Friday, 17 May 2019

Interview with Andrea Dawn - By David Kempf


When did you first become interested in writing?

 Before I could actually write! I taught myself to read when I was eighteen months old. From there, I would draw a stick-figure mouse character right into my books who would add his own story along with the story I was reading. Then I started making picture books. Once I learned how to write, I wrote stories quite a lot. I majored in English in college with an emphasis in literature and creative writing, and I have been a technical writer and editor my entire working life.


How did you get involved in fantasy/horror?

I have always loved both fantasy and horror (and sci-fi) since I was a kid. So I went to a horror convention for the first time in 2016 where I met a local publisher. I offered my editing services, and things took off from there. I don’t work with that publisher anymore for various reasons, so I started Tell-Tale Press to offer publishing and editing services for writers and free online fiction for readers.


Is this a full time job?

No. I am also an at-home transcriptionist. I do work for a lot of different companies, including the UFC, SyFy Channel, government entities, and lots of Fortune 500s. Right now my focus is completely on Tell-Tale Press for our table at the Phoenix Fan Fusion pop culture convention, but transcription is an easy job (for me) that I’m very good at.


How would you classify the genre you write about?

I don’t write right now. I’m an editor and publisher. I publish horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery/crime. When I first started working in horror publishing, I was in extreme horror, and I still edit for extreme horror writers and publishers. I don’t publish extreme right now solely because I find it’s too niche—I like to provide a wide variety of stories to my readers. I may do so in the future, though.

When I do write, mostly my horror is psychological. I much prefer exploring personal demons through horror. I am drawn to that type of writing as well, in both books and films.


Why do you think horror and fantasy books remain so popular?

Escapism and societal truths. We all want to escape from the real world for a while, and fantasy and horror provide that escape. But we also get served really good themes that resonate in society right on a silver platter, in ways that are easy to swallow. I think fantasy, sci-fi and horror are the best ways to explore the real world in a package that’s manageable for the average reader/viewer.

Horror is also our way of dealing with death and taboo subjects. It wasn’t that long ago that we were close to death: lots of people would attend a public execution, families would dress and bury their dead themselves. Nowadays we shuffle dead bodies off to the funeral home for them to take care of it, and people want executions to take place in buildings far away from our towns and cities. Modern medicine makes us live longer these days, possibly longer than we should be living. We have created a lack of respect for death and a real fear for it. So horror helps us deal with our instincts about death, that death is a part of life and that we need to understand it. We still have base instincts that need to be addressed, and sometimes watching death onscreen, even though we know it’s fake, helps us deal with our ever-present primitive side.

Fantasy has always been a place of equality, for all sexes and races to get equal time and consideration, and even be superior to the typical social norms. Possibly it’s because so many who read and write fantasy see themselves as misfits, so they want to see their world represented in a safe environment.


What inspires your stories?

I am inspired to publish because I want readers to read good stories, and I want writers to have a chance to get their work out there. I believe that we are seeing a lot of stories out there that are either poorly executed or rehashes of stories that have already been told. I want to make sure that readers and writers get quality time and entertainment through my website.


Tell us about Tell Tale Press. You are obviously a fan of Edgar Allan Poe. 

Tell-Tale Press came about from the combination of a bad relationship with a business owner and an experience at an airport. I was looking around at people while waiting for my flight, and while there were a few of us with physical books, most people were looking at something electronic. I don’t know what they were reading—the news, a book, whatever—but I thought to myself all of these people here could be reading something I could produce.

When the business owner forced me to depart, I decided to do something that I presented but he never wanted to follow through on, and that is providing free online fiction for anyone to read. Tell-Tale Press has four “libraries” for each of the four genres we specialize in, and you can read the stories for free anywhere at any time from any electronic device. So if you have time between classes, at the doctor’s office, before a movie, you can get a quick story in to pass the time.

As for the name, I chose it of course because Poe is my favorite author, but also because the term “tell-tale” indicates telling someone information with no holds barred. And “The Tell-Tale Heart” is the scariest story I’ve ever read! I believe Poe was a natural master at understanding fear and human emotions. His personal tragedies and mistakes were very clear to him, so he dealt with them by writing about them. I hope that Tell-Tale Press can reflect those kinds of writers—those who want to speak to our cores by holding up a mirror to both themselves and to ourselves. And I also want to publish writers who just want to get good stories out there, like Poe wanted. He simply wanted to make a living as a writer, and I hope that I can offer a small part of that for modern independent writers.


