I met Melanie on Instagram and was blown away with her work and my first thought was, “I gotta interview her!” So check it out y’all!
What are you working on right now?
My first three books were romance novels and while it’s something I’m very comfortable writing, I want to challenge myself (though let’s face it, I think romance will be integral in whatever I do). So my big project is a three-book (minimum) fantasy series that I think I’m going to need quite a while to write and do justice to. In the meantime I’m also plotting a novel heavier on the suspense seen in my first books. Because I know I can do something a little more complex on that front. Finally, I’ve got kind of a random project planned (that incidentally I’ve not spoken about before, so you’re hearing it here first!). If you’ve read my first books or watched my Instagram feed, you know I love Italian food. So I’m going to put together a companion recipe book for The Safeguarded Heart series, including recipes from dishes mentioned in the books, some of my own Italian family recipes, and others I’ve found from other chefs and adapted over the years. Nothing fancy, just a fun extra for anyone who drooled over the food scenes in the books
At what point did you decide The Safeguarded Heart was to be a series?
I knew TSH would be a series when I finished the first book. Because, you know, it ends on a cliffhanger. And I’d be a real bitch to leave it there. But seriously, I didn’t feel like the story was finished, so I wrote another. And I felt the same after the second, so I wrote a third. It feels fairly complete now, but that doesn’t mean I won’t come back to it at some point.
Have you run into any obstacles while writing this series?
Honestly, these books flowed out fairly obstacle free. I wrote the first in 4.5 weeks, the second in 6 weeks, and the third in 3 weeks. It was one of the most liberating, exciting experiences of my life. I don’t expect that will always be the case, though.
What to you, is the best part of writing one?
The best part, hands down, has been seeing other people enjoy them. Because I wrote stories I would want to read but had no clue if anyone else would feel the same. It’s absolutely amazing to get so much positive feedback and it definitely makes me want to keep going
Has your creative process changed since you published your first book?
Absolutely. My first was my experiment, where I learned exactly how much story is needed to build characters, suspense, and keep things varied enough to be interesting in the general range of 70-90k words. I didn’t plot much when I started writing but learned quickly that some structure was necessary while still leaving room for the story to flow true to the characters and situations I’d created
Many readers have remarked that your plot keeps them guessing—one reviewer said that the ending “satisfies me more than any other book series this year.” How do you maintain a plot that surprises readers?
Besides killing people off willy nilly? Haha. (That doesn’t happen in these books, btw, folks, I’m not George R.R. Martin over here). I spend a lot of time thinking about what all the characters are thinking and feeling and try to have them react in a way that’s consistent with the personalities I’ve created which causes them to go off in their own directions. That alone is usually enough to push a plot down a path that doesn’t follow the logic/personality of the main character, so it can take the story in a surprising direction (even for me at times). I also think leaving certain things a mystery does a lot for keeping a reader interested.
How do you wrap up the story in a way that satisfies all questions?
From my previous answer, a satisfying ending comes from getting all the characters back on the same page (see what I did there?) and resolving the mysteries. Though let’s be real here. You’re never going to write something that satisfies every question of every reader and wraps up every subplot neatly. And while the romance genre comes pre-built with an expected ending, that doesn’t mean I don’t purposely leave some situations unresolved. Because life is messy and unresolved. Plus, if everything was resolved then there wouldn’t be much room for more books in the series, would there?
Another reviewer recommends your book to anyone who is looking to be “consumed by the characters and be made to feel they are a part of you.” What’s on your “must haves” list of creating characters? How do you assemble a cast of genuine characters?
Here’s where it becomes obvious that I’m no literary master. I don’t know what the formula is, or if there even is one. A lot of what I write is done on gut feel of what’s needed (and to be fair that instinct has been honed from a lifetime of reading). I started TSH with a strong female character in mind, including her physical appearance/age/etc, strengths and weakness, backstory, and so on, and then created a male character that had traits opposite of what she’d normally go for. Because there has to be conflict. From there as I wrote it became obvious what other people and personality types needed to be added to the mix. It’s just takes asking yourself questions like “if this happened to me, who would I ask for advice?” Then you make that person and ask yourself how they would respond. Or sometimes you ask yourself “who could come along and make this situation even worse?” and then create that character and get in their head. I did mini backstories for a bunch of the characters to aid this as well. Also, since it’s hard to step outside of your own creation and make sure your sense of each character translated onto the page, it helps to have a good set of beta-readers.
What was your hardest scene to write?
Without including spoilers, there’s a scene in my second book, All of Me, where Sera goes to the hospital to visit a friend. It’s intensely emotional. That’s all I’ll say about it. I’ve actually cried writing a few scenes. I thought that was weird at first, but if my books don’t move me, how can I expect them to move others?
As an avid reader, have read anything that made you think differently about fiction? Writing?
So much of what I read sticks with me. I was a huge fantasy reader from the get-go and always wanted to create my own world. But it wasn’t until I read Anne Rice’s books that I thought about writing novels. Mind you, this was the mid-1990’s, but hers were the first that I read that were their own world AND had erotic undertones, and boy was I intrigued. I wanted to write stories like that. I would start to but lose my nerve quickly. And then I got my hands on her Sleeping Beauty series. They were my introduction to sex-heavy content, and I never even imagined such a book was possible (I wasn’t a romance reader until recently). But still, I didn’t believe I could do it. Until I read the Fifty Shades series (which I actually enjoyed elements of) and realized that a story doesn’t have to be perfect (or even all that well written) for people to love it. That’s when I felt like I finally had the nerve to attempt it.
I see you’ve worked with Wicked Dreams Publishing to produce The Safeguarded Heart. What’s important to you when selecting a publisher?
Wicked Dreams Publishing is actually my company. Right now I use it primarily as my own label, but once I get more experience I may also branch out and use it to support other indies. Right now self-publishing fits my goals best. But were I ever to select a publisher, I’d have to be pretty confident in their value add - industry contacts to enable wide distribution and marketing, being able to retain enough control over my work so that it’s still something I’m proud to publish, and basically just proving that they’re worth the hefty percentage they’ll take. That’s not to say there aren’t some excellent publishers out there, but I’ve also heard far too many cautionary tales of not great ones. I’d have to be confident in their ability to garner exposure and increase sales to give up complete creative and legal control over my end product.
How do you find balance life with your creative endeavors?
For me, writing is what gives me balance. I gave up my traditional 9-5 job to be home with my son, though I still also run the property management company that my husband and I own. It’s been amazing to get back to having a creative outlet that still lets me feel productive. My biggest issue is letting go of things so I have time to write. Have you ever seen the TV show Friends? Well, I’m pretty much Monica. So I’m always cleaning or cooking something. It’s an incredibly far cry from the days when I worked as a lead engineer for the Boeing Company, but I find being a stay-at-home-mom far more fulfilling than I thought I would. But being home all day, its hard to turn off “house stuff.” Thankfully I have an incredibly supportive husband who sees how happy it makes me, so he takes over parenting our four-year-old so I can disappear into my hidey hole (the Smallest Bedroom, Our Home, Seattle Area, WA). You know I love something if I’m willing to let the house be dirty to do it.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you heard?
