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 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?
Upcoming Appearances: https://nicolecushing.wordpress.com/appearances/