Gwen Mayo and I had the pleasure of returning to Kentucky for the Kentucky Book Festival on November 6th. We saw family and friends, along with our comrades in writing from the Derby Rotten Scoundrels chapter of Sisters in Crime. You can see their account of the festival here.
The reception before the event was hosted by Campbellsville College and featured many of the leading lights in Kentucky literature.
The day of the festival, our corner of the room was very busy! Many fellow authors and bourbon fans stopped by to chat and pick up a copy of Mystery with a Splash of Bourbon, signed by the contributors in attendance.
By 3 PM, all the copies Joseph-Beth's provided us with had sold out, and authors were dipping into their personal stash so we could fill the need. The store has contacted the chapter about doing another signing before Christmas. Good news for them, and good news for MAHLLC!
Many people say my line of work is an old-fashioned one, but I suppose that’s part of the “charm,” really. People are still nostalgic for the image of the sleepy little suburban house with flowers on the windowsill and a bottle of milk on the doorstep.
That, however, doesn’t explain one of my frequent stops. Every morning, I drive to these steps, where I find two empty bottles and payment for the last morning’s milk. I collect them before placing two milk bottles on the last step before the staircase of concrete enters the sea.
I sometimes tell myself work is work and I shouldn’t question these things, but often on the way to the next order, I have attempted to rationalise it. Someone lives nearby and wants to convince themselves to walk by the sea in the mornings. Someone wants to have a bowl of cereal or a cup of coffee while watching the waves.
If either of those explanations were true, it did not explain this one morning. After I placed down the bottles and ascended, I heard a slurp and turned around to see a large wet spot where the milk used to be.
Our first Sisters in Crime chapter, the Derby Rotten Scoundrels, invited us to talk about how we formed Mystery and Horror, LLC, and share the details of our journey. They also wanted to know what was involved in running a small press. We each took turns describing what they do at MAHLLC and how the indie press works. You can see the recording of our talk here!!
Your story is one of the raciest we've ever printed in Strangely Funny. How did you decide what would happen?
I've always enjoyed pushing limits, so that comes naturally to me. I have a 12-book series with Rena Marin about a deranged sex doll. Because of that, not much feels too wild to me. I enjoy writing satire and making people laugh, so there are generally hidden messages about society and social situations in my work. By day, I work as a therapist and find that laughter is the best treatment plan for anything. My writing reflects that often.
You've teamed up with other authors (Rena Marin, Sara Schoen) to write novels, which is anathema to most of the authors I know. What helps the most when working with another creative mind?
I have about 100 published titles. About half of those are co-written. I've been really fortunate to make close friendships in the indie writing community. Rena and I generally write humor, while Sara and I write thrillers. With Rena, the ability to banter back and forth as characters helps keep things funny. With Sara, we write with no plot and keep each other in suspense - something that translates into our books for readers. For me, co-writing is nice because it gives me new ideas and has taught me to write in all tenses and points of view.
You're phenomenally prolific. Can you tell us a little about your writing process? Do you have a psychedelic hut somewhere? A fairy godmother? A shrine to Stephen King?
LOL. I wish I had a magical answer. My true answer is discipline. I write 2,000 words a day seven days a week no matter what is happening in my life. Some days, those words are only journal entries but they keep me in the habit of daily practice.
Which genre is your favorite to write in?
Stories based on real-life, situations, and people. I guess that would be literary fiction, but I"m not big on genre labels as I tend to cross those lines often.
Who is your favorite author and what really strikes you about their work?
Sylvia Plath. I think she wrote as honestly and fearlessly as possible. Her life story fascinates me and her poetry is fantastic.
What is your current project/newest release?
I work on several WIPs at a time, depending on mood. Today, I worked on Shrinking Tink under my pen name EL George. It's a Peter Pan retell based on a true story about a client I admire. My last release was It's a Rap? That one is a satire written about the indie author community I so dearly appreciate.
Thank you for allowing me to tell my writing story journey! Happy writing and reading to all!
What gave you the idea for “The Vampire in Winter?”
The basic concept is what happens if a vampire just gets bored. Some go Goth and shave their heads. Others pretend to be aristocrats. This particular fellow amuses himself by tormenting a vampire hunter he actually has some fondness for. And part of the amusement to our vampiric narrator is that he’s actually telling the priest that the standard tools and techniques are just pop culture nonsense.
