The Horror Tree Presents… An Interview with Naching T. Kassa
Selene – Welcome to The Horror Tree, and thank you for agreeing to an interview today. First, tell us about yourself.
Naching – Hi, Selene! Glad to be here. My name is Naching T. Kassa. I live in Eastern Washington State with my husband, Dan, our three children, and our dog. I’m a horror writer, an intern for Crystal Lake Publishing, and Head of Publishing for HorrorAddicts.net. I also write and interview for them.
Selene – How long have you been writing, and what about the horror genre draws you?
Naching – I’ve been writing fiction since 2nd grade (which was a million years ago in 1983.) My teacher loved my stories and she allowed me to write for my classmates. I wrote and illustrated silly monster stories for them. In 2011, I started writing full-time.
Mystery draws me to the horror genre. Every horror story holds some sort of mystery to me. If you think about it, Stephen King’s IT is a mystery. The kids don’t know what Pennywise is. They follow clues to discover the truth and this extends into their adulthood. Stephen King says that horror is symbolic. I like to try to figure out what the monster means, whether it belongs to me or another writer.
Selene – Since it’s a new year, do you have any 2019 writing goals? Most of us have broken our “resolutions” by now, but that’s okay!
Naching – I’m going to finish the novel I started during NANOWRIMO before the end of the year. (This is a much better resolution than the, “I will not eat cake,” one. I broke that in about two seconds.)
Selene – February is Women in Horror Month, and you and I have something in common: Not Just a Pretty Face, DeadLight Publishing’s upcoming anthology of women-authored horror stories. Let’s talk about your story, “War Beads.”
Naching – “War Beads” went through many incarnations before becoming what it is today. In fact, the one thing which remained constant through those different versions were the bone beads the hero uses to see spirits he must follow and avoid. It became a WWII story, when I read an article about the Holocaust in 2015. I read the comments (always a mistake if you’re easily infuriated) and discovered something I’d heard about but never encountered. A young man said he didn’t believe the Holocaust had happened. And, as I read his ignorant and illogical argument, I realized that young people know nothing about the Holocaust. (Last year, CBS reported that four out of ten millennials didn’t know six million Jews had died in it.) So, I decided to transform my story into one about two soldiers, one Jewish-American and one Comanche, who are charged with destroying an SS commander who’s been possessed by a dybbuk. The Jewish soldier, Aaron Goldberg, must place a bone bead in his mouth in order to see the ghosts who will lead him and to see those who’ll try to kill him. And, as he encounters his ghostly guides, he sees the manner of their death and comes to understand how they died in the death camps. It’s a raw and gritty subject. But, it’s my answer to the young man in the comments and to the country we now live in. We can’t hide from the past. We must face it or become the enemy.
Aside from this, I’m a woman of multi-racial heritage (I’m Jewish and Native American among other things) and I wanted to read a WWII story with non-white protagonists. I couldn’t find one so, I wrote one.
Selene – Do you have any other upcoming projects or plans for Women in Horror Month?
Naching – Yes, I’ll be participating in the Ladies of Horror Picture Prompt Challenge on Nina D’Arcangela’s blog. Plus, I may have a few surprises on my own. Check out: www.frightenme.weebly.com and see.
Selene – What are some of your writing influences, and where do you get your ideas?
Naching – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen King, R.L. Stine, and Kathryn Ptacek are some of my influences, but my biggest is Dean Koontz. His writing is amazing and I love the hope in his horror.
My ideas come from the ether, blooming in my mind like dark flowers. Strong emotion sparks them but the characters are the ones who bring them life.
Selene – In researching some of your work, I read your story “Audition,” in Crescendo of Darkness, which I loved. Great story—so great, in fact, I went looking to see if Ezra’s a real person! How do you create realistic characters?
Naching – Thank you! I think the secret of creating realistic characters is to think about what they will and will not do. What master do they serve? Is it money? Fame? Love? Death? Find what defines them and then fill in the details. These could be a backstory, their favorite color, the food they like, anything to make them real to you.
Selene – I also read the first story in your erotic horror publication Esther Ghould’s Love Spells. Those stories, “The Passionate Possession” and “Prey Upon The Wicked,” were previously published and then published them on your own. What do you think of self-publishing vs. “traditional” or small press publishing?
Naching – I think Self-publishing is a great way to go if you know what you’re doing. And, by that, I mean you should have a good cover and your work professionally edited. The advantages of doing it yourself, is the quick turnaround (your book can be out on Amazon in a month or less rather than two to three years.), you have control of your work, and you receive a large portion of royalties if your book does well. Unfortunately, because anyone can do it and do it badly, self-publishing carries a stigma. Unless you’re making $10,000 a month, people are going to look down their nose at your work. Traditional and Independent publishers give a certain amount of dignity to the project. And, sometimes, they can push your book better than you can. All three ways of publishing work well in their own ways.
Selene – The stories in Esther Ghould’s Love Spells, along with several of your other stories, are horror erotica. Now, I’ve always been not-so-great at erotica, so I respect anyone who can write it well. How do you approach the writing, so it’s not awkward or gross or cliche?
