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Friday
May202016

An interview with Arthur L'Strange, author of Betrayal in Entrails

Happy Friday!

It is the end of another long, hectic week , and to end it with a bang I have a new author interview! Arthur L’Strange is an author from New Zealand. He write weird, strange horror that is not for the faint of heart. (Sounds right up my alley!) He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions and talk about his collection Betrayals In Entrails, so without further delay, let’s get to his replies!

Lesley Conner: Tell us a little bit about Betrayals in Entrails. What was the inspiration – the spark – that kicked off the collection in the beginning? Now that the book is completed, do you feel that inspiration still comes through?

Arthur L’Strange:  Betrayals In Entrails is my first collection of seven horror stories. The themes are built around predatory relationships. The story length is between 5,000 and 45,000 words. I’ve done my best to avoid the beaten track, so there’s nothing in here about vampires, zombies, witches, or werewolves. I recommend reading the stories in order but up to the reader of course. The spark that kicked it off was an idea I had back in 2008 where I thought “wouldn’t it be cool if someone woke up and this had happened to them?” This idea wouldn’t go away. It became a story called “Sophie” which opens the book. Another theme was idea origin. Writers often complain about being asked where their ideas come from, so I’ve got two stories about that. I don’t think I’ll be revisiting inspiration as a theme any time soon though … so if you want to know where I get my ideas from, have a read … I got inundated with ideas around late 2014, they just kept coming. There were two that I woke up and wrote with no conscious thought beforehand – they were just there, start middle end when I woke. One was about roadworks, which I had done a little in the past, another about revenge cycles.

Almost everything is an inspiration – music has been an obvious one, bands like Cannibal Corpse, Carcass, and Suffocation have wicked song names and lyrical themes, I’ve been listening to them for too long. Of course literature and movies are inspiring in some ways but not blatantly. I’m usually a slow burner – most of my stories have stuck in my head for a long time, roasting away so they’re nice and ripe and plump with perversion when I go to write them. I think in Betrayals … the inspiration still comes through, I’ve had pretty good feedback and didn’t go for a zillion redrafts so there’s still that original spontaneity. Especially when I think about the ending of the fifth story. I’m smiling now, as I think about it. Thanks for that.

LC: Let’s talk research. How much research went in to writing the stories in Betrayals in Entrails? Was there anything that you discovered during your research that you absolutely had to include?

AL’S: Not much research. A little in the first three stories, particularly “Chitin,” which is about insects. I think I discovered that cockroaches have many hearts that beat very fast, but I didn’t need to use that. The roach varieties in the story are totally fictional, if they are similar to real roaches it’s an accident. The first three stories in Betrayals … have a wee scientific bend to them. Most of the time I just take things off the top of my head. I have a pretty well defined idea of a story before I start writing it so I generally don’t need much. Also a biology degree helps with the gore and the weirdness (if you read the second story you’ll see this blatantly).

LC: Book covers are incredibly important to a book. Can you tell us a little bit about the cover and how it came about?

AL’S: I always wanted to paint, but never did, so I have always been terrible at it. When time came to do the cover I had to do something really basic. Basic appealed because modern covers are so flashy and pretty – professional artwork and lettering, nice pictures, airbrushed, graphic design etc. So I went with something very simple and rugged-looking to reflect the in-your-face descriptive nature of my writing. Also it’s my first book, so what the heck, right? I’d like to enter the party with a splatter. In horror, sometimes characters are not well expressed. I painted a family and left them faceless, the implication being that their personalities are redundant (which is not really true, but I like the way it looks). They’re victims. They’re a lovely suburban family … but there’s something bigger, more important than them. I went to the supermarket butchery and told them I wanted to use fish innards for a horror story collection, and they scooped out a dead fish and gave me the bones and organs for a dollar. I left it outside in the summer heat for a few days to get it all nice and rancid and mushy, and stuck it on my painted, faceless family. I love the way I poked into one of the eyes and let the eye-goop run down it. So yes, those are real maggots.

LC: Do you have any special rituals when you write? A special location? Music? A funny hat you wear?

