Tag Archives: interviews

The Word Horde Interview: Carrie Laben talks A Hawk in the Woods with Amber-Rose Reed

Recently, author Carrie Laben sat down with Amber-Rose Reed to talk about Carrie’s debut novel, A Hawk in the Woods. This is their conversation.

A Hawk in the Woods by Carrie Laben

Amber-Rose Reed: A Hawk in the Woods is your debut novel, but you’ve published a good deal of short fiction. Did you know when you began the book that it would be a novel, or did it grow out of a shorter piece?

Carrie Laben: I knew Hawk would be a book-length project right from the start, because I knew that Abby and Martha would never be coherent characters unless the reader got a full picture of their family background as well as their present-day dilemma. Also, their powers (Martha’s in particular) need a fair amount of explanation. Otherwise, they’re just two very odd women doing very odd, sometimes unpleasant things.

Amber-Rose Reed: What was your initial inspiration for this book? Was there an idea, an image, or character that struck you and drew you into the story?

Carrie Laben: The initial initial inspiration is rather spoilery — I can, however, say that I drew from several real-life news stories that made a deep impression on me when I was younger, and I wanted to investigate the emotional desperation that might make someone commit the crime that sent Martha to prison. Once I started writing, Abby made sure I never gave up. I wanted to really understand what made someone like her — not exactly a villain, but certainly no hero, and someone whose most positive and most negative traits are closely linked — tick. And I wanted to be able to explain it to other people.

Amber-Rose Reed: There are a lot of disparate threads that weave together in the novel — illness; family history, drama, and trauma; as well as prison breaks and road trips, and of course the supernatural. How did you draw those story elements together into a whole? Were there certain aspects clearer from the beginning?

Carrie Laben: There were many times during the writing of this novel that I compared it to putting an octopus into a laundry basket — no sooner would I get one tentacle in than two more would pop out!  But the family history is the body of that octopus, with everything else growing out of it, so I kept coming back to that and making sure that even the most dramatic scenes flowed naturally out of what I already knew about these characters.

Amber-Rose Reed: Abby’s voice is distinctly modern, and some of her experience is very every-day relatable (who amongst us hasn’t been mansplained to on Twitter?). However, not all of what she goes through in this novel can be live-tweeted. How did you go about balancing the tone and feel of her every-day modern life, the family history they return to, and the horror aspects of the novel?

Carrie Laben: To me, taking the Lovecraftian and folk-horror elements and putting them in the most modern possible context was part of the fun. After all, if one were to accept that folk horror, or shoggoths, or what have you are part of your characters’ universe, they have to coexist with the rest of the universe in some way. Even Twitter. Once I accepted that, the balance came naturally.

Amber-Rose Reed: You’ve mentioned the folk song “The Cruel Mother” as an influence in the creation of A Hawk in the Woods. There are scenes throughout the book that strongly resonate with that haunting, folk feel and of course, the song itself features. Can you speak to the folk horror aspects of A Hawk in the Woods, and how that framing differs from the cosmic horror elements?

Carrie Laben: Growing up in a rural area with a multi-generational farming family, there are things about folk horror that really do resonate in that setting — especially the sense that there are traditions, patterns, and boundaries for a reason, and when you violate them bad things happen. But at the same time, some of those traditions, patterns, and boundaries are themselves bad things, so it can be a lose-lose proposition. Cosmic horror, of course, holds a slightly different viewpoint — it really doesn’t matter if you follow the rules or not. Your personal virtue means nothing. Abby, as befits her role in her family, is what I think of as post-Lovecraftian as well as post-folk-horror — she really doesn’t care if the universe gives a damn about her behavior or not, and she certainly doesn’t care if breaking with tradition brings down bad things on her head, because she’s confident she can master them. She’s taking both those horror traditions as part of her heritage and turning them into something new, which incidentally is also what I see horror literature as a field doing right now.

Amber-Rose Reed: And speaking of music, do you listen to music as you write? What (else) would be on your A Hawk in the Woods playlist?

