C.W. LaSart

Picture
A lifelong fan of all things horror, C. W. LaSart has always been a story teller.  Residing in the Midwest with her soul mate, three wonderful children, an extremely ugly bulldog and a neurotic sheepdog, she spends her days writing and her evenings as a part-time bar wench in an Irish Pub. Her short story Jack and Jill, can be found in Issue #1 of Dark Moon Digest, and Sirens will be in Issue #4 which should be released this Summer. Also, a collection of her more extreme fiction, Ad Naseum, will be released in the Fall of 2011 by Dark Moon Books. She thanks Stephen King, Robert R. McCammon and Brian Lumley (just to name a few) for their inspiration in her life. She is still afraid of the dark.


                                                                   C.W. LaSart

Now, tell the truth; what is it that really scares you?

I think a better question would be, what doesn’t scare me! If we really think about it, I believe we can each provide a laundry list of fears. Spiders, heights, flying, and dark water are at the top of my list. But as a mother of three, I think my deepest fear can be summed up in one word: loss. I fear the loss of my children more than anything. This world is a crazy place and there are so many monsters out there who want nothing more than to hurt children. It’s a terrifying prospect to think that I am one of the only forces protecting them.

Does using a pseudonym make you feel more creative, expressive? How does it affect your writing?

I suppose that using a pseudonym might work that way for some authors, and I will admit that when I am writing my more extreme stuff, there is some comfort in not signing my real name, but I mostly use a pseudonym because I like it better than my real name. It seems to flow better and the last name is just cooler. It’s also something to distinguish my writing life from my real life, where I mostly answer to “Mommy”.

Have you always had such a knack for writing? Did your parents read to you as a child?

They both read to me as a child. I remember my Dad reading Poe to me when I was a kid-I didn’t understand it all but I knew that he loved it so I did too. I have been writing since I could put a few letters together on paper. Stories as a kid, then dreadful poetry in my teens. I didn’t really do too much during my twenties, life got in the way, but I remember the stories have always been there in my head, itching to come out.

You say your ideas just ‘’sort of find you.” Care to elaborate?

I wish I could. It’s hard to explain. Ideas just sort of pop into my head out of nowhere, usually just a few lines or a limited scene. I let them tumble around for a bit on their own, and they just come together over time. Sometimes it takes months for the whole thing to come to me, other times it only takes a few minutes. When they are ready to be written, they let me know by taking over my mind in such a way that I can’t concentrate on anything else. It makes me come across as spacy unfortunately. Whenever I start getting that dreamy look, my five year old son says “leave Mom alone, she’s thinking of her stories!”

I see you are into Stephen King’s work. What is it about his writing that appeals to you? Influences you?

What about his writing doesn’t appeal to me?! I love him. He is the end all, be all of horror in my book. His writing is so original, and technically superior that it’s hard not to love him. I would never even aspire to be as good as him, I think he is miles above everyone else. There are many great horror writers, then there is King.

Are you still afraid of the dark?

HaHa! Yes, I suppose I am. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t afraid of the dark, but as I’ve grown out of childhood, the fear has changed. I’m not so afraid of what awaits me in the darkness as I am of the darkness itself. Now I’m talking about absolute darkness here, like when you are out in the country at night and there are no streetlights to relieve it at all. The darkness out there had weight. You can feel it pressing against uncovered windows. It always feels hungry to me. The darkness of a room that is just a light switch away from relief doesn’t scare me. When the power is out and you can’t do anything about it, now that’s a different story!

Any advice to the aspiring writer?

As someone new to the publishing business, I would have to say that connecting with other writers is a wonderful resource that too many choose to ignore. There is a wealth of knowledge to be gained from people who are farther in their careers than you are. Also, don’t let others dictate what you write, never pull punches because you fear that your writing will be unacceptable. I have done alright with my regular horror, but it’s the extreme stuff, the stories that I figured weren’t suitable for polite society, that earned me a contract! Do something creative every day, it doesn’t have to be your current WIP-blog or edit or just do some free-writing. Keep those juices flowing! And lastly, take the opportunity to do interviews such as this one. They provide an awesome opportunity to get your name out there, and let your readers get to know you. Thank you for this opportunity! It has been a blast!