AL’S: No rituals. Sometimes music but not often. Heavy metal, but it’s distracting because I end up headbanging and air guitaring. Sometimes easy listening or something mellow, but that’s not as conducive to crazy stuff (and it’s boring). Coffee. I manage the house I live so I only allow extremely nerdy quiet anti-social people in, I’m very strict with noise from others. I have an extremely comfy chair. Warmth is important. Procrastination of course. I’ll write either in the morning or evening, afternoon is siesta time.

LC: In my experience, it can be very difficult to balance editing, writing, and family. At times it feels impossible. Have you had a similar experience? Are there any stories you can share when you felt things were out of control and how you handled it? Or, in contrast, a time when you really had a handle on your schedule and things were ticking along like clockwork?

AL’S: Ha! Yes I wrote about this in the afterword of Betrayals ... I wanted it out on Halloween 2015. No chance! I had some work offers so took ‘em, and didn’t finish the damn thing until April 2016. Family’s easy, it comes first. I had to quit full time work in order to write part time, so I’m probably not the best one to ask about scheduling. But I manage. I’ll set a 2000 word/day goal, but I don’t care much if I keep it, as long as I’m doing something. When it’s bursting to be written, that’s when it’s easiest to write. I’m patient to the point of being a slobby sloth. But sometimes I’ll go nuts and do four or five thousand words a day. My record is 7400. Yes, I gotta get the words out or I go mad, but at the end of the day it’s about quality. I think editing is difficult with long stories. I won’t edit late at night or if I have any pressing business. I’m happy to write late at night but it’ll be full of mistakes, although sometimes it’s worth it in terms of idea wackiness. It’s very important to be clear-headed editing, so if there’s some emotional restlessness in my mind I’ll have to sort that out before I get stuck into the story. The hardest thing is letting the story go out into the world, warts and all. Although in this field, sometimes the wart is the beauty. Taste that wart, reader. You just get that wart in there, reader, take your time with it. Lick that wart, that’s a good reader.

LC: If the main character from the last book you read was coming to your house would they be coming to kidnap you, rescue you, or bringing a pizza and a movie so you guys can hang out?

AL’S: Probably a pizza and a movie. It was The Elephant Vanishes by Murakami. But I wouldn’t want to hang out with someone as self-centred as that man.

LC: What are 5 books that you would recommend everyone read? Why?

AL’S: The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – because a hundred years on, it’s still a searing indictment of “the system.” And parts of it are very fucking scary and bleak, it almost has a futureless feel. Chronicles of Dissent and Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky – because stuff like this is scarier than the best horror. And you won’t find it anywhere else. Horror books? Richard Laymon’s Dreadful Tales is pretty cool, that’s been my most recent, after a couple of Thomas Ligotti’s collections. Roald Dahl is the mantis. And perhaps I should have shared this in response to question 4, but I use Graham Bennett’s book The List – The Art of Constructive Manifestation to organise and sort my life out for the better. It’s available at healthybeing.co.nz.

LC: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Do you think childhood you would be disappointed with adult reality?

AL’S: Heaps of different things. I didn’t want to write horror until about 2008. I didn’t really commit to it mentally until about 2013-ish, I dunno. I think childhood me would be pretty happy, all things considered.

LC: If I were to walk into your home to check out your books (because, let’s face it, if I’m at your house the first thing I’m looking at are your books) what would I find? Do you have a neat, orderly library, shelves and stacks stuffed in every possible nook and cranny, or a clean eReader on the end table?

A’LS: You would find a couple of tidy stacks and a quadruple of untidy ones. And piles and piles of books in my storage. I have books about healing, science, religion, politics, nutrition, nature, and tonnes of fiction, from pop to arthouse to classic. I don’t have an eReader.

LC: There seems to be a lot of book to film adaptations being made lately. As a reader, what do you think of these? Is there a movie out there that you think really got it right? What about one that got it wrong?

AL’S: A movie that got it right? I’ve never read the book of The Exorcist, but the movie was sweet. One of the coolest ever. I sort of stole the device of mother caring for daughter for my story “Sophie.” King’s books have been done well occasionally, The Night Flier, Shawshank Redemption, and Stand by Me I thought were very good. The Shining was a pretty cool movie in some ways with spooky camera angles and kinda haunting but almost totally different to the book. Children of The Corn and The Running Man (except for the puns – have a nice TRIP!) were crap. The A Nightmare on Elm Street remake in 2010 was crappy too, I thought. Couldn’t believe that got made, the original was fucking perfect. Not sure if that’s a book.

