Wednesday, August 21, 2019

20Q7A: An interview with Laura Mauro

20 Questions, 7 Answers is an interview series for writers of genre fiction. Each author receives the same batch of 20 questions, but they may only answer 7.

This week's guest is Laura Mauro.

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Do you have any creative endeavors other than writing fiction (art, music, knitting)?

I try my hand at all kinds of crafts, though I’m not especially good at any of them. I knit sometimes, I paint, I doodle. I make sock plushies, mostly for fun, but sometimes as gifts. My husband is a guitarist, so I sing here and there. I’m fairly comfortable with the fact that I’ll never be a brilliant artist or craftsperson so it’s usually a low-pressure way to let off creative steam. And sometimes, when the stars are aligned, you might just catch me at karaoke…

If you could have chosen your own name when you were born, what would it have been?

I was originally supposed to have been named Nancey. Right up until the day I was born, I was Nancey. But then I was actually born, and according to my mum I did not look like a Nancey, which is hardly surprising as I was born resembling a ginger raisin, and ginger raisins are probably very difficult to name. I ended up nameless for a few days until my parents somehow settled on Laura. But to be honest, I think I would have made a perfectly good Nancey.

What was your greatest Halloween costume?

I don’t generally dress up for Halloween (it’s not a big thing in the UK, sadly) but I do cosplay at conventions, because I’m a massive nerd. I think my favourite cosplay was a Little Sister from the videogame Bioshock. It involved creating a prop (a kind of giant syringe) from the handle of a vintage petrol pump, a glass jar filled with red gel, and an LED light, and a length of wooden dowel, all spray-painted to look old and rusted. The costume part was relatively simple in comparison – although the bright yellow contact lenses took some getting used to. More recently, I went as Goro Majima from the Yakuza series, which involved elaborate tattoo transfers. It’s good fun.

Are you most afraid of ghosts, aliens, or clowns, and why?

A ghost can’t hurt you because it’s not made of matter, so once you get past the initial spookiness you can safely ignore it. Or you could try and make friends with it, because it’s probably quite lonely and as the late, great Bob Ross teaches us, everyone needs a friend. I don’t think it’s fair to be scared of aliens until they’re able to account for themselves – they could be really nice and chill and just want to see all the weird and wild stuff our planet does, and all the probey abduction stuff might just be a big cultural misunderstanding. Frankly, they can’t be any worse than your average Brit abroad. Clowns, though. Clowns are gits. Clowns need to be put in concrete shoes and dropped into the Mariana trench, no exceptions. They are an affront to life itself.

Have you traveled outside your home country, and if so, where? Where would you like to go that you haven't been yet?

I’ve been immensely privileged in the last fifteen years or so to have seen some amazing places. I’ve visited a fair bit of Europe – Italy, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Iceland, Poland, Spain, Malta, Cyprus – but there are still so many places I’d love to see. Norway, Estonia, Slovenia and Bosnia are high on my list. Outside of Europe, I’ve been to the US (Hawaii and Portland), Sri Lanka and Japan. Again, there are so many places I want to go to, but if I had to narrow it down, I’d say Vietnam, Canada, China, Greenland and Myanmar. But you could give me a ticket to pretty much anywhere in the world and I’d gladly go!

If you could share a beverage with any fictional character, who would it be, and what would you drink?

Too-Ticky, from Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson. We’d drink hot blueberry juice by the stove in the Moomin bathing hut, and we’d look out over the frozen sea and black winter sky at the northern lights, and she’d teach me how to be brave in a scary world, and how to embrace uncertainty. Too-Ticky is one of the wisest and most comforting characters in fiction.

What's the most disgusting thing about the human body?

I spent eight years working in medical laboratories and outpatient clinics, and I have truly seen some sights. The most bizarre and fascinating thing I ever saw was a teratoma. It’s a type of tumour which originates in the cells that produce sperm or eggs. They’re masses of tumorous tissue which often contain hair, but may also contain teeth, bone, internal organs or even eyes. The cells they contain generally vary depending on the part of the body the teratoma is developing in; the cells replicate as though they were forming a part of the human body. So you might even find a teratoma which has limbs, or fingers. They are seriously spooky things.