What do you think the difference between American horror and British horror is?

The differences are based in the histories of both. America is a younger country that has a faster pace and specific conditions that we have created. My favorite example of good American horror is THE VVITCH. The tagline was “A Puritan horror story”, and I believe that is truly uniquely American and something that wouldn’t necessarily be understood in other countries. Great Britain is older and has evolved slower than we have, so their horror has a more organic feel to it, like it comes from an old world that existed long before us. I recently watched GHOST STORIES on Hulu, and I loved every minute of it because it had that feeling throughout. However, we can still see a lot of the same societal problems being addressed in British and American films and books. Humans, no matter where they come from, all have the same instincts, fears, and emotions, so we’re going to connect to all types personal and societal problems no matter where we originated. It’s part of the human condition.


What are your favorite horror books?

I like a lot of older fiction, like Jaws by Peter Benchley, The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty, and The Shining by Stephen King. “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe is the scariest story I’ve ever read—scared me to death when I first read it in junior high school. To me, “Annabel Lee” is the most beautiful poem in the world. I also love Lovecraft’s work, specifically At the Mountains of Madness, The Call of Cthulhu and “The Statement of Randolph Carter”. But I’m also really amazed by new stuff that is coming out, such as Josh Malerman’s Bird Box (I read it long before it was a film) and the work of Nick Cutter (The Troop and The Deep in particular). also really love the independent extreme horror work by Christine Morgan and Betty Rocksteady. Christine’s White Death is extremely well written historical horror fiction, and Betty’s The Writhing Skies is beautiful surrealism. And I will always recommend Kristopher Triana as my favorite indie horror author. I loved The Ruin Season and Shepherd of the Black Sheep, and Body Art is the most disgusting yet incredible extreme horror I’ve ever read.


What are some of your favorite horror movies?

Jaws is my absolute favorite movie of all time, in general. I like a variety of horror films, though. Event Horizon, Alien, Cujo, The Mist, The Orphanage, The Shape of Water, Signs, Hereditary… those are movies that got under my skin and had both visceral and emotional impacts on me. There is also a special place in my heart for Jaws 3D. It is my guilty pleasure. I mean, Dennis Quaid in shorty shorts? Yowzer!


What do you consider your greatest accomplishment as an editor?

Being able to help authors take apart their work and rework it so it becomes a four- and five-star masterpiece. I am so lucky to get to work with people with such talent and drive to create high-quality entertainment for readers.


Do you have any advice for new writers?

Learn the craft of writing. It’s the best advice I can give you. I receive too many manuscripts that have wonderful ideas, but the execution is extremely poor because the person has never really learned how to write. This includes grammar and syntax, learning about pacing, learning what needs to go and what needs to stay in your story. I like to direct writers to learning about Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, which is a great base guideline to help you organize and refine your story. I wrote about it in Tell-Tale Press’s blog, The Raven’s Writing Desk. Plus there are always local community college classes, online workshops, and plenty of beta readers out there to help you. We are very lucky to live in a time where information is right at our fingertips!
   

What is your opinion of the new self-publishing trend?

I believe it’s a great opportunity for authors to be able to get their work out there. The problem is that too many people who don’t care about the craft of writing are putting work out there for cheap prices. That drives the prices down with readers expecting to be able to read something for next to nothing, and it hurts authors who truly have amazing stories to tell. Writers now have to be expert marketers in order to get their work noticed, when it used to be that they could safely rely on the big publishers to do all the heavy lifting for them. I believe the days of authors being able to make a living off writing—like Stephen King, Danielle Steele, Dean Koontz, Mary Higgins Clark, and others—are completely gone. We will never see books in mass market like that anymore.


What are your current projects?

Phoenix Fan Fusion is coming up May 23-26, which is our local pop culture convention. I have a table there and will have a computer available to show folks how the website works. I will publish our next round of anthologies, Creatures, starting May 23. It will be a total of fifty short stories and eight novelettes. All of the stories are free to read on the website, then each anthology by genre will be released on Kindle for 99 cents. We will be selling handmade dice bags, book bags, and pencil pouches at the table. And we will have a raffle for AZ CARE Rescue, a local foster-based, no-kill cat and dog rescue that I volunteer for and adopted three of my cats from.

