Wednesday, April 26, 2017

HOW 13 REASONS WHY GLAMORIZES SUICIDE: THE STORY OF HANNAH BAKER

I recently took a job at Barnes & Noble, and during the past two weeks, I’ve put 13 Reasons Why into the hands of more mothers and young girls than I care to admit. As such, I decided that I needed to know what everyone was talking about so I could sell and talk about the book intelligently. However, because I’m juggling a handful of deadlines at the moment, I didn’t splurge for the book, but rather gave the Netflix series a go because that’s one of the ways that I like to reward myself with some head space between writing sessions.

Having said that, this show was not head space. In fact, I got so fucked up during this show that it shot me into a three-day depression after watching it. See, when I was younger, (ie: the YA age group this show/book is geared toward), I was dealing with my own mental health issues, so seeing a lot of what Hannah and her friends went through was a huge trigger point for me. But that’s not the problem I have with the show because I don't believe in censorship and I very rarely sugar coat things. When I was middle school and high school, I—like I imagine most of our teenagers do—turned to fiction to find my way through the pain. I read books like Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Kerosene by Chris Wooding, Cut by Patricia McCormick, and everything by Ellen Hopkins, whose books were, fun fact, my number one reason for wanting to be a writer. These books didn’t sugarcoat anything that I was going through or thinking about doing. They were honest, vulnerable, and they made me rethink every thought that went through my head, not to mention what the repercussions of those actions would be.

The problem that I have with 13 Reasons Why is that not only does it portray suicide as a valid reason for dealing with pain, but it glamorizes it in a chic, almost trendy, revenge fantasy. We’re introduced to Hannah Baker, a young girl who suffers unspeakable trauma, and instead of seeing how it affected her and how she dealt with it, we see the effects it’s having on everyone around her, i.e. we see her as a victim and as a problem.

This makes me want to spit.

High school is hell. Middle school, at least for me, was arguably worse, but being in a position where you feel attacked, singled out, threatened, and bullied on a daily basis is for some of us, part of our every day lives. 13 Reasons Why showed us all of that on a variety of levels, but instead of learning (or watching) how to positively handle any of these feelings, viewers instead become voyeurs to the tragedy.

I’ve heard a lot of people talking about this and saying things like “it was her fault” or “she never asked for help,or my personal favorite, “if she would have just given the name to Mr. Porter, she would have been fine.” This breaks my heart. I’m not here to lecture anyone for their opinions—because by all means, you’re all entitled to having your own thoughts--but speaking from a very real and scarred part of my heart, let me tell you that sometimes asking for help when you can’t see a way out, when you can’t see the light or even care enough to search for it anymore, is quite honestly, damned near impossible sometimes.

Women often don’t report sexual abuse because most of the time, no one listens to us. Mr. Porter is a perfect example of that. Instead of counseling her, comforting her, listening to her, he immediately makes the assumption that she asked for it, that maybe she did something she regrets and changed her mind about. No, Hannah couldn't give a name because giving a name meant putting a face to her attacker. It means telling the world that someone violated her when she’s already feeling worn and used and filthy. It puts her in the spotlight by placing yet another target on her back for the events that follow naming one’s abuser. Most notably though, she doesn’t want to confide in someone who already 1) has skeptical feelings about what she is saying and 2) has obviously shown that outside of naming her abuser, the only way to handle this issue is to put it behind her and move on.

Wrong.

Do I think she should have said something? Absolutely.
Do I think that’s easier said than done? Absolutely.

Do I blame her? No. Not even the slightest bit.

I was (and am) blessed to have a family where we can talk about anything. My father and I have had some truly horrific conversations throughout our lives about some of the darkest topics you could imagine. My family is genetically predisposed to depression and suicide is something that tends to be a part of our lives. I didn’t get the sense that Hannah had that lifeline when watching the show. Her parent’s don’t seem to question her at any point, nor does the school handle any of the obvious bullying/rape issues that are raging throughout the halls. Why aren’t the men held accountable for their actions? Why is gaslighting not addressed? There are countless times when, yes, Hannah does ask for help, maybe inadvertently, but the signs are there and no one answers her. No one helps her.

