you’ve always done?
Monique – I have always been a keen reader and writer. I taught myself to read when I was three years old (my mom was too busy to read me a story, and I’m told I was a stubborn child), and it all just evolved from there. I only became serious about writing when I was nineteen, though.
Alyson – You’re obviously an avid reader, from your Goodreads profile and the large number of your book reviews. (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5780347.Monique_Snyman)
Which books have influenced you as a child? As an adult?
Monique – You found my weakness… books. All the books!
As a child, I was a complete sucker for R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books. I also had a special love for non-fiction paranormal and religion books. I devoured everything from ghosts, aliens, demonic entities, conspiracy theories, and palmistry to Greek mythology, Egyptology, Paganism, and Mysticism. It sort of turned me into the weird kid… obviously.
As an adult, I find myself drawn to much of the same stuff, although I do have more diverse reading habits. The books I have found most inspiring as an author, however, include: Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy, Conn Iggulden’s Wars of the Roses series, Karen Slaughter’s Pretty Girls. I also read anything by Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Sarah J. Maas, Stephen King, Diana Gabaldon, Liane Moriarty, Lauren Beukes, and Rick Riordan (guilty pleasure).
Alyson – Can you describe your typical writing day, your routine? Pen or pc? Study or outside in the garden?
Monique – My routine has changed as of late, due to my having to start working full time again, but typically I do all my writing on a laptop, in my home office. Unfortunately, I’m not like one of those authors who can write every day just because. I have to wait for my inspiration to catch up with my ideas, but when it does, I write until my fingers and/or eyes bleed.
Alyson – You have a blog at http://moniquesnyman.com/blog/ and I found your latest post of 101 Must-Read Classics really interesting and thought provoking. Some I’ve read, some I haven’t. A few faves are on there too. How far through the list are you? Any comments on your reading so far?
Monique – I’m so glad you enjoyed that list!
I’m about thirty books in now (I really need to update my Goodreads with those recently read classics). I found Madame Bovary a bit dreary, and not quite as contemporary as the others I’ve read, but otherwise I’m loving every moment of the classics on the list. The epic poems do take me a little longer to get through than the novels and novellas (like Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy), but it’s so worth reading that I can’t complain.
Alyson – Do you read much horror? For pleasure or research? Do you have any favourite authors?
Monique – Oh, definitely. I specialise in editing horror fiction, so I get my fill of horror for pleasure, work, research, and in all other aspects.
My favourite horror authors include the usual suspects: Stephen King, Joe Hill, Jack Ketchum (my heart’s still broken over his recent passing), Peter Straub, Clive Barker, R.L. Stine (gotta throw him in there). I also enjoy some local horror by authors like: Lauren Beukes, S.L. Grey, and Sarah Lotz. Some newcomers I’m keeping my eye on include: Todd Keisling, Laird Barron, Jasper Bark, Mercedes M. Yardley, and Bracken Macleod.
I can go on…
Alyson – What attracts you to writing horror or fantasy? Why those particular genres?
Monique – I gravitate towards writing horror because I suspect it’s my way of trying to make sense of the heinous things we hear about in the real world every day. Living in South Africa means you need to harden yourself to a lot of weird, sometimes horrible stuff, and to many people our daily realities seem completely fictitious. In the same breath, I write fantasy to escape the brutality of this world. It depends, I suppose, what my mind set is on any given day, but that’s the gist of things.
Alyson – How did you first begin to get published? What were your early successes?
Monique – As I stated earlier, I started writing seriously when I was nineteen years old. My first publication was a short zombie story for a horror anthology, which I think is still available. Then came the first book, which was a YA urban fantasy. I’m not keen on that series whatsoever any more, and I have to admit I outgrew it faster than I could write it, but it did get nominated for a Watty Award in the Favorite Werewolf category. I think all that happened in 2012, but I have actively tried to block anything about that incomplete series out of my memory. *laughs*
Alyson – How does living in Pretoria South Africa influence/inspire your writing? (I know that your novel ‘Muti Nation’ is set in Pretoria for instance-which is certainly a USP in itself!) How much research did you do for the novel? (Its heroine Esme is an occult investigator which is pretty unusual for a job!)
