The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with K. Matt

Stacey – Hi, it’s great to have you here! Tell us a little about yourself and where you’re from?

K – Thanks for the interview offer! Alright, so, I’m Kayla, but I also go by K. Matt. I live in an extremely rural part of New York state. Yes, there’s a huge chunk of New York that’s NOT NYC. Sorry…I get a little salty about that. Anyway, I’m both a writer and an illustrator.

 

Stacey – When did you start writing?

K – I can’t remember exactly when I started writing, but I have been writing at least one of my characters for about…17 years or so, if memory serves.

 

Stacey – What genres do you write in and what drew you to them?

K – I’ve always been a fan of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, and I enjoy writing them. The thought of writing things that take place in different worlds is a fun way to forget about reality for a while.

 

Stacey – What do you enjoy most about writing?

K. – Probably the fact that I get to create a different world, play with characters that aren’t entirely human…

 

Stacey – What scares you?

K – Probably the feeling that I’ll never amount to anything in my life. Ever.

 

Stacey – Where do you get your inspiration?

K – Just about anything can inspire me. My first book came from a dream I’d had, the antagonist of the first story arc was based around the villains you see in slasher films…I never know what will spark something.

 

Stacey – Which authors have influenced your writing along the way?

K – Oh, that’s a hard one…Stephen King’s one of them. I’ve also gotten some influence from J.K. Rowling, and various other sources that I’m trying to recall right now.

 

Stacey – What’s your writing process like?

K – It’s rare that I’ll plan anything in advance. I generally sit down and start writing when an idea won’t go away. I’ll write a little bit of it, before I’ll lose focus, do something else for a while, remember I should be writing… When I finish, I’ll wonder just how terrible it is. Leave it alone for a while, come back to it, realize it’s not as terrible as I thought…

 

Stacey – What was the first story you had published?

K – That would be Visions, which was inspired by a dream I had where I was one of my roleplay characters. The rest of the series is basically the aftermath of that.

 

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

K – That may be Travis. I love all of them, yes, but my monkey-human hybrid is probably my favorite.

 

Stacey – Has there ever been a book you couldn’t finish? Why or why not?

K – There are a few books I haven’t finished. I’m trying to remember which ones, exactly, but it wasn’t for lack of interest. It was just that I got distracted and found myself focused on something else, eventually forgetting to return to my reading.

 

Stacey – What’s the last Horror movie/tv show you watched?

K – Last horror movie was Get Out; the last show was The Walking Dead.

 

Stacey – If you could go back in time who would you go back in time to see?

K – I probably shouldn’t go back in time, period, because I just know I’ll be that one idiot to screw up the timeline.

 

Stacey – What’s the best piece of advice you could give someone who is just getting started on their author journey?

K – Advice and critique are both beneficial, but don’t forget to listen to your own intuition.

 

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

From Deception, book 4 of the series:

My lungs feel like they’re about to explode, and the world around me is a haze of pain. At least the grass feels nice.

Less nice is the laughter from nearby.

“…Shut up, Travis…” I mutter.

More laughter.

“Dude, you’re gonna have to do way better than that,” he says.

He’s standing over me, a hand extended to help me to my feet. Travis has been putting me through an intensive training regimen lately, with the intention of helping me learn to better defend myself. For this session, I’ve found myself being flipped head over heels onto the ground. Beast was going to do it, originally. But her job comes first. And so, she’s asked Travis to step in for her.  

The only real results it’s yielded have been soreness and a reluctance to leave the ground. I reach up to wave him away. Or pathetically flail my arm in an attempt to wave him away. One of those.

“No, leave me. The grass is my new domain,” I groan.

But he’s clearly not having any of it, pulling me upright. I wait for my arms to pop out of their sockets as he does so. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen.

“How about we go in for a drink?” he asks.

“Sounds good.”

“Need me to shoulder you in there?”

“If you would…”

And so, with Travis’ support, we make our way into the house. My metal foot is creaking in a way it shouldn’t be. Maybe we should see about dialing back the intensity of our workouts a bit. I doubt my cybernetic leg was really built for this sort of activity, anyway. Let’s face it, I’m kind of a delicate person, myself, and the leg is a lightweight piece of technology.

I would not, of course, need the leg were it not for one Jesse Lynn Belle. She may be locked away in prison until her execution date, but she still haunts my nightmares. Thankfully, the nightmares have been few and far between since her arrest.

We reach the kitchen, and I pull myself onto one of the bar stools, prepared to rest my head on the bar itself and take a nap. But first, I’m hoping for some water.

A cold water bottle is set down near my head. I knew there was a reason I was friends with Travis. He knows me like no other sometimes. I push myself upright and open the bottle, chugging some of that beautifully cold liquid.

“Travis…would it be possible for us to go a bit less…intense with our workouts, do you think? I’m not sure my leg could hold up to it.”

He sits on the stool beside me, cracking open an iced tea.

“You know we’ve only been doing this on your days off. If you had more free time, we’d be able to spread this out.”

“But I’m exhausted…”

“I know, dude, I know. But you’d need to be able to defend yourself better. After the whole thing with that bitch Jesse, you’d be better off with it, y’know?”

I’d have gone for a gun were it not for his aversion to firearms. I don’t think Gemmy would be too pleased with it either, to tell the truth. My leg doesn’t have any weapons of any sort, not like Beast. Her limbs essentially are weapons. My wife has that enhanced speed that she rarely ever uses. Travis is gifted with a strong regenerative ability. Ivy has those psionic abilities of hers, and her sister is a magic user. I may be the only normal-ish human of my family. I mean, even Serena has the feline attributes and has forgotten more than I could ever hope to learn about robotics.

Though I do wonder what it would take to become, say, a magic user. It’s something I’ve only really started thinking about in the last two weeks. Not sure what brought these thoughts about, to be honest. I imagine that it would take great mental prowess. I would not admit to being a genius of any sort, but I have been able to pull myself through school to become a doctor. And not to brag, but I am quite good at my job. Never lost a patient yet.

Perhaps this idea has legs…

I take another sip of water.

“So… Trav? What do you think it’d take for someone to learn magic? Do you suppose they would have to be born with a certain spark? I know it’s not merely the realm of fantasy. We’ve both experienced the use of it firsthand, right?”

He chews on his bottom lip for a second or two, finger tapping the counter.

“True. But Yvette’s out on a job with Beast and Ivy, so it’s not like we can just ask her, y’know?”

I nod. What if we were to run a search online for ways to learn magic? Of course, I would need to deal with our ancient computer. I still have yet to upgrade that thing… And by “upgrade” I mean “replace entirely with a new model”. It’s approximately five operating systems behind, and the keyboard has that one key that continually pops out of place. The CD drive is a bust, and the display is just awful. I sometimes hear the hard drive clicking, and it’s slower than a snail trailing its way through a pool of molasses. Half of the USB ports only work about half of the time, and something seems to have chewed through the casing of the power cord.

Yes. I think we need a new one.

“Think Gemmy might know anything about it?” Travis asks me, propping himself up on the counter by his elbows.

I hadn’t considered her to be a possibility there. But perhaps…

“That is a possibility,” I reply. “But how does one ask their wife about that?”

“I dunno. Just come right out and ask?”

I sigh, trying to figure out how to word it. As I think, I hear the soft beep of the door unlocking. In walks Gemmy, our son strapped into the baby harness on her chest. She didn’t have any classes to worry about today, and so took Daniel to the park. I pull myself off of the bar stool to greet them, hearing the creaks and groans of my joints.

I’m only nearing 30. I should not be hearing these sounds from my body just yet. It makes it seem like I should have some gray hair (and given my previous experiences, I’m actually quite amazed that I don’t)

Thank you so much for your time, Kayla! If you would like to find out more about K. Matt, check out the links below.

https://www.amazon.com/K.-Matt/e/B00U5GLUNU

https://www.goodreads.com/KMatt_HellBent

https://www.facebook.com/HellBentBookSeries

https://www.bookbub.com/profile/k-matt

 

 

 

 

The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview With Lydia Peever

Ruschelle: We’re glad to have you here at the Horror Tree. Make yourself comfortable. Have a freshly baked scone. I baked them with love-and a little bone and sinew. It makes for a fluffier scone and gets rid of those pesky neighbors.