Carrie Laben: I did have a playlist as a matter of fact! I won’t bore you with the whole thing, but in addition to three different versions of “The Cruel Mother” it includes “More” by The Sisters of Mercy and “Birds of Hell Awaiting” by Marilyn Manson in a nod to Abby and Martha’s high school Goth phase, “Fly” by Nicki Minaj and Rhianna which is definitely on Abby’s workout mix,  “Barracuda” by John Cale and “No One’s Gonna Love You” by Band of Horses, and quite a bit of Nick Cave. I generally find Nick Cave/Warren Ellis film scores very productive for writing.

Amber-Rose Reed: In addition to fiction, you also write a great deal of non-fiction on nature and birding. Many of your descriptions seem to draw from that experience. How do your research and non-writing hobbies inform and/or influence your writing? And what brought you to bird-watching?

Carrie Laben: Birding is all about close observation of fleeting details, and I think that’s the number one way that it contributes to my writing. It also inspires me to pay quite a lot of attention to landscape. Something subtly wrong with a landscape, whether it’s a dead tree that keeps growing or a season that changes a bit too fast, can be a quiet but powerful way to signal a much larger problem heading for the characters.

Amber-Rose Reed: Thanks so much!

Carrie Laben: Thanks to you as well.

CARRIE LABEN grew up in western New York. She earned her BS at Cornell and later her MFA at the University of Montana. She now lives in Queens, where she spends a lot of time staring at birds.

Her work has appeared in such venues as Birding, Clarkesworld, The Dark, Indiana Review, Okey-Panky, and Outlook Springs. In 2017 she won the Shirley Jackson Award in Short Fiction for her story “Postcards from Natalie” and Duke University’s Documentary Essay Prize for the essay “The Wrong Place”. In 2015 she was selected for the Anne LaBastille Memorial Writer’s Residency, in 2018 she was a MacDowell Fellow, and in 2019 she was a resident at Brush Creek.

A Hawk in the Woods is her first novel. She is currently at work on a book of essays about urban environmentalism.


AMBER-ROSE REED is an avid reader and writer native to the Bay Area. She is an assistant manager at Copperfield’s Books, which nurtures her love for book culture, and studied Comparative Literature and History at San Francisco State University. Her short fiction has appeared in Eternal Frankenstein and Tales from a Talking Board.



She Said Destroy and Tales from a Talking Board nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award

Big news this week: Two Word Horde titles, Nadia Bulkin’s collection She Said Destroy and Ross E. Lockhart’s anthology Tales from a Talking Board have both been nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award. Needless to say, we are honored to have received this recognition, and to be included among so many talented authors and remarkable books. Read the full list of nominees here.

In other news, David Peak’s black metal novel Corpsepaint has been reviewed by This Is Horror, who say, “Bleak is a word used to describe so many releases within the horror and dark fiction worlds… With Corpsepaint, David Peak seeks to raise the bar in the reader’s understanding of what bleak really means.” Read the full review at this link.

And an interview with David Peak is featured this week at Hellnotes, where he talks about the origins of Corpsepaint, black metal, misanthropy, and Romanticism (among other things). Read the full interview here.

The Word Horde Summer Solstice Goodreads Giveaway (Plus the Latest News)

We’ve just kicked off our biggest Goodreads Giveaway yet, with copies of Michael Griffin’s The Lure of Devouring Light, Livia Llewellyn’s Furnace, Orrin Grey’s Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, Ross E. Lockhart’s Cthulhu Fhtagn!, and John Langan’s The Fisherman up for grabs. All you have to do is click through, sign up for Goodreads (if you haven’t already), and enter to win. On the Summer Solstice, June 20, we will select winners and ship books (July 4 in the case of John Langan’s The Fisherman).

Here are the Goodreads Giveaway links:

The Lure of Devouring Light
Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts
Cthulhu Fhtagn!
The Fisherman (runs June 1-July 4, 2016)

In other news, The Driftless Area Review just posted a new interview with the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Mr. Suicide, Nicole Cushing, wherein they discuss conventions, “likeable characters,” Louisville, KY, and the definition of evil. It’s a great read.

