AUTHOR INTERVIEW: STEPHANIE WYTOVICH

headshot-3This week we have another fantastic guest dropping by the blog to give us some insight into her writing world. Stephanie Wytovich is not only a talented writer, but she’s a highly-praised poet. Her work has been published in places such as DarkFuse Magazine and The Literary Hatchetand several of her poetry collections are available wherever books are sold. Her debut novel, The Eighthpublished by Dark Regions Press, is getting some rave reviews and I can’t wait to get my paws on a copy. IT LOOKS AWESOME. This Is Horror calls it a, “…monumental and hugely entertaining read.”

Stop by Stephanie’s blog to keep up with her writing endeavors and be sure to check out her interviews with some of the biggest names in horror.

Later, Maniacs.

– TM

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TIM MEYER: Let’s start by telling us a little about your latest book release.

STEPHANIE WYTOVICH: My debut novel, The Eighth, came out in November 2016 from Dark Regions Press after serving as my master’s thesis and earing me a MFA from Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program in 2014. Inspired by the worlds and works of Dante Alighieri and Clive Barker, I wanted to reconstruct a version of Hell that brought life to the Seven Deadly Sins while inviting readers to contemplate sin as an invitation to celebrate our grotesqueries.

My main characters are Paimon (a soul collector), Rhea (a mortal girl who is both Paimon’s and Lucifer’s love interest, and who can also detect one’s deadliest sin by his aura) and Arazel (the ringleader of the circle of Lust). The three of them form a trinity, if you will, of varying levels of control, something that all of them are haunted by in one way or another. Their stories intersect and crash into one another in unconventional ways that move away from the cannon in some respects because I wanted to write a book that stepped away from the cliché stereotypes of the virgin in a white dress, or the Catholic priest giving an exorcism to a little girl. In The Eighth, you’ll find reverse prayers, and strong women who have embraced their bodies, not as something sacred and holy, but as a weapon of pleasure and punishment. You’ll be embraced in a world of snow and ash, and the fire you’ll burn in will be one of psychological torment and emotional agony. The Eighth is both my homage to literary horror and mythology and my love story to pleasure and pain.

TM: What seriously messed up moment in your life made you want to become a horror author?

SW: I think it’s a common misconception that something terrible happened to all of us and that’s why we tend to favor the dark side of the arts. For me, personally, horror has always been my life because I find it grotesquely beautiful as well as empowering. Quite frankly, I think that the most beautiful things in this world are honest and raw, scarred and perhaps hidden in the shadows. I would much rather hear a story about someone who has looked into the face of the Devil and survived than hear a love story about two people finally finding solace in each other because horror gives me strength, it forces me to play “what-if,” and I like books and art and music that makes me feel and experience emotions that maybe aren’t necessarily safe and comfortable. I embrace the strange and unusual, the weird and off-kilter, and I find immense satisfaction in meeting characters who aren’t afraid to embrace the parts of them that most people condemn them for.

I write horror because I think it teaches us valuable lessons about our power and our limitations, and it exercises our minds in the fields of survival. I write stories that push psychological and physical boundaries with the human body, and as I work in extremes, my characters are forced into madness, shattered and broken into pieces, forced to give in or give up. Sometimes they bring this upon themselves, sometimes it’s done to them, but what I think my message is with my writing, is that there is always a way to find acceptance in our faults and scars, and whatever comes out of the ashes and takes its first breath is beautiful in its own way, even if it’s monstrous.

the-eighthTM: Do you prefer writing shorter works or full-length novels?

SW: I’m a poet by nature, so while shorter works will always be my preferred form, I do thoroughly enjoy the challenge that a novel or a short story gives me, and I need to be writing both forms at the same time in order for me to finish anything.

TM: Name some writers who have influenced your work.

SW: There are countless writers that I could name here, but I’ll throw out a few today: Clive Barker, Jack Ketchum, Poppy Z. Brite, Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath…

TM: Was there a particular horror film/book that impacted you as a writer? You can have more than one!

SW: The book was Pet Semetery by Stephen King. I can still remember reading it as a kid, curled up in my bed and reading until the sun came up all the while being deathly afraid that my recently deceased rabbit, Fluffy, was going to come back from the grave and kill me for not being a better rabbit parent to her. My brother didn’t share the same fears as me, but he also didn’t bury one rabbit, one dog, and three goldfish behind the shed with our father, so he was probably safe.

I, however, knew what was out there, what was really capable.

He was still a child.

As for the movie, the first film I remember watching was Salem’s Lot. I was way too little to be watching this, but my mom was ironing and I was downstairs with her, and the window scene pretty much broke me. I had two windows on either side of my bed as a kid, and after seeing that, I would sleep with the covers up to my neck out of fear that I would get bit.