Just write. And if you can’t write whatever it is you’re trying to write, write something else. It’s true. Eventually all the words will come. You don’t need to force them.
To start in the middle. Do people really do that? It seems like you’re begging for heavy edits if you don’t build consistency and tone from the beginning. But that’s my $0.02.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I’m not in this for fortune or fame (though I wouldn’t turn them down if they happen along). I just want people to enjoy my books. So if you do, let me know! There’s no bad way to contact me, but I’m most active on Instagram (@melanieasmithauthor) or reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are always appreciated too!
I first met A. R. Yngve on Instagram, and I'd see a lot of his art for his series Darc Ages and bits and pieces of other stuff he was working on. When I found out he also did game design in addition to writing and illustration, my first reaction was that I gotta talk to this guy! Check it out~
What are you working on right now?
- Preparing for the big annual Book Fair (http://bokmassan.se) that takes place in my home city of Gothenburg, Sweden. That means creating ads, hustling my books on social media, getting the paperbacks delivered, writing press releases, courting journalists, organizing events with fellow writers... feels like being a carnival barker, which in many ways it is!
I’m also trying to write a short story for a writing contest.
What's your creative process like?
- Messy. Lots of little notebooks, much daydreaming... I try to structure my work by writing plot outlines, but I end up with an unstructured pile of plot outlines. Yet somehow, work gets done.
What helps you balance life with your creative work?
- A very understanding spouse who wants to read my work. Ask other writers who are single parents with three kids, how they manage to get any writing done. They amaze me.
From the get-go did you know DARC AGES would be a series? At what point did you know? Does your process/planning shift when writing a series vs. a standalone work?
- The DARC AGES books were intended as a series from the start, because they began as a script for a comic book in the 1990s (sadly, never completed nor published). Then it became a Web serial, and it got too long for a single book.
I understand that every writer wants to have a bestselling series – those bills are not going to pay themselves -- but there is no way of knowing in advance whether a series will be in demand. So there’s really no point in planning a serial too far ahead of actual success.
That being said, there is that long-running series of DARC AGES books in my mind... I just haven’t written them down yet.
In an Amazon review of your short story collection Precinct 20: Dead Strange, a reviewer states you have a cast of interesting characters that are "full of life and seem to leap right off the page." How do you go about creating that "priest that deals out more than prayers" and the time-traveling president--how do you make your characters feel genuine?
- Real life gives a writer so many characters for free. For instance, that time-traveling President is loosely based on George W. Bush – I didn’t have to make up very much!
I borrow here and there from the real world, and fill in the blanks. Also I borrow from myself, but I think all writers do that.
You’ve got to give the characters flaws. They have to smell a little. I emphasize their physicality; how they move, how their bodies are part of their personalities. I also go inside their minds to follow their thoughts, their doubts, fears and hopes. They’ve got to want something.
If my characters share one trait, it’s that they are obsessively driven – which drives them to greatness, or their downfall, or redemption.
Your works span from a wide range of settings -- from the turf of a big city homicide detective to the Renaissance set 900 years into the future -- how do you start world building? How do you balance the setup with the story?
- For me, a story mostly begins with the idea rather than the characters. And then that leads to more concrete ideas, then a plot, and then characters who fit into the plot.
I am aware that these plot-driven or idea-centered stories may not be everyone’s cup of tea. In recent years I’ve been trying to give the characters more ”breathing space.”
As an illustrator, do you face any obstacles in translating text into an image? Does it differ when you illustrate your own work vs. a client's?
- You can draw almost anything, given enough time. Time, however, is limited. So I take shortcuts – I often draw only ”slices” or details of what is depicted in the text, rather than a big sprawling panorama. Then the reader’s imagination can ”fill in the blanks.” When I work for a client, I need to understand what said client has in mind. This requires good communication; I suppress my ego. (Come to think of it, you should always submit your ego to the craft.)
As a game designer, was there a game that made you say, "Hey, I could do this?"
- Plenty. And plenty I couldn’t.
What's your favorite game and why--would you make any changes to it?
- The only significant change would probably be to make the game last longer. My favorite game of recent years is probably RESIDENT EVIL 4. I like scary games.
Is there anything else you'd like readers to know?
- Yes: buy my books!
You can find them on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/A.-R.-Yngve/e/B075K8BSWT/).
Try my new book PRECINCT 20: DEAD STRANGE; it is getting some seriously good reviews in both the U.S. and Sweden. Reviewers are likening it to THE X-FILES and THE TWILIGHT ZONE...
You can find his book trailers here!
Super thanks to RJ Walker for not only stooping to this interview but for being so incredibly patient. Between sickness, a move, and delayed internet access, he has even more of a right to hate me than most people do. As soon as I saw him on Facebook, I recognized him from some of his Button Poetry videos. I knew I had to interview him but asking felt like Lloyd Dobler pursuing Diane Court. Fortunately for us, he humbled himself to this interview and was great to work with. Please check his shit out and pay him.
In a youtube comment on Button Poetry's video of "Halloween," you say that the poem was inspired by a time where someone was a jerk to you for being the only one without a costume. Did you ever see that dude again? Is he aware of the poem?
Actually, it was my ex who was the jerk, but I changed the name and everything. At the halloween party, she acted like I ruined it because I didn’t come in a costume and all of her friends laughed at me. I was really ashamed and angry. The next morning, I wrote that poem.
Speaking of Halloween, what is your favorite holiday?
Ummm… Halloween… actually. I love ghost stories and spook alleys and campfires and everything autumn.
Some of your performances, such as "Seance for the Boy I Let Die," are confessional and even vulnerable in nature. Is there anything you wouldn't feel comfortable writing about?
Yes. Some things just aren’t meant to be a poem. When writing poems about patients, you have to make sure you’re not telling someone else’s story, and are instead telling your story of the experience.
Your poems really connect with people on a visceral level. Can you ever anticipate which lines or which pieces are going to be more successful than others?
Yes, actually. That’s the beauty of poetry slam. Every time you get scores it’s a measuring stick for how well your work is connecting. When I perform at the local slam, I can get a good idea of what works and what doesn’t.
"Deceit & I" has over 200 k views on youtube. Did you ever see yourself reaching such a large audience?
Sort of? I figured that if I kept up with poetry slam, I’d eventually get picked up by button poetry. What I didn’t expect was the response from the safe sleep community and pediatricians. Several doctors reached out regarding the poem to tell me that I was making an impact in reducing SIDS deaths by talking about something people were afraid to discuss.
You've lent your talents to some video games. How similar is doing a public reading voice work?
Honestly, indie voiceover work is just grunting and yelling in a closet. Public readings are great because you can gauge the energy and response of the audience. Voice Over work is really just you and the computer.