And you can now read the title story from Livia Llewellyn’s Word Horde collection, Furnace, courtesy of the folks at Weird Fiction Review. Llewellyn’s Shirley Jackson Award-nominated story “Furnace” originally appeared in the Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.-edited Thomas Ligotti tribute anthology The Grimscribe’s Puppets. Read it here.

An Interview with Livia Llewellyn

Livia Llewellyn‘s brand-new collection, Furnace, drops this week, and we couldn’t be more excited. The first review of the book hit over at The Conqueror Weird last Thursday. Spoiler alert: It’s a rave one! So we figured we’d bring you something special this week to celebrate. Here’s an exclusive interview with Livia, conducted by our own Sean M. Thompson…

What do you feel the role of genre is in fiction?

I honestly don’t know. It’s really just a device the writer uses to help tell the story. I know, I know, it’s a marketing device used by the publishing and bookselling industries to target customers and create more sales, but it’s also a reflection of the writer. Beyond that, I couldn’t say – it’s not something I think about, because I honestly don’t care.

When you’re putting together a collection, do you view it as like an album, or do you have another analog?

I do see it very much as like putting together an album. Each piece of fiction or song is a story unto itself, but the entire collection or album is also a story, an emotional narrative that you want the listener or reader to experience. You want them to come away thinking that they went through something, that it was a journey with a beginning and an ending, not just a random jumble of art. So your first piece has to be saying something very specific, it has to invite them in, give them a taste of what’s to come but not send them off in the wrong direction altogether; and then as you go through the collection, you put stories together that maybe have similar themes or settings, you have an interlude or two where your reader can catch their breath with a piece that isn’t quite the same as the rest, and then you have a final stretch of your most intense work, ending with the story that you hope (I hope, anyway) encapsulates all of the themes of the entire work and leaves the reader in an emotional place that hopefully isn’t the same as where they were at the beginning. The best albums have that ability to guide listeners through that kind of an artistic and emotional journey, and so do the best collections and anthologies. I can only hope that Furnace can do the same. Time will tell.

Furnace by Livia Llewellyn

Do you have cats that tend to hover around you while you try to write? (asking, uh, for a friend, (get out of here kitty-))

I can’t afford a cat on my salary, but if I ever do get to the point where I can have an animal in my life, it’ll be a dog.

You seem to be pretty up front about the fact you don’t consider yourself a weird fiction writer. Do you think the label of being “weird” is kind of like tacking on that a horror film is a “thriller” when it starts to do well, or do you genuinely think the weird is its own thing?

I think weird fiction is genuinely its own thing – I just don’t think that I write enough of it to be called a weird fiction writer, anymore than I should be called a Lovecraftian writer. My writing branches off into so many areas that I think “dark fiction writer” is a better umbrella for me to stand under.

Your last collection was Engines of Desire, and your new one is Furnace. What is about imagery with machinery that you find yourself drawn to, or does it just make for a cool-sounding story collection?

It didn’t occur to me until this question that I have two collections with machinery in their titles. That’s interesting – I have no idea what it means. Since I was very young, I’ve found engines and machinery fascinating and alien and exciting, but I think I’d need a psychiatrist to tell me why. I don’t really need to know why. Maybe in twenty years I’ll look back at my body of work and the light bulb will go on, but until then, I’m happy to work it out in my writing.


Do you have a set amount of time you usually can write for before you have to take a break?

I can write for maybe ninety minutes before my mind starts to wander. But in my defense, I’m usually writing in the evening, after an 8-10 hour work day, so I’m already tired and a bit frazzled to start with – ninety minutes on weekdays is my limit because I need at least part of the evening to wind down by reading or working out or just listening to music and staring into space. On weekends, I write maybe three hours at a stretch, and then I have to walk away from the computer screen to recharge my batteries.

Coffee, tea, or the lightning juice?