Shawn-A-Lee McCutcheon Bell

Picture
Shawn-a-lee McCutcheon-Bell is a Canadian-born author and short story writer. Flung into the world on January 7, 1966 in Barrie, Ontario; she cut her horror teeth on late night Chiller Thriller features and the occasional Stephen King book knicked from her mum's library.

Author of “The Raising” and “Darkness Springs” (written under her pseudonym Cassandra Lee), she has contributed to numerous anthologies and magazines, winning an Honourable Mention in Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of 2009 for her short story “Matty”.

She currently lives on the Northwest coast of England, where she hides from the rain and pens scary tales to frighten the masses. She can be reached for interviews, book signings or comments at cassiepatlee@gmail.com

Bibliography

 

Novels

“The Raising” (Black Bed Sheet Books)

 

Novellas

“Darkness Springs” (Blu Phi'er Publishing)

Anthologies

“Forrest J Ackerman Presents: The Anthology of the Living Dead”(Black Bed Sheet Books)

“Concrete Blood: dark tales of the city” (Editor/Contributor)

“Threads” (Editor/Contributor)

“Snips in Time” (Co-written with Stephen Bell)

“From The Mouth”(Sonar4 Publishing)

“Diabolic Tales II” (Diabolic Publishing)

Edward Ballister (Static Movement)

“Isabella Rose's Twisted Fairy Tales”

“Atrum Tempestas” (Black Hound Publishing)

“Ladies and Gentlemen of Horror” (Word Weavers Publishing)

“HELP” - An Anthology Benefiting Preditors and Editors

“Till Death Do We Part” (Darkened Horizons Publishing)

“Requiem for the Damned” (Word Weavers Publishing)

“Darkened Horizons” (Darkened Horizons Publishing)

“Tabloid Purposes IV”

“Word Weavers Compilation” (Word Weavers Publishing)

“Cadaver Girls Magazine”



                                                                                        ***

I gather that Stephen King was a big influence on your writing career?

I suppose he got the ball rolling in so far as “what” I wanted to write. My Mum used to have him in her library and she loved his movies. I saw Carrie before I read the book and that tempted me into reading it. Mind, I was only ten at the time, so it was proper scary. Although, her hand popping out of the ground in the film still makes me jump to this day!

When was your so called, ‘’defining moment,’’ when you first decided to start tapping the keys?

In High School I had an English teacher who inspired me. Mr. Gilbert. Most teachers never got my morbid writing style, but he did. Even when the story should have been less gore and more romance, he still encouraged me. I remember him once writing on an assignment, “You better not waste your talent!” I guess, that led me to think, “Hey, maybe I have something here.” It kind of snowballed from there over the years.

From rock singer to writer…interesting transition. Why did you leave the band?

Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent as a lead singer. I was young-ger and a bit more lively. But, when you have kids, touring and late nights gigging, making pittance money and drinking to the wee hours, kind of loses its appeal. It sorted of dwindled away and that was that.

I couldn’t help but notice the quote ‘’Raise Some Heaven,’’ on your book cover for The Raising. Do I detect a hint of spiritualism in there?

I don't know? Best ask my publisher about that one, cause they came up with it! Okay, sorry. I jest. I do understand why they latched on to that tagline. The Raising delves into a good vs. evil battle and it makes perfect sense once you've read it.

Have you ever noticed that spirituality and horror often mix well? There are a lot of books out there with an underlying spiritual element running through it, yet the reader doesn’t pick up on it.

I suppose when you write horror, there's always an element of evil which naturally gives way to that atmosphere. Be that in a religious sense, a moral sense, or even defining the human spirit. Spirituality exists in different forms for different people. It's how you see it in relation to yourself that makes it subtle or stand out.

What’s this Edward Ballister project all about? Was it a lot of fun?

Ed came about in 2008. Christ, was it that long ago? Anyways, Jeff Ezell originally started the ball rolling and invited us all to continue on – each of us writing one chapter – about the character Edward Ballister. It got shelved after issues with publishers and finally, this year our dear weird Ed got a home with Static Movement.

Any chances of a sequel to The Raising?

