Author James Moushon did me the honor of interviewing me for his HBS Author’s Spotlight.
Please check out the interview by clicking the logo below, and if you care, please share. 🙂
Today, I have the pleasure and privilege of interviewing the sizzling Shay Blaze, burlesque performer, cosplayer, and, last but certainly not least, my friend. She is a petite, almost fae-like beauty with a smile and personality bigger and brighter than the sun itself. And if you’re like me, you are already looking forward to learning more about her. Without further adieu, I give you the lithe, the lovely Shay Blaze.
J: Let’s start with something simple. How long have you been performing as a burlesque dancer? And how did you start performing?
S: I’ve been performing burlesque for 5 years now. It all started when a good friend of mine told me about a local audition here in Alabama and I just fell in love with it.
J: Did you decide on your stage name or was that moniker applied by someone else? Either way, what does that name mean to you?
S: I chose my name after quite a bit of searching. Shay is something I’ve actually been called for years. Blaze came from the energy and passion I have on stage and the bright red hair I have from time to time.
J: How would you describe your style of performance? Did you develop it over time or did you know what you wanted to do when you started?
S: My performance style is always changing and has evolved so much over the years. There are so many beautiful styles of performance out there and I want to experience all of them. I love to keep my fans guessing and fully entertained.
J: Before venturing into the world of burlesque, did you have a background in dance, music, theatre, or other performance art?
S: As a child, I always dreamed of being a dancer or a circus performer. I dabbled in pageants early on and found out quickly that I thrive under the spotlight. I actually began with visual art which soon opened the door to makeup and hair styling. Then came fashion which led to cosplay and costume design. Once I discovered burlesque it was all over. I fell head over heels for it. It allows me to enjoy every creative hobby I’ve ever had or wanted all in one place.
J: When we first met at Alabama Phoenix Festival, you were helping to promote Warehouse 31, one of Birmingham’s premiere haunted houses. Could you tell us more about W31? Do you perform there?
S: I have not performed there actually. I used to do some acting at Sloss Fright Furnace way before I started burlesque. Since then, some of my friends/co-workers from Sloss are now at W31. They are all very wonderful people.
J: At Phoenix Fest, you did a fantastic job cosplaying Harley Quinn and Tinker Bell. What other characters do you cosplay and would you consider yourself a professional cosplayer?
S: Thank you! Cosplay is a hobby for me. I don’t really consider myself a pro just yet. I do have big plans for Dragon*con particularly this year. I’ve been fortunate enough to work conventions with the amazing artist Patrick Giles. He and I will be representing DC Comics for Dragon this year and I will be premiering a new Harley cosplay along with X-Men’s Emma Frost, and DC’s Black Canary.
J: What are your favorite parts of performing and cosplaying? Do you have a least favorite part?
S: It’s hard to pick a favorite part honestly. I love everything about both of them from start to finish.
J: Are there any common misconceptions about burlesque, or cosplay for that matter, that you’d like to clear up for people?
S: Oh boy, I’m not sure where to begin on that subject. Burlesque is a wonderful thing to experience. It differs a lot from what people initially think of when they hear “stripper”. To me, burlesque is beautiful and playful celebration of the body. It has a grand theatrical element that you won’t see anywhere else.
J: Finally, where can people follow you online? And when and where will we be able to see you onstage?
S: You can keep up with my ever-changing antics and show dates on my website shayblaze.com and of course social media.
Or you can come to my next show this Friday June 19th at Das Haus! It’s going to be epic!
Thanks for sitting down with us, Shay. You’ve been engaging and enlightening as always. Cannot wait to see the new cosplays as well as the performance this Friday. If you’re in the Birmingham area, be sure to come out to Das Haus on Friday night for Shay, a sideshow, and much more. Hope to see you there!
For my final author interview this month, I am fortunate enough to have snagged some of the valuable time of the charismatic Kimberly Richardson, my friend and the editor of the Cycle of Ages Saga. Let’s get down to business, Kim. I’m sure the readers out there are eager to learn more about you and your work.
J: Judging from our conversations and your stories, you have a vivid imagination. Where do you find the inspiration to fuel this creative fire and turn your wild ideas into amazing stories?
K: I get inspiration by simply observing the world around me. The world is filled with magick and wonder; all one has to do is simply open your eyes. Even a simple conversation between two people in a coffee shop can inspire an awesome story – several of my stories began that way.
J: You’ve reached some manner of acclaim in a short period of time as a professional writer. In fact, two of your novels were considered for the Pulitzer list a couple of years ago. Could you tell us more about that experience as well as your other accolades/honors?
