In this interview I would like to present you with an amazing woman, a fabulous writer and intellect, and also an inspiration. Her name is Rhonda Jackson Joseph. She is a horror writer, a member of the Horror Writers Association, and a professor based out of Texas. Her analysis of gender, race, and, horror has really inspired me to look at all who indulge in this world of horror that we love so much. Primarily a man’s game, I want to look at the differences we all bring to the table. Male/female, black/white/yellow/brown, different religions, different countries, different sexual orientations… how we all see horror differently. So starting off my adventure, I bring you the great lady herself and her answers to my questions:
First, thank you so much for having me over for a chat, Jaye. I always enjoy talking with other women in horror.
Where did you get your love for the horror genre?
I grew up in a home always filled with books and magazines and the ones my parents didn’t think to hide were the horror ones. I’ve always had a dark nature, so I was drawn to these tales of monsters, weirdness and evil. My father was the one who collected these books and every now and then I would talk him into allowing me to watch the horror movies with him. I was really young, maybe 6 or 7 or so. The adult me is glad he didn’t have the best parenting judgement because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have gotten all that exposure to the things I love so much.
What are some of your favorite horror films?
Some of my all-time faves are Blacula, the original Poltergeist, Pet Sematary, The Exorcist, Beloved and all the classic Universal monster movies. Recent additions to my list are Get Out, The Quiet Place, and Hereditary. Apparently, I’m drawn to sympathetic monsters and also utterly terrified by parenthood and societal horrors.
How did you get into writing?
Writing has always been how I best express myself. The written word never fails me, even when speaking does. I’ve been full of words since childhood, with a knack for telling stories. I also have a mother who always supported whatever I and my siblings wanted to do and she continuously praised my writing and encouraged me to continue the sharing of myself through words. My insatiable curiosity helps, too. I never run out of things to write about because I question everything, all the time. Everything that happens and my experiences are fodder for stories or poems. Even things that don’t happen are fair game. Writing is such a part of my being that I can just never quit.
Who are some of your favorite writers?
So many faves! I read way more than I write, which is good in some ways but terrible in others. I love classic writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Mary Shelley. I also like Shirley Jackson, Octavia Butler, and Tananarive Due. Stephen King is one of my favorites as is Linda Addison and Lori Titus. And L.A. Banks will forever be #writergoals.
Which books inspired you?
I mostly read Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and John Saul as a child, so I was heavily inspired by their works to write my own creepy fare. The works of Tananarive Due and Toni Morrison inspired me immensely because they showed that black women could write riveting horror. But the most influential book overall in my horror writing was the Bible. I was raised as a Southern Baptist and those stories and the ways preachers would impart them were horrifying! I also liked the hidden messages and the ways the words could mean various different things.
I learned the word misogynoir while researching you. Can you explain it to my readers and how you feel about it or counteract it?
This is an excellent question! Misogynoir is a term coined by African American feminist Professor Moya Bailey to describe a specific hatred that is enacted upon black women. Misogynoir reflects an intersection of race and gender in the ways black women are victimized. I grew up feeling the weight of not just being black but of also being a woman, so the word feels right and encompasses the entirety of my experiences with such hatred in a way that the term misogyny ignores with its single focus on my being a woman.
One specific way I work to combat misogynoir is simply by daring to write black women’s experiences into the horror genre, as an unapologetic black woman. I write about black women being terrorized by monsters because so many experiences of black women are horrific. I write about black women being monstrous because we should be allowed to lean into this element and receive power and sympathy as other monsters do. I write about why we need these depictions, why the genre (really, the world as a whole) should embrace these characters and stories as relevant, lived experiences that encounter horror and monstrosity in various ways.
What drew you to writing in academia?
I often tell folks I’m an accidental academic. I attended graduate school primarily to get a degree that would allow me to work part-time teaching at the college level, where I would make more money than in any other part-time job. I also needed the flexibility so I could still care for my children. I didn’t know the pursuit of that degree and the people I would meet along the way would also create avenues for me to find a still growing corner of this discipline where I might be able to make valuable contributions. I honestly had no idea that writing about black women and horror from an academic standpoint was a thing. Then I met Dr. Kinitra Brooks at a horror convention and searched for everything I could find on her work about black women in horror and popular culture and I finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. My entry into academic writing may have unintentional, but apparently, this is where I need and want to be.
What do you find truly horrific?
Ah…our existence is immersed in darkness and overrun by monsters. If I had to choose the most horrific things I’m aching over in this moment, I’d have to say humanity’s lack of empathy and the assassination of intellectual curiosity. It scares me that human beings can deny other humans their right to basic personhood and exalt their cruelty. Now, I wouldn’t say there was ever a time in my lifetime when this empathy existed in abundance, anyway, but I just would have thought we’d be beyond this point by now.
And I grew up surrounded by people who didn’t have advanced educations, sometimes not even through high school, and yet they still sought knowledge and facts to make decisions about their lives in general. Now we have folks who have multiple degrees who disregard facts and make illogical and unsound arguments in bad faith… and others blindly follow them. Critical thinking is pretty much dead, and it doesn’t seem it will even be resurrected as a zombie, so when it’s completely gone, it’ll just be gone.
If you could have a frank discussion with any five people in history: living or dead, who would it be and why?