Was there ever a moment behind the mic where it clicked for you? Did you have immediate chemistry or was it a slow connection?
I started at a little open mic by my house telling jokes. Eventually, the jokes developed into full blown character monologues and someone invited me to do them at a poetry slam. I went and managed to get 2nd at my first slam ever!
Do you ever see the same people in attendance for your performances as a stand-up comic that you've seen attending your slam poetry?
Of course. When I do stand-up, it's usually at the same mic I do poetry. I also inject some stand-up into my featured poetry sets. The two artforms are very close and very connected for me.
Do you find your work as two separate experiences, one on the written page and one heard aloud? Or are the two directly associated for you?
While the words are the same, my poems on the stage have the added element of choreography and vocal expression. My poems on the page have the added element of formatting, and font and readers can take their time with it. Though the words are the same, the page and stage intersect, but both have advantages and disadvantages.
You actually gave me the heads up on the new Front Bottoms EP with a Facebook post about it. What's your favorite album of theirs?
My favorite album has to be Talon of the Hawk, but my favorite song would have to be Awkward Conversations.
Congrats on taking home the gold in the NPS! Do you ever feel like an athlete participating in such competitions?
well, bronze. We took 4th. Which is still quite impressive! Poetry Slam is 100% an academic sport and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Judging from your social media activity and juggling act of output, do you ever feel overwhelmed being neck deep in the game?
YES YES YES. I wear a lot of hats and do a lot of things. Getting poetry to be profitable is a really big struggle. It’s not exactly a popular product, and all the big pay comes from grants and universities. The big money comes from people who think poetry is important just because it’s artistic, not from people who actually WANT to purchase poetry. So I’m constantly trying to find ways to reinvent poetry as a lucrative and desirable product. That’s part of what Dollar Complements is. Not only am I trying to popularize and incentivize the writing of positive and validating poetry, I’m trying to blaze a career trail for other poets. Several poets have used the Dollar Compliments model of typewriter commissions sent through the mail to fundraise everything from Slam Teams to their top surgery. Slam has been successful for me, but this project is my real baby. It can be difficult to juggle it with my other work sometimes, but it’s certainly worth it.
Obvious final question, but what's next? Anything around the corner you'd like to promote or tease?
Well, there’s my patreon www.patreon.com/dollarcompliments Subscribers get a compliment, which is a tiny ode poem to you, every month. I type them up on my typewriter and send them through the mail. I post all the compliments to my instagram, which is @dollarcompliments. Even if you don’t subscribe to the patreon, you can follow along the compliments other people are getting!
Also, my new book Indigo League just came out on amazon: http://a.co/d/5tHTY7O
It’s a book of 50 poems inspired by Pokemon. There’s a poem for all the different types of trainer in the original red/blue/yellow versions of Pokemon, as well as a poem for all of the cities. A Seance for the Boy I Let Die is the poem for Lavender Town.
My other books are available on my website at www.rjwalkerpoet.com You can also access my voiceover demos there.
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How do you begin a poem? To you begin with the end in mind, or do you let your thoughts lead you? At what point do you say "That's it, I'm done!"?
A large majority of my poetry is based off of my life, therefore I begin a poem by having experienced something that I believe has left a resounding impact either on my life, or my overall mindset. I normally have an idea of how I might end a poem, however, I definitely still let my thoughts guide the way to the most organic closing possible. To be quite honest, some of the poems that I have published thus far are still incomplete to me! I pride myself in being a perfectionist so I always want the best version of a poem to exist upon the page, but sometimes even after I submit a poem I pull it back up and debate and play around with different lines. To me, everything will always be a work in progress, even after it’s published, I care so much about my poems and my specific word choice, so I don’t think I’ll ever be entirely content, there is always more to do, and a better way to do it.
What role should a title play in a poem? What's the most important thing to keep in mind when titling a poem?
Titles are incredibly important to a poem. It’s the first thing the reader sees, so it must pull them in with questions in mind, longing to be answered. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you believe, as the poet, that it is the most suitable way to introduce your poem. If you are confident in that then you have a proper title on your hands!
On your site you post prose and poetry. Does the process differ for you between these two forms? Is there anything poetry has taught you that helps your prose, or vice versa?
The process doesn’t differ to me, it’s all how I choose to represent my concepts. Poetry has taught me that word choice is key. Word choice is arguably the most important process in writing both poetry and prose.
Your "quality of life" series, "Cardiovascular Division, Room 7", "Sincerely Yours, A Liar", and excerpts of other pieces on your Instagram and site are incredibly powerful. How would you describe the role of poetry/prose in helping us reach a new level of understanding?
First off, thank you very much for the compliment, I sincerely appreciate it. I believe that perspective is the greatest gift poetry and prose can grant us. One can never truly ever understand another person’s afflictions and troubles, however, poetry and prose allows us access into a writer’s mind, and their experiences. I love the ability to craft a world of events into my writing then sharing it with the world. However, nothing makes me happier than when I share something and a reader informs me that they have shared similar experiences to that of my own. Poetry and prose grants perspective, and in turn allows us a greater understanding of our own life.
According to your bio you're currently earning your MFA in Creative Writing after completing your BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing. What do you find most useful in refining your craft? What was least useful?
Education is so important to honing any particular craft, but for me the most useful aspect of my MFA thus far is the workshopping process. Hearing my cohort’s opinions on my poetry allows me their take on what can be altered to be improved. To be quite frank, I have yet to find an aspect that was void of use.
As an adjunct professor in creative writing, what's the best advice you give students--what's the biggest takeaway you hope they go home with?
The biggest thing that I hope is that they embrace who they are and let their writing reflect them.
I see you're coming out with a poetry collection, Ashes and Embers, which you started on Kickstarter. Can you describe your experience of putting your collection together and releasing your chapbook?
I had worked on that collection for the better part of my undergrad experience so it took almost three years to actually come together, but I am quite happy with the result. Releasing it was great! I was able to successfully fund it and have distributed a lot more copies post-Kickstarter as well.
How do you feel about ebooks vs print books and alternative vs conventional publishing? How do you think this will impact the future of reading/writing?
I love the actual feeling of a book in my hands, so I find myself privy to print books. I find that both alternative and conventional publishing have their own merits and disadvantages, so I see the merit in both. I feel as if we are trending to more ebooks, however I do not think we will ever be done away with print!
Is there anything else you'd like readers to know?
I hope that everyone enjoys the poetry I have out currently and to know that I have a lot of big stuff in the process, hopefully coming soon!
(All photos provided by Sean William Dever at instagram.com/seanwilliamdever/)
What are you working on right now?
I plan on releasing my second collection of poetry in early 2019; I'm also currently working on a concept for a YA novel.
How would you describe your style?
My style is...sad. Haha. I've always joked that I'm not very good at writing about things that make me happy.
What do you think the most well-written poems have in common? The least?
The most well-written poems are made with passion. You don't need to break out a thesaurus. Just write from the heart, about things that make you feel something. I guarantee there are others that feel the same way.