K: Being enlisted for the Pulitzer was quite a learning experience for me; it felt wonderful to know that my work stood a chance to receive such an honour. I do plan to enlist again very soon! I was also a finalist for several awards as well as edited several anthologies that later won awards through certain stories.
J: Which of your fantastical tales has generated the most feedback from readers? What was their overall response to it?
K: It is spread across the board; I get feedback from people about everything! Generally, the feedback has been great followed with questions of when my next work will be available. Either that, or they ask me if I’ve ever committed any of the “incidents” that are in my stories. I consider that to be a compliment.
J: What writers have influenced you the most? And which of their books are your favorites?
K: That answer is very, very long but I will say that roughly 100+ writers have influenced me. The list of books is too long as well. I take little bits from those who inspire me and add it to my own mixture. The mixture is always changing and blending to whatever I’m either reading or writing.
J: If you could talk to any of these writers, living or dead, who would it be, and what would you discuss?
K: Actually, I really wouldn’t want to speak with any of them, strangely enough. They are in my mind in certain ways and for me to possibly speak with them might shatter that “image”. I know that sounds lame but it is the truth. Let them continue being that certain “thing” in my mind and I’m happy enough.
J: Doesn’t sound strange to me at all. After having my own mental image of certain celebrities shattered by meeting them in person, I tend to avoid those who have had the deepest impact on me. Nice to know that I’m not the only one who would hate to be disappointed in the humanity of my heroes and idols.
J: In addition to writing, do you have any other hobbies or creative pursuits?
K: Photography, tea blending, traveling, cooking, hiking, mycology, attending ballets, opera and the theatre in general, reading books (of course!).
J: Could you tell us more about your experiences as an editor for Dark Oak Press and others? Do you prefer to write your own material or help edit and shape the work of others?
K: They are equal in my world. When I first began editing for Dark Oak, I wasn’t sure of what I was doing. After many bruises, scrapes, cuss words and failures later, I think I’ve gotten the hang of it. With regards to my work – I still enjoy it. That will never die even as I continue my work as an Editor.
J: As a writer and editor, what advice would you give to aspiring writers who want to become published professionals?
K: Don’t stop, no matter what. I can’t get any more blunt than that.
J: What project are you working on currently? Without spoiling anything, could you provide us with a snippet from it?
K: As of now, I’m working through the second round of edits for my Southern Gothic novel, Open A. The novel is about a Memphian named Graydon Fayette who is also a world renowned violinist. He is also a member of a very old family that more than just dabbles in the dark side.
J: Do you have any new or upcoming releases that you’d like to promote here?
K: Open A should be out next year if not sooner. Tales From a Goth Librarian II was released this past February. Both are/will be through Dark Oak Press. I also have a short story called “The Master of Tea” that will be released in Asian Pulp through Pro Se Press this year.
J: Thanks for sharing, Kim. As always, it’s a pleasure to hear more about you and your passion for writing and editing, as well as your other creative pursuits. I wish you all the best on your upcoming releases. Maybe we’ll be seeing you on the Pulitzer list again soon.
As most people’s thoughts turn to warm weather, bright flowers, and outdoor vacations, there are those of us who enjoy the Addams Family or Munsters-kind of life regardless of the season. I am one of those Autumn People, always with one foot on either side of the Veil. Paranormal writer Bella Roccaforte is part of our worldwide creative carnival as well. This legitimate badass is literary and quite lively, unlike some of her creepy crawlers and haunting hunks. I have the privilege of sitting down with her to find out what steered her toward the world of spooky fiction.
J: Let’s start with something simple. How long have you been writing? And what led you to “go pro”?
B: In a former life, I was a professional musician and used to write poetry for as long as I can remember. But as far as writing stories, I started in December of 2012. My husband had been talking about writing a novel for as long as I’ve known him. So I challenged him to write for an hour and I would do the same.
At the end of a week of doing that he asked how many words I had. I didn’t know, because I wasn’t paying attention to that. Turns out I had 30k words. When I asked him how many he had, he just told me that wasn’t important right now. He asked to read what I had written and after he did, he told me it was good and I should publish it. So I finished and here I am now eight novels later.
J: Whoa! That’s an impressive start. If you can type 30k words in a week, I should hire you to write my novels, if I could afford you. Broke Guys Productions is no euphemism. Hehehe!
J: What genre(s) do you prefer to write? Do you prefer to read those genres too?
