An Interview with Author R.J. Meldrum

Lee: To start things off, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself and your work as a writer.

R.J.: Well, first I’d like to thank you for interviewing me. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about my work and my inspirations. I’m Scottish by birth and lived in various parts of the UK until 2010, when my wife and I moved to Ontario, Canada so I could take up an academic position at a university in Toronto. I’ve been writing since my early twenties, but after failing to get anything published, I took an extended hiatus until just a few years ago when I rediscovered my old work. After re-reading my stories, I decided to give writing another go and started again. I got confident enough to submit a few stories at the start of 2016. A few acceptances gave me even more confidence, and I continued to write and submit. Four years later, I’ve had over 100 stories published by about a dozen publishers and magazines.

 

Lee: Tell us about your latest book, The Plague

R.J.: The Plague is a novella published this summer by Demain Press, as part of their Short Sharp Shocks series. It’s a vampire story, set in an isolated village in early twentieth century Russia. The local doctor and priest notice that some of the children are exhibiting signs of a vampire attack. The doctor and priest resolve to rid the village of this curse, but they know they will have to destroy both the vampire and all the infected children in order to destroy the curse.

 

Lee: What was your inspiration behind the The Plague?

R.J.: The tale is set in what I called a ‘dry winter’ – a period of unseasonal warmth in late November that happens every few decades. It was the concept of the dry winter that was the inspiration for the story. The idea of a period of unseasonal warmth and humidity bringing disease to an isolated village set me thinking what if a vampire also returned with the dry winter to prey on the villagers – after that, it was just a matter of writing the story.

 

Lee: Do you have any favorite characters from the book? Which character has been the most fun to write?

R.J.: I’m a scientist, so I tend to be drawn to any scientist or medical characters in my stories. My only recurring character in my work has been Dr. John Lansing and he has appeared in multiple different medical or scientific roles in my stories. Smirnov is the doctor in my story and I think he’s my favorite, although Zankov the priest is a close second. They were both fun to write, trying to balance between their duty to the village and the knowledge that they will have to commit an unspeakable act to do save the villagers.

 

Lee: What made you decide to become a writer? Was it something you always wanted to do?

R.J.: I’ve always wanted to be a writer, back from when I was a kid. I was brought up to love and appreciate books and it was always a dream of mine to get something published. After 4 years of getting published I now have the confidence to call myself a writer and that is really satisfying. I’m not sure I ever decided to become a writer, not in the sense that I woke up one morning and said “Today, I’m going to become a writer”. It was a series of steps; first writing a few stories, then getting the confidence to submit, the strength to deal with rejections and then dawning realization after a few years and a few publications, that I’d actually become one!

 

Lee: What book or story would you say inspired you the most?

R.J.: I’ve always been drawn to darker fiction. My favorite fiction genres are science fiction and what could loosely be called horror. I grew up in the late seventies and early eighties, so the go-to authors were Stephen King and James Herbert. My first ‘horror’ book purchase was Salem’s Lot, and it drew me into the world of dark fiction. In terms of inspiration, I don’t think I have a specific book or story. I’ve always read widely, both fiction and non-fiction and draw inspiration from a huge number of sources.

 

Lee: What is it about writing that makes you want to do it? Do you have a favorite part of the process, such as brainstorming or editing? Or is it something else entirely?

R.J.: I love the feeling of having an idea for a story, then seeing it develop on the page. I love creating characters, scenarios, dialogue. I love the idea of the reader being immersed in a world I created. I don’t have a favorite part or a part I hate – I love writing, editing and creating a polished, final product.

 

Lee: What do you like to read? Who are some of your favorite authors?

R.J.: I read all sorts, from dark fiction to historical non-fiction. My favorite authors are people like Robert Aikman, M.R. James, Edith Wharton, August Derleth and Basil Copper. As you can probably tell from that list I like to read vintage horror, including Victorian and Edwardian stories. I do read modern horror too, Ramsey Campbell and Brian Keene are two examples, but I prefer vintage tales of Gothic horror.

