Chilling Chat Episode 162 Marge Simon

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Marge Simon lives in Ocala, FL. She edits a column for the HWA Newsletter, “Blood & Spades: Poets of the Dark Side,” and serves on Board of Trustees.  She is the second womanmarge 2016 bw to be acknowledged by the SF &F Association with a Grand Master Award. She has won the Bram Stoker Award, the Rhysling Award, Elgin, Dwarf Stars and Strange Horizons Readers’ Award. Marge’s poems and stories have appeared in Silver Blade, Bete Noire, Urban Fantasist, Daily Science Fiction, You, Human; Chiral Mad 2 and 3; and Scary Out There, to name a few. She attends the ICFA annually as a guest poet/writer and is on the board of the Speculative Literary Foundation.

Marge is a talented woman with a great sense of humor. We spoke of collaborations, war, and evil women. 

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Marge. It’s an honor to speak with you.

MS: Thanks for doing this, Naching!

NTK: You’re welcome. Let’s begin with WAR: Dark Poems, your new collaboration with Alessandro Manzetti. Tell us a little about the book.

MS: The collaborative experience has been incredible in many ways. Alessandro invited me a couple of years ago now, at the Stokercon in Vegas. He and his lovely wife, Sanda, took me to lunch (and Paolo de Oriezo was also there.) Sanda gave me a t-shirt that said “I heart Roma” (that’s where they were living before they moved to Trieste)—what lovely folks! And, as I sipped my Chardonnay, he asked me if I’d like to collaborate on a collection. I said, “Oh, yes! And, what is the topic?” “War,” he replied. I was instantly amazed and excited and of course I said, “YES!” War is one of my topics for poems of all sorts. It’s true.

It was a totally new experience to collaborate with a man who has such a fine grasp of history—he had me researching all of our collaborative work just so I could get a grasp of what his poem stanzas were about. I learned so much (and here at my age, you would think I’d know it all—NOT!)

NTK: What’s it like to collaborate on a poetry book? Did you write poems together? Or, did you each contribute your own work?

MS: Poems together? I guess you think Marge writes one line or stanza and then Alessandro writes another until it’s done? No, not like that. Alessandro would start the collaborations—which was fine with me! He’d send me maybe five-seven stanzas and that was the base for me to go with. So, I’d write more when I had the right response in mind (“response” meaning continuation.) Sometimes, we’d move stanzas around so they worked better.

Alessandro kind of mapped out the book’s progress as we went along. Individual poems and collaborative poems—he is a maestro at such details.

NTK: That’s awesome! You drew inspiration from each other. And, the poems mesh together so well. Did you have any individual contributions you’d like to expound on?

WAR: Dark Poems by [Manzetti, Alessandro, Simon, Marge]MS: I do. The Mandingo Wars [for one.] I was going for finding wars around the world in history and was thinking, Roots and Kunte Kinte (being Mandingo) and all about the Mandingo Wars against the French, led by Samory Toure. [I ]also (being of Scottish descent) had to include the Battle of Culloden which is so well reenacted in Outlander. Found a song about it, quoted that at the start of the poem. AND, another particularly sad war which ended with the Trail of Tears and the horrors of the once proud Cheyenne Nation being moved thousands of miles on foot from their reservation and homeland. I felt very strongly about these events. Then, too, I had to address the unconscionable deeds of Dr. Mengele in “Chocolates for Twins.” No magazine would take it for publication. But, these horrors DID happen.

NTK: These horrors should be remembered and these subjects should be published! Do you think society is too sensitive when it comes to historical horror?

MS: Good question. Some PC factions don’t even want to admit or know about history’s worst realities because they involve “trigger words” or “child abuse” or POC abuse. Hey, it happened and we should face that, swallow it, and think (in my opinion.)

Niemoller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation: First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because, I was not a Socialist. Then, they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because, I was not a Trade Unionist. Then, they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because, I was not a Jew. Then, they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

There is a quote inscribed on the front of the Colorado University library “The Roots of the Future lie deep in the past.” That is my “go-to” for so many points.