Lydia: I am a huge fan of bone and sinew, so I am sure this goes better with coffee than neighbours ever could. Thank you!

 

Ruschelle: When did you first realize you were a dark and scary gal rather than one of the bright and shiny variety?

Lydia: Maybe when I was three and realized not many other kids liked spending time tending cemeteries, pressing flowers, and investigating roadkill. Other people had far more children’s books than we did too, having grown up with more Edgar Allan Poe and Washington Irving lining the shelves than Berenstain Bears.

 

Ruschelle: You host a creepy podcast called Dead Air where you discuss horror films. Tell us a little about the method to your madness. How do you choose the movies when there are so many fantastic beasts to pick apart?

Lydia: It is deceptively easy when my co-host, Wes ‘Dead Air’ Knipe is a deep mine of the darkest horror lore, and not a production meeting goes by without us adding a few more gems to our list of to-watch titles. We try to pick things we love, that the other hasn’t seen, and sometimes try to unearth a theme while we go. Some are surprised that our show is unscripted, but we do just banter naturally.

 

Ruschelle: List your top 5 films all horror buffs should watch and kindly explain why.

Lydia: It is a terrible task to attempt to choose horror films or books for another. I’ll list some for the sake of curiosity, while knowing full well there is a different kind of fan out there for every colour of the horror rainbow. Halloween and Halloween II sit together as one that I feel really sum up the genre in a lot of ways with excellent writing and filmmaking. Pieces will appease the fan of old grainy slashers, and Terrifier will bring that to the 21st century. Hell House occupies a space for me as a film and book that equally terrorized my teenage mind and hold a lot of gothic charm under it’s cursed roof. Hellraiser has to be in there since it has been such a delightful vision for me, for so many others, and continues to be.

 

Ruschelle: As a Horror Writer Association member, you have been knighted (just roll with me here) with the awe-inspiring responsibility of updating their ‘new releases’ website! Is this just one of the many benefits of being a HWA member?

Lydia: As with any good writers association, group or affiliation, it can be pretty much what you want it to be! As a casual meeting place, a formal representative, a networking hub, the HWA does excel and continues to expand and experiment with ways to serve authors. From my point of view, as cliche as it sounds, you get out of it what you put in to it. I was a member for a couple years before volunteering to keep the new releases updated, and I have loved it every month for something like four years now!

 

Ruschelle: You are a short stories girl and novelist. Most writers aspire to be novelists, unlike myself who is a champion of the short and sweet. Okay, I honestly don’t have the attention span for a novel—or much of anything—

…eggs, milk, squeaky toy for pups, new recreational axe with self cleaning blade…

OOPS, sorry! Grocery list.  See what I mean about attention span?

What do you find is the most difficult while crafting a novel compared to shorter works?

Lydia: Keeping motivated. There is something magical about having an idea, grinding out a draft, polishing a draft, then having a brain-child of a short story ready for the world in as little as a day or month. The long haul that is a novel can deflate me. If I could approach my novels with as much energy as I do short stories, there would be more than one published by now.

 

Ruschelle: Speaking of novels, your offering, Nightface is a fantastic vampire tale. Which vampires and their mythos did you find your inspiration?

Lydia: There is a little of every vampire I’ve ever met in Gunnar and Solomon, who feature in Nightface. There are also non-vampire inspirations like the most visceral fight scenes in film, occultists of centuries passed, and medical experimentation. The quieter vampires of Anne Rice made a big impact, and even more so did the worldbuilding of Vampire: The Masquerade in the mid-90s when White Wolf had such wonderful guides for live-action role-playing, specifically the Brujah clan.

 

Ruschelle: You have a sequel to Nightface being birthed. Will you give us a little nibble of where the story begins…or will you have to kill us if you give us the skinny?

Lydia: If only video existed of the night I read the first chapter at the ChiSeries night in Ottawa! There were about ninety very intrigued and slightly disturbed friends and fans there to hear it. The book begins at the end of Black River Road in the field surrounding an abandoned estate featured in Nightface. The working title has changed a few times, but the final title is now Nightface: Elders. Some people have asked if certain characters come back, and I’d have to say everyone comes back… in one way or another.

 

Ruschelle: If you could be turned into any blood-thirsty or modernly vegan creature, what would it be and why?

Lydia: It may be out of the horror universe proper, but once of the Radley family from Matt Haig’s book would be an interesting life that can pass for human. Truly, I’m already not far off the Jarmusch vampires, with the obvious exception of committing murder. There is something to be said for a perfect and near-rare cut of meat so I’d not compromise there, given the choice.

 

Ruschelle: You have been featured in quite a few anthologies. Do you find you enjoy the challenge of writing for a specific submission or do you dig through the bones of your un-homed ‘children’ and see if one might fit into a certain theme? Hey, we all want our children to fit in.

Lydia: Being that kid that never fit in, I think I have my own elegant solution to that – even if it ends up being a little backward. I’ve written for submission calls and really enjoy the ‘writing prompt’ that serves. As anyone, I either don’t make the cut or don’t make the deadline in many cases. Instead of trying to home the story elsewhere, I’ll keep it for use in Pray Lied Eve. That is, unless a really suitable home can be found. Sometimes I am just moved to write a piece. In that case I’ll submit to a few editors I love to work with already or to a few I aspire to be published by. Some of those end up on the cutting room floor too, but I do have fairly good success finding homes for my work so far.

 

Ruschelle: Pray Lied Eve both 1 and 2 are collections of stories that you have meticulously sewn together, enchanted and made dance for our entertainment. What piece of you went into each offering?

Lydia: To avoid a long answer detailing each entry, I’d have to say almost all of them are based on a place that exists, a person who did exist, or a thing that happened. In Shrinking Dwell, from Pray Lied Eve a man encounters large ice balls falling from the sky with no explanation. In about 2010 a friend of mine experienced just that, and I was there to see one fall. It was fascinating! More recently, in Pray Lied Eve 2, I wrote about my ancestors belongings in As Is, Where Is. So, there are many pieces of me in each one – more than in my novels for certain. Fitting, as the title of the collection is an anagram of my name.

 

Ruschelle: Do you have Pray Lied Eve 3 somewhere tied up in your dark, cozy basement waiting to be unleashed to scare the masses? Please say, yes!

Lydia: Prayers answered, yes, there is a Pray Lied Eve 3 around the corner. A faraway corner, and perhaps around another yet; the cover art has been planned at the very least.

 

Ruschelle: As I was stalking you for the interview (and because a girl needs a hobby. How else does an antisocial beyotch get to know people?) I came across some exquisite wedding photos slathered in gothic charm. Some little girls dream of Cinderella weddings but we horror-lovers want for more of the Maleficent-esque wedding. So, give us the your awesomely dark wedding deets!

Lydia: Not much to relay, as it was a very quiet and private wedding as we would prefer. The most interesting part for fans of the macabre would be that yes, we were married in a haunted jail. Yes, we tied the knot at the gallows. Certainly, we relayed our vows on death row. It was a wonderful day all around! The photographer, John Wenzel, had never shot a wedding before and never wanted to but had indeed shot some of the most striking goth, cyberbunk, and zombie-walk images in town so we were very pleased he said yes!

 

Ruschelle: Writing can sometimes be…uncomfortable. Do you find there are themes or particular scenes that are tougher to write than others? Personally, I can murder a person a thousand different ways and giggle as I do it, but pen a sex scene—UGH! Erectile dysfunction of the brain!

Lydia: That is an affliction I gladly suffer from as well. I can’t see me writing a sex scene ever, and I had a tough time writing a romance story for an invite anthology, Allucinor: The Element of Romance where genre authors were asked to write something outside of their wheelhouse. Fight scenes give me trouble but only because I strive for believable action. This probably comes from my creative jealousy after seeing films like The Raid: Redemption and other brilliant fight films. Always feel like I’ve bit off more than I can chew writing fight scenes.

 

Ruschelle: As a writer, do you find yourself reading other authors critically? Do you pick apart a scene or edit sentence structure? Or are you able to just enjoy the journey?