Faulkner is often attributed with saying that in writing you must “kill your darlings.” Do you find that to be sound writing advice, especially when you craft a line or stanza that you love?
I certainly have a problem with that. My co-writer often suggests I scrap phrases and lines that I get attached to, but it is necessary sometimes. Just because YOU like it, doesn't mean it's good.
Do you think the reader should have to work hard to “translate” a poem, or do you think meaning should be more matter-of-fact? What are your thoughts on accessibility of meaning?
Sometimes. I like to put a lot of double meanings in my work. One is typically easy to detect, where the other might take some work. I think it's fun to give something extra to those who look deeper.
Are there poets who influence you? Any poems or lines that have had an impact on you as a poet?
I am constantly encouraged by our current generation of poets, such as Neil Hilborn, Savannah Brown, and Rudy Francisco. Several of their poems offer a very real representation of mental illness, adolescence, and sexism--topics I tend to hit on myself.
I see you published Pencil Shavings – And Other Things From My Garbage Can with Lulu.com. What qualities are you looking for in a publisher?
LuLu has been wonderful. I discovered them when I was in high school, and used them to print a personal project I was working on. As I began to enter my local poetry scene, I remembered them as I was looking to release my debut collection. They walked me through everything I needed to do to publish. Great company.
This is more of a procedure question, but how did you go about arranging your poems in your collection? By theme? By arc? What was your proces in deciding how you wanted to lead readers through your book?
I think "An Open Letter" was always going to be the opening piece of the book. It sets the tone so well, expressing the pain that is still felt, but the decision to carry on without it. Beyind, is a book of reminiscence.
Your biography says you are an activist for mental health and anti-rape culture. How would you describe the impact of poetry/literature on activism?
Locally, I'm known for my spoken word performances. I try to articulate feelings that people typically keep inside, such as things regarding their mental health, or abuse that has happened to them. For me personally, nothing hurts worse than not being able to explain it. I aim to be the voice shouts it from rooftops, until people understand.
Do you have any advice for aspiring poets and writers?
You are your own worst critic, but you also know yourself best. If you aren't happy with your work, fix it. If you ARE happy with your work, don't doubt it.
Is there additional you'd like readers to know?
So many readers have sent me photos of their books, and given me lovely feedback. I love knowing this book meant something to you. Thank you to everyone who has picked it up.
On your Good Reads page it you talk about an upcoming, a semi-autobiographical novel about the porn industry - is there anything you could share with us about this?
First of all that I’m impressed that you did your research! Yes. My first full length novel, ’What Is Porn Doing To Us’ (working title) is a journalistic attempt to understand the mighty industry without judgment or defensiveness. It’s autobiographical in that I grew up with it being classified as a degenerate, obscene, lewd side of humanity. This societal outlook appears to have changed drastically, however, more of the hidden ‘dangers’ of porn are being exposed causing us to reexamine the ‘victimless crime’ truth. Maybe some of the truths are never going to change. Still, does that make us a sick or an accepting of what is society by consuming these alternative modern outlooks on sexuality?
Your story Best Buds is written from the standpoint of a woman who admires her best friend. Your other piece, All American Bad Boys, is from a male point of view. Have you come across any challenges writing from these two perspectives?
Oooh, can of worms there! I grew up in a very loose sexual atmosphere. My parents were swingers, adult magazines with stories were accessible, there was even a box of smut books in our garage my dad had ‘smuggled’ out of France - books that were illegal in the States. I realized after releasing my first few stories that they were all very male centered, so I challenged myself to think like a woman. Besides, most erotica is for women. I’d like to change that. Men should feel good about being thoughtful and creative sexually, lord knows were not taught that. I think my goal in writing is to create a platform for men and women to feel great about their own urges, desires, and secret pleasures (as long as it is consensual).
Checking out your publishing history, you've written a series, SkillZ, and several stand alone works. Does your process differ between writing a single piece vs a series?
No, the process doesn’t differ, but they are different. The stand alone works, like ‘The Mailbox’ are based on a hot fantasy. The fantasy is in my head and needs to get on the page, then it’s served and shared. Whereas with SkillZ or Vegas Timeshare, these are actual elaborate works based on experiences I’ve had, mixed in with steamy scenes that occur with the main characters. The series stories could be novels (minus the graphic sexuality) if only I was patient enough to wait to put them out.
In your bio you write that you've lived near Area 51 and "spent much time exploring the desert as a kid, witnessing strange lights in the sky..." What are some of your biggest sources of inspiration?
I don’t believe I’m more special than anyone, but I do know that I’ve had many uniquely strange experiences with aliens and ghosts and relationships. One of my strongest reasons for writing is to share those. The inspiration comes in the hope; I have hope that people are not judged, nor feel judged for things they are naturally drawn to or that occur in their lives. Things they wish to either indulge in, experience, or witness like a voyeur. I grew up feeling shameful for what I am. I tried to snuff the ever present dirty, provocative, sexuality inside me. Why do I still carry that? To find that women love erotica so much was hard for me to swallow at first. Now it excites me; sexuality has always been cerebral to me.
Your background also says you loved the classics - are there any that have influenced you/your style?
Style wise, I’m drawn to ‘life being retold, interlaced with philosophy and wishful manipulations.’ Like 1984 (Orwell), Mrs. Dalloway (Wolff), Tom Sawyer (Twain), Catcher in the Rye (Salinger), Don Quixote (De Cervantes), and The BFG (Dahl). The story contains seeds of how life could be better if it just wasn’t how it really is!
What's your writing process like? Are you an outliner, a think as you go writer, or somewhere inbetween?
So far, what has been working for me is to just write as I go - get the ideas out so that the story flows. Then I will go back to the beginning and fill in all the sensual details. That is the most time consuming, as I like to make it rich for the reader. Then I go back again and edit. Currently I’m working with a writing program. It is very challenging because it wants me to have a place for everything. It remains to be seen if organized chaos is healthy for me.
What qualities are you looking for in a publisher? What are your deal-breakers?
I’m still new at understanding the marketplace. I haven’t pondered my expectations of a publisher thoroughly, yet. Everything has been done in-house where there is absolute freedom. This is an extremely competitive art form, however, and the publishers know their markets. As I begin pitching them this year, I can only think of teaming with one that can market my unbridled open mindedness and varied categories. Not every reader thinks in terms of brands and limitations to their preferred genre. I think most of us readers are eclectic. Categorizing choked the music industry. When the audience feels like an outsider for having varied taste, they are less likely to visit the typical consumer outlets.
Is there anything you'd want to see change in the industry or process?
Sure. There is no doubt that Amazon runs this industry. I would have never put a story out if I didn’t hear from friends that I could self-publish and make money on Amazon. Then it all changed, and it continues to do so, and that’s great! Unless, you are an honest, hard working author committed to maintaining integrity and personal growth through the continuous improvement of your product. That in itself is a full time job. We’re working overtime when algorithms change and marketing gets more expensive.