When I’m writing, I prefer either coffee or tea, depending on the time of day. I really don’t like to drink when I’m writing – alcohol makes me lose my concentration, so I save that for after I’ve finished for the day.

Would you ever write a science fiction novel, fantasy novel, anything like that? Or do you just start a story, and whatever it is, it is?

Do you mean story? I’ve never even managed to finish writing a horror novel, let alone a novel in any other genre – but as for stories, I do tend to just start writing and not worry about what genre it is. I have no interest in writing SF or Game of Thrones-style fantasy, though. It’s just not my thing. I suppose if I ever did, the science fiction would look a lot like Alien or Event Horizon, and the fantasy would look like… Alien vs. Conan, which is not a real movie but absolutely should be.

My cousins live in Long Island. (Oh shit, wait, that wasn’t a question.)

You’re still in NYC, how’s that going? Has anyone at Starbucks really f-ed up your name again?

I’m not a big fan of the big city – I’d really prefer to be in a smaller city somewhere near mountains – the cultural experiences here are amazing, but the housing situation is something of a nightmare (for anyone who’s not quite wealthy, that is), which makes it a constantly depressing and demoralizing situation for me. But the job is here, and my friends are all here, so until I can retire, I cope as best I can. And, I’ve largely stopped going to Starbucks for coffee. I did enjoy the very creative misspellings of my name (Libba, Navan, Lil’diq), but the coffee is way overpriced, and more and more the baristas were getting my orders wrong and then treating me like shit when I complained. We get free lattes and cappuccinos at work, so I just make my own coffee and misspell my own name nowadays. Hello, Liveria!

Your prose hits like a lead pipe to the teeth. Do you ever write anything, and go “oh, whoa, I should probably tone this down a bit.”?

Yes, I’ve thought that a couple of times. Whenever I have that reaction, it’s not because I think I’ve gone over the line, but because I think I’ve gone over the line for the intended market. I do have to take into consideration the anthology or magazine, and what kind of audience the editor is targeting with my and the other contributors’ stories. A number of stories in Furnace are quite sexually explicit or graphic in their depictions of the female body, and I thought perhaps they might be rejected. Amazingly, they weren’t. The editors probably knew readers would just skip over my story, so it didn’t matter that they weren’t appropriate – most people pick up anthologies for the much bigger names! But if asked, I would certainly work with the editor to change the story, if I felt some of the content wasn’t the right fit for the market and if I felt I could make the changes without turning the story into something I wasn’t happy with. I’ve had to completely tear apart stories before, and it’s always a bit painful, but the end results have so far resulted in much better stories.

Thanks for taking part in the interview. Please, tell our fine readers what they have to look forward to from you, in this, the dawning of the age of Word Hordius.

I have a number of short stories that will be coming out later this year and in 2017. I’m also in the middle of putting together a collection of extremely fantastical and dark erotic stories over on Patreon, called Tales of the Dark Century – that should be finished this year, but I honestly don’t know if I’ll find a publisher for it, as it’s definitely not the kind of erotica that currently popular. Maybe Chuck Tingle can give me some self-publishing tips…

An Interview with Mercedes M. Yardley

To kick off Women in Horror Month (which we’re totally using as an excuse to talk about a number of the awesome authors we work with… not that we need an excuse), Sean talks with Mercedes M. Yardley, an author who appeared in the Word Horde anthology Tales of Jack the Ripper. In addition to being the author of Pretty Little Dead Girls: A Novel of Murder and Whimsy and Nameless, her novella Little Dead Red currently appears on the 2015 Bram Stoker Awards Preliminary Ballot (you’re definitely going to want to read this one). Take it away, Sean and Mercedes…

What do you feel the purpose of genre is in fiction?

MMY: Genre is about marketing, straight-up. It tells the bookstore which shelf to place the book on. It gives the reader a good idea where to start looking for something that will interest them. I think it has very little to do with a good story. Most stories are more than one genre. I have a book that is a serial killer thriller romance with heavy horror and surrealism. I usually just say it’s a fairytale with a high body count, because it’s simpler. Genre is a categorizing tool to help organization.