Side note: Sleep has never been my friend and I blame my irrational fear of windows on my mother…and Stephen King.

TM: What’s your writing process like? Do you outline?

SW: When it comes to fiction, I never used to, but I do now. Kind of. I more or less free write a lot of ideas and possibilities down as I’m moving along, and then I’ll see where the story takes me and readjust as need be. If it’s a novel, I’m writing the poem version of the scene before I turn it into prose, but no matter what, I’m always surrounded by post-it notes and cork boards, and there are scribbles everywhere, on me, on my phone, and anywhere that can hold a message, really.

I’m a walking example of organized chaos, ask anyone.

For poetry, well, that’s a little…um, different. I get a theme in my head, and then I come up with the titles first: five titles for every letter of the alphabet. I don’t necessarily write each piece in order, but that’s why my poetry collections are in alphabetical order because it helps me structure the arc, tone, and climax of the book, and it also keeps me organized and on track. I also use Pinterest to make storyboards for each book, and I fill them full of images and quotes to help me along, too; it’s almost a visual outline, if anything.

Again, organized chaos.

TM: What do you love about writing?

SW: I love bonding with my monsters and demons, showing a sympathetic side to the darkness. Frankenstein is my favorite book and it’s influenced me in countless ways from my interest in body horror to my tendency to show the beauty in the grotesque, and I think it’s hard to read that book without feeling a little sad for the monster with his abandonment and forced isolation.

I live for telling the other side of the story.

TM: What do you enjoy about the horror genre?

SW: Its freedom. It lets me clap for the parts of life that most stay silent over.

TM: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

SW: Never stop writing. Ever.

Write the story you want to write whether you think it will sell or not. If I listened to every person who told me my ideas were stupid, or that women don’t write this way, or I was trying to do something too risky, I would never have published anything. Stay true to yourself, listen to the voices in your head, and make art because you have to, not because you think it will please someone else.

TM: What does “Women in Horror Month” mean to you?

SW: I think Women in Horror Month is a time to celebrate female artists, and while I know that we’d all much prefer that we didn’t need it, and that we’d much rather just be known as “writers” instead of “female writers,” the hard truth is that the playing field still isn’t equal and until it is, we need to be in people’s face about it, constantly reminding them that we’re here and just as capable and deserving of our spot on the page.

TM: What’s next on the writing agenda?

SW: Right now, I’m working on a short story project, and I’m about to dive into a collaborative piece with my beautifully creative and wonderful friends, Mercedes M. Yardley and Brian Kirk. I’m sure I’ll be writing poetry on the side while I’m doing all of this, as well as outlining sequel to The Eighth, so it’s going to be a busy, busy year for sure, but truthfully, I love what I do, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Bring on the madness. It’s time to get weird.

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Praise for The Eighth:

The Eighth is a stellar horror debut from Stephanie Wytovich. An intimate, painful map of personal and literal hells that would make Clive Barker proud.” – Christopher Golden, New York Times bestselling author

The Eighth is a truly unique reimagining of the levels of hell and the evils that dwell there, told in the voice of a bold and courageous young author who is just now coming into her prime. Stephanie M. Wytovich has created a work that, while truly horrifying, manages to transcend genre altogether, becoming a literary tour de force the likes of which is seldom seen in horror or any other category of fiction or film. It’s a symphony of language and creativity performed by an author who can comfortably rub elbows with the best writers in horror, and in any other genre for that matter. The Eighth is one of the most exciting books to come along in 2016 and one of the best debuts of the last decade or so. Wytovich is at the top of her game and gaining momentum like a runaway freight train, and you’ll be doing yourself a great disservice if you miss out on this monumental and hugely entertaining read.” – This is Horror

Stephanie Wytovich’s The Eighth is a savage tale of betrayal, regret, and the dark side of love in its many forms. The poetic imagery she sprinkles throughout balances the brutality with beauty.” – Chris Marrs, author of Wildwoman and Everything Leads Back to Alice

A fierce and emotionally intense debut.”- Craig DiLouie, author of Suffer the Children

A brilliant debut from a major new talent, full of darkness, fire, and devilry. Indeed, the sins in this novel are so well realized that I fear just a little for Ms. Wytovich’s soul.”- Rio Youers, author of Westlake Soul and Point Hollow

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: SARA BROOKE

sarah-brookeHey, gang! I have another fantastic interview for you this week! As we continue on with Women in Horror Month, I’d like to welcome Sara Brooke to the blog. Sara is the author of some awesome, creative horror tales such as Still LakeGardens of Babylonand most recently, Renovationpublished by Sinister Grin Press. Enjoy the interview and be sure to check out all of Sara’s works here!