Your bio says you're committed to organic marketing - what inspired you to choose this route?
I don’t want to be what I see as part of the problem. To expect me to purchase ad space so that my book will get attention over some other author that can’t afford to buy an ad is where we’re at now. It’s like the ‘pay to play’ thing in the music industry. When I released SkillZ in 2015, hundreds of people borrowed it without any prompting. Now, if I don’t ‘promote’ my release, virtually no attention will come to it. This is how the algorithms have been set up. So, instead of playing into the soaking of artists, I’m choosing to ‘socialize’ by making relations with other like minded lovers of art. It’s much more gratifying anyway to build a family than it is to optimize a search engine.
What do you feel are some of the biggest misconceptions about erotic literature/erotic writers?
That we are all men with female pen names! lol.
How would you describe the impact of books like Fifty Shades on the genre?
I think smut writers are mostly grateful. The mainstream success of FSOG opened the door for us. Society is still pretty closed minded, though. Just read the “Controversy” section of Wikipedia for FSOG. There are still studies being done with the bent of Puritanism and guilt for women who feel free to be sexual beings. My stories are an attempt to end the philosophy of victimization and shaming. We are all better lovers when we feel free.
What's a piece of unconventional writing advice you could offer fellow writers?
There’s no such thing as writers block. If you can’t write what you’re writing, write something else. Never limit yourself. (ask me in 5 years if this advice is any good!).
What else would you like readers to know?
Going shameless here … borrow my books! Give me feedback! I will use it. I am listening. Here’s my email: firstname.lastname@example.org This is what I do, for you.
What goes into an irreverent pop culture reference? Do you ever stop and think "That's too obvious," or "That's too obscure?"
What goes into an irreverent pop culture reference, for me, is just being obsessed with something and wanting to include it in my work. There was a time (read: like, a year ago) where I worried a lot about whether what I was doing was too obscure or weird or not Poem-y enough, but a lot of me putting this book together was me letting go of all of those things and just writing about things I was obsessed with and thought were interesting/funny. I’m sure, for instance, the nuance of my whole Hoobastank “thing” is/will be lost on some people, but that’s fine because I put that stuff in there for me and the other five people on Earth who will find it hilarious.
What made you decide to publish The Poet Confronts Bukowski's Ghost through Philosophical Idiot?
Oh boy. Am I allowed to say this? I don’t know, I’m going to say it. Whenever I first started talking to Brandon last year, one of the first things that happened was that he read the title poem of the book and fell in love with it, and I was like, “Cool, it’s actually the title poem of my manuscript nobody wants!” and shortly after that we started casually talking about him publishing my book through PI this summer. So that’s when the idea started cooking. But it was a lot of internalized ethical hoops for me to jump through, and that was just when I considered him a good friend and I wasn’t even editing PI yet. I still felt very beholden to other people’s opinions about my work, and I didn’t want to wonder forever if my first book was only published as a favor. So I said no, even though B persistently and genuinely wanted the book.
But that was a year ago, and in that period of time, I’ve grown up a little bit and I’ve also learned a little more about the process of putting a book together with a small press. And I reached a point where I a) felt good enough about my work that I didn’t feel like this was the only avenue I could take, and more importantly, b) I genuinely did not want anyone but B and I to touch this thing. At that point, publishing it under Philosophical Idiot felt a lot more like a conscious choice on my part than something B was “letting” me do. I’m stubborn. I need to feel like I’m coming up with stuff on my own.
Publishing the book under a press that I am co-founding has definitely been a step outside of my comfort zone in that I have had to stand by and show up for my own work without the “safety net” of knowing a third party had already read and approved of it. But in terms of the content, the editing, etc., it was the best possible decision I could have made for my weird little book.
How great of an influence are song lyrics to your poetry?
I don’t see much of a direct connection, like, nothing I can point to in my work, but music and lyrics are deeply important to me so I know they’re an influence. I also write music myself, though I think my approach is quite different than it is with poetry.
If you met Charles Bukowski's ghost, what would you say to him? Would it go down exactly as it does in your poem?
You mean would I violently squeeze his balls as a way of releasing my rage at the old guard of old dude poets? Probably not. I’m not that cool in real life. I would probably try really hard to impress him and prove I wasn’t offended by his inevitably offensive behavior and then every time I took a shower for the next 3-6 months I would think of comebacks and badass things I could have done and hate myself for not doing them in the moment. For all of my rage and frustration I still crumble at the feet of old poet men sometimes, and that sucks. I’m only unwaveringly fierce in my poetry.
Side note: how fucked are you if the coolest version of you is the one in your poems? Asking for a friend.
Only as fucked as the rest of us. At least, that's what I tell myself.
How did you come to James Swanick for the book's cover? Did you provide him with any directions or just give him free reign? What was your reaction upon seeing it for the first time? (Sorry for the triple threat, here.)
He’s one of my oldest friends! We’ve actually known each other since freshman year of high school. He’s smart as fuck and knows my poetry really well from reading it constantly over the past ~9 years, so I basically sent him a pdf of the book and I told him I wanted something relatively minimalist. He sent me two options. One was the cover art that everyone is familiar with, and the other one was an image of an ox skull with pomegranate seeds coming out of it, which I actually used on the back cover. I was blown away when he showed it to me, but I was more blown away by how much thought he had put into the designs. He was sending me full paragraphs, like, essay-length explanations of all of the symbolism he saw in the art he’d made, and even had some other potential options prepared in case I wasn’t happy, and those were also incredibly symbolically dense. I really felt “seen” through that whole process; it was cool working with someone who I could tell my work resonated with and who knows me really well.
How much attention have you paid to the book's reception so far?
I definitely check Createspace 79,000 times a day to see how many people have bought my book on Amazon. That’s one of the pitfalls of semi-self-publishing your work. There’s no middleman for obtaining that information. But I don’t really care so much about people buying the book as I do them loving the work, and since there haven’t been any reviews are anything yet, there’s been little for me to obsess over. There’s also the whole thing where I have little to no frame of reference for whether or not my book is “doing well.” I’m still just amazed that people (even people I know) are buying it and messaging me to let me know they love it. I made something, and other people are consuming that thing. No matter what else happens, that’s wild.
But yes, at any given time, I know exactly how many books I’ve sold through Amazon because I check the damn thing every hour. I’m only human.
Do you write drunk and edit sober?
Writing drunk is fucking awful. I really don’t even drink much anymore, but the last thing I want to do when I’m drunk is write poems. I think my slogan is closer to, “Write in the notes app on your iPhone at 3:47 AM, edit three months later when you finally remember you have a bunch of poems sitting in the notes app on your iPhone.”
What are you working on now?
I already have 40ish poems toward a second full-length that I’ve been excited about since before I even announced the first full-length. It’s going to be a little different than Bukowski’s Ghost. A lot more autobiographical. A lot more “vulnerable” and straightforward. Definitely something I would have made fun of in like 2016, which is how I know I’m evolving in exactly the right direction.