This brings mevto the second issue I have with the show: resources. Despite my immense distaste and anger at how the counseling aspect was handled in this show, no one is responsible for our mental health but ourselves. We have the power to make a change, to find our voice, to allow ourselves to heal, but 13 Reasons Why doesn’t show us any of that. We don’t see resources and we don’t’ see coping mechanisms. No one is talking to their kids about depression, drinking, or their distant behavior. Bryce is left alone and is essentially raising himself. Justin is in an abusive home and no one notices that there's anything wrong,despite him not showing up for school. These are just a couple examples of what the show isn't  talking about but rather is focusing on how 13 (11) people are responsible for someone else’s choice to take their life.

I know that sounds harsh, and to some degree, yes, it is. Suicide is a personal decision and it’s a selfish one, and I think that’s the only aspect that the show got correctly. Viewers got to see how Hannah’s death effected everyone around her: friends, family, the community. I liked that part of it because it showed us that even when we think that we’re not loved or like or cared about, we are. But having said that, everyone at the end just fades into the background. No one is held accountable for their actions—not even Hannah.

What I mean by that is:
  • Justin and Bryce get away with everything and viewers never get to see if they to be held accountable for their actions, i.e. sending the message that sexual abuse can be swept under the rug and will eventually disappear if ignored long enough.
  • Alex, another suicide case in the show, is used as a gimmick rather than a tragedy, i.e. reinforcing that suicide is an accurate way out to punish yourself and those around you.
  • Jessica Davis lies at the end of the show about what happened and then is shown breaking down to her father at the end. This was an important moment, and quite arguably, a teachable moment with the potential to be one of the most climatic points in the show. We could have seen how to properly handle an issue like this, but we didn’t. Furthermore, her alcoholism was always rampant throughout the series and not addressed once, DESPITE there being a “drunk-driving” incident.
  • Tyler Down is never held accountable for his actions (or pictures).
  • Courtney’s actions relay an anti-gay message and reinforce negative stereotypes. Sure, we expect her to struggle with her sexuality because we all do/did at that age, but it’s never resolved and she never comes to terms with it. Yes, it’s hinted at that maybe she is going to come clean about some issues, but we don’t see it, and again, that’s a problem.
  • Jenny Kurtz supposedly called the cops and reported what she and Hannah did the night of the party, but we never see anything come of it.

Now speaking from an entertainment standpoint, I have to say that I binge-watched the show in two days, so something was obviously pulling me in, right? That’s what I thought, too, until I sat down and really thought about why I was so fixated on the show. It wasn't because I thought it was good. It was because it was horrific and painful to watch, and it opened old wounds that I thought I had long since stitched up. Every time I think we're taking a step in the right direction with suicide awareness, it always seems that it's one step forward and then two giant steps back.

Hannah’s death—which was changed, by the way —was violent and used to reflect a how-to guide in terms of committing suicide. In the books, it’s done with pills, but in the show, we have a graphic portrayal with blood and razors. Unlike others, I actually don’t have a huge problem with this, but what I do have a problem with is the fact that the ending was obviously changed to show a grotesque portrayal of something that is already horrific enough, therefore making it a case of violence for violence sake, i.e. let’s show something raw and brutal and we’ll get more viewers.

That's disgusting.

To be fair, I don't know Jay Asher, and I don't know what his intentions were with this book, but I do know that when I sit down and reflect on the material that I have written that there is a ton of stuff that I wish I would have done differently or reworded in a different way, but once it’s out there, there’s no going back. The message that Asher unfortunately sent with this series/book is that suicide is glamorous, and it’s a way to get back at the people who hurt you, and as someone who has lost family to suicide, who has struggled with it herself, and who has seen the day-to-day effects that it has on someone who has found one of its victims, I find this not only distasteful, but offensive, and in a lot of ways, unforgivable. 

