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Title: The Perfect Wife
Author: JP Delaney
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller
Publisher: Penguin Random House – Ballantine Books
Release Date: August 6th, 2019
Synopsis: Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He’s a titan of the tech world, the founder of one of Silicon Valley’s most innovative start-ups. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss.
She is a miracle of science.
But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband’s motives—and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to Abbie half a decade ago?
Beware the man who calls you . .
Are cyborgs our future? Are they machines or if we build them in our image do we automatically give them a soul? Surely if you kick a Roomba he makes nothing of it, but what if you impose relationship on a cyborg that has ‘feelings’ or at least is programmed to feel just like you do? The legendary Isaac Asimov’s first law of robotics is that a robot would never injure a human. But what if it’s the other way around? These ethical questions are just some that rise from “The Perfect Wife”, JP Delaney’s latest book.
Is “The Perfect Wife” a thriller? Is it Sci-Fi? Maybe Psychological? The book seems to escape standard definitions, which gives it immediately that X-factor. The certain fact is that the author uses this novel to teach us about autism, its related stigmatism and ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis – a method trying to embed “normal” behaviour to autistic patients), subjects which are no doubtfully close to his heart, and thus making this a rather educational experience as well as an entertaining one.
Tim Scott is a multi-millionaire Silicon Valley founder of an AI robotics company. He has built a ‘Cobot’ (Companion Robot) to replicate his wife Abbie Cullen-Scott, who disappeared five years before, presumed dead. The story is told from Abbie the robot’s point of view, who had been uploaded the memories of the real Abbie through social media, videos and pictures, and her brain was built in a way which is meant to “fill in the gaps”, by using her deductive AI abilities.
The story shifts between timelines, making narrative not altogether straightforward, and leaving confusion between someone who is telling us the alternate story of Abbie and Tim’s history. The couple also have a ten-year-old autistic son Danny who is the source of much tension and is essential to the development of the plotline. The more we read about Danny’s autism ‘outbreak’ the more we learn about Tim & Abbie’s marriage, which is far from the utopian relationship that everyone imagines.
This is a compelling story, well written by an experienced author. However, there were a lot of problematic points which disturbed me personally, as a critical reader. I‘ll endeavour to point these without giving away too much of the plot:
Abbie disappeared, so the upload of her memories is done from social media etc. If this is the case, how can she remember other events? How can she possibly know all of a sudden what Tim had told her during their wedding in India, as an example. The readers are intelligent, and the author should have sorted this issue, and not just hand the reader a “black hole” of data, expecting us to think nothing of it.
The second main issue lies within the story’s characters: while it is apparent that Tim is more sinister than he seems from the start – his true nature is even worst than you’d suspect. This is revealed only later in the story, which is very implausible, given how intelligent Abbie is. In comparison – while real Abbie is this cool-surfer artist who ‘rebels’ against society’s norms, Cobot Abbie is an eager to please wife. That simply didn’t cut the mustard for me. Besides, these are the only two complex characters in the novel, while everyone else has a sketch of a personality, nothing too deep. This makes it a bit unbelievable as the story reaches its climax, and the necessity of these supporting characters is discovered.
Addressing again the issue of autism. I salute the author of finding a fictional-comparable situation to autism, via AI beings. This was a clear well thought of paradigm, which makes readers who know nothing about autism or mind degenerative syndromes to relate and understand the issues which parents to autistic children face their entire lives. The author himself addresses this in his afterword.
In conclusion, “The Perfect Wife” is a very interesting idea, written well enough, but story-wise its execution did not live up to its promise. There should have been at least 100 more pages to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of how the Abbie-bot was devised, and who are Tim’s friends and staff. Eager to get this out, I think the author missed the target completely. The one silver lining is that the ending as it is, as well as the mortality of the robots and the subject of AI, mean that a sequel may very well be just around the corner. Given the ethical issues that the book slightly touches and the constant technological progress in real life – I can certainly see one in the near future.
I’ve never read a JP Delaney book before, clearly a gifted author. However, this book for me is still a draft that should have been edited more, especially when it comes to the story.
Joni Dee is the author of “And the Wolf Shall Dwell”, an intense political espionage thriller, that revolves around global terrorism and hits frighteningly close to the truth for a work of fiction. He is a military intelligence veteran and his writing of this murky world is inspired by his life experiences.
Stacey – Hi Bruno, it’s great to have you here! Tell us a little about yourself and where you’re from?