B: I prefer to write in paranormal. I’m having a blast with my latest series which is a paranormal romance. I’m not typically big on romance, but this story was scratching to get out.
I also love to read paranormal, pnr is okay, but I don’t need a lot of sexy to enjoy a story.
J: Personally, I’m fine with scary, sexy, or both, as long as it’s well-written and edited.
J: Speaking of your reading habits, what are your five favorite novels?
B: Inferno by Dante Alighieri
The Beautiful Demons series by Sarra Cannon
Elfhunter series by C.S. Marks.
The Celestra Series by Addison Moore
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
J: Both 1 and 5 are great choices. I’ll have to check out the rest. You’re not the first person to recommend Elfhunter.
J: What writers have influenced you the most over the course of your life?
B: Addison Moore and Sarra Cannon. I would not be a published author without both of them!
J: I feel similarly about those who helped me along the way, writers, editors, publishers, and artists. Part of why I started this series of interviews was to showcase them as well as others.
J: Let’s turn back to your writing process. When you set out to create a new story, do you jump right in to the tale (pantster) or plan it out for ages beforehand (plotter)?
B: Gosh, this is a tough one because I usually have the basics down for the story in my head before I jump in. But as the words flow, they create their own little ripples in the story line. I have been known to come out of my office with wide eyes and say “Whoa, I didn’t see that coming!”
But I don’t create an outline, or write down the plot. My latest series actually grew from a series of paintings I had done. Originally, there were three paintings, now there are nine. But the original three served as beginning middle and end. The story has grown beyond that at this point.
J: Are there common themes, topics, or tropes that you use or explore in your works of fiction?
B: Oh yes, I have all kinds of little Easter eggs or private jokes all throughout my work.
In the INK series, there are a ton of The Walking Dead Easter eggs. I have a character named Carl who’s always getting lost. Things like that.
In Paranormal Transmissions, many of the towns/cities they go to are named after the actors from The Walking Dead (I’m a huge fan if you can’t tell.)
In Moon Crossed (The Crescent Hunter Series), my “hero” is named Cole Jackson. Jackson is the name of the hero in Sarra Cannon’s Beautiful Demons series and last night I needed a list of casualties. Characters we’ve never really met that died in battle. At first, I was thinking I could name them Kenny (South Park), Rory (Doctor Who), Red (Red shirts from Star Trek), you know characters that always die. But I couldn’t come up with enough names, so I decided to go with a list of all my exes.
J: It’s nice to know that I’m not the only writer here who has killed an ex or two in fiction. Or loves #TWD!
J: Judging by our previous conversations, it sounds like you have had a rough life, one that has helped build you into the badass you’ve become. What real life events have most shaped your writing?
B: Whoa, so yeah. If we were sitting face to face, I’d be making that face that Peta Mellark made when asked on stage if there was anyone special at home (Hunger Games).
Okay, so yes, probably the one thing in my life that has shaped and driven my writing in one specific way is heartbreak. In the INK: Series, the two heroes are based on exes. They are both aware and think it’s pretty cool. I did have one of them apologize to me for being such an ass hat.
Moon Crossed is the product of a difficult time when life had just fallen to pieces for me. I’m a people hoarder, and for whatever psychological issues, I have one of the coping mechanisms is to create an extremely tight knit circle of friends that I would kill or die for. The circle broke, we all fell away, and I felt like my heart had been dug out of my chest with a rusty spoon. Thus, the painting outlet, and subsequently telling a part of that story. I, of course, had to spice it up and throw in some romance. But all of the characters with the exception of the love interest/hero are based on my boys from The House of Brotus (our little cult).
It has been therapeutic, but still on a level while going back and doing revisions and re-feeling some of those emotions, it’s so raw. Most of us have all reformed the circle, it would seem there was only one permanent casualty of the fallout.
J: Pardon to tough question, but I find that many writers tend to be survivors and fiction makes wonderful therapy for us. But it also showcases our pain as well as our hope for a better tomorrow. That can make it daunting to delve into such personal stories on occasion. Glad you’re working through it all and finding catharsis bit by bit with each tale.
J: Do you find that your real life struggles make it easier or more difficult to put your characters through a fictional baptism by fire?
B: Depends on the character and the mood that I’m in. Sometimes it’s so nice to just rip someone’s intestines out and eat them while they watch. Other times I’ll be like, “I’m so sorry, but we really had to do that. It hurt me more than it hurt you.”
In general, the heroine always gets the shitty end of the stick. I love to torture her to see how amazing she’ll be when she rises from the ashes.
