Monday, January 23, 2017

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: RICHARD CHIZMAR ON A LONG DECEMBER.

Hello Darkings:

Today in the MADHOUSE, we've captured Richard Chizmar for a chat about his latest collection, A Long December. Chizmar is the founder/publisher of Cemetery Dance magazine and the Cemetery Dance Publications book imprint. He has edited more than 30 anthologies and his fiction has appeared in dozens of publications, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and multiple editions of The Year’s 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories. He has won two World Fantasy awards, four International Horror Guild awards, and the HWA's Board of Trustee's award.

Chizmar (in collaboration with Johnathon Schaech) has also written screenplays and teleplays for United Artists, Sony Screen Gems, Lions Gate, Showtime, NBC, and many other companies. He has adapted the works of many bestselling authors including Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Bentley Little.

Chizmar is also the creator/writer of Stephen King Revisited, and his third short story collection, A Long December, was recently published by Subterranean Press. With Brian Freeman, Chizmar is co-editor of the acclaimed Dark Screams horror anthology series published by Random House imprint, Hydra.

Chizmar’s work has been translated into many languages throughout the world, and he has appeared at numerous conferences as a writing instructor, guest speaker, panelist, and guest of honor.

Needless to say, you’re all in for a treat this morning, my friends, so bit back, bite your bit, and get ready.
With chills and secrets,
Stephanie M.Wytovich

WYTOVICH: Tell us about your collection. What inspired you to write it and how did you go about doing so, i.e. what was your thought process/research like? How did you pick what stories went into the collection?

CHIZMAR: A Long December is my first collection in almost two decades, so it’s a hefty one, collecting thirty-five stories that stretch over almost thirty years of writing. The earliest story (“Cemetery Dance”) was written when I was a 20-year-old college student and the most recent (“A Long December”) was finished just shy of my fiftieth birthday. When it came time to select stories for A Long December, I decided to reprint the majority of my first two collections (both long out of print) and all the most recent publications from the past few years. I was tempted to include three or four more of my very early stories, but common sense won out in the end.

WYTOVICH: What made you title the collection A Long December?

CHIZMAR: When I first came up with the idea for the novella, “A Long December,” I instantly knew the novella title would end up doing double duty as the book title. It just…fit. It’s moody, evocative, and hopefully a little mysterious.

WYTOVICH: What was your favorite story to create and explore?

CHIZMAR: Hmmm, I’d have to go with either an older story called “Heroes,” which is pretty much a father and son love story with a Dracula twist thrown in there or the novella we just discussed, “A Long December.” I’ve always liked to explore secrets and the masks we wear and how people are often very different than we believe them to be. “A Long December” is a prime example of this and was a lot of fun to write.

WYTOVICH: What piece in the collection haunts you (whether because of the subject matter, or because it was the hardest to write)?

CHIZMAR: Hands down, that would be “The Silence of Sorrow.” Heartbreakingly tough subject matter and an impossible situation to imagine yourself living through. Second place would probably go to “Midnight Promises,” the title story from my first collection, which deals with cancer.

WYTOVICH: In regards to your writing process, what do you find is the hardest part? The most enjoyable?

CHIZMAR: Hardest part is extensive rewriting. I loathe it. I know, I know, I’m an editor, so how can I dislike it so much? Dunno, but I do!

Most enjoyable is the initial creation of a story, just laying down the words in a kind of feverish daze. That part of the process is, almost without exception, exciting and fun. I also enjoy that last polish, when you’re working with a scalpel instead of a chainsaw.

WYTOVICH: How would you describe your writing style to those who are new to your work?

CHIZMAR: I think I’ll let a couple of the fine folks who blurbed A Long December describe that for me (as they do a better job than I ever could): Stephen King says, “Chizmar writes clean, no nonsense prose…” and John Saul adds, “…his prose is sharp, simple, and to the point…his writing never gets in the way of the story. It flows so smoothly it’s as if you’re experiencing it rather than reading it.”

I consider myself much more of a storyteller than I do any kind of a stylist or master plotter. I just write about people and places and moments in time that matter to me, and I’m grateful that readers have responded in such a favorable manner.

WYTOVICH: Who are some of your influences in the genre? Do you have any writing rituals that you tend to follow either before/during/or after you write?

CHIZMAR: No rituals to speak of. My daily schedule varies quite a bit so there’s probably not a whole lot of wiggle room for rituals. As for influences, I could name a dozen or more, but I’ll stick with just a handful today: Stephen King, Ed Gorman, Joe Lansdale, Robert McCammon, and John D. MacDonald.

WYTOVICH: What books are sitting in your TBR pile?

CHIZMAR: The Bruce Springsteen biography and advance copies of Joe Lansdale’s Rusty Puppy and Christopher Golden’s Arabat. Plus a bunch of overdue manuscripts for work!

