The Spooky Six with Willow Croft and GG Collins
I’ve hopped on the train to meet up with GG Collins, where we not only have tea, but I eat my fill of red-chile-doused enchiladas!
GG Collins (she/her) loves the southwestern US where many of her stories are located. She can be found hiking through ruins of the ancient Puebloans and enjoying New Mexican cuisine. When not traipsing about, she makes up stories with great friendships, quirky characters and, oh yeah, dead bodies. In real life she shares her time with a man, several neurotic—and psychic—cats and the ongoing struggle to grow a garden.
Whether you enjoy scary paranormal mysteries or cozy cat-populated puzzles, Collins delivers. The Rachel Blackstone Paranormal Mysteries are steeped with shamans and spirit animals. Although Rachel tries to avoid becoming the headline, she often finds herself smack in the middle of the story. This series contains elements of horror, violence and the supernatural.
Review: “Collins has done her research into Native American culture and values, and it shows. I highly recommend Anasazi Medium. Trust me. You won’t be able to put it down.” — Mark Scott Piper, Reviewer
The Taylor Browning Cozy Mysteries are more traditional. Taylor, a mystery editor at a publishing house, does a little sleuthing on the side. She really should stay in the office or at home with her cats Oscar and Cheddar, but Taylor seems to find clues and bodies regardless. Although Jim, her friend and art director at the publisher, and Det. Sanchez at the Santa Fe PD try to keep her out of trouble, well … . An inconvenient truth: she can’t edit her way out of real murder.
Review: “My favorite character, hands down, has to be the cantankerous cat, Oscar.” — Marcelle Valentine, Reviewer
Both series are inspired by the American southwest, its many cultures and Native American traditions. Collins has worked at a book publisher where she learned the ins and outs of bringing books from manuscript to bookstore. Her Taylor Browning Cozy Mystery series offers an inside look at book publishing from the eyes of a mystery editor. If you enjoyed “The Magpie Murders” on PBS, you’ll fit right in to Taylor’s world.
After her stint as a publisher she went on to reporting. The Rachel Blackstone Paranormal Mysteries explore history and contemporary issues in the Southwest with a journalist who is torn between her fact-driven reporting job and the spiritual realm where she reluctantly finds herself propelled. Along with best friend Chloe, Hopi shaman friend, intuitive kitty Chile Pod and the mysterious white wolf, she solves mysteries linked to both the quick and the dead.
Willow Croft: “Hey, look at that derelict Victorian mansion . . . let’s go explore it!” What’s the most unusual setting you’ve read about in a horror/thriller book, or included in your own creative works?
GG Collins: Although that spooky hotel in Stephen King’s “The Shining” really freaked me out, I’d have to go with my most recent book “Anasazi Medium.” In it, Rachel Blackstone travels back in time to have a conversation with Skeleton Man or Maasaw, the Guardian of the Hopi Underworld. The Hopi are considered the keepers of sacred knowledge. Getting there requires a literal leap of faith and once there not all the spirits are friendly. Rachel is trying to stop “bad men” from robbing Mother Earth, except she has no idea who they are or what they are taking. Skeleton Man is horrific to face, but Rachel swallows her fear and asks him for help.
Willow Croft: “It was a dark and stormy night . . .” What are your go-to comfort foods, drinks, or other ways to wind down after a long day (or night) of writing?
GG Collins: Margaritas, margaritas and margaritas. I’m especially fond of those at The Shed and Del Charro restaurants in Santa Fe. At home, it’s tea: hot, cold or instant. A yoga practitioner for several decades, it’s my go-to stress reliever.
Willow Croft: “Did you hear that noise?” Everyone, even us horror writers, have our night terrors. What is it that frightens you the most?
GG Collins: Aside of things like war and bodily crime, I don’t like things that go bump in the night. When you’re asleep and a noise wakes you, there is always that lingering question: What was it and do I need to do something about it? And, do I really want to go out there? Once, when awakened, I carefully peeked through the blinds at night and something moved. I thought: Oh my god, there really is someone out there. A second look showed it was the ristra hanging from our porch moving in the wind. A string of chiles looks nothing like a human, except in the wee hours.
Willow Croft: “I’m sure it was nothing. But I’ll just go outside and check, anyway. Alone. With no weapons.” Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If so, how do you combat it? Do you have certain rituals or practices that help get you into the writing (or creating) mindset?
GG Collins: I don’t get writers’ block. There are so many stories backlogged in my head that if I get to a place in one that’s not working, I can go to another story. And often, some research can right a wrong writing path. But as far as blocking for months and being in agony that I’ll never write again, I just don’t do that.
Willow Croft: “Don’t go into the basement!” Are you an impulsive pantser or a plotter with outlines galore? What other writing/industry advice would you share with your fellow writers & creators?
GG Collins: Definitely don’t go in the basement, attic, cellar, barn, pub, cemetery or English countryside church. Those of us who watch British mysteries already know this. Really, there is no safe place. But back to the writing thing, I’m definitely a pantser. If I spend a lot of time outlining and writing character back stories, I might as well have written the book. My prep for a book is research because my stories intertwine reality and the metaphysical. When you ask someone to buy into a supernatural story, it needs to be grounded with some reality. My paranormal mysteries include ancient Hopi and Navajo stories, rituals and everyday real events in Santa Fe. I often send Rachel to visit both realms.
Willow Croft: “Ring ring!” It’s the middle of the night and the phone mysteriously rings. Which notable writer, or person from history, would be on the other end of the line?
GG Collins: Phyllis A Whitney. Although Shirley Jackson inspired my leap into peculiar mystery writing, it was Whitney who helped me the most in my early days of writing. I would like to thank her for the many hours of pleasure her books gave me and tell her how much her book “Guide to Fiction Writing” helped me get my start. While I think she wouldn’t approve of my paranormal line with its horror elements, scary encounters and wild fantasy travel, she would applaud how I used her book to become a better writer. And after all, there is no such thing as a perfect writer, but we can all become better writers.
(Disclaimer: Please note that the interview responses are the opinion(s) of the interviewee and may not be directly representative of The Horror Tree, its staff, and/or its guest contributors.)
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“Bringer of Nightmares and Storms.” Horror writer Willow Croft is usually lurking deep in the shadows of her writer cave, surrounded by formerly feral (but still fierce!) cats for company. Visit her here: http://willowcroft.blog, or check out her other services here: https://kirsten-lee-barger.mailchimpsites.com/.