There's a good chance. In the next year? Not likely. After that? Perhaps.

Any last words for your readers?

I suppose... thank you! I'm always a little in awe of the fact that I write something and someone actually reads it. On purpose no less. And pays for it! So yes, thank you.

 


Matt Spencer

Matt Spencer is the author of the novel The Drifting Soul, which was illustrated by award-winning artist Stephen R. Bissett. Mr. Spencer's short fiction has appeared in Aphelion,Back RoadsDarkened DoorwaysDemon Minds andHardluck Stories. He has lived all over the US, as a factory worker, restaurant cook, dishwasher, bartender, newspaper journalist, and rambling bum. He presently lives and writes in Vermont. Check him out on the web at http://mattspencer.webs.com/. E-mail: secorea@yahoo.com

Interview

                                                                                   

Your story, ‘’Lambs of Slaughter in Blue and Gold,’’ was one of the best horror pieces I’d read in awhile. Should I fear to ask what the inspiration was behind the story?

MS: Probably! Nah, it actually started as just a gig. Pretty depressingly professional, eh? There was this in-the-works anthology – I think it was called Innocence Lost or something – wanting stories in some way inspired by this one water color painting they planned to use as a cover piece. In the foreground there’s this pretty young girl with this heartbreakingly innocent yet somehow sad, wise face. In the background, you see all this blurred, abstract rural American Gothic imagery, like a graveyard, what I took for a man in a wide-brimmed preacher’s hat, and this floating demonic skeletal figure that seemed to be watching over the girl. The color scheme was – you guessed it – blue and gold. When I sat down to write something, I instantly found myself speaking in the voice of Mr. Demonic Skeleton Dude. So I sort of followed and listened to him, as he followed the girl. From there, the explanations for everyone and everything in the picture sort of presented themselves. I hammered out the first draft in a night or two, if I remember right. That whole rural American Gothic milieu is my thing anyway, but there was a lot about how I connected with that image and where I was at the time that made the timing creatively perfect. I’d just entered a pretty weird, turbulent relationship, which brought back memories of an ex of mine, who it just so happened the girl in the picture sort of looked like. The whole past-life/genetic memory thing is a recurring theme in my yarns, too. It’s a pretty useful metaphor for how real life goes a lot of the time, now that I think about it. I mean, you go through one stage of your life, then you part company with the people you shared it with, and you go through enough other crazy shit that by the time you look back, it really does feel like something that happened to another version of yourself, from a different lifetime, world, incarnation, whatever. And of course by the time you hook back up with the people you shared those days with, they’ve gone through their own changes, on a completely different trail, to the point where they probably look back and see the shared memories in fundamentally different ways. In the story, of the two main characters, one’s a ghost who’s sort of evolved into this demon of vengeance, while the other is his girlfriend who died with him, and she’s been reincarnated into a new human form, only vaguely starting to remember what they once shared. The ghost is pushing the reincarnation of his girlfriend to remember, but doesn’t realize ’til the last minute when it’s too late that the old agenda isn’t right for who she is now. She ultimately becomes what he wanted her to become, but as a result he feels like he’s destroyed something beautiful by robbing her of the second chance she’d been given. But of course by then, she’s fine with the result even though he’s not. You just never know how shit’s gonna go with people, y’know? Anyway, the editors accepted the yarn, then they cancelled the anthology ’cause they couldn’t scrape up enough other good pieces to fill a book. So here it is instead!

Stephen King once said, ‘’We create our own horrors in order to deal with the real ones.’’ Have you ever found that to be true?

