Did you enjoy last week’s guest post from author Cassidy Frazee? Are you enjoying the series? I’d love to hear your suggestions on how to improve the series, or if you are wanting to guest post or be interviewed, or maybe you wonder if anyone else feels the same way you do, all you have to do is contact me and tell me all about it.
1. How long have you been writing?
I started writing when I was about seven years old. I was in third grade, and I wrote a novel. A brief, crayon-illustrated novel called The City Monster. Obviously, it didn’t go anywhere, but I was hooked on writing.
2. What kind(s) of writing do you do?
I began writing seriously as a poet. But, soon I was working on short stories. My work is a combination of magic realism, dark fantasy, reworked fairy tales, and horror. I like the dark side.
3. Why did you choose that particular field or genre?
I think because it gives me free rein to explore disturbing subjects. I like the adrenaline boost of a scary tale, and the thrill of a good twist. But it always seems there is something I’m trying to say. Maybe it’s the same thing, every time, and I don’t quite get it said. Something about my own deep-seated fears; and there is an element of baring scars, as well. Of course, I get a kick out of making readers squirm in the dark, too.
4. What inspires you?
Real stories of real people. Usually just little things, bits of an experience, like the way the hair raised on their arms, or the smell of the room where it happened, the music that played the day things went down. And places inspire me. Qualities of light. Tiny details that seem somehow skewed. I don’t really look for these things. They just sort of pop out at me.
5. Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing, etc. come from?
My grandmother read to me all the time when I was a toddler. I memorized the books and “read” along with her. When I was able to read for myself, there weren’t many books available to me. Every book was precious. As I got older, I gained more access to books and went wild, collecting and reading them. I guess I was what people call a troubled kid. My place in the world was unstable. The worlds those books conjured were real to me, and they provided me a desperately needed escape. I wanted to be able to make that magic happen, to build my own worlds.
6. How do you find or make time to write?
There are always a lot of things clamoring for our time. I had to decide to make writing a priority, and to shift some other things a little further down the list. It was hard at first, but now it seems natural. I don’t have kids, so it’s definitely easier for me than for the moms out there. But, basically, I just decided that writing was important. I decided to treat it like a job; I show up on time and I put in my hours.
7. Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Summarize your writing process.
I fly by the seat of my pants when I’m drafting a story. Pure intuition. I’m as surprised as anyone by the way things unfold. Then I wade in with all the tools and start thinking about it in a more logical fashion. I make the clay, then I sculpt. I’ve tried outlining, planning, working out the story arc, and it just kills it for me. I get an inkling of what the story wants to be, and I leap. I let it play fast and loose, take me where it wants with minimal steering. All the refining comes later. It’s different for each writer, and whatever works is the right way, even if it means standing on your head. If I get stuck, I walk away for a bit. I get outside, I move, and the story is churning in the background. When I get back to it, I find it’s decided on a direction.
8. How did you get to be where you are in your life today?
So many twists and turns! I guess I got here the same way I get to the end of a story draft. By the seat of my pants. I never planned much, and just rolled with things. Always, the writing was there, but it was a growth process. I needed the wild variety of experiences I had, the many moves, the many jobs, the spicy melange of people I met, to get to the place of writing I occupy today. And the process is ongoing. I expect it will continue as long as I do.
9. What projects are you working on at the moment?
A second book of short stories, which is nearly completed. And I’ve got a novel in the pipe that has been struggling for form a long time. There are so many stories to be written!
10. What process did you go through to get your work published?
I self published Wilderness: A Collection of Dark Tales. It really didn’t occur to me to go any other way, and it was a good experience. I’d love to be picked up by a publisher, though. The business end of self publishing, the marketing and sales, exhausted me and stopped the writing for an unacceptable amount of time. I’d love to have some support with that end of things.
11. What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Well, self-promotion is very hard for me. Of course, I want people to read and enjoy my work. How to make myself known? I struggle with this. All the marketing and promotional advice in the world can’t overcome my reluctance to be a salesperson, or to dance and prance on social media to create a platform. The writing itself, while often difficult, is a natural mode of expression for me. I accept, and even embrace, its challenges. It’s that darn business stuff that hangs me up.