 

Lee: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

R.J.: My wife and I live on a hobby farm in Ontario and when I’m not writing and working, we’re looking after that. We have some rescue pigs and a kennel of sled dogs. In the winter, we’re usually out training the dogs for various events and races.

Lee: Do you have a specific method you follow when writing? What are some things you need on-hand?

R.J.: The only method I’m consciously aware of it to try to have the full story laid out in my mind before I start writing. Obviously, things will change during the initial version, and then again with subsequent versions and during editing, but I like to have the overview of the beginning, middle and end in my mind before I start.

 

Lee: What has been the toughest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

R.J.: My biggest personal challenge is that sometimes I lose momentum on a story and it doesn’t get finished. I have a few stories like that in my ‘in progress’ folder, some of which have been sitting there for over a year. The challenge for me is to reopen those files and get them finished.

 

Lee: What advice would you give to a new writer?

R.J.: Firstly, if you want to be a writer, you have to write and keep writing on a regular basis. You also have to learn to accept rejection and criticism without taking it personally. You have to spend a ton of time looking for places to publish your work. You have to learn your craft, make sure your characters are believable, and your dialogue flows. Make sure your stories make sense to the reader. Make sure you aren’t assuming the reader will understand what you are trying to say, the story has to be clear. And lastly, get a mentor if you can and a support group if you can’t. I have a few people I can rely on to edit and proof my work and we swap leads on open calls and generally support each other – it’s a great asset and it’s a great comfort to have people you can ask for support and advice.

 

Find R.J. Meldrum’s ‘The Plague‘ on Amazon HERE

 

About R.J. Meldrum

Richard J. Meldrum is an author and academic. He specializes in fiction that explores the world through a dark lens. His subject matter ranges from ghosts to serial killers and everything in-between. He has had over a hundred short stories and drabbles published in a variety of anthologies, e-zines and websites. He has had short stories published by Culture Cult Press, Horrified Press, Infernal Clock, Trembling with Fear, Black hare press, Smoking Pen Press, Darkhouse Books, and James Ward Kirk Fiction. His short stories have also been published in The Sirens Call e-zine, the Horror Zine and Drabblez magazine. His novella “The Plague” was recently published by Demain Press. He is a contributor to Pen of the Damned and an Affiliate Member of the Horror Writers Association.

You can find R.J. Meldrum on Facebook and Twitter

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Interview with Ela Lourenco, author of Awakening

Sirens Call Publications recently released Awakening, the third book in the Dragon Born series. The Dragon Born books are set in a fantasy world, great for both YA and adult readers!

 

Lee: To start, tell us about your latest book, Awakening: Dragon Born Book Three:

Ela: Awakening is the middle book in the Dragon Born series – in many ways it is my favourite of the collection as everything is coming together towards a crossroads and the suspense is rising.

 

Lee: What was your inspiration behind the Dragon Born series?

Ela: My daughter Larissa! She is dyslexic and although she loves stories she found reading very tiring so she asked me to write her books about Dragons and magic that was fast-paced enough for her to really get stuck in.

 

Lee: Do you have any favorite characters from the book? Which character has been the most fun to write?

Ela: Ooh, my favourite characters are Lara, Asena, Sofia and Leyla… they are completely based on my two daughters and nieces! I loved turning their very real personalities into characters for my books — quirks and all!

 

Lee: What made you decide to become a writer? Was it something you always wanted to do?

Ela: I have been writing poetry and stories since I can remember. My mother infected me with her own love of books from birth, I just want to create stories so that others can feel the same wonder I did reading as a child.

 

Lee: What book or story would you say inspired you the most as a writer?

Ela: There are way too many for me to pick just one! I devoured Ursula Leguin’s books, I love dark fairytales like Baba Yaga and folktales, Asimov, Shakespeare… I am an equal genres offender!

 

Lee: What three things, if any, do you need to have on hand to write?

Ela: Coffee, notebook and biro.