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Laura Mauro was born and raised in London and now lives in Essex under extreme duress. Her short story 'Looking for Laika' won the British Fantasy award for Best Short Fiction in 2018, and 'Sun Dogs' was shortlisted for the Shirley Jackson award in the Novelette category. Her debut collection, Sing Your Sadness Deep is out now from Undertow Books. She likes Japanese wrestling, Finnish folklore and Russian space dogs. She blogs sporadically at lauramauro.com.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

20Q7A: An interview with Jamie Nash

20 Questions, 7 Answers is an interview series for writers of genre fiction. Each author receives the same batch of 20 questions, but they may only answer 7.

This week's guest is Jamie Nash.

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What's your latest book, and how does it differ from your previous work?

JN: NOMAD. My other books were kids books. This one has more f-bombs (my kids books have zero) and lots of intense horror and violence. It's a bit like Alien...my others were more Scooby-Doo.

Do you have any creative endeavors other than writing fiction (art, music, knitting)?

JN: Juggling. I guess that's creative. It can be.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what? Is it different than what you listen to when you're not writing?

JN: No. But I watch television. Right now I'm watching Last Chance U on Netflix as I watch this.

If you could invent a new sport, what would it be like?

JN: Juggle Combat...actually this is already a game I've played.  I'd just popularize it. You juggle three clubs while trying to make the other jugglers drop. It's fun. It should be in the Olympics.  Google it. You'll see.

What's the best movie, new or old, that you've seen for the first time in the past 3 months?

JN: Midsommar.

What are your 3 favorite comic books (standalone novels or ongoing series) of all time?

JN: Dark Night Returns, Red Son, Swamp Thing.

If you could share a beverage with any fictional character, who would it be, and what would you drink?

JN: Han Solo. Blue Milk...but spiked with some Corellian liquor.

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Jamie Nash has written for films like V/H/S/2, Exists, Lovely Molly, and Altered. He’s worked on the Nickelodeon movies Tiny Christmas and Santa Hunters. He’s the author of the middle-grade book The 44 Rules of Amateur Sleuthing and the co-author of Bunk! He lives in Ellicott City, MD.

Summer Scares

I hate Summer. If you’ve met me in person, seen the gleaming, glowing quality of my pale skin, you can understand one of the reasons why. But don’t get me wrong—it’s not just the fear of sunburn that I hate about Summer. It’s the heat, the humidity, the general lack of falling leaves and snow.

But right now it’s raining outside, which is cooling things down a little bit. And the new roof on my home seems to be holding up so far. So maybe Summer isn’t so terrible after all.

Just kidding. It’s totally the worst.

A friend asked me for some Halloween reading recommendations yesterday, and today I’m wearing a Halloween III t-shirt. So with those things in mind, plus the rain, I’m trying to pretend it’s Fall instead. It’s not really working.

There are a few not-terrible things about Summer, however. One of them is Scares That Care Charity Weekend, which happened about two weeks ago. I was there, along with some friends, a bunch of old & new writer colleagues, and a ton of horror fanatics. It was a blast, as always (this was my fifth one, only having missed the very first event). In addition to spending three days in the vendor room meeting people, talking horror movies, and slinging books, I got to be part of the Saturday late-night Bizarro Power Hour, alongside Andersen Prunty, John Wayne Communale, David W. Barbee, Eric Hendrixson, and Stephen Kozeniewski. I read my story “Slices of Me” (for only the second time in public), and was again tickled by some of the uncomfortable sounds coming from members of the audience.

Scares, each year, is such great fun - but as the name implies, there’s a bigger purpose behind it all. Click here to read more about the organization behind the convention, and to donate whatever you can.

Anyway, it seems the sun is starting to creep out again from behind the clouds, so I’m going back into hiding, back to the shadows. I’ll keep telling myself that soon August will turn to September, and September will give way to October, and then suddenly all will be right with the world once again.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

20Q7A: An interview with Jeff Strand

20 Questions, 7 Answers is an interview series for writers of genre fiction. Each author receives the same batch of 20 questions, but they may only answer 7.