J: What’s the common quote about fiction? Put your characters up a tree and then throw rocks at them. Writing 101. I think some of us enjoy the experience entirely too much though. Yes, I’m talking to you, G.R.R. Martin.
J: What writing project are you working on at the moment?
B: I’m currently putting the finishing touches on the first book in the Crescent Hunter Series, Moon Crossed. I’m releasing it in serial format and three episodes are already available on Amazon. I’ll continue to release them weekly until April 15th.
J: What upcoming releases do you have slated for 2015? When and where can we find them?
B: Moon Crossed #1 (Crescent Hunter Series) April 15 – Amazon and my website (BellaWrites.com for the paper back)
INK: Bold Strokes (Book 5) – Final book in this series. All digital retailers by the end of summer.
Three more installments of Paranormal Transmissions – supernatural/paranormal serial. All digital outlets and I’ll be releasing them over the course of the next year.
And who knows what else might come from my crazy brain. If you had told me three months ago that I was going to write a shifter romance, I would have said, “Shut up, I’m not.”
Thanks for the lively, intriguing answers, Bella. I’ve come to expect no less from you. Good luck on your future endeavors and upcoming releases. Stay weird. Stay fun. And most important of all, keep writing!
For my first Cherry Sparkle Burlesque interview for the Spring of 2015, it’s appropriate that I welcome the vibrant, vivacious Daisy Foxx, a delectable young lady with a heart full of song and a spring in her step. She’s the original hooper for the CSBC and fast becoming a good friend, especially after offering to bake me cupcakes following my back surgery. Thanks, Daisy. Happy to have you here on the blog today. Let’s jump right in, shall we?
J: When you joined the company, why did you choose to be known as Daisy Foxxx? What does that persona mean to you?
D: Well, I’m sweet like a daisy but also foxy.
J: Have to agree there. Definitely as sweet as a daisy. And the foxy part goes without saying.
J: What prompted you to join Cherry Sparkle? And how long have you been a member?
D: I saw a post about it on facebook. I’ve been looking for a group like this for awhile. When you live in a small town full of people who don’t really get art and freedom of expression, it’s a bit tough. I love my group. I joined in August 2014.
J: Ah, the glories of Facebook. Happy that you found a match with Cherry Sparkle. They are some wonderful people. And very accepting. This area can be very draining for all creative types, but I hope that our influences can open people up to new experiences and forms of entertainment.
J: Do you have a background in dance, theater, or performance art?
D: I do have a little bit of a background. I used to do chorus and drama in my church…till I was in high school. I have always been interested in dance; I think it’s so beautiful how our bodies can move and be used to create and express ourselves.
J: Well, in your case, Daisy, it’s a beautiful expression. For me, it’s more like a spastic rhino on the dance floor, so I’ll leave it to the professionals like you. 🙂
J: What about other creative interests or hobbies?
D: I do photography on the side. I really do enjoy taking photos. You capture a moment that you can only go back to by looking at the photo itself.
J: You’re certainly in good company if you want to develop those skills. Joel did amazing work on the Cherry Sparkle calendar, and I know several of the dolls are photography hobbyists too.
J: Could you tell us about your role in the company and your performance style?
D: I like to look sweet and innocent, but draw you in with my magical hoop and sexy ways.
J: Miss Daisy, you manage that with little more than a smile and a few kind words. The hoop is just icing on the cake.
J: How did your hula hoop come by its name? And how long have you been performing together?
D: I used to hula hoop when I was a child. My school held a talent show and that was my first performance with a hula hoop. I did the cha-cha slide while hooping. It’s a connection, you just simply go with the flow and enjoy the movement.
J: Again, I guess this comes down to you being naturally fluid, flexible, and fantastically creative. With the addition of a second hooper to the company, I hope to see more complex routines from you and her in the future too.
J: Given complete creative control and few limitations on budget, what song would you perform to onstage and what would you wear for this performance of a lifetime?
D: Gosh that’s a hard one. Hmm…let’s see…probably Lana Del Rey. She’s inspirational to me. I would probably also use a LED hoop. It lights up with different patterns pretty sick.
J: Sounds pretty trippy. And reminds me of your psychedelic photo in the new Cherry Sparkle calendar. I’d share it here but would rather people go out and buy their own copy.
J: What’s your favorite part of a burlesque show? What’s your least favorite part of performing?
