The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Kevin Grover

Stacey – Tell us a little about yourself and where you’re from?

Kevin –  I’m originally from a small island off the south-east coast of England called Sheppey. It’s full of history and has many places to go explore when you’re a kid. It’s a place I’ve based my third novel on, Coulrophobia, mainly because the setting is so interesting. There’s a lot of influence in my other novels from that island, particularly in Monsters Mostly Come out at Night. There’s a place called the Wastelands in the novel that is based on a place I used to play. I moved from the island around 2000, but still visit. I now live in Medway which is also, in Kent. In my full-time job, I’m a police officer in the Met and have been for over 14 years.

Stacey – When did you start writing?

Kevin – From around the age of eight. I remember trying to write my own adventure games in Basic on computers and it was creating the story and writing the descriptions that really interested me. I then started writing a few stories based on computer games, then I first realised I might be good at writing when my English teacher read something I’d written out to the class because she was so impressed. I think that got me really thinking about writing and from there I started writing my own stories.

Stacey – If you could meet any author living or dead, who would it be?

Kevin – I would love to meet Stephen King; his book On Writing is a fantastic guide to novel writing. I highly recommend it. I would also love to meet James Herbert, though he’s sadly dead now. He wrote some really great horror novels in the 80’s, his most famous being the Rats. I’d ask them both everything I could about how they write, where they get their ideas and what keeps them going. I often have this fantasy of meeting Tolkien and sitting down to watch the Lord of the Rings with him and ask what he thinks. When he wrote his epic, I don’t think he’d ever imagined it possible they could film it.

Stacey – Where do you get your inspiration?

Kevin – Sometimes I have a dream that translates well into a story. But most of the time an idea will pop into my head and I get this massive creative surge. If I’m out of ideas, then I’ll go take the dog for a walk. I find a lot of my stories features woods, probably because I like to walk in them with the dog.

Stacey – What’s your writing process like? Do you write during the day or at night?

Kevin – I write a lot at night, into the early hours. There’s less distractions then. But as I’m a shift worker, I often write at work in down time, sometimes even on the train commuting to work.

Stacey – Do you need music or complete silence to write?

Kevin – I like to listen to music when I write, but I can write without it. I’ve learnt how to switch off from background chatter and the TV on in the background, so I tend to be flexible. If I listen to music, it’s generally soundtrack music so it sets a certain mood.

Stacey – Have you always written horror?

Kevin – I used to write a lot of Science Fiction, then I went through a Fantasy stage, but I’ve been drawn to Horror for a few years now. I’m beginning to move more towards thrillers, but I find Horror seeps into that genre easily.

Stacey – Do you have a favourite character from your own works?

Kevin – I really like Jessica from my novel Father’s Song, which is the first novel I wrote. I love how she’s struggling with her addictions and ghosts from her past. It makes her very vulnerable, but strong as she fights against them. She doesn’t easily trust people, tries to act like she’s tough, but deep down she’s really scared. It makes her interesting.

Stacey – Are you afraid of clowns? Most people I speak to are, to some degree.

Kevin – I’m not scared of clowns, but I certainly think there’s something creepy about them. I always think the painted smiles are trying to hide something. I think most things meant for children are creepy: clowns, Punch and Judy, nursery rhymes…. All subjects I’ve written about!

Stacey – Have you seen the latest movie version of IT by Stephen King? What did you think of it?

Kevin – Loved the casting of Pennywise. A hard act to follow after Tim Curry’s iconic version. I thought the cast of the kids were great, but I wasn’t keen on some of the new directions they took, particularly towards the end. I kept thinking “that’s not supposed to happen” and I couldn’t help think the 90’s tv series was better in many areas. That series just fell down on the second part with the adults. I hope the next film does better.

Stacey – Why do you think horror and children’s nursery rhymes go together so well?

Kevin – Most nursery rhymes have sinister meanings behind them. The most famous being Ring a Ring ‘o Roses, which everyone knows is about the black death. Kids sing it without much thought to the real meaning. Then Goosey Goosey Gander is about the killing of Catholics, Oranges and Lemons about executions… There’s lots of dark meanings. I think they go well with horror because it’s darkness hiding within a child’s song. Which is what Father’s Song is about. But what’s creeper than a little child singing a nursery rhyme in a chilling tone? One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…

Stacey – Favourite movie or tv show? (Doesn’t have to be Horror)

Kevin – My favourite show is Twin Peaks. I’m a massive fan of it. Loved the new series that just finished, set 25 years after the end of the last series. I’ve been a fan of Doctor Who since I was very young. I remember watching Tom Baker at the age of five. Modern shows, I’ll watch Game of Thrones, Walking Dead…. Movies… there’s so many, but I love Highlander, Bladerunner, Star Wars, Kubrick’s the Shining, The Exorcist… I could list so many!

