A steadfast and proud sci-fi and fantasy geek, A. F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada and still calls it home. The youngest in a family of seven children, she always had an overly creative mind and an active imagination. She favours the dark and deadly when writing—her genres of choice being fantasy and horror—but she has been known to venture into the light on occasion. As an indie author, she’s published novels, novellas and story collections, with a few side trips into poetry.
A.F. is a wonderful lady with a very dry sense of humor. We discussed writing, folklore, and villains.
NTK: Welcome to Chilling Chat, A.F.! Thank you for joining us today!
AFS: Glad to be here.
NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?
AFS: Good question. I suppose my first introduction to horror was through local folklore and the Nova Scotia ghost stories when I was growing up. Also Grimm’s fairy tales with witches and cannibalism. Probably elementary school age, around age eight to ten.
NTK: Ooh! What kind of ghost stories? Can you give us an example?
AFS: There are so many ghost stories in this province and around all of the Altlantic Candian provinces. One of my favourites is the story of the burning ghost ship that appears off Mahone Bay.
NTK: Cool! Did this story inspire you to become a horror writer?
AFS: No, although the folklore certainly influences my writing. I actually started writing horror by accident. I wrote a nice, sweet short story for a writing group, but it threw my rhythm off and I had writer’s block after that. To bring back the deserted muse, I decided to write a horror story about Jack the Ripper. I’ve never looked back.
NTK: Awesome! Speaking of influences, who is your biggest influence in horror writing? Who is your favorite author?
AFS: I say Ray Bradbury is my biggest horror influence. I know most people think of him as a sci-fi writer, but quite a few of his short stories, like “The Emissary,” are very creepy. And Poe as well, was an influence. My favourite authors are fantasy though, with Neil Gaiman and Guy Gavriel Kay in a tie for first place.
NTK: Bradbury has a distinctive style, almost poetic. You’re a poet as well. Which do you prefer, poetry or prose?
AFS: Poetry, definitely. I love writing both, but poetry is closest to my heart. It’s also a lot of fun to combine horror with poetry and write wickedly dark poems.
NTK: What gets your creative juices flowing? Are you inspired by dreams?
AFS: Strangely enough, I’ve never had a dream inspire my writing. Maybe they’re just too weird. My inspiration comes from many things, usually odd or mundane stuff. One of my recent short stories was inspired by the loud roar of a plane, and a couple of days ago I was contemplating whether you could dispose of a body in the garbage after seeing the recycling truck. And for the record, I decided it was not a feasible method of body disposal.
NTK: (Laughs.) What inspired you to write “Blood on the Looking Glass?”
AFS: That came from a prompt in a writing group. They posted a picture of a woman standing on top of a giant skull, wearing these striped stockings and a pinafore-like dress. It struck me with this Alice in Wonderland kind of looks and the first line of the story, “We’re all mad here,” said Alice, popped in my head. The rest of the story flowed from there.
NTK: Do you outline your stories when you write them? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants?
AFS: With short stories, I generally don’t outline. I usually start with a beginning line or a paragraph and an ending, either in my head or written down and then join the two together. For novels though, I do scene outlining, character backstories, worldbuilding, maps, and all the fun stuff.
NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you direct their every move?
AFS: My characters are stubborn and refuse to listen. I have nice plans all laid out, and then they come along and make announcements that change everything. That’s what happened with Edmund in Chronicles of the Undead; he refused to stay in Oxford and I had to rework part of the plot to set things in London. It happened with the Nightmare Crow as well, who gave me a new motivation halfway through the series. A couple of characters have announced sexual preferences and one decided she was on the villain’s side. They are very irksome, my characters.
NTK: Your characters sound awesome! Which do you like writing more? Heroes or villains?
AFS: Villains! I love writing villains. That’s probably why I have two books of stories from their point of view. The villains get to have more fun, but sometimes they try and take over the book. I had to rein in my pirate in Renegades of the Lost Sea because my main character wasn’t getting enough page time.
NTK: Do you enjoy villains in the movies too? What’s your favorite horror movie?
AFS: I love the movie villains, though I am a bit of a chicken when it comes to horror. I tend towards the more psychological stuff like The Others and Crimson Peak.
NTK: Favorite horror TV show?
AFS: I’m a huge Supernatural fan and I loved Penny Dreadful, and as a big Bruce Campbell fan, the Evil Dead series would be on the list as well. And the Hannibal TV show; I loved that.
NTK: Favorite Horror novel?
AFS: I haven’t read too many horror novels, but Something Wicked This Way Comes would be a favourite.
NTK: Do you have a favorite curse? If so, what is it?
AFS: A favourite curse? Interesting. I like the idea of cursed objects, things that bring the owner bad luck or misfortune. I also like the idea of the Celtic geis, which is a prohibition against doing a certain thing. If they break the prohibition they usually bring terrible calamity or death upon themselves. And of course, the mummy’s curse is always a fun one to play with.
NTK: What does the future hold for you? What books and poems do Horror Addicts have to look forward to?
AFS: Right now I’m working on finishing up my contemporary Arthurian legends series, The Camelot Immortals. But I’m also writing a historical paranormal/fantasy series set in Venice that will have a lot of dark Italian folklore and dead bodies. Plus I have a steampunk horror series with vampires on the backburner. And recently I’ve been toying with the idea of a standalone horror novel.
It’s also National Poetry Month, so no doubt some dark poems will pop up on my website.
NTK: Awesome! You’re keeping busy. Thank you for chatting with us, A.F. It’s been fun!
AFS: Thanks for having me, I enjoyed it and yes it was great fun.