D: Honestly, everything. When we all get ready together and set up [for the show]. Tell each other how we all look great; we are really like a team. Yet all of us are all unique in our own way. Then the butterflies set in, but it’s so rewarding afterwards. It’s a wonderful feeling almost like a high. It feels good doing something you enjoy.
J: Performance art at its best. Sounds like group synergy at its best too, when the group become family.
Thanks again for agreeing to this interview, Daisy. Great hearing back from you about your life and times with the Cherry Sparkle Burlesque Company. Come check out her and the other dolls and guys of Cherry Sparkle at their next show at Caldwell Tavern (formerly the Crimson Tiger) in Anniston, Alabama on the 4th of April 2015.
Stay tuned for more upcoming interviews with authors, artists, dancers, and more. It’s bound to be a busy year.
For our first author interview of the year, I have the privilege of probing the magical mindscape of J.L. Mulvihill, Southern Haunts editor and writer of fantasy, horror, steampunk, and more. She’s the author of poems, short stories, and several novels, including Lost Daughter of Easa, Boxcar Baby, and Crossings.
Let’s start off with something basic but fundamental. How long have you been writing and what prompted you to go from amateur to professional?
Well, the funny thing is, I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I found an old journal of my mothers and there is an entry there that said “Today Jennifer made up her first poem, ‘light, light, burning bright’.” Okay so I didn’t actually write that, I was only two years old but I think if I could have written it I would have. We will just say I have been writing poetry and short stories as long as I have been able to write. I just saw it as a hobby and sometimes therapy. When I got into bands, I started writing song lyrics too. One day however, about eleven years ago, I had a strange nightmare about being chased through the woods by a giant spider. The dream would not leave my head but kept playing over and over until characters started emerging. I told my family about it and they encouraged me to write the story down. I did and the next thing I knew I had 180,000 words down on paper. What to do with that now I wondered. Well, that was when I started the long trek to getting the story published and it became my first novel, The Lost Daughter of Easa.
Frankly, I find that story fascinating and a bit terrifying. I’m a bit arachnophobia too, but it’s more of an irrational hatred toward them. Too quiet. Too many eyes and legs. Bleh. But you’ve just sold me on reading Lost Daughter now. It’s bound to be a fright-filled tale.
Which writers have influenced you the most along the way?
I, of course, am a fan of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, L. Frank Baum, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lois Lenski, Robert A. Heinlein, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury, Anne McCaffrey, Terry Brooks, Edgar Allan Poe, and Stephen King. I could probably go on for a while since I read a lot when I was a kid that was all I pretty much did was listen to music and read books.
Apparently, you forgot about Stan Lee. I dug up this picture of you and him together at Dragon*Con 2014. 😉
Name five favorite novels that either influenced you or have simply stuck with you?
The Strawberry Girl – Lois Lenski;
The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien;
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradury;
Dragonflight – Anne McCaffrey;
Lost Horizon – James Hilton
The Hobbit and many works by Bradbury would be on my list as well. I can see a lot of Bradbury’s influence in the coming-of-age aspect of Boxcar Baby, especially focusing on a gritty, darker side of it.
I know you field this question on a lot of writing panels. But I’ll ask it again here. Always leads us into the mind of the writer. Where have you found inspiration for your stories/books?
Inspiration for my stories and books come from my dreams, parts of my life, my children and family, the world and people around me. Sometimes it’s something I hear on the history channel or Discovery and then develops into an idea. Maybe an object I see in a shop or on the ground. I guess most of my ideas just come from the twisted world inside my head.
You have worked as an editor on Seventh Star Press’s Southern Haunts series as well as authored several stories and books yourself. Which work do you find more fulfilling, writing and editing your own stories or editing, and shaping, those of others?
I think I prefer to work on my own stories because I feel like I am invading on peoples’ creativity when I edit. However, there is a certain satisfaction one can achieve when an anthology is created and finished. Especially when the idea of the anthology like Southern Haunts was something you helped come up with from the beginning.
I agree wholeheartedly there, Jen. I always feel intrusive if I’m doing more than proofing someone’s work. And even then, you can run into subjective disagreements about exposition, dialogue, and basic grammar. I’d rather be writing than editing anyday.
Your young adult fantasy novel, The Lost Daughter of Easa, and The Steel Roots series, which I’d term as a steampunk fairy tale and coming-of-age story, are rich worlds with descriptions and characters that fill them out in great detail. From outside appearances, both seem to involve heavy world-building and a lot of planning and outlining.
Could you tell us about your creative process with these pieces, with a focus on these topics?
