It is a distinct honor to welcome writer, editor, teacher, mentor, and my friend Rayne Hall.
Many know Rayne, and her wonderful cat Sulu from the Twitterverse as well as all the books she has written and edited: Her own fiction, the writers' craft series, and the Ten Tales series. But this month, she's here to focus on horror.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you're writing these days.
I write dark fantasy and creepy horror fiction, as well as the Writer's Craft Series of guides for authors who want to take their craft skills to the next level.
Do you write full time?
I've been writing professionally for thirty years, and I've always had an 'other occupation' - for example, I was a journalist, magazine editor and adult education teacher. Sometimes the day job was full time and the writing was something I did in my spare time. At other times the writing was my main job and the other activity was a sideline.
What are your writing inspirations?
Thousands of ideas flutter around in my head at the same time. Sometimes, two or three of those ideas click together like jigsaw pieces, and that's when a story starts to form.
The location is almost always one of the first pieces to click. I like to set my stories in unusual, atmospheric places where I've lived and travelled – the streets of Nepal, the cliffs on the English coast, the stone circles of Cornwall...
Most of my horror story ideas come from my own fears - things that frighten me, places that creep me out, nightmares that keep me awake at night. Cowards make good horror writers, because we know what fear feels like, and because we never run out of ideas what to write about.
I’ve learnt that by fictionalising something, putting it on paper and shaping it, I gain control over it – especially the things that frighten or disturb me. Horror writing is form of empowering therapy.
Let me give you an example. I used to have a terrible fear of fire. It was so bad, I could never bring myself to even light a match. Once when I was about seven, my father forced me to watch a house burn, and I had nightmares about it for three decades, and the experience increased my fear. As a teenager, I heard about disturbing fire-related events that had happened in my neighbourhood, some recent, some of them long before I was born.
Another house burned down, and I heard afterwards that the Turkish family who lived there had not been able to get out. Their charred skeletons told how they had cowered in the corner as the flames devoured them, and the father had shielded his daughters with his own body for as long as he could. This moved me deeply, and then I heard someone say “They were only Turks. Good riddance to the vermin.”
Then I found out about the atrocities committed against Jews during the Nazi period. This was in the 1980s, and the prevailing attitude was still that these were things best not talked about. But some things filtered through. In the town of my birth, locals burnt the synagogue and then built a church on that spot. In a nearby town, the eager citizens went even further: they locked the Jewish population into the synagogue before they set it on fire. The fire brigade, instead of putting out the flames, fanned and fed them, and made sure none of the Jews could escape.
One day I took a sheet of paper and wrote down everything that scared or disturbed me in connection with fire. Burning houses, churches, racial hatred, hypocrisy, a scared child witnessing events she cannot understand... these elements clicked together. into a disturbing tale of human evil.
That story – titled Burning - was the most difficult piece I’ve ever written. Several times, I had to set it aside because I was too upset to continue. But I persevered, and during the process of putting my thoughts on paper and shaping them into fiction, I gained control over my fear. When it was finished, two amazing things happened: My phobia vanished, and the story won awards.
It took great courage to write that story. So, tell us about Thirty Scary Tales.
Thirty Scary Tales is a compilation of my books Six Scary Tales Vol. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. These are are horror stories of the creepy kind - more spooky and suspenseful than violent and gory.
Is this book part of a series?
I keep writing horror stories and publishing them in Six Scary Tales. Eventually I may gather the new yarns in Thirty Scary Tales Vol. 2, but it won't be for a while yet.
What project will you be working on next?
I always have several projects under way - usually a non-fiction book, a novel and several articles and short stories. I'm just finishing the next book in the Writer's Craft series, titled Writing Deep Point of View. Work has already started on Getting Book Reviews, Writing Vivid Dialogue and Book Promotion for Introverts.
Other works in progress include a sequel to the dark epic fantasy novel Storm Dancer and several steampunk and horror stories.
Tell us one surprising or interesting fact about yourself.
I write with this sweet black cat snuggling between my arms. Sulu is a rescue cat I adopted from the shelter. He likes to lie between my arms as I write, with a paw on my wrist and his head in the crook of my elbow.
I've trained Sulu. Many people think you can't train a cat, but you can... if the cat wants to be trained. Sulu loves it. When I say "Sulu, shake hands" he puts his right paw into my right palm. when I say "Sulu, scratch" he walks to the scratching post and scratches. When I say "Sulu, read" he lies down next to the open book, puts a paw on the page and 'reads' - perfect for book promotion photos.
Is there anything else about yourself you'd like to tell us about yourself or your writing?
My horror stories are atmospheric, creepy, disturbing - but they're not gorefests. If you enjoy chainsaw massacres and mounds of spilling intestines, my books are not for you. I like to creep my readers out, not gross them out.
Atmosphere is crucial. To research the atmosphere for a ghost story ('Take Me To St. Roch's,in this book) I spent a night alone in a remote cemetery. I observed every skeleton-pale tree and every cloud wafting across the moon, I listened to rustling leaves and distant creaks, I touched lichen-encrusted tombstones and dug my hands into damp maggot-crawling soil. The details were worth it. You can read the resulting story (Take Me To St. Roch's) in Thirty Scary Tales.
Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule.
How can folks best connect with you?
How can folks best connect with you?