Stacey – Was it exciting being selected as runner up in the Writers Online Competition?

Kevin – It came just in time to keep me going because I was close to giving up ever being published. It gave me a good push to go on. I’ve been shortlisted a couple of more times in Writing Magazine, which also gives me a boost. I mainly write because… I have to. But a little recognition is really nice.

Stacey – Your fourth novel is being edited now, isn’t it? Can you tell us a little about it? Do you have a release date yet?

Kevin – It’s got a working title of The Crow and is more of a paranormal thriller than a straight horror. It’s about a young couple, Rick and Neve,  who move to an area famous for UFO sightings. After a series of incidents where they are being stalked, Neve is found dead in the woods, murdered. A year later, after the funeral, Neve returns with no memory of what happened. But Rick’s moved on after grieving and finds it hard to accept this is Neve after he identified her body himself. And their stalker now returns, writing threatening letters and smashing windows. By the end of the novel, Rick doesn’t know who to trust and wonders if it’s just one big alien conspiracy. I’m hoping to publish by March.

Stacey – Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share?

Kevin – A silver light appeared above the trees, hovering in the dark, pulsing as though in time to his heartbeat. For a second, he thought he was dreaming, but he felt the cool grass under his feet, the wind in his face. He stopped, stared at the light as it shot up high into the sky and vanished. More lights appeared above the trees, circling around each other as though dancing. The wind picked up as the lights grew closer towards him, growing brighter until he had to look away. Then the dark returned and he shivered. In the distance he heard the rumble of thunder across the Kent countryside. Clouds had gathered in, cold rain falling. A quick flash and then a rumble. The storm was coming.

“Neve!” he shouted, running as fast as he could. As he plunged into the trees, lightning illuminated his way for a split second. The rain hammered down on him as though he was walking through a waterfall and the thunder and lightning raged on. When he couldn’t run further, he slumped down against a tree, the thick branches giving a little shelter from the rain. What if whoever had been watching, sending notes and breaking into the house had kidnapped her? That sick person who had ripped a rabbit in two and left it outside their caravan could’ve been hiding in the shadows all night, waiting for a chance to get to Neve. Now he’d run blindly into the woods. What if that’s where they wanted him?

They never found the murderer, Rick. Some people think he fled into the woods and is hiding out there to this day.

Jumping up, he stumbled in what he hoped was the way out. The woods disorientated him, the rain blinding him.  Now he fell into a rage, angry at himself for being so stupid. The lights had just been there to distract him, lure him away. Aliens had abducted her, like they had with Jenny. Lightning flashed, followed by a bang. A scream rose above the thunder, silenced with abruptness. The rain roared around him, falling so hard it hurt his skin. He wasn’t sure how long he continued on, running until his lungs burned, then walking until he found his breath again. As his morale hit the lowest point, the rain stopped as sudden as it had started. He shivered, cursing to himself that he’d not bothered with a top. When he couldn’t go on, he sat down on a fallen tree and gazed around at the dark, listening to nocturnal woodland noises. They said if you saw someone drowning, the worse thing to do was to jump in after them because it would put you in danger too, a victim to the strong currents that had got the person you were trying to save into trouble. The currents had got him, pulled him deeper and he couldn’t swim back out again. Gasping, struggling for air, he was desperate to be in the open. The trees moved in on him, uprooting themselves to hinder his progress. They got into his head, made him feel watched, hunted. He staggered on, branches scratching his face. At some point the sky became that dark blue just before sunrise. It was as though his mind had shut down for a couple of hours as he walked and now he’d returned. Lights grew in intensity before him. They’d come for him and he didn’t have the energy to escape.

Thank you so much for your time Kevin! If you would like to find out more about Kevin and his writing endeavours, check out the links below.


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The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Robert Mackey

Stacey – Tell us a little about yourself and where you’re from?

