Wednesday, January 31, 2018

SPEND WOMEN IN HORROR MONTH IN THE MADHOUSE

Tomorrow kicks off #WomeinHorrorMonth (WIHM), and this year, I’m doing a blog series that discusses gender, race, and sexuality through the scope of the horror genre. I’m going to be chiming in here and there with some of my own thoughts and opinions, but you’ll also be hearing from a handful of women and men who would like to further the discussion and open a dialogue about how and why we talk about certain topics in our writing.

Confirmed guests (so far) will include: Lucy A. Snyder, Tiffany Scandal, Ashley Davis, Leza Cantoral, Shane Douglas Keene, Larissa Glasser, and Michelle Renee Lane.

I'm very much looking forward to this, and if you're interested, you can follow along here at: http://stephaniewytovich.blogspot.com/. I'll be sharing posts and updating my blog weekly, if not more, and I'm hoping that we all ask questions, share our thoughts, check our bias, and educate one another in a respectful, kind way.

I also encourage you to follow the discussion happening over at http://www.womeninhorrormonth.com/, too. Get involved. Say hello. And most importantly, use your voice to tell the stories that you want the world to hear. 
 
Before we dive in and start tomorrow, I invite you to write down the last five books (or stories/poems/essays) that you've read by female authors.  For me, it's: The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler, Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes, The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi, and You'll Be Okay: My Life with Jack Kerouac by Edie Kerouac-Parker.
 
Also, for those interested in my last WIHM series, you can check out the links below:

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

I DIG A HOLE IN DANGER SLATER'S BRAIN


Good Morning, Friends:

Today in the madhouse, we're discussing Danger Slater's latest book, He Digs a Hole, published by Fungasm Press. I first read Slater's work last year when I picked up a copy of his book, Puppet Skin, and what I love about his writing is that it throws you into this surrealist nightmare of sorts and it's hard to predict where you're going to end up. He Digs a Hole is no different, and it's full of bugs, dirt, and mutilation...so you know it's right up my alley.

"Get a job. Get married. Buy a house. Cut off your hands and replace them with gardening tools. Dig a hole. Can you hear the worms calling? Keep digging."

This book specifically reminded me of Naked Lunch meets The Twilight Zone, and Slater makes some interesting choices as he works with breaking the fourth wall throughout the story. His characters are bold and stubborn, each one dealing with this own obsessions and definitions of self-worth, and I appreciated the reward for blunt behavior that we see throughout the story. 

Below, Danger and I chat about the book and I grill him on some of my favorite parts of the story. I hope you'll enjoy the conversation, and that when you're done, you'll go and pick up a copy of his book for yourself. Or your friends. Or your worm brethern. Whichever.

Happy Reading!
Stephanie M. Wytovich 

Tell us about your book. What gave you the idea to create this world, and in your opinion, what does it represent at its most literal and figurative heights?

Well, the book is about a dude who wakes up one night and decides to cut off his hands and replace them with gardening tools, which he then uses to obsessively dig an impossibly deep hole in his own backyard, eventually pulling everyone and everything he knows down with him. In the most literal sense, it’s a story about self-mutilation and middle-aged suburban ennui. Figuratively, it’s a little more nebulous, as the hole exists to represent whatever insane or difficult (and ultimately futile) endeavor one decides to devote all their time to.

What was your favorite part of the story to create and explore, and then to play devil’s advocate, what was the hardest for you? Did you find any of it cathartic to write about, and if so, in what way?

I love intros. The first few chapters/pages. When I get an idea and start to write, it’s those first few pages that determine the tone of everything that follows and it’s really fulfilling to figure out my voice as I start a piece. Adversely, the hardest part is usually the turn at the end of the second act – the scenes that are the emotional lynchpin on which the entire ending hinges. It just takes a lot of work and concentration to make sure everything before it informs that moment, and it carries through towards the payoff at the end.


Tabitha’s character reminded me of the narrator in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper due to her obsession about the color of the bedroom wall. I’m curious, were you influenced at all by the story? If not, what gave you the idea to have her obsess over this, and was this her version of chopping off her hands and replacing them with a shovel?

It wasn’t my intention to mirror The Yellow Wallpaper, but it just kind of happens, especially in a story about domestic unrest. It’s almost impossible to separate yourself from the things that influence you, so it’s only natural that all your inspiration finds ways to leak in through the cracks in your own work.

I really dug (ha, see what I did there?) the bug theme/ underground that you had going on in the book, and it often made me think of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and William S. Burrough’s Naked Lunch. What stories, movies, artwork, etc. helped inspire and feed this story?

It’s so hard to say. Like I said in response to the last question, everything kinda just goes in the blender, and then it comes out however it comes out. I usually start with a weird premise – in this case, what if you dug an impossibly deep hole – and then I try to take that idea and explore every edge of it, both literally and metaphorically, before taking it to its most extreme and absurd conclusion.


I like the surrealist vibe that this book had, and the cover art fits the story beautifully. It has me wondering who some of your favorite artists are? Does artwork ever play a part in your creative process?

