As we welcome autumn/fall with its brilliant colour metamorphosis across the landscape, we begin to think of cooler weather and a new space to write. We transition from writing on the deck, in a beach house, or a lakeside cabin to a cozier study or quiet room with a view or flickering fireplace. The seasons affect our mood and in turn our writing. These seasonal changes can also add to our content.
If we are on the cusp of a new project, we can use the crisp mornings and evenings to walk in nature and percolate ideas. We can watch the flames dance in a fire-pit or the leaves dancing on the wind or crunching beneath our feet. Why not take day trips to a wine festival, a corn maze, a pumpkin farm, immerse yourself in the season and its special harvest of smells and sights.
Let your imagination experience this new season and bring your idea to life. Ask yourself what your new project’s genre might be.
Is it an autumnal romance?
A spooky horror?
A ghost story?
A contemporary ‘change’ of scene narrative?
If you are in the midst of a project use nature as an example and lose any extraneous content, edit with the thought that the project will be renewed, fresh and improved. It is a reorganization, much like changing your clothing to suit the cooler weather. The autumn/fall scenery can inspire more descriptive language – colour, scents, mood and more.
With the change to autumn/fall, we can utilize the season to promote a book that reflects it. For me, I begin to think about my little monster, Rumble, and his Halloween adventure. I will be looking at a specific promotion for this children’s picture book.
This last weekend, I enjoyed a delightful writing retreat in a private lakeside cabin. The cabin was perfect with every amenity you could wish for. Sammie and I walked across the fields, and lounged on the deck. Watching the water fowl, gulls and other birds and the ever changing moods of the lake, were especially inspiring. One night, I witnessed two shooting stars in a dark sky populated with millions of stars. This tranquility was accompanied with a virtual writers conference, When Words Collide. Where I was a panelist discussing writing groups and a co-presenter for a publishing session.
Where have you visited this summer? What inspired you?
On the trip home, we discovered a small bookstore in Castor and of course, had to explore. I found a book to add to my TBR pile, which has ghosts in it. As you know I have my own experiences in that area.
When Robins Appear by Densie Webb
A remarkable tale of a mother and daughter dealing with love and loss, joy and pain. Their relationship ebbs and flows, as we ‘see’ each of their inner thoughts and turmoil. A story that brings real life into sharp focus. I enjoyed it immensely.
What are you currently reading?
(Always leave a review – just a short sentence will do!)
Have you always been fascinated with the dark side of reality?
Yes, I think I have been. I remember sneaking into the living room and watching part of the movie Poltergeist when I was too young to be watching it. Luckily it was edited for TV, but still I think that was the beginning of it for me. My friends and I from my neighborhood also used to do our fair share of frolicking in the local cemetery. It was the in between spot for most of our houses and it ended up being the social epicenter for our preteen and teen years.
Are any of your narratives based on a true-life experience?
There is a little bit of truth in all of my characters and some of their experiences. There is part of me inside all of them, but the circumstances they find themselves in are entirely fictional,
Why the Gothic Horror genre specifically? What draws you to it?
I love the idea that the past is never truly dead. That the past is always alive in the present. That is the true core of gothic fiction. For me I like to play with how the past can still be the driving force of a character. Often times I use memory, or grief, PTSD etc. to be the things that are “haunting” the present. Other times I use actual ghosts. Personally I find memory and grief to be even more frightening than a ghost at times.
Do you have a favorite character and why?
I think I would have to say Adam from Beautiful, Frightening, and Silent. He was my first main character, and he just found his way deep into my heart. He was hard to let go of.
Is there a place that inspired Dagger Island?
It is roughly based in some ways on a combination of Star Island (in the Isles of Shoales) and Peaks Island off the coast of Portland Maine. Neither of these real-life islands are a gruesome and haunted as Dagger Island is, but there are little bits that work perfect for me for Dagger Island.
You have many forms of artistic expression. How do you choose, when inspiration hits?
I think all od them satisfy certain aspects of my personality. To me visual art (painting and photography) are the ones with the least pressure on them, so I can still have the most fun with those without consequences. Writing speaks to my soul the most, so that one always feels like there is a lot riding on it. It also feels the most personal when someone doesn’t like it. Dance has been my primary job for so long with teaching and performing that it also seems easy to me.
Is dance an external expression for your internal art?