Robert – I’ll just use one of my bios here to say a little about myself and give readers an idea of my sense of humour.

Robert Mackey is a retired construction worker and real estate investor turned writer. Robert’s works intended for the mg/ya age groups are free of sex, killing and profanity. His works for adult audiences can’t even begin to make this claim.

Robert currently resides near the megalopolis of Addy, Washington, a hamlet working desperately to attain the coveted ‘One Horse’ status. So far all they have is those stick ponies you know, the stick with the little plastic head at the end that you hold between your legs and run around playing cowboy? Actually, half the people in town have those and the other half have stick cows. Every spring the people with the ponies round up the people with the cows and chase them into the hills to pasture for the summer. It’s pretty quiet around town in the summer. (Got a little sidetracked there.)

Robert lives there with his lovely wife Janice and his teenage son Joshua who has a vocabulary consisting of two sentences which Joshua feels are sufficient to get him through the balance of his life. They are as follows, “Huh?” and “I don’t know.” In case you have any toddlers and are trying to teach them to speak, these few words should be all they need to master in order to make it through high school. These sentences must always be used in conjunction with one another and in the order in which they’ve been presented.

Robert lives by the following adage: No matter how many heads have to roll in the attainment of you goals, be certain to smile and wave at them as they pass. It’s best to do your beheading on a hill with your opponent uphill from you to insure the head actually rolls and to prolong the amount of time you get to smile and wave. (Very important.)

Stacey – Has your kid/s ever read any of your work?

Robert – My eldest read the Antonio series to his girlfriend’s daughter who loved them. He also read both of my adult novels. My youngest read the youth books as I was writing them, but never the finished product. He said he liked everything. What else was he going to say? Prior to going off to college he was an insatiable reader, but if there weren’t dragons, magic and waring, he wasn’t really interested.

Stacey – When did you start writing?

Robert – I started writing about five years ago when my son and his friends were reading The Hunger Games series. I was troubled by the thought of kids reading about kids killing each other for food and the entertainment of adults. I thought it would be interesting to see if I could come up with something free of killing, sex, and profanity that would still be engaging to a young audience. I think I succeeded.

Stacey – You write Middle Grade fiction, is it rewarding?

Robert – I love writing for the MG and YA age group. It’s a lot of fun.

Stacey – If you could meet any author living or dead, who would it be?

Robert – I would love to meet Tom Robbins. One of my new neighbors informed me he used to live next door to him.  He gave Mr. Robbins one of my books. I was hoping for an endorsement. Mr. Robbins replied, informing me he was now blind and could no longer read. His writing is insane and quite brilliant.

Stacey – What do you enjoy most about writing?

Robert – I think character creation is my favorite aspect of writing. There’s somewhere around forty characters in my The Amazing and ludicrous Adventures of Doctor Antonio series…maybe more. Quite a challenge to keep them all participating in the action.

Stacey – Where do you get your inspiration?

Robert – I have a very twisted and active imagination. Ideas just kind of pop up.

Stacey – What’s your writing process like?

Robert – I never outline. Once an idea I like presents itself I just sit down and start typing. I just ask myself, “What happens next?” Most often the answer comes in dreams. Beyond that I have one rule: something must always be happening…very little room for descriptions of people, places or things. I let dialogue and the character’s personalities paint most of the picture.

Stacey – Do you need music or complete silence to write?

Robert – Silence, phone off, internet off, no one in the house. I usually write from about 1:00 AM until someone else in the house stirs.

Stacey – What’s the best writing advice you’ve come across so far?

Robert – Put your work down for a considerable time. 90 days at the least. Six months would be better. There are many others. Don’t be in a hurry to publish your work. It can always be improved upon. Join a writing group. In one I recently joined, the author is not allowed to read his or her own works. Hearing the ease which others can read your wok aloud is a great help in deciding whether or not your work is ready for the public. The input others give can be a great help in perfecting your work.

Stacey – What was the first story you had published?

Robert – The Amazing and Ludicrous Adventures of Doctor Antonio-Trouble with Howlers.

Stacey – Do you have a favourite character from your own works?

Robert – I am very fond of little Abigail Farnswoth Fisk III from Something’s the Matter in Hell. She is an exceptionally brilliant, totally fearless eleven year old with a pure heart, but isn’t afraid of using profanity or lying to attain her goals.