MS: Absolutely! I also think it was Dashiell Hammett who said, “The best way to get rid of something is to write about it.” I haven’t found the “getting rid of it” thing to be so much the case, but distilling it all into a narrative makes it more manageable, something you can step back and examine in a safer, clearer, cathartic way. Funny thing, when I was a kid who was fascinated by all this dark, morbid shit, I had adults caution me with crap like, “You know, there are actual horrible things out there in real life, and you wouldn’t think it was so neat and want to write stories about it if you knew that.” Well, I’ve more or less grown up, and I’ve been through plenty of those real life horrible things, particularly when I was living on the streets or in rough neighborhoods, and it’s just fueled my urge to write about it more. The great thing about supernatural fiction – both for writers and readers – is the versatility of metaphor. Most of the horrors in my stories come in some way from things I’ve actually been through, applied to other scenarios I’ve never been through but can imagine, or have known people who’ve been through something similar or worse who tell me about it. It’s all about finding the common ground, using that as a bridge, and going from there. It’s all about knowing how to get certain smells, sounds, basic physical and emotional sensations right, applying them to something that’s completely off-the-wall and out-of-this-world so it feels like it’s actually happening. Whoever’s reading is going to relate to it in a completely different way. In terms of supernatural horror, the otherworldly menace can represent whatever they want it to.

Do you think writers tend to incorporate their own fears and anxieties into their work?

MS: If they have any business as professional writers, they do, and that doesn’t just go for horror fiction. Whatever your characters go through, driving them through the story, the author has to feel that while spinning the yarn, or the readers won’t feel it. Stoker’s Dracula is the best example I can think of. If you look at that book in the context of the author’s time and culture, it’s all about the contemporary anxieties about sex, religion, disease, and of course all those shady weirdo foreigners who must be out to rape your wife and eat your kids. You look at it that way now, and it’s coming from a pretty dated outlook. But it was no joke from Stoker’s point of view, and everything he felt about the world around him is palpably there on the page, in the form of this ominous, enigmatic, powerful, seemingly unstoppable force of nature called Count Dracula, chasing the various narrators around. By filtering those real-world fears through that supernatural imaginary, Stoker created something far more universally powerful and enduring. Dracula as a character has been depicted as everything from the nastiest, most detestable villain imaginable, to tragic anti-hero, to misunderstood romantic hero, to a truly unknowably, Lovecraftianly alien figure in human form, to a puppet who teaches kids on Sesame Street to count and probably feeds the disruptive students to his brides in the basement. And none of those interpretations – or combinations thereof – are “right” or “wrong”. All anyone agrees on – audiences, readers, filmmakers, subsequent writers and obviously Stoker – is that Count Dracula is a powerful, vivid, arresting figure who haunts the imagination. In “Lambs of Slaughter”, I can imagine readers seeing the narrator as some hateful malignant being, barely any better than the people he seeks to hurt, driving an innocent girl to become a murderer. Or he could be seen as a creature of righteous vengeance, out to destroy something evil so other innocent lives won’t be destroyed like his and his girlfriend’s were, in the process waking up and empowering the one person he loves to fight back. I don’t know. I can look at it and feel it both ways, depending on what frame of mind I’m in. Someone else might read it and respond in some way I haven’t even thought of. If they have a strong enough response to even give that much of a shit, I’ve done my job as a storyteller.

What was the first really horrific experience for you growing up? Did it have a bearing on your writing?

MS: Probably, though honestly there’s a lot from my childhood that seemed really scary and horrific at the time, but it’s kind of a vanilla blur now, ’cause out-on-my-own adult life has proved so much crazier, and that’s had a much larger bearing on my writing. I can tell you, my first clear memory as a baby was looking out a window and seeing my dad kill a snake. He said later that he’d thought at first it was poisonous, and it was on its way to eat some baby birds or something. He realized after the fact that it hadn’t been a poisonous snake at all, and that he probably could have just scooped it up on a rake and carried it somewhere so it wouldn’t eat those birds. So looking back, looking into correlating it with where life and my writing have gone since, it’s kind of funny to realize that my earliest memory was witnessing an act of violence, done for what seemed like the right reasons at the time, but might not have been on reflection. A lot of my yarns blend elements of heroic adventure with supernatural horror, along with tons of moral ambiguity, with protagonists seeking relatable admirable goals, where you can’t quite comfortably say whether or not you agree with their methods. Whenever possible, I like to push my characters into situations where no choice can be wholeheartedly viewed as right or wrong. I’m not saying that earliest memory directly impacted that, but it seems somehow appropriate now.

Just for fun, can you remember the title and plot of your first short story?