LC: As a writer, what do you think of film adaptations of books? Do you have the perfect cast in mind for your book? Or does the idea of a movie make your inside voice wail “There’s no way they will get it right!”

AL’S: I wouldn’t want any of my published work made into movies! Actually … an exception is “Sophie,” which I always envisioned in the hills above Wellington airport.  Maybe the second story in Betrayals In Entrails would make a good movie though … or the third one too … the final story in my next book would make a cool movie, maybe … but there’s so many horror movies already. My work has a lot of strength in its descriptive nature which I think could easily translate to the screen but I honestly prefer it in each reader’s unique imagination. I think it comes down to good acting, production, and direction. Then again, The Exorcist apparently was horrible to make for a lot of people involved, and that’s my fave. I love watching movies but I got no clue when it comes to making them. Maybe that’ll change. I definitely identify to your statement “there’s no way they’ll get it right” … but I suppose it depends on how many briefcases of money you offer me …

LC: What are you working on now and where can people find out more about you?

AL’S: Now? My second horror collection. You’re welcome to download a trial ‘tip of the iceberg’ version of my story “The Nameless Warrior” which will appear in the next collection. I’ve only got the first 1,500 words or so up. At this time (May 2016) I have just started a Facebook thing but still don’t have my own website. No big deal. Betrayals In Entrails is on Kobo for free, stories separately or together. If it gets a few thumbs up online and people dig it, I’ll chuck the price up. Supply and demand, baby. Read the fifth and seventh stories in Betrayals … that should put you off finding out more about me.

LC: Thanks for stopping by, Arthur, and talking about Betrayals in Entrails!

AL’S: Thank you.

About the author:

Arthur L’Strange currently lives in Wellington, New Zealand. He publishes on Kobo. He has been a horror fan for over three decades, but only began writing it recently. He works to create phrases to savour, and believes reading a good story should feel like sipping a sumptuous, vibrant wine. With maggots in it.

About Betrayals In Entrails:

Betrayals In Entrails is Arthur L’Strange’s first collection of short horror fiction. It contains 7 original stories including “Sophie”, “Chitin”, and “Fultan Bogan.” It is available to read for free on Kobo.

 

 

Monday
May162016

From the Littlest Voice: Saying Thanks to Those Who Help

Tonight my Girl Scout troop baked cookies, decorated cupcakes, and made cards to show their appreciation for the people who help our community. It was an idea from one of our daisies - a kindergartner - she wanted to make cupcakes for the police officers. After talking with the whole troop, the girls planned on including the police officers, EMTs, and firefighters in our small town.

I thought this was such an amazing idea, so I went BIG! We ended up having so many yummy goodies, that we made plates to give to the local library and food bank as well, since they also help make our community better.

I was hoping to have a picture of all the girls with the packages ready to go, but as with most things Girl Scouts, it was too chaotic. Girls, sugar, and giggles going everywhere! Just know I am incredibly proud of these girls. This was an idea that came from one of the littlest girls in our troop. When asked what we, as a troop, can do to serve our community, her first thought is to do something for the people who give their time day in and day out to make sure that we have a wonderful place to live. What an amazing thought, one that probably doesn’t cross the minds of people much older than she. I’m so happy that we could make this happen for her.
These girls remind me over and over that from the littlest voices come the mightest ideas … if only we will take the time to listen.
Wednesday
May112016

An interview with A. Giacomi, author of Eve Brenner: Zombie Girl

I like to read. A lot. And I also love meeting new authors and asking them about their books. Luckily for me, as the managing editor of Apex Publications and Apex Magazine, I have the opportunity to meet tons of writers and, most of the time, they are happy to answer my questions. Because of this and an all too real knowledge of how hard it is for authors to reach new potential readers, I’ve decided to start running some short interviews here on my blog.

