This week, I’ll be answering some questions about my writing process for a Blog Tour that Michael Cieslak included me on. Michael is a Board Member for the Great Lakes Association of Horror Writers and writer and editor. His latest anthology, Desolation: 21 Tales for Tails, includes tales of loneliness, isolation, and abandonment. A portion of the proceeds goes to benefit Last Day Dog Rescue. To learn more about Michael, please visit him at The Dragon’s Roost.
What are you currently working on?
I have several projects in the mix right now. I’ve worked in theatre for years and love live performance, so I’m turning my debut novel, Clean Freak, into a stage play. I’m primarily working on short fiction for a while. The story I am most focused on is for the I Am the Abyss call for Dark Regions Press. The idea behind the anthology fits pretty well with my metaphysical beliefs, so I’m having a lot of fun writing the story. You can read more about the anthology and DRP here.
How does your work differ from others in the genre?
I tend to focus on psychological horror, so I try to inject an unsettling sense of uncertainty into my stories. Another thing that intrigues me is horror in every day situations. The idea that evil is in your neighborhood, in your home, in your loved ones, lurking and biding its time is what truly scares me.
Why do you write what you do?
I think every writer has that one book, that one poem, that one story that made them want to be a writer. For me, it was Thinner by Stephen King. It was the first King book I’d read and until that, I’d read what might have been called YA fiction before that label existed. The thing about those stories – the heroes always won. A few died here and there, but they were noble sacrifices to be venerated. Moral quandaries were overcome. Good eventually triumphed. Not that I didn’t enjoy the ride, but +SPOILER ALERT+ the hero doesn’t win at the end of Thinner and it knocked my socks off. It was like reading To Build a Fire by Jack London as a kid, but at the time I didn’t understand what I was reading. I’d always been more fascinated with the darker side of literature, but when I read Thinner, I thought, “I want to be the kind of writer who can make other people feel how I feel right now.”
How does your writing process work?
You’ll probably read this answer often on this blog tour: it changes from project to project. For Clean Freak, I did a lot of character work that involved writing journal entries as if I were them. I wrote about four pages of character thoughts in the first person that became the beginning part of Chapter 1. To get inside the mind of my little girl character, I drew pictures and stories with a purple crayon. This was all in my book journal, of course. For other stories, I didn’t write a single word outside of the story, nor did I have any idea about the arc of the story when I started it. That worked for that one because it was a post-apocalyptic world and everything needed to feel uncertain.
Outside of a daily word count goal, I purposely try not to let myself become ritualistic. Routine is fine, but ritual is a killer. If you need perfect quiet at home so you can write in three-hour chunks, you’re setting yourself up to have excuses not to write when those conditions aren’t met. I write on my laptop at home, of course, but I also have a tablet now, so my ability to write is even more mobile because it fits in my bike’s saddlebags. I’m rarely without some kind of journal or notebook, so I can work long hand for notes, character thoughts, etc. Lacking everything else, I have my phone. I wrote the initial idea for Clean Freak to my girlfriend in seven text messages.
I think the best piece of advice I’ve received in a while came from Shane McKenzie at World Horror in Portland. “Stop making excuses not to write. Start making excuses to write.”
So I hope you learned something you didn’t know, that intrigued you, or maybe even helped you. Here are the next links in my chain.
I met E.S. Magill at the Borderlands Press Writers’ Boot Camp. She is the editor of the recently released DEEP CUTS Anthology, 19 short horror stories to give you shivers plus 60 recommendations for powerhouse horror tales written by women. By day, she teaches middle school English; night is a whole other story. Southern California is home to her and her husband Greg and their menagerie of cats and Corvettes.
I attended a reading by Benjamin Kane Ethridge at World Horror in Austin 2011 and was hooked. He is the Bram Stoker Award winning author of the novel BLACK & ORANGE (Bad Moon Books 2010). Benjamin lives in Southern California with his wife and two creatures who possess stunning resemblances to human children. When he isn’t writing, reading, videogaming, Benjamin’s defending California’s waterways and sewers from pollution.
Meghan Arcuri and I met at the Borderlands Press Writers’ Boot Camp. She writes fiction and poetry. Her story, Inevitable, appeared in Chiral Mad. She lives with her family in New York’s Hudson Valley.