Lydia: Usually I can read recreationally just fine, but the red-pen part of my brain clicks on from time to time unbidden. Oddly, while reading very tightly written and edited work. The last time I found myself picking apart a work was reading something by Joe Hill. The best cure for that I’ve found is to close the book and go write or edit something of my own or do a review.

 

Ruschelle: What is your favorite vampire ‘type’: the ugly Nosferatu, the charming Count Dracula or the Mariah Cary of blood-suckers, Edward Cullin? Glitter, get it? I’ll shut up now.

Lydia: I’d have to say The Lost Boys hold a lot of charm for me, but in a more feral, less 80s fashion. There is something about the fringes of society that is already scary to a lot of people, so take those leather jackets and motorcycles and add fangs to get a great start for a vampire. I haven’t read any of the Twilight novels but being aware of them by osmosis, I’ll take a Count Orlok any day!

 

Ruschelle: You’re an avid photographer as well. What are some of your favorite subjects to shoot? Please share a few pix as well, we’d love to see your work.

Lydia: I’ve shot portraits and bands, flowers and foods but my all time favourite thing was the Zombie Walk. It was an event that became too large and too commercial as years went by, but when I was writing for the fantastic Ottawa Horror, I made a point of posting photos every year. The most fun year was 2014, but likely because it was warmer than most and there was no snow. So that is really the best eye-candy for horror fans. Some select photos are on my portfolio too!

 

Ruschelle: Thank you so much for chatting with us here at the Horror Tree. It was a pleasure stalking you. So…what’s bubbling in that beautiful cauldron of yours? What can your new-found fan look forward to from you? And how are they able to stalk you?

Lydia: The best spot is likely lydiapeever.ca – if I post a youtube video, an instagram photo, have a new podcast up or new writing, it all ends up there guaranteed. There is a newsletter sign up as well, if one only wants to see writing related happenings. But really, it is all kind of horror related! The biggest writing projects right now are a short story for an invite anthology I can’t name at the moment, and of course Nightface: Elders. There is one more that is not writing as much as working with a very accomplished and hero of a writer as script editor. the Internet Movie Database has an entry on that for those that want to sleuth it out. I honestly can’t say whether the novel or Pray Lied Eve 3 will be out next, so it will be a surprise for all of us to see which wins! Thank you so much for the chat today!

 

 

 

The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with May J. Panayi

Selene – Welcome to The Horror Tree, and thank you for agreeing to an interview. First off, tell us a bit about yourself.

May – My name is May J. Panayi and I’m 56. I have been a writer since I was a kid. Okay not anything earth shattering; just a poem in the local paper at age five, then a newsletter to the neighbourhood age ten. I hobby wrote poems and short stories throughout my teens and early twenties, then various magazine submissions, and a lot of activity in the underground fanzine scene of the eighties; contributing to others as well as producing my own. I started writing books around 2000, and currently have fourteen titles published. I moved onto just writing fiction novels with the occasional short story collection. I became a full-time self-employed writer in 2014. It’s been an interesting journey so far and one I hope will long continue. I write across a variety of genres; my friends call me the eclectic indie. My Sun series, in which there are two novels so far, a third coming this year to complete the trilogy, is my most popular style. It is travel romance/mystery; bit hard to categorise. My horror is next most popular though a bit graphic for some. I also have written a collection of dark horror short stories. My website details my books, as well as trailers, interviews and more.

 

Selene – You write in just about every genre, from romance to non-fiction (including travel, pets, and cooking), to horror and fantasy. What’s your favourite genre to write, and why?

May – I enjoy realism, and things that are going on now, or nearly now. I enjoyed writing Escape to Europe, about a world that in many ways seems to be running parallel to our own. When I have finished the Sun series, I have a drama romance that grapples with the problems of Dementia. I am looking forward to that.

 

Selene – More specifically, what about writing horror draws you?

May – I like to explore the darkest parts of the human psyche, that is what really fascinates me most. In Tales from The Library of a Twisted Mind, my collection of horror shorts, I tend to get into those issues pretty quickly. Malbed Mews is a slow build into the madness of others when in a crazy situation. For horror, I am inspired by Stephen King, Dean Koontz and James Herbert, and have spent many happy hours curled up with their works. Like Herbert, I did not ignore sex when it came to Malbed Mews; it is firmly tied in to the darker side of the human psyche in many ways, and I feel, has as much of a place in horror as the violence, shock and gore.

 

Selene – You mostly self-publish, but have published with some magazines and more “traditional” places. What do you like about each means of publishing?

May – Well I like the flexibility of self publishing, but the money is better with ‘traditional’ publishing. I do not miss the rejection slips from legacy publishing houses. I do like the Indie community. Sadly, the market is becoming rather saturated and it is getting harder to get noticed in the Indie world. Promotion is a bit of a pain, I am a writer and have had to learn promotion techniques from scratch.  I do not love the piracy which is rife. Overall, I cannot complain.

 

Selene – Speaking of self-publishing, most of your titles are available on Kindle Unlimited. I have a KU membership and love it! I think it’s a good way for independent authors to reach readers, too. What do you think of the platform?

May – I like the idea of KU, but Amazon have significantly reduced the amount per page read, paid to authors, so it is a very low paying return at this point. I have considered leaving that part of the self publishing platform, but hesistate to do so, because so many readers love it. Personally, as a reader, I do not use it; I prefer to buy paperbacks, or buy Kindles to fill up my reader and get back to when I am travelling.

 

Selene – Your true “horror” novel is Malbed Mews. Let’s talk about that one. In particular, it has a huge cast of characters. How do you develop your characters?

May – I started off with a floor plan of the flats and wrote the occupants names and who they were in their own apartments. That helped me keep track until I got to know them better. The characters kind of grew on their own as I wrote them. Some I knew before I started; bad neighbours I have endured in real life, in the past. That was cathartic! Others just grew as I wrote. Guy and Vicky, in particular, developed alongside the storyline. Vicky especially, did not go where I originally intended.

 

Selene – Your book Escape to Europe examines the lives of people dealing with the realities of the refugee crisis in Europe, along with Brexit and other current hot-button political topics. Not to get into too much of a political debate, but what do you think of politics in stories? Do they belong, or is it better to fictionalize ideas so the story will remain more “timeless?”

May – I think there has always been a place for politics in fiction. From George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, to J.G. Ballard’s High Rise and many of his other works, I think the politics of our current culture help make a good What If? setting for culturally based fiction and horror. When I first wrote Escape to Europe it was 2016, and I published it under the title The Difficult Journey. It was rebranded as Escape to Europe in 2018. I made the media sections lean to the right, in a sort of Devils Advocate fashion, as I feel our media lean towards a more politically correct left. I wanted to explore the notion of society taking a darker turn, after the fashion of J.G. Ballard. I have been accused by some readers of having those opinions myself, but I tried to make the book sit on the fence politically. At the end of the day, it is about people; their hopes and dreams, hate and love, naivety and realism. My favourite characters by the way, were Amena and Adnan; with their courage and spirit, they were the ones I was rooting for as I wrote it. I mean, I knew how it was going to turn out, and I knew there were some sad and dark scenes coming, not just for them; but I always liked and felt for them as characters.

 

Selene – I wrote a story about a school shooting, which was published a day after (yet another) school shooting in the US. Similarly, your Escape to Europe character John Whitehead shoots a number of victims in a mosque, much like the Christchurch shooter earlier this year. How do you feel, when life imitates art (so to speak)? Or is it a matter of art simply reflecting the horrific realities of other mosque shootings like the one in 2017 in Quebec City?

May – When I first wrote Escape to Europe, no one was shooting up mosques, but there were terror attacks and bombings of both sides (for want of a better term). It felt prophetic when these things started happening in real life. It makes me sad. It is not a world I want to see in reality; I would prefer it remaining in the confines of horror fiction. Ballard wrote High Rise about how disconnected High Rise living would make us as a society, and how we would degenerate into a wilder, more animalistic species because of it. Luckily, he was wrong and that did not happen. I hoped I would be wrong too, but some of it is happening. Thankfully not all of it.

 

Selene – On to a lighter topic (sorry!). You’re also a photographer, and shoot many of the photos on your book covers. What are some of your favourite photographic subjects?