When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
I’ve always been one and have not, apparently, strayed far from my roots. My first publication was a Halloween poem in the first grade for the elementary school newspaper back in 1967. I was amazed that they used it. I distinctly recall hating the ending, which, although rhyming, felt forced. So, 50+ years later, the “self-loathing of published work” part never changed either.
Under your real name, you have compiled an impressive collection of horror guides, accounts of Lovecraft’s travels and correspondence, plus some cryptozoological reference material. It’s staggering. How did you get drawn into documenting so many diverse and obscure things?
In my head, they’re all related, sort of a unified-brain theory. During college, I interned for a marketing firm that had America’s Stonehenge as a client. To make a very long story short, I ended up managing the site’s tourism side. I also indulged in historical research of the hill’s past (my major was American Studies, specializing in local history). That evolved into my fringe archaeology books/articles on ancient New England locations with alleged pre-Columbian European visitors.
While I was at America’s Stonehenge, the first NecronomiCon was held in Danvers, MA. We had a spate of tourists drive up to see the “sacrificial table” described by Lovecraft. As a local historian and a fan of his work, I was appalled that Lovecraft had been to the site, and no one really knew much about it. He had been in my own hometown repeatedly, and there was no actual research as to why or when. That brought me into Lovecraft studies and my first book on the topic, his visits to the Merrimack River Valley.
I was already a horror movie fan (Creature Double Feature on Channel 56). So regional horror guides seemed a natural progression, with Poe and Lovecraft having roots in New England. Moby-Dick, admittedly a ponderous read, opens in Massachusetts and has a black magic ceremony and supernatural allegories. And Collinsport, Maine exteriors were actually filmed in Connecticut. How can you not want to share such bizarre overlaps of film settings, filming locations, and literature?
You sometimes collaborate with your brother, Scott Goudsward. How do you do this without killing each other?
Scott’s survival can be credited entirely to geography. He lives in Massachusetts, and I’m in Florida. I am also too cheap to buy an airplane ticket and fly 1200 miles to kill him.
Technology has also helped. Discussions on content and the editing process has become much easier with Facebook’s Instant Messenger and Dropbox. I do not miss the inherent irritation of transferring material on dial-up via AOL IM, compounding the usual fraternal homicidal urges.
What are you currently working on?
I am all over the map right now, literally and figuratively.
I am wrapping up Adventurous Liberation: Lovecraft in Florida, looking at Lovecraft’s three trips to the Sunshine State. I hope to get that one out this year.
Scott and I are about halfway through Horror Guide to Southern New England, which will complete the series.
I’ve started work on my second book on sea serpents, covering the Canadian Maritimes down to the reports from the mid-Atlantic.
I’ve just contracted to revise and update one of my earlier books, Ancient Stone Sites of New England.
Kay Hanifen was born on a Friday the 13th and once spent three months living in a haunted 14th century castle. So, obviously, she had to get into horror writing. She's a certified monster nerd and a former contributor to Screen Rant. When she isn't reading, writing, and taking in pop culture with the voraciousness of a vampire at a blood bank, you can find her on Twitter @TheUnicornComi1.
When did you begin writing your own stories? What inspired you?
I honestly don't remember when I first began writing, but storytelling has always been a big part of my life. As a little girl, I'd dictate my stories to my mom and then illustrate the little picture books we made. My family also played this game that was one-half improv and one-half campfire tales where someone would start a story and then we'd go around in a circle adding to it until we finished. I was a big reader, and I wanted to inspire others the way that I had been inspired by the writers that shaped me.
In your bio, you said you lived in a haunted castle for three months. Where was the castle, and what was it like? How did you get this opportunity?
It was through a study abroad program. My college has a campus in the rural Netherlands that also happened to be a 13th-century castle. During the week, we'd live and study there, and on the weekend, we'd travel to other countries. My room was at the top of a guard tower, and we had to climb a dark, claustrophobic spiral staircase up there that I called "the nightmare stairs." Aside from feeling uncomfortable when alone in a certain part of the castle near the computer lab and my fully charged laptop's batteries randomly draining one night, I didn't experience anything supernatural. However, some of my friends heard whispers in the common room in the middle of the night. One of them also said that a ghost laid down in her bed while she worked at her desk. She saw a depression in the mattress, but no one was there. Reportedly, the ghost of a little girl called Sophie roamed the halls.