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: SOMER CANON

somer-canonManiacs, welcome! To kick off Women in Horror Month (#WiHM), I’ve invited the very talented Somer Canon to the blog! Her first novella, Vicki Beautiful, was published earlier last year by Samhain just before their horror line collapsed. However, it is back in print and as beautifully brutal as ever! I urge you to check it out along with her other works, which include Mischief and a short story in the anthology, After the Happily Ever After: a collection of fractured fairy talesout now from Transmundane Press. Enjoy the interview!

-TM  Continue reading

February 2017 Reading List

I’m guessing your TBR pile is as high as mine; when stacked, it reaches the majestic rings of Saturn. There are just simply way too many kick-ass books out there and not enough space on the calendar. This month, I decided to reorganize my stash and (keeping Women in Horror Month in mind) pushed some must-reads to the top.

If you have read any of these titles, feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think. Also, what the heck are you reading this month??? How are you celebrating Women in Horror Month???

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Vicki Beautiful by Somer Canon – I wanted to read this back when Samhain released it last year. Long overdue, this is the month I read Vicki Beautiful. Plus, I’m delighted that Somer Canon is dropping by the blog in early February to talk some horror shop. Keep an eye out for that interview!

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Whispers: Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Whisperer in Darkness” by Kristin Dearborn – Kristin is another author I’ve heard great things about, but never read. I’ve also been looking to scratch my Lovecraft mythos itch. This looks like the perfect read. 

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Chills by Mary Sangiovanni – I loved Mary’s novel Thrall. She’s a phenomenal writer and has a knack for great storytelling. Chills is another novel I planned to read last year, just couldn’t fit it in. And anything labeled “True Detective meets H.P. Lovecraft” has my attention.

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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – Okay, not horror. But admit it: the premise is chilling. Mental illness is as terrifying as any monster out there. Can’t wait to dig into this modern classic.

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The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (reread) – Shirley Jackson is one of my favorite writers, period. The Lottery is one of my favorite short stories ever written. So atmospheric. Nobody does it better than her.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: THOMAS S. FLOWERS

thomas-flowersHappy TGIF, Maniacs!

Today, I’d like to introduce a talented writer whose books have been on my radar for some time now: Thomas S. Flowers. His new book Conceiving (Subdue Book 3) came out recently and I had the pleasure of reading it over my winter break. If you consider yourself a fan of high-quality supernatural horror, I urge you to check it out along with the rest of the series.

I had the opportunity to interview Thomas about the new book, his influences, and how he approaches the writing process. I can’t thank him enough for dropping by.

Enjoy!

-TM

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TIM MEYER: Hey, Thomas! Thanks for dropping by. First, tell us a little about your latest novel, Conceiving, and the rest of The Subdue series.

THOMAS S. FLOWERS: Thanks for having me! Conceiving is the third book in a continuing series called The Subdue Series. Dwelling was the first and Emerging was the second. Both of those followed closely together around a group of childhood friends that grew apart as adults. War is a major conflict in the first two books as most of the characters are either veterans themselves, or were married to someone in the military. In Dwelling, a lot of focus was put into creating and introducing the characters to readers. Each one is working through their own conflicts and struggles in post war life. Some begin seeing things that may or may not be real. In Emerging, the characters are thrust back together when they are summoned by one of their friends to a strange house in a rural Texas town called Jotham. The house becomes a character with its own history as the story progresses, but this is no typical “haunted house” saga. Together or separate, they’ll have to face what lives underground.

TM: I read Conceiving as a standalone novel (excellent book, by the way). Not having read the previous books in the series, how loose or connected are they in relation to each other?

TSF: Going into a third book, I wanted the series to continue, but I didn’t want new readers to feel forced to read the first two books. That’s asking a lot, I think. Not just monetary, but time. So, knowing the end to Emerging, there was going to be at least two carry-overs from the first books. Bobby Weeks and Luna Blanche. Luna was a minor character in Dwelling and Emerging, one that I wanted to explore more. She actually has a rich history that I had a lot of fun discovering. And Bobby naturally would crossover into this new book. I think a part of his curse is surviving when no one else can. The benefit of reading the entire series is already knowing the characters and the back history intimately. Though it is explained in Conceiving, you actually witness it in Dwelling and Emerging.

51rienfmihl-_sy346_TM: Conceiving follows three main protagonists. I really enjoyed the internal/external conflicts these characters faced—such a good combination of realism and supernatural elements. Of these characters, who did you enjoy writing about the most?