I have a hard time selling this book now, and often times when I see someone with it, I try to recommend a handful of other ones to counteract the message that it's sending to our children. Fiction is fiction, yes, but books are dangerous, and if there are kids looking for help through escapism, much like I did, I worry that this book might push some of them in the wrong direction. So, please, for me, if you know someone who is struggling with depression, addiction, or who is having suicidal thoughts, talk to them and let them know that someone is always there, always listening. Hell, give them my contact information. I'll talk to them myself personally because the first step to combating any of these issues is to talk about it, and while that might be hard, and for some people, impossible, there are ways to talk about it that don't put you in the public eye. 

But know that you're not alone.

There are millions of people rooting for you and your beautiful soul deserves to see every light because you are loved and your life is worth it.

For further information and resources, please see the information below:

Suicide Prevention Hotline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education): https://www.save.org/
AA (Alcoholics Anonymous): http://www.aa.org/
Rape Crisis Network: http://www.rccmsc.org/
RAIIN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network): https://centers.rainn.org/

Project Semicolon: https://projectsemicolon.com/

Monday, April 24, 2017

THE MADHOUSE WELCOMES THE SISTERS OF SLAUGHTER

Good morning, good morning!

Today in the MADHOUSE, we have Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason, the twin sister writing team from Arizona who has since been dubbed the Sisters of Slaughter for their horror stories. They have been published by Sinister Grin Press and Fireside Press, and they have a novel coming soon through Bloodshot Books. Their novel, Mayan Blue, was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award, and in the spirit of Stoker season, I wanted to check in with them and find out the behind-the-scenes scoop about their book.

WYTOVICH: Tell us about the novel. How was collaborating on this project?

GARZA/LASON: We started writing together when we were little girls, so it comes naturally to us to work on stories together. We both have notebooks that we keep story ideas, snippets of stories, and even just titles for stories we want to write in the future. We outline everything before we jump into writing, it keeps us on track and is helpful when we're apart to go back and look at. Most of everything is written by hand first. It creates a rough draft that can be changed as we type it up. Mayan Blue was our debut novel, so we really wanted to have a unique story, and the inspiration came for it from Melissa watching a television show about how people believe the Mayans may have migrated into the southern parts of the United States. We were intrigued by it and decided to make it into a horror novel. We also wanted to write something that felt like watching some of those classic horror movies with some of our love for mythology mixed into it.

Book SummaryXibalba, home of torture and sacrifice, is the kingdom of the lord of death. He stalked the night in the guise of a putrefied corpse, with the head of an owl and adorned with a necklace of disembodied eyes that hung from nerve cords. He commanded legions of shapeshifting creatures, spectral shamans, and corpses hungry for the flesh of the living. The Mayans feared him and his realm of horror. He sat atop his pyramid temple surrounded by his demon kings and demanded sacrifices of blood and beating hearts as tribute to him and his ghostly world. These legends, along with those that lived in fear of them, have been dead and gone for centuries. Yet now, a doorway has been opened in Georgia. A group of college students seek their missing professor, a man who has secretly uncovered the answer to one of history’s greatest mysteries. However, what they find is more than the evidence of a hidden civilization. It’s also a gateway to a world of living nightmares.

WYTOVICH: As a writer, what is your preferred form to tell a story? Why?

GARZA/LASON: We love to write, whether it's longer stories or short tales, but each have their own pros and cons. Short stories have to encompass the important elements of the plot in fewer words. Often, the need to add too much backstory can bog down the pace. Finding the correct beginning is also challenging. We like to start where the action begins and elude to backstory. Novels are a whole different creature. They have to incorporate that action, which drives the story along with those morsels of backstory so your audience feels like your characters are real and they become emotionally invested in knowing how the story ends. This is where we advocate outlines. It keeps us following along the path of unfolding the story, and it just helps us. Some people don't use outlines and that's fine if that approach works for them.

