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!
The authors have conjured up a farcical, witty and twisty tale in a solidly researched setting of the mid-1920s society of St. Petersburg, Florida. It is a well-crafted, deftly plotted mystery with a razzle-dazzle pacing that keeps you guessing until the end. This installment in the Three Snowbirds Mystery Series is a cracking-good, page-turning entry in what promises to be a long and successful run."
We are pleased to present Murder at the Million Dollar Pier, the second book in the Three Snowbirds mystery series. It will be available for sale on September 27th, and you can preorder the book on Kindle now. Scroll down to see its excellent cover, designed by Patty G. Henderson at Boulevard Photografica, and to learn more about the story.
Never waste good rum on a bad night."
Here at last!
"MURDER ON THE MULLET EXPRESS is an action-packed crime caper set during the Florida Land Boom, as bootleggers, mobsters and grifters galore feed on the dreams of sun-seekers. Teddy and Cornelia, well-nigh unshockable after their WWI tours of nursing duty, are at full stretch as it is - wrangling their eccentric Uncle Percy, when a murder hijacks their trip and throws them in at the deep end. Truly original and tremendous fun with a big heart. Make that two big hearts."
Enter now for a chance to win a free copy of our newest novel!
I bet some of you (okay, a few of you) were wondering about this. Sorry we didn't post earlier; we've been up to our neck in alligators (mostly figurative) this summer.
We need submissions for our annual collection of funny paranormal stories. Story must be funny (if it ends sadly with no hilarity, it's not for this anthology) and have supernatural/paranormal elements. Previous published stories include a murder in a halfway house for the undead, a Shriner who becomes a weregoat, and a therapist who wants the monster in the closet to come out.
Story length should be 2000-6000 words. If you sub something longer than that, it'd better be really funny. Our submission window is October 1st-November 30th, 2016. Please do not sub sooner because there's a 90% chance it won't get read till October anyway and could get buried under other emails. Publication of SF4 should be in spring 2017 (note the use of 'should' here).
For info on guidelines and payment, please go to our Guidelines and Payment page. Please look at the guidelines if this is your first time submitting to us. It makes our lives easier.
What would you like people to know about you?
Well, I’m a Sagittarius. So I’m half human and half horse. Guess which half is which?
When did you begin writing?
I began writing in elementary school, where the nuns at St. Stephens inspired me to write such prose as "See Dick run" almost daily. It was actually during those days that I first remember enjoying literature. As I learned to read I immediately was drawn to books on monsters, ghosts, unexplained phenomenon and animals. I would read these books and then write my own versions of the stories. I would read these books and then write my own versions of the stories. They were terrible rip-offs of the originals but eventually they made me want to create my own stories that people would
get excited for.
How did you get the idea for your story in Strangely Funny III?
I had written a list of story ideas for children that would never get published. For example: What to do When your Imaginary Friend Goes into Rehab, My First Prostitute and The Jungle Juice Book. But the one that I knew I could possibly get published (not for children) with a little finesse was, The Monster That Wouldn’t Come Out of the Closet. And with just a throw-away title, a story baby was born.
Is there a genre you haven't written in, but would like to?
Chick-lit. I love writing dialog and women talk a lot! Sorry, ladies we do; me included. It would be great just to let loose on each character. But knowing me, they’d end up at the mall and a huge creature would rise up from the pretzel dough at Aunt Anne’s and attack everyone. Which would bring me back to the horror genre anyway. So never mind.
Who are your current favorite authors? What do you enjoy about them?
I love reading Indie authors. They have such wonderful ideas and craft stories so much better than some of the well-known authors who write because they have to write, not because they choose to write. Independent authors write because they love to write and their ideas are fresh.
What are you working on next?
I'm working on a book with President Obama about his monster that he hides under the desk in the Oval Office. He doesn't know it yet. Damn Secret Service keeps yanking me out of the trees.
What is your favorite writing snack food/drink?
Air. Butter flavored air.
Thank you for sharing your craziness with us!
You can read Ruschelle's story, "Quasi-Therapy" and other amusing tales in Strangely Funny III, now on Amazon.
M&H: What would you like people to know about you?
DF: I like to travel. I’ve visited all but two U.S. states (N. Dakota & Alaska), Puerto Rico, and 20 foreign countries including China.
I’m currently retired, living in Connecticut and enjoying my second career as an author. I’ve been married for 48 years to my wonderful wife Tere. We have three daughters, and seven grandchildren ranging in age from 7 months to 20 years.
M&H: When did you begin writing?
DF: It seems like I’ve always been writing something, but I didn’t start writing professionally until I retired. I found it impossible to switch from the highly technical writing I did during my day job to writing fiction in my off time.
M&H: How did you get the idea for your story in Strangely Funny III?