Bruno – Thanks for having me!
I was born and raised in Montreal but currently living in Ottawa.
As for a bit about myself – remember that guy in university who everyone agreed was really bright but was also really, really unfocused? The guy who could get straight B’s in courses by writing a 15 page paper the night before it was due but couldn’t get an A no matter how hard he tried? The guy who switched his major more often than most people switch jobs? The perennial ‘professional student’?
Yeah—that was pretty much me during most of the 90’s.
It wasn’t a complete loss, mind you; I ended up with a double major in psychology and anthropology, with a certificate in addiction studies thrown in for good measure. I also ended up with an amazing collection of friends, as well as an equally amazing collection of stories and adventures.
After bouncing around in the ‘real world’ for a while, I ended up by pure dumb luck getting a job working as a civil servant for the Canadian government in September 2001. Been working in various positions in the civil service since then.
Stacey – When did you start writing?
Bruno – I’ve been writing fictional short stories for seemingly forever – I recently rediscovered an absolutely unreadable science-fiction story I wrote almost thirty-five years ago back in high school – and I’ve been regaling friends and family since my university days with my many misadventures that often sounds comically fictional. They even came up with a term to describe them – “Bruno-esque” stories.
It was weird having your name become an adjective in your twenties.
But it’s only been since 2012 or so that I’ve actually become published. My writing career seems to have taken off quite a bit since then, with one published novel and almost two dozen published short stories since then.
Stacey – What genres do you write in and what drew you to them?
Bruno – When I was a kid, my sister had a large collection of Amazing Stories, Analog, Fantastic Stories and other magazines of that nature, as well as a collection of Ray Bradbury anthologies. When she moved away to university in the late 70’s, I inherited all her stuff. That was pretty much my mainstay reading material for most of the 1980’s. Thirty plus years later, I still have some of those magazines on a shelf on my bookcase.
I suppose, as a result of that eclectic upbringing, I have an eclectic collection of genres I like to write in. Most of my stories are science-fiction, but I’ve done urban fantasy, horror and even a bit of alternate history.
Stacey – What do you enjoy most about writing?
Bruno – That moment when a vague idea that has been bouncing around your head finally catches fire and the story that you didn’t know you had in you comes out.
Stacey – What scares you?
Bruno – Believe it or not, people. Or more precisely, interacting with them. I love people-watching and it’s one of my favorite activities while eating out. Interacting with them, however? Scares the crap out of me.
Oddly enough, despite being very shy and introvert, I tend to attract the oddest collection of people towards me.
Stacey – Where do you get your inspiration?
Bruno – Everywhere, to be honest. Inspiration for some of my stories have come from nightmares, but a few others have come from watching my cat’s behavior or just people-watching. Some were inspired by an oddly worded sentence or observation that someone pointed out to me. It happens so often to me that when people ask me ‘What inspires you?’, I feel the need to respond ‘What doesn’t inspire me?’.
Stacey – Which authors have influenced your writing along the way?
Bruno – Aside from Ray Bradbury as mentioned earlier, two major influences are Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. If the 1980’s consisted of me devouring of all those old magazines, the 90’s consisted of me plowing through everything they wrote.
Stacey – What’s your writing process like?
Bruno – When I sit down, I usually have a vague idea of what the story is going to be like. Not in crystal clear details, like some writers, but more like broad overall strokes. Then I just keep at it. More often than not, I get surprised by how the story develops, with a scene or even the ending being completely different from how I initially imagined them.
Stacey – What was the first story you had published?
Bruno – ‘A Thursday Night in Doctor What’s Time and Relative Dimensional Space Bar and Grill’ in The Temporal Element anthology in 2013. Believe it or not, it missed out at being the story with the longest title by just one word. The premise of the story revolves a bar filled with time-travelers – who end up complaining about all the unsuccessful times they tried to kill Hitler.
Stacey – Do you have a favourite character from your own works?
Bruno – Quite a few! I think quite a few writers end up treating some of their characters like old friends. They deserve a good revisit. There are a few characters in some of my published works that I think deserve to be revisited as well – if only I could come up with a suitable story for them.
Stacey – Has there ever been a book you couldn’t finish? Why or why not?