When people say heavy world building, I feel like I am cheating because those worlds are in my head; and, yes, I guess I did create them but to me it is not such a hard task as it sounds. For Lost Daughter of Easa, I literally have a tri-board with sticky notes on it with regards to characters, places and things. I actually do have an outline, in fact an entire book filled with notes about everything from mythological creatures to the string theory and traveling between worlds. I follow my outline, and when I come to a creature or object, I look it up or research for good measure. Here is the trick though; I have books for this series. A lot of people rely heavily on the internet; I have books of all sorts about giants, and fairies and elves and dragons. The only things I do not have books on are spiders, because I hate spiders, and I will not even have a book about them. I look those up at the library or, yes, the internet. Now as far as the world, like I said it is alive in my head, so I just close my eyes and can go there. I see all my scenes as if they are really happening before me.
The steampunk series is a little different. I did a lot of research both in books and online about the 1800s and the Victorian era as well as the revolutionary time period, workhouses, and factories. The cool thing about this story is that it is in America, not a fictional place. Although it is set in my alternate history, I can look up these towns and see what they used to look like and then describe them, maybe altering bits and pieces here and there. Some the Steel Roots series has elements from my childhood as well that I have incorporated in the story to make it real. For instance, the very first sentence is taken from when I lived with my grandparents. I would hear the train whistle every night and every morning far off in the distance, and it would comfort me. I, of course, do a fair bit of research about trains, hobos, and the like. I go to museums and take notes. I immerse myself in so much research that sometimes I forget I am supposed to be writing.
How many installments will we see in The Steel Roots series? And will we see a sequel to Lost Daughter on the shelves this year?
Crossings, Book #2 of the Steel Roots series was just released in December of 2014. The publisher is expecting another one from me this year, so I guess there will only be three, though I dare say with so many characters afoot there could be some spin offs maybe, I am hopeful. As for the sequel to Lost Daughter of Easa, I cannot guarantee it will be out in 2015, but I can guarantee I will be done with the manuscript in 2015.
What are you working on currently? And can you provide us with a snippet from it?
I am currently working on both the sequel to Lost Daughter and the next Steel Roots book, as for a snippet, let’s just say in Lost Daughter the dragons will awaken. As for Steel Roots, I can only tell you that it will be the greatest invention ever. Spoilers, Sweetie, spoilers.
As winsome and evasive as River Song herself, eh, Jen? I guess that’s part of the mysterious allure that keeps readers coming back for more. Frankly, I’m looking forward to continuing AB’Gale’s journey.
What new creative works will you have hitting the shelves or the web in 2015?
I know that the Steel Roots sequel is slotted for release sometime in 2015, as for the rest we will just have to wait and see what 2015 has to bring.
One last question before we go, Jen. Where can we read more about you and your works? Do you have a writing blog or website(s) that you’d like to promote here?
You can also find out more about Authora and some poetry at the following link: http://home.comcast.net/~mulvijen/site/
Or catch me on my Facebook pages:
Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Jen. It’s been great chatting with you again and letting our readers learn more about you and what you have planned for the new year. Wish you the best in 2015. Hope to see you back on the Southern Fandom Convention Circuit soon.
If you would like to meet J.L. Mulvihill in person and pick up a signed copy of one of her works, you can find her at the First Annual Dark Oak Press Book Signing at the Barnes & Noble in Ridgeland, Mississippi on January 24, 2015. Alexander S. Brown, Kalila Smith, Kimberly Richardson, and publisher Allan Gilbreath will be in attendance.
For more details, find the event on Facebook HERE.
Stay tuned to this blog for more interviews, announcements, updates, and more.
When I first met Alexander S. Brown at a fandom convention, I had no idea that I was meeting the scariest man to pass through Vicksburg, Mississippi since General Grant. But after reading “Traumatized”, his self-published horror anthology, I was convinced. I was no longer just a friend or colleague but a fan as well. Today, I am happy to be able to shine some light on the dark, fruitful imagination of this wonderful writer and what he has in store for his fans in the future.
When did you know you wanted to be a professional writer? And how long did it take you to make that dream happen?
My senior year of high school was when I decided to be a professional writer. Although I have written books through the ages of 18 and 29, my actual dream hadn’t reached fruition until the last year. Although I was overly thrilled to produce short fiction for anthologies: Dreams of Steam, Clockwork Spells and Magical Bells, Luna’s Children, and Capes and Clockworks, it wasn’t until I helped produce Southern Haunts volume 1 and 2, and published Traumatized and Syrenthia Falls that I finally felt my career had begun.