How did you arrange the poems in The Poet Confronts Bukowski's Ghost? Do you see the sections as four separate chapbooks bound together between two covers or a cohesive collection?
The order/sections were something I really agonized over. I didn’t want to put the poems in chronological order because that didn’t play to the strengths of the work at all. I didn’t want to divide the book into sections at first, either, because I felt like that was too limiting in terms of how it directs the reader to think about the poems. In my own mind, I have these really world-salad-y, kind of Pepe Silvia type justifications for how I divided the sections and why each poem belongs there, but ultimately I see it as a cohesive collection that’s broken up semi-logically into sections as a palate cleanser.
How do you feel the advent of digital and self-publishing has affected literature?
Alright, so a lot of people bitch and moan about self publishing and digital publishing because it’s created this saturation where there are undoubtedly a ton more people publishing and running publications now than there probably were in pre-internet days. But I think that’s an awesome thing. There is, essentially, unlimited space for people to create and circulate the kind of work that resonates with them. Honestly, I’m skeptical of people who have this attitude of like, “How do we know our work is good now if any person can get published these days?” Anything that kills the monopoly of old white dudes waxing poetic about all of the women who have been collateral damage to their tortured genius is fine by me.
You were pretty sick at your reading, in both senses of the word. In retrospect, how does it feel that you got up on stage and presented even though your health was dunking on you?
Due to a lot of personal things that have been going on, I really had built up my book release show to be a redeeming moment for me. Given that I was sick, it was definitely not that. And once it became apparent that I would still be ill and miserable on the day of the reading, I was extremely depressed about it. I was in a bad place because it was the thing that was supposed to make all of my personal strife worth it, and it wasn’t going to turn out perfect.
However, in hindsight, it feels really awesome to know that I pushed through that self-pity and represented my book as best as I possibly could have in the moment. Everyone really kicked ass that night, and I had a lot of fun.
Kat Giordano's Twitter:
Philosophical Idiot's website:
The Poet Confronts Bukowski's Ghost on Amazon:
Thanks a ton to Kat for agreeing to being interviewed by a silly jerk like me and her awesome answers! Please buy her book and read it and then leave reviews on Amazon, bonus points for kind ones.
Ice-breaker time! Introduce yourself! My name is Natalie Banks and I am a romantic suspense author. I have been writing since I was 12 years old. I took classes throughout high school and college to help me hone my craft and eventually, I won the distinguished Governor's Writing award in North Carolina. I have published two novels and am getting ready to release my third. I am also working on a fourth to be released Fall 2018.
I love writing, as it is my passion and my life work. I love creating characters and stories that touch my readers in ways that’s sticks with them. It is kinda my specialty.
How did you know you wanted to be a novelist?
It happened by accident. I was just twelve years old and just finished a novel with an anti-climactic ending and I was devastated. I was on airplane flying to Colorado at the time and I had no where to go with my feelings. I wanted to fix it for the characters and myself, so I did the only thing I could do and that was to pull my notebook out of my backpack. I rewrote the ending and immediately re-read it in conjunction with the original ending. I let out a sigh of relief. When I closed my notebook, at that moment, I knew I was a writer. The bug had bitten me and hasn’t ever let go.
In an Interview with Cozy Reads, you comment that you're working with a movie producer who wants to bring The Water is Wide to cinema. Have you come across any challenges in the book-to-film transition?
I think the hardest part, is the time it takes do anything in that business. Everything moves at a snail’s pace. Honestly, it is probably good for me though, because I am used to do everything pretty quickly. It is teaching me patience. Haha!
The Canary's Song will be your third novel, and I'm struggling to write my first! Do you have any advice to fellow writers on staying committed to a project and avoiding the dreaded writer's block?
The only advice I can really give is that you need to write about something you are truly passionate about. Write a story that is so vivid and alive to you, that you can’t help but think about it 24/7. Your passion for the story will come across to the readers. When you do this, it also helps with writer’s block because the story will eat at you until you get it out. If you’re in the middle of a story and it just isn’t igniting that passion, give yourself permission to set it to the side and start one that will. Sometimes, it is just not the right time for that particular story. I can’t tell you how many times I have set stories to the side and came back to them later with a new vigor.
How did your first book, The Water is Wide, change the process of your writing (if it has)?
I would say my first book taught me to trust myself more and not to second guess my plot. It gave me a lot of freedom in my writing. I am still my own worst critic, as I think we all are, but it gave me permission to relax a little more.
"We believe the truth we want to" is a hauntingly beautiful phrase that's been following me around since I've heard it. What have you read or written that has stuck with you?
Thank you so much. It is a powerful and relatable phrase, I think. Isn’t that what we all do, believe the truth we want to?
I actually am reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and lots of phrases in his book have stuck with me already. One of favorites, is as follows:
“People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
I love this because I am a firm believer in people following their dreams and desires. I also am a firm believer in, it’s never too late to start.
Your site bio says that you "weave characters with relateable humanity and stories that touch the heart and soul." How do you go about creating such characters?
I write my characters as if they were my friends, actual people I know. I want them to be that way for my readers too. It is fun to read stories about untouchable people but the stories that touch our hearts, that stick with us long after the book is over, are the ones with people that we cared about, even loved. The ones who we felt we were walking beside on their journey.
Most of the reviews from your readers say your books "capture [you] from page one," "ends with a bang," and readers "couldn't put it down until it was finished." As a suspense writer, how do you keep the pace and tension?
In the back of my mind, I am always thinking about what I am working toward at the end of the book. I weave small pieces of that throughout the story to keep the climax building. I am also not one of those writers that adds a lot of details to fill the pages and get the word count up. I write the story as it is and through the eyes of my characters. As we said before, relatable, right? Not many of us take much time to stop and absorb our surroundings. We look at it, take it in, and move on. Long descriptions can be beautiful to read but don’t do much for suspense.
"The Water is Wide," "The Dark Room," "The Canary's Song" - with titles like these, I'm hooked in a heartbeat. (Whereas I can't seem to stick to one!) How do you choose a title your books? What would have any one of your books been called if you didn't select the chosen title?
Thank you so much! Each title came to me at different times during the writing process. It is one of those things that just clicks when it’s right. I try not put a lot of thought into the title because I get in my own way, if I start to panic about what to name the book. I try to just open myself up and let a title float in.
I almost re-named The Water is Wide, The Water’s Edge. I had conflicting feelings about it being associated with the old Scottish folk song. In the end, I knew The Water is Wide was the right title and that was the one I chose.
As a well-established novelist, what parts have the publishing process worked for you - what would you change?
I wish it was easier to get my books in front of readers. Getting the word out is a gruel but at the same time it is a lot of fun. I love meeting readers and hearing how much they love my books.
What advice would you offer to aspiring novelists?
Never give up on your dreams. Writing and publishing is not an easy feat but if it is what makes you tick, then you cannot walk away from it.