NTK: WAR does make people think and it does and it does approach some difficult subjects. Vietnam is a forgotten war these days and the poem, “Little Miss Saigon,” really captures the flavor of that time. How did that particular poem come about?”

MS: Alessandro began “Little Miss Saigon,” and of course I had to go find out more about what was going on there. Then, I found out about the razor blades that the young street girls somehow ingeniously inserted in their vaginas as a way of revenge. For, indeed, you can imagine the life they had to look forward to as fodder for the occupying Yank soldiers.

And, that’s the part I contributed. I still wonder how I did it. But it was “there” waiting to be written.

NTK: It is a powerful poem. What inspires you, Marge?  And, what poets have influenced you?

MS: Oh, let’s see. WHAT inspires me? Do I have to pick? I have many contacts, many friends, read a lot of books, am on Goodreads, am with Ladies of Horror where Nina D’Arcangela gives us visual prompts and we can write poems or flash fictions—then they appear for others to see after the deadline.

Poets? A long list of past and present poets. I always say that once I read Stephen Crane’s poem in 12th grade on the chalkboard of my advanced English class, I knew the world made sense. It was like finding out I wasn’t alone.

NTK: Are you primarily a visual person? Is it easier to find inspiration in a painting or a song?

MS: Inspirations are when and where they occur. I don’t go looking for them. They happen, is all!

NTK: Do you think poets have a different perception of things as compared to the rest of the world?

MS: I think each poet, if true to themselves, has their own views and voice. But, the best express it in a way that has substance and resonates to others (not to all, you can’t reach everyone.) My husband, Bruce Boston, usually uses that as a standard—has substance, resonates. I love that. It fits well.

NTK: It does. Going back to collaborations, you’ve also written a book called, Satan’s Sweethearts with Mary Turzillo. How did you like working with Mary?

MS: Mary Turzillo and I have collaborated joyfully on numerous collections (some about cats and dragons, Dragon’s Dictionary, and Dragon Soup. We also wrote Sweet Poison together, which garnered an Elgin Award from the SF & F Poetry Association.) BUT, Satan’s Sweethearts is not fun or funny in any respect. Mary is a horrible person to collaborate with. We are not on speaking terms except all the time. I can’t wait to see her again, for a fact.

Satan's SweetheartsNTK: (Laughs.) Did you write Satan’s Sweetheart’s in a similar manner to WAR? Or was it a different process?

MS: Different entirely. We picked various very nasty, most wicked women in history and wrote independently about what we chose. But, some we did collaborate on. One being Ma Barker (who was really an angel compared to others.)

NTK: What poem are you most proud of in Satan’s Sweethearts?

MS: I’m most proud of two. “Aileen” (about Florida’s own serial killer who became the first woman to be put to death in the electric chair) and “Delphine La Lourie’s Upstairs Room” and you can’t imagine what she did to her slaves. Look her up if you want to know.

NTK: Of all the people you’ve collaborated with, is Bruce Boston your favorite?

MS: Actually, Bruce is daunting, very daunting. Our collaborations are exciting and rewarding for sure, and I must do my penultimate best—or try, anyway! It’s a challenge but that’s what life is. The best of it is to challenge yourself to exceed expectations.

Also, I don’t like to and won’t name favorites to collaborate with. I welcome challenges.

NTK: Do you have any advice to share with up and coming poets?

MS: Read. Read authors old and not that old. Read poets whose work speaks to you and think about the how and why. Don’t imitate. Incorporate. And, please—personal angst poems are fine for what they are for. They get you through the lusts and loves of yore but, you’re not the only one! Read Sara Backer, read Bruce Boston, read (I could go on and on.) But, wait! Join the SFPA (Science Fiction Poetry Association), and then READ!! You will find horror as well as dark and light fantasy, and speculative from some of the best in the field. It’s a community of poets and readers of poetry who are all grown up now. So join and learn!