Bruno – Quite a few. I don’t remember the names of most of them, to be honest, either the title or the author’s name. I suppose my brain decided that it’s too busy with so much other stuff that it doesn’t have the time to keep track of stuff like that. But I do remember the reason why I couldn’t finish them: the main characters were just too unreadable. Too annoying, too dumb, too Mary Sue-ish – the reasons were different, but the end result was the characters that the author wanted me to invest in ere characters I really didn’t care about. When you’re rooting for the villains rather than the heroes, you messed up somewhere.
Stacey – What’s the last Horror movie/tv show you watched?
Bruno – Despite the fact that I must have seen the movie at least a dozen times, I always watch The Thing whenever it comes across my tv screen. I did that a few weeks ago.
Probably a mistake to have watched it at one AM though…
Stacey – If you could go back in time who would you go back in time to see?
Bruno – Just like every kid, I went through a big ‘dinosaur freak’ phase. Unlike most kids though, I never really outgrew that phase, so I would love to go back to that time period and just observe them—hopefully without ending up in someone’s stomach, of course!
Stacey – What’s the best piece of advice you could give someone who is just getting started on their author journey?
Bruno – Neil Gaiman said it best and I’ll repeat his words here:
“Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. The one thing you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can. The moment that you feel that just possibly you are walking down the street naked… that’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”
Words to live by, indeed.
Stacey – Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share?
Bruno – Currently working on one story tentatively titled ‘All Dreams; Reasonably Priced & No Refunds’:
Ten tons of raw, pure dreams and aspirations were in the shape of a perfect cube of white stone three feet to the side.
There were three such cubes in the railway freight car.
“Never seen one that colour before,” said the thin man in black.
“Oh?” replied Detective Yulia Zorya. She had been with Pinkerton for three years now and this was the longest sentence that the thin man had spoken in her presence in the last six months. And that last time was precisely seven words long – “Shame about Roosevelt getting assassinated by Zangara”.
A nod and a grunt was the thin man in black’s response. After a few seconds, he felt the need to modulate this response further, which he did with a shrug. It was a full minute before Zorya realized that nothing more was forthcoming, so, as usual, she took up the rest of the conversation.
“You made sure this delivery is totally off the books?” A nod. “Everything secured at the other end?” Another nod. “Just two of us agents?” A third nod. “This is going to be a pain in the ass.” A fourth and final nod.
“C’mon – let’s go. We gotta keep our cover.”
The Pioneer Zephyr had originally been designed as a promotional tool by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. In May of 1934 – about seven months after The Change – it made a ‘Dawn to Dusk’ dash from one end of the CB&Q railroad line to the other. The train had left Denver at just after seven in the morning and arrived in Chicago just after eight in the evening – a non-stop thousand mile ride done at an astounding average speed of 77 mph.
It was such a success – both from a promotional and financial aspect – that the public demanded that it be kept as a regular train. And since one of the members of the public was President Garner – well, what choice did they have?
CB&Q – having a better than average promotional department – quickly seized on the idea of naming their two trains after mythological gods and goddesses. One was called (naturally enough) “The Train of the Gods” and the passenger cars were named Apollo, Cupid, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, Neptune, and Vulcan. The other trainset was known as “The Train of the Goddesses” and the cars were named Ceres, Diana, Juno, Minerva, Psyche, Venus and Vesta.
Today’s train was The Train of the Goddesses and Yulia’s seat was in the Psyche car, something that she took as an unnecessarily bad omen, under the circumstances.
Yulia took her seat, while the thin man in black walked to the next car. As she settled into her seat, she caught a movement out of the corner of her eye.
It was Alex Newsome (“Of the Beacon Hill Newsomes”), a moderately wealthy (and extremely annoying, in Yulia’s expert opinion) dandy from Boston. He was in Colorado for unspecified and vague reasons but he was happy to drone on and on about his hobbies, which included bird-watching, golf, theatre, opera and genealogy.
At the moment he had cornered a poor unfortunate elderly gentleman and going in great detail about Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. As he was doing so, he was filling his pipe with shredded dreamstone. Yulia barely suppressed a smirk; Newsome was using black dreamstone, the lowest quality imaginable. The pipe Newsome was using was worth more than the dreamstone he was currently stuffing into it. At best, all black dreamstone would do is give you a relaxing sleep with a few vaguely interesting dreams. Sure – a dream is a dream and even vaguely interesting dreams was, nevertheless, an important luxury – but black dreamstone? Apparently Mr. Newsome’s family fortune was not quite as large as he let on.