 

Lee: Awakening is the third book in the series. When you first had the idea for Dragon Born, did you have it planned out as a series? Or did it develop naturally?

Ela: I always knew the story would not fit into one book – I do have a love of series when I am reading myself. I just feel that it gives the author time to really develop the characters and plots.

 

Lee: What do you like to read? Who are some of your favorite authors?

Ela: I love everything from Shakespeare, Tolstoy to YA fantasy and horror. I love all genres! I really can’t pick! Although I will admit to having devoured every Tess Gerritsen book ever written – I do enjoy crime novels enormously!

 

Lee: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

Ela: Reading! And running creative writing workshops for children and young adults. I love watching their imaginations take over and the wonder they feel when they create their own stories — they inspire me tremendously.

 

Lee: What advice would you give to a writer working on their first novel?

Ela: I don’t think there is a right or wrong way of doing this, but what you must do is enjoy the process. I believe that if you write something you enjoy yourself it will translate. Don’t pick a genre or story because it seems to be what you think the market wants. Forget the market, leave everything aside and just focus on what you want to write about!

 

Get Awakening: Dragon Born Book Three on Amazon and Kindle!

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The Royal tournament, the Karnac, is fully underway. But there is deception and betrayal at every turn. Unseen dark forces are at play, both within the school grounds and out with. Even the Gods are unable to help when a new threat looms over them all.

The very existence of Azmantium depends on Lara fully becoming the Child of Fire and casting aside the Shadows lurking in every corner of her beloved planet.

Can she overcome the challenges that await? Will the Shadows cover the world in darkness? Only Lara and her friends can change the fate of Azmantium.

 

About Ela Lourenco:

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Ela Lourenco is a lover of all things fantasy, magic and mystery and loves nothing better than cooking up new tales – that is when she isn’t nose deep in a book herself! Nomadic by nature, she has now settled down in Scotland with her hubby, two daughters and two cats.

Ela also runs creative writing workshops for children and is passionate about helping those with learning difficulties to get ‘back to enjoying stories’.

An Interview with Author A.F. Stewart

Lee: To start things off, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself and your work as a writer.

A.F. Stewart: I live in Nova Scotia, Canada, and I write horror and dark fantasy under the name A. F. Stewart. I’m a huge fantasy and sci-fi geek, and I love reading and movies. I’m a minor history buff and adore mythology and folklore; that’s why you’ll see so many of my stories with historic settings or characters from legends. I love writing short fiction more than novels, but they both have their own level of reward. I also write poetry and have published several collections of poems.

 

Lee: I’m familiar with your story Infernal Patrol, which is part of the anthology, Hell’s Empire: Tales of the Incursion. Can you tell us a little about the book and your inspiration for that story?

A.F. Stewart: The book is a themed anthology and tells the dark and tragic tale of the invasion of Victorian Britain by the Infernal Forces of Hell. Each story in the book recounts part of the struggle against Hell’s Minions from the beginning whispers of incursion to the end. My story, Infernal Patrol, falls somewhere in the middle of the saga and follows two men serving in the Whitechapel Corps, part of the volunteers protecting London. It was inspired in part by the WWII British Home Guard and the actual Victorian militia regiments of the era. Then I threw in some demonic possession and, voila, a story.

 

Lee: Do you have a specific artistic method you follow when writing? What are some things you need on-hand when writing?

A.F. Stewart: I generally like reasonable calm when I’m writing; I don’t listen to music and try to avoid distractions. A good cup of coffee and a handy supply of chocolate (or other snacks) is also helpful. And I need my outlines and notes handy and my research ready to be consulted if necessary.

 

Lee: Do you find writing energizing or exhausting? Or a little of both?

A.F. Stewart: I find it engrossing. If I’m in the zone, I can lose track of time until I finish scenes, chapters or stories. It can also be annoying when the muse hits at inconvenient times such as when I’m doing the dishes or nodding off to sleep. That little voice in my head is persistent and must be obeyed.