Naching – That’s a great question. I approach the work with love. If you can cast that spell of romance in the story, it can smooth out those rough edges. I also try not to be too serious. I turn the awkward, gross, and cliché into something funny or sweet. My Dad used to say that sex was God’s greatest joke and I find that rings true when I write erotica.
Selene – Still on the subject of erotica, why are there so many stories and books that mesh the two together? What do you think the appeal is, of sex and violence together (since most of horror consists of “Kill the monsters and try not to die”)?
Naching – I think the appeal is a primal one. The expectation of violence can be just as arousing as the expectation of climax. Suspense builds in the same way an orgasm does. In a way, the threat of violence from the monster can act as foreplay between the two characters. So it becomes, “Kill the monster, try not to die, and when you live, celebrate with sex.” Hahaha.
Selene – You’ve also published some horror poetry, which is not easy to do well. How does the process differ for poetry than for a story, and which do you like best, poetry or prose?
Naching – When I write prose, I have a general idea of where the stories are going. (Unless the characters change direction.) When I write poetry, I have no idea where I’m headed. The words just spill out.
I like prose best. It allows me to give full expression to my stories.
Selene – You’ve got one novel out, as well, The Venihi, from 2012 which seems to be out of print. Any plans to re-release it, or to write another?
Naching – Yes! I’ll be re-releasing it and the sequel, “Master of the Shade,” on Curious Fictions. Curious Fictions is a place where readers can find their favorite author and subscribe to their work. You can find me here: https://curiousfictions.com/authors/512.
Selene – The other story of yours that I was able to read was “The Face,” from Horror Addicts’ Campfire Tales anthology. I found it both suspenseful and kind of hilarious, but the quality I enjoyed most about it, as a “campfire story,” was that cautionary/urban legend/fable storytelling. It was fun picturing a narrator telling the story around a campfire, and the “audience” reacting. How do you create this kind of story, and are “fable”/campfire type stories favourites of yours?
Naching – I love these stories. They’re the kind I told my friends in school and now tell my children. “The Face,” was my entry in the Campfire Tale Challenge of the Next Great Horror Writer Contest and I created it using “The Man with the Golden Arm” as a template. You have a protagonist, a repetitive phrase, and you build the suspense by utilizing the phrase. Plus, you have to have the surprise twist at the end that is both scary and funny.
Selene – Still on the subject of influences and the well from which we draw our stories, I noticed some of your themes and subjects draw on other existing properties (like riffs on a theme in a musical piece). For example, your poem “Call Me Mary” from the Horror Writers Association Poetry Showcase Volume V is about Mary Shelley and the Frankenstein story. Do you think there’s anything new to be done with horror?
Naching – I like to start with something I know works, something familiar before I lead the reader to a new horizon. But, I believe there’s a ton of new things to do with the genre and I’d love to be one of those innovators. We’re only limited by our imaginations and the darkness in our souls.
Selene – Speaking of Horror Addicts, you do some interviewing yourself. Tell us about some interesting interviews you’ve done. Have you found asking questions of other authors influences your own writing at all?
Naching – Oh I’ve interviewed some terrific people. Mary Turzillo, the wonderful Science Fiction/Horror Writer and Champion Fencer; Marge Simon, Poet extraordinaire; Theresa Braun, Ghost Hunter; Nancy Holder, Mercy Hollow, H.R. Boldwood, Lori Safranek, Jess Landry, I wish I could list them all because they were all interesting to me. Josh Malerman was awesome. I talked to him about Bird Box before it was released and he’s just a cool guy. He’s so creative and I love his writing process.
And, yes, the questions do influence me. I’ve often thought about the creative process of the others while I’m creating my characters and plots.
Selene – As an interviewer, is there a question you would ask an interviewee, that you’d like to be asked here? (Yes, I’m asking you to be your own interviewer for one question!)
Naching – Hahahha! I’d love to be asked about my characters and whether I exert control over them. (It’s one of my favorite questions and gives insight into the author’s personality.) I don’t exert any control over mine. They drive the story with their actions. They have free will and can choose to be good, evil, or neutral. Perhaps, that’s what makes them so realistic.
Selene – What advice would you give to a new writer who’s just starting?
Naching – Read anything and everything you can, Respect anyone who gives you advice whether you plan to take or not, and check your ego at the door. If you’re full of yourself, you’ll never improve. You have to develop a thick skin and learn to take criticism and rejection.
Selene – Thank you again for talking to us today. Do you have anything else you’d like to discuss?
Naching – Thank you for having me, Selene and I can’t wait to work with you on NJAPF. And, thank you, Horror Tree, for interviewing authors.
I love the Horror Tree and have used it as my go-to resource for Horror submissions for eight years. I’ve found and been accepted by some great publications all thanks to them. Please, keep up the good work.
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Selene MacLeod is a night operator and sometime writing hobbyist. She holds a BA in Communications from Wilfrid Laurier University and resides in Kitchener, Ontario. Her work has appeared in several horror and crime fiction anthologies, most recently Shotgun Honey, Drag Noir (Fox Spirit Books); and the upcoming Freakshow: Freakishly Fascinating Tales of Mystery and Suspense (Copper Pen Press), and Tragedy Queens (Clash Media).She’s most excited about editing a charity anthology for Nocturnicorn Books called Anthem: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen, due out late 2017.