First up, the lovely A. Giacomi, the author of Eve Brenner: Zombie Girl and Eve Brenner: Zombie Agent, with more books following Eve’s adventures to come. I’m a sucker for all things zombies, so of course, when I virtually met Giacomi via email, I was interested in finding out more. Giacomi was happy to sit down and talk about her series.

Lesley Conner: Tell us a little bit about Eve Brenner: Zombie Girl. What was the inspiration – the spark – that kicked off the story in the beginning? Now that the book is completed, do you feel that inspiration still comes through?

A Giacomi: The story came about as a dream I had way back in high school. I remember doing sketches of Eve, this zombie superhero, who I just thought was a kick ass protagonist. I would make mini comics about her and I really didn’t even think about making it into a story until over a decade later. I thought it a cool concept that was just fun to draw at the time. She was heavily inspired by comic books and anime art. Now that the book is complete there’s still a lot of comic book and geek culture references, that couldn’t be helped, it’s ingrained in this author I’m afraid.

LC: Book covers are incredibly important to a book. Can you tell us a little bit about the cover of Eve Brenner: Zombie Girl and how it came about?

AG: I completely agree. The covers were a huge deal! What I asked the publisher for in the first cover was a close up of Eve. I wanted her to appear slightly infected but mainly human. Eve needed to look innocent, slightly terrified, and vulnerable. I wanted the audience to see that zombies didn’t start off as mindless creatures, this was a young 19 year old girl scared out of her mind about what was happening to her. In a way I wanted the cover to seem very Dorian Gray, capturing the youth and innocence that would soon depart. As Eve evolves so do the covers. In the sequel, Zombie Agent, we see a more confident Eve, she has accepted her fate in a way and tries to work with it, hoping that some good can come from her illness, that perhaps she can save others. The third installment will come out in September, and a very different Eve will appear once more. So you see as the covers evolve so does the character.

LC: Do you have any special rituals when you write? A special location? Music? A funny hat you wear?

AG: This is going to sound silly and I’m okay with a laugh here … sometimes I will put on lipstick just to write. I love make-up, it’s playful and the colours can really dictate your mood. I call it “making a date with my writing.” It’s a commitment to my writing and makes me feel confident.

LC: In my experience, it can be very difficult to balance editing, writing, and family. At times it feels impossible. Have you had a similar experience? Are there any stories you can share when you felt things were out of control and how you handled it? Or, in contrast, a time when you really had a handle on your schedule and things were ticking along like clockwork?

AG: Oh god yes! I just blogged about this last week! I’m a mom of two small kiddos and they need constant attention, which I’m glad to give … but when does that leave me time to write you ask? At night! So it’s an exhausting game of let’s stay awake and how much coffee can I drink? But I believe if you love something enough then you’ll make time for it. Writing is part of who I am and if I only get an hour a day to do it, you better believe I will!

LC: What are 5 books that you would recommend everyone read? Why?

AG: They will vary in genre, but I found them to be life changing reads for me, they sort of shaped who I am as a writer.

The first would be Interview with a Vampire, it taught me that monsters are more complex, which is why I refused to make Eve a villain, she’s flawed for sure, but she used to be human, and that should reflect somewhere.

The second I would recommend is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, this is the epitome of wild imagination. The characters taught me that breaking the rules for “normal” characters is not only freeing but fun.

Third is Pride and Prejudice. I’m a gigantic Austen fan, so you can imagine how amused I was when they combined Austen and Zombies, two of my favourite things. The unconventional romance is what draws me to read it again and again. It has spawned so many other romantic leads in books and film. It’s the feeling that there is a very fine line between love and hate that I found most interesting.

Fourth, La Divina Comedia. I’ve only read it in Italian, and it sounds so beautiful I could die! It feels like reading a canvas. Something is very magical about it! It’s also really inspired my views on heaven and hell. You’ll see a bit of that in my writing as well. I get very excited when I see other authors referencing it, like briefly in Braineater Jones by Stephen Kozeniewski.

Fifth is The Time Traveler’s Wife. It was masterfully done and it brought me to tears. I think this book will stay with me forever, haunt me even. Being a Doctor Who fan I thought time travel would be fun or at least an adventure, but after this read I wouldn’t wish this curse on my worst enemy! This story taught me that even if you have all the time in the world, it’s really only the short moments you barely notice that are most important. I spend more time memorizing the shape of my loved one’s faces because of this book, I don’t want to miss a single moment, smile, or even tear. It’s all important. I just want to be present, now. 