This week's guest is Jeff Strand.

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What's your latest book, and how does it differ from your previous work?

JS: It's called My Pretties. I try to mix up the tone of my books, so this an incredibly dark novel that follows Ferocious, which was a fun B-movie-style creature feature. My work always has a lot of humor, and My Pretties is no exception, but this is grim stuff about a serial killer who locks women in cages suspended from the ceiling of a basement, then watches them starve to death. My next book, Clowns Vs. Spiders, swings back to "fun" horror.

Do you have any creative endeavors other than writing fiction (art, music, knitting)?

JS: No. I'm bad at everything except writing. Music, to me, is like sorcery. I cannot imagine how one can arrange musical notes in a catchy order that hasn't already been done in the other trillion songs that have been written. As a kid I achieved mild competence at playing the piano and nightmarish ineptitude with the oboe, but these days I am a music consumer, not producer. I can't draw. Don't know how to knit. Can make decent macaroni and cheese from a box. All I have are my words!!!

What's the best movie, new or old, that you've seen for the first time in the past 3 months?

JS: I'm disappointed that I haven't been to a film festival for the past three months, because normally my answer would be way more interesting. In fact, some quick research shows that my answer is Avengers: Endgame. I don't want to say Avengers: Endgame. Can I go with my least favorite movie? The Dead Don't Die. Boy, did that ever suck. One of the worst movies I've ever seen.

If you could survive on one food for the rest of your life with no health repercussions, what would it be?

JS: I feel like at some point I would say, "If I have to eat one more goddamn Buffalo wing I'm going to kill somebody!" so I'm going to go with sushi. Lots of variety with sushi. I'm assuming that this question also takes place in a magical world where sushi is free. I can't afford sushi every meal on a writer's income.

What are your 3 favorite comic books (standalone novels or ongoing series) of all time?

JS: My comic book collecting days were a brief but intense phase when I was a teenager. Ralph Snart and Blue Devil were my favorites from that era. I haven't read many comics as an adult, because I can't freaking believe how expensive they are now, but The Goon is fantastic.

What is your writing environment like? (Are you out in public or in seclusion? Is there noise? Is there coffee? Do you type on a laptop or write longhand on lined notebook paper?)

JS: It's remarkably non-fancy. If the weather is decent, I sit out in my back yard, writing on a laptop. I have a portable fan and this thing that keeps mosquitos away. If it's too hot, like it is now, I sit at the dining room table. There is coffee. Every once in a while, some author friends and I will gather at a coffee shop for a long afternoon of writing, just to get us out of the house so we don't lose our social skills.

What's the most disgusting thing about the human body?

JS: Your face! Hey-OOO!!! Oh, jeez, I'm sorry. That was a rude and inappropriate answer. You were kind enough to let me be interviewed and I behaved in a disrespectful manner. I feel like I should just delete this, but then I'd have to pick another question to answer, and I'm a busy guy. I hate that the interview ended on this note. I'm so very sorry.

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Jeff Strand is the four-time Bram Stoker Award nominated author of over forty books, including Pressure, Dweller, and Wolf Hunt. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and you can visit his Gleefully Macabre website at www.JeffStrand.com.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

20Q7A: An interview with Austin James

20 Questions, 7 Answers is an interview series for writers of genre fiction. Each author receives the same batch of 20 questions, but they may only answer 7.

This week's guest is Austin James.

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What's your latest book, and how does it differ from your previous work?

AJ: Indistinct Conversations, a short collection of (mostly) previously published work came out in December 2018. It includes some horror, a bit of bizarro, lots of general malpractice, and even a couple of poems. These pieces are often unsettling, sometimes beautiful, other times shameful—all probably revealing things about myself I shouldn’t. The cool thing about collections is that they tend to show a wider range of a writer’s talent, voice, imagination…

My previous/debut book, a short novella called The Drip Drop Prophet, is a whimsical bizarro manipulation of the concept that developing true connections with people is hard and stressful and scary…and often weird.

