Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Cat Rambo and Jennifer Brozek
Jennifer Brozek is a wordslinger and optimist, an author, media tie-in writer, an editor, and a collector of antique occult literature. She believes the best thing about being a full-time freelance publishing industry professional, is the fact that she gets to choose which 60 hours of the week she works. In-between cuddling her cats, writing, and editing, Jennifer is an active member of SFWA, HWA, and IAMTW. She keeps a tight writing and editing schedule and credits her husband with being the best sounding board ever.
Cat Rambo is interviewing her and the pair recently co-edited an anthology titled ‘The Reinvented Heart’ from Arc Manor.
Cat Rambo: What really scares you?
Jennifer Brozek: Real world horror does. I try to avoid reading anything too realistic. I don’t need that kind of horror in my head. Also, swarms of bugs. There’s something about them that gives me the shudders.
Cat Rambo: What’s a time you really scared someone else?
Jennifer Brozek: I was the Guest of Honor at Tracon, a convention in Finland. My main panel was about writing horror and the difference between terror and horror. There were almost 300 attendees. As everyone came in, they were given a notecard and a pen with my name on it and asked to write down the name of someone living on it then to pass it up to me. I had an assistant put the cards in a bag.
I started the panel discussing how terrible things begin in small, unexpected ways. “For example, you and I, we have already entered into a pact. You have accepted my token…” I showed them the pen. “And given me the name of your sacrifice.” I held up the bag full of names. The looks on the audience’s faces was priceless.
Throughout the panel, my assistant would randomly text my phone (that was next to a microphone). Whenever that would happen, I would stop and pull out a card and read the name, have the person who wrote it identify themselves and tell me who that person was, then I would thank them for the gift of the person’s soul. After the third time, when the phone alerted and everyone tensed, I stopped and said, “That. That right there, that is terror. Anticipation of a known horror.”
At the end of the panel, I announced that I was not, in fact, a foreign witch from across the ocean and that I did not eat anyone’s soul. However, if people wanted, they could come get their “name” back from the bag. 90% of the audience did. Many left the pen I had gifted to them behind.
Cat Rambo: What childhood fears have you drawn on in your writing?
Jennifer Brozek: There are many fears that I draw on—universal fears—like fear of abandonment, fear of helplessness, fear of the unknown, fear of the known. When I write horror, I think about what scares my characters and how it scares them. I try to write their fear in a visceral way that allows my readers to identify with those fears—the sensations of it, both physical and emotional.
Cat Rambo: Who do you read for scary stuff?
Jennifer Brozek: Most recent, it’s been Peter Clines—The Broken Room. Man, what a messed up book that is, in the best way. Otherwise I like to read Mira Grant, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Stephen King, Victor LaVelle, Lucy Snyder, Joe Hill…and, gosh, there are so many others.
Cat Rambo: How do you get in the mood for writing scary stuff?
Jennifer Brozek: While writing, I will listen to instrumental music from bands like Two Steps From Hell, Midnight Syndicate, or soundtracks from movies and videogames like The Elder Scrolls, Tron, Inception, and Lord of the Rings. When I’m not writing, I will listen to gothic rock like Kamelot, Within Temptation, Poets of the Fall, and Nightwish. Music is very important to me. It allows me to enjoy and dream without my author or editor brain analyzing it. I can be inspired in a pure sense.
Cat Rambo: What have you watched lately that is super scary?
Jennifer Brozek: I actually don’t watch scary media. I’m a cozy murder mystery type of person—British, Canadian, Australian, or Swedish usually. I find American murder mysteries to be too in-your-face for my taste. I don’t like thrillers or jump scares. That just doesn’t do it for me. I like stuff you can think about and enjoy in a cozy sort of way.
Cat Rambo: Where can we find all things Jennifer Brozek?
Jennifer Brozek: For social media, I’m most active on Twitter (https://twitter.com/jenniferbrozek). Otherwise, I do have a blog (http://www.jenniferbrozek.com/blog/) and, if you want cat pictures, I have an Instagram account (https://www.instagram.com/jennifer_brozek/).
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Cat Rambo’s 250+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld Magazine, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. In 2020 they won the Nebula Award for fantasy novelette Carpe Glitter. They are a former two-term President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). Their most recent works are space opera You Sexy Thing (Tor Macmillan) and an anthology, The Reinvented Heart (Arc Manor, March, 2022), co-edited with Jennifer Brozek. For more about Cat, as well as links to fiction and popular online school, The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, see their website.