May – I love photographing architecture and graveyards. My partner is all about the wildlife photography and filming, but I prefer things that keep still, while I decide on a context to best frame their beauty. I like landscapes too.

 

Selene – Speaking of photography, you also keep a travel blog. I enjoyed reading about so many beautiful, exotic places (that I’ll likely never get to see in person!). What is the most interesting place you’ve been, and how do your travels inspire your writing?

May – I wrote a non fiction book, Travel the World in Words, and the Sun series was inspired by the settings I travelled to in Greece and Cyprus. Some of my travels popped up in Escape to Europe. They say write about what you know; so whenever I travel, I am adding to my reference section for future writing. The book I referred to that incorporates the Dementia topic, is actually set on the Isle of Wight. I cannot pick one most interesting or favourite place I have been. Las Vegas was the craziest and most colourful. The Gambia was the most exotic. The Cypriot mountain villages have some of the most interesting culture, not to mention some of the best views, but I really like Spain too, especially the Canaries. Madeira was fascinating.

 

Selene – You’ve just started a web magazine for book reviews, called Best Books and More. Tell us about that.

May – The magazine and its associated Facebook group by the same name, has both authors and readers subscribed to it, in probably equal numbers. The idea is to present books to readers so they can make some new choices about what to read next. Often scrolling through a site, reading the occasional blurb is just not enough. Hearing about what other people have been reading and enjoying, is a better way to find that next great read.

 

Selene – You occasionally interview authors, as well. What question would you ask, if you were interviewing yourself, that interviewers don’t ask you?

May – What is your biggest handicap as a writer, other than writers block? I suffer from a collection of health complaints in the real world, and often, overcoming these to sit at my computer and write, can be a real problem. Sometimes they are a brick wall between me and my writing. A wall which sometimes I can push past and other times I cannot. You mentioned my travel blog (thank you for reading by the way), but I also have another blog called Diary of A Writer. Sometimes I might interview other authors on there, but more often than not, I get into the dark and gritty realism of my life as a writer with health issues. Sometimes I depress myself, other times I feel almost normal- whatever that is!

 

Selene – Also on the topic of author interviewers, what authors are your favourites to read, and which author (whether they’re still with us or not) would you most love to interview?

May – I would have loved to interview Terry Pratchett before he got ill, maybe even after. I recently discovered Jodi Picoult, and her writing is so good it almost makes me want to give up in despair. I mentioned other favourite authors earlier on. My favourite horror Indie authors are Michael Kelly, whose book Waters of Life is amazing, and Iain Rob Wright whose book The Housemates was something else. That is just skimming the surface though. I could talk about books all day.

 

Selene – How do you deal with criticism and bad reviews?

May – These days I just ignore them. When I wrote Malbed Mews, the death of a troll scene was especially cathartic- not that I had one particular troll in mind, but generally speaking. Of course, I still read my reviews, but I do not really care much about bad reviews anymore. I try and look for constructive criticism, but let us face it, most of the one-star comments are just trolls who usually could not even spell constructive criticism. Most cannot even capitalise I, when talking about themselves, so not a lot of hope for input there.

 

Selene – What advice would you give an author who is just starting out?

May – Try and aim for 80,000 words as a minimum for your book, and 120,000 as a maximum. In the old days of sending your manuscript round to a publisher, they would not consider a book unless it fit into those confines. 40,000 words qualified as a novella. 120k was the absolute limit for a new author, though obviously established authors like Stephen King could get away with more. Honestly, I think it demeans all serious authors when someone publishes a “book” that is a mere 20 to 40 pages long. That is not even the length of a standard dissertation. It gives indies a bad name collectively, when people do this. That and bad editing, that is my other bugbear. On a more positive note; stick at it. Indie authors are the freshest reading out there right now, and I would say go for it.

 

Selene – Thank you again for agreeing to be interviewed. What’s next for you, and do you have anything else you want to talk about here?

May – What is next? I am currently working on In Search of Small Treasures, the final in the Sun trilogy, and then moving on to Paradise in the Pumpkin Patch, which is a romance but deals with Dementia too. I would like to rewrite Malbed Mews as a screenplay and send it around. I have another idea for a novella collection Four Adults Only, which is a collection of four novellas all of which have a different kind of adult theme; sex, drugs, violent uprising and the occult. I only hesitate because they appeal to very different audiences, so I am still cogitating on that one. Thanks for interviewing me, great set of questions; really thought-provoking.

For more about May, visit her website:

www.mayjpanayi.wix.com/books

The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Margarita Felices

Stacey – Hi, it’s great to have you here! Tell us a little about yourself and where you’re from?

Margarita – I live in Cardiff, Wales, home to castles, mountains, rugby, Doctor Who and Torchwood, with my partner and three little mad dogs and I work for a well-known TV broadcasting company. I love living in Cardiff because, for all its modernisation, there are still remnants of an old Victorian city. I love writing and will always partly base my stories in Cardiff because it has such character. When I can, I go out to the coast and take photographs, we have a lovely castle in the city centre and a fairy tale one just on the outskirts, so when I feel I can’t write anything, I take a ramble to those locations and it clears my head.

I have a TV production background.  I used to be a professional photographer and decided to move into the TV world. I started off working on our local news programmes and then moved on to Arts, Factual, Drama, back to Factual, back to Drama (Torchwood, Dr Who and a few regional shows). Now I work for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and we produce some of the music for well-known TV shows, Doctor Who for example!  I’ve learnt so much from working there about Marketing and Promotions. It’s been an absolute blessing.

I am Gothic; I love the fashion, the architecture and the music. The club in my novel is real. While writing Judgement of Souls 3, I got all of my club material and clientele ideas from there; I wouldn’t have finished that section without it.

 

Stacey – When did you start writing?

Margarita – It was at a very early age to be honest. I remember writing a bit of fanfic when I was still in junior school.  (I won’t say which artist it was about). And it was inevitable that someday I would end up writing a novel. My English school teacher always limited me to no more than ten pages – it was hell for someone who could write and write and… well you get my meaning!

I was a reporter for the school magazine and later became its Editor. When I left school, I wrote short stories for women’s magazines and it paid my way through college. I later took a course in scriptwriting and came third in a BBC writing competition. (Long before I actually joined the BBC).

 

Stacey – What genres do you write in and what drew you to them?

Margarita – I started with Paranormal Romance/Gothic Horror. But I have written Christmas stories, an erotic comedy, a rock star romance short story and a creepy story about being in a coma. I have always felt a little frustration when it came to some Gothic Horror stories; the female characters are always weak and in need of rescue. I wrote a story that I wanted to read. One where I didn’t feel the need to eye roll and shout at the female to sort the problem out herself!

Stories come to you. They are not always the genre that you have been writing about. It’s nice to have some variety or you get labelled into a category and it’s hard to get out of that.  But I do love the paranormal because you can write whatever fantasy or situation you want. It doesn’t have to mirror too much reality.

My first full length novel, Judgement of Souls 3: Kiss at Dawn is the first story written for the trilogy. But I wanted to do things a little different; so I began by writing the ending to the trilogy in the hopes that it would tease your curiosity into knowing how they all got there. My research included a visit to one of the main synagogues in London to talk about the Hebrew Bible that I use ‘loosely’ in the trilogy and it’s worked out really well.

Judgement of Souls 2: Call of the Righteous, concentrated on a 300-year history of my vampires and their search but also introduced The Righteous, a secret organisation started by the Church to find, and kill, all supernatural and paranormal beings. It also involved over 300 years of mortal history including the French Revolution – did you know that it was a vampire who started it?  I have also visited most of the locations that I use in the novels so I have first-hand knowledge of the locations I place my characters in. It’s been extremely fascinating.

The first part Judgement of Souls: Origin; was probably the hardest part to write. It involved a lot of Crusader battle history, uniforms, locations, even dialect, but I’m no stranger to research.

The series has been optioned twice by US Producers and I’m looking for funding to get these books on the big screen and it’s just a matter of time – I’m keeping everything crossed.

I’ve written a few short stories too that I am very proud of…  they have been such fun to write. Ordinary Wins is having some great reviews on Amazon. It’s about how an ordinary woman who won the heart of a famous drummer in a rock band… check it out.