 

Lee: What has been a challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

A.F. Stewart: I do have trouble being disciplined about writing every day, and if I have any prolonged break, it’s hard to get back in the rhythm of a routine and get any substantial writing done. There are far too many distractions out in the world these days to pull me away from writing.

 

Lee: Do you plan stories? Or do you just write and let it come together naturally?

A.F. Stewart: With novels or novellas I do plan, with plot and chapter outlines at least. I also have story notes, sometimes I create maps, and of course research notes. And with this new book I’m working on I’m trying out scene outlining. With short stories, it is more of a basic idea and wing it, although I often do jot down notes and a plot direction. For flash fiction, it’s wherever the muse takes me.

 

Lee: Do you prefer reading paperbacks or ebooks?

A.F. Stewart: I prefer reading paperbacks; it’s a comfortable habit. I do read ebooks, though, and I have a virtual stack of novels on my tablet waiting for me. Now I just need more time to read.

 

Lee: What do you like to read? Who are some of your favorite authors?

A.F. Stewart: I like fantasy and sci-fi books mostly, or a good mystery, although I read quite a few different genres. Some of my favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, Guy Gavriel Kay, Ray Bradbury, Andy Peloquin, and Agatha Christie. They are all brilliant in their own way.

 

Lee: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

A.F. Stewart: I like doing graphic art on Photoshop, watching TV, playing dumb games on my tablet, or going out to see the occasional movie. Or maybe puttering in my herb garden. My day-to-day life is not exciting.

 

Lee: What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a career as a writer?

A.F. Stewart: Don’t try for perfection, especially on the first draft. If you agonize over each sentence as you create the beginnings of the book you make it more difficult. The agony comes with editing. Get your framework established and get the story down. Polishing the prose comes after the basics.

Check out Hell’s Empire: Tales of the Incursion on Amazon

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About A.F. Stewart

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A steadfast and proud sci-fi and fantasy geek, A. F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada and still calls it home. The youngest in a family of seven children, she always had an overly creative mind and an active imagination. She favours the dark and deadly when writing—her genres of choice being dark fantasy and horror—but she has been known to venture into the light on occasion. As an indie author, she’s published novels, novellas and story collections, with a few side trips into poetry.

Find links to her website and social media pages HERE

An Interview with Author Charles Gramlich

Lee: To start things off, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself and your work as a writer.

Charles: I grew up on a small family farm in Arkansas. I loved to read and used to get in trouble with my parents for reading too much, probably because I was supposed to be doing chores.  I never thought about writing myself until high school English, where we were assigned to write a poem, a nonfiction essay, and a short story. I don’t remember the poem but the essay was about drinking beer and the story was an SF/fantasy piece about a world where people grew from seeds. We read them in class and both of mine got good responses from the teacher and students. That started me thinking about writing, but I didn’t know where to start. I’d never met a writer. They seemed like magical creatures to me.

When I went to college, I found that one of the English professors was a published author, and that he’d actually lived in my hometown, Charleston, Arkansas, when he was younger. I took an essay class with him, then got up the courage to show him a western novel I was working on called The Bear-Paw Valley. He told me it was unpublishable, but that I had talent and that he’d mentor me on my next novel. I was tremendously excited. Then the fellow—Francis Gwaltney—died a couple of weeks later in an accident. I didn’t write another word of fiction until graduate school, where I’d sometimes fiddle with fictional scenarios on nights I was too wired to sleep. I shared a couple of those stories with friends and they always got good responses. I finally started submitting and sold my first story in 1989.


Lee: I’ve heard that in addition to horror, you also write westerns, as well as other genres. Can you tell us a little about your work outside the realm of horror?

Charles: I’ve always read just about everything I can get my hands on, and story ideas come to me of all different kinds. In my thirties, I decided that I wanted to try to write and publish something in every genre, which reflects what I read. So far I’ve managed Poetry, Nonfiction, SF, Fantasy, Horror, Westerns, Romance, Erotica, YA, Kids, Thriller, and Literary. I’ve never had a play published so that’s something I still have to work on, and straight up mystery. The biggest subset of my work has been in SF/Fantasy. I have five novels in the “Talera” series, which takes its cue from the John Carter of Mars stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and an SF novel called Under the Ember Star. Good stories can come from anywhere.