MS: The first one I actually wrote down? Ha! It was actually a school assignment, in seventh grade I think. It was my own spin on the Frankenstein story, which was my favorite book at the time. Before that, seeing as I grew up as an ’80’s kid, there were all those action figures around like Transformers and GJ Joe, and I’d act out these really involved, elaborate (for a kid under ten) stories with them, doing voices and everything. At some point I got hold of a cassette recorder and started telling stories allowed into them, though I can’t remember what they were about or who was in ’em anymore. So it was pretty obvious early on that the whole story-telling thing was gonna be a major part of my life and identity, in one way or another.

Were there any certain writers – or stories – that had a bearing on your decision to become a writer?

MS: Well, Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein apparently had something to do with it. The first book I remember reading was The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, which is a story that’s always stayed with me in a profound way. I’ve yet to see any adaptation come close to doing justice to how vivid that thing still is in my head. ’Salem’s Lot by Stephen King was also a shock to the system in the best possible way. I remember King’s books being the first ones I read where I was really paying attention to the craftsmanship, the little nuts and bolts of how the characters were developed and the plot unfolded, which got me taking mental notes on the process.

Considering the quality of your writing, has penning a full length novel ever crossed your mind?

MS: I’ve actually written a few of those! Got one of ’em – The Drifting Soul – published with illustrations by Stephen R. Bissette (best known for his comic book art, particularly for Allen Moore on Swamp Thing). In terms of craftsmanship, I’ve come such a long way from that story that it’s sort of odd to recommend now, even though I still hear from people who like it a lot. But Steve B’s illustrations are still badass, and I’d recommend anyone buy the book just for those. I’ve got another novel coming out through Inked In Blood Publications, Cult of the Stars. It stars Frederick Hawthorne, my Victorian-era anti-hero, an East End pub owner who’s constantly getting pulled into twisted, supernatural horror-mystery situations. I’ve had a few short stories and novellas published starring this guy. One of them, “The Red Duke,” actually won an award as a year-end best-of finalist for the online magazine Bewildering Stories. One reader described the character as like a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Hyde, which is a good way to put it. Cult of the Stars is the first Hawthorne novel, and according to folks who’ve had a peak at it so far, it’s a winner. It’s also turned out Mr. Hawthorne is gonna be the first of my characters to appear in comic book form, which is really exciting. An amazingly talented artist, Deirdre Burke, is in the process of turning the novella “Two Dragons of the East End” into a graphic novel (the original yarn can be found in my short story collection Shadow Ballads, which you can order from Amazon). I’ve seen her early work on it, heard a ton of her ideas, and frankly I think the finished piece will be even cooler than the prose story (which, if I do say so myself, is saying a bit).

I’ve seen a lot of indie horror filmmakers produce films based on short stories. If a filmmaker asked you if they could produce one of your stories, what would you say?

MS: That almost happened once, actually. Some pretty talented aspiring filmmakers out in Kansas wanted to turn my short story Useful Instincts into a film. There was a first draft of a script and everything, and I heard some cool ideas of how they wanted to visualize it on screen, but unfortunately the project fell through, for a lot of reasons. If another opportunity like that knocks, and I catch a good vibe about it, I sure wouldn’t be averse to the idea of something of mine being filmed. As a far-flung (or who knows, maybe not so far-flung) best-case scenario, I’d love to see a Frederick Hawthorne movie starring David Tenant.

Any new books or stories in the works?

MS: Presently I’m working on a yarn that’ll hopefully appear in an anthology of weird war stories now in the works. It mixes the history of the Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys with supernatural Vermont folklore, which are both subjects I’ve been wanting to take a crack at for a while. There will be a sequel to Cult of the Stars, and probably at least one more Frederick Hawthorne novel after that. Right now I’m shopping around The Night and the Land, which is a contemporary horror/dark-fantasy thriller set in Vermont. It’s the first in an apocalyptic dimension-hopping trilogy, about as fast-paced, bloody, rowdy, and pitch-black comedic as it gets. Plus I’ve had dozens of short stories previously published… I’d say enough to fill another collection to two, to be sure.  

