Chilling Chat: 4 Quick Questions with Naching T. Kassa, Daphne Strasert, and Jess Landry

chillingchat

Naching T. Kassa is a wife, mother, and horror writer. She also serves as Head of Publishing for HorrorAddicts.net and as an intern for Crystal Lake Publishing. She lives in Eastern Washington with Dan Kassa, her husband and biggest supporter. Naching is a member of the Horror Writers Association.

Daphne Strasert is a horror, dark fantasy, and speculative fiction writer from Houston, Texas. She has been published in several anthologies including Crescendo of Darkness and Postcards from the Void. 

Jess Landry’s fiction has appeared in several anthologies, including Fantastic Tales of Terror, Monsters of Any Kind, Lost Highways: Dark Fictions from the Road, and the forthcoming Twice-Told: A Collection of Doubles, among others.

1) What did you learn from participating in the contest?IMG_1979

NTK: I learned so much from the contest. Most of which is detailed in my little op-ed in the book. But, if I had to pick one thing it would be learning how to submit a novel for a publisher’s consideration.

DS: The Next Great Horror Writer Contest was my first time making short stories. I learned about keeping my writing tight and making sure that my stories had no extra fluff that they didn’t need–especially for a short story that really needs to keep the tension high.  I learned how to proof my writing (especially on a deadline) and make sure that I was submitting my absolute best work.

JL: As cheesy as it sounds, I learned that if I put my mind into something, I can do it. It was daunting at first—we basically had 1-2 weeks per assignment to whip out a smorgasbord of different stories…albeit not all at once, but still. My brain can pretty much only concentrate on one idea at a time, so the struggle was real, y’all.

2) Would you do it again? What would you do differently?

NTK: I wish I could. I loved the challenges and I miss them. Receiving an assignment from Emz was like the prelude to a writing adventure. Unfortunately, I won’t participate in another #NGHW contest. As a staff member of HorrorAddicts.net, I’d have to recuse myself from it. But, even if I weren’t part of HA, I couldn’t do it. I had my chance. It’s time to step aside and let others step up. I’d love to be a judge though.

As to what I’d do differently, researching more comes to mind. Some of my work suffered because I didn’t know what to write. I’d never written a full blog piece before. If I’d been smart, I’d have gone to the HorrorAddicts.net website and studied the pieces they’d accepted in the past. This is a big mistake we writers make. We submit to magazines, anthologies, and publishers without studying what they produce.

Daphne StrasertDS: I would do the contest again in a heartbeat, if HorrorAddicts.net would let me (though I’m sure they’d rather have a whole new batch of newbies!). Maybe if the contest runs again, I could act as a judge or a writing mentor.

For what I would do differently, I would spend more time prepping my novel through the duration of the contest. When I was lucky enough to present to Crystal Lake, I wished that I’d had more time. Even if I hadn’t been in the top three, the work on the novel never would have gone to waste.

JL: Heck yes. It was a great all-around experience, and – most importantly – it got me writing. A lot of the work I created during the contest has gone on to find wonderful homes, so I couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out.

3) What inspired your piece?

NTK: Like most of my ideas, it came out of the blue while I washed dishes. Dishes are boring. So boring, I have to distract myself with stories to get through them.

I think I was washing a big pot with spaghetti noodles stuck to the bottom when Father Lopez’s character came to me. But, I could be wrong. It might’ve been macaroni.

DS: “Audio Addict” was inspired, in part, by the Crescendo of Darkness prompt itself Jess Landrywhere it mentioned “the lack of music”. That inspired the idea of a world in which there was no music, or at least, not pervasive the way it is in our world. Once I hit on the idea of music as an illicit commodity, the structure of “Audio Addict” was almost fully formed.

JL: Wesley Snipes. In particular an interview with Patton Oswalt where he said that during the filming of Blade: Trinity, that Mr. Snipes stayed in character the whole time, even signing notes he had for the director of the film as ‘Blade.’ I thought, hell, if he’s that in character, does he keep his teeth in when he goes to sleep? Or when he goes out to get gelato? Wouldn’t he want something with a little…sparkle? From that train of thought, FangBlingz was born.

4) What does the future hold for you? What do we have to look forward to?

NTK: I’m editing an anthology called, Dark Divinations, for HorrorAddicts.net. We’re accepting submissions until Halloween. Each story must be set in the Victorian age (1837-1901) and involve some element of divination.

I have a few stories coming out too. My story, “War Beads,” will appear in the Dead Light Publishing anthology, Not Just a Pretty Face. “Phantom Caller” will appear in Kill Switch. And, “Second Strike,” will be published in the anthology Dark Transitions by Thirteen O’clock Press.

nghwedpsmDS: I have a few stories slated to come out in 2019, including one for the HorrorAddicts.net anthology Kill Switch. I will also be completing a mystery novel and submitting to publishers.