This is a fun one! The chance to ask Mary Shelley about her writing process and inspiration for Frankenstein. I want to hear it from her without the filter of years of research. And meeting Edgar Allen Poe would be a dream. I often wonder how he managed to avoid ultimately succumbing to his demons before he did. I’d absolutely love to have a conversation with Margaret Garner, the enslaved woman whose story of matricide inspired Toni Morrison’s Beloved. As heart wrenching as it would surely be, I’d like to hear from her the desperation that drove her to murder one child and attempt to murder the others in an attempt to save them from slavery. I’d like to talk with Toni Morrison, too. I continue to be inspired by the way she uses words to make experiences immersive. I’d just want to shake her hand and hope some of her glitter rubs off on me. And James Baldwin seems like the kind of person I would seek out at a party, someone I could have stimulating conversations with while the world went on around us.
What are you working on now?
I work best when I’m juggling different projects, so I’m currently working on a few things. My main focus right now is an essay on the Netflix series “The Haunting of Hill House”, for a collection being compiled and edited by Dr. Kevin Wetmore. Also, I’m outlining two different academic book proposals for submission to publishers. In the background of these academic projects is a horror novella and a couple of chewed on and incomplete horror short stories that I hope to finally finish. By the end of the year, I’d like to have a collection of short stories to shop around to publishers.
I would like to yell three shout-outs. The first is to announce that I will be making an academic presentation at the Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference at StokerCon in May, called the “Rendering the Invisible Visible: Black Femininity in Horror”. It would be great to have some folks come out to join the conversation.
The second is for Uncovering Stranger Things: Essays on Eighties Nostalgia, Cynicism and Innocence in the Series, a collection of essays edited by Dr. Kevin Wetmore that made it onto the final ballot for this year’s Stoker Awards. The third is for Sycorax’s Daughter’s. edited by Dr. Kinitra Brooks, Linda Addison, and Dr. Susana Morris, which appeared on last year’s Stoker Award final ballot. I’m super proud to have contributed to these amazing books and I look forward to more works from these magnificent writers and editors.
I’m currently accepting abstracts for multidisciplinary academic presentations at the Multiverse Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention in Atlanta this October. Please see our call for papers on our website here: https://www.multiversecon.org/papers
I want to thank Rhonda so much for giving me her valuable time and insights! If you would like to learn more about her or her works, I have included some links for your perusal:
Facebook official: fb.me/rhondajacksonjosephwriter
Uncovering Stranger Things on Amazon:
Sycorax’s Daughters on Amazon:
HWA Poetry Showcase, Volume V:
Monstrous Domesticity on Amazon:
Black Magic Women on Amazon:
Anne Radcliffe Academic Conference at StokerCon 2019:
Hey guys, Jaye here again to bring you another amazing author for you to go check out: horror author John F Leonard. John hails from the England and is an author who can spin an incredible read from the usual and the mundane by turning the topics on their head. Beautiful character crafting and scenarios that will have chills running up and down your spine and leave you thinking about them long after you are done reading. A dash of social commentary, a morsel of suspense, and a huge dollop of terror will have you clamoring to read more! So let’s get to the questions for him:
Why horror? What got you interested in writing in that genre?
The simplest answer is that I like reading horror and I think you’re best writing something you would like to read. That was all I ever really wanted to do when I started out – write something for myself. A book I’d see and think, yeah, I fancy reading that. I’ve still got the same ambition.
It also depends on your definition of horror. For me, it has clear cross-overs with science fiction – apocalyptic and dystopian stuff – and yet goes beyond that. Elements of horror are found in a lot of the ‘mainstream’ genres. I wouldn’t want to tackle a romance, for example – believe it or not, I have been asked – but a horror romance, now that’s not entirely out of the question. : )
Who are some of your favorite authors, or inspirations or who inspired you?
Too many to list them all. Some of the earliest include James Herbert, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Stephen Donaldson, A.A. Attanasio, Robert McCammon.
It’s a toughie – the early ones are the easiest and still difficult – how far back to go, how do you identify/isolate influence?
I’m holding off on mentioning newer writers because I haven’t read enough recently. That’s a sad admission, but it’s the truth. There are only so many hours in my day and I’m spending most of them writing/working – that’s set to change, once I’ve got through my backlog of work/rejigged my schedule.
Your art work is amazing, any formal training?
I had an excellent education, and it included art. Your strengths (to whatever degree) are invariably your interests – Art, English, History. They were all subjects that fascinated me. Of course, that was a long time ago.
As far as art goes, I sold quite a few sculptures and paintings and came to the awful realisation that it wasn’t going to pay the bills. I drifted away, like you do. Got lost in trying to survive the world.
Sometimes you go back though, rediscover your first loves. Sculpture, drawing, painting – I wasn’t sure what I had left in me for those.
Language, the written word, was a different matter.
It felt like I’d never really explored what I could do there. I think the desire to write is probably the last great motivation I’ll have in my life. When that urge is spent, I’ll be happy to watch the grass grow.
Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere and anywhere. I have a list of ideas – it grows nearly as quickly as my To Be Read books and To Be Watched movies list. Reality and its subversion is something currently grabbing my interest. The Scaeth Mythos/Dead Boxes have their foundation in that concept.
What frightens you?
Mortality – my own and that of my loved ones. There’s a terrible fragility to life. It wasn’t something that concerned me when I was younger, but I worry about it a lot these days.
There are other things. Stupidity, for one. That scares the brown stuff out of me. Not being able to intelligently reason is a surefire recipe for bad decisions and worse outcomes. It’s great friends with greed, you often find them skipping hand in hand through the wastelands they’ve created.
Heights is another, more prosaic one. Not in and of themselves – nothing wrong with simply being up high, its height combined with a feeling of vulnerability. Standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower is an amazing experience. Beautiful and breathtaking. Stuck at the top of a stepladder trying to fix your roof is insane!