Lee: What drew you to the western genre? Did you adopt the horror genre before or after your work writing westerns?

Charles: My brother-in-law was a big fan of Louis L’Amour, probably the best-selling western writer of all time, and I borrowed his books when I was a kid. The first novel I wrote was a western. However, at the same time I was fiddling around with SF/Fantasy short stories, many of which had horror elements. Most of the stories I wrote in grad school, which were the first things I sold, were either straight horror or SF/Fantasy/ Horror. The influences here were my studies in Psychology, where I got my degree, and the influence of Lovecraft and the short story anthologies edited by Charles Grant being published at that time. I didn’t have time to read novels in grad school but I couldn’t give up reading so I devoured a lot of short stories. Most were horror. This is a long way of saying that I don’t have a ready answer for which came first. There were three parallel and contemporaneous lines of influence on my writing: SF/Fantasy, Horror, and Westerns.


Lee: I’m familiar with your work writing short stories and flash fiction. Where do you get your inspiration from?

Charles: As far as I can tell, inspiration seems to come from everywhere, the stuff I read, the TV/Movies that I watch, work and home experiences. A lot of inspiration for horror has always come from my dreams. I’ve been blessed with nightmares my whole life. There’s nothing much better than a good heart-rushing, sweat-pouring nightmare. Scary while you’re having them, but when you wake up you just gotta say, “That was cool!” I’m getting ready to release a collection of my dream derived stories called Out of Dreams: Nightmares. Several of these were first published in The Sirens Call ezine, which I know you have a connection to.


Lee: What has been the toughest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

Charles: Promotion. Trying to get your work noticed is a full-time job, which means I have three of them, teaching, writing, selling. Inevitably, something has to suffer, and for me it’s selling. That’s because I don’t enjoy it, and I’m not very good at it.


Lee: If you could live in any other time in history, where and when would you choose to live?

Charles: Can I pick the “Far Future?” I certainly fantasize about living in the wild west, or crusader times, or the stone age, but I know those times were pretty damn harsh in reality. If humanity can survive, though, there are likely to be some amazing adventures ahead for our species. New planets, new forms of life, new experiences that we can’t even imagine. I’d love to be there for it.


 Lee: Is there any one book or story that has influenced you as a writer?

Charles: There are so many books that have influenced me, by writers like Ray Bradbury, Louis L’Amour, Robert E. Howard, and John D. MacDonald. If I had to pick one book that marked the greatest influence on me it would probably be A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.


Lee: What do you like to read? Who are some of your favorite authors?

Charles: I still read everything I can get my hands on. There’s about a thousand unread books in my house, in all genres, so whatever I’m in the mood for, I’ve got. In the past year I’ve been reading a lot of Harlan Coben; I’ve also been on something of an E.C. Tubb kick, reading his Dumarest SF series. In the past six months I’ve discovered two men’s adventure writers that I’ve begun collecting: D.B. Drumm, who wrote a post-apocalyptic series about a character named Traveler, and David Robbins, who has written a series about Mountain Men and another post-apocalyptic series. There are also certain authors I reach for regularly because of their consistently good work: James Reasoner (and his pseudonyms) in westerns, Ken Bulmer and David Gemmell in fantasy, Bruce Boston and Marge Simon in speculative poetry, and Koontz in horror, though he can be hit or miss. I also read quite a few horror magazines, such as The Sirens Call, The Horror Zine, and Night to Dawn, which has helped me discover a bunch of new (to me at least) horror writers that I’ve been enjoying.


Lee: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

Charles: I read a lot. I also collect books. I’ve got close to 8,000 volumes in my house, more than our small local library. Other than that, I play video games in my spare time, such as Doom, Red Dead Redemption and Skyrim (my current favorite). Skyrim has books, which I love. I even collect those.