Tales of Jack the Ripper edited by Ross E. Lockhart

You have a story in Tales of Jack the Ripper, “A Pretty for Polly.” What inspired you to write the story, and what was it like working with Ross as an editor?

MMY: I was over the moon when I was invited to that anthology. Jack the Ripper is my jam. I challenged myself to see if I could make Saucy Jack, who is arguably the most heinous and notorious killer of all time, come off as sympathetic. How do you do that without neutering the legend? I did my best and I’m pleased with the result. It’s a dark little thing.

Ross is a very cool editor. Professional, yet laid-back. He has a strong reputation for quality work and deservedly so. I’d work with him again in a heartbeat.

You seem to enjoy whimsy? Is that a fair assessment?

MMY: Absolutely. I call my work “whimsical horror.” I think it’s apt. Pretty, quirky, whimsical things are what make the world go round.

Does your environment alter the settings in your stories?

MMY: It really does alter my settings. I grew up in the desert, so I write quite a bit about that. But my heart is in the Pacific Northwest, so that’s the setting of at least two of my books. I find that if it’s raining outside, I’ll write about rain. If it’s windy, I’ll write about that. It helps to have whatever is influencing my day show up in my work because it gives the stories diversity. It isn’t always daytime, it isn’t always sunny, etc.

Do you write in the morning, at night, or neither?

MMY: Ideally I’m a night writer. That’s when I’m naturally most creative. But unfortunately, that’s also when I’m the most exhausted and I want to kick back and veg. It’s a struggle for me to be disciplined enough to turn off Grimm and work on a book. But ultimately, that’s when my best writing is done.


What inspires you?

MMY: I’m inspired by beauty. I’m also inspired by ugliness and rot. It’s amazing how closely beauty and horror are intertwined. Strength and suffering. I’m inspired by finding the gems in ordinary, everyday things. It adds sparkle to the mundane.


MMY: Thanks for having me! It was a pleasure.

An Interview With Michael Kazepis

Sean M. Thompson recently sat down with King Shot Press head honcho (and helluva writer) Michael Kazepis to ask him a few questions. Here are the results…

What do you think the role of genre is in fiction?

I’m not sure this is a question I can unpack in a way that doesn’t make me feel like a shithead. My view is, I guess, it’s a marketing tool that can become a cage. I’ll leave it at that.

Your story from Giallo Fantastique, “Minerva” is a traditional take on the Giallo genre. What inspired you to write the story?

Is it really a traditional take? I’m seeing this response enough to think I fucked up there—I kept trying to think of ideas reminiscent of giallo that weren’t going to feel like a retread. When Ross invited me to send him something, I was trying hard to figure out a recipe to fake my way in because I’ve always wanted to work with him, and you never know if that invitation comes around again. I mean, yes, I watched Deep Red to figure out some colors to write toward. But that was the extent of my research in the genre. Julio Cortazar’s “Blow-Up” gets riffed heavily. The character of Detective Halkias is a more serious take on Casey from Lloyd Kaufman’s Terror Firmer. I think the cinema sequence was informed by Godard’s Masculin, féminin—that Bergman “film within a film.” Lynch’s Mulholland Drive was also on my mind—I really like its Rubik’s Cube narrative. The Courier’s Tragedy, too. There are lots of scenes like this in literature and film, where the main character sees a performance and it echoes the main story in subtle ways. Here, I thought it’d be kinda funny to have the protagonist, Celia Marrast, watch a stylized snuff film about her brother. Something else is, I originally intended “Minerva” to be set in Rome, but I don’t really know much about Italian culture so I brought the story home to Athens. So that’s why the location is what it is. And you know, the more I think on this question, I guess there really is an overlap between what I did and what’s come before. The failure feels vaguely Borgesian to me. Like, I ended up rewriting Don Quixote word for word, and to me it reads like some other story. I think it took about seven months to walk away from it. I can be a very slow writer. Ross was extraordinary in his patience.