WYTOVICH: Who are some of your influences in the genre?

GARZA/LASON: Some of our influences are Brian Keene, Clive Barker, Shirley Jackson, Ronald Kelly and Robert R. McCammon.

WYTOVICH: What is your origin story? What drew you to horror in the first place?

GARZA/LASON: We've always loved spooky stuff. Halloween has always been our favorite holiday because in Arizona it marks the death of dreadful summers, and our mom always made it so much fun with homemade costumes and baked goodies. She got us into horror by allowing us to watch old scary movies with her, and our father reinforced our fixation on ghosts and monsters by telling us scary stories around campfires. Some kids get into dinosaurs or spaceships, but for us it was everything dealing with monsters. Werewolves have always been our favorite monster since we watched the original wolfman. We were just creepy little kids who grew up to be creepy adults.

WYTOVICH: What’s sitting in your TBR pile these days?

GARZA/LASON: Melissa is doing a re-read of the Dark Tower. Michelle is getting ready to read Song of the Death God by William Holloway. I also have to mention that I read Like Jagged Teeth by Betty Rocksteady and it was really awesome!

WYTOVICH: Where do you think the horror genre is presently sitting at in the market? What do you think the next big trend is going to be?

GARZA/LASON: Horror is on the rise again and will never die. It may not be as popular in actual bookstores, but it's probably because most of it is labeled differently now. Ebooks provide horror fans with unlimited access to great books, and they give writers the chance to connect with readers who might dig their work. Zombies have been big for years and appear to still do well. There has also been a surge of aquatic horror, deep sea monsters, and enormous sharks, which to us are absolutely terrifying because the ocean is a creepy place to begin with and just imagining what lurks beneath the waves is really scary. We would like to see horror make a huge commercial comeback where books can once again be named as such and have people embrace it fully without masking it as "safer" genres.

WYTOVICH: What can your readers look forward to on the horizon?

GARZA/LASON: We have a novel coming out in July through Bloodshot Books called Those Who Follow.

WYTOVICH: What’s one thing about you that you think your readers would be surprised to know?

GARZA/LASON: We also enjoy writing sci-fi and fantasy! We love getting lost in many different worlds.

WYTOVICH: If you could give one piece of advice to writers, what would it be and why?


GARZA/LASON: Don't give up on your writing. You can always work on improving your craft, but don't stop. Also, don't compare your writing or success to that of others.

Monday, April 10, 2017

READING THE SADIST'S BIBLE WITH NICOLE CUSHING

Hello Fiendish Friends!

Today in the MADHOUSE, we have author Nicole Cushing, who was kind enough to stop by for a chat to discuss her Bram Stoker award-nominated novella, The Sadist's Bible. For those of you unfamiliar with Cushing's work, she is the Bram Stoker Award® winning author of Mr. Suicide She has also written the Stoker-nominated short story collection The Mirrors and three stand-alone novellas (including the Shirley Jackson Award nominated Children of No One and the Stoker-nominated The Sadist’s Bible). 

Various reviewers have described her work as “brutal,” “cerebral,” “transgressive,” “taboo,” “groundbreaking,” and “mind-bending.” This Is Horror has said that she is “quickly becoming a household name for horror fans.” She has also garnered praise from Jack Ketchum, Rue Morgue, Thomas Ligotti, John Skipp, S.T. Joshi, Poppy Z. Brite, Ray Garton, Famous Monsters of Filmland, and Ain’t It Cool News.

So strap yourself in and bite down on your bit. We’re about to get sadistic. 
With horns and fire,
Stephanie M. Wytovich 

WYTOVICH: Tell us about the novella. What inspired you to write the story?