Stacey – Which character from your stories/novels would you get along with?

Robert – I simply adore Satan from There’s something the Matter in Hell. She’s one of the thrill seeking nuns from The Sisters of the Eternal Wave. (They love surfing.) Satan is a smart-ass. She makes up scripture to fit her needs. She’s my kind of gal.

Stacey – I’ve never heard of comedy horror as a genre before, but it seems to work. Was it fun to write?

Robert – I have a very difficult time keeping comedy from any genre. Hard Way Out is a tragedy but contains some seriously funny scenes.

Stacey – Do you find book signings and readings rewarding? I find public speaking nerve wracking myself. What about you?

Robert – I just held my first signing engagement and found that I just love talking to people. I’ll be holding my first reading in a week or so and am quite nervous. One of my shorts was read in a local writers group I recently joined. I was thrilled with the laughs my work got but when there was silence as the next funny bit was being set up it was quite unsettling. I’ll see how this one goes. I’ve been in a room when a comedian’s bit wasn’t well received. Don’t know how they survive it. The thing about comedy is that one is always at risk of offending. Especially in this day and age. Don’t know how the excerpts from There’s Something the Matter in Hell is going to be received in my little right-wing community.

Stacey – How do you select names for your characters? At random? Or do you take names from people you know?

Robert – I almost always use the names of my son’s friends. They seem to get a kick out of it.

Stacey – I noticed your latest release The Other Side of the Wall was released in September, I love the idea of talking animals and magic. It seems to be a perfect combination for a middle grade book.

Robert – Well it worked for C S Lewis. Not too many kids who don’t love animals and magic.

Stacey – Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share?

Robert – Here’s a little something not yet published. I’m creating a story told exclusively through newspaper articles.


    This Thursday, Addy’s city council, which is comprised of Shandra Gotnothin and Jenny Loafer, two of Addy’s most active do-nothings and its biggest welfare recipients and crack whores, decided amongst themselves that Addy needed to elevate its standing of ‘Shithole on the Side of the Highway, to ‘One Horse Town’ status, due to the fact that neither of them had been paid for services rendered for at least two weeks.

     The two held the meeting under the back steps of the Addy Inn. The quorum consisted of the two low-life whores and seven flea infested cats. The vote came in at eight to one in favor of the status elevation. The one holdout was a tabby named Guinevere who was adamant that should the proposal pass, she would in all likelihood be trampled by at least one of the horse’s four hooves; that is if they chose to get a four legged horse.

    It was decided that the following morning there would be a parade. And there was one. I’ll try and explain the circumstances and outcome of said instance in a somewhat cohesive manner. Yours truly has had several shots of Jim Beam’s honey flavored whiskey, a number of really crappy bears, wait, not bears, beers, several hits off the weed pipe and a handful of Kim Lawson’s dearly departed mother’s Oxy. (Which I look at as a gift from God.)  So…here it is. Hope you can follow.

    The total losers who somehow elevated themselves from the level of ‘Dirt bags of the Valley’, to ‘Representatives of the Community’, had decided that they would put on a parade to promote their agenda. So precisely at 1:00 pm, one hour past the time welfare recipients pull their useless asses out of bed, the one and only entry in the parade walked…no galloped… no, stumbled, drunkenly down whatever the newly paved street with no name is, which parallels Highway 395. The entry consisted of twenty of Addy’s High Society Club members, all of whom live day to day suckling at the welfare teat, hence the reason they could afford to purchase their costumes. The costumes? Those little stick horses. You know, the ones with the plastic, fluff- stuffed horse head that comes in red, white, or black, and is stapled to a stick? Yeah…those, and a cowboy hat.