Thinking on it, probably doesn’t count – comes under mortality.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Nothing very exciting. I love to read when I’m not knee deep in my own writing.
Television – I can vegetate in front of the box with the best of them. My viewing mostly consists of horror, science fiction, comedies. Some drama, although a lot of it is dross. Some sport, football and snooker. Current affairs (when you can filter the truth from what the networks want to give you).
I like a drink and relaxing with family and friends. Don’t do enough of that.
Sleep! I know that sounds factitious, but there’s nothing like a genuinely restful spell under the duvet.
Do you have a writing muse or mantra?
I don’t think so. Not sure I actually subscribe to the idea (on a personal level). I believe the need to create exists in most of us. How it comes out is down to the individual – art, writing, learning how to fix the plumbing. Whatever.
For me, the process isn’t always easy. It’s often hard work. Putting in the effort and hours. What makes it worthwhile is the end result. Well, sometimes anyway. Now and again, you finish up, wipe your hands on the oily rag, and find out you’ve written a turkey. Or the damn tap is still dripping : )
Whilst I love it, writing doesn’t belong on any sort of pedestal. It’s an admirable ability, but ultimately just another skill.
Where did the Scaeth Mythos come from?
It began with me asking family and friends to suggest a name for an Irish vampire (I’m of Irish heritage and very proud of the fact).
I was inundated by ideas – seems my folk can’t resist taking the pee. ‘Mick the Biter’ was one suggestion that made me howl with laughter.
Anyway, I cogitated and researched and eventually got to ‘The Scaeth’.
The vampire side of it also morphed into something else. Broadened into a bigger concept. The Scaeth is a kind of cosmic vampire. A parasite infesting the walls of reality. It’s hollowed out a space for itself and no longer resides in any universe, just plunders those it can access. Dips into them to interfere and feed. It loves to feed.
If you could have dinner with any 5 people, living/dead/real/fiction who would it be and why?
That’s a killer question! Can’t even begin to factor in fictional. This would change with my mood, but here we go:
- R. Giger – The mind that created Alien, that’s all I need say. Plus, I’d try to persuade him to get me a Harkonnen chair.
George Best – knew how to enjoy himself and my favourite footballer.
Peter Cushing – a gentleman, part of the Hammer Horror crew so lots of gossip/insights.
Siouxsie Sioux (from the Banshees) – a punk presence.
James Herbert – ignited my love of horror and struck me as a bloke with hidden depths.
We’d need an extra seat – my wife is usually at my side for big events.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve been busy lately with some shorter fiction, novellas of varying lengths. I may put together a collection of what’s already out there along with new, unpublished stuff. After that a novel is most likely.
My latest is A Plague of Pages – another story from the Dead Boxes Archive. In the same territory as Bad Pennies and Call Drops. Old school horror, to my way of thinking anyway, about the perils of writing under diabolical influence.
What happens when a normal guy wants to redefine himself and become a horror writer …it doesn’t work how he plans. Not surprising, there are supernatural, cosmic forces cooking the books, so as to speak : )
I want to thank John so much for taking the time to answer my questions and may I say his dinner guest list was inspiring. If you would like to know more about John, read his works or connect with him on social media, just follow these links:
A Plague of Pages:
AMAZON UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07N7MPMGN
AMAZON US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07N7MPMGN
Get in touch with John on Twitter – https://twitter.com/john_f_leonard
John F Leonard Author Pages:
Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/l/B01BHUE6Z6/
Hey guys, I wanted to introduce you to one of my favorite new authors Ellie Douglas. In conjunction with this being Women in Horror Month I wanted to interview a woman whose work is so visceral and thought provoking, chilling with both gore and wonderfully thought out horror narratives. I recommend most highly and if you are a fan of the horror genre, you can not go wrong with any of her works! Ellies books personify horror.
She is a multiple award-winning author who comes from New Zealand. She is also a freelance graphic artist who designs and creates beautiful, imaginative, and professional pre-made book covers and coloring books. She has also spent ten years working with autistic children.
So let’s get down to it and ask her some questions:
What is it that drew you to the horror genre?
That is a good question. A lot of things have drawn me into the horror genre. It started from a very early age. I would sneak up and watch horror movies that my dad was watching. He did not know I was there. I’d be watching from behind the half-closed living room door. I was scared, actually I was terrified, but I loved the thrill of it. I believe watching horrors from such a young age is what sparked my love of horror. It grew from there. My brothers and I would do some seriously crazy things after watching movies like Friday the 13th for example. After watching that, we were being silly kids and decided to pull a prank on our mother. So we ripped the head off of one of my dolls, stuck a screwdriver into it, leaving the top part of the screwdriver sticking out through its now matted hair. Then we poured tomato sauce all over it. Smeared it with black and blue ink to look like bruises and dirt and then we put it on a plate and left it in the refrigerator for our mother to find. Needless to say when she did, she gave us the thrill we were after when she screamed bloody murder; however, when she was calm and realized it wasn’t a real babies head, we got into big trouble. My brother was 14 at the time, and I was 13. So it’s really been running through my veins since I was a young girl.
Who are some of your favorite authors or books?
Some favorite authors. Stephen King. James Herbert. Dean Koontz.
Your short stories are so intriguing. How do you decide whether to keep them short or to develop them into a novel?
I had already written five full sized novels, and I wanted to challenge myself by writing short stories. I discovered I was good at it. I enjoyed it a lot and kept ongoing. Some of those shorts will be turned into full-sized novels. Deciding to keep them short was the challenge, and because of that headspace I was in I already knew ahead of time that they were going to be shorts 🙂
Where do you get your inspiration for your writing?