Lee: What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a career as a writer?

Charles: I don’t want to be discouraging but I think this is a very tough time to have a “career” as a writer. If you want to make enough money to live on, it’s going to be incredibly hard. There are so many writers and so many books being published that it’s hard to get noticed and break out. So, my advice for someone who wants a writing career is to find a job that’ll pay the bills but still give you time to write. I teach college, for example, and I tend to do most of my writing during school breaks and across the summer. This certainly slows down one’s progress and development as a writer, but it also gives you some needed security. Personally, I need that security.

On the other hand, if you’re not worried about making a living, this can be a great time to be a writer. There are numerous small markets, and there’s always a chance to self-publish. There are quite a few small presses out there. The money isn’t good and it’s difficult to find a readership, but there’s a good chance to see your work in print and get some feedback. Over the last few years, I’ve begun to worry less and less about making money directly, and more about publishing in places where my work can be read by a lot of folks. I hope, of course, to attract an audience that way who’ll begin to buy my books.

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Check out Charles Gramlich’s blog HERE

Find him on Facebook HERE

An Interview with Author Marge Simon

Lee: To start things off, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself and your work as a writer.

Marge: Hi. I guess this is where I give you a bio. Here goes: I live in Ocala, Florida and serve on the HWA Board of Trustees. I have three Bram Stoker Awards, Rhysling Awards for Best Long and Best Short Fiction, the Elgin, Dwarf Stars and Strange Horizons Readers’ Award. My poems and stories have appeared in Clannad, Pedestal Magazine, Asimov’s, Silver Blade, Polu Texni, Bete Noire, New Myths, Daily Science Fiction. My stories also appear in anthologies such as Tales of the Lake 5, Chiral Mad 4, You, Human and The Beauty of Death, to name a few. I attend the ICFA annually as a guest poet/writer and I’m on the board of the Speculative Literary Foundation.


Lee: I’m familiar with your work published on The Ladies of Horror Flash Project. Can you tell us a little about the group?

Marge: LOVE, love it. Flash and poetry are my bag. I’m sure someone else you’re interviewing will mention how The LoH Flash Project works.  I was so pleased to meet you at Grand Rapids Stokercon, Lee. Someday I hope to meet Nina and Erin too!


Lee: Do you have a specific method you follow when writing? What are some things you need on-hand when writing?

Marge:  How about what I don’t need? Don’t want to be interrupted except by myself. Don’t want noise, music, no roaches, ants, etc. Truth be told, I don’t write novels, so I don’t need to prepare my work area.  Sometimes I have some hand written notes but mostly, where I go with something on my back burner. I have two necessities: coffee, and at some point, popcorn.


Lee: What made you decide to become a writer? Was it something you always wanted to do?

Marge:   I call it Marge’s Magnificent Adventure. One day I was walking through the woods with a basket of organic bread and tofu cheese for my Granny. A wolf jumped out at me and I screamed. I was wearing my Lucky Red Cape, and a woodsman who closely resembled a young Brad Pitt saw the flash of red and came to my rescue. After that, I decided to become a writer and finish an otherwise boring story. Seriously, this sort of question makes it sound like one suddenly realizes — while washing the dinner dishes or wiping the blood off the knife used for their latest kill — that they want to be a writer. You know you are, so you do.


Lee: What has been the toughest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

Marge:  I never. 😊 Oh, wait – growing up enough to critique my own stuff.


Lee: Do you plan your stories out? Or do you just write and let the words flow?

Marge: If given a prompt, for example, I might start by composing a poem or a short fiction. Sometimes I may make poem into flash or fiction into poem. If I were writing (as I rarely have) a 5-6k story, I would have a summary and loose plan of sections.


Lee: What do you like to read? Who are some of your favorite authors?