WYTOVICH: What is next in store for your readers?

CHIZMAR: Let’s see…I have a graphic novel, The Fallen (with John Schaech and Brian Keene) coming out in 2017, as well as a script book called The Washingtonians, and a half-dozen or so brand new short stories in various anthologies. I also have a solo novella, as yet untitled, due to see publication, and I’m just now finishing up a Top Secret collaborative novella that should also see print this year.

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

CHIZMAR: Embrace the process. The Ups and the Downs. You have to fail to succeed. It all sounds like just so many clichés, but it’s right on target. Writing is not an easy business. Very few overnight successes and a long list of talented writers who gave up before they saw their due. Embrace the process, be stubborn as hell, and be prepared for a long road.

Praise for A Long December:


“Powerful…I love it... Richard Chizmar writes clean, no-nonsense prose...sets his tales in no-nonsense, middle class neighborhoods I can relate to...and writes terrific stories served with a very large slice of Disquiet Pie.”-- Stephen King

“Chizmar's stories are hard-hitting, spooky, suspenseful, poignant, harrowing, heartbreaking and most of all very well-written. Excellent work!”-- Robert McCammon

“Richard Chizmar’s talent is a fierce, poignant marvel. His exquisite stories shatter.”--Richard Christian Matheson

“Richard Chizmar has a very special talent for creating a homely, believable world -- the kind of world that you and I live in every day. But he gradually invests that world with a creeping sense of unease, and then he throws open those suburban front doors and brings us face to face with all the unthinkable horrors that have been hiding behind them.”--Graham Masterton

“Richard Chizmar is a master delineator of two phenomena – the human condition and the inhuman condition. Some of his people may be monsters, but Chizmar has the rare talent to make you see his monsters as people. His work eloquently and expertly expands the dimensions of the genre...and should concern anyone interested in exceptional writing talent.” -- Robert Bloch

“...a writer of great accomplishment. His work, always effective, is notable for its clarity and originality of concept. Chizmar has a great gift for the sinister.”-- Peter Straub

“Tight, imaginative and totally engaging writing make this a must have book. Grab a copy of A Long December. It's fantastic.”--Joe R. Lansdale

“Richard Chizmar writes like a man who’s been to hell and back and lived to tell its tales.”--Clive Barker

Please visit the author’s website at: Richardchizmar.com

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

THERE'S A WITCH HUNT IN THE MADHOUSE: AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH JULIET ESCORIA

Hello fiendish ones!

Today in the MADHOUSE we're going on a witch hunt with author, Juliet Escoria. Juliet is the author of the short story collection Black Cloud, which was originally published in 2014 by Civil Coping Mechanisms, and in 2015, Emily Books published the ebook, Maro Verlag published a German translation, and Los Libros de la Mujer Rota published a Spanish translation. Witch Hunt, a collection of poems, was published by Lazy Fascist Press in May 2016. She was born in Australia, raised in San Diego, and currently lives in West Virginia. 

Last month, I read Juliet's collection, Witch Hunt, and I really enjoyed the raw honesty that is her voice. Her poems are straight-forward, without any sugar coating, and I loved how raw the collection as a whole came off. Great read-- definitely recommend it. But while you're purchasing her book, let's learn a little bit more about our poet. 

While burning at the stake,
Stephanie M. Wytovich

WYTOVICH: Tell us about your poetry collection. What inspired you to write it and how did you go about doing so, i.e. what was your thought process/research like?

ESCORIA: I was trying to write a novel and it wasn’t going well—I felt confused and lost and insecure about my writing. Lucy K. Shaw asked me for a contribution for The Re-Up issue of Shabby Doll House, so I decided to write a few poems. They came to me quickly, and the process of writing them was really fun, which reminded me of a lesson I learned while writing my story collection Black Cloud – I write because it’s enjoyable. If the act of writing is more struggle than not, the work suffers and it means I’m doing something wrong. So I decided to do something impractical, which is put the novel on hold and write a poetry collection in the meantime. My husband, Scott McClanahan, and I had been joking that poetry isn’t real writing and that a poetry collection could be written in a month, so I decided to try and write it as fast as I could. Every day, I’d go into my office space for an hour or four, and write as many poems as I could in that time. It ended up taking longer than a month – I worked on it solid for around three, and then fiddled with it for a few months more after that. It was a really enjoyable experience. There’s something freeing about poetry, I guess because you are only juggling so many pieces.

 
WYTOVICH: How did you come up with the name for the collection?