CUSHING: The Sadist’s Bible is the story of a closeted, depressed Bible Belt lesbian (Ellie) who meets a young, troubled bisexual woman (Lori) online. The two form a suicide pact, and plan to meet at a luxury hotel where they’ll first have sex and then kill themselves. But Lori has a few dangerous secrets, and she ends up leading Ellie into a collision with a hideous supernatural realm and the entity who presides over it.

The book was inspired by a nightmarish daydream I had in New Orleans a few years back--a sort of vision (for lack of a better word) of a hideous supernatural realm. My imagination just boils over sometimes, and I often feel compelled to explore these experiences in fiction.

WYTOVICH: Can you talk a little bit about your writing process? What do you find is the hardest and easiest part of the craft?

CUSHING: I start each day by printing out the last five pages of my work in progress. I edit them with a pen and then make the changes in the Google Docs file. Then I start writing new words for as long as time and energy allow. I edit a lot as I write. I research a lot as I write. I wish I could make it sound more exotic, but that’s about it.

What do I find hardest? Writing for themed anthologies. Too often, it’s a struggle because I find the theme constraining. It takes me a long time to finish those sorts of stories, because they have to both address the theme and satisfy me. (I never want to half-ass a story or phone it in.) For this reason, I’ve said no to a number of anthology invitations this year. In the end, they’re just not worth the time-suck.

What do I find easiest? To paraphrase Bugs Bunny, I think I’m pretty good at acknowledging when a work-in-progress has made a wrong turn at Albuquerque. As a result, I’m merciless when it comes to cutting my own manuscript. I have no problem with throwing ten or twenty or thirty thousand words into the scrap heap if I have to. I’m focused on making the book as strong as it can be, and sometimes that means frankly acknowledging where things have gone amiss.

WYTOVICH: As a writer, what is your preferred form to tell a story? Why?

CUSHING: More and more, I’m drawn to writing novels. I like working on a relatively large canvas. It’s like playing in a big backyard instead of playing in a small one.

WYTOVICH: Who are some of your influences in the genre?

CUSHING: Thomas Ligotti is a huge influence, and has been for a while. Jack Ketchum, too.

Recently, though, I’ve been learning a lot by reading the novels and literary criticism of Milan Kundera. (Not a genre writer at all, but a writer of so-called literary fiction.) I think I can safely say that his work is influencing my novel-in-progress.

WYTOVICH: What is your origin story? What drew you to horror in the first place?
CUSHING: How old were you when you first touched a dead body? I was six. I think that explains a lot.

WYTOVICH: What’s sitting in your TBR pile these days?

CUSHING: O Pioneers! by Willa Cather, Testaments Betrayed by Milan Kundera, and Edgar Allan Poe’s Petersburg: The Untold Story of The Raven in the Cockade City by Jeffrey Abugel. (The latter is a work of local history discussing Poe’s trip to Petersburg, Virginia. I picked it up in the gift shop of the Poe Museum in Richmond.)

WYTOVICH: Where do you think the horror genre is presently sitting at in the market? What do you think the next big trend is going to be?

CUSHING: The best answer I can give you is that I don’t know, and I’m not sure anyone really does. In any event,  I don’t think about such things very much. After all, I can’t control them. All I can control is writing the very best books I can.

WYTOVICH: What can your readers look forward to on the horizon?

CUSHING: The snazzy, illustrated paperback edition of The Sadist’s Bible is coming soon. It should be available by the end of April. (I just got my first author copy recently, and I love the look and feel of it.)

I’m also revising a novelette for an anthology. (This is last anthology invite story left on my to do list before I can focus exclusively on my novel. Speaking of the novel, I’m pretty far along with it, too. But I’m not sure when, exactly, I’ll finish it.

WYTOVICH: If you could give one piece of advice to writers, what would it be and why?