JL: The future is full of deadlines, glorious deadlines. I have several new stories scheduled for some awesome anthologies coming out later this year (my lips are sealed on the specific details!), and one of my short stories, “Mutter” (from Crystal Lake Publishing’s Fantastic Tales of Terror), has been nominated for a Bram Stoker Award in the Short Fiction category, which is exciting (beyond exciting, really. I’m just trying to contain myself).

You can find Naching on Facebook and Twitter.

Jess can be found on Facebook.

Chilling Chat with Jess Landry

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Jess Landry is a graphic designer by day and a writer by night, though sometimes the two intertwine. You can find her work online with The Sirens Call and EGM Shorts. In print, herJess Landry stories have appeared in several anthologies, including Where Nightmares Come FromThe Anatomy of Monsters, Killing It Softly, and Ill-Considered Expeditions.

Jess has been working for JournalStone Publishing for several years. She is the Managing Editor and also runs JournalStone’s newest imprint, Trepidatio Publishing, where her goal is to publish diverse stories from diverse authors.

She currently resides in the icy wastelands of Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband, two lazy cats, and her young daughter, who she hopes one day will come to love the genre as much as her mother (if not, she may have to disown her).

Jess is a smart woman with a terrific sense of humor. We spoke of Women in Horror, writing, and what it’s like to be an editor.

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

JL: Thank you, Naching! This is going to be fun.

NTK: How old were you when you discovered horror?

JL: I think I was pretty young! I have very fond memories of watching shows like The Hilarious House of Frightenstein (Canadian public television at its best!) and raiding my aunties library for the latest Stephen King books. I’d always had a love for Halloween, so the progression into reading and writing horror seemed only natural.

NTK: Is King your favorite author?

JL: He definitely played a huge role in my love of the genre. The first book I read of his was The Drawing of the Three, and from that point, I was hooked. For a long time, I thought he was the only horror author around (my parents didn’t exactly run to the bookstore to buy me all the horror books). But after some time of just reading him, I realized there were so many more authors to read. It wasn’t until I read The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker that I had a “whoa” moment. Barker became my absolute favourite from page one of that book.

NTK: Does Barker influence your writing? What got you into writing?

JL: I admire Barker and his no-holds-barred style; his imagination blows me away (I mean, there’s a secret world inside a carpet? There’s a mosaic that you can travel through time in? Say wha?). When I write, I try not to limit my imagination, I try to think of all the crazy ideas he’s had that have translated perfectly on the page, but I feel the subject matter he writes about is something I could never tackle because there’s a raw honesty woven in his pages. As for what got me into writing, I really can’t recall. I’m an only child so I’ve always kind of lived in my head and did my own thing. I was a voracious reader and movie watcher when I was younger, and I still am. My dad kept a creative writing assignment from grade 1 where I wrote about a dog who goes trick or treating, so I guess it’s always been in my blood to get a little spooky.

NTK: You wrote, “When the Wind Leaves a Whisper” for the Next Great Horror Writer Campfire Tale challenge. Where did that idea come from?

JL: When we received the challenge last year, the first thing that popped into my brain was the show Are You Afraid of the Dark? and the midnight society gathering around the campfire. I loved that show as a kid so trying to think of a concept that someone might tell around the fire was a lot of fun—I even rewatched a few episodes for old time’s sake! I find the woods to be scary as hell (…I’m more of an indoor person!) so it felt only right that my story takes place in that environment.

NTK: What was it like being a NGHW contestant?

campfiretalesfinalJL: It was awesome being a NGHW contest. I had no idea what to expect coming into it—would it be challenging enough? Would I be able to make time to complete the tasks?—but it ended up being a great exercise in writing. I found myself writing things that I probably wouldn’t have considered in the first place, and also found myself in constant of awe of everyone else in the competition. Everyone worked so hard and kicked so much ass, and every time a show went live, it was always nerve-wracking to hear the feedback and to hear where you placed in that specific challenge. The best part for me was trying to keep up with the rest of you!

NTK: Do your characters have free will? How much control do you exert over them?

JL: I’d like to think I have some degree of control over the fate of my characters, but sometimes they surprise me. I’m writing a screenplay right now and had written up a super-detailed outline before I plunked the story into the proper formatting. Everything was going to plan, then all of a sudden, I found my story slowly drifting toward another ending. I tried to keep it on track with what I had already planned out, but no matter what I tried, the characters seemed to be working toward their own, new-and-improved ending. Sometimes, you just have to let your characters take the reins!

