Today in THE MADHOUSE, I've kidnapped fellow horror author and poet, Peter Adam Salomon. Peter and I have known each other for a few years now as we both exchange and critique each other's writing from time to time, and most importantly, we both have the same twisted flair and appreciation for the dark arts, too. His latest poetry collection, PseudoPsalms: Saints v. Sinners is now running free in the (under)world, and as such, I wanted to give you all a peek behind the veil to hear a little more about his creative process and how for him, the lines between fiction and poetry are a little blurred. Enjoy!
by Peter Adam Salomon
Despite two published novels and one Bram Stoker award nomination (for ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS) in the Young Adult novel category, I still think of myself as a poet. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I’ve been writing poems since I was seven and only started writing novels as an adult. Perhaps because I believe my natural ‘voice’ is found in my poetry, in the freedom and spirit that poetry represents.
Mostly, I consider myself a poet first because I feel a much stronger emotional bond to poetry, both as a writer and a reader. With my second novel, ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS I threw out all the standard rules of fiction writing (no run-on sentences, no repeated words, no sentence fragments, etc.) and pretty much replaced them with some of the rules of poetry writing. I knew this would result in some people hating the book, which happened, just as much as I knew that some readers would love it for the very same reasons. I loved the poetry of the novel and am extremely proud of it. But it’s prose, no matter how poetic, and it left me with a burning need to write poetry again.
My first collection of poetry, Prophets, consisted of mostly old poems with only a handful of newer works. While it was rewarding to see some of my personal favorite poems in print that way, I still wanted to try to stretch my wings a little bit more. PseudoPsalms:Saints v. Sinners, my latest poetry collection (published by Bizarro Pulp Press), allowed me the freedom to do that.
While retaining a focus on the exploration of identity and self, religion/politics, and sanity/insanity which pretty much all of my writing deals with, PseudoPsalms also gave me the unique opportunity to do more than just explore the darkness and shadows I’ve grown so familiar with over the years of writing horror. As the subtitle suggests these are not all dark poems. There are glimmers of sunshine, if not outright joy and wonder, making the shadows, I think, just that little bit darker. Reaching outside of my comfort zone, into the light so to speak, forced me to improve my own writing in ways that I hadn’t really worked on before. I’d found so much comfort in exploring the shadows that all that illumination in the lighter poems I usually thought lessened the quality of my own writing. Embracing the light was more difficult than I’d expected it to be but I hope I managed to capture lightning in a bottle a few times in those poems.
When writing about those shadows, my process usually starts from a place of ‘what scares me?’ or ‘what would scare others?’ That difference (between ‘me’ and ‘others’) is what I believe enables me to write poems from different points of view, working the empathy muscle in order to attempt to understand someone else’s fears and worries. As I said: ‘attempt,’ since I’m never quite sure how successful I am but I’ll never stop trying to put myself in the shoes of other people in order to better understand the world.
When writing about the lighter things in life, my process was immediately derailed. ‘What do I like?’ Well, I honestly don’t really know most of the time. I like the shadows. Which, of course, leads me back to writing a darker poem than I’d originally intended in this particular process. ‘What do other people like?’ Well, have to admit that is a question I really don’t know the answer to.
Writing those lighter poems, therefore, presented a challenge from the very beginning. Plus, while writing them I’d find myself going off-course, adding shadows where none belonged to ‘improve’ the poem. And usually those improvements ruined the poem (though I was able to save some tangents for later poems, which was helpful, I suppose). In the end, I tried to really focus on keeping the shadows away, to really let the light shine through. To embrace, so to speak, the illumination in order for the shadows to be just that little bit darker. And to let the shadows make the light a little brighter. Or, at least, that’s what I hoped for.
Containing more of an equal mix of new and old poems (my next collection will be almost extensively new, if and when I finish it…), PseudoPsalms: Saints v. Sinners was written to be an exploration of both the light and the dark, and, most especially, of that wicked grey limbo where they meet. Sure, monsters may be hiding in the dark, waiting for unsuspecting prey, but there are monsters in the light as well. They’re just sometimes harder to see. Which, come to think of it, might make them the scariest monsters of all.
Peter Adam Salomon is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Horror Writers Association, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, the Science Fiction Poetry Association, the International Thriller Writers, and The Authors Guild and is represented by the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.
His debut novel, HENRY FRANKS, was published by Flux in 2012. His second novel, ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS, published by Flux in 2014, was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Young Adult fiction. Both novels have been named a ‘Book All Young Georgians Should Read’ by The Georgia Center For The Book.
His short fiction has appeared in the Demonic Visions series among other anthologies, and he was the featured author for Gothic Blue Book III: The Graveyard Edition. He was also selected as one of the Gentlemen of Horror for 2014.
His poem ‘Electricity and Language and Me’ appeared on BBC Radio 6 performed by The Radiophonic Workshop in December 2013. Eldritch Press published his first collection of poetry, Prophets, in 2014, and his second poetry collection, PseudoPsalms: Saints v. Sinners, was published in 2016 by Bizarro Pulp Press. In addition, he was the Editor for the first books of poetry released by the Horror Writers Association: Horror Poetry Showcase Volumes I and II.
He served as a Judge for the 2006 Savannah Children’s Book Festival Young Writer’s Contest and for the Royal Palm Literary Awards of the Florida Writers Association. He was also a Judge for the first two Horror Poetry Showcases of the Horror Writers Association and has served as Chair on multiple Juries for the Bram Stoker Awards.