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Once again, MasterClass has delivered a solid author’s teaching to learn fro as Joyce Carol Oates is teaching the art of something many who frequent this site tend to write – The Short Story. Oates has been “a literary treasure for more than 50 years” which is something that is hard to disagree with. In her career, the esteemed author has won the National Book Award, two O. Henry Awards, the National Humanities Medal, and the Jerusalem Prize. With over 58 novels and thousands of short stories, articles, essays, and more to her name you can now learn directly from her experiences over the years.
According to the MasterClass course description, you’ll be able to look forward to:
In 14 lessons, literary legend Joyce Carol Oates teaches you how to write short stories by developing your voice and exploring classic works of fiction. The author of some of the most enduring fiction of our time, Joyce Carol Oates has published 58 novels and thousands of short stories, essays, and articles. Now the award-winning author and Princeton University creative writing professor teaches you how to tap into your storytelling instincts. Find ideas from your own experiences and perceptions, experiment with structure, and improve your craft, one sentence at a time.
In this online MasterClass writing course, you’ll learn about:
• The principles of writing short stories
• Where to find short story ideas
• Connecting with readers through the taboo
• Journaling and self-expression
• Mining your experiences for story ideas
• Analyzing and constructing monologues
• Gaining inspiration and ideas by reading with intention
• Experimenting with different forms of writing
• Learning from examples of American short fiction
• Creative writing through self-exploration
If you need more convincing, here is the official trailer with Joyce Carol Oates sharing in her own words what you can expect from her class:
So, if you’re interested in taking the course, be sure to head over to MasterClass today!
K. Brandon Wilt is a creator who uses both visual media and the written word. He is the creator of ‘Six in the Mourning’ which is a webcomic that is “a supernatural road trip story of six friends dealing with a shared loss.” Today, he’s taken some time to sit down with us and chat about his work and various projects.
Full disclosure, Wilt also designed our new Trembling With Fear logo and if you’re in search of having an illustration created you should check out his Facebook portfolio!
Horror Tree: Brandon, first off thank you for joining us today! As ‘Six in the Mourning’ is your most prominent work, without giving too much away could you tell us a little about the plot?
K. Brandon Wilt: Thank you so much for having me! Absolutely! The story opens a few weeks after the death of Dawn. Her brother Alek is consumed with grief and sets out for his family’s cabin in the woods to suffer alone. Fearing for his safety (and possibly others) his girlfriend Lynn along with uninvited friends Nick and Darren go after him. On again/off again couple Ben and Christine unfortunately are stuck riding together. You find out quickly that they aren’t the only ones following, an unrevealed sinister force is along for the ride. The entire story is essentially broken down into four sections highlighting each group and different tones as they travel. Although these characters are dealing with a deep loss and the supernatural, the story isn’t all doom and horror. There’s a lot of light-hearted moments between these young twentysomethings and their mix of personalities and dynamics. At the core it’s about this group of six friends trying to get through a surreal painful time. It’s like the Big Chill on the road infused with action and the paranormal. If their pain of mourning wasn’t bad enough, it’s about to get much worse.
HT: Did any real-life experiences factor in to crafting this tale?
BW: Yes, a good friend of mine committed suicide when I was roughly the age of these characters. This story was influenced by that. How everyone mourns differently. How it almost seems like whatever overwhelming pain or suffering that one person has doesn’t die with them, but it’s distributed around to others. It’s there in the corner of your eyes darting behind tombstones. Reality becomes surreal and your mind desperately grasps at putting back some sense of order following a tragedy. This graphic novel mixes that heaviness with random ridiculous road trips with friends. Traveling together brings out a certain sense of honesty. Trapped in a vehicle for hours together good or bad, whether you’re going for fun or for something serious I think is an interesting time on its own. This story is melding those things. Plus I just love horror and comics, so it seemed like the obvious way to knit together the story.
HT: What inspired you to put ‘Six in the Mourning’ together?
BW: Having had a somewhat darker disposition, I wanted to tell a story of getting through something hard when it seems impossible. When all seems completely lost. This story is about getting through an emotional time and how a good circle of friends can help. To tie that to horror or a ghost story really I found very appealing. I wanted to try to capture that feeling not only with the story itself, but also in the way it’s presented. It’s designed so the reader is working things out along with the group’s own sense of unsettling confusion. The characters just naturally developed and watching their interaction as they travel is what’s important to me. Creatures, abilities, and what I felt were cooler aspects I wanted to incorporate are just the vehicles to move the story along and set the feel and tone for their surreal almost pocket-like universe they journey through.