CUSHING: If you write horror, don’t just read horror. Read any book that concerns itself with psychological darkness. Focus especially on those books that have stood the test of time. Read Dostoevsky, Henry Miller, Leonid Andreyev, Mário de Sá-Carneiro, and the French Decadents. These are the patron saints of madness and squalor. They all have a great deal to teach an aspiring author of dark fiction. Why not learn from the best?


Websitehttps://nicolecushing.wordpress.com/bio/
Upcoming Appearances: https://nicolecushing.wordpress.com/appearances/
Twitter: @nicolecushing

Sunday, April 2, 2017

IT'S WINTER IN THE MADHOUSE: AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH TIM WAGGONER

Hello Dear Ones,

Today in the MADHOUSE, I have the pleasure of sitting down to chat with one of my professors from graduate school, Tim Waggoner. I've known Tim since about 2011, back when I had first started in Seton Hill's Writing Popular Fiction Program, and since then, we've traveled near and far together, danced at the Lovecraft Bar in Portland, and shared many, many laughs, not to mention great conversation with each other.

For those of you unfamiliar with Waggoner and his work, he has published over thirty novels and three short story collections, and his work has been nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the Scribe Award. He teaches creative writing at Sinclair College in Dayton, Ohio, and previously, was a mentor in Seton Hill University's Writing Popular Fiction Program. Readers can find him on the web at www.timwaggoner.com, and truthfully, I can't recommend his work enough.

Below is a interview regarding his Bram Stoker award-nominated novella, The Winter Box. Pick up a copy here today, and enjoy the flow of conversation below!

With blood-soaked snowflakes,
Stephanie M. Wytovich
 
WYTOVICH: Tell us about the novella The Winter Box. What inspired you to write it?

WAGGONER: I use the notepad function on my phone to jot down ideas, words, and images that spark my imagination. When I’m starting a writing project, I’ll sometimes go through the list and use one of those ideas as inspiration, but by the time I use it, I often don’t remember where it came from! That’s what happened with The Winter Box. I have no memory of where the phrase came from. But I like it when this happens because it gives my imagination the freedom to conjure up whatever it wants instead of being bound to the original inspiration. I live in Ohio, and we’d had an extremely bitter winter that year, so I decided to use that as a setting, since it fulfilled the winter part. When writing fiction, I usually bring together several different ideas to make a whole. In this case, I’d had the idea of a couple haunted by the ghost of their dead relationship, so I decided to use that. Then I asked myself what the box would be and how it would relate to this couple, and I was off and writiing!

WYTOVICH: Can you talk a little bit about your writing process? What do you find is the hardest and easiest part of the craft?

WAGGONER: I’m often inspired by the weird things I see and hear every day. I like the idea that strange things occur around us all the time, just on the edge of our awareness, and I use that in a lot of my fiction. I talked about how I combine several different ideas to create a story in my answer to the last question. Once I start writing, I like to use an immersive point of view to draw readers into the story. I think that technique works great for any kind of fiction, but it works especially well for horror fiction, which is all about a character’s perception and emotional reaction to bizarre events. In terms of mechanics, sometimes I’ll write longhand and then type the text into my laptop later. I often do this for short stories. Sometimes I’ll compose on the computer (especially when the deadline is short!). I spend a lot of time visualizing scenes in my head, imagining dialogue and character emotions, so when I sit down to compose text, it usually comes fairly fast and doesn’t need a lot of editing. The easiest part of the craft for me is dialogue. I can write characters interacting through dialogue all day, almost effortlessly. The hardest part for me is writing action sequences. They require every move to be visualized in specific detail, and then you have to find the words to communicate those details to readers.

WYTOVICH: As a writer, what is your preferred form to tell a story? Why?

WAGGONER: I prefer the novel form. I tend to have big ideas and I love to explore the ramifications of them and to find connections between different story threads as I write. Novel writing is the only thing that makes me feel as if I’m using my entire self. Writing short stories has always felt awkward to me. It makes my brain cramp! But I’ve worked hard over the years to get better at the form. Writing novellas is challenging because sometimes you need to use short story techniques, sometimes novel techniques, and sometimes fusions of the two. That makes it the most creatively interesting – and challenging – form, I think. Horror tends to work really well at novella length, too.