The cover artist (Katie McCann, IG: beetleblossom) is one of my favorite collage artists of all-time and it’s pretty amazing that I’ve gotten to work with her on my last three book covers. There’s something almost symbiotic about her art and my stories. I like to think they help elevate each other. Beyond that, I have Edvard Munch’s The Scream tattooed on my forearm, because it’s my favorite painting ever.


The other aspect of the book that I enjoyed was that you oftentimes broke the fourth wall. What gave you the idea to do this, and what did this conscious decision mean for your story?

Well, I was reading a lot of Kurt Vonnegut while I was writing this, and he often inserts himself both as the author and as a character into his narratives, but more than that, the book has a lot to do with my relationship with art and the creation of it, and I wanted to challenge the audience by making them care about what was happening in the story plot wise while constantly pulling the rug out from under them by popping up and being like “ you know this is all fake, right?”

If you had to spend eternity constantly changing the color of your bedroom walls, or forever digging a hole, which would you pick and why?

Ummmmmmm…..probably the hole. You keep repainting a room, and it’s still just a boring old room. If you dig a hole, you might find a treasure! Plus, eternity is a long time. At someone point you’d dig all the way through the earth and just fall out the other end, right?

Usually when I write, I drink coffee, sometimes wine if I’m feeling crazy, and on occasion, I’ll reward myself with M&Ms after a certain word count. Do you prefer coffee, tea, or booze when you write? Are there any rewards you give yourself as your move along in the drafting stage?

No booze when writing, only coffee. Lots of it. And I don’t really reward myself with anything special. I write first thing when I wake up in the morning, and usually burn out after 3-4 hours. Then I’ll read and take a nap, then either go into work or hang out with girlfriends/friends.


What books are sitting in your TBR pile?

I read 2-3 books a week, so that’s constantly changing. I’ll tell you some of the books I’m most looking forward to in 2018 are Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman, Stacking Doll by Carlton Mellick III, and Earthquakes in Candy Land by Jennifer Robin.

What is next in store for your readers?
 
Almost done with a new book (another one, can ya believe it?) IN FACT, the next book will take place in the same cul-de-sac as the He Digs a Hole, with a lot of crossover characters (though I’ve decided they are not sequels since there’s no direct continuity between the two books, sorta like how Vonnegut would repurpose characters in his novels without worrying about their timelines/histories carrying over). Beyond that my editor John Skipp (Fungasm Press) mentioned he wanted a short story collection from me, so I think I’m going to work on putting that together very soon.

BIO: Danger Slater is the world's most flammable writer! He is the Wonderland Award winning author of I Will Rot Without You, Puppet Skin, and He Digs A Hole! He likes exclamation points! He is your favorite writer! You love him!  
"Danger Slater is fearless and should be ashamed of himself. Thank God he's not." -- JOSH MALERMAN, author of Bird Box

"If Richard Brautigan and William S. Burroughs had a baby it would be Danger Slater" -- THE HORROR REVIEW

"Bizarro horror at its best."  -- SPLATTERPUNK ZINE

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Stokercon 2018: On the Road to Providence, RI



Hi Everyone:

I'm gearing up for Stokercon 2018, and I have to say, I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone, especially since I had to miss last year. I love going to these conferences because so often, writing is such a solitary act, and these conventions remind me of how big and wonderful our horror community really is. I always leave feeling inspired, and I'm looking forward to tons of great conversations, panels, and presentations, as well as checking out the Final Frame Horror Short Film Competition.
 
This year, I'll be working a lot with Horror University, and I'm going to be teaching two workshops, and then giving a one-hour special presentation dedicated to women in horror. The full details of my courses can be found below, but I urge everyone to look at the entire list because there are some truly great workshops happening this year. As noted on the Horror University page, "workshops will be hands-on, intensive classes that include interactive activities and exercises." 

So get ready to get your hands bloody! 


HOW TO WRITE KILLER POETRY (HUWK007)—Saturday, March 3; 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
This course will detail how to write killer verse as well as discuss the techniques and conventions of the poetic form. Originally published as an essay for Crystal Lake Publishing’s Writers on Writing series, it has been adapted into a workshop to help poets get their hands good and bloody. So get ready to learn how to murder your darlings, folks. It’s about to get criminal.

SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING FOR WRITERS (HUWK013)—Friday, March 2; 5-7 p.m.
Social Media Marketing for Writers gives a crash course in marketing and advertising techniques for the digital age. As we know from Westworld and Black Mirror, there are advantages and disadvantages to how we present ourselves online, and as such, this workshop will discuss voice, author branding, and various strategies to gaining a true readership and following.  


SCREAM QUEENS: THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN SLASHER FILMS, (HUSP002)—Friday, March 2; 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. 
This presentation introduces the concept of the final girl and tracks her evolution through slasher film history. The presentation will discuss women in horror with a particular focus on body image and empowerment both on and off the screen.  

There is no registration fee for this presentation.