     Now as these idiots were parading south down the street, chanting “ONE HORSE TOWN” to an audience consisting of, well, me. And the only reason I was there was due to the fact that I had been holding a parlay with Captain Morgan at the Addy Inn on the previous evening. While trying to find my way home, I got my foot stuck in a hole and immediately toppled over and passed out. Upon waking, I discovered the offending hole was the first and only fencepost hole dug for a project which the city council, (Shandra and Jenny), had started sometime in the past. They intended to put up a sound barrier designed to reduce the noise from the traffic on 395. This was supposed to keep them from waking before they were finished sleeping off the previous night’s Meth consumption. It seems traffic noise is very disturbing to paranoid, tweakers. How do I know this? No, as an intelligent person might surmise, it is not from personal experience, but from living in a hamlet inhabited by connoisseurs of the meth.  Well, being an investigative reporter, and a pretty damned good one I might add; upon waking that morning…well early afternoon actually, I found my head wasn’t really ready to engage the day. So, I fluffed my pillow before turning over and going back to sleep. That’s when it hit me. I’m lying on the side of the highway. I shouldn’t have a pillow. So I unfolded my pillow and low and behold, I had found that it was actually a set of blue prints. It was very professionally done. A light, blue-print-blue background, obviously created by pealing the paper off a crayon and dragging it back and forth over the butcher paper, which was splattered with what I’m guessing to be the bloody drippings of venison or some other unfortunate wild or domesticated creature which our city crackheads…I mean council members, had probably run over with their three wheeled bicycles during some early morning Tweaker Olympics or some such drug inspired activity. These meth heads can be pretty darned creative around two in the morning. Anyway, across the top of the paper, in midnight blue Crayola, was printed, by an obviously quite shaky hand, GOTNOTHING AND LOAFER CIVILIAN ENGINEERS TOOT TOOT. (I’m guessing the ‘TOOT TOOT’ was added as a result of our under educated city council members thinking that any time the term engineer is used that both types of engineers need to be honored or in some way mentioned. I mean, who knows what these people are thinking? Anyhow, under the company’s logo was a drawing: two vertical lines about three inches tall at either end of the sheet of paper with an horizontal line connecting the two vertical lines about two thirds the way up the vertical lines. At what were semi-regular spacing’s, little tiny x’s were drawn through the horizontal line. Printed under the intricate drawing were the words. 395 SOUND BARRIER. Personally, I’m not sure that two posts and a single strand of barbed wire would do too much to reduce the traffic noise. Having never taken physics in high school, I am not qualified to judge the merit of the concept. It’s possible there might be something in the, ‘two thirds up the post strategic placement of a single strand of barbed wire theory’, that does something to soundwaves emanating from passing vehicles which diminishes their vibrational frequency or some such thing. Again, I’m not the one to ask. Anyway, the whole project had obviously been scrapped, because in addition to the fact that there was only one hole, this hole had, over time, again, just surmising here, collected enough trash and drunken journalist feet to render it useless for the planting of posts.

    Anyway, as the herd of drunken and drugged cowboys…and girls, tore down the street on their majestic steeds, a relatively large group of the local Colville Indian tribe’s well intentioned MC, (That’s motorcycle club.), Geronimo’s German Chocolate Cake Lovers came barrelling up the highway from the south. When the MC saw the cowboys and cowgirls charging in their direction, they thought the wicked, white devils were mounting an attack. The white, horse-mounted folk, were in fact, headed in the direction of the Chewelah Casino.

    Well, it was the Little Big Horn all over again. The Indians encircled the platoon of horse-mounted soldiers and cut them to ribbons with their cake forks and little, triangular spatulas. It was over in a heartbeat. No life was spared by the Indians, not even the livestock. Oh, the horsemanity! There were broken black sticks and shreds of red, white, and black vinyl, as well as little bits of fluff, everywhere, not to mention the bodies of a number of Addy’s elite, which isn’t nearly as great a loss as the deaths of all the stick ponies.

    When I interviewed the MC’s president, Chief Leanshardtotheleft, a devout Democrat, he had this to say, “We were unknowingly blessed when Jack Toodumbtogotothestore traded the tribe’s one and only cow for a hand full of magic casino beans.  Imagine our surprise when the things actually sprouted and flowered into a nice little casino! The white devils were obviously headed for the Chewelah Casino. As everyone knows, people from Addy don’t have jobs, so it was highly unlikely they were on their way to do some harmless gambling. They had to be stopped! Sorry about the horses though. Anyway, gotta ride! Colville High School is holding a cakewalk!

     So back to the headline of this article, EMERGENCY CENSUS NEEDED, I thought it would be easier to take a census than to count the bodies of the vanquished so I can change the population sign. Because I really hate false advertising.

Thank you so much for your time Robert! If you would like to find out more about Robert and his writing endeavours, check out the links below.

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The Horror Tree Presents…An Interview with Phoebe Darquling

Stacey – Tell us a little about yourself and where you’re from?

