The Spooky Six with Willow Croft and Suzanne Craig-Whytock
For this edition of the Spooky Six, I’m having tea with Suzanne Craig-Whytock, and, yes, I’ve made a whole plate of cookies shaped like bones!
Award-winning writer Suzanne Craig-Whytock (she/her) found her passion for writing at an early age and had her first poem published when she was eight years old. She studied English Literature at university and was a high school English teacher for almost 25 years. She is the author of three previous novels, Smile, The Dome, and The Seventh Devil, and one short story collection, Feasting Upon The Bones. She is a member of the Canadian Authors Association and the Writers’ Union of Canada. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous literary journals, and she regularly publishes essays focused on life’s absurdities under the pen name mydangblog. She’s also the editor of DarkWinter Literary Magazine, an independent online publication of poetry and short stories out of Ontario, Canada, which publishes both emerging and established authors. Her second short story collection At The End Of It All is due to be released on February 7, 2023 by Potter’s Grove Press, and the sequel to The Seventh Devil is under contract to be released in 2023 by Bookland Press. Most recently, her second novel The Dome (winner of a Canada Book Award) was translated and published in Arabic by Arab Scientific Publishers in Lebanon and has been enjoying success overseas. Suzanne lives in a small town in Ontario, in a large rambling Victorian home with an acre of property that she and her husband have spent a lot of time rejuvenating. Her favourite things are her family, her black Lab Atlas, crows, white wine, antique clocks, and writing. She is a strong advocate and ally for LGBTQ+ people and believes that everyone deserves to be happy and live their own best lives.
You can find her on the following social media sites:
Facebook: Suzanne Craig-Whytock
DarkWinter Literary Magazine: www.darkwinterlit.com
Goodreads: Suzanne Craig-Whytock
Her books can be found on most of the Amazons, Chapters Indigo, https://alllitup.ca/, Potter’s Grove Press, and numerous other online sellers.
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?
Suzanne Craig-Whytock: Well, I absolutely adore derelict Victorian mansions, and have set at least two stories in one of them. Otherwise, the most unusual setting I’ve used would be futuristic Toronto in the year 2135 for my second novel The Dome. I used the CN Tower, subway tunnels, and I set the climax of the story in The Rogers Centre (which used to be The SkyDome). In terms of other crazy settings that I’ve read about or seen, I would have to say the film The Platform, which takes place in a vertical prison with a platform that descends through each level from the top down and prisoners fight for food. I also really loved the setting for the film Pandorum, as well as The Cabin In The Woods. As you can tell, I love horror movies. The scariest setting I’ve ever read was definitely Stephen King’s The Shining. That hotel and the hedge maze at the end!
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?
Suzanne Craig-Whytock: Oh, definitely a large glass of white wine along with some bacon-flavoured potato chips, or chocolate, or just bacon. My favourite meal, one we have on special occasions, is steak with a brandy/peppercorn cream sauce, roast potatoes, Caesar salad, and chocolate cheesecake for dessert. I literally write just to get meals like that. Of course, I’ve had to forgo the sauce recently—for some reason, the last three times I’ve made it, I’ve almost set the kitchen on fire when I add the brandy!
Willow Croft: “Did you hear that noise?” Everyone, even us horror writers, have our night terrors. What is it that frightens you the most?
Suzanne Craig-Whytock: Something happening to my husband or my daughter. I’m more scared of real-life things than any of the ghosts around here (and I do have a few—my house was built in 1906 and it’s got characters—not ‘character’, but actual characters, who sometimes make their presence known.) Otherwise, I have to say, ever since I was little, I’ve been deathly afraid of dangling my arm off the bed while I’m asleep. I remember reading a story about a woman who did that, and thought her dog was licking her hand. Then she rolled over and her dog was ON THE BED WITH HER.
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?
Suzanne Craig-Whytock: I watch a lot of horror movies so I know NEVER to do that. I keep a baseball bat and a hammer in almost every room of the house, so I’m well-armed on any given occasion. I never really get writer’s block. I mean, I do go for periods of time where I’m not working on a novel or short story collection, but I’m always writing something, either my humour blog, or a review, or things like that. For me, it’s mostly about time. I haven’t had a lot of time to write lately, and I was getting down on myself, then I remembered that I wrote two full books this year. If I ever did get writer’s block, I think I’d just pour myself a large glass of wine and see what comes next.
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?
Suzanne Craig-Whytock: I’m a plotting pantser. In other words, I always start out with a strong outline, then manage to deviate significantly from it about halfway through a book. I don’t think tying myself to one idea and never changing paths is a good thing. The best ideas are sometimes the ones that happen in the moment. The writing or industry advice I can think of is write, write, write, then edit, edit, edit. I know some people HATE editing—I’m one of the few who really enjoy it. I kind of edit as I go, but then I always take several passes at a book or story before I send it anywhere. Tweaking and refining are fun for me. And of course, I’ll keep hammering home that people really need to make sure that their spelling, grammar, punctuation, and so on, are really perfect before they think about submitting anything. As an editor of a literary magazine who happens to be mostly retired, I have the time to work with writers on these things, but a lot of places won’t.
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?
Hello, hello, baby
You called, I can’t hear a thing
I have got no service
In the club, you see, see…
If it wasn’t Lady Gaga, it would be George Orwell. A lot of people only know him from 1984 and Big Brother, or Animal Farm, but he was an incredible journalist and essayist, first and foremost. I’d love to get his take on current events. He was anti-fascist; in fact, he fought in the Spanish Civil War against a fascist uprising even though he was English. I’d also love a call from my favourite poet, T.S. Eliot, or Jane Austen, or from the Southern Gothic American writer Melinda Haynes. People from history? David Bowie, Marsha P. Johnson (who led the Stonewall riots), or my current favourite drag queens, Pangina Heals and Cheddar Gorgeous.
(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/.
Great interview! Willow actually asked a bunch of questions I’ve had about your creative process and writing practices, Suzanne. I agree: Start with a strong outline, but don’t be afraid to let inspiration lead you down unexpected narrative paths.