HT: How was it to work with other creatives to bring this story to life? Was this a collaborative process or did you more direct how things moved forward?
BW: I have an annoying habit of deputizing or recruiting people for my random crazy projects. If you foolishly tell me you’re interested in something, I’ll most likely find something for you to do. Like a monstrous (yet loveable!) dictator. Although it’s my story, characters, and pencils I’ve been incredibly fortunate to coerce (to their dismay) some amazingly talented and skilled people to bring this to being (as opposed to just a huge stack of pages sitting next to my desk.)
I will go over the page layouts and story with Jay Heptner and without fail he’ll produce dialogue for these characters that are spot on perfect. When I first met him forever ago I off handedly mentioned to him a group of us were putting together an anthology, a way to showcase some of our work. Not knowing he was a writer he showed up later with a script for a project that would fit an entire graphic novel! Smart, layered, and funny work, Jay is an excellent writer.
Christopher Rehner volunteered to color to help get this project to the public. And although I told him I just wanted something simple to set the tone, he went all out and gave 110 percent on the chapters he worked on.
I recruited letterer extraordinaire Kurt Hathaway who’s worked for Marvel, DC, Extreme, and more companies than I can list after writer Dave Golightly’s stint on crafting word balloons for Book 1. Kurt also produced the teaser animation video. And I have to rely on my tech support Chaz York to help upload it all to the site, since I’m practically a Ludite.
I can’t thank everyone enough who worked on, assisted, supported, or listened to me prattle on talking about this. The list is huge since I’ve been working on this since the early 2000s (which is around when this story is set). I know they all dread my “are you making art or excuses?” texts and e-mails, but I do appreciate them all.
HT: What does the future hold for ‘Six in the Mourning’?
BW: The series is set to be seven issues collected as a graphic novel. But due to the unrestricted format of publishing on-line those issues are able to vary in length allowing the story to play out organically. I’m also able to pepper in little videos, animation, sketches, and notes to give more depth to the project. I’ve also sculpted full size Silent masks that may become available (along with putting together a six foot tall version for display, because that’s the kind of thing you do when you wake up crazy early like a maniac…). T-shirts should be available coming up. There are plans for the story Dawn was writing to be released. Possibly a one shot featuring Alek’s “lost time”. There’s also another part that occasionally starts scratching at the inside of my skull, but for now the focus is to complete the seven issue mini-series.
HT: What other projects do you currently have in the works or are you planning to bring to life?
BW: Six In The Mourning is the big one right now. Other than that I’ll find time for mostly creepy illustrations, commission pieces, random sculptures, and the occasional short horror story. With the art stuff and my comic shop Bent Wookee Comix, I’m always working on something. The shop has developed into a community of people not only celebrating comics, but also a meeting ground for creatives working on their own projects.
HT: Do you have any stories which you’ve been dying to tell that you could tease us with?
BW: I’ve always found short horror stories like what you’d find in Tales From The Crypt to be really interesting. Little morality tales featuring things I prefer drawing like creatures, demons, monsters, you know all the fun stuff! I like to be able to noodle around on just a few pages and not get tied into a big story.
HT: If you could work on any mainstream comic, which would it be and why?
BW: Since I’m more interested in drawing creatures, probably Ghost Rider or something like Werewolf By Night. I was always a Wolverine fan though, that would be fun. Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, Eric Powell’s The Goon, or James O’Barr’s The Crow have always been the types of things to inspire. Telling your own story with your own characters unrestricted to the type of genre. Just because it’s a comic book doesn’t mean it has to be super heroes. The medium is open to any kind art style or story you want to tell.
HT: What are you working on next?
BW: There’s plenty more Six In The Mourning to work on currently. I’ll fit in a short story or commission illustration, but that’s really the main focus. Maybe start an army for positive projects out of people who love comics. Dunno. I’m sure it’ll be something considered relatively impractical. Guess we’ll see.
HT: Thank you again for your time, If there is anything you’d like to showcase or share with our readers, please let us know now!
BW: Keep your eyes out for more Six In The Mourning. There are three of the seven issues available for free for a limited time at www.sixinthemourning.com with more updates coming soon. You can check out more of my projects, sketches, and work at “Art of K. Brandon Wilt” on Facebook and “bwilt_art” on Instagram. If you’re looking for funny books and cool collectibles, check out my shop Bent Wookee Comix in Johnstown, Pa. And I just wanted to thank you for having me do the logo for Trembling With Fear, you have so many amazing writers contributing!
