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.