WYTOVICH: How do you know when something is finished and ready to be sent out for publication consideration?

WAGGONER: When I get sick of working on it or when the deadline hits, whichever comes first! Seriously, though, I’m never sure if something is ever really ready. You can keep making changes to a story forever, but you have to let the work go sometime. As the years have gone by, and I’ve published a lot of fiction, I’ve developed a sense of what editors and readers respond to, and I try to use that as my guide as to when something is ready to go out.

WYTOVICH: Who are some of your influences in the genre?

WAGGONER: I loved horror movies as a kid and watched all the ones I could. This was before VCR’s and movie rentals, so I watched whatever I could find on TV. The first movie I remember watching was Frankenstein vs the Wolf Man with my parents when I was four. I loved horror comics, too, and read all the ones I could get my hands on. Some of them were quite bloody, and I’m grateful that my parents didn’t censor what I read! I loved Famous Monsters of Filmland, too, and devoured every issue. I discovered Stephen King in seventh grade when a friend told me about this horror book about vampires that he was reading, and I knew I had to check it out. By that point I’d read Richard Matheson’s I am Legend and Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, so I was more than ready to start reading King. I continued reading King, but I also read science fiction and fantasy – anything that stimulated my imagination. I got into comics, too, and one of the things I really like about the form was that it combined tropes from different genres. One month Spiderman might battle mobsters, the next month aliens, and vampires the month after that. This cross-genre approach eventually found its way into my fiction. Other specific influences in the horror field are Clive Barker, Shirley Jackson, Dennis Etchison, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Ramsey Campbell, Charlee Jacob, Charles L. Grant, Harlan Ellison, and so many others . . .

WYTOVICH: What is your origin story? What drew you to horror in the first place?

WAGGONER: Honestly, I have no idea. I’ve always loved horror. I guess it started with learning about dinosaurs when I was very young. I was fascinated with the idea that these giant monsters were real and that they lived in the same place I did, only many millions of years ago – and the only way we could see them today was as skeletons. They were – are still are – perfect monsters to capture the imagination. I loved them so much that I memorized the shape of their names so I could recognize them in books even though I couldn’t read yet. One of my earliest dreams I remember was of a flying saucer landing on our street and releasing a number of dinosaurs. I guess I was combining genres even back then!

WYTOVICH: What’s sitting in your TBR pile these days?

WAGGONER: My TBR pile is more like a mountain! But a few selections: Steve Rasnic Tem’s Ubo, Jennifer McMahon’s The Winter People, Stephen King’s Desperation, Sarah Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes, and Alison Littlewood’s Quieter Paths.

WYTOVICH: Where do you think the horror genre is presently sitting at in the market? What do you think the next big trend is going to be?

WAGGONER: Horror is strong in the small-press, and it has an increasing presence in literary and mainstream fiction. So many of the genre’s tropes have found their way into popular culture that horror’s almost in danger of becoming respectable! I think the next big trend is going to come from young people who grew up obsessed with games like Five Nights at Freddy’s or watching bizarre YouTube series like Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared. These works deal with paranoid glimpses into what lies just behind the veneer of what seems to be ordinary, even mundane reality. We might see hybrid forms, too, with some elements of a story appearing as text, some as video, some as interactive media, etc.

WYTOVICH: What can your readers look forward to on the horizon?

WAGGONER: My new novella A Kiss of Thorns was recently released, and The Men of Letters Bestiary: the Winchester Family Edition, will be out in September. I’ll be doing a new novelization that will be out in fall as well, but I can’t talk about it yet.

WYTOVICH: If you could give one piece of advice to writers, what would it be?

WAGGONER: Write what matters to you, and make sure there’s a piece of yourself in every word you write.