I get my inspiration from so many different things. Sometimes I will create a cover of a book before I’ve even written it, to use that as my muse. Other times it will come from something I’ve experienced. Other times from movies or books. Wherever I am, be it at home, or out and about, ideas hit me hard and fast. My imagination is pretty wicked.
Being a graphic artist where do you get your ideas for your custom book covers?
As with the answer above, it can come from anywhere. Something I’ve read, watched in a movie or TV show, something the kids have said or done. Images elsewhere, my inspiration for creating covers and for writing both arrive from the same place. Also talking to people, finding out what they want and working with them often ignites my imagination, and it just takes off.
How did you get into developing adult coloring books?
I have always loved to color and thought how fun would it be to have a zombie coloring book. I’d not seen one, ever. Especially in this country, New Zealand. So I created my first adult coloring book and then decided I would make more. They are fun and very therapeutic, plus they make excellent gifts to give to the adult who has everything.
What inspired you to create an online casino slot game?
I love playing the slots, and I hate wasting money. So I thought why not make a game that I could play. One that would give me the best of both worlds. It would be the kind of game that one would win no matter what. No losers in that game. I need to say unfortunately it has been taken off the market due to the people at ITunes claiming that it shows too much skin. One of the characters from a fairy game is wearing a bodice that shows too much cleavage. So they pulled it down. I can not get it back up at this time, due to not having the money needed to remake that particular game.
“Hounded” has won multiple awards. Why do you think zombies resonate so much with horror fans?
I believe that it resonates well because of the damage that zombies can do. In particular, my book Hounded is not about human zombies. It is about K9’s, man’s best friend turned zombies. Four legged zombies cause way more damage and are a lot scarier. It for me I believe is because of what they can do and how scary zombies are no matter if they are human or animal. They will tear you apart, and that’s a thrill we all love. Also, it is hyped up about the possibility of a zombie apocalypse actually happening. I personally don’t believe that one will happen. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say it would be cool and that I could instantly become prepared for one lol.
Can you tell us something about your work with autistic children and why it is such a passionate cause for you?
One of my own daughters is on the Autism spectrum. This is what got me started in working with other children who are autistic. It is very close to my heart. Raising a special needs child comes with a lot of difficulties, but it also comes with a lot of rewards too. For example, when you see them achieve mainstream goals for the first time, it is very rewarding.
What new scares or projects are you working on right now?
I’m working on a top secret project. I’m unable to say what at this time, but I can say that it is going to blow the minds of readers. I’m pretty sure readers won’t have seen anything like what I’m currently working on. Trust me, it will be something that readers will be very excited about.
My final thoughts is an offer of a short story, for free. If readers of your awesome blog are reading this and would love a taste of my horror, then I have one just for them. If you visit my website, you can join my newsletter and be rewarded instantly with a free book.
I want to thank Ellie so much for taking the time to answer my questions and for writing such fabulous books! If you would like to learn more about her or you would like to read her work, just follow the following links:
https://plus.google.com/101411492847090012799 Google Plus
It is a new year and I would love to present you with a new author interview from one of my favorites, Ken Stark. I just love how he describes himself on Twitter…Horror writer, questionable painter, unapologetic nerd, and committed beer enthusiast. Author of the award-winning Stage 3 series of books.
As a fellow nerd I so enjoy his attention to detail and meticulous crafting of each novel. Exceptional characters, provocative scenarios, and fast-paced reading that will have you sitting on the edge of your seat. I encourage you to give him a read, but in the meantime get to know a little more about him here.
Where did you get your love of horror?
The books and movies and TV shows I remember from my childhood are almost always the ones that scared me. I can remember those scenes in perfect detail decades later while I’ve already forgotten a movie I might have watched only days ago. I’m not into gore for the sake of gore, but I’ve always loved any story that drops a normal, average person into a nightmare, because it’s just so easy to imagine myself in that spot.
As a writer, the prospect of having that same effect on a reader just thrills me to no end. If I can make someone hesitate for a fraction of a second before they throw back the shower curtain, or if I can send a chill down someone’s spine as they come home to a dark house and reach into the shadows for the light switch…. well hell, what writer wouldn’t want that superpower?
Favorite disaster films?
The Day After. It was a made-for-TV movie from 1983, and it was probably the first movie that accurately depicted the devastation of a nuclear war. Despite the subject matter, it was actually very subdued. Just real-life people struggling to keep their loved ones alive. It was chilling because it was plausible, and I’m afraid to say, it still is. Most disaster movie take place in one building or one city or one state, and it usually ends with our heroes making it out of that location to safety, but when the whole planet’s involved, it becomes a fight for survival in a microcosm. Powerful stuff indeed.
What scares you or just gives you nightmares?
Well, I do have one phobia, but come on, you don’t expect me to tell the world my Kryptonite, do you? As for nightmares, they are so few and far between that I honestly don’t remember what any of them were about. The only exception is one that I had after Stage 3 came out, and I found myself in the very world I’d created. It was certainly scary, but it was awesome! After all, here I am trying to give other people nightmares, and I gave one to myself. But I love that nightmare. Recalling the sensations I’d felt being plunged into that world helps me convey that sense of dread as I continue the series.
Favorite horror/ science fiction novels?
Oh, I fell in love with science fiction early on. I’m sure I’ve read every Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke book ever written. It’s tough to pick a favorite, but I’d have to go with the Asimov’s Foundation series. It astounds me that he was able to pack so much imagination into those books that spanned galaxies and centuries and still have it make perfect sense.