Marge: I like flash fictions or short stories about the weird and unexpected, off kilter –could be sf/h/f/speculative, but unconventional. The Good Reads discussion group, Literary Darkness, has afforded me a chance to sample a plethora of speculative authors I’d never known before such as Angela Carter, as well as authors I knew, such as Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. I also enjoyed the short stories of Flannery O’Conner and Sheridan LeFanu. Apart from Good Reads, contemporary short fiction writers such as Angela Yuriko Smith, Brian Evanson, and of course Bruce Boston. I was a fan of his stories as well as his poetry for years before we married. There are some writers on Ladies of Horror that I favor, but I better not name names.


Lee: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

Marge:  Read. Paint or draw. Talk to my kindred. Mainly, have crazy or serious discussions with my amazing husband, Bruce Boston. Other: climb Mt. Everest, sail my schooner up to Martha’s Vineyard on weekends. Stuff like that.


Lee: What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a career as a writer?

Marge: Just about every interviewer asks this question. Without fail, I say READ, READ, READ. A writing professor told me that one of his students declared, “I’m a writer, not a reader.” And we know how far that person has to go, don’t we? 😊

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Check out Marge Simon’s work on The Ladies of Horror Flash Project!

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Interview with Author Roger Ley

I had the pleasure of interviewing author Roger Ley about his new short fiction collection, Dead People on Facebook recently released on Amazon. Hope you enjoy our little chat!

Lee Andrew Forman: Hi Roger, why don’t you take a moment to introduce yourself?

Roger Ley: Well Lee, I live in a hamlet in the rural county of Suffolk in the UK. It’s very quiet here and I look out of my study over rolling fields and the valley of the tiny River Alde. The view from the rear of my house is the background picture of my website at rogerley.co.uk. I retired a few years ago from teaching Computer Aided Engineering and took up writing, something I’d wanted to do for years, but full-time employment and raising a family meant it had to wait. I started writing articles for magazines, mainly autobiographical stories. In the end I put them all together, filled in the gaps and self-published my first book, ‘A Horse in the Morning’. It’s named after a story I wrote about a runaway horse that came and knocked at my front door (with its hooves) one morning.

Lee: Tell us about your latest release, Dead People on Facebook. What inspired you to put the collection together? What challenges did you face along the way?

Roger: After I wrote my first time travel novel ‘Chronoscape’, I joined a writing group and when our tutor set us fifteen-minute writing exercises I found I could often make a rough draft of a story in that time. Once my creativity was released, I found myself writing and submitting stories to eZines via the ‘Submission Grinder’ and was surprised and pleased when they were accepted.

In the end there were enough stories to self-publish an anthology. I called it ‘Dead People on Facebook’ because I’d put six stories on the ‘Curious Fictions’ website and the one with that title got nearly three times as many hits as the others.

Lee: What would you want potential readers to know before reading your work?

Roger: The stories in the first part of this anthology concern Martin and Estella Riley who are the main characters in my novel ‘Chronoscape’ but you don’t need to have read it for the stories to make sense. They were written randomly over 2018 and I put them together in the order of the protagonists’ ages. They are only loosely connected, think of them as occurring on different timelines so, for instance, Martin can die on one and still be alive on another.

Lee: Even horror writers have fears. Tell us about yours.

Roger: I have all the usual fears: aging, death, unpopularity but more immediately, I will shortly be appearing on stage at our local arts theatre in ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’, by Charles Dickens. (‘Tom Codlin’s the name, people call me Trotters. Pleased to make you acquaintance.’ ) I’m worried that I might forget my lines and look a complete dick in front of three hundred people, some of whom I know.

Lee: What draws you to the horror genre? What made you decide to write horror?

Roger: I didn’t set out to write horror, I wanted to write hard science fiction, but many of my stories, for instance ‘Piranha’, ‘Penance’, ‘Horsemen’, ‘Rivals’ came out nasty, others came out funny or romantic and there are some sci fi stories. My stories are written by somebody who shares my brain with me, someone who I’ve never been introduced to. As I was writing my stories I felt more like the midwife than the parent. The short answer to your question is that I didn’t choose horror, it was the other guy that chose it.

Lee: If you had to choose one fictional character to be real, from any book, movie, or television show, who or what would it be?