How did you get the idea for "Advice on Dating a Succubus: An Asexual’s Perspective?" It's different, even for this series.
The idea has been rattling around in the back of my head since high school. In the first draft, the asexual woman goes on a blind date, only to discover that the date was a succubus and shenanigans ensue. At the time, I was just growing comfortable with the labels of homoromantic and asexual for myself. I wanted to see some positive representation and explore what such an odd couple's relationship might look like. I decided to write it like an advice blog post from another world because I've always enjoyed the epistolary style of writing and I'm fascinated by advice columns. You're reading the story of an anonymous person's problems and the advice in response but rarely find out the whole story. It's just a snapshot, but you learn so much about the person sending the letter and the advice giver. It seemed like a fun way to build a world and characters. I chose Lilith as my romantic interest because she's one of my favorite mythical figures. I'm admittedly a bit of a monster nerd, and I once went on a research binge about her for a school project. The thing that stands out to me about her story is that she's powerful and is condemned for demanding equality. She also lends herself surprisingly well to humor. From what I've read, although she's been referenced in other ancient texts, her first appearance as Adam's wife was actually in a medieval Jewish satire called The Alphabet of Ben Sirach. In the story, she leaves Eden over an argument with Adam about who's on top in their relationship and the angels fail to bring her back. I just think the mythical figure of her is so fascinating and hopefully, I did her justice.
Who is your favorite author, and what really strikes you about their work?
It's hard to choose just one! I'm a huge fan of Shirley Jackson, especially The Haunting of Hill House. She's a master of capturing atmosphere and her prose is just beautiful. I also take a lot of inspiration from Neil Gaiman, especially in the way that he blends mythology and urban fantasy. Another author that I admire is the comic writer, Gail Simone, because she's so great at developing characters with distinct personalities and humor in the face of impossible odds. A more recent favorite is Jonathan Sims. I discovered his writing through his fantastic cosmic horror tragedy podcast, The Magnus Archives. It's so well written and I recommend it to basically everyone I meet. His debut novel, Thirteen Storeys, is also excellent. He's so skilled at creating distinct and memorable characters in a short amount of time and knows how to weave plot threads into a complex tapestry of horror.
Thank you for talking to us!
To read Kay Hanifen's account of an unlikely (but lovable) couple, download or order a copy of Strangely Funny VIII. Perhaps they'll be in a rom-com movie one day!
Strangely Funny VIII is available in print and Kindle now!
R.C. Mulhare was born in Lowell, Massachusetts and grew up in one of the surrounding towns, in a hundred-year-old house up the street from an old cemetery. Her interest in the dark and mysterious started when she was quite young, when her mother read the faery tales of the Brothers Grimm and quoted the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe to her, while her Irish storyteller father infused her with a fondness for strange characters and quirky situations. When she isn't writing, she moonlights in grocery retail, and enjoys hiking in the woods of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, plus browsing the antiques shops one finds all over New England. A two-time Amazon best-selling author, contributor to the Hugo-nominated Archive of Our Own, and member of the New England Horror Writers, her work previously appeared with Atlantean Publishing, Off the Beaten Path Press, Macabre Maine, FunDead Publications, Deadman's Tome, and Weirdbook Magazine.
When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
I learned to be a storyteller from my dad, and my mom has penfriends all over the world and has encouraged me to write. She even helped me write down my stories when I was too young to write! I've tinkered with fanfic and fantasy most of my life, but it wasn't until much later, after I'd faced down the real life fear of losing my job that I decided to face my fear of rejections and get published. Our town's library hosted a gathering of local horror authors which I attended in October of 2015, and while chatting with one gent, he asked me why I wasn't published yet, I told him I work retail and it takes a lot of time and energy out of me. He asked me how I long I'd worked retail; I told him I'd worked it for thirteen years. Then he looked me in the eye and said, "If you can work retail for thirteen years, *you* can get published." A light went on in my head and I thought 'Well, why the heck not?' The following summer, I got two stories accepted by two indie presses, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history and a very spirited one.
What genres do you most enjoy writing in, and why?