As for horror, I always fall back on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The man wrote not only a great book with a brand new monster, but look at what’s followed since. I can’t think of any other piece of literature that’s had that kind of effect on modern culture.
What inspires you?
My inspiration to write it simply the number of years I spent keeping my passion on the back burner. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but after a few disappointments in my younger days, I abandoned the dream. Of course I kept writing, but from then on, it was only for myself. Now that I’m doing it for real and can actually call myself a writer, I need zero inspiration. Give me a pen or a keyboard and I’ll write ’til I drop.
As for what inspires a particular story, those can quite simply come from anywhere. All it takes it a dark little tweak on reality and following it to its most horrifying end. Stuck in traffic? Look at the mousey little guy in the next car over and wonder what he might get up to in his spare time. Stopped-up drain? Just what horrible thing is down there, and why? Dining out? What if that chicken isn’t really chicken? Honestly, if you give your imagination free rein, anything and everything can provide inspiration.
What do you like to paint?
I taught myself to paint by watching Bob Ross wield that big ol’ brush of his, so most of my stuff is landscapes. I’ll throw in an elephant here or a deer there, and once in a while I’ll add a person, but I don’t paint people well. I did a few zombie pieces for an online promotion recently, and they were a lot of fun, so I’ll definitely be doing more of those. What do you think, would Bob Ross approve? ‘And let’s put a happy little reanimated corpse right here….’
Does music influence your writing?
No, not at all. I love music and I usually have something on while I write, but I’m barely even aware of it. You could fire a gun next to my ear when I’m writing and I probably wouldn’t hear it.
You have a lot of technological/ scientific information in your books, is this learned or researched?
A little of both, actually. I studied sciences through high school and into University, so some of that will naturally creep into my stories. Sadly, school taught me nothing about zombies, so coming up with a mechanism for getting the dead to walk was tricky, and it required a ton of research. What I came up with might stretch science to the limits, but my background made me want to at least try to make it plausible, and I think it works. Most of my research now is a quick Google search for the kinds of things that can get a person on an NSA watch list. Bullet velocities. Rate of decay of human flesh. Effects of blunt force trauma. You know, casual bedtime reading material.
What do you like to do when not writing?
Pat answer alert! When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing. Honestly, though, it depends on the weather. For most of the year, I’ll do anything that gets me out in the sun. In winter, I tend to hibernate, so I’m always either reading, writing or throwing paint at a canvas.
Do you have a mantra or philosophy that you live by?
I believe that everything happens the way it’s supposed to. That belief doesn’t help one iota when things go bad, but I do believe that it all happens exactly how it had to happen. There is a scientific theory that suggests that everything we know is really just information spread across the surface of the universe, in which case, time is an illusion and everything we think we experience is simply information stored in a 2D hologram. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it’s good to know that there are a few physicists out there who’ve got my back.
What can we expect from you next?
My plan this year is to write two books. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, but I’m going to try. I will keep the Stage 3 books coming as long as someone out there likes them (including me!) but I want to alternate between those books and other books entirely unrelated and non-zombie. I think you’ll like what I’m working on now. I can’t tell you what it’s about yet, but it’s good and creepy!
Until then, I always have several short stories on my website that anyone can download for free and share around, and I plan on posting another every month or two. It’s just my way of thanking people for stopping by. The latest is ‘Killing Joe Prince’, about a writer who take hero worship a little too far. Make of that what you will;)
I want to thank Ken so much for agreeing to this interview and for giving such fabulous answers! I cannot recommend enough that you read his wonderful work. I have thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope by reading such engaging responses from Ken that you will go check his work out as well.
Ken Stark’s Website: https://kenstark.ca/
Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/Ken-Stark/e/B01D911QC2
I am so pleased and honored to introduce you great readers to an astounding writer by the name of RW Spryszak. I have a few interviews under my belt but have never felt like I was reading literature when reading answers. Mr. Spryszak has done that for me here. So eloquent and illuminating that they are a joy to read, I hope that you will enjoy them as much as I did. His book Edju was very hard for me to put down. So without further ado, please enjoy and here is a small bio to get you started.
Bio- RW Spryszak’s recent work has appeared in Peculiar Mormyrid, A-Minor Magazine, and Novelty (UK), among others. His early work is archived in the John M Bennett Avant Writing Collection at the Ohio State University Libraries. He is editor at Thrice Fiction Magazine* and recently produced “I Wagered Deep On The Run Of Six Rats To See Which Would Catch The First Fire*,” a collection of contemporary surrealist and outsider writing from around the world for 2018 under that banner, which is also available on Amazon.
Who are some of your favorite authors, or authors that have inspired you?
What inspires me to work is work that isn’t produced. I go into a bookstore just to browse and leave without buying anything. You could ask my wife this. She would verify what I’m saying. This happens a lot. And a long time ago I asked myself, well, what did you want to find that you couldn’t find? And maybe that is what you should write. Write what you’d like to read but can’t find. This is how I work. So, it isn’t what authors have written that inspires me, as you say, it’s what they haven’t written. It’s only a void I’m filling. In my own universe anyway.
Now, as an example of writers whose work has influenced me I have to go back to when I was young and didn’t know what I liked but found things that stayed with me. Gogol’s Dead Souls, first of all. I still have that old worn Penguin Classic copy from when I was in high school. The pages are quite yellow now. Of course, everybody who is a reader discovered Kafka as a teenager I think. But it was people who wrote things that made me go – “You can do this??” I mean when you’re young or naïve you expect a story to go from A to B to C, and twists and unexpected things make your head snap. So, there are the poems of Dylan Thomas and Guillaume Apollinaire. Thomas creates these spiraling images and ideas that blend and weave in and out of each other until you find yourself trapped in his crazy tornado. And Apollinaire writes the kind of things that make you say – “you can do that??” His work is one hundred years old and a lot of it reads like it was done yesterday.