DF: By getting old. Every year I get junk mail from AARP inviting me to join. In it, they always expound on the joys of being a senior. The reality is, along with the good things that come with age, so do the aches and pains of an aging body. I thought it might be fun to poke a little fun at both of them.
M&H: Is there a genre you haven't written in, but would like to?
DF: Epic Fantasy. I wrote one short story, "Sang Ku’s Dilemma", in this genre. Sang Ku is an assassin living in a world of sword and sorcery. I’ve always thought of going back and exploring Sang’s life and his world.
M&H: Who are your current favorite authors? What do you enjoy about them?
DF: Steven King, of course, because he’s a great story teller. I have a problem with some of his endings, but I can give him that. Currently I really like the work of James A. Moore, both his horror and epic fantasy. His Seven Forges series is outstanding. Others include Elizabeth Massie, Jack Ketchum, Rick Hautala, and a host of others.
In the past few years I’ve pretty much stopped reading the big names and have started reading the work of writers I’ve met through conventions and my own writing. I’ve found that there’s a whole list of great writers out there that most people have never heard of.
M&H: What are you working on next?
DF: That’s complicated. After a year of publishing nothing but short stories and one novella, I have three novels coming out in a two month period. Abandoned is coming out in June from Books and Boos Press, Reunion is coming out in late June or early July from Grinning Skull Press, and Wolf’s Tale should be out in July from NECON ebooks. Of the three, Abandoned contains the most humor, but you need a nasty sense of humor to appreciate it.
My current work in progress is another novella tentatively titled Gypsey. I had intended it to be another novel, but it's moving along way too fast. I think it will finish up at around 40,000 words.
M&H: What is your favorite writing snack food/drink?
DF: I really don’t eat while I’m writing, but I LOVE pizza. I can eat that any time. My favorite is pepperoni and black olives. As for a drink, Green Mountain hazelnut decaf coffee, or seltzer, preferably lime. Oh, yeah, and Mexican. I love Mexican.
Strangely Funny III is now available on Kindle. Print version to follow.
I am pleased to announce that Strangely Funny III is now on Kindle. It presents nineteen stories from talented authors, and I would like to introduce you to one of them.
Nathan Cromwell is the author of "The Tortured Teen." Rather than being interviewed by us, Marla, one of the characters from “The Tortured Teen”, expressed her desire to talk with the author about the story.
Marla: You don’t like me very much, do you?
Cromwell: You’re a bit of a pain, but I’m sure you’ll grow out of it.
Marla: You have me already dead in the very first paragraph!
Cromwell: . . .
Marla: (After a half-hour awkward silence) What’s up with the picture?
Cromwell: That was a gift from my niece, Mikaela. It’s a statuette of me with a peacock on my head.
Cromwell: I don’t know.
Marla: Okay. So, how did you come up with the story?
Cromwell: I was sitting in a coffee shop trying to think of something interesting to write for this anthology. I had started watching a documentary on string theory the night before, and I had recently read Oscar Wilde’s The Ghost of Canterville, so I decided to mix an old-fashioned ghost with modern physics.
M: Do your stories just come to you?
C: Sometimes I do write straight through, but mostly I jot down ideas until my muse takes a bathroom break. Then I’ll start arranging my notes into clumps and decide the best plan of attack. Once I’ve got the architecture, I start fleshing out and filling in gaps, and either throwing out or saving things that don’t fit.
Marla: Some authors talk to their characters. Do you?
Cromwell: I never have conversations with my characters.
Marla: Speaking of your characters, how did you come to put me in Atlanta instead of somewhere more goth-friendly, like New Orleans?
Cromwell: I used to live there, and I left about the time they were tearing down homes in the shabbier part to prepare for the Olympics. Since I wanted a ghost haunting a brand-new house, that came to mind.
M: A lot of authors, myself included—did you know I write heart-rending poetry?—get inspired to write by reading a story and saying to themselves: “I can do better than that.” Do you feel proud that you will inspire so many future writers?
C: I’m not some hack! I put a lot of effort and thought into my stories.
M: You know, after all that work, it’s unbearably sad that no one will read or even remember this story fifty years after you’re dead.
C: (As a pleased smile blossoms on Marla’s lips) That’s not—maybe this—you never kno—oh, shut up!
M: And if by some miracle people are still reading it, you’ll be dead but I, the dead girl, will live on in your story. Isn’t that neat?
M: Thank you, Mr. Cromwell. I enjoyed our interview. More than you know.
Nathan Cromwell is a living, breathing, swearing teleprompter for the human race, and he does some of his best work on public transport. A military brat, he is from no one place. He did hover in Indiana long enough to earn a BA in English which he has never used for any job ever unless you count this. He has worked in the retail, security, and fitness industries and has acquired all the concomitant bitterness they offer. That hard-won fruit he passes on to you in his stories.
Many of his stories are online, and you can find links to them at nathancromwell.wordpress.com.
Mystery and Horror, LLC, is an indie press interested in what the name suggests.
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