After that, I have lots of plans for bringing in more writers and readers, so I hope people will stay tuned to the website and Facebook and Instagram pages to learn more.


Please in your own words write a paragraph about yourself & your work. 

I am someone who has a lot of classic training and real-world experience in editing and writing. However, I am always willing to learn more about what I can do to help writers do better in their own works I believe that if you choose to tackle something, whether it’s a job or a hobby, you go all the way and do it right. I also do my best to learn from my mistakes and to help others learn from them as well.

Personally, I am a nerd/geek and have been since I was a kid. I love movies and books. My current pop culture obsession is Game of Thrones. I’m also an animal person with four cats, three dogs, and four horses. I’ve done a lot of work in animal welfare, specifically to help our government and horse owners enforce and revise the Horse Protection Act, which makes it a felon to inflict a specific type of cruelty on show horses. I currently volunteer once a week with the above mentioned animal rescue.

Link
telltalepress.net

Monday, 6 May 2019

Interview with Duncan Ralston - By David Kempf


Duncan Ralston is the author of the horror collections Gristle & Bone and Video Nasties, the novellas Wildfire, WOOM, Where the Monsters Live, Scavengers and Ebenezer, and the novels Salvage and The Method. His screenplays have won and placed in several major competitions.


When did you first become interested in writing?

That's a great question.

I guess I'd been interested in writing since I was very young but I started writing horror for myself, as in not for school, when I was 15. I'd begun reading Stephen King and Clive Barker around the same time, so I'm sure the two are correlated – but a fair amount of credit should go to my younger brother, who'd started taking art more seriously. Until then, drawing had been what I loved to do most, aside from playing with my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figures. I gave drawing up entirely, partly out of spite, to concentrate on writing. And aside from a few minor transgressions – doodling while on the phone, etc. – I never went back to it.


How did you get involved in fantasy/horror?

I used to write a fair amount of fantasy-tinged horror in my teens due to my love of Barker and King. I typically write horror and thrillers now. I'm more interested in horror that's grounded in reality. The dark corners of the human psyche and all that. Which is likely why I prefer writing about ghosts over other supernatural creatures.

Anyway, I've always been interested in dark stuff, and I've always had an affinity for scaring people, grossing them out and making them laugh. It helps when I can do all three at the same time, which I can while writing horror.


Is this a full time job?

I work in television, behind the scenes. Writing is a hobby that takes up a fair amount of my free time. Much as I would love for it to be a full-time job, I worry attempting to make it my only source of income would take much of the fun out of it. Fortunately, I like the job I'm in.


How would you classify the genre you write about?

I usually use the term "dark fiction," as it encompasses anything from splatterpunk to crime fiction to transgressive, which gives me a fair amount of leeway in regards to what I can write.


Why do you think horror and fantasy books remain so popular?

There are countless studies about the appeal of horror, the psychological basis behind it, but I don't buy into most of that junk. Is it the sort of "thrill-seeking behavior" psychopaths exhibit? Or Jung's "primordial archetypes" buried deep within our "collective subconscious"?

It probably seems odd to call horror "escapist," but I think a fair bit of its appeal is escapism. Horror is a safe place to explore not only our darkest fears but our darkest urges. Is horror more popular now because the world is generally a safer place? Maybe. I doubt if we were living in a state of constant fear we'd appreciate horror as much as we currently do.


What inspires your stories?

Anything can trigger a new story idea. My wife likes to joke that I'll find some way to twist even a nice memory into a horror story. She's not wrong. After a great dinner on our first trip together I jotted down notes for a cannibalism story from Gristle & Bone, "Fat of the Land." A story in Video Nasties was inspired by Robin Williams's death. Woom came to mind almost instantly while watching the movie Room, with inspiration drawn from Black Mirror's "White Christmas" episode, Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac, and the early books of Chuck Palahnuik. The short story "Baby Teeth" arose from finding what looked like a baby's tooth in the cupboard of a house I'd been renting at the time. Some ideas hit me so strongly I have to follow them to their conclusion. Most fizzle out before I even write the first paragraph.


Tell us about your book Video Nasties: A Horror Collection. You must be a fan of anthology film and TV shows. Which one is your favorite?

I have a deep appreciation for the anthology format, and fortunately there's no shortage of it on television these days. My favorites at the moment are American Horror Story and Black Mirror, despite a few weaker stories here and there.