And the SFPA, like the HWA, is an international association!

NTK: As you know, Season 13 of HorrorAddicts is CURSED! Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

MS: I’m sorry, but I’m not into curses very much at all, really.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? What do we have to look forward to?

MS: The future? You hold my future in your hands, Naching. Be kind. I don’t know what’s coming tomorrow. Some irons in the fires, if that’s what you mean. And, I hope to meet lots of you readers next year at Stokercon in Grand Rapids!

NTK: I see a long and glorious future ahead, Marge. Thank you again for taking the time to chat. It’s much appreciated.

MS: Loved your questions and thanks for the interview.

Addicts, you can find Marge on Goodreads and Amazon.

Satan’s Sweethearts took second place in the Full-Length Book Category of the Elgin Awards on September 21, 2018.

Parts of this interview were published in the July 2018 edition of the Horror Writers Association Newsletter and are reprinted with Editor Kathy Ptacek’s permission.

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Chilling Chat Episode 156 Christine Verstraete

Christine (C.A.) Verstraete enjoys putting a little “scare” in her writing. She follows the murder trial and offers a twist on the infamous 1892 Borden murders in her book, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter. She also looks at the murders from the viewpoint of Lizzie’s doctorC.A. Verstraete in her latest, The Haunting of Dr. Bowen. Other books include a young adult novel, GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie, and books on dollhouse collecting and crafting. Christine’s short stories have appeared in various anthologies including: Descent Into Darkness, Happy Homicides 3: Summertime Crime, Mystery Weekly, and Timeshares, Steampunk’d, and Hot & Steamy: Tales of Steampunk Romance, DAW Books. She is an award-winning journalist published in daily to weekly newspapers, and in various magazines. Her stories have received awards from local and national newspaper associations, and the Dog Writer’s Association of America.

Christine is a smart and accomplished lady. We discussed historical horror, her writing style, and Lizzie Borden.

 

NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, Christine. Thank you for chatting with me today.

CV: My pleasure and thanks for taking the time to talk.

NTK: You have a background in journalism. How has this influenced your writing?

CV: It makes me more detail-oriented, I think. I’m used to looking things up and doing research.

NTK: Did this help you when writing Lizzie Borden: Zombie Hunter?

CV: I did do a lot of reading and finding research of the period. The real autopsy reports and crime scene photos actually inspired the book idea.

NTK: Wow! The autopsy photos inspired the plot?Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter by [Verstraete, C.A.]

CV: If you read the autopsy reports detailing the injuries and look at the photos, it’s plausible (in the horror sense) to think why else were they hit in the head? It was an awful, brutal crime, so I guess this gives a better reason than the standard hate/greed/family dysfunction/dissatisfaction.

NTK: What made you portray Lizzie as a hero?

CV: Using that [zombie] premise, I thought Lizzie had to have a good reason to kill, other than being a monster herself. What if she was trying to protect her town and her sister from this unbelievable evil?

NTK: Were you influenced by some of the historical horror novels like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter?

CV: I hadn’t read ALVH until later, but loved it! I really enjoyed the movie.

NTK: You have an interesting take on the case and an interesting “What if?” Stephen King has spoken of how he uses “What if?” when thinking of an idea. Is that how you write? Do you look at a situation and say, “What if this happened?”

CV: I wish I was as prolific-thinking as him! My ideas seem to come out of nowhere, then I stew on them a bit and see what they develop into. I have to get excited about the idea to stick with it.

I guess I’m so structured in news-writing that fiction is looser—in the idea stage, anyway.

NTK: Your style is very crisp and direct. What writers have influenced you?

CV: It’s probably the news background. I know I don’t like reading or writing, long, meandering sentences. I loved reading Royko in The Chicago Tribune. Grew up on King who, of course, can be rather wordy at times. (Laughs) I went through different periods of loving different authors, classic and contemporary—Dean Koontz, Heinlein, loved Saul Bellow too.