Giallo Fantastique edited by Ross E. Lockhart

What themes do you find yourself coming back to in your work, if any?

Of what I’ve picked up? There are steady patterns of the unreliable witness, ruined cities, coping with parental death, amateur detectives, ghosts, godlessness, some leftist ideas. The struggle to sustain love, which is significantly more difficult than the pursuit of it. Life as a slasher film garnished with surrealism. I’ve been accused of writing all my lead characters as loners and I’ll cop to that.

Do you have any writing rituals?

It used to be that I’d take smoke breaks and long showers as ways of measuring space between writing scenes. I try not to smoke anymore. I don’t have the free time that I used to. Mostly it’s just sit and do this when I can. Coffee during the day. I’ll drink VISO at night because it’s less abrasive than coffee or an energy drink. Sometimes I’ll wake up at 3am and work when it’s quietest in the house. Today, I overslept and felt mostly unproductive. I’ve noticed that if I don’t regularly change up my diet, or where I’m working, I won’t get anything done. I get stir-crazy if everything’s continually the same. Almost four months ago, part of the middle finger of my right hand was crushed hydraulically and hasn’t healed yet—this week I was told the distal phalanx (or, fingertip, in doctor speak) doesn’t seem to be healing with the rest of the injury, so I’m presently hoping I won’t lose that part. I spent the first couple of months after the accident in a painkiller haze, and that’s set me back, in terms of schedule. Life is moving slower than I’d like it. So I haven’t had a consistent ritual in a while.

What’s your favorite Giallo film?

I haven’t watched enough of them to form an educated favorite. Recently, I liked Deep Red. As a teenager, I remember enjoying Suspiria, Tenebrae, other Argento stuff. I remember seeing a few films with David Hess in them, because I knew him from The Last House on the Left. Bava’s Bay of Blood, that.

Do you like the cold? Do you find your environment influences your writing, including the weather and the season?

I live in an old apartment that used to have baseboard heaters, but I tore them out because they smelled bad and never replaced them. I’ve got a portable radiator that I’ll occasionally plug in and that helps some. Usually I just layer up. I think some level of discomfort is essential for work to get done. Especially since it’s easier to be lazy this time of year. I find myself wanting to work from bed a lot, even knowing I’ll fall asleep. That’s a struggle because I’m already tired from working at my job and fixing things around the house. But as far as the weather goes, it’s not the being cold that bugs me, it’s the wind, when it can cut. That shit’ll split my knuckles in a day and draw blood. I end up hating the notion of going outside.


Do you have anything you’d like to tell our readers about? Special things?

There’s a novel I’ve been working on for a few years now called Nothing Crown, and it’s written like a post-apocalyptic road novel. It’s about a street kid that walks from Jerusalem to Paris to pursue rapping. Think something akin to Children of Men meets, like, Illmatic (Nas) . . . in the Levant.

I also run King Shot Press, which is a post-bizarro publisher of radical fiction. Last year, we released some really great books by Cody Goodfellow, Eric Nelson and Chris Lambert. This year, KSP is releasing Lambert’s sophomore novel, Killer Unconquered, the second part of a bigger novel-in-series. Violet LeVoit, who won the Wonderland Book Award back in November, has her debut novel coming up, I Miss The World, a Nicholson Baker-esque novel that follows two siblings through the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. November was very surprising in that Scott Nicolay, whose forthcoming book Noctuidae is part of the next batch of KSP titles, took home the World Fantasy Award the same weekend that Violet nabbed the Wonderland. His book’s about a hike through an Arizona canyon that leaves two people stranded with something very big. Lastly, there’s Troy James Weaver’s Marigold, in which a 30-something floral salesman searches for reasons to keep living.

Thanks, man.

Thank you.

An interview with Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Our intrepid reporter, Sean M. Thompson, recently sat down with one of our favorite authors and editors, Silvia Moreno-Garcia of Innsmouth Free Press, to talk about her latest anthology, the all-women Lovecraftian anthology, She Walks in Shadows (which we at Word Horde are big fans of). Here’s their conversation…

In your own words, why do you think it’s important for there to be weird fiction (or really any type of genre) collections featuring work exclusively by women?