Phoebe – I grew up in a place colder than Moscow every winter and hotter than Miami in the summer. Sounds far off and exotic, right? Well, it’s actually Minnesota! And whether I am petting friendly stray cats at the Hagia Sofia, strolling down the mosaiced streets of Freiburg, or gazing into the hot springs at Yellowstone, Minnesota will always call me home. I’ve been a bit of a nomad these past few years after a “quarter-life crisis,” followed by bouncing between institutions as The Mister completed his research, his PhD, and got his first post-doc.

Stacey – When did you start writing?

Phoebe – I got serious about writing fiction the same time we made our first nomadic leap of faith. But I admit, I am one of those writers who started young. It was that middle part where I lost my way. My first novel just sort of poured out of me at a time when I was feeling crushed by real life, and reminded me that there were other ways to feel.

Stacey – You write Steampunk. It’s an interesting genre. What drew you to it?

Phoebe – The first time I heard the word Steampunk was in 2009. But once someone explained it to me, it was more like finally having a word for the things I already liked than finding something new. In short, Steampunk is a genre of literature and its adaptations that is informed by the science and superstitions of the Victorian era, and has inspired costumers, prop makers, and other artisans to apply the aesthetic to a variety of things. I love the real 19th century, but I also love to give things a twist here and there, and that is the “punk” part of Steampunk. I started a blog to explore the facets of Steampunk in 2013, but was invited to join and am in the process of transferring all of my content there.

Stacey – You’re involved with the Network of Indie Steampunks. How did that come about?

Phoebe – It was my brainchild, in fact. I am still in the initial stages as my living situation remains fluid, but the goal is to bring together Steampunk authors to act as beta readers and co-promoters. I’ve also recruited several Steampunk websites to participate in blog tours to help promote these awesome independent writers. The Network of Indie Steampunks (NOIS) is intended to be a membership program that gives members discounts on products and services writers need, as well as marketing support like a free blog tour. Army of Brass will be the pilot blog tour in spring 2018.

Stacey – What do you enjoy most about writing?

Phoebe – For me, writing a story is a string of small epiphanies. Details can suddenly fall into place. Characters will change their minds on you. A little historical detail throws a door wide open or slams it shut. One word changes the mood of a whole scene. I love the feeling of solving all of these puzzles.

Stacey – Where do you get your inspiration?

Phoebe – I mentioned my fascination with the 19th century, and I think that comes in large part from watching period mysteries with my parents. I enjoyed history and seeing how these people were alike but different from me. I got older, I found myself drawn to elements of culture more than the cold facts and dates, and took anthropology courses. I know that being exposed to so many cultures, as well as simply the possibility that there are so many different ways to be humans, made science fiction and fantasy and obvious segue.

Stacey – Has anyone influenced your writing along the way?

Phoebe – In a very direct way, my mother was my first editor. She would read my essays and help me with my arguments (not to mention my punctuation). The authors who have influenced me the most would probably be Kurt Vonnegut on the sci-fi side, and Neil Gaiman on the fantasy side. Plus, Joss Whedon has definitely influenced the way I try to integrate humor into even the direst situations.

Stacey – What’s your writing process like?

Phoebe – Evolving! My first novel willed itself into being by taking over my whole brain for months at a time. The second was a product of plotting, pre-writing, and NaNoWriMo 2016. In the interim, I’ve read a few more books about the craft of writing, which is changing the process once again. I’ve got a Blake Snyder-style beat sheet to work with as I embark on the next project later this month.

Stacey – What was the first story you had published?

Phoebe – “Next Time” under the pen name M.E. Anders. It’s a romance story set in current times, which is a big deviation from my other work so far, so I created a name that spelled “meanders.”

Stacey – I see you’re a fan of American Gods. Have you seen the television series, and who’s your favourite character?

Phoebe – Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the show yet, but I am excited for it! There are a lot of great characters to choose from, but for some reason, I’ve always liked Czernobog. Maybe it is the Eastern European thing, or his role in the story, but he’s always stuck out to me.

Stacey – Do you have a favourite character from your own works?

Phoebe – I think I have two, and they are favorites for completely different reasons. One is a complete wide-eyed optimist and often wise in his own childish way. The other is a professional liar with a heart of gold buried somewhere deep below her selfish streak.

Stacey – I see you’re a coordinator at CWC, tell us about it.