NTK: I have to ask. Who do you prefer? King or Koontz?

CV: Probably King, as I’ve probably read more from him. I loved that he did a sequel to The Shining (and it did well.) The recent It movie was fun too.

NTK: Did King get you into horror?

CV: Well, I grew up on Creature Features on TV, the Crypt Keeper, Night Gallery, and reading King. (Laughs) Salem’s Lot is a favorite I still like to reread now and then. I just picked up a copy of Carrie to read again after many, many years.

NTK: Are these your favorite horror novels? What are your favorite Horror TV shows and movies?

CV: The TVs shows, I just mentioned are favorites.

NTK: Do you watch The Walking Dead?

CV: Yes—when I can. It’s addicting! [As to books] I also really liked reading I Am Legend and plan on reading Matheson’s other books. It’s writing that makes you savor the sentences. I love old creepy movies, even the corny ones—and, anything with Vincent Price!

NTK: Vincent Price starred in many historical pieces. Is that what got you interested in that type of horror?

CV: Most likely. He had that mesmerizing voice. I also liked Edgar Allan Poe. I still remember seeing The Tell-Tale Heart at the theater. One scary movie!

The older movies really got me hooked, classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, and Bride of Frankenstein. And, The Wolfman of course.

I guess after all that; it made sense that I finally turned to writing creepy stuff!

NTK: What’s your favorite Edgar Allan Poe story or poem?

CV: The Tell-Tale Heart. I recently re-read The Black Cat, also very eerie and still packs a punch. Maybe, that’s why I like putting a little twist in stories, like I did in Lizzie Borden: Zombie Hunter and, the sequel, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter 2: The Axe Will Fall.Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter 2: The Axe Will Fall by [Verstraete, C.A.]

NTK: You write creepy things. Do you also create creepy things? You make miniatures. Have you ever built a haunted dollhouse?

CV: (Laughs) Yes, I’m that twisted. I do enjoy creating Halloween miniatures. I had fun doing my first Halloween dollhouse and thinking how creepy I could get. Far as I know, nothing has moved of its own accord in there…yet. I am planning another haunted house but less gory this time.

NTK: Cool! You spoke of Lizzie Borden and the sequel. Do you have other work concerning Lizzie and her time period?

CV: There’s also a companion novella, The Haunting of Dr. Bowen, told from the viewpoint of Lizzie’s doctor and neighbor. He was the first official on the murder scene, and I wondered how could that, and the city’s bloody past, have affected him? It’s kind of a ghostly love story as well. I wanted to try something different and had fun writing it.

NTK: What does the future hold for you? Do you have plans for new work?

CV: Oh, the mind never rests, you know. (Laughs) I have a longer short story that I may re-edit and put out again. I was toying with some ideas for book 3 for Lizzie. I love writing about the characters.

The first book, Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, follows the trial and real-life events with the addition of zombies, of course. I had to follow more fictional events in the sequel to continue the story, but I liked coming up with a new weird angle to the story.

A big thrill was [when] the newspaper in Lizzie’s hometown did a story on the book when it first came out. That was fun.

NTK: Do you think the Lizzie in your universe is cursed?

CV: She’s fighting evil and learning that her father may have been part of that evil…you can’t get more cursed than that. That could be why she feels obligated to do what she can, even when everyone blames her for the horrors. Much like in real life, she was acquitted but still treated as a pariah and considered guilty.

NTK: As you know, Season 13 of HorrorAddicts is CURSED! Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?

CV: I do love the old gypsy curse in the classic Wolfman movie…Larry Talbot’s a monster, but you can’t help but feel his pain and feel sorry for him until the curse is broken…

NTK: That’s a terrific curse. Thank you, Christine. I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you.

CV: I’ve enjoyed chatting with you. Thank you.

Addicts, you can follow Christine on Twitter at @caverstraete