12. What do you enjoy most about writing? Share your favorite work.
I love losing myself in a story, the same as when I’m reading. Knitting it all together is exhilarating. I really like words, too, and finding the right ones. It’s like a puzzle. I don’t really have a favorite work. There are so many tremendous writers I love. I’m a big fan of short stories, though. Novels are great, don’t get me wrong, but the short story is an incredibly powerful form.
13. What is the biggest thing people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that isn’t true?
Maybe that it’s just gratuitous mayhem, or that a story featuring monsters or ghosts can’t have anything important to say. Those things only constitute a vehicle. They entertain, and they provide both the writer and the reader a bit of distance from some topics that can be pretty uncomfortable.
14. What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your subject/genre, that they should?
Perhaps that literary excellence is possible within it, and is often achieved. A dark tale doesn’t have to be a simple fright mechanism. It can have subtle layers of meaning. It can be written in beautiful language. All of this, and just plain fun to read, too.
15. For those interested in exploring the subject/theme of your work, where should they start?
For magic realism, I love Alice Hoffman and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, just to start. And the fabulist Italo Calvino. And the magnificent fairy tales of Angela Carter. And the elegant ghost stories of Edith Wharton, Shirley Jackson, and M.R. James. I’m a huge Stephen King fan, and I love the wordsmithing of Dean Koontz. Peter Straub’s book Ghost Story is, in my opinion, a new classic. I loved Jody Shields’s book The Fig Eater. I mean, I loved it! I could go on and on, but this is a nice start.
16. What are some ways in which you promote your writing? Do you find that these add or detract from your writing time?
Well, I sort of whined enough about promotion. I find it detracts from my writing time, while I acknowledge its necessity. I did book signings, locally, for Wilderness. I rather enjoyed those. I set up a website, I have a blog, I have an Amazon author page, and a Facebook page. I’m on LinkedIn and Goodreads.
17. Who are some of your favorite authors? What impact have they had on your writing?
Question 15 partially answered this. I also adore the work of Donna Tartt. I’ve read all her books, and re-read her first, The Secret History, several times. I love Tanith Lee, Ursula K. LeGuin, Orson Scott Card, Anne Rice, Dan Simmons. I love Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Joseph Conrad, Patricia Highsmith. Too many to make a decent list. I’m always leaving out someone super important! They’ve shown me how to construct a story, how to tighten it while letting it have the space it demands, how to be impeccable in word choice. I don’t always get these lessons right, but the fault is my own. Such great teachers!
18. What makes your writing stand out from the crowd?
I’m told I have a distinctive voice, one that is recognizable. I think this might be true. There is a certain subtlety, a sly twisting of meanings my stories have in common. A kind of sneaky pouncing on the reader, maybe, where the endings tend to be slippery ground.
19. What are you currently reading?
An anthology of American short stories published by Granta and several Shirley Jackson novels. I like to keep several books going at once.
20. What do you think is the future of reading/writing?
Hmm. That’s a big question. It’s easy to say that younger generations haven’t an interest in good writing, that all they care to comprehend are tweets and texts. But, I think there is a core of literature lovers in every generation, and that core has always felt itself to be shrinking and beleaguered. It’s not, really. It’s just not fully aware of all of its constituents. There is an awful lot of conversation going on – about writing, about books, about what constitutes good literature – for reading/writing to be on the decline. There are writers everywhere, and every writer is a reader, too.
I live in rural Bedford County, Pennsylvania with my husband, grandmother, and two cats. I love to garden, hike, and kayak. I belong to a writers’ group called the Saturday Scribes, and I write dark, speculative fiction. I’m the author of Wilderness: A Collection of Dark Tales, available from Amazon as an ebook or paperback. My short story, Love Apples, is included in the collection Echoes in Darkness, from Bannerwing Books. My short story, Queen and Knave, is included in the second edition of Precipice: The Literary Anthology of Write On Edge. Both are available from Amazon. More of my short fiction is available on my blog, The Palace of Night. My website is www.elizabethyon.com.
Isn’t she fabulous? Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments.
While you’re here, would you please take a moment to answer this question submitted by AL Mabry for next week’s Wednesday Writers Wisdom?
How do you effectively juggle multiple writing projects?
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