Jen – Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to me!
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
Evan – I don’t see myself anyplace differently than I am now, from a creative perspective. Unless you’ve already made it, writers tend to keep churning out work without a particular goal. Most of this will never see the light of day. We keep going through the moves, regardless, for the usual nonsensical reasons, like scratching an itch. Basically, it’s a journey we’ve signed on to, but one that doesn’t generally change where we are on the map.
Jen – What would you be doing if you couldn’t be a writer/director?
Evan – I think the question boils down to not what alternative career path would I follow, because I have a day job, but what other creative outlet would I pursue? If the ideas stopped coming or I couldn’t find a way to articulate them, I’m sure I’d be driven into another medium like painting or origami or making soaps. People with a creative impulse will always find an outlet of some form.
Jen – If you could bring any mythical creature or character to life what or who would it be and why?
Evan – Funny you should ask, since I did recently finish a novel called Pauper King that features a slew of mythical creatures. It’s about a serial killer on the loose in the world of fairy tales. It doesn’t end well for most of our beloved characters. Hard to pick a favorite, but I enjoyed portraying the seven dwarves as filthy, foul-mouthed louses.
Jen – Where is the one place (or places) you can always find inspiration?
Evan – The news. The easy part is drawing inspiration for themes and plots. The hard part is avoiding being on the nose or too obvious about the source.
Jen – What is your favorite mode of transportation (real or not) and why?
Evan – There isn’t one. I don’t like moving.
Jen – If you could fix one thing in the world what would it be?
Evan – Get rid of the people. The rest is fine.
Jen – What is a typical day for you?
Evan – I do my day job, then spend time with my family. Writing usually is the result of insomnia.
Jen – What is your favorite thing to eat and drink while you are creating?
Evan – Caffeine tends to be an effective motivator. But really, I have so little time to create now that I’m usually doing it in my car over a break or in the early morning when everyone’s asleep. It would be weird to eat or drink.
Jen – What season best describes you? Why?
Evan – Fall. I’m cool like that.
Jen – What little thing always seems to make you happy?
Evan – Always happy when I discover some new kind of food. Never fails to amuse me.
Jen – Who would you most like to meet (alive or dead)? Why?
Evan – John Lennon. Obvious.
Jen – What have you written or done that you are most proud of?
Evan – I think for its scope and sheer number of ideas, Pauper King. I wanted it to be written from the perspective of someone living at the close of the 19th century, about life in the middle ages. The language needed to be perfectly accurate, so every word had to be researched to see when it came into common use. It was incredibly laborious and took over a year to write. Sorry, it was never published. In fact, agents and publishers lined up to let me know how unmarketable it was. Maybe some day…
Of works that are out there, my collection of short stories called Gone is Gone.
Selene – Welcome to The Horror Tree, and thank you for agreeing to “chat” with us today! First, tell us a bit about yourself.
A.G. – I’m always excited to chat with fellow horror fans. I guess I’ve always been a horror geek at heart. I love all things Halloween inspired and writing scary stories just comes naturally to me. Other than loving creepy things, I also have two tiny humans who keep me very busy and I also teach! I have written a four-book series called The Zombie Girl Saga and have written several short stories which I’m equally proud of. When I’m not writing, teaching or spending time with my family, you can always find me reading something, doodling or painting. Let’s see, what else can I share…I’m Canadian, I’m a bit of a goofball, I’m slightly obsessed with nail polish, all things Marvel Comics and Tim Burton too!
Selene – How long have you been writing, and why do you prefer (according to your bio) to write horror?
A.G. – I’ve been writing professionally for six years now, but writing has been part of my DNA from the start. I love crafting worlds and characters, I have pages and pages of short stories from my younger days and they weren’t great but they were fun. We all start somewhere right? I love horror because I’m the Halloween loving kid that never grew out of that phase. If you make me choose between watching Evil Dead for the 700th time or The Notebook, I’m going to pick Evil Dead every single time. I love the thrill of horror and sometimes the absolute absurdity of it. Life is all together too serious, so I welcome the absurd, the over-the-top, the thrill of the scare, I don’t really feel that with any other genre. Horror is my happy place as odd as that may sound.
Selene – What do you like to read, and who are some of your favourite authors?