Noah Copley

Picture
I’m a West Virginia boy, born and bred, Appalachian until the day I die. We’re a minority, I hear…Appalachians are, that is. I was educated at small, rural county schools. I can read and write, add and subtract with the best of them. I spent my latter teenage days at Marshall University, where I eventually graduated. I hopped around Lexington, Kentucky as an apprentice and then a fully licensed horse trainer for a year before coming home to my mountains. I’ve been here ever since. I direct television in Huntington, pretty good gig. I still train and show horses from my family’s farm. We’ve won championships, but we’re not in to selling horses. We either buy them, or they’re born on the property. They live out their lives there. I’m an animal lover. I take in strays. Been a vegetarian for 24 years. Haven’t missed the flesh one bit.

                                                                                         ~*~

Is it true that Appalachian writers are a minority? {laughs}.

            Growing up, I never thought much about the differing cultures in our country. No one was more surprised than me when I first heard Appalachians referred to as ‘minorities’. I was sitting in an English class and comparisons between and among authors were being tossed about. No one was more surprised than me when I discovered that not only the region’s authors, but Appalachians in general are considered a unique class of people. I use ‘unique’ loosely here. But the older I get, the more I discover how different people from regions really are. But isn’t it true that authors are quite a minority in society wherever they are from? Writing a story and getting it published is a pretty tough gig, and I would presume there are many less published authors than Appalachians, so to be an Appalachian and an author is fairly rare.

Being a diehard Appalachian, was there a lot of local folklore and legends thereabouts? Good reference material for your fiction?

            Not really. I think that flora and fauna of the area itself fuels the creative writing juices. We have the Mothman legend, I am sure you have heard about it. Local and regional ghost stories in Appalachia are usually as good as most regions’ stories, meant for the camp fires at boy scout outings and nothing more.

You strike me as a big monster movie buff. Any paticular monsterous critters that tickle your fancy? 

            Monster movies are usually very good or very bad. Bela Lugosi from the original ‘Dracula’ is probably my favorite monster. That movie’s atmospheric qualities and lacking music is striking and quite unsettling. I also favor the werewolf from ‘An American Werewolf in London’. Rick Baker’s makeup for that movie was years’ ahead of its time, and, in my opinion, there has been no better werewolf transformation before or since despite the advances in technology and animation.

Your story ''Skeletons,'' from your Of Monsters collection, has been receiving very favorable reviews. What was the paticular inspiration for that piece?

 A year before I wrote ‘Skeletons’, I wrote ‘The Cumberland Pass’. ‘Skeletons’ is a continuation piece for ‘The Cumberland Pass’, sort of a reverse side of the coin story. I had ended a marriage and these two stories gave me great catharsis in finalizing my thoughts on relationships (although the stories are rather bleak and dark about relationships, I am not). I have found through the years, it is easier to get over something, move on, if I work out my problems through writing.

I've always been curious about the inspiration for your Late Season novel. Was it an attempt to place all of your passion for the horror genre - and other genres - into one book?

            Late Season is about horror and about Appalachia. This region has many truly unspoken issues such as domestic violence, financial greed of the region’s natural resources, and the raping of the land for those natural resources. Some if not all of the horror written in Late Season had as much to do with the horrors of man as the horrors of monster.

Who would you say were your early influences? I was a Stephen King man myself. 

            Stephen King fired my passion for writing horror. There are many great authors, horror and otherwise, but King is and always will be one of my favorites. I hope when people read my work they can enjoy it a fourth as much as they can enjoy his writing. I can be satisfied with that much praise.

How did you get into TV direction?

            I graduated with a degree in Journalism, but wasn’t ready to settle down into the profession. I went to Lexington, Kentucky and became a horse trainer after college (my family has a horse farm).  I worked with the professionals and finally was bestowed the coveted trainer’s license after a year of hard work mucking stalls and training colts. When I started beating the trainers in the ring with horses I had trained, I came home and started training on the family farm. The farm consists of animals that live out their lives there. We are animal lovers, take in strays…big animal advocates. We have won eight world championships with our horses on that farm as well. But I digress…I came home, needed a job, had a friend who knew the station’s boss and got a job as a camera person. In a few short months, I started working my way through other jobs at the station until a directing position became available.

Being such a fan of the horror genre, has directing an indie horror film ever crossed your mind?