But there’s Robert Walser. Naguib Mahfouz. Jan Potocki. I’m saying these names but I’m quite sure no one is going to look them up or anything. Still, I don’t think – for your audience – you can call yourself a true fan of horror if you haven’t read Potocki’s A Manuscript Found in Saragossa. Just saying. Maybe kitsch horror, but not gothic horror. Dracula, Frankenstein, certainly. But if you haven’t read Manuscript you have a missing part in there. An aspect that would make you say – “you can do that??”
When did you start writing, or what prompted you to start writing?
So how do I answer your question? I don’t know. I used to make up stories in my head as a little boy. Full technicolor epics before I would fall asleep. Wash up. Brush teeth. Go to bed. Roll around making up movies in my head.
And my first rejection letter came from Stan Lee. I wrote a story that pitted Doctor Strange against The Hulk. I was 10 years old. I sent it in and, with the innocent expectations of a kid I also sent along 12 cents to buy the issue my story would appear in. Well, of course, Marvel Comics would never use a hand-written story from a 10-year-old who didn’t know the highway from a footpath. So, here’s my Stan Lee story. 1963 or 4. I got a hand written note back from Stan Lee saying he enjoyed the story but could only use their own material. And – get this – the 12 cents I included with my submission was taped to the blue card he sent back with his note in an envelope. Was he the coolest guy ever? Yes, he was. By the way, Doctor Strange did face The Hulk in one adventure eventually, I think, sometime in the 1990’s I believe. I ought to sue, don’t you think?
How would you describe your style of writing?
I don’t think I think like a writer. I’m influenced by the visual. I look at things like a painter or a sculptor but I couldn’t paint or sculpt to save my skin so I write the form. Writing and acting were always easier than painting. Concepts. Visuals. I think probably because I was influenced by TV and movies when I was small. In Edju, in particular, I used something I learned from my long-ago acting days. How to stay in character from start to finish. Edju is a first-person story, so it’s vital you don’t “break character,” as actors would say.
Though I’m not in the Surrealist camp, so to speak, and never claimed to be, I do use the techniques they’ve developed. They try to bring the unconscious truth to things and so Arp’s ideas about Chance often come into play. Then there’s the process of automatic writing or even sentence collage. These are things I’ll utilize. Take for example in Edju, I used automatic writing as prompts. The start of some chapters is in italics. That was straight from the back of the brain and unedited automatic writing. Then I connected them. I left the strictly Surrealist process when I connected these prompts with a willful, consciously-produced narrative – which makes me not a Surrealist, I think. I don’t know. You’d have to ask them if I’m one of them or not. I mean, several Surrealists, people who have been with that worldview for decades, have supported my work – Max Cafard, J. Karl Bogartte, the New York Surrealist group – but I think that’s because I love the work they produce and have spoken up for their movement – which never went away, contrary to what the New Yorker may think – for years.
And, really, I think this is a question better asked of my readers than of me. There are people who like my style and people who can’t stand it. Folks who tell me they can’t put it down and folks who can’t get through the first two pages without screaming and burning the damn thing. I know my stuff is difficult sometimes. So, what do I say?
Do you set a certain plot, or go where your writing takes you?
I could never work from an outline. I tried when I was younger. I couldn’t do it. It was like – I’ve written the outline and so the book is done, right? I have nothing but a vague idea and I’ve never known how things were going to end. Not ever. In Edju, I was going along and going along and wrote “If I didn’t need to eat I would never trust your world again, and I would stay in these rooms till the spiders wept.” And I stopped and looked at it and said – Okay. That’s the last line. I’m done, now for the edits. And that line will lead into the first line of the next book because Edju, conceptually, is a trilogy. I have two vague notions about the two next pieces but I have no idea where they are going to go. The second book has been started at least five times and I think I only just settled on what to do last week. So, I guess my answer is I go where it takes me after a vague notion, or something like that.
If, while writing, I can’t visualize a title for the thing? I know I’m onto something. Whenever I’ve had a title first, nothing ever works. I don’t understand that. When I get to the point where I can’t come up with a title no matter what and it comes down to I don’t even care what anybody wants to call it, just get it away from me, you decide – it gets published. When I start with a title, it never even gets finished. It’s weird.
What are some of your favorite works of literature?
Well, yes, I mentioned these. Dead Souls, The Manuscript Found in Saragossa. Mahfouz’s The Journey of ibn Fattouma. Walser’s Jakob Von Gunten. But also, from a writer’s viewpoint, there’s technical aspect too, that you have to have. I’m not a big fan, but even if you don’t like him you have to say that Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is the perfectly executed novella. And it’s good to have a grounding. In fact, I’ve always felt you need a grounding in the classical and traditional before you can go off “experimenting.” You’ll find Picasso’s early stuff more traditional than you’d at first think it would be, being Picasso. Then, when he “got it,” so to speak, he created his own world and his own rules. But I’d say he couldn’t do it until he understood the starting point. I think that’s true for everyone to some degree. So, until you can read Dickens and explain why he’s a lousy writer, and he is, you should keep reading the traditional until you “get it.”
What is the most important aspect of writing for you?