A.G. – I like to read everything, I’m a bonafide bookworm. If someone recommends a book to me, I am always game to take a look. I don’t turn books away! That being said, I certainly have my favourites. I’m currently in love with V.E.Schwab, Paul Tremblay and Grady Hendrix. Some forever favourites are Anne Rice, Edgar Allan Poe and R.L.Stine, I feel these three have really influenced who I am as an author, it’s an odd mash-up, but if it’s your cup of tea, then we’re already best friends! Ha!
Selene – You work in almost every type of writing: novels, short stories, poetry, YA, and you even dabble in visual arts. What form of creative expression do you like best—I know it’s hard to choose, but say you had to give up all but one, which would it be?
A.G. – Oh wow! That’s a really hard question! I have a giant book filled with quickly written poems and a sketch book just as large with doodles, I think self expression is so important, even if it’s just for your eyes only. I would really hate to give up any, but gun to my head, I think I would need to keep short stories in my life, I love the quick build of suspense and either ending it with something completely shocking or leaving you wondering for ages. There’s a bit of magic in the art of the tease and short stories are just that.
Selene – Your website, poeticzombie.com, is full of zombies, and you mention that you love zombies. The (Trope? Genre? Archetype?) of “Zombie” has been popular for decades, and a few years ago there was a boom with The Walking Dead and other movies and TV shows. Why do you love zombies so much, and why do you think they have such mass appeal?
A.G. – I get asked this a lot, “why zombies?” I know they’re not everybody’s cup of tea but they’re just so versatile. You have endless amounts of creativity with them. There’s the mindless flesh eaters, the infected, the cursed, the impossibly fast and strong, the immune, or my personal favourite the ones you sympathize with. I love that you can’t quite hate zombies, they used to be people, people that were loved, had families, had lives. People yell at their screens telling protagonists to “kill the zombies” but if that zombie was once your mom, or your brother, or your best friend, could you do it? That complexity speaks levels about being human, we can know the right answer but also disagree with it. Zombies will forever teach us about ourselves and what it really means to be human.
Selene – You also write about vampires, in your story “Aqua Vita,” from Another Beautiful Nightmare. How do you keep such well-traveled, well-known characters as zombies and vampires fresh?
A.G. – First of all, thank you! But if I’m being completely honest, a lot of it just comes from dreams or I guess most would call them nightmares. A lot of my dreams have monsters in them, but I think they simply represent deep seated fears. Writing these stories is therapeutic, I like to believe the dreams have meaning and maybe the stories seem fresh because there’s something “true” about them, or at least in my world.
Selene – Let’s talk about your series, Zombie Girl. What’s it about, how has it been received, and do you intend to write any more sequels? What can we expect?
A.G. – Zombie Girl was my first step into professional writing, it was my baby and I will always treasure it. The four-book saga was a labor of love and most readers I’ve interacted with have told me that it was hard to put down and that they found parts of it so very relatable. I wanted to create a zombie story like no other and I feel as though I really achieved that. The story follows Eve, a teen from a small town looking to escape and find a little adventure, she definitely gets more than she bargained for, and, as her character develops, we find out just how strong she truly is. I’m a big fan of comic books and I’ve always wanted to design a hero. Eve is a hero, a perfectly flawed one. I loved creating her, but her story is now complete. I’m happy with the ending and don’t want to spoil it. I’m currently working on a new series that will centre around the haunting of a small town, I don’t want to say too much about it, but it’s quirky and weirdly wonderful and it’s really hard to leave that world behind when I stop writing.
Selene – Fun question. Who would your dream cast be, in a film version of Zombie Girl?
A.G. – I always cast my characters before I start writing, it’s a really fun part of the writing process and I always look forward to it. My dream team for Zombie Girl would be Sophia Bush as Eve, Jennifer Lawrence as Alex and Brandon Routh as Cam. I chose them all for very geeky reasons and I’m not the least bit ashamed! Heheheh.
Selene – I was amused to find your story, “Aqua Vita”, from Another Beautiful Nightmare, was set in Ottawa. As a Canadian, I like to set my stories in Canada (and not just because I’m lazy). How do you choose your settings?
A.G. – I am a very proud Canadian and I love to use places in Canada in my stories. It’s not just a write what you know, it’s more of a write what you love and I love where I live! I’ve noticed many films have been filmed in or around Toronto, but no one ever calls it Toronto! I say, why not? Anything that can happen in New York could also happen in Toronto, so I say we start putting Canada on the international map, make it part of the dialogue, it’s time!
