Winner Naching T. Kassa!
DIALOGUE WITH THE DARKER HALF
by Naching T. Kassa
Naching T. Kassa describes herself as a wife, mother, and horror writer. She resides in Valley, WA with her family and their dog, Dallas. Naching is a member of the Horror Writers Association and a contributor to The Demonic Visions book series. Recently, one of her poems was accepted into the HWA Poetry Showcase Volume 4.
But, what do we really know about this dark lady? Who is she and what makes her so darn scary? We asked Nani K, the person who knows her best, to shed a little light on the shadow.
Nani K: Good morning, Naching. Thank you for sitting down with me.
Naching: My pleasure.
Nani K: First off, I have to say this. You don’t look like a horror writer. You’re always smiling and you seem so sweet. Where do you get these ideas?
Naching: (laughs) You’d be surprised how many times I get this question. Usually, my ideas just come to me.
Nani K: Out of the blue?
Naching: In a manner of speaking, yes. Imagine everyone has a door in their mind which separates their conscious from their unconscious. Most people keep the door closed. They don’t want to see the things which lurk on the other side. Horror writers want to see those things, want to explore them. We love that direct line to the dark side.
Nani K: Your ideas come from the unconscious mind?
Naching: Yes, with certain exceptions. There are times when I reach outside the door. Reach for things beyond myself.
Nani K: What do you mean?
Naching: Well, take “The Laughing Man,” for instance.
Nani K: Your 300-word story in the Second Challenge of the Next Great Horror Writer Contest?
Naching: Exactly. In the story, Laughing Man has a very distinctive scent. He smells of almonds. Looking at this part during the editing process I thought, “This is stupid. How is it scary? He’s rotting and leprous. He wouldn’t smell nice.” So, I went online and I looked up the smell of gangrene. That was too gross. I didn’t want my character to puke when the monster entered. He’s supposed to lie still. I decided to look up the smell of infections instead. Now, I had never researched infections before, never seen this site. But, what I found there creeped me out. There was an infection which smelled like almonds. Needless to say, it stayed in the story.
Nani K: Is this what makes a great horror writer? Reaching beyond yourself?
Naching: It can. But, I think great horror writers have a different ability. I think they can touch the darkness which resides in us all. The great writers force us to open our doors and let our monsters out. If only for a little while.
Nani K: I can see that. No one would want the door open all the time.
Naching: As a reader or watcher of horror I wouldn’t want mine open that long. However, a writer is different. Judging by the way Stephen King writes, I’m pretty sure his door is always open.
Nani K: Speaking of King, is he your favorite horror writer?
Naching: Well…I like him very much.
Nani K: You have another favorite?
Naching: I had a dream a while back where Stephen King and Dean Koontz fought for my affection.
Nani K: Oh—
Naching: (laughs) Not that kind of affection. And, it wasn’t some duel with swords. Though, that would’ve been cool. No, King said I was his greatest fan and Koontz said I belonged to him. I met with King in my living room and then I met Koontz in the kitchen.
Nani K: Who won?
Naching: Koontz. I told him he was my favorite. He was ecstatic. (laughs) It was an awesome dream.
Nani K: Do you think Koontz’s door is open all the time?
Naching: I’m not sure. It’d be frightening if it was.
Nani K: While we’re still on the subject of doors, let’s talk about opportunity knocking on yours. How did you get involved with the Demonic Visions series?
Naching: The editor, Chris Robertson, and I were in an erotic/horror anthology together. I befriended him on Facebook and he told me he was about to start a new series of anthologies. He invited me to write for the first one. There are six volumes now and I have stories in all of them.
Nani K: How many erotic/horror stories have you written?
Naching: I thought you’d pick up on that one. I’ve written two. One was about a demon. The other was vampire erotica. My stories are different from other writers. They tip toward the romantic side.
Nani K: Do you like writing romance?
Naching: I do. Though, I find some of the categories confusing. A few months ago, I received a rejection for a horror story with romantic elements. The editor said he couldn’t buy it because he considered the story a Paranormal Romance. Now, there were no shifters involved. There were no humans in love with supernatural beings. Makes me wonder what criteria he used to decide this.
Nani K: You’ve brought up a good point here. Let’s talk about rejection.
Naching: (groans) Oh, man.
Nani K: What advice would you give a first time writer regarding rejection?
Naching: Persevere. If you get rejected, fix the story and send it out again to another place. If it gets rejected ten times, take some classes and improve your skills. Don’t give up. Never give up.
Nani K: You’re passionate about this.
Naching: It’s not in my nature to give up my dreams. I’m not a just writer by profession. It’s who I am. Also, before both of my parents passed, I told them I’d be a writer. If I give up, it’s like lying to them. And, I’ll never do that.
Nani K: You’ve often credited your father with your introduction to horror. What did your mom think of your interest in it?
Naching: She supported me but I think it worried her. She wasn’t into horror. My dad, on the other hand, was a big fan. He showed me Universal Horror, Hammer films, Hitchcock, Roger Corman films, and all the big movies. We watched Joe Bob Briggs’s Monstervision on TNT. He also bought me horror novels. He bought me my first Dean Koontz. My husband bought most of the rest.
Nani K: You’ve called your husband “your biggest supporter.” How does he help you?
Naching: Dan is great. He’s the sole provider for our family, he watches the kids while I write, and he’s my first reader. He also likes to scare me. He loves to make me jump during horror films.
Nani K: Does he ever worry about your horror writing? Does he stay awake nights wondering whether you’ll come to bed with a knife?
Naching: So, that’s why all the knives disappeared! I wondered why we didn’t have any in the house. No, I’m just kidding. He doesn’t worry. He knows me too well.
Nani K: As a wife and mother, how do you find time to write?
Naching: I write when everyone’s asleep. It’s dark and quiet. Very conducive to horror. I often wind up spooking myself.
Nani K: Earlier, you spoke of skill improvement. What do you do to sharpen skills?
Naching: I take online courses and I read books on writing. There’s a great website called edX.org and it offers classes from distinguished universities. Most classes are free unless you’d like to earn a certificate. Then, you have to pay a fee. My favorite course was English Grammar and Style from Queensland University in Australia. It was terrific.
Nani K: What books do you recommend for the first time horror writer?
Naching: “On Writing” by Stephen King, that’s the horror writer’s bible. “Strunk and White’s Elements of Style” and “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” by Renni Browne and Dave King are also great books.
Nani K: What is the one thing a writer needs most?
Naching: Readers. We should take as many as we can get, no matter what the age group. For a long time, I wrote what I considered adult horror. The funny thing is, most of the readers who approached me and expressed their admiration for my writing were teenagers and young adults. If you think about it, this is our largest audience. And, if they discover us now, they’ll follow our work into adulthood. That’s why I want to be the female version of R.L. Stine. I want to encourage and inspire another generation of readers.
Nani K: Thank you, Naching.
Naching: Thank you, Nani K. It’s been fun.
To find out more about Naching, go to: http://frightenme.weebly.com
Listen to the contestants battle for points this season on HorrorAddicts.net