I co-wrote a naughty little piece of erotic comedy called The Decoys with my best friend. We had the most fun. It’s about two Welsh girls who decide to spend their redundancy money and go on holiday to the South of France hoping that it was just like the films they love to watch from the 50s and 60s. Turns out it’s not. That is until they meet Matt and Dani who have just robbed a yacht of a very sought-after necklace and need a place to hide. They also need to get the necklace out of the country and these two girls seem like the perfect ‘decoys’.

And my latest is called Trancers. Travis has been planning this holiday for months. He intends to drive from one end of the USA to the other. Until a 16-wheeler interrupts his journey. Lucky for him there’s a hotel sign just up the road that he can stop at and assess the damage to his rental car – at least he thought it was a hotel. Have you ever wondered where people go when they’re in a coma? Travis is about to find out.

 

Stacey – What do you enjoy most about writing?

Margarita – I enjoy the escape and the adventure. It’s like meeting new friends and taking an amazing journey with them all. You can’t wait to get back to them, have conversations with them and a lot of laughs along the way. I enjoy the interaction with other authors or with the reader. And I always like the reviews because it’s extremely rewarding to an indie.

 

Stacey – What scares you?

Margarita – I suppose it’s sitting at my desk some day and getting absolutely no inspiration for new stories. Or that my work will be criticized. Or that my publisher will reject my latest story. Perhaps it’s also that I won’t have enough time to finish the ideas I’ve got written down or that I don’t get to the end of my current work. It’s the thought of time passing too quickly with no written results.

And spiders.

 

Stacey – Where do you get your inspiration?

Margarita – It comes from all directions if you stop and listen to what’s going on around you.

Sometimes it’s a piece of music and the way that maybe just one line makes you think. I wrote a story called The Trancers and I got the inspiration for that story from a song called Hotel California. It’s been in my head for years and I never managed to get anything down on paper. And then one day I woke up and started to write, and by the end of the day I had a pretty good plan as to where this story had to go, which direction it had to take. Other times it could be a conversation I may have overheard or even something on TV. For Judgement of Souls 3, I attended the club that I wrote about so got a lot of inspiration from there too. I keep a notepad and pen next to my bed because I have been known to get ideas or even new dialogue for current characters in the middle of the night.

 

Stacey – Which authors have influenced your writing along the way?

Margarita – It might sound bizarre, but I tend not to read other work while I write. You see, even subconsciously, you may get an idea and spend all night writing it and then n the early hours wake up remembering where you’d read it from and have to start all over again. But I have always been a fan of Anne Rice and Stephen King. Anne Rice writes beautifully, you can feel each and every emotion, even breath the same air as those characters and I could only wish to write half as well. Stephen King can scare the life out of you on every page. His attention to scary detail is something to be enjoyed while you read each page with great trepidation hoping you don’t have those words enter your head while asleep!

 

Stacey – What’s your writing process like?

Margarita – I tend to always know how that story will start, where I want to be by the middle and have an ending. I know where my characters will be from start to finish. The rest is written with catch lines on each page. For example, my character has to meet this person page three. My character has to have done this by the time we reach another page.  And so on.  I usually have about 30 pages with just a sentence on each page and fill it all in as I go. And I tend to read and re-read everything I’ve written and edit heavily as I go. And I may also leave writing for a few days, or weeks if I have to and then return to it with a fresh mind, especially if I don’t like the direction I’m taking.

 

Stacey – What was the first story you had published?

Margarita – Other than the short stories I had published while at collage in the 80s and 90s, Judgement of Souls 3: Kiss at Dawn, (which was published in 2011) was my first real full length novel. This story took so long to write. It started off being so different to what it is today and it wasn’t intended as a trilogy, it just turned out that way. I realised once I had almost finished it that my characters had a back story and it needed to be told or none of it would make any sense.

The novel though began life being called Gothic Dreams and my lead character Rachel was not to be trusted. She was in fact the Max character who is now the villain in the published novel. But halfway through writing it I realized that she wasn’t like that at all, so I started again. New characters were introduced and new situations, Max was introduced.

I’ve read so much vampire literature that I wanted a story to be totally different – this is not your ordinary vampire story. It’s not all about blood sucking beings.  It’s revenge, its romance, it’s a treasure hunt for one of the most important vampire artefacts and the winner will get the ultimate prize. I have written characters with a real history and also a common goal, mortal and immortal coming together and you live with them in their 300-year journey. It has a different perspective to any vampire story that I have ever read. It’s blood, sex and rock ‘n roll.

 

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

 

Margarita – My lead in the Judgement of Souls trilogy is Rachel and I have a certain attachment to her – how could I not? I have spent ten years writing with her and I’m happy she got the ending she deserved.  But I haven’t really finished with her. I intend to write a ten-episode TV feature with her and Daniel.

 

Stacey – Has there ever been a book you couldn’t finish? Why or why not?

Margarita – Not that I can recall. It’s like watching a film. You have to get to the end because even though the story may start off slow, it could pick up and be amazing on the last quarter. I also leave reviews, because it’s those pointers that help indie authors. Readers may not think it’s worth doing, but it is.

 

Stacey – What’s the last Horror movie/tv show you watched?

Margarita – The Haunting of Hill House. It had so many possibilities to be so much better and I was so disappointed in the end. I’m more a supernatural/paranormal watcher than a slasher type watcher and the trailers for Hill House appealed to me, shame that the trailers ended up being better than the actual series. I hear that there’s now a series 2 being planned?

 

Stacey – If you could go back in time who would you go back in time to see?

Margarita – I’m torn between Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker.  I’d really like to know what really inspired them to write the stories that are classics with us now. Get a more in-depth knowledge of their thoughts and nightmares that inspired the characters. I’d certainly like to know why Bram Stoker had Dracula kill Mina’s best friend Lucy knowing what she meant to Mina. To me it’s the only flaw in that story, I know that Dracula was heartbroken when Mina left to join Jonathan but I want to know why he would choose to do it. And I’d really like to have been around when Mary Shelley woke up after her nightmare to recall her story to Percy Shelley and Lord Byron.

 

Stacey – What’s the best piece of advice you could give someone who is just getting started on their author journey?

Margarita – Don’t give up. If you have a story that is dying to be told, then work hard to tell it. But make sure you are doing your best work and you get an editor that can help you make the most of your manuscript. Don’t pay anyone to publish your work. The point is that they pay you.

Don’t give up even though you may get rejection letters. I had so many over the years I could paper a room! One publisher didn’t even bother writing a rejection letter, she simply scribbled, ‘No thanks’ on the bottom of the covering letter I wrote her! If everyone thought like that there’d be no books, no films. Keep writing, even if its dribble! Then read, re-read and edit. Try and write a little each day if you’re unable to spend too much time writing. One hundred words a day is seven hundred a week, twenty-eight hundred a month and one hundred words a day is so simple!

And, carry a Dictaphone or a notebook and pen!

 

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

Margarita – Max motioned to Stoner to bring her towards a locked door. Opening it, Stoner pushed her in. She tripped and fell to the floor. The walls of her new cell trembled as the door crashed behind her. Then a six-inch by eight-inch hatch in the top part of the door opened and Max looked in.

Rachel looked up at the hatch. “Do you think shutting me in here is going to prove anything Max? I’ll stay in here until tomorrow night then I’ll get out and come after you. What’s this going to prove?”

From the shadows behind her, came a rustling noise and quickly stood , preparing to be attacked, her fangs starting to protrude in defence, but as the shadow came closer, it spoke…

“Rach…?”

It was Daniel.

Max smiled as he looked on. “What time do you think it is then?” He mimicked looking at his watch. “I can tell from your eyes that you haven’t fed yet. Isn’t it about time that you did?”

“Max, please!” pleaded Rachel, she ran to the hatch in the door. “Don’t let this happen!”

“Don’t let what happen?” asked Daniel.

“You didn’t think I was going to leave you in there all alone did you?” Max beamed.

Rachel took a deep breath. “I’ll resist it, I know I can.”

“Resist what?” said Daniel. “What’s going on, what aren’t you telling me?”