ESCORIA: I started writing the book in November of 2014, which was in the middle of Alt Lit-gate. I was disappointed in what happened with that—it seemed like what started as a very important conversation quickly dissolved into sensationalism, a conservative take on female sexuality, and a minimization of the important work female writers had done under the guise of Alt Lit—so the term ‘witch hunt’ was fresh in my mind while I was writing the poems. I have a picture drawn by Carabella Sands above my desk of a witch burning at the stake, and one of the poems in the collections references witch hunts. It seemed like a fitting title for a number of reasons.

WYTOVICH: In regards to your writing process, what do you find is the hardest part? The most enjoyable?

ESCORIA: Waiting is the hardest part. I’m an impatient person. I get frustrated that writing takes so goddamn long. The most enjoyable is maybe the third or fifth go-around on a draft, when I’m doing the ‘embroidery’ – making sure the language sounds how I want it to sound, cutting out unnecessary words, and the like.

WYTOVICH: Who are some of your influences in the genre? Do you have any writing rituals that you tend to follow either before/during/or after you write?

ESCORIA: As far as poetry goes, I was influenced by Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit. While I was writing Witch Hunt, I was exchanging poetry with Elizabeth Ellen (whose collection Elizabeth Ellen will be published shortly – it’s amazing) and her work influenced me as well. Noah Cicero sent me a draft of his collection Bipolar Cowboy in the writing process, and that also affirmed what I wanted to do with my book.

As far as writing in general: Scott McClanahan, Mary Gaitskill, Denis Johnson, Dennis Cooper, Grace Paley, Amy Hempel, Lucia Berlin, Joan Didion.

Rituals: When I’m having a hard time, I light a candle and some incense before I start for the day. I like to listen to music. The last thing I do before I ‘finish’ a piece of work is change the font and spacing, then print it out and read it aloud. I’m very partial to writing on my desk—it’s hard for me to write anywhere else, although sometimes I do fine edits on the couch.

 WYTOVICH:  What books are sitting in your TBR pile?

ESCORIAThe Outsiders is a re-read—I’ve loved SE Hinton since I was a child. The Michael Connelly is a not-so-guilty pleasure—my dad gave me this book for Christmas, and he’s one of the few writers we both like. Proof of the Spirit World I got for free from the local antique mall. It’s from the ‘20s and I am hoping it is haunted.

WYTOVICH: What is next in store for your readers?

ESCORIAI finished the draft of the novel that was giving me trouble and sent it to my agent a couple weeks ago. I’m hoping it’s not too awfully long before publication. It’s a fictional account of my teenage years, when I was having a lot of problems, and contains pictures and scans of old documents. Some of the documents are forged.

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

ESCORIA: Nobody will miss your writing, so only pursue it if you can’t NOT write. Otherwise, do something more useful with your time, like studying engineering or cleaning your bathtub.

Book Summary: The much-anticipated full-length poetry collection by the critically acclaimed author of Black Cloud, Witch Hunt delves into the terror and beauty that occurs when love, madness, and addiction collide.

Promotional links:

Witch Hunt at Goodreads // Amazon // Indiebound


Review of Witch Hunt at Electric Literature
Notes on Witch Hunt at HTMLGIANT

Excerpt of Witch Hunt at the Fanzine


Monday, January 9, 2017

RARE BREED FOUND IN MADHOUSE: AUTHOR INTERVIEW WITH ERIK HOFSTATTER

Hello Dark Ones,

Today in the MADHOUSE, I have the pleasure of hosting my friend from across the pond, Erik Hofstatter, to chat with him about all things dark and unsettling. Erik is a dark fiction writer and a member of the Horror Writers Association. Born in the wild lands of the Czech Republic, he roamed Europe before subsequently settling on English shores, studying creative writing at the London School of Journalism. He now dwells in Kent, where he can be encountered consuming copious amounts of mead and tyrannizing local peasantry. His work appeared in various magazines and podcasts around the world such as Morpheus Tales, Crystal Lake Publishing, The Literary Hatchet, Sanitarium Magazine, Wicked Library, Tales to Terrify and Manor House Show. Other works include The Pariahs, Amaranthine and Other Stories, Katerina, Moribund Tales and Rare Breeds.

I recently read Erik's novella this past month, and was blown away by the story, not to mention the ending, so once I recovered from the shock of Aurel and his sweet (ha!) sister, I had to to find out more. Lock and load, friends! This is going to be a rare treat.

With blood-kissed secrets,
Stephanie M. wytovich

·     WYTOVICH: Tell us about your novella, Rare Breeds. What inspired you to write it and how did you go about doing so, i.e. what was your thought process/research like?