            I would rather someone else direct an indie film using my material, to be quite honest. I would be honored if someone ever asked to use any of my work for film. For me, directing at the station is quite enough. I’d prefer to be the writer of horror and let someone else direct it.

What's on the agenda for Noah right now? Any new books on the way?

            I am writing the continuation story of Late Season. I say, continuation, because I would be mistaken to call it a sequel. The new story picks up right after Late Season ends. I am about 100 pages into the new book now. As with most of my work, I write in fits and starts, some sections easier, some harder to put to paper. I am fully confident that by the fall of 2011 the new manuscript will be in book form, and I am hopeful I will be as happy with its completion as I was with Late Season.

Any last words for our readers? 

           I am a reader first and foremost and want to be pushed intellectually by what I read. I write stories I would love to pull off a shelf and read. I say with confidence that most readers who buy a story of mine will be entertained and challenged intellectually. All my work has an e-mail or website address that they can use to contact me and critique my work. I enjoy readers’ comments because I want to continue to evolve into a better writer.


Marcy Italiano

Picture
Marcy Italiano lives in Waterloo, Ontario with her husband Giasone and twin boys. Books available: KATRINA AND THE FRENCHMAN: A JOURNAL FROM THE STREET - June 2009. SPIRITS AND DEATH IN NIAGARA – May 2008. PAIN MACHINE - 2003. She has written many dark fiction stories and has published poetry in magazines and online. She also works on songwriting with Giasone. Marcy is still a Web Designer (www.theweblizard.com). To find out more please visit www.marcyitaliano.com.

I just have to ask this first; Why the nickname ‘’Lizard?”

Many years ago my husband G put out a “two sided” CD called “Lizards and Love Songs.” The first half was the rock songs, the Lizard half, and the other half was love songs. When people showed up at the release party, we handed out hearts or lizard toys on a string to wear as necklaces based on which half you liked better. I was the first “Lizard” and friends who like to use people’s nicknames a lot, made it stick. I’m a rock chick at heart. That evolved over the years and became my small business name, The Web Lizard. Funny how things follow you over the years, eh?

Let’s talk about Pain Machine. Is the title self explanatory? {Laughs}.

It’s a machine that reads pain from one person and gives it to another, so a doctor in the ER who can diagnose even non-communicative patients. Add to this the fact that everyone’s pain tolerance is vastly different and you have a complicated problem. We also meet a woman who has Fibromyalgia and a husband (and doctors) who don’t believe her. When she ends up in the hospital there’s an unexpected outcome – but you have to read it to find out what that is, of course.

So…I gather it isn’t for the squeamish?

Not the first chapter, anyway. We meet a child-Veronica who is subjected to a punishment of pain that she will never forget, a pain that nobody (in her life) believes. This sets her life in motion to create the Pain Machine in a “if you could only feel it, you’d believe me” sentiment. But I’ve said to a few squeamish readers that if you can get past that first chapter, well… it’s the most extreme part so the rest should be easier.

Was Veronica’s character based on anyone you knew personally growing up?

Veronica is a combination of MANY people, including parts of myself. The name (and only the name) came from my Grandmother. My Dad once had to pull a massive sliver out from my fingernail, a pain I’ve obviously not forgotten so that’s where Veronica’s first chapter came from. I also had Fibromyalgia for 20 years and in the beginning there were no doctors, no specialists who even believed in Fibro, let alone tried to help. In my frustration, I imagined building something that would feed the pain to them. Veronica is also a combination of strong and determined women I’ve known in my life, some crafty people I’ve met, and people who are slightly insane in a genius kind of way. I loved writing her; she was an unpredictable and driven old lady.
Did you intentionally set the plot in a more realistic setting as opposed to a supernatural one, to make the horror all that more immediate to the reader?

Physical pain is a very serious topic for me. I did not want to trivialize it, or make the whole book about the (borderline) sci-fi machine. It’s ultimately not about the machine; it’s about understanding and respecting someone’s physical pain, regardless of their tolerance level. I’m aware that there are some writers out there that could put this story in a supernatural world successfully, but that writer was not me. It was my first book and a lot of the emotions poured onto the pages were still very raw.