Phoebe – That was a huge learning experience, to say the least. The Collaborative Writing Challenge brings together over 100 writers per project to write a novel. We plan on 30 chapters, and up to five writers attempting each chapter with the aid of reference notes and one previous chapter. As the coordinator, it was my job to select the chapter (or sometimes chapters) that would be included in the book each week. Army of Brass was the seventh project and was Steampunk-themed to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the word Steampunk. In the end, we reached chapter 30 but still had too much story to tell. I formed a committee with some writers who already had chapters in the book, and we worked together to plot and write the ending. The CWC is taking a year off to give attention to their current releases, but they will begin Project 8 with a romance theme in late 2018.

Stacey – Your story The Vigil appears in Chasing Magic, did you have fun with it?

Phoebe – That story started life as an entry into a different contest. At that time, I was with a small (but now defunct) publisher that was going to start a collaborative novel. I wrote The Vigil as a potential starter chapter. I definitely had fun writing it! I had been thinking about magic rings and how I could make the idea feel “fresh,” and I’d wanted to write something atmospheric in the tradition of Edgar Allan Poe. The story fell together from there. And who knows? Maybe I will still make it a novel some day…

Stacey – I see you’ve got a steampunk series in the works. When is it due for release?

Phoebe – Originally, I was going to self-publish a series of novellas. I submitted the first part to just two potential publishers because I knew novellas were a long shot. Months passed and I heard nothing, so I announced my self-publishing date. Within a week, I heard back from both of them requesting full manuscripts! After some feedback and a lot of revisions, No Rest for the Wicked is now a single novel rather than multiple novellas. It’s with my last beta readers now, and will go a­-querying soon. But you can read excerpts on my author blog every Friday! (

Stacey – Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share?

Phoebe – Absolutely! This is from Chapter 1 of my story about a con woman in the old West who is forced out of retirement when her past comes back to haunt her…literally.

The ghost removed his hat and tried his best to mollify her. “Please, I must speak with you.”

“No. What you must do is move on and stop bothering the living. I’m out of the business of running errands for the dead, thank you very much.” Vi’s hands traced shallow furrows in the water.

“But you don’t even know what I want.”


“It’s my wife, you see—”

“Still no.”

“There are these men and—”

“Definitely no.”

“We owe them some money.”

“I can keep this up all night,” she warned.

“But, they’re going to—”



She raised her hands out of her bathwater and moved them like a conductor as she sang to the tune of a new song that had been making the rounds. “I’m not interested in helping, all the live-long day.” Her hands dropped back into the water with a splash.

If he could breathe, the ghost’s chest would have been heaving in anger, but in his current state he had to settle for pulling a sour face. “Well, I had to try. My wife is—was—my whole life.” The ghost donned his spectral hat and turned to leave with a final mumble to himself. “He warned you she wouldn’t help.”

After the lengths she’d gone to disappear, there shouldn’t be anyone for hundreds of miles who knew about her “special talent.”

“Yep, he was right,” she called lazily, then the water surged as she sat forward with sudden interest. “Wait. Who warned you I wouldn’t help?” After the lengths she’d gone to disappear, there shouldn’t be anyone for hundreds of miles who knew about her “special talent.”

“Will you help me if I tell you?” the ghost asked, hope written in the lines of his gently glowing face.

Vi narrowed her eyes. “I can guarantee I won’t help you if you don’t tell me.”

He smiled and waved his hands in imitation of her earlier display. “I’m not interested in telling, all the live-long day.”

She looked away in a huff. Not knowing the identity of the referrer was going to eat at her, but the information alone wasn’t worth the price of dealing with this guy.

Hat in hand, he tried again. “Aw, shucks ma’am. I promise. I’ll tell you the whole sorry tale of how I found out about you as soon as you agree to help me.”

“No wonder you’ve gotten yourself in trouble,” she said with disgust. “You shouldn’t offer to pay someone up front, you need to hold onto whatever it is for leverage.”

“Alright. Then I promise to tell you after you help me.”

“Nope. Still not interested. It would take a lot more than that to get me out of this tub.”

His face fell for a moment before he brightened. “Well, there’s always the gold.”

Vi’s half-smile returned. “You didn’t say anything about gold before.”


Stacey – Thank you so much for your time, Phoebe! If you would like to find out more about Phoebe and her work, check out the below links.



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