In the horror genre, and that includes Weird fiction, women don’t seem to get much attention. Whenever there are lists of Top Ten Horror Writers people remember to include folks like King, Lovecraft, yet even figures as crucial as Jackson can slip through the cracks and be ignored. Some anthologies routinely used to include only all men in their TOCs, I’m thinking of several Lovecraftian books which did this not even five years ago. So, there’s a complex problem. Yes, there are less women horror writers than men. But the ones we have can have a hard time drawing attention. And how do we get more women interested in the genre? In creating and consuming and being part of it, that’s not an easy thing to do but part of it must be visibility. Anthologies can help highlight the work of women which we don’t see, but I should say it’s not the only way this should be done, nor is it an instant solution to get more women interested in the field.


What prompted you to start the process of creating She Walks in Shadows? Was the turn around faster or slower than other editing work you’ve had?

There was a Facebook discussion where someone asked “Do girls just not like to play with squids?” By squids the person meant Lovecraftian stories, there was the assumption there are no women writing it because it doesn’t interest them. There was a long discussion about this on several spaces. At some point someone said women were incapable of writing Lovecraftiana and at another point someone said if you want something different, why don’t you do it yourself. So we did. Of course then some people got mad that we actually were action-oriented and not just talk, but that’s another story.

You have a story in Word Horde’s Tales of Jack the Ripper. Does the Ripper case interest you? Are there any other murder cases that you find yourself terrified by/ intrigued by?

The Ripper is one of the cases I find more dull, in comparison to others because it’s not as bizarre as some other stuff I’ve read. I’m interested in crime, not just murder, and I’ve read a lot of nota roja, yellow journalism, and crime books. I’m curious about people and I like knowing about the investigators, the criminal, the victim. There was a case in Mexico City in the 50s which I find quite interesting and apparently I’m not the only one since they made it into a play and a movie. Basically this guy had a whole family, six kids and a wife, and he kept them locked inside his home all the time. They never went out. They made a living by making rat poison and the father went selling it door to door. And you think for sure they’re going to murder him with rat poison! But they don’t. A daughter throws a scrap of paper onto the street and eventually the cops come and take the guy to prison. But the things that gets me, the thing I go over and over again in my head, is the mother. After the guy goes to jail she says she still loves him and wants him back.

It’s just strange, the bizarre shit that can be going on behind a perfectly normal looking house.

What kind of music did you listen to today?

Today? 80s music. I had “Mad World” playing.

How goes your dissertation?

Half there. I need to re-write a portion of it but getting there.

Do you think there are certain place which contain some type of power we can’t explain? You hear people talk about, say, The Bermuda Triangle, and no one can quite pin down why so many ships disappear in that area?

I don’t believe in ghosts or monsters or demons. But my great-grandmother was superstitious and I grew up with that, so it’s hard to scrub it off even when you are an adult. I also lived for a bit in Massachusetts and you’re from there so you know what it’s like. A lot of old houses and this kind of sad, depressing feeling in certain spots. There’s a lot of history in certain places, in New England, in Mexico, in Europe of course. And it feels different than the ‘new’ cities like Vancouver where everything is glass, it’s clean, and there’s an optimism which seems to flow from this youth. That said there was a place in Vancouver my husband and I found creepy. We would walk by a building which had been a hospital and was abandoned and we both swore the building was staring at us. It would follow you. And it looked angry. They turned it into condos and it looks very fine now, nothing like it did before, but I don’t think I’d live there. It’s not scientific at all but that building was a nasty building.

Growing up, were there any creepy areas around Mexico City you thought might contain some type of unexplainable forces?