Well it’s a compulsion that has to be fulfilled, isn’t it? When I was in my twenties I used to worry about getting published. Have to get published. It must happen. And so on. Of course, that’s when nothing ever happened. It wasn’t until I finally said, you know what, it doesn’t really matter if it gets published or not because I’m going to sit here and write anyway because I have to or I’ll just explode or go crazy. I would write because it was going to happen whether anybody was ever going to read it or not. That, of course, is when people started to accept and publish things.
Oddly enough, after that, I got this crazy notion that I wanted to bust into the mainstream. I had all this alternative work done and it was archived and I had a tribe and – for some reason – I said I’m going to try to break into the big time or something and – poof. Came the drought. I wanted to get published. I needed to get published. And nobody wanted anything I was doing. A couple of the bigger wigs even laughed at it. Because it was actually pathetic stuff, to be honest. So, okay, I went back to just doing what I’d always done and forgot about “trying” so hard and… what do you think? All of a sudden (to use a term that should never appear in anything you ever write), there I was back in print.
That’s the long way around the barn to say the most important aspect of writing, for me, is to not only be yourself, but if it’s working there’s nothing that needs to be fixed. If it ain’t broke. Stay true to your own voice, no matter how trite that may sound. Find your tribe and dance with them.
Do you put any of yourself in your writing?
Yes. There are dozens of things that happened to me, mostly filtered by metaphor, in Edju. Shards of dreams I had. People I’ve met. Or aspects of them. There’s even a scene in the book that I wrote forty years ago for something else. Something I wrote, never kept, but never forgot. It goes on for pages as if I was copying out of an old notebook. I never forgot the scene and it just came into the book on its own. That scene came from a particularly intense part of my growth as a writer. But, yes, they are all over the place. However, well-disguised. And this is all I will say about that.
What led you to write in this genre?
This is crazy because I didn’t write Edju to a genre. I just thought – a book. Maybe Literary Fiction. Maybe Dystopian. I didn’t have a target. When Spuyten Duyvil*, the publisher, first put it on Amazon they listed it as “Gothic.” To be honest, I didn’t even know what Gothic was. Gothic Horror – sure. I’d heard of that. And I didn’t know if there was a difference. Then a few people contacted me and said “Horror,” or “Speculative.” To tell you the truth, I don’t know what it is, exactly. So, my approach is like that old song – “any world that I’m welcomed to.” I’m becoming convinced it belongs in that Gothic category that the publisher listed it in. But you’ll have to believe me when I tell you I seriously didn’t have any kind of thing like genre in my head.
Do any movies or TV shows influence your writing?
Not off hand, no. I don’t watch a lot of TV anymore. My TV is mostly old movies and Baseball. Baseball is my escape hatch. Outside of that it’s just all noise. I suppose, growing up in the late 50s and 60s there were influences that happened then, but I couldn’t specifically tell you one thing or another.
Any future writing projects you would like to talk about?
The plan is to complete a trilogy with Edju as the lead before I croak. I have no idea what to call it, and that’s a good sign I think. But – you shouldn’t take anything for granted. I’m doing this but there’s no guarantee anyone will take it. Life in the small press universe is like that and you have to expect it. Unless you’re a best-seller you don’t make much money in writing. All the writers I know have a regular job somehow. Teaching, editing, or anything. Every one of them. You have to stay real.
I want to thank RW Spryszak so much for his valuable time and marvelous answers to my questions. For more information or to read his works please check out the following links:
*Spuyten Duyvil is at http://www.spuytenduyvil.net/
* “I Wagered Deep, etc.” is at https://www.amazon.com/Wagered-Which-Would-Catch-First/dp/1945334045
*Thrice Fiction Magazine is at http://www.thricefiction.com/
I always seem evil when I tell you my plan
I go on ad nauseum explaining who I am
To try to expound or maybe to trick
I give details up but never too quick
I lie, I deceive, I do dastardly deeds
Maybe not giving it away is what I most need
But I brag, and I bluster, and sometimes I gloat
For your weakness, and fear just make me emote
Your running offends me and try as I might
I can’t stop getting off on all of your fright
Some call me a malefactor, some call me a cad
You can cry all you want but I’ll always be bad
But outlaw or miscreant no matter the name
You’re always caught up in my winning game
So my monologue is done, run away if you want
I’m just wicked and cruel, and this I will flaunt
Villain I am and of this I am proud
Especially when you’re screams are always so loud
So goodnight little victims, hold onto your heads
Fore I am the scary thing underneath your little beds
Writer, interviewer, podcaster, Susan Leighton does it all. It has been my distinct pleasure to have been speaking with Susan on Twitter for quite awhile now and she is so genuine and extremely entertaining and just a pleasure to speak with. I have read so many of her amazing articles and interviews that I thought it would be fun to interview the interviewer. So lets get to it!
Do you even sleep you have so much going on? 😉
~LOL. Yes, I do. I just keep weird hours for now because it is the nature of the beast. Since I am not a “brand” name I have to hustle to get my work out there. Plus, I am branching out of the niche world and going full throttle into pop culture. I have always been an entertainment person so I am fortunate to have different venues that want to hear what I have to say.
Why horror? And how did you get into it?
~From a child on, I have always been intrigued with realms that are beyond our current frame of reference. I wanted to be an astronaut so I studied the planets which fostered an interest in the concept of other worlds. The paranormal, science-fiction, horror, these are genres that I have always loved. However, that being said, I am more of a pop culture person. While I am predominantly known for what I have done at 1428 Elm, I am now writing for sites that fuel my other passions like Heroic Hollywood and TV Series Hub. I can also be found every Friday night espousing or ranting depending on the topic at Nerdrotic Podcast with Gary Buechler and Dennis Bithoulkas. I have started my own podcast with my buddy, Abby Fagan called Unrestricted Content. I try to keep my options open and also, I love challenges. Anything that is going to push me, I am going to want to try.