NTK: You’re the Managing Editor for Journalstone Publishing and Publisher for Trepidatio Publishing. What’s the best thing about being an editor?

JL: The best thing about being an editor is how damn hard it is, especially being a writer, too. The authors that we bring in to JournalStone and Trepidatio are ones that I admire, ones whose work I love. To be lucky enough to spend often months at a time tackling their stories, helping hone them, and getting to know the authors in the process is something I never thought I’d be able to do. I started at the bottom of the totem pole with JournalStone, reviewing books and movies for Hellnotes (JS owns the site). After a while of doing that (which I still do on the rare occasion), I asked if there was anything more I could do to help out, particularly on the publishing side. Chris Payne, JournalStone’s president, was kind enough to give me a shot, and it wasn’t long after that I was getting my hands dirty. Much like the NGHW contest, editing is tough. You’ve got to forget about your own style, your own nasty habits, and put yourself in the mind of the writer whose work you’re looking over. You’ve got to think of anything and everything, be it grammar-related issues to historical references. You have to immerse yourself into someone else’s world, and you have to put your own work aside. It’s bittersweet in that sense—I love being able to do what I do with JournalStone, but my own work has definitely suffered because of it.

NTK: What’s the worst thing about editing? Any pet peeves?

JL: The worst thing about editing—be it my own stuff or someone else’s—is when it feels like nothing’s coming together when nothing you do can fix what’s wrong the manuscript. That is the absolute worst. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it usually helps to take some time away from words and computers and anything that overworks your brain. Just let it sit. That’s my unofficial motto.

NTK:  You spoke of some television shows earlier, is the Hilarious House of Frankenstein still your favorite show? Or have you moved on?

JL: Oh man, I haven’t watched that in years! Actually, I did see a short segment on the national news a few days ago about someone in Toronto (I think) who created the Billy Van museum (he played all the characters in the show). I’ll have to go check it out next time I visit. But I love how this obscure Canadian show from the 1970s still affects so many people today. I’ve definitely moved on to bigger—but not necessarily better—things. For modern shows, I love Stranger Things, Black Mirror, The Walking Dead, and I used to love American Horror Story, but it’s kind of lost me now. For older shows, my go-to was (and always will be) Tales from the Crypt…the HBO live-action show and the cartoon! The best of both worlds. Plus, there was a short-lived Tales from the Crypt kids’ game show that I watched religiously. I was always jealous of the kids on there (and still am, frankly).

NTK: What is your favorite horror movie?

JL: I have two: An American Werewolf in London and John Carpenter’s The Thing. Hands down. No contest. I could watch those two movies on repeat for all of eternity and never get tired of them. I could probably also put on a one-woman show reenacting both of them, but I doubt anyone would want to see that (and how would I do the werewolf-morphing and head-growing-legs scenes?). I also need to give shout-outs to other favourites: Army of Darkness, Suicide Club, Suspiria, Trick ‘r Treat, Hellraiser, and many, many more. I love a good (and even bad) horror movie. If I had more time, I’d make it my goal to watch every single one on Netflix (but not Amazon Prime—the selection on there is…interesting).

NTK: You seem to enjoy horror/comedy. Does that element find its way into your work often? I remember, during the contest you wrote a piece called, “Fang Blingz” and that was great!

JL: I love a good horror/comedy. I grew up watching Ghostbusters and Army of Darkness and Dead Alive and all that good stuff, but I’ve never actually tried to pull it off (with the exception of Fang Blingz in the NGHW contest!) It’s definitely something that I would love to try and do in the future, though the thought of attempting to be funny (and having people legitimately laugh at what I wrote) is probably the scariest thing that I can think of!

NTK: Let’s go back to Trepidatio publishing. Could you tell the Horror Addicts a little about that Journalstone imprint?

JL: Yes! Trepidatio was originally the brain-child of Horror Writers Association VP (and all-around good guy) John Palisano, though he made the tough decision to part from it and then it fell into my lap. When it did, I was like, “What the hell am I supposed to do with an imprint?”, but it soon became clear that this was an amazing opportunity to publish authors that I knew were talented, that I knew were on the brink of big things, that I knew were under-represented. So I set out and made it my mission to publish diverse stories from diverse voices. As of right now, I’ve published eight books (four collections, four novels), and four of those are from female authors. I have five more novels and collections coming out between now and early next year, and all five are by women. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished so far.

NTK: You’re a proponent of Women in Horror. Who are some women writers you think deserve more recognition?

