Interview with Author Robb White

Bio: 

I live in a small Northeastern Ohio town on Lake Erie—“a Harbor rat,” as we say here. Except for my years in graduate school (Fayetteville, AR) and a brief teaching stint in West Virginia (Salem, WV), I’ve lived most of my life within sight of the house where Igrew up. I’d add a 2-week trip to China two decades ago as an exception to my basic reclusiveness.    

What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?

Being able to write at leisure without the financial burden of being unable to write. It took decades to get to this point, but being here is a joy—and a relief.

Why do you write?

It’s a hobby. But I feel terrible if I don’t write.

What is your writing process? (Any favorite places to write? Any interesting quirks, traditions, or rituals you may have? How many times might you revise something before being satisfied with it? Besides you, does anyone else edit your work? Etc.)

It’s unsophisticated, non-compulsive, and haphazard. I don’t plan much. I rarely revise short stories or novels, although I should. My satisfaction ends with the word -END-. I don’t reread anything published because I’ll see places where revisions would have improved it, which fact of laziness compounds my guilt for not revising more. I write in the afternoons because mornings are taken up by sleeping in and refusing to acknowledge the world until my caffeine addiction makes it agreeable to do so. Besides, my first    impulses are to do yard work or small repair jobs around the house, although my penchant for “MacGyvering” has been the source of many spats between my beloved frau and me. I used to write into the wee hours but that ceased with aging and the slowing down of the mental apparatus.

How did you come up with the idea for your story “Blue Genie”?

My 3-year-old granddaughter Calliope spends much time at our house with us. We love    having her around, seeing her grow up, watching her expand her vocabulary, and her knowledge of the world around  her. She likes sticker books. One my wife bought her had caricatures of different kinds of faces where she’d attach mouths, eyes, moustaches, etc.  One was a formidable-looking genie with a sneering expression she called “Blue Genie” because of his blue face. I happened to be thinking of  that genie when purchasing lotto tickets at my local supermarket—a habit before shopping. The story of a shy woman, her envious classmate whose toddler in the shopping cart thrusts a picture of a blue-faced genie at her came to me at the ticket counter. The story developed fast from that point, and I wrote it in one draft when I got home.   

What is your background in literature? How much reading do you do? How necessary do you feel it is necessary for an author to read?

I have a doctorate in contemporary literature. I once read voraciously, as does any lit major, but time and sloth undid me. I vowed to read every one of the 5-page list of titles of novels, stories, poems, and plays accumulated over the years of my career but never got around to. A particular goal was to read Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude in Spanish—a favorite novel, read many times in Gregory Rabassa’s fine translation. That oath didn’t survive 20 pages. And I never got to the B’s on my list.   

Conversely (or perversely), I don’t think it’s necessary to read much. In genre fiction, I     avoid reading all but my favorite trio: Martin Cruz Smith, Thomas Harris, and David L. Lindsey. Because I can never duplicate their stylistic genius, I don’t fear being “contaminated,” and I derive as much pleasure from rereading their books as the first time.

Do you have anyone (friends, relatives, etc.) review your works before you publish them?

No. My wife refuses to read anything I write. Yet she’ll sit through multiple episodes of Hoarders, enjoying that grotesquerie  of psychological self-abuse by people who fill their houses with filth and trash. I turn my eyes just walking past the television when she’s watching. What paper being can compare to that depravity? I have one outstanding editor, Chris Black at Fahrenheit Press, who not only finds the grammar miscues I’m blind to but he slashes through my self-indulgent passages with ruthless aplomb and makes me a better writer.

Could you give us an idea of your upcoming works without spoiling anything?

I’ve produced 3 pages of notes for a third outing of my second private eye, Ray Jarvi. I have all the characters in mind, but I lack the unifying plot to put them all in the same story world cohesively.

Do you have any writing events coming up? For example: something being published/released? A reading of one of your works? Interviews? Any speeches or talks?