Selene – Do you prefer to write about places you’ve been and lived/travelled, or do you like to personally research your locations? (And hooray for Google Earth—a homebody writer’s best friend!)
A.G. – I usually write about places I’ve been, it’s my way of travelling back to them. I always secretly hope that when I write about a location someone might be reading that part of one of my stories in that exact same spot!
Selene – My sister and I have an ongoing argument about (ABOOT) Canadian settings. She thinks that Canada is boring, and no one gives a crap about The Great White North, except as a joke. I think it’s the opposite. How do you make Canada—which can be boring—scary?
A.G.- I think boring just means unexplored potential, I’m currently digging into Canadian legends for my current WIP and there are some really freaky ones that have left me sleepless! The ghosts this country has, my goodness!
Selene – And one more question about being a Canadian writer. Every article I read about Canadian literature seems to be about how much Canadian literature really sucks and is really problematic. Yet all the actual writing I read by Canadians, whether it’s poetry or prose or non-fiction or what have you…is wonderful, especially by Canadian horror authors like Tony Burgess and Gemma Files. What do you think is wrong with Canadian stories and CanLit, or have you noticed this dissonance?
A.G. – I love Gemma Files and Margaret Atwood and Nancy Kilpatrick, I feel that Canadian authors have a lot to offer and yet I agree that they often get overlooked. I wonder if Canada is dismissed because people just don’t know enough about us. As you said earlier, Canada is usually the punch-line, something about polar bears and ice castles and whatever else people have dreamed up. Somehow it stuck, so maybe I just better work with it and create a horror story about zombie polar bears that attack during massive snow storms? Could be fun at least.
Selene – Your story “Poveglia: The Island of the Dead” from Beautiful Nightmares: Women of Horror Anthology features a pretty horrific view of an afterlife. Where do you get your ideas? The reason I ask is the horror of Poveglia isn’t that she’s a bad person being punished, but that two of Anna’s three crimes seem to be childish rudeness and terrible choices and selfishness, rather than outright malicious intent. Part of Anna’s lesson seems to be to remember there are consequences and a duty to act–if this is what sends us to hell, we’re all in trouble!
A.G – It came from a dream and little bit from an Italian legend and a little bit from Dante. I do think we create our own hell by not being able to forgive ourselves. Poveglia is terrifying in that Anna doesn’t really deserve any of it, I agree. The horror genre certainly plays that angle quite often. I do think that sort of fear is healthy, we should be afraid of becoming bad people, we should be afraid of losing our humanity, we should always work towards kindness.
Selene – Your poem “Queen of Corpses” from the Damsels Of Distress anthology is a reworking of Shakespeare’s play King Lear, with a focus on Cordelia. What inspired this poem, and why do you think authors like to rework old properties (Shakespeare, myths, fairy tales, etc.)? And speaking of Cordelia, as a Canadian did the Tragically Hip song have even a tiny bit to do with it?
A.G. – Ha! Who doesn’t love a good reworking of a classic, and who doesn’t love The Hip? I wasn’t thinking of the song at the time, but I will be now! I have always loved Shakespeare, he just does tragedy so well. Cordelia has stayed with me for ages, she’s one of those characters that haunt you because she was so pure of heart and it didn’t really do her any favours. I guess the injustice had me reeling and this poem was going to come about one way or another. I really just wanted her to have her revenge.
Selene – In addition to the writing and other creative projects you juggle, you’re a “mombie.” What do you do to focus your priorities and keep on track, so you can get work done?
A.G. – It’s hard, I’m sure any mombie in my position would say the same thing. Finding balance is difficult, I don’t always find it, in fact most of the week is dedicated to being the mombie of the house, but I wouldn’t trade a second of it. There will come a day where the kiddos won’t need me as much, so I’m just absorbing every adorable moment that I can! I try to set aside a couple of days a week to write something, even if it’s just a little bit. My poetry writing is still a daily thing, it’s something that’s mine, and it’s soothing.
Selene – Thanks again for agreeing to an interview. Is there anything else you’d like to talk about here?
A.G. – My absolute pleasure! Thanks for having me and for all the awesome questions! It’s been fun! I guess I would just like to end with, keep reading kids! Grow your world with words, every book can teach you something! *The More You Know Rainbow appears*