It can be, depending on the dance and the partner. My husband and I used to perform a lot. We would do hour long dance pieces that were entirely improvisational and would be performed to dark ambient and nontraditional music. I really felt that those were the closest to come to a physical interpretation of the books I now write. Part horror, part beauty, always mysterious.
Can you tell us a little about your Vox Vomitus Podcast? Why you created and what is its mission?
I fell in love with podcasting during the early part of the pandemic, not only being a guest but also, I was able to guest host a couple shows and I really loved being able to talk with authors. Vox Vomitus (which is fake Latin for word vomit) was born out of the idea that sometimes we can learn from our mistakes and learn from other’s mistakes. As authors we all have trials and tribulations. On Vox Vomitus myself and Allison Martine speak with the best authors working today and we can have a cocktail with them and talk about not just what went right, but also what went horribly wrong along the way. I have made some tremendous friendships through the podcast as well. So, our mission is to entertain, educate.
What prompted the idea for Pretty/Ugly?
Way before Covid I thought about writing a book about a pandemic. A virus that if it didn’t kill you would leave you horribly scarred. I wondered about our society and the people who seem to be “all surface” with nothing underneath. So, I wanted to play with that idea, of what you can be if everything you are is taken away. It became about much more than that. Though the idea came about before Covid, I think writing part of this during the pandemic really helped to shape the gravity and the enormous sense of loss that I needed in order for the stakes to be as high as they had to be.
Did the story stay true to its original form or change as you wrote?
Oh I think I answered that a little before. It changed A LOT as I wrote it. My original intention was to write a dark Rom Com that happened during the apocalypse. I ended up writing a very lyrical meditation on grief and trauma, and self reflection. I wrote about trying to forgive yourself and trying to allow yourself to love and be loved…all the while people are dying, and the world is ending.
Halloween means that the internet is awash with spooky costumes, books and trick or treat candy. For many of us it is has been an enjoyable evening of dressing up and scaring each other on doorsteps or at themed parties. This year with the COVID19 pandemic, it will be a more muted affair. Social distancing, hand sanitizers, gloves to dispense treats and the wearing of masks. I’m sure there will be a plethora of decorations though, to make the streets look spooky.
There are other people who actually fear Halloween. There are several phobia’s associated with it. Phobia of Halloween is called Samhainophobia. Others are Wiccaphobia : fear of witches, Phasmophobia : fear of ghosts and Coimetrophobia : a fear of cemeteries.
Of course this is the time of year my little monster, Rumble is at his most popular. Rather than being scary for children, he is a cuddly cute monster and they can read about his adventure on his first All Hallow’s Eve.
Horror is a genre of fiction, of which, the defining trait is to provoke a response; either emotional, psychological or physical, within readers that causes them to react with fear, dread, disgust, or is frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting and even startles it’s readers with the text.
Horror: Ancient Greece and Rome
This genre has ancient origins with roots in folklore and religious traditions, which focused on death, the afterlife, evil, the demonic and also a ‘thing’ embodied in the person. This manifested as stories of witchcraft, vampires, werewolves, and ghosts.
Horror: Medieval Era
Much of horror fiction derived itself from the cruelest faces in world history, particularly those who lived in the fifteenth-century. “Dracula” can be traced to the Prince of Wallachia Vlad III, whose alleged war crimes were published in German pamphlets in the late Fifteenth Century and resulted in stories of horrifying detail.
Gothic horror: 18th century
Slowly the horror genre became traditional Gothic literature. 18th century Gothic horror drew on sources of seminal and controversial elements of the supernatural instead of pure realism.
Horror: 19th century
After the Gothic tradition blossomed the genre became the horror literature we now know in the 19th century. Influential works and characters still continue to resonate, such as Brother’s Grimm and Hansel & Gretel (1812) and of course Frankenstein (1818) and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. (1820)
Cheap periodicals became prolific at the turn of the century, leading to a boom in horror writing. Horror writers of the time included H.P. Lovecraft pioneering cosmic horror and M.R. James redefining the ghost story. Also the serial murderer became a recurring theme.
Contemporary horror fiction
As most of you know Stephen King is my hero and it is the best-known contemporary horror writer. His stories have delighted and frightened many of us for decades, from Carrie to Sleeping Beauties and all those tales in-between.
I have to admit as a prolific reader of Mr. King, I am wary of ever writing a horror story because I don’t think I can measure up to his expertise.
Do you write horror? What theme do you favor?
What horror writers/books have you read and ‘enjoyed’?