(Available to buy on amazon at:- https://www.amazon.co.uk/Muti-Nation-Monique-Snyman-ebook/dp/B01H63QO1W/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1531232464&sr=8-5&keywords=monique+snyman)
Monique – Well, muti crimes are very real in Africa as a whole. In South Africa specifically, there is a big traditional movement when it comes to healing practices. ‘Muti Nation’ was inspired, mainly, through personal experiences. Some of the things my protagonist sees are things that I’ve seen, the places she goes are the places I’ve been. The book is very “me” in a way. That said, it took me three years to complete the book (the research took two years, the writing took a year), and the main reason for my taking so long to actually write it is because ‘Muti Nation’ sometimes just got too real.
Interestingly, the “occult investigator” bit is not quite as far-fetched in South Africa. Back in the 1990s, during the “Satanic Panic” years, our police actually had an occult unit.
Alyson – You mention in an early post on your new blog that you used to review films for a number of websites. Have particular films (whether horror or not) influenced your writing? Do you have any favourites?
Monique – I draw inspiration from everything and everyone, whether intentionally or not. I think many authors feel the same ways in that regard. That said, I think some of the more atmospheric horror films had a particular influence on my writing style. I like to set the scene, to build the suspense, and then watch the entire story come to a riveting end. I think, in that regard, Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist had a definite influence on my style. Other films that had a big influence on me are the 1980s slashers, like: Nightmare on Elm Street, Child’s Play, Halloween, and Jason. Gotta love those creative kills.
Alyson – Your latest novel, The Night Weaver, is just out on amazon to buy. How long does it take for you to write/edit a novel?
Monique – It depends on the book, I suppose. The Night Weaver took me around 6 months to write and edit, and I had it for a few months before I published it. That one just poured out of me, unlike ‘Muti Nation’, which really took its sweet time to turn into something worth publishing.
Alyson – The Night Weaver is the first instalment in a dark fantasy series for young adults- is this a new departure for you as a writer? Writing a YA series? Is this something you’ve wanted to do for some time?
Monique – Not at all. I started off writing YA, and “dark fantasy” is just a sub-genre of horror, so I’m well within my little bubble of comfort. I just thought that perhaps I could make horror “pretty” and somewhat more palatable for the YA community, whom I hear are a tad wary when it comes to those full-blown scares.
Alyson – Writing is essentially a solitary craft. How do you connect with other writers? Are you in a writing group?
Monique – I used to be more involved in the writing community, but I slowly withdrew from socialising with other writers. The reason is because I edit most of those authors’ works, and it’s only natural for them to be less inclined to be around the person who dissects their manuscript word by word. *giggles*
Alyson – What advice would you give aspiring (horror) writers? What tips have you picked up?
Monique – Firstly, stop calling yourself an “aspiring writer”. Either you’re a writer or you’re not.
Important tips I can give other authors… Well, get out of the house from time to time. Walk around and get some exercise. Remember to eat/sleep/shower from time to time. Also, get yourself a good editor, particularly one who doesn’t care about your feelings. That way, your book will be the best version of itself.
Alyson – What’s coming up next for you as a writer?
Monique – I’m still working on the Shadow Grove series at the moment. The sequel is well on its way, so I’ll hopefully have that done either within this year or early in 2019. After that, I have a horror collection that needs finishing, and then another full-blown horror novel will hopefully happen after that’s done. J
Alyson – How can writers/readers follow or connect with you online?
Monique – You can find me in all the usual social media haunts:
Facebook – http://facebook.com/moniquesnyman.author
Twitter – http://twitter.com/moniquesnyman
Instagram – http://instagram.com/therealmoniquesnyman
Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/monique_snyman
You can also find me on my website: http://moniquesnyman.com