Roger: Sorry to harp on about my own work but while Mary Lee, the fly drone pilot is my creation it doesn’t stop me from being in love with her, unattainable though she is. Several other people have found her intriguing but none could possibly carry the torch for her that I do. She appears in this anthology in the story ‘The Fly on the Wall.’

Lee: Where does your inspiration for writing come from?

Roger: I wrote all these stories in a nine-month period. I don’t know where the ideas come from but I don’t sit and think about them, I put the pen on the paper and write, I let the other guy in there do the creating.

Lee: Tell us about the inspiration for one of the pieces in your collection, Dead People on Facebook.

Roger: One of my favorite stories is the second one in the collection, ‘Dia de los Muertos’. It started to form in my mind as my wife and I took our regular walk which passes through the village graveyard. The story changed quite a lot as I wrote it and it became apparent to me that it was loosely related to the first story in the collection, ‘Harley’. I thought about the shades of dead people appearing once a year near their graves and talking with the corporeal friends and relatives, after a little Wikipedia research into the Mexican festival of the Dead the story eventually emerged, screaming loudly, and I placed it into the loving arms of the ‘The Sirens Call eZine’ where it lives to this day.

Lee: If you had to recommend one book in any genre, what would it be?

Roger: I really like ‘The Fountains of Paradise’ by Arthur C Clarke. I have incorporated the idea of space elevators into several of my stories and sited mine on the equator at Kisumu in Kenya.

As far as horror is concerned, I think ‘Carrie’ by Stephen King was a game changer although, in general, I find SK’s books rather too long.

Lee: Do you have a preferred sub-genre or theme when writing short fiction?

Roger: As I’ve said, for short fiction I put the pen on the paper and see what happens, it’s up to my alter ego. I guess I like nasty/funny. Is that a recognized sub-genre? The best example in this collection is possibly ‘Turing Test’.

Lee: What piece of your writing are you most proud of? Tell us about it.

Roger: I got an ‘Honorable Mention’ in the ‘Writers of the Future’ contest for the story ‘Pilgrimage’ which is a pure fantasy piece. It was published by AntipodeanSF and they’ll be broadcasting it in the new year on their AntipodeanSF Radio Show. But I also really like ‘Pressing Matters’ published by Sirens Call Publications. I love the idea of a downtrodden woman finally… no spoilers.

Lee: What three things do you need to sit down and write?

Roger: I live on my own some of the time and while I can do the routine stuff like submissions and social media when I’m at my wife’s house I need to be alone to write creatively.

I have a double walled mug which keeps my tea hot.

I need to get all my small jobs cleared out of the way before I can free myself to write.

Lee: What has been the greatest challenge you’ve faced as a writer so far?

Roger: The difficulty of publicizing my work and selling books. I don’t expect to make a living from writing, but I would like to get my books to a bigger audience. This is the reason that I’ve embraced flash fiction, it’s easier to get it published than larger works.

Lee: Any final words for the reader?

Roger: You may not like all the stories in ‘Dead People on Facebook’ but you will almost certainly like some and if you do, please leave a review. Good reviews are like gold nuggets to a writer and often they’re the only feedback you get from your readers.

About Roger Ley:

Roger 2 compressed

Roger Ley was born and educated in London and spent some of his formative years in Saudi Arabia. He worked as an engineer in the oilfields of North Africa and the North Sea, before pursuing a career in higher education. His stories have appeared in about twenty ezines this year and some have been podcast and broadcast, notably on the AntipodeanSF Radio Show in Australia.

He has published three books:

Dead People on Facebook‘ is a recently released collection of flash fiction stories in various speculative genres including Steampunk, Horror, Sci Fi, Time travel, a little magic and one Romance.

‘Chronoscape’ is a science fiction novel about time and alternate realities. It has been well received and was included by author Jessica Lucci on her Summer reading list 2018.

‘A Horse in the Morning’ is a collection of comic autobiographical stories.

Reach him at rogerley.co.uk