TSF: I loved the dynamic between Luna and her grandmother, Memaw (Ronna). Lots of sarcasm and wit and mystery. Memaw came across to me as this elderly woman with no one left in her life but her estranged granddaughter. This isolation is part of her own doing, as readers will eventually find out. She felt very real to me, even with all the voodoo supernatural elements around her. She had a power but came across as being very meek. Her connection to John and his creation and passing on her legacy was both complex and highly entertaining for me to write. Memaw, also known as Ronna Blanche, was originally featured in a novella I wrote called Lanmò. In that story, she’s a younger woman, similar Luna’s age in Conceiving. It was based in the 1960s and shows the creation of what John Turner became, from his perspective mind you. In Conceiving, I wanted to flesh that story out more. Now Ronna is an elderly ailing woman who must pass on her story to the next generation. There’s a feeling of hesitation and desperation with her and with Luna.

TM: I know they’re like children, but which of the three Subdue books do you like (love?) the most? Which was more rewarding to write?

TSF: I always typically love the more recently published book as I feel it represents the evolution of my work, my progress to date. And I do. I enjoy Conceiving more than the others. But if you’re talking rewarding, well…Dwelling would have to be my pick. Dwelling is heavily focused on post war life for a veteran. As a veteran myself, having served three separate tours in Iraq, I pulled a lot of personal experience and memory and poured it into that book. Johnathan was one of the major characters in it, one that I most identified with. He shares stories that are my own. In the end, it took me a solid year to write both Dwelling and Emerging. In Conceiving, Bobby is still there and brings that veteran focus, but we’re stepping away from those issues in book 3, whereas it was a dominate presence in the first two books. Putting Dwelling out there took a lot. But I’m glad I did. I know not everyone enjoyed the ending. It’s not a traditional ending for a novel. For me, when asking questions if a veteran can live a normal life after experiencing something traumatic, morally and physically, the answer is usually going to be nihilistic.

TM: Any plans for future books existing in the same universe?

TSF: Oh yes! Most of all my stuff shares the same universe. In Dwelling you’ll find hints and clues of other books, including a particular armchair from my debut novel, Reinheit. But if we’re talking Subdue, Book 4, Converging, will release this spring with Limitless Publishing. Plans are in the works for a book 5. As far as an end game, a reader told me I ought to make this a 7 book series. I’m considering that option.

TM: List some books and movies that influenced your writing.

TSF: To be honest, I watch too many movies and TV shows. And just about all of them influence me in some way or another. For Dwelling, I think I had in mind a cross between An American Werewolf in London and Born on the Fourth of July with some All Quiet on the Western Front. Emerging, the same with a dash of Apocalypse Now. Conceiving was influenced a lot by Rosemary’s Baby and, strangely enough, Friday the 13th part 7.

TM: Every writer has that one author that made them step back and say, “Hey, I want to write books.” Who did that for you?

TSF: In the beginning, Stephen King did. I love his older work and read a ton of his stuff growing up. Him and R.L Stein. King’s non-fictional work, On Writing, was very inspiring. Nowadays I get more motivated by my peers. I see someone working hard, that makes me want to work hard too. I’ve also started reading books by authors I wouldn’t otherwise have read. The Strain trilogy is actually really good. It’s not avant-garde or literary or anything, but it’s entertaining. Books like that remind me I don’t need to force the literary side of my writing, I simply just need to write and be entertaining. And so long as I’m honest about it, the literary aspects will come out naturally.

TM: What’s your writing process like? Do you outline?

TSF: Everyone has their own stick. I’m a tad traditional. I longhand most of everything I write, longer projects for sure, in one subject notebooks. For Dwelling and Emerging, I long-handed the entire story before typing it up. What I did for Conceiving was longhand a section and then go and type that up, go and longhand another section, and type that up, and so on. I do not outline, never have. I’ll take notes if I feel some detail I might forget or want to use later. But for the most part, everything is fluid. The notes are in the longhand sections of notebook.

TM: What’s your favorite thing about being a writer?

TSF: Storytelling. Plain and simple. Seeing the final product is very gratifying, but what keeps me coming back for more is the feeling I get during the process. Letting out an inner voice, exploring my own characters that are unknown strangers to me. I think someone famous said this once, but I write what I want to read. Years and years of compiled movie watching defiantly helps motivate the inner voice and desire for writing.

TM: In your opinion, what makes for a great horror novel?