I’ve had readers say to me since that the story was scarier for them because it could really happen. They appreciated the fact that I kept it in a setting that the average person could relate to, and that made them look more carefully at the real pain elements that I was trying to stress.

Besides, I was already struggling with the creation and facts of the Pain Machine itself, and I had interviewed scientists, doctors and nurses to find out how such a device would work. I did a lot of research about the brain and pain receptors, pain tolerance levels, and trying to create realistic hospital scenes. The only other time I believe I left reality in the story was in the description of Agatha’s day in level-ten pain. The description of animals attacking her body, limb by limb, was a surprise to me when I wrote that part, I hadn’t intended to go in that direction. Once it was on the paper, I knew it had to stay. I’m glad I kept it. Readers have told me that they know I had actually had that experience myself because the description was so… visceral. Could I have taken a more supernatural approach and still told the story with the punch I needed? Honestly? No, I don’t think so.

Are you more of a fiction or non-fiction fan?

Both, but both have to be GOOD. I’ve always been interested in science, but I can’t tell you if I have a sci-fi book on my shelves anywhere. I like to learn new things all the time, so if I find a book about different religions, how to build things and/or DIY projects, a science magazine like Discover, or a really good Autobiography (like Mark Twain’s) I’m likely to pick it up and read it quickly. If it’s insert-celebrity-bopper-name-here piece of crap book I just get mad and keep walking.

If a book has a rotting zombie face on the cover and the story is cheesy as hell, I’ll pass in a heartbeat. Apologies to my fellow horror writers who like writing FUN horror stories. I like the more serious stuff, stuff that gets into my head, makes me think and feel really scared. My husband jokes that I’m a horror snob. That could be true. I’ve taken in enough less-serious horror over the years to know that I prefer stories that have more psychological, brain-fucks in them. Outside of horror? I have also started rereading classics and some of the texts I was supposed to study in University. I won’t pick up a romance, but I’m open to trying almost anything else.

Just out of curiosity, are you into the whole Kindle thing? It’s really starting to hurt print sales of many genres.

I usually love my Kindle… as a reader. As a writer? I have mixed feelings. I know and understand the business model of traditional publishing, for better or worse. Will Kindle mean more money for writers in the long run? Is it financially sound, will it last, will it allow more writers to make a living? That’s the debate right now, I suppose, and only time will tell. I do worry that more crap will surface and too many people will buy into the crap. I believe writers NEED editors, whether we like it or not, and the way things are going (with self-publishing and e-books) it’s getting too easy to skip the editing process. I also can’t imagine going to a conference/library/bookstore/reading and not having books in my hand, there’s nothing to sign, no covers to display.

I’ve always been in love with books. I love holding the light Kindle and being able to increase font size so I can wear sunglasses and not reading glasses. I have a great cover with a built-in light. I hate reading on the computer but the lack of backlight makes the Kindle comfortable for hours. But, I also love the sound of flipping pages. I can’t imagine not having my bookshelves full. I don’t like looking at the Kindle and knowing my personal library is in there. (I also use my Blackberry as a PHONE.) Do I sound old yet?

I read Mark Twain’s Autobiography on the Kindle and hated it. With all the footnotes it’s a major pain in the ass to flip back and forth, and I ended up reading them last, out of order, and it sucked. Some books should not be read on Kindle. But a fictional novel from beginning to end, a straightforward read is great! I don’t know what the future holds for books, but it makes me nervous. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned.

What’s up next for you? Any more horror-themed books on the horizon?

I am writing a book right now that is definitely horror fiction. Far more than Pain Machine, this book has more guts and gore, and a monster that I’m having a wonderful time writing. The working title is THE QUEEN and I’m more than half way through. This summer I’m getting a break from the kids three days a week (thanks hun!) so I’m hoping to plow through and get the first draft done sooner than… Christmas. I’m going to bring the first three chapters and a synopsis to my writing group soon, and then look at the markets, and I’m thinking of possibly shopping for an agent. If any writers are out there who love their agent, let me know! Until then, imagine a ten-foot skeletal frame dripping of rotting flesh… coming after you.

Thanks for the interview!