I started in fantasy and science fiction, then moved on to supernatural and cosmic horror more recently. Speculative fiction is my home in the writing world and I love carving out my own little spaces in it!
Do you write nonfiction?
I keep a journal of my daily life, and I've thought about taking some of the entries from during the pandemic and editing them as a short autobiography, a modern day Journal of the Plague Days, like Daniel Defoe's!
How did you get the idea for "The Terror on the Gridiron"? More importantly, how many times did you read the source material to create this apocryphal tale?
I had the idea come to me during Thanksgiving week when I was bagging turkeys at my day job in grocery retails and I overheard a conversation about the high school football rivalry between my town and a neighboring one, which got me to thinking of a similar rivalry between Harvard and Yale. And since Yale was one of HPL's inspirations for Miskatonic U, I got the clear mental image of Herbert West and his unnamed assistant working over an injured football player. The HPL story and the movie version by the late, great Stuart Gordon are among my favorite horror pieces. I often listen to an audiobook version of the story, performed by Jeffrey Combs, while I'm writing,and this one inspires me to write the kind of chapters that Lovecraft didn't write but which could have happened to the gruesome twosome (and yes, like Pete Rawlik with his Reanimators series, I've cleverly woven in some ideas based on things in the movie). This one came to me so quickly, it practically wrote itself!
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Usually, it involves not having enough of at least one of three things: time, energy (physical and-or emotional), or inspiration. Sometimes I'm able to jumpstart the inspiration by watching or reading something that makes me think of the current WIP, but other times I have to be patient with myself while I figure out how to better manage my time and energy.
You're a writer, but also a reader. Who is your favorite author, and what do you like best about them?
Oh man, there are many: besides HPL, I love Jane Austen for her insights into human relationships, Flannery O'Connor for the way she depicts humans at their less than best but still fascinating, and Oscar Wilde for his wit and wisdom, but I also love reading Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series and George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones, which have taught me a lot about world building.
What are you working on now?
I'm taking a mini-breather from writing horror, and I'm looking at some weird romances I've had on various back burners. What do I mean by weird romances? One puts a romantic slant on H.P. Lovecraft's Wilbur Whateley, another combines Robert W. Chambers's King in Yellow stories with the shopgirl romances he'd write later in life - and a third involving Herbert West romancing an eventually ill-fated socialite. I've got more stories in the works, so watch my FB page at https://www.facebook.com/rcmulhare/ for an anthology of Eighties horror stories which some friends of mine in the New England Horror Writers have put together, which includes my "The Cherryfield Terror", a tale of summer teen hijinks and the Satanic Panic in small town Maine... More recently, Hellbound Books released their Dennis Wheatey-inspired anthology Satan Rides Your Daughter , which includes my "Stonehedge Street Terror", in which a young actor finds his role as a possessed person in a house haunt attraction taking on a terrifying reality. You can find it at tinyurl.com/krvut992
Thank you for a great interview!
To read R. C. Mulhare's great addition to the Herbert West saga, download or order a copy of Strangely Funny VIII. She's also contributed to several previous volumes of the series, so your enjoyment of her work can go on and on.
Strangely Funny VIII is available in print and Kindle now!
Here's a sneak peek at the cover for Strangely Funny VIII, the latest volume in our annual collection of funny paranormal stories.
Contributors to this year's edition
The Vampire in Winter by David Bernard
Advice on Dating a Succubus: An Asexual’s Perspective by Kay Hanifen
The Terror on the Gridiron by R.C. Mulhare
Felling the Family Tree by Edward Lodi
Feeding Mitzi by Kevin A Davis
War of the Murder Hornets by Paul Wartenberg
Two Pair and the Sign of the Fig by Judith Field
Life of the Party by Luke Foster
Zoe and the Stiff by Erin Lee
Yes, You Too Can be a Vegan Vampire by Rosalind Barden
Exorcist to the Stars by C.D. Gallant-King
Best Laid Plans by Robert Allen Lupton
Reversing the Apocalypse with Your Old Pal, Death by Joshua James Jordan
Parts by M. Stern
Hookella by Dominick Cancilla
Portney Abbey by DJ Tyrer
Irish Houseguest by Eileen Wijesinghe
Alien with a Bad Attitude by Henry Herz
Check back for release date and links!
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