I have a collection of hardboiled stories featuring my first private eye, Thomas Haftmann, which is in the queue at the publisher’s: The Dearborn Terrorist Plot & 4 Stories.

I’ve given exactly one talk about my works, that being the first collection of stories, Out   of Breath. That was in Cleveland while I was still teaching. I’ve been asked by my local libraries to give talks, and a literature professor at one of the SUNY schools in New York has asked me to be a guest lecturer. He’s been using one of my stories collected in a Bouchercon anthology. Regrettably, I’ve declined. Despite the fact I’ve spent the majority of my working life yapping to thousands of  docile students as a professor and grad student lecturer, I’m prone to anxiety attacks nowadays when it comes to speaking in public. I blame my pathologically introverted mother for that—and varicose  veins.    

What do you hope to achieve as a writer?

Nothing. I’m pleased to say I have nothing to gain or lose.

What do you think of bad reviews? Are they helpful or harmful to you?

Negative reviews amuse me. I wonder if some of these people are well in their minds. None (yet) have been helpful, and they all lack the capacity to harm. Perhaps that sounds like a boastful writer’s bravado or sheer insouciance. I don’t mean it to be. I’m too old to care what others think. Bad reviews have no effect. (For one thing, I don’t believe them—other than the typos I had failed to fix, which I do deplore as a failure.)

What advice do you have for novice writers?

I almost skipped this question, but it’s too tempting. Two bits of advice: don’t self-reject. I had a crime story rejected 9 times, according to my tracking records. It was selected by no less than Otto Penzler for his annual collection Best American Mystery Stories in 2019. Made me a nice bit of cash, too. The other bit of cheap advice is to ignore another writer’s advice.

What do you feel are the most important resources a writer can use?

For me, it’s a rapid Google search—as fast as I can harvest the information I need at the time of composing. I get in, get out, and get back to the story I’m working on.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? (websites, social media, etc.)

My website Robb T. White <tomhaftmann.wixsite.com/robbtwhite>. I also have a Twitter account in my private eye’s name: @tomhaftmann. Thank you for asking.

I took a look at your Amazon site and see that you are quite a prolific author. I could spend all day asking questions about your work One book that intrigues me though is Waiting on a Bridge of Maggots, which is set on Chaco Canyon Mesa (also the premise is very interesting). As part of my regular job, from October to December 2018, I worked in Chaco Canyon and lived in park housing.  I used to hike around there, and I know a couple of the mesas and most of the greathouses. Some of your other works seem to be set in Cleveland. How did you come to set a story in such an out-of-the-way place as Chaco Canyon?

You chose my best novel, one I put more of myself, psychologically speaking, than into anything else I’ve written. The title, by the way, is based on a Japanese myth of the Star Lovers involving a “bridge of magpies.”

The Chaco Canyon Mesa was pure serendipity as a setting. I had been reading about the early indigenous peoples in that region. I found it fascinating, and the sheer beauty—I’ll use the misapplied slang of a teenager— the awesomeness of the terrain grabbed my attention. Before I had the plot or the characters, I had the setting. But I have never seen that magnificent land with my own eyes.

Cleveland (and sometimes Youngstown) are vastly bigger cities than my little burg, which I generically call “Northtown” in the recent novels and stories. I stupidly took the advice of a New York literary agent who argued for big cities “for a wider readership.” I couldn’t tone down the violence sufficiently, so she dropped me. My revenge, however, was a novella I’d previously sent her, knocked off in 5 weeks, which she ignored. That novel has 100 reviews on Amazon—and some highly negative ones, by the way. But it led me to Fahrenheit Press and its Managing Editor, Chris Black, who fortunately for me doesn’t mind the fact that readers “either love me or hate me.”     

You seem to focus on the hard-boiled detective (e.g., Thomas Haftmann) stories and neo-noir. What attracts you to that genre?