What are some of your favorite horror films and books?
~Wow. Where to begin. I got my first taste at a young age when my Mom introduced me to Vincent Price in The Oblong Box. From there, Psycho, The Shining, The Dead Zone, Bubba Ho-Tep….oh, yeah and this thing called Evil Dead. And the book Duma Key by Stephen King.
What are some of the best things to do on Halloween?
~Turn the lights down, throw on a decent horror flick or psychological thriller, grab some popcorn and a Patron martini. And if you’re in the mood, maybe a costume. You know, for later.
How did you get involved with covering Bruce Campbell?
~Man. You are asking the tough questions, Jaye. I asked my editors at 1428 Elm if I could write a little something up for Bubba Ho-Tep’s 15th anniversary. I didn’t know if they would be into it. They were very enthusiastic. In the meantime, we created an Ash Wednesday thing plus I was on the Ash vs Evil Dead season 3 beat which turned into something else entirely. I knew he had a book coming out (Hail to the Chin) so I decided that I was going to interview him. No one had tried it before at the site and I thought what the hell? He is a hard cat to track down but I gave it my best shot, he responded and my first chat went live in September of last year.
Have you met him? Any fun stories?
~Yes, I have met Bruce on several occasions. In February, we sat down for an on-camera interview and then for a print interview during the PR party for Ash vs Evil Dead S3. My last time conversing with him was at HorrorHound Weekend in Indianapolis. As for fun stories, none of them involve him but more about me and logistics, bad makeup and comedy of errors. Part of those experiences will be in a book I am writing. Fiction, of course.
What are some of your favorite tequilas and any suggestions of pairings with horror films?
~I am strictly silver tequila although I have had my share of Anejo and Mezcal in the past. Yes, I have had the worm and nothing trippy came out of it. As for drinks, I love Patron Martinis and Espresso Martinis with Patron. I think if you are going that route, then by all means reach back into the past and grab Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant or the Exorcist.
Any great horror festival stories?
~Well, up until now, I was a con virgin. Since HorrorHound Weekend, I am no longer one. Let me just tell you, logistics are a bear. The festival was held in a terrific venue in downtown Indy which I remember from 15 years ago when I attended a business conference. However, the panel discussion room felt like it was a secret passageway and I could never quite get there. On Friday, which was the very first day of the con, I was at the hotel bar kicking back with a few friends and some drinks. Panel time for Evil Dead 2 rolled around so I split. Even though I had a map, I kept pulling a European Vacation thing with this policeman. Me: Hey, Officer. Insert laughter. Officer: Didn’t I just see you? Me: Yep. Officer: Evil Dead, right? Yeah, it was that kind of night. I did manage to find the room though.
Any favorite interviews?
~Joe Lansdale was a proud moment for me. I have always enjoyed his writing. Dee Wallace was another coup that I was happy to score since she is in the pantheon of scream queens. Dana DeLorenzo, Lindsay Farris, Ray Santiago and Arielle Carver-O’Neill were the best. I had so much fun chatting with them. Oh, and one more. Damn it. I wish I could remember his name. 😉
Do you have a personal mantra?
~Keep it classy or I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
I wanna thank Susan for taking the time to speak with us and say what fun it was, such great answers! If you want to learn more about Susan you can find her at:
https://1428elm.com/ for horror genre news and commentary
And on Twitter @SusanontheLedge
Also @heroichollywood @tvserieshub @content_podcast @Nerdrotics
I ran across this in development new horror comic Doctor Orange and it looked so awesome I asked the man in charge Joseph Duis at @heresystudiosll to tell us a little about it!
DOCTOR ORANGE Psychological Horror Comic on KICKSTARTER
Doctor Orange Will See You Now
What would you do if you knew you had hallucinations but you didn’t know when they were affecting you?
That is the problem of Suhaila, the protagonist of the upcoming self-contained psychological horror comic DOCTOR ORANGE. Living in suburban Mississippi with her wife and dog, Suhaila’s life is isolated but quiet, and her schizophrenia is generally controlled when she takes her medication. But after carving a jack o’lantern for Halloween – one she names Dr. Orange – she begins having dreams that the doctor – who takes on the persona of a psychotherapist – is coming after her. When she awakens, things aren’t as she left them.
Things go downhill from there. In 22 full-color pages in which nothing is a given, she doubts her senses. Viewing events through Suhaila’s eyes, you won’t know whether she’s hallucinating everything – and is, therefore, a threat to herself and others – or whether a jack o’lantern is really out to harm her and her loved ones. And after a while, you’ll begin to doubt your own senses, as well.
There are only four days until Halloween. What will happen when it arrives?
DOCTOR ORANGE (written, created, and lettered by Joseph Duis; line art by Jose Raul Orte Crespo; colors by Maulana Faris; with a cover by Greg Woronchak and Maulana Faris; and published by Heresy Studios, LLC) is available through Kickstarter on August 14th through September 7th at drorangecomic.com. In addition to the standard PDF and print copies, there are several other rewards, such as a deluxe edition, stickers, art prints, a Dr. Orange latex Halloween mask, and even being drawn into the comic as a psychiatric patient. So check it out today!
Heresy Studios, LLC
This is their site https://www.heresystudiosllc.com/
Kick Starter page https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2088467162/dr-orange-halloween-themed-psychological-horror-on?ref=513117&token=7aa65e3f
This looks amazing so get in now! I for one can not wait to see and read it!