HOFSTATTER: In a nutshell, Rare Breeds is about a nuclear family. It dissects a modern relationship and examines human complexities—both physical and psychological. Parental corruption and its inevitable consequences, personal greed and satisfaction, sacrifices in pursuit of desires—it’s all here. The novella focuses on Aurel, a man driven by need. A need for a family. A need to belong, to cosset. He foolishly marries an older woman (already burdened with a daughter) who refuses to bear any more children due to declining years. Aurel respects her wishes, but denial chews his heart. After consulting with his twin sister, events begin to escalate. The initial story slice was inspired by Hemoglobin, a cheap Canadian horror film (adapted from Lovecraft’s Lurking Fear) and it spoon-fed my thought process. My brain was suddenly pregnant with ideas and almost two years later—Rare Breeds was born. Research included human anatomy and DNA theories. I detested research in the past, but now welcome it like a lost lover. It’s fascinating to learn and discover.

·    WYTOVICH: Who was your favorite character to create and explore?
      
      HOFSTATTER: Aurel. He’s a victim of his past and peppered with multiple layers of wrong. The majority of his character defects were sowed by his parents. He was a product of their corruption and I enjoyed exploring his limits. To develop such a complex character required sacrifices of my own, though. I had to dig deep and visit places inside myself I never want to visit again.

WYTOVICH: In regards to your writing process, what do you find is the hardest part? The most enjoyable?

HOFSTATTER: Dialogue is a valued friend. The recipe for effective dialogue is simple—it has to be realistic but that’s about it. I enjoy that particular aspect of writing. Narrative on the other hand, requires skill. A skill I’m constantly honing. I also struggle to embrace my final drafts. What makes the draft final? When you’re finally (ha-ha) happy with it and no longer encounter problems? I have no such luck. I keep shuffling words and sentences until my final draft becomes the final draft of the final draft. I wrote the first part of my novel over a year ago and only recently read it again. It was atrocious. So I rewrote the part, but you know what? If I read it again next year—I’d feel the same. The pursuit of perfection is an illusion. Sometimes enough is enough. If only I believed that.

WYTOVICH: How would you describe your writing style to those who are new to your work?

HOFSTATTER: Someone sprayed me with the “schlock horror” term and I carried it for a while. But to be honest, subgenres confuse me so I’m happy with the generic dark fiction writer title. I write about the darker side of the human experience so call me what you want. As for my style, I don’t really know. My first collection of short stories was described as “Poe influenced” even though my knowledge of Poe was minimal at the time. That’s a good thing, right?

WYTOVICH: Who are some of your influences in the genre? Do you have any writing rituals that you tend to follow either before/during/or after you write?

HOFSTATTER: Primary influences include the kings of urban horror: Gary McMahon, Nathan Ballingrud, and Charles L. Grant. I connected with some gifted writers over the years, too. Karen Runge in particular. I view her as a mentor and consider myself lucky that she tolerates me.  Rituals? When I finish a story—I bathe in mead. Cool, huh?

WYTOVICH: What books are sitting in your TBR pile?

HOFSTATTER: I’m constantly drunk on Gary McMahon, but these books dominate my bedside cabinet: The Nameless Dark by T.E. Grau, Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis by Anne Rice, A Long December by Richard Chizmar, Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastic by Douglas E. Winter, Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror by Ellen Datlow and so on. You could built an igloo with my TBR pile. 

WYTOVICH: What is next in store for your readers?

HOFSTATTER: Last year I mentioned writing a debut novel: Toroa. A second draft is currently in progress. The story is epic and spans across two continents. Again, the protagonist’s temperament undergoes a major transformation—life can be a cruel teacher. I suppose Rare Breeds contained similar ingredients. I would describe it as dark fantasy with a horror edge—an unfamiliar territory for me but still paved with visceral reactions. I also penned a short story entitled Fountain of Drowned Memories, which has been short-listed for an exciting anthology. Fingers crossed.

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

HOFSTATTER: Persevere—there’s no recipe for success. Just keep doing your thing.

Rare Breeds synopsis:

Aurel and Zora Schwartz are a married couple trying to make a modern relationship work. But an old secret is going to affect them in ways neither of them can imagine. And Zora’s daughter Livie may find herself caught in a trap built long before she was born. The ending will leave you stunned and speechless. Get ready to scream.

Blurbs for Rare Breeds:

“Gleefully twisted.”—Gary McMahon, author of The Concrete Grove Trilogy

 “This tale of mounting dread and unusual horror creeps in like a night fog and wraps itself around your throat, and when its icy tendrils recede, what is left behind will shock you.”—Mary SanGiovanni, author of The Hollower Trilogy

“Erik writes the kind of old school horror fiction that is rarely seen these days, making him a rare breed himself.”—Paul Kane, author of The Rainbow Man

“A haunting, and yet touching story, with plenty of tension, Rare Breeds will seep into your dreams, razor blade glinting in the moonlight, eager to claim new flesh.”—Richard Thomas, author of Disintegration

“I’ve read just over one hundred books this year and Rare Breeds has the best ending of the bunch.” – Frank Errington