“That very soon,” said Max in a flash of excitement, “she’ll need to feed, her whole body will feel like it’s on fire, and she won’t be able to resist throwing you up against a wall and draining every drop of blood in your body.” He looked at Rachel through the slot in the door, his hard, determined expression tinged with a feeling of triumph as he saw the pleading look in her eyes. “She won’t be able to help it, in the end she’ll turn.” He looked away and then added under his breath, “then we’ll see just how much you love your mortal.” Then he closed the opening in the door, the sound of it echoing in the small, now darkened room.

 

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

 

Amazon Page: http://www.amazon.com/Margarita-Felices/e/B007BHDIVS/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

JOIN the JOS Facebook pages.

Come on by and join the fangs… vV””Vv

http://www.facebook.com/JudgementOfSouls3TheKissAtDawn

https://www.facebook.com/Margarita-Felices-1406676682975558/

Follow me on Twitter: @felicm60

Follow me on Instagram: https://instagram.com/felicm60/

 

 

 

 

The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Peggy A. Wheeler

Claire: Hey Peggy, how are you? What are you working on at the moment?

Peggy: I am fine and thank you for asking. I hope you are doing well, too.

What I’m working on – l Right now I’m completing the first draft of the sequel to my supernatural mystery-thriller, The Raven’s Daughter. After working on this project (The Summer Ravens) for over two years, I finally got down to business in hopes I can get this novel to my publisher in time for a summer release. It’s a good thing she’s patient because I’ve been under contract for this book for quite some time.

Claire: I see you aside from fiction you also write non-fiction and poetry. I do, too! Do you take a different approach to writing different things?

Peggy: Yes. I was a technical writer for many years. The difference between tech writing and poetry or prose is vastly different. Same with prose vs poetry. Even though there is cross-over between prose and poetry, the two forms require a different skill set, same with the differences between non-fiction and fiction.

Non-fiction is, of course, more cerebral and requires a more complicated level of research and precise language than in novel writing.  Poetry is a creative free-for-all but uses more concise language than in prose writing, generally relying on fewer and more carefully chosen words to make its impact.  Technical writing is sparse and exact, with lots of white space on the page, and relies on an economy of words, short, precise sentences with bullet points and sometimes diagrams. To reiterate, all forms of writing besides novel and short story form are generally more concise, use fewer words to convey meaning, and although there is cross-over, all require a different author mindset, and sometimes as mentioned (such as in technical writing, journalism, or copywriting) require completely different skills.

Claire: Tell me about your books. Let’s start with ‘Chaco.’ Where did your inspiration come from? Have you always been interested in writing a dystopian disaster novel?

Peggy: I visited my sister-in-law in 2012, and while there I picked up a printed copy of National Geographic.  While thumbing through the pages, an article on The Carrington Event caught my attention.  In 1859, two British amateur astronomers, one named Carrington, observed independently a series of Class X Coronal Mass Ejections (a type of solar storm, also known as CMEs) on the surface of the sun.

The CMEs hit Earth directly creating all kinds of havoc, knocking out telegraph service throughout the entire northern hemisphere for months. Spontaneous fires erupted over the surface of the planet.  Telegraph operators in a few cases were able to communicate without any connection, as though the Earth itself acted as a huge battery.  The CME generated Northern Lights observed as far south as Colorado where hunters sleeping in their tents thought it was morning because it was so light out, got up to make breakfast – it was the middle of the night.

Right away I began research on what would happen if The Carrington Event occurred today. What I found was terrifying and intriguing, and right away I began to formulate a post-apocalyptic adventure story, named after the protagonist, CHACO.

I wanted an unlikely hero, so I chose a young Salvadoran living and working  undocumented in California — that he was a university professor and astrophysicist in El Salvador, but is in hiding after landing on a death list in El Salvador because he fought on the wrong side of a U.S. backed coup, all play an essential role in how the story and the characters come together.

Claire: ‘The Splendid and Extraordinary Life of Beautimus Potamus’ seems completely different from ‘Chaco.’ It doesn’t even seem like it was written by the same person! Tell me about the book. Where did your inspiration come from?

Peggy: In the last year of my mother’s life, she suffered from dementia and had gone blind from macular degeneration.  She was bedridden and couldn’t even feed herself, and I was not equipped or trained to be a full-time care-taker, plus my husband and I lived in a small house with no accommodations for a wheelchair even if we’d had an extra bedroom. I found a long-term facility for her only a little over a mile from my home.  Every day I’d visit her and read to her.  I came up with an idea to write a story for her, and that story became a book, and that book was The Splendid and Extraordinary Life of Beautimus Potamus.

On the day I read the final chapter, (I read to her one chapter at a time as I finished the drafts), I thought she was sleep because her eyes were closed as she rested still and quiet on her pillows.  I attempted to tip-toe out of the room, but then I heard her. She sat up straight in her bed, her eyes open, tears running down her cheeks. “That was beautiful, Peggy Ann.”  Beautimus Potamus was the last thing I’d ever read to her.  Unfortunately, she didn’t live long enough to hold a published copy in her hands. I wrote the book because I thought she’d get a kick out of it, and I knew that even with her dementia she would appreciate the political references, the cultural jokes, and the satire. The book’s language, themes, and style were intentionally for her.  I dedicated The Splendid and Extraordinary Life of Beautimus Potamus to her.  By the way, Bea Potamus is my personal favourite book of those I’ve written.

Claire: ‘The Raven’s Daughter’ seems like a cinematic novel. Where did the idea of blending myth, monster, and murder come from? Did you conduct any research for the novel?

Peggy: I’ve always been interested in Native American and Irish culture and lore, especially since there are indigenous people in my family from several tribes, and I’m over 50% Irish. I always thought I’d build a character from the two cultures, one culture my protagonist would accept, the other she’d reject, ergo Maggie Tall Bear Sloan, half Yurok/half Irish and 100% gutsy.

I reached for months and employed sensitivity readers for the Native American parts of the books to ensure that I was respectful in my approach.  The legend of the Pukkukwerek (sometimes spelt differently) is a Yurok legend about a woman who shapeshifts into a raven, so I made Maggie a shapeshifter, too, although she denies it, as she does her Yurok culture, and tries to excuse away her shifting. Maggie is a cantankerous, sometimes unlikable character, who is also compassionate and loves deeply, but she is a confirmed sceptic and does not believe in anything supernatural.

I set out to write a murder mystery and included horror, supernatural, and mythological components as a natural part of the process that grew out of the story.

 

Claire: The book was also a finalist in the CCC Great Novel Contest. That’s amazing! What was it like being a finalist? Did that impact your writing career in any way?

Peggy: The CCC Great Novel Contest is a small, regional contest.  It is a juried contest, not a confirmation of popularity, as in “vote for my book, friends.”  An actual panel of judges, mostly academic, presided over the contest and selected winners and finalists, and I believe that makes a difference.  I’m proud that my debut novel made it to the short list, and I’m glad my name is associated with the contest because I think contests and awards are great for getting one’s name out there even in a small way, and they help to validate the author’s work.

Claire: You’ve been featured in a few anthologies. Do you prefer writing novels or short fiction?

Peggy: I enjoy both, but I consider myself a novelist.

Claire: Do you find it difficult to write different genres?

Peggy: No.  It’s more fun for me to write in different genres and voices.  One good friend of mine, a successful writer who has had her books made into movies, once told me to “Pick a planet and land on it.” My publisher thinks it’s more difficult for an author who writes in different genres to gain a readership because some readers will love Raven’s Daughter but may detest allegorical satirical fantasy, such as Beautimus Potamus. Others may love CHACO but cannot stand the character of Maggie Tall Bear Sloan.

The idea is to write in one genre, so you build a brand. If someone is a huge Stephen King fan, for example, and pick up his latest novel, but it turns out to be a steamy bodice-busting romance, or a cute, cosy mystery rather than horror, they may be a wee bit disappointed, as in to the point of lighting the book on fire and demanding a refund.

In a way, that’s already happened to me.  A reader was enchanted with The Raven’s Daughter hated Beautimus Potamus and was detailed about her disappointment in the review she gave me, because despite having read the book blurb for Lady Bea, what she really wanted was more Raven’s Daughter.