Which writers have influenced you the most along the way?
My biggest influences have been Stephen King, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, Chuck Palahniuk, Anne Rice, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and the list continues.
If you could talk to any of those writers, living or dead, which one would it be and why? What would you want to discuss?
I would pick Clive Barker. He is a brilliant name in the horror genre that provides a great diversity of being poetic and horrific. I also admire his fantasy themed horror: Imagica, The Thief of Always, Weaveworld, etc. I would want to discuss with him how different scare tactics captivate audiences. I would also enjoy speaking of story ideas.
Good choice! Barker’s Weaveworld is one of my all-time favorite novels. Ranks up there with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Dune. Poe, Lovecraft, Kind, and Palahniuk have influences me as well. Koontz and Rice have too but to a lesser extent. I’m more of a fan of Rice’s works written under the Rampling pseudonym than her vampire novels.
How did growing up in the Deep South affect the content and style of your writing? Have you worked any of those real-life experiences into your stories?
A lot of what I have written about has been inspired by actual places, events, or southern folklore. Growing up in the South has provided a great deal of opportunities for my writings, especially by living in a secluded, wooded area for the majority of my life. The Southern culture can be seen most in these following pieces: Syrenthia Falls, Southern Haunts 1 & 2, and Traumatized.
What genre(s) do you prefer to write? Are there any that you avoid entirely?
I have no problems writing in any genre as long as I can keep the genre themed with suspense and horror.
You started out as a self-published (or indie) writer but have transitioned to traditional publishing with the Southern Haunt anthologies from Seventh Star, the new edition of Traumatized from Pro Se, and your first novel (Syrenthia Falls) released by Dark Oak Press earlier this year. In your experience, what are the pros and cons of self-publishing versus the traditional route?
To say being self-published is the greatest nightmare alive would be untrue. When Traumatized was first published, I had no one to help or represent me in the world of publishing, so I used a vanity press that charged its authors to get published.
The only good thing that came from this was I now had a product that I could sell and I could attend conventions and promote myself. Had I never done this, I would have never learned about the con circuit and I would probably still be in the dark. With that said, I gained placement in three publishing houses: Seventh Star Press, Dark Oak Press, and Pro Se Press (Pro Se Press is now in control of Traumatized as it was pulled from the original press).
In this interview, my goal with this question is to direct unpublished authors to attend conventions and converse with other authors and publishers. If you are serious about your work, then this will give you the opportunity to fish it around.
I am in complete agreement there, Alex. Attending conventions is what led to me being published. Without the networking opportunities facilitated by conventions, namely meeting authors and publishers face-to-face, we’d never have hooked up with Dark Oak Press, much less Pro Se. In fact, this very interview series is a direct result of meeting authors, editors, artists, publishers, and others at these fandom conventions.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing (or the process of polishing, editing, and publishing your stories), and how do you deal with this?
Writing isn’t the hard part, editing is. There are so many ways a sentence can be structured. Also there are plenty of times where less is more and I overdo it. Sometimes cutting multiple paragraphs to pages from my stories are necessary when I finish writing.
In my opinion, editing is what separates the amateur from the professional. Anyone can write. Anyone can write a story. But very few people are willing to take the time and effort, much less spend the money on a professional, to whip their story into shape for publication. Those of us who can slog through it, take the criticism from ourself as well as others, and make the changes necessary to turn out a polished product are the real professionals, whether we are published traditionally or self-published.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write your entire manuscript and while you’re writing it look for publishers who are small or medium sized. After you finish writing your manuscript, edit, edit, edit, and start building an audience on social media sites. Also, write blogs in regard to the subjects that focus on your writing genre.
Are you working on anything currently? Can you provide a snippet from it?
I am working on a few things that are top secret, if I shared them with you, I would have to kill you. However, I’m happy to share a segment of the last ebook that Pro Se Press published and a segment of Syrenthia Falls.
From Outhouse published by Pro Se Press, Story 3 in the Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out series
I crossed tha kitchen floor and gazed out left and right. I ain’t seen nothin’ scary and nothin’ ain’t sound spooked. Tha night was calm. Although that shoulda made me feel better, I wondered how fast I could run ta tha outhouse and back.
I took a deep breath and opened tha door. Tha rusted hinges hollered. Once I was on tha porch, tha cool wind blew in my face, causin’ my bonnet ta tickle my forehead and tha sides of my cheeks. I shivered out of fear and coldness, and also tha pressure in my bladder.