I would advise all them to take at least a few classes on writing, if they haven’t done so already. Even natural talent needs to be honed.
The last thing I would say, is never stop writing. Every time you write, you get better and better.
Is there anything else you'd like readers to know?
I would love for them to stop by Facebook page @nataliebanksnovels or my Instagram page @officialnataliebanks and say hello!
Meet Matthew Pungitore, author of Midnight's Eternal Prisoner: Waiting for the Summer.
Question #1: What's your process from idea to final draft? Do you outline or go with the flow? At what point do you decide, "Hey, I'm done!"
MATTHEW PUNGITORE: I focus on bringing to life the core will and emotions of an idea. As the Art moves through me, I concentrate on building ideas and dreams and stories that I would want to read about. I think about my creation, moods I want to share, and how I want to reach out, how I want to communicate with others. You might say I "go with the flow" sometimes. I follow the flow of my Art and then I drag it into this world. Once I know what I want to summon, what I try to create, It screams to me. It wants to be heard. I create the beginning, middle, and end of a story while always thinking about its soul and what I want it to cry out. Books, Reading, Stories, it is all a process of connecting to others and building something together with those who share dreams. I think writers are still learning new things about writing and what it is capable of, what it means to our spirits as linguistic creatures. I don't know if one's "Art" can ever really be "done." Can you truly control "Art?"
Question #2: Are there any authors or stories that influence you? What impact have they had on your writing?
MATTHEW PUNGITORE: When I write, I influence myself and inspiration comes from inside of my mind. The Gothic movements, Romanticism, and the Renaissance cultures around the world have stayed with me. Everyone is changed by their environment and the world around all of us. Each of us is transforming one another. We build off each other in new ways. We create new things and spark new movements. Durante Degli Alighieri (Dante Alighieri), Niccolò Machiavelli, Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, and Tomie dePaola are authors that have impacted me deeply. These authors have shaped the way we all read, write, and look at the world. There is so much about Italian art and writing that lifts me up. Italian authors have given me worlds I can see myself in, connect with. And I must praise the revolutionary works of the great American writer, Washington Irving. I am proud of being an Italian and an American.
Question #3: Your book Midnight's Eternal Prisoner: Waiting for the Summer takes place in a world quite unlike our own. What's your process for building worlds? What's the most challenging part of it?
MATTHEW PUNGITORE: When I am creating a castle, a city, a world, it comes from fantasy, but it has to connect with readers. It has to mean something different to them, but still bind them. I hope to craft an environment that makes sense but also inspires others. The right moods all have to be there and the voices of those places I create need to be able to jump and howl from that fantasy and into the heart of the readers. I want my worlds to be believable and fun. Those short, small moments in those worlds are the main focus and for me are more important when I tell a story. I want readers to look upon my art and think that they can see themselves right in the worlds I create. And then they will use their imaginations to create more of the world and the story and suddenly realize that they are part of this dream and their thoughts and emotions are mixing with the words on the pages, helping to give them an unforgettable experience. The environments I create in my stories, I hope, will come alive and resonate with readers, speak to them, bring out their spirit, dreams, and nightmares. The fantasy must have rules and even though it is all a story, it still is hypnotizing and you can enjoy the experience on a profound level. That is why the horror and the chaos must always be there, because it is within us all.
Question #4: Going off of that - how do you balance the details of the place you're trying to create vs moving the story along?
MATTHEW PUNGITORE: The details need to be part of the story sometimes, but I try to focus on mood and atmosphere. I want to create a space where emotions and feeling are always radiating outward and inward in a cycle. Details, Feeling, Story, it all should be part of the progression. I craft worlds to share my emotions and build upon the feelings and thoughts of characters. Readers will connect their own emotions to the magic of the pages. I go with the guidance of my art and my emotions. I want my readers and fans to have fun and remember how they felt reading my work, to have a lingering ghost of that emotion within them for all time. That balance is different for everyone. I will seek that balance out for myself, but readers should decide for themselves.
Question #5: Do you build your story to fit a theme, or do you let the theme emerge?
MATTHEW PUNGITORE: I do both. Themes emerge while writing, so let them rise up. I write a story with a mood and theme, but sometimes other voices and feelings and attitudes of the art take control. It is like being possessed. Have fun with it. I'm having fun. Shouldn't reading be fun?
Question #6: How did you choose your genre? What's the most important thing people don't know about dark fantasy lit but need to?
MATTHEW PUNGITORE: I want to add to the "Gothic" and to "Dark Fantasy." I think I have a lot to offer. I think I know how to bring some fun to readers who like the dark, the horrifying, tales of mad romance, and the stories of blood and death. I want to surround myself with the macabre and the monsters and the people who love it all as I do. What people don't know about the "Gothic", "Dark Fantasy Literature", and "Horror" is that there is a lot of light in it and there can be a lot of love and beauty that goes with it, too. It is a lot of fun. There is still so much we can do with it and so much it can teach us. I embrace its beauty and its haunting charms. And it has always been with us. Monsters, Demons, Stories of Ghosts and Curses, legends of Fear itself, all of it has always shaped Human-kind and been a part of our ancestors like a fascination, like the blood in our bodies. It is a great thing and it somehow connects with all the other genres, as if it is at the heart of everything.
Question #7: I'm still struggling to write my first book, and you've already beaten me to it! Did you set out knowing you'd write one? How did you keep yourself on track during the project?
MATTHEW PUNGITORE: I've always wanted to share my art and my feelings and somehow it has come to this. I've always wanted to be a part of an art form that would connect people, something fun, something that would allow me to share myself in a unique way. I will lead people on a journey and together we can be a part of something wonderful. I self-published "Midnight's Eternal Prisoner: Waiting For The Summer" through "BookBaby". It has been a fun journey. "BookBaby" has been so kind and helpful to me. The people working there have the best customer service and they are very "author-centric", very focused on authors and the art and getting authors the support and information they need. I would work with Bookbaby again because they have made self-publishing fun and easy. My art came from within me. It clawed out of me. I struggled to bring it to life. I had the support of my Mother, Sister, and Father. I had my ambition and my dream. Having focus is hard in this world where everything is made so confusing on purpose and everything is moving so fast. That is why I am thankful to my loving, loyal Family and to BookBaby.
Question #8: You told me you're working on a project at the moment, would you care to share with us any tid-bits about it?
MATTHEW PUNGITORE: I am learning to do better, to be a better author and writer. Readers and fans should expect my next book to be longer and it will be a dark, mature adventure. I am listening to criticism and support from all of you, but I must stay true to myself. It is important for me to know who my fans and readers are and what they want, as well as to follow the will of my heart. I am also trying to get a Youtube Video Animation out with a friend of mine. Let us see what happens.
Question #9: What process did you go through to get published? If you could do it again, what would you keep? What would you change?