LC: If I were to walk into your home to check out your books (because, let’s face it, if I’m at your house the first thing I’m looking at are your books) what would I find? Do you have a neat, orderly library, shelves and stacks stuffed in every possible nook and cranny, or a clean eReader on the end table?

AG: Neat and orderly! I need to know where my books are at all times. I have shelves upstairs that are organized by oldies but goodies, new reads, to read, and reference books/coffee table books. My eReader is on my main floor at all times for quick reads when kiddos nap and downstairs I have a separate set of shelves for kid’s books, I pick the children’s literature that I enjoy and can’t wait to see what my own kids will pick once they can read!

LC: There seems to be a lot of book to film adaptations being made lately. As a reader, what do you think of these? Is there a movie out there that you think really got it right? What about one that got it wrong?

AG: Dangerous territory with fandoms now! Someone may squawk at me but I’m going to call out Twilight. I really liked the books, the films not so much, I think mainly because I didn’t buy the love interests, they didn’t have the chemistry that the characters had in my head when I read the books, but I suppose that’s more to do with casting and less to do with directing and acting. As for who got it spot on … I gotta give it to the Harry Potter franchise full on! I believed all those characters to be who they said they were; I was transported just like in the books. Honorable mention to American Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs, those characters really came to life in those films, creepily, but undeniably perfect.

LC: What are you working on now and where can people find out more about you?                                                             

AG: Editing for book 3 and 4 of The Zombie Girl Saga will begin shortly. I’ve been plotting out a new YA series and even a couple of children’s books. I’ve also been working on some short stories. One of which will be out July 9th as part of a charity anthology And the World Will Burn. My story is entitled “Hell on Earth,” a fun twist on the dystopian theme of the anthology. You can pre-order it here.

If you want to know more about me, you can find me all over social media, the links are on my blog www.poeticzombie.com. I’ve recently redone the site and try to have a new post up every Friday. Other than that you can find me on Facebook and Twitter most frequently.

LC: Thank you, A. Giacomi, for stopping by my site and talking about reading and writing with me today. I can’t wait to check out Eve Brenner: Zombie Girl!

 

About the author:

A Giacomi is an educator, writer, and artist from Toronto, Canada. She is a zombie enthusiast, a wife, and mother to two small human childen. Giacomi is currently working on the next two installments of her Zombie Girl Saga, as well as whatever else pops into her head at any given moment. When she’s not working she enjoys reading, spending time with family and fangirling about all sorts of geekery.

About Eve Brenner: Zombie Girl:

Eve, a second year Anthropology major sets off with her friends for the experience of a lifetime. She has volunteered at a dig site in Egypt, but gets more than she bargained for when something bites her in one of the dark tombs. She soon acquires some amazing abilities, but her growing need for flesh terrifies her. Eve tries to hide her condition from her friends and family, but she soon finds that she can’t control her hunger as well as she hoped and chaos ensues on campus and back in her home-town. Can Eve save herself? Her friends? or the entire world from the Azrael Virus?

Want a copy of your very own? You can pick up a copy here.

Saturday
Feb132016

Thoughts on Thinking Day and running a troop

I am so incredibly proud of my Girl Scouts and their parents.

Our plans for Thinking Day did not go exactly as planned last night - despite careful planning - but the parents pulled together, making sure all of the girls got to the church to take part in the event and giving one of my co-leaders (who was having what has to be the worst day ever!) the support she needed to make it through the evening.

Then at the event I got to really see how our girls work together. Yes, I have a large troop (19 girls attended last night, but we have 28 girls total). Yes, they are a wide variety of ages, ranging from kindergarten to 9th grade. But it works. They learn from each other. The older girls help the younger ones. The younger girls keep the older ones engaged in events that they easily could have grown bored with after so many years in scouts. Often I am focused on one specific task and I don’t get to stand back and see how the troop works as a whole. Seeing it come together last night was a rare treat.