Although a lot of my more current work is less bizarre and obscene, everything I write tends to be dark and strange in one way or another.

Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what? Is it different than what you listen to when you're not writing?

AJ: Not always, not as much as I used to. If I’m struggling to get into the flow I’ll turn on some tunes, usually with headphones. It seems to work better if there are no lyrics, so generally instrumental and/or trance music. I usually end up playing Vitamin String Quartet’s amazing covers of TOOL. They did a really good job and I love how magical TOOL’s music can be.

When I’m not writing I generally listen to music that has energy—hard rock, some rap, some catchier fluffy pop songs. TOOL. Or I fall back on the 90’s grunge/alternative music of my youth.

Are you most afraid of ghosts, aliens, or clowns, and why?

AJ: Ghosts, easily. Not that I’m particularly afraid of them, nor do I find ghost movies more terrifying than scary alien or clown movies. However, when I was 5 or 6 I stayed the night over at a friend’s hours where we watched Silence of the Lambs with his family. It was the first scary movie I’d ever seen—I mean, I knew about Freddy Krueger and whatnot but had never seen a rated-R movie, let alone one where a cannibal eats prison guards and a killer makes clothing from human skin. Scared the living hell out of me, like hyper-scared. Wouldn’t even let my mom leave me alone in the house to go outside and smoke or whatever (she was pissed at my friend’s parents, by the way). While in that scaredy cat state, I also saw an episode of Unsolved Mysteries that had to do with ghosts. Again, scared the shit out of me, mom can’t leave me by myself EVER.

Nowadays I’m not wandering around worried about ghosts…probably just desensitized due to my wife’s obsession of paranormal investigation TV shows. Still though, leave me alone in a dark, abandoned prison or whatever—I’d shit my pants. Guaranteed.

What is your writing environment like? (Are you out in public or in seclusion? Is there noise? Is there coffee? Do you type on a laptop or write longhand on lined notebook paper?)

AJ: I have a room in my house that I use as my office. All my writing happens there, the door generally closed. I type everything on the computer and do several “save as” drafts. Usually always have a nearby source of caffeine, sometimes music (see above).

I do most of my writing in the morning, before the day has a chance to stifle that early morning creativity. So I have a pretty strict routine where I get up early and write before it’s time to wake the kids and start getting ready for work. On the weekends I get a few more hours in, but chores and children and whatnot generally keep me from writing all morning. I take certain days off, just to avoid burnout…and it’s always the same two days every week. I figure if I allow myself to decide in the mornings if I want to sleep in rather than get up and write, that “day off” becomes “every day” because, despite this routine, I am not a morning person at all.

If you could survive on one food for the rest of your life with no health repercussions, what would it be?

AJ: Bacon.

What's the best movie, new or old, that you've seen for the first time in the past 3 months?

AJ: Probably Overlord—I gave it 4 stars. It’s a solid WWII hero adventure with a compelling storyline. I mean, zombie Nazis may sound cheesy, but this movie is anything but (save for a quick scene or two). It’s creepy, a little gory (but not built on gore alone), and holds tension really well from the first scene forward.

What's the most disgusting thing about the human body?

AJ: Honestly, there are so, so many things about our bodies that are gross. And weird, and amazing. But mostly just gross. To pick the most disgusting I’d have to say our sex organs. Think about it, if you can, without any desire or lust. Males have a weird, floppy appendage that can be manipulated (within reason) without pain. When aroused, it fills with blood until it’s harder than many other parts of the body. Then, it is inserted into an orifice in the female body that secretes fluids at inconsistent levels depending on intensity of arousal. Eventually, the male appendage pukes reproductive fluids before deflating to its natural flaccid state.

Pretty disgusting. But also a lot of fun.

Mucous plugs during pregnancy are also really gross.

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Austin James writes obscure and uncomfortable fiction (it's just a cool way of saying "weird and dark"). He has caffeine in his blood, gypsy spit in his spinal fluid, and uses an incredibly lazy pseudonym. His prose and poetry have been published in multiple magazines, books, and anthologies.