MATTHEW PUNGITORE: I self-published through "BookBaby" and it was a great time. Fun. Easy. BookBaby is focused on authors and author needs. I would work with BookBaby again for sure. I like how I can call BookBaby and communicate with a smart team of people who are nice and fun to talk to. I would not change anything, but I would like to try other things, maybe try something different sometime, too. Trying new things can be rewarding and enlightening sometimes, right? I would not mind trying to get published by a publisher or a major publishing house just to see what it is like. I'm always learning and I'm really trying to be the best I can and do the best job I can.
Question #10: On your social media I see you've been quite active with book signings and events - what's something memorable you've heard from a fan?
MATTHEW PUNGITORE: When I hear that people are having fun and enjoying my work, that warms my soul.
Question #11: Any advice to aspiring writers? On writing? On marketing?
MATTHEW PUNGITORE: Writing, Books, Reading, this whole literary thing, it's for People, and we should be bringing People together. I want to be there for my fans and readers. If you want to communicate with me, then send me a message or something. We should be providing entertainment and thoughtful, inspiring art that will create discussion. Life is a busy, messy thing and it gets wild. Focus on the people and making people happy and having fun. That's what I want to do. I want people to have fun. Give the people something fun and unique and we can create something beautiful through art. I want to see more dark, mature, and thoughtful works of art, so I am creating dark, mature, thoughtful works of art. Create what you want to see, something you would want to read. I write what I want to read and I think there are a lot of people who are going to want what I'm writing.
Question #12: Is there anything else you'd like your audience to know?
MATTHEW PUNGITORE: I really love cute animals like black cats and Welsh Corgis. I also find snakes and bats cute. They inspire me. They motivate me to be calm and to be a better person. I want more tattoos. I love the Summer. I love Halloween and Christmas, as well as learning more about the history of all those holidays. Let's just have some fun again, my friends. For people like me, fun can be reading about monsters and stories about battles with powerful foes. I love horror movies and cooking/baking, but I'm not even half as good at that as my Sister and my Mother are at all that cooking/baking stuff. I would like to thank my Father for his support. Thanks, Dad! I would also like to thank BookBaby for being so awesome and for all of their support. I would sincerely like to thank "longshotbooks" for giving me this amazing opportunity to talk to all of you! I hope I can meet more of my fans and readers so I can hear what you have to say. I really would honestly like my art to create something powerful and fun that inspires and unites people. I hope you all enjoy reading my novelette, "Midnight's Eternal Prisoner: Waiting For The Summer" ! Have a great Summer !
I met Rich on Facebook, probably because we're both writers and Horror dudes. He's always humble, funny, and kind, three words that do not apply to most authors. His repertoire is impressive, so I'm going to pass that off to his Facebook About Me.
Rich Hawkins hails from deep in the West Country, where a childhood of science fiction and horror films set him on the path to writing his own stories. He credits his love of horror and all things weird to his first viewing of John Carpenter’s THE THING when, aged twelve, he crept downstairs late one night to watch it on ITV. He has a few short stories in various anthologies, and has written one novella, BLACK STAR, BLACK SUN. His debut novel THE LAST PLAGUE was nominated for a British Fantasy Award for Best Horror Novel. Its sequel, THE LAST OUTPOST, was released in September 2015.
He currently lives in Salisbury, Wiltshire, with his wife, their daughter and their pet dog Molly. They keep him sane. Mostly.
The first thing I noticed when looking at your Amazon page was "Holy fuck, this guy's been busy." What's the best starting point in your bibliography?
I’d say probably one of my novellas – either King Carrion, Black Star Black Sun or Scavengers – as I think they best capture what my writing is about and they don’t take too long to read!
How does it feel being included in an anthology with Jack Ketchum?
Pretty fucking cool, to be honest! It’s something I never thought would happen. Thank God for reprints.
On that note, when it comes to US Vs UK Extreme Horror, who do you think won?
In my totally biased view the UK won. Rule Britannia and all that stuff. But, seriously, I think it was a closely-run contest and if there was a winner it was by fine margins. A lot of excellent writers in that anthology.
How does it feel being an extreme Horror writer with the hypersensitivity going around today, particularly in the literary community?
With all respect, I wouldn’t call myself an extreme horror writer – but, yeah, there’s always the slight worry that a writer will be seen to go ‘too far’ and face backlash from easily offended types. Luckily the horror fiction community is remarkably tolerant of extreme content, which is great. But as with the greater literary/online community in general, there is an element of internet mob culture that froths itself up into a rage against any perceived injustice. Some people just like drama, don’t they?
Do you ever feel like something won't get published because it goes too far? Do you care?
That might happen in ‘big time’ publishing, but I can’t see it happening in the indie community. At least I hope not.
You've been included in a George Romero tribute anthology. What's your favorite Romero movie (doesn't have to be one of his Dead films)?
Day of the Dead. It’s just a stone-cold classic. The opening scene is one of my all-time favourites.
You've published with a few different publishers now (April Moon Books and Crowded Quarantine, to name a few). Are there any red flags when it comes to publishers when you submit to them? What is it that lets you know such a collaboration will work out?
I’ve had no massive problems with the publishers I’ve worked with. I won’t submit to a publisher if I’ve heard that they don’t pay their writers on time or put out books with shitty front covers. Luckily, once you’ve been around the indie horror fiction community for a while, you find out which publishers to avoid. Reputation is everything.
Are you more of a Mulder or a Scully?
Do you prefer to read digital or physical books?
I like digital books for their convenience and cheaper price, but physical books are best, even if it’s just for the traditional aspect.
Do you have a favorite entry in your trilogy, The Last Plague?
At the moment it’s The Last Outpost. But that could just be because I’ve spent the last few weeks rewriting The Last Plague and it was starting to drive me a little mad.
You credit your love of horror to John Carpenter's The Thing. Who’s your favorite horror author?
I can’t name just one, to be fair! But I will name several – Adam Nevill, David Moody, Gary McMahon, HP Lovecraft, Conrad Williams. All great writers, in my opinion. But the horror fiction scene is full of superb writers at the moment. I can’t even name them all.
One month ago, you made your return to Youtube. How necessary do you think it is today for authors to put themselves out there in such ways?
Very necessary. Writers need to utilise every avenue of exposure these days. It’s immensely difficult to get noticed, even with straight white male privilege…
Has your interest in the horror genre shaped your musical taste at all? How do you feel about horror-themed music?
Not particularly, although I used to be a big fan of Cradle of Filth and Avenged Sevenfold. Yeah, I tend to like horror-themed music, as long as it’s not too over-the-top. Does Slipknot count?
Last question: You've interviewed David Moody, whose book, Hater, you've included among your favorite apocalyptic novels. How does it feel asking the questions as opposed to answering them.
I prefer to answer them, to be honest. It’s difficult to think of interesting questions that haven’t been asked by every interviewer since the dawn of the internet!
Rich's favorite website:
Thanks again to Rich for this interview and his patience as we experienced many road bumps on the path to its publication (most of which I probably swerved to hit in a fit of reckless endangerment). Please buy his books, like his pages, and ask him about his membership in the Ginger Nuts of Horror.