Video Nasties was born out of my love for '80s horror of all kinds, but in particular, Tales from the Crypt and John Carpenter. I'm not a huge fan of themed collections, and I wanted to provide a wide range of horror, from psychological to "creature features" to body horror – the sort of hodgepodge you might find over the course of an anthology series. The title story is my most obvious homage to those stories that inspired me, featuring a dead horror director trapped in one of his own VHS movies for decades, and the film buff who literally stumbles across it.

The original version of the collection was bookended with stories about video horror (the Twilight Zone-inspired "How to Kill a Celebrity," in which a young woman becomes an editor of "standby" obituaries for TV news, once opened the book), and I'd planned to have my spec pilot screenplay, Imaginary Monsters close the book. But I dropped the screenplay as the collection was already fairly long, and I didn't think "Celebrity" was a good indicator of the other stories within, so I moved that as well. The titular story is a novella, and I think it's a decent story to end on – asking the reader to question what is fact and what is fiction.


What do you think the difference between American horror and British horror is?

Difficult for me to say, as I'm kind of stuck in the middle in Canada. The subgenres are all relatively the same. Gothic horror in the UK has its US equivalent in Southern Gothic. Both places have their own brand of folk horror. Both sides of "the pond" have their "literary" writers and their "pulp" writers. I guess the only real difference are the subtle variations in the language.


What are your favorite horror books?

My top three haven't fluctuated much over the years. Stephen King's The Shining, which I've loved since I was 15, has held up very well (just reread it last year). It's a masterclass in tension and dread. Also Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho, for its obsessive portrait of a serial killing yuppie. Then Richard Matheson's Hell House. Because Matheson.


What are some of your favorite horror movies?

Jacob's Ladder, Candyman and In the Mouth of Madness. I could watch any of them over and over again.


What do you consider your greatest accomplishment as an author?

Not quitting the business when I've had plenty of opportunities.

Kidding.

Oddly, my biggest accomplishments so far haven't been for writing horror. My crime thriller screenplay, Ebenezer – an adaptation of Dicken's A Christmas Carol, with Scrooge as a hitman in the "Bleak House Syndicate" – placed highly in a handful of prestigious contests this past year. I'm pretty proud of that, although the accompanying novella hasn't fared so well.
             

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Read a lot. Write a lot. You don't have to be a scholar, but at least learn the basics of grammar and punctuation. (You can't be a carpenter without the proper tools.) Always be learning, both in your writing and the business side. Be prepared for plenty of failures and rejections. Find likeminded people, whether in person or on the internet. Play nice. But don't compromise with yourself.
     

What is your opinion of the new self-publishing trend?

It's where I started, and my refuge when publishers go under or cause me grief. In 2016, I created a small press, Shadow Work Publishing, to republish my first two books and the novels of a few fellow ex-Booktrope writers. I've helped put out a bunch of great books over the past few years, including the VS charity anthologies and even non-fiction (Chad A. Clark's Tracing the Trails, a huge book about Stephen King's writing career, co-published with Darker Worlds). Some recent successes for Shadow Work have been Chad Lutzke and John Boden's Out Behind the Barn, which was just nominated for a This Is Horror award, and VS:X (the second VS anthology), nominated for a Splatterpunk Award last year. One of our latest books, Palace of Ghosts by Thomas S. Flowers, has been getting some excellent word of mouth – I think it's a great book and I'm proud to have helped put it out into the world.

I do feel like there may be a glut of new writers who don't have the necessary tools when it comes to grammar, sentence structure, etc. – but I'm not going to fault them for giving it a go. It seems like even the trad pubs aren't immune to typos and grammatical errors these days anyway.

It does mean, however, that it's becoming increasingly difficult to get seen. This has always been a problem for indies, but it now seems to be the case for established writers as much as newbies.


What are your current projects?

I've just finished a large novel about ghosts, which may or may not lead to a series. I'm currently working a spiritual sequel to my "extreme horror" novella, Woom, and revising a novel in wrote in 2012 about some supernaturally endowed older women.

Also, I'm tinkering with screenplay adaptations of my first novel, Salvage (about a ghost town submerged beneath a manmade lake) and my novella Where the Monsters Live (about a father hunting a pedophile while living undercover in Miami's former sex offender colony, "Bookville").



For six free short stories/novellas and to get the latest updates, join his website: www.duncanralston.com