I, however, am having a blast trying different genres on for size. Every new genre is an intriguing challenge for me, and because of that, I probably will write mash-ups as I do now, or cross-genre, for a while. I am even pondering trying my hand at literary fiction. One day, I may settle on a single genre. Right now, I’m tending toward the supernatural mystery-thriller, but that’s probably because I’m working on one.

Claire: I see you have a B.A. in English Literature and an M.A. in English with a Creative Writing. How have these degrees helped your writing?

Peggy: No education is ever wasted.  Some will say differently, but even if I’d studied architecture, biology, or history instead of literature and creative writing, I would still benefit from my formal education, and my writing benefits, too. There are life-skills one learns as a successful university student — successful meaning you complete your courses, and graduate with a good GPA — too, that help with being a writer.  These include:

  • Following directions (What about following submission or query instructions that so many writers gloss over?)
  • Stick-to-itiveness/perseverance (You don’t give up until you’ve got that diploma in your hand, just like you don’t give up until your story is finished and you have done your best to get it published)
  • Discipline (Gotta get those papers, research, and reading in on time, or you don’t pass. Better meet rewrites and editing deadlines, or you lose contracts)
  • How to research and how to write an academic paper (Helps in all kinds of writing)
  • Willingness to invest in one’s passion and achievements (Costs money, energy, and time to be successful in anything)
  • Communication (You better know how to communicate well and to use good vocabulary if you are to earn a degree or to pitch a book to an agent)

I still take classes in writing and marketing.  Right now, I’m on Lesson Thirteen of a class from The Great Courses on writing elegant compound sentences, and I’m already applying what I’ve learned.  I ordered another on script writing and will be ordering more.  I never quit learning, and every class I take directly related to writing or not, helps me grow as an author.  The more knowledge of the world, in addition to growing knowledge and skill in my craft, the better.

Claire: I read your blog post ‘Never Too Old To Write’ and think it’s great! Do you think you you’d be a different writer if you started earlier on? Are you happy to be published later in life?  

Peggy: I am sure my writing at age 20 would be far different than it is at nearly age 65.  I’ve accumulated so many more life experiences and have acquired so much more knowledge over the last forty years.  My writing skills have also markedly improved since I was much younger.

The thing about being a writer is you are never too young or too old to start.  The young woman who wrote The Outsiders first published in 1976, one of the most popular YA books of all time, S.E. Hinton, was 15 when she penned that book.  My friend, Ray Straight, turns 95 in May. He is just now subbing his first novel.  I was 61 when my first novel debuted from Dragon Moon Press.

Claire: You’ve had the wonderful opportunity to study with Robert Pinsky. I’m jealous! What was it like working with such a celebrated poet? How did it assist your writing?

Peggy: Robert Pinsky is the most generous-hearted, most genuinely caring professor I ever studied under.  He was a guest prof at UCLA when I was an undergrad.  He only wanted twelve students, and only graduate students, in his class, but he liked a poem I submitted and thought it had “something” so he made an exception for which I will always be grateful.

Of course, learning about how to write anything better, whether it be poetry or business letters, is helpful in any writing we do.  Robert Pinsky is a master at using beautiful language, and I did pay attention in class, so, yes, I do regularly apply what I learned from him at the seminar many years ago.

Claire: Are you reading anything at the moment?

Peggy: I’ve almost finished reading The Master Butchers Singing Club, a 2003 novel from Louise Erdrich. I just finished re-reading Octavia Butler’s, Kindred, and a few days ago I read for the first time, Delta Lady, the memoirs of Rita Coolidge.

Claire: What’s next for you?

Peggy: I’ve a third in the series planned for The Raven’s Daughter – this one will be set in Ireland.  I’m five chapters deep into the sequel to CHACO.  Soon, I have to decide if I want to write more in The Raven’s Daughter series or leave it as a trilogy and continue with the sequel to CHACO or move onto something else entirely.

I’ve several books in progress, one will be a short  non-fic guide to finding literary agents (I’ve  had three agents, and even helped with the slush pile for one of them) and small publishers; another is a literary ghost story set in the Beat era in San Francisco, narrated by the ghost of an old Russian woman.  I’ve started a mystery that takes place completely underground among survivalists living in a series of bunkers connected by tunnels, and a speculative novel for a New Adult audience about a social media catfish who turns out to be, well, I don’t want to spoil it. I’ve a couple of others on the back burner in different states of completion, too.

My goal is to get out one good book each year and to complete and submit a few short stories or non-fic pieces each year to anthologies in hopes that one or two may get picked up. Most recently, I’m in an anthology, Paranormal Encounters, that just came out from Anubis Press about true supernatural encounters and experiences.

Claire: Finally – your house is on fire, and you can only save one book. Which book is it and why?

Peggy: 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  I’m a huge fan of magical realism, another genre I want to try my hand at, and 100 Years was the first time I’d encountered Marquez or the genre he’s known to have had a huge hand in inventing – it’s said he coined the term “magical realism.”  I was absolutely enchanted by the premise and the language, and reading the book made a huge impact on my decision to write.

Thank you for inviting me to participate in the interview.  It’s been fun!

 

 

The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Douglas Wynne

Ruschelle: Nice to have you in the hottest of the hot seats here at The Horror Tree. Okay, it’s just a little warm. And that’s only because I’ve been sitting in it…I may or may not have created an organic geothermal reaction on your seat. Damn tacos…

Speaking of tacos, which are awesome and meaty, tell us a little about yourself that no one but your therapist or parole officer knows.

Doug: Happy to be here. I think. You sure do cut to the chase! Let’s see…if I had a parole officer, it would probably be for road rage, which I try to manage with Buddhist mind training exercises. And I think therapists are great, but the only time I’ve been to see one was to get a prescription for public speaking anxiety when my first book was coming out and I was scheduled to do appearances at bookstores. It’s weird because I used to play in a rock band and never had stage fright about talking to crowds or singing, but reading to people was hardwired to the terror I experienced as a shy kid forced to read aloud in class. So that was a real obstacle when I finally got serious about fiction writing and promoting my books. Now, four books later, I love doing events.

 

Ruschelle: You shared your expertise at the Bigfoot Institute in February. Awesome! School us here at The Horror Tree about the creature.

Doug: Yeah, that was weird. My friend Tom Deady and I gave a writing workshop to students at the 826 Boston writing program in Roxbury. I almost couldn’t find the building, because the graphics on the glass door list it as the Bigfoot Research Institute. There’s even a giant stuffed yeti in the lobby next to a corkboard of Bigfoot tabloid stories, but the writing program seems to be the only thing going on there. So I still have no idea what that was about. But Tom and I realized afterward that if we really wanted to prepare these kids to earn an income as fiction writers, we should have advised them to write Bigfoot porn! And it was right under our noses the whole time.

 

Ruschelle: What can you tell us about ‘Bigfoot porn?’ And don’t leave out any juicy details?

Doug: all I know is I’ve heard it’s very lucrative. And I wear a size 13, so maybe I should give it a shot.

 

Ruschelle: Your books, from the Spectra Files Trilogy, are wrapped in the ancient tentacles of the Old Ones. Tell us about your ‘love’ of Lovecraft and how it influenced Red Equinox, Black January and Cthulhu Blues.

Doug: Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos has become a sub genre unto itself, and it can be a lot of fun writing things that connect to that shared world. I think it’s one of the first shared worlds in fiction, which Lovecraft encouraged back when his friends started riffing on his material in the 1930s. In recent years, it has kind of exploded. I grew up reading Lovecraft along with the other horror icons, and I’ve always known that cosmic horror was something I wanted to do, something that resonates with me more than, say, zombies or vampires. I love mythology, and I love the philosophical aspect of occult horror. And even though it can be excessive in Lovecraft’s own work, I also like horror stories that have a lyrical voice, like you find in Clive Barker’s work—another huge influence for me. The SPECTRA files trilogy gave me a chance to explore that stuff in a modern setting with a more contemporary voice and cast of characters. Lovecraft is problematic when it comes to the racism and gynophobia that underpins the cosmic dread.  So I deliberately set out to play against that and to write a story that would also explore how those fears of the other are still with us in the age of ubiquitous surveillance and high-tech terrorism. Even the fact that the books are fast-paced thrillers goes against the grain of Lovecraftian fiction, which often works best as atmospheric short stories. I knew it would either be a total mess or a thrill for fans of the genre.