JL: I’m a very big fan of SP Miskowski, and I’m lucky enough to be working with her right now on her latest novel. She’s someone who I admired long before I knew her, and I believe her work is some of the best there is. I also love Helen Oyeyemi, Tananarive Due, and Ania Ahlborn, among many others. There are so many women writers out there who deserve recognition, and I’m more than happy to try and help them obtain even a sliver of it.

NTK: Jess, what does the future hold for you? What works do Horror Addicts have to Fantastic Tales of Terror: History's Darkest Secrets by [Golden, Christopher, Anderson, Kevin J., Maberry, Jonathan, Yardley, Mercedes M., Gaiman, Neil, Massie, Elizabeth, Chizmar, Richard, Lansdale, Joe R., Waggoner, Tim , Bailey, Michael , Vincent, Bev , Wytovich, Stephanie M., Gonzalez, Michael Paul, Palisano, John , Morton, Lisa , Landry, Jess , Bunn, Cullen , Liaguno, Vince , Little, Bentley , Wellington, David , Baumgartner, Jessica Marie, Castle, Mort , Moore, Paul , Strand, Jeff ]look forward to?

JL: The future is busy…which I am grateful for! The anthology Lost Highways: Dark Fiction from the Road was just released in July, and it has a short story of mine called “The Heart Stops at the End of Laurel Lane” in it. I have two more anthologies coming up, including Monsters of Any Kind from Independent Legions Publishing, which has my story “Silt & Bone” in it—that’s out the last week of September. Fantastic Tales of Terror comes out late October from Crystal Lake Publishing, and my story “Mutter” is in there. And then a story I wrote for the NGHW contest called “Scordatura” will be in Twice-Told: A Collection of Doubles, out in February 2019. Plus there are a few great things coming out from HorrorAddicts.net, including this Campfire Tales anthology.

Phew!

NTK: Thank you for chatting with me, Jess! That was really fun!

JL: Thanks, Naching! Always lovely chatting with you!

Addicts, you can find Jess on Facebook.

 

#NGHW News: Interview with Contestant Jess Landry

Get to know the contestants of the Next Great Horror Writer Contest!

 

What do you love about horror?
That’s a tough one to pinpoint, but I suppose the love is a nostalgic one. My childhood was full of horror, from the Goosebumps books that gave me nightmares, to TV shows like Tales from the Crypt that I used to sneak around to watch — I have nothing but happy memories when I look back at my upbringing. That, and I’ve always had a strong infatuation with strange things.

What was the first horror movie/story/book/show that you fell in love with?
The first movie, in general, I remember falling in love with was Army of Darkness — it definitely shaped my taste in film (and totally leveled up my sarcastic abilities). Book-wise, my first memories are from a kids book called Popcorn. In it, a little bear is left alone on Halloween night while his parents head out to a party. He decides to invite some bear friends over, and everyone brings popcorn as a gift. There’s so much damn popcorn that it fills the whole house and the kids have to eat their way out of it. When his parents come home, they bring him a gift for being a good kid while they went out. And yup, it’s popcorn. I actually still have the book, and it’s now in my little one’s library.

Can you describe the sort of horror stories you write?
I tend to write stories about family bonds, be it between sisters or a father and daughter, any combination, really. I try to focus on having strong yet believable characters that go through extraordinary events. Usually, the characters do not come away unscathed.

Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what?
When I’m writing emotionally charged scenes, I put on Max Richter. He composes some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard. I usually listen to instrumental songs only, as I find lyrics can sometimes be distracting (I’m a toe-tapping sing-a-longer).

Do you have any hobbies besides writing?
I’m a voracious reader and movie-watcher: I will read and watch anything, good or bad (I actually love terrible movies. It’s weird.). And, because I had a baby last June, I’ve now taken up crawling as a hobby. It’s a great way to see all the disgusting things living in between your floorboards even though you just cleaned (or, at least, thought you did).

What is your favourite part about writing?
It’s definitely the creative expression. I love being able to put down the images that pop up in my mind onto paper — it’s like taking a weight off the old shoulders.

What is your favourite word?
“Bescumber.” It’s the fanciest way to talk about flinging poop.

What is your least favourite word?
“Moist.” Nobody likes that word. I feel gross having typed it.

What turns you on in a book?
Nothing turns me on more than Canadian spelling. It’s a delight to my eyes to see a “U” where it’s supposed to be.

Why should people be on team Jess?
If you’re going to be on a team, be on Team Everyone. Sure this is a competition, but writing is tough. Hell, writing and putting it out into the universe is even tougher. I’m already a fan of everyone participating in the contest because it takes guts to pursue your dreams. So, go Team Everyone! I’m rooting for you all.

 Follow the #NGHW Contest, this season on HorrorAddicts.net!