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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The Sirens Call eZine is open for submissions! — Issue 45 ‘Distant Screams’

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For the forty-fifth issue of The Sirens Call eZine, we’re looking for works of horror and dark fiction. As an added bonus, if your piece revolves around a scream, all the better; but not required.

What qualifies as a scream? The echo of a screech in the night; the sound of your own mind isolated amongst a crowd; the wheels of a train or car coming to a sudden uncontrolled stop; the howl of a creature in the night; a wail of loss; the chortle of a twisted soul in pure joy. Interesting ideas to contemplate, don’t you think? There are myriad interpretations that qualify as a scream if crafted properly – dealers choice to include one or not!

We’ll be accepting short stories, flash fiction, drabbles, and poetry provided they fit within the horror/dark fiction genre. We welcome reprints as long as you hold the copyright to the piece.

Your piece can be scary, sullen, emotive, freaky, elegant, bizarre, have a dark-humor edge to it, or be flat out creepy as hell!

Check out the submissions page for more details.

Damned Words 34

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What dark imaginings can a flower bring? Find out what the authors over at Pen of the Damned​ have seen in this image… 8 pieces of dark flash fiction for you enjoyment!

Includes pieces by Jon Olson​, Lydia Prime​, Mercedes Yardley​, Scarlett R. Algee​, A.F. Stewart​, Mark Steinwachs​, Nina D’Arcangela​, and me!

www.penofthedamned.com

The Sirens Call eZine Issue #40

The latest issue of The Sirens Call eZine is out!

Filled with horror and dark fiction, poetry, and photo-inspired prose from Pen of the Damned!

I’d like to thank the contributors, who made this another great issue!

Download and read for FREE!

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