Ruschelle: How long did it take to write your trilogy?

Doug: I started Red Equinox in 2013 and Cthulhu Blues was published in 2017, so about four years.

 

Ruschelle: Did you have the whole series plotted out from beginning to end or did you just have a rough outline of each book and let inspiration complete the rest?

Doug: I don’t outline much. I make a lot of notes about the characters and the premise until I feel like I know enough to dive in and start discovering the story by writing it. I always say that inspiration comes from writing, not the other way around. But I will make forecast notes every 30,000 words or so—just brainstorming where I see things headed based on the conflicting motivations of the characters. That leaves room for a good amount of improvisation and surprise for me as a writer. I think a storyteller’s subconscious mind can be very nimble at making connections under pressure, and those are often better than a premeditated plot. It can be stressful, but I like to provoke that in myself by making it a necessity for hitting my daily word count and moving the story forward.

 

Ruschelle: Of all the Lovecraft Gods, which one do you resonate with the most? Ya know, the one you’d enjoy chugging a craft beer with at the Miskatonic bar?

Doug: Nyarlathotep without a doubt. Tall, dark, and mysterious.

 

Ruschelle: You’re a Black Belt! Has that skill made its way into any of your stories such as The Secret Guide to Fighting Elder Gods?

Doug: I’ve been doing various martial arts for about a dozen years now. I was not a very athletic kid—always had my head in a book or my hands on a guitar—so the training has definitely enhanced my awareness of the physical side of life. I’m sure my Tae Kwon Do and karate have informed every fight scene I’ve ever written, whether or not the characters have any training or skill. I also wrote a whole novel influenced by Iaido, the samurai sword art. That’s Steel Breeze, a crime thriller about a modern samurai serial killer.

As for my story in The Secret Guide to Fighting Elder Gods, it features a character with no self-defense skills, and I doubt he would fare much better if he had them. But he is a lifeguard—a job I had as a teen. You’ll have to pick up the book to see if that helps. It was a fun story to write because it takes place on Plum Island in Newburyport, near where I live. I feel lucky to be sharing the table of contents with Seanan McGuire, Jonathan Maberry, and a bunch of other terrific writers I admire. I’m told the book will be out in April.

 

Ruschelle: If you could be any character from any of your books and stories, who would you choose to be?

Doug: The cool thing about writing is that I kinda get to be all of them, right? But that’s probably a copout. When I was a kid, I wanted to be Batman first, then Dracula, then an astronaut, then a rock star. So I guess I’d like to be Billy Moon from The Devil of Echo Lake because he got to be the rock star I never was. But only for like a day. Billy’s kinda fucked up.

 

Ruschelle: A few years back, you were on a panel of writers at The Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival. You were hob knobbing with the spawn of the modern master of horror, Joe Hill! Tell us about the Cons you’ve been on and becoming best friends with Joe. I hear you guys fight monsters with pointy sticks in blanket forts in your jammies while snacking on goblin spleen… and popcorn!

Doug: That sounds awesome! Totally not true, but awesome. I met Joe when I interviewed him for Dark Discoveries magazine right before The Fireman came out. Great guy. Very funny. I can’t say we’re besties, but we did spend a day playing with an antique fire truck in a cemetery for a photo shoot my wife Jen did.  So that was almost as cool as what you described. I’m a big fan of Joe’s books. And with the fire truck, I think we both felt like we were ten again.

Pretty sure the panel we did that you’re thinking of was the apocalyptic fiction one I moderated at Necon, but the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival is also an amazing mini-con. That’s where I got to share a signing table with Joe’s brother Owen this past year. Another great guy. I get the impression that the King family is made up of smart, kind people all around. Horror writers in general are some of the nicest people you could hope to meet. I feel very lucky to have struck up little friendships with so many of the monstrously talented people I admire. When I started publishing six years ago, I didn’t know anyone, and that’s been one of the great joys of this crazy and often solitary occupation.

 

Ruschelle: You wrote a story specifically for the anthology, I Am The Abyss. The theme of the tome centers on the afterlife as characters are “trapped in self-created worlds.” Could you give us a little insight on your character and the inspiration behind such a cerebral tale?

Doug: When Dark Regions Press announced that they were doing an anthology of novelettes focused on the after-death realms experienced by characters based on their subconscious projections, I was immediately attracted to it. I’ve been interested in Tibetan Buddhism for decades (Jen and I even got married in a Tibetan refugee village in India, organized by a monk friend of ours). Anyway, if you’ve ever checked out the Tibetan Book of the Dead, you know that that’s the basic idea behind what they call the bardo states, or ‘in between’ realms. I did some historical research for the story and created a character who used to be a monk but relinquished his robes when the CIA offered to train him as a resistance fighter and air drop him back into Chinese occupied Tibet in 1961. That was an actual covert operation called ST Circus, which to this day not many people know about. So it was the perfect project for me to explore some themes close to my heart. I’ve also written a longer novella that’s a sequel to my Abyss story. It takes place in New York City’s Chinatown in the 1990s, and I’m shopping it around right now. That one’s called, The Wind in My Heart.

 

Ruschelle: The sneak peek of I Am The Abyss from publisher, Dark Regions Press looks awesome. With its unique 8×8 trim size and gorgeous full-color paintings, this book will be a prize to anyone’s collection. What else makes this anthology special for both writers and readers?

Doug: The book has been a long time in the making, in part because of how ambitious the production is, but I hear the paperbacks are starting to ship to kickstarter backers now with the standard orders and limited hardcovers to follow in the next few months. There’s a version signed by all of the authors and artists, and the artwork is just stunning. Conceptually, I can’t think of anything else quite like it. It’s a wonderfully unique but thematically unified blend of dark fantasy and horror.

 

Ruschelle: Is there a piece of writing advice that you find has become your mantra?

Doug: The longer I do this, the more I realize that every writer is different and every project is different and the only solid advice is: Do whatever works for you. Whatever it takes to get words on the page. For me, personally, the best mantra has been the one Stephen King popularized: The book is the boss. Every story has its own needs and even its own voice and it’s the writer’s job to fulfill that potential without forcing it to be something else. It’s a bit like parenting in that regard.

 

Ruschelle: Back to the Elder Gods, is there a team up you’d love to see happen with one of our Modern Gods? Like, maybe Bastet, Vishnu… or Marvel’s Thor?

Doug: Horus and Ganesha in a buddy cop movie.

 

Ruschelle: I was checking you out on Twitter (I always stalk my prey….I mean authors) and noticed a post on the internet hysteria which is Momo. What are your thoughts on Momo as a parent and as a writer?

Doug: Yeah, so what I was saying on social media is that, for better or worse, devices are embedded in our kids’ lives now, and parents—even those who are pretty tech savvy—are terrified that they don’t understand all of the dangers that this connectivity and digital saturation presents to kids. The New York Times today published an article with the header, “The real ‘Momo Challenge’ is the terror of parenting in the age of YouTube. That’s a growing area of fear and anxiety, and I expect that YouTube and shared world games like Minecraft are about to become the breeding ground for a hysteria to rival the Satanic panic of the 80s. Hoaxes and rumors will thrive. But the scariest part is that some of the fear will be justified.

 

Ruschelle: Where do you look for inspiration when your muse decides she needs a vacation to go visit her mother?

Doug: Anywhere. Everywhere. Songs, books, the news. Mythology, psychology, family life. Whatever the cat dragged in. Any one idea by itself probably won’t provide the spark, but the friction between two unrelated ideas colliding is where the magic happens.

 

Ruschelle: What are you cooking inside your head’s Eazy-Bake Oven? Could you give us a little taste?

Doug: Your question about the Momo meme ties into that. I’m currently pitching a novel called His Own Devices. It’s a domestic cyber thriller with a supernatural twist. Here’s the hook: When Jessica discovers that her young son’s digital addictions have lured him into a dark relationship with a psychotic YouTube celebrity, it may be too late to stop a deadly game.

 

Thank you so much for sitting down with me and your newfound fans here at the Horror Tree. Where can your stalkers find you on the www?

http://www.dougwynne.com

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