Tha screen door done slammed behind me, causin’ me ta jump. Then I shot off tha porch like lightenin’. I went left, round tha back of tha house that looked over some of our crops and that hill where Poppa and me done flew kites. In tha dead night, I heard it. It was a growl, lot like a riled mongrel.
I looked ta tha crops. No more than twenty feet away, thirty at best, was somethin’ that struck fear in my soul. Hidin’ in ‘em crops out yonder, crouched close ta tha ground was two eyes as big as saucers. And they were glowin’, jus’ like Poppa said. And they were red, jus’ like tha tobacco in his pipe when he smoked it.
Not far down from ‘em spaced eyes was a pulled back meat eatin’ grin. In that moonlight, I could see its teeth and theys were jus’ like a bear trap. Its skin was withered like Poppa said. It also had a saggy chest, remindin’ me of some of tha old ladies of our church, where ‘eir breasts dropped when they lost tha perk. Its stomach was a gross pot belly that dropped between its squattin’ legs. When tha wind blew, it caused its thin hair ta sway in tha night like moss.
Fer what seemed seconds, we stared at one another. It let out a tongue tha size of a cow’s tongue and lapped its lips. Not wastin’ anotha second, it charged at me.
From Syrenthia Falls published by Dark Oak Press
“You guys are good storytellers,” chuckled Syrenthia.
“Speaking of which,” mumbled Blake with a mouthful of taco salad.
Blake swallowed, then chugged the carton of milk as if he had gone the whole day without a drink. He wiped the milk residue from his upper lip with an open hand as Syrenthia listened in anticipation.
“Okay, there’s a place called Owen Falls, it’s in the northeast part of town. You take Old Foster Road. After you hang a left, you’ll come to a concrete bridge. After pulling over, you follow a trail under the bridge into the woods, and then you see The Falls,” explained Blake while Syrenthia yearned for the punchline.
“Five years ago was when the murders started, and it only happens on nights of a full moon. But these aren’t just murders, they’re mutilations. Most bodies have been found so shredded that it takes dental records to identify them,” continued Blake as Lynn stopped eating.
“You’re joking,” claimed Syrenthia. “It’s an urban legend right? No bodies were really found were they?”
“No, it’s true. My cousin’s friend was one of the policemen that restricted the area,” insisted Danny.
“Isn’t that how urban legends start?” Syrenthia quizzed. “It always happens to a friend of a friend?”
“Yeah,” Danny agreed, “but the area is restricted.”
“That’s a useless defense,” interrupted Sarah.
Syrenthia’s eyes widened and her desire for more information grew. Blake returned to eating his food as if the story had no effect on him and Danny began speaking.
“You see, three months after the murders, a warden staked out the area. Story goes, the watchman for that night rigged up a hunting stand so he could see everything… What he saw made him stay in that tree the whole night. The next day, investigators came for him. When they found him, his hair had turned white and since then he has never said another word.”
“Why didn’t he radio for help?” Syrenthia questioned.
“The story is bullshit,” added Sarah.
“Does anybody know what caused the murders?” Syrenthia asked.
Lynn shivered. “No. Two summers ago, a couple went to The Falls on the night of a full moon. Story has it that when the police found the couple, every single body part had been mauled or ripped from their bodies.”
Danny interrupted. “They were some of the last victims, but the police discovered something. You see, out of the five years the murders happened, the victims had either slash marks or were mutilated beyond recognition. The murders could have been done with a machete or knife, but the couple that was ripped apart had something strange left with them.”
Thanks, Alex. Let’s hope those teasers send our audience scrambling to order a copy of both from Amazon.
Do you have a new or upcoming release you want to plug here? If so, when and where can we find it?
Pro Se is publishing a short story monthly from my collection The Night the Jack O’ Lantern Went Out. I’m writing Traumatized 2, editing Southern Haunts 3, and writing a sequel to Syrenthia Falls called Starla’s Moonlight. Southern Haunts 3 can be expected out in 2015. My other works such as Traumatized 2 or Starla’s Moonlight will hopefully see publication in 2016 or so.
I appreciate you sitting for the interview, Alex. I’m sure the readers enjoyed learning more about you, and I hope aspiring writers out there appreciate the advice. Best of luck with the next edition of Southern Haunts, your Pro Se Digital Short Series, and the sequel to Syrenthia Falls. Look forward to all of them. Thanks again and keep on writing, my friend.
For more about Alexander S. Brown and his works of fiction, check out his Amazon author page HERE.
To follow his blog, click HERE.