I’ll be honest, there have been times when the stress of running the troop doesn’t seem worth it. When all the hours spent behind the scenes - planning events, keeping up with banking, going to meetings, bending my schedule into a pretzel trying to make sure a girl can attend an event her parents can’t transport her to - doesn’t seem worth it. When all I’m hearing are complaints and I want to throw up my hands and say “I’m done!” because it feels like no matter how hard I work, people still aren’t happy. But last night I saw why it is worth it. I saw cadettes helping daisies - not because they were asked to but because that’s what they do; they help their Girl Scout sisters. I saw co-leaders hugging, whispering words of support to a fellow leader who needed it so badly. I saw parents trekking out through the snow and piling kids into their car so all the girls could take part in the event. I saw a lot of smiles.

So yeah, it is worth it. This troop has become my family. My co-leaders have become my sisters and the girls have all become my girls. It might be chaotic and stressful at times. And like all families, we occasionally have spats, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t give it up.

Friday
Nov062015

Reading and rereading, rinse and repeat.

My thirteen year old daughter is a big reader. She reads everything from massive tomes, to short novels, to comic books, to short stories. Much like me, she always has a book handy and she is always happy to discuss it with anyone she meets.

But she has a reading habit that, honestly, I don’t get.

If she really likes a book, then almost immediately after she’s finished reading it the first time, she starts again. This second read through isn’t from beginning to end. Instead she skips around, rereading her favorite parts and skipping those that didn’t hold her attention the first time. She’ll read a book and then loan it to a friend for them to read. When they give it back, she goes back to it - laughing hysterically and sobbing uncontrollably at all the same parts. Then a couple days later she’ll tell me the same friend wants to borrow it again so they can go back through and read their favorite parts.

The first time I noticed her doing this was when she read Divergent about a year ago. We were at my parents’ house and she didn’t have another book with her, so I assumed she was just doing it to pass the time until we got home and she could crack open the second book in the series.

But her habit didn’t end there.

Currently she’s on a Rainbow Rowell kick. She borrowed my copy of Eleanor & Park, read it in a day in a half, cried uncontrollably when it was over, woke up the next day and read it again. That was in July. I still haven’t gotten my book back because she keeps reading it, loaning it, and rereading it. My friend Becky has been waiting to borrow it from me and I’m about to just buy a new copy for myself because I’m pretty sure my daughter has claimed the book as her own and I will never see it again except to glance it in her open bookbag. It will live the remainder of its life being passed from one middle school backpack to another until it crumbles and falls apart from being read so many times.

She received copies of Fangirl and Carry On for her birthday in October and she keeps telling me I need to read them because they are so good. I’d love to but I can’t get my hands on them because she insists on rereading all her favorite parts over and over.

This habit … makes me scratch my head. I can’t imagine reading that way. I’m a binge reader. I devour books, then move on and devour more. Yes, occasionally I will reread a favorite but typically there are years between when I read a book the first time and when I reread it. The book I’ve read most often is Flowers for Algernon, which I read every year or so, but the last time I read it … it felt too familiar. I need to step back for a moment and create some space. I think rereading the same passage over and over would make me loathe a book. 

There does seem to be an upside to her rereading habit. We read a lot of the same books. I don’t believe in censoring what my daughter reads, but instead try to read the books before her so if she has any questions about the content, I’m there to discuss it with her. We’ll both read a book, then talk about it, and during the discussion I realize I’ve forgotten as much as she’s remembered. Character names, towns, specific motivations and occurences. She remembers them all, while I only have the vaguest recollection. What I remember about books is how they made me feel. Did I like it, did it make me laugh, did I think the writing was good. Specific details? No, those are all fuzzy.

So at the same time that this habit makes me scratch my head and wonder what at it’s appeal, I’m a bit envious of the results. She is connecting with literature in a way I could only ever hope to by forming a reading habit that actually slows down her reading. A book that may only be on my reading radar for a day and a half - as was the case with Eleanor & Park (fabulous book, by the way) - will stay on my daughter’s radar for months. Yes, she reads other things at the same time, but she goes back a relives the characters and the plot over and over again until they are ingrained in her memory. Maybe I should take a lesson from her and give it a try.