TSF: Wow…now that’s a tough question. Ultimately, I do not care what the supernatural or horror element is, so long as you have realistic motivations, motivations I can believe, it’ll help bring out those people we’re giving up our free time to explore and read about. Don’t just tell me about the monster in the closet, show me the boy, show me his family, the muffled arguments between his ma and pa, and maybe how his ma is sleeping with another man, and pa is away too often on business trips. And then show me the closet door creeping open and the monster inside becomes a little more real for me. PS, this is little tidbit is actually from Stephen King’s book Cujo, BTW.

TM: What’s in store for Thomas S. Flowers in 2017?

TSF: I’m following more closely to my calendar this year! With a full time job and family life and then full time writing to boot, I need to schedule. My blog, Machine Mean, started its second annual “In Review” series, this year we’re taking a look at Creature Features. Lots of peers and guest writers have agreed to come on every Thursday throughout 2017 to talk about their selected creature feature movie. As far as books go, I have a collection of novellas and short stories that should release later this month called The Hobbsburg Horror. In March, TBA, Dark Designs: Tales of Mad Science, an anthology I’m running along with fellow Shadow Work Publishing gurus Duncan Ralston and Jeffery X. Martin, is set to release. In the spring, Converging, Subdue Book 4 will release. I’ll also have at least three other major projects planned for mid to late 2017. And that’s on top of my unfinished writing projects. All in all, I’m trying to stay organized and flexible with my publishing goals, but overall, I’m simply exited to get more work out there.

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SUNFALL: NEW COVERS

Over the holiday, the SUNFALL series received a facelift. These new covers – in my bias opinion – are absolutely gorgeous. Najla Qamber Designs did a remarkable job capturing the spirit of the first two books, and I’m eager to see what she comes up with for Season Three! (Season Three is finished, in case you were wondering, and the book is in the editing stage as we speak! More details on that soon.) 

Now, feast your eyes!

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: ARMAND ROSAMILIA

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Happy New Year! Hope you all have recovered from your hangovers already. I know I haven’t!

Last week, I got the chance to interview Armand  Rosamilia, the very talented author of over a bajillion titles. Well, not really. But pretty close. We talk about a lot fun of stuff, everything from his new books to his writing process. Armand is always entertaining, so make sure you not only check out his books, but listen to his various podcasts over at the Project Entertainment Network. Okay? Good. Now, enjoy the interview!

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TOP 10 HORROR NOVELS OF 2016

Okay, so the title should really read “My Favorite” Horror Novels of 2016, but the SEO machine needs to be tickled, so pardon me.

I tore through a ton of books throughout 2016 (73, Goodreads currently tells me), in fact, that’s the most I’ve ever read in a single year. In 2015, I believe I ended up reading around 50 works of varying length. This year, I’ll probably finish 75 or greater. Continue reading

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: CHUCK BUDA

img_13882016 has been a great year for books, especially within the horror genre. Maybe it’s because I’ve been more socially involved than previous years, but I can’t recall any past year being so chock-full of entertaining reads from new and seasoned writers alike. We’ve witnessed so many fresh voices emerge in 2016, and today I’d like to highlight one of my new favorites.

Chuck Buda is a writer of many new series ranging from horror to thrillers. I recently read his debut Pay Up and Die, and was blown away by his voice and creativity. It’s a wonderfully refreshing read that I can’t recommend enough. I had the pleasure of interviewing Chuck for the interview section of my blog, and here’s what The Buda had to say:  Continue reading

HOLIDAY HORROR!

It’s that time of year again. Egg nog. Lawn inflatables. Gutter lights. Gingerbread houses. Sam Adams’ Winter Lager. The holidays are here!

It’s also time to buy gifts for your loved ones. And what’s better than getting them a few horror books? Beer? Okay, maybe beer. But if not beer, then definitely horror books.

I’ll be doing two signings in December. The first is on the 9th at the Yonkers Brewing Co. I’ll be appearing alongside three other awesome writers – Hunter Shea, Robert Stava, and Matt Manochio. Special thanks to Hunter for setting this up and inviting me along. New York people, come and visit us!

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The second signing is on December 11th in Neptune, New Jersey and it’s aptly titled the Holiday Book Convention. I’m going to be one of twenty authors reading and signing books. If you’re in the area, stop by and visit!

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61yeekhew9lThat about does it for my December update. I hope every one of you has a fantastic Holiday. Before I go, I’d like to share this Christmas anthology with you, When Red Snow Melts. It contains my short story “Gingerbread Death Machine”, as well as fantastic stories by Joe R. Lansdale, Glenn Rolfe, Terry West, D.S. Ullery, Matt Molgaard, and so many more. It’s perfect to get any horror fan in the Christmas spirit!

-TM