There are a lot of creepy places but I was never afraid of ghosts or the supernatural in Mexico City. My fears were very concrete and very real. Would I get mugged, for example. As a child there used to be some weird knocking in my home. Knocking on the walls. It was made of brick, so it wasn’t like in the US or Canada where you can safely assume the wood is contracting, the floorboards are making noises, it was this knocking that happened when I saw in one room. I’m sure there is a natural explanation but when it bothered me a lot I would yell. I would say “Shut up! Stop!” I figured if it was a ghost it was motherfucking rude ghost and it deserved to be told off. And the noise did subside after I yelled. But I was never afraid. The ‘real’ world was a lot more scary.

Do you have any writing rituals? Molly Tanzer has some very specific ones…

No. I write late at night because it’s the only spare time I have.

What do you feel the role of genre is in regards to fiction?

Does it have to have one? You use whatever tools do the job. Sometimes its genre, sometimes its lit.

Order She Walks in Shadows from Innsmouth Free Press. Order Tales of Jack the Ripper from Word Horde. Silvia’s debut novel, Signal to Noise, is available from Solaris. To learn more about Silvia Moreno Garcia and her awesome projects, visit her website.

An interview with Nick “The Hat” Gucker, cover artist for Orrin Grey’s Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts

Closing out our week of interviews, Sean M. Thompson talks with cover artist extraordinaire and all-around Art Creep Nick “The Hat” Gucker, the man responsible for making Orrin Grey’s Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts look as good on the outside as it reads on the inside.

How did you come you come up with the cover idea for Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts?

Originally the request was to do a horror take on Norman Rockwell’s “Triple Self-Portrait”. But after realizing the great artist William Stout had already done this to great affect, I was having a bit of a time re-inventing this concept. So I threw a few other sketch ideas at the Ross and Orrin to see if any anything tickled their fancy.

I was going for a bit of an old EC horror kind of idea where I could showcase a number of fiends in one go. Most of the monsters on the cover are inspired by Orrin’s stories, a few are interlopers.

All told, how many hours did it take from initial sketches to finished cover?

I’m really not quite sure, since I have a full time job and get to work on these projects evenings and weekends. Time starts to become elusive and I worked on this a bit sporadically among a few other projects.

Do you listen to music when you draw, and or do whatever picture magic you do?

I do listen to a lot of music when I’m working, I’ve a rather broad range of listening habits, so I often hit up iTunes shuffle or load my 5-CD carousel. Currently on deck is Chrome (Half Machine from the Sun), Godflesh (Selfless), Pye Corner Audio (Sleep Games), Berberian Sound Studio Sound Track (Broadcast), and Swans (The Great Annihilator).

Also some audio-fiction and I need to keep reminding me-self to keep up on podcasts, since there are some excellent ones out there.

What made you decide to grow wonderful, bushy sideburns?

It was against my will, the hair started a long chronic gravitational migration down to my cheeks.
I’m just it’s host. How long it shall remain there is anyone’s guess. The hair may end up on my shoulders.

Do you have a favorite hat?

Well, I have my current favorite daily hat and then I have a favorite fez, which is black felt with a cloisonne viking head (it’s actually a Mokanna head) and the word TACOBAT (which is part of the Tacobat Grotto, also known as The Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm and is an offshoot of a more casual branch Freemasonry with Lodges being called Cauldrens). Its esoteric seeming randomness amuses me to no end, which is to say symbolism is something I really enjoy.

If you could be any kind of monster, what kind would you be?

Probably a ridiculous kaiju of some some sort. I might have two opposing heads, id and ego, comedy and tragedy, that sort of thing on long swaying necks. A mass of tentacles, a multi-digit laden hand that’s a detachable limb that can explore and fight on it’s own. Some kind of horrid gas expulsion that would drive the humans insane or into a state of euphoria and hallucinations. A set of huge wings, slightly bat-like but unlike anything that would actually function for flight. Multiple legs like that of a moose, that could jackhammer the earth into forced tectonic plate-shifts. I’d be showing up in random cities, smashing buildings, gesticulating and posturing absurdly until some wee man that channels some alien super being transforms himself into a giant fighting machine as a dance partner for me.

Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts

Pre-order Orrin Grey’s Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts today!