PATIENT: STEPHANIE M. WYTOVICH
My good friend, Lawrence C. Connolly, tagged me in "The Next Big Thing" post. So without further adieu, I give you HYSTERIA.
What is the working title of your book?
The title of my book is Hysteria, and it’s a collection of 100+ poems that operate around an asylum theme. I chose Hysteria as the title because of its double entendre; the flexibility of it being defined as mass panic and a female treatment plan worked to my advantage.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
Hysteria bred inside me for a couple of years before I decided to let it out. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of insanity, and its relation to medicine, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when I started to notice a definitive theme weaving through my work.
For research, I spent the night at The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum and did an overnight paranormal investigation at The West Virginia State Penitentiary. For me to truly understand the nature of the beast, I had to become the patient, the nurse, the prison guard and the doctor. I sat in the seclusion cells, walked the wards of the infirmary, and stood where they hanged the inmates.
It was surreal. Something straight out of a nightmare.
What genre does your book fall under?
I love the monsters and beasties that slither throughout the genre, but there has always been something about the horrors of the mind that just plain terrifys me. I want my readers to feel the decline of sanity, witness the moment a patient snaps, and experience what it feels like to be alone.
I don't think anything is worse than the encroaching sound of blackness.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
As this is a poetry collection, it would be hard to pin-point specific people since there is an overflow in Ward C right now. More patients keep showing up and it’s hard to keep track of them all…
What is the one-sentence synopsis for the book?
Madness lies within us all; it’s just a matter of knowing when to hide it, and when to let it out.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Hysteria will be represented by Raw Dog Screaming Press, and sit next to works by John Edward Lawson, Michael A. Arnzen, and Jason Jack Miller, to name a few. I couldn't be happier with the home it's found.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The collection took about six months to draft, but it also includes some of my earlier work as a poet. As a whole, I finished the manuscript in a year, as I’ve been simultaneously working on my first novel, The Eighth, which tends to possess me on a regular basis making it hard to travel back and forth between worlds.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I’ve been told that my poetic style includes a healthy dose of Plath, Sexton, and Poe, and as I base myself within the trials and tribulations of the mind, I think works like The Bell Jar,“The Abortion,” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” describe the insufferable madness that my patients struggle with.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always viewed poetry as a very raw and visceral outlet. More often than not, exhaustion took over me when I finished a piece, like a cathartic release of toxins were being drained out my fingertips. Sometimes it was freeing, other times it felt as if I were fading deeper into a permanent blackness. Either way, the experience is one that I’ll treasure because if I’ve learned anything as a poet, it’s that you can't have darkness without a little light.
Except for my patients.
They're beautifully doomed.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
My biggest influences in the genre are Edgar Allan Poe and Clive Barker, so one can expect a great deal of body horror paired with Gothic subtleties that show the beauty of the grotesque. Oh, and some of the patients I wrote about were already dead when I met them. Score one for the spirit world.