An addiction to Raymond Chandler. My mother had always been an avid reader of mysteries, mainly cozies with a rare excursion into a Highsmith novel. I never read mysteries growing up other than an occasional Conan Doyle story. Agatha Christie bores me to tears. I discovered Chandler as a graduate student and never looked back. His style, those delightful similes, mesmerized me. I was hooked but never able to write for reasons of small mountains of freshman essays needing to be graded all weekend, tenure to be earned, and many other tasks I blame myself now for taking so seriously.

How did you find out about The Chamber Magazine?

I was browsing online mystery sites for places to submit one day just prior to submitting “Blue Genie.” I was immediately attracted to the gorgeous artwork of both the site and the covers. Intrigued, I lingered and was encouraged by the editorial text to submit. I’ve found that sometimes what a site says it wants and will accept is not always the case; for example, I had a story rejected recently by two online sites that purport to be hardboiled but both deemed that story “too extreme.” I won’t always submit where I see a   possibility. The Chamber Magazine gave me a good vibe.

Is there anything else that you would like our readers to know?

A smidgeon of an older man’s philosophy of life vis-à-vis his writing genre fiction for the past couple of decades and that is this: the world, our portion of it, is a dark, violent, and scary place just beneath the shimmering surface of a society where people are overfed and overpaid and where too little is required for “success.” Morons abound in every profession, often sadly in the so-called educated ones. It takes a little effort to notice, but it’s there all the same. As a teenager, I sailed on the Great Lakes as a deckhand. I met a variety of men on the three ore boats where I had a berth. Most were normal, one or two             good or bad as human beings go. One watchman I sailed with talked about his Navy experiences in the Arctic or Antarctic. He told me about a sailor who wandered onto the ice. The sailor looked down through the crystalline ice, noticed a small, dark speck growing larger. By the time, he realized this rotating, black-and-white object exploded through the ice, it was too late—a killer whale hunting seals.  A likely “fish story” from a blowhard in my youth, but it serves as an analogy for surviving the monsters out there,   mostly human. Reading darker kinds of fiction is a protection and a pleasure; it’s a way to enjoy life and a way to endure it both.(I’m stealing from Dr. Johnson here, I believe.) After all, what is Crime and Punishment fundamentally but a crackling good detective story.

Interview with Author and Poet Alan Catlin

Bio:

Named after grade B movie actor. Phantom Lady. Male lead. Mother’s Secret life as. Divorce year of 1953. Spent as Stranger in Paradise. Home as found. The Snake Pit. Visiting Days on Psychiatric Ward. High school as Hell. College as Ice Hell. Grad school a Lower circle of. Work as Cocktail. Living below the poverty line. A brief Walk in the Sun becomes Interviews with Hideous People. More Cocktail. Show me the way to the next whiskey. The Long Goodbye. The Book Lover. Sober as a judge in a tank full of Drunks. What I am today

What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?

Longevity.

Why do you write?

Writers write because they have to. I know I do. There is no such thing as a writer who stops writing. There are writers who quit but the essence is still the word. You never stop writing, either writing stops you, or something else does. Like disability. Death.

What is your writing process? (Any favorite places to write? Any interesting quirks, traditions, or rituals you may have? How many times might you revise something before being satisfied with it? Besides you, does anyone else edit your work? Etc.)

Once upon a time, when I worked nights and I drank a lot, I used to write only at night. Often that would be at 2 or 3 in the morning until I couldn’t see straight any longer.  When I started working days, I still wrote at night though not as late.  Then I stopped drinking and could write any time, anywhere.  Doesn’t matter where I write or when. I’m not one of those professionals that sits down a desk or with an open note book and crank out a required number of words or pages.  I write when I have an actual inspiration to write. If I don’t, I take notes and come back to the notes for inspiration

 One place that always inspires me is Block Island a tiny island off the coast of Rhode Island (though on a clear day you can see Montauk Point so you could equally say just North of Long Island as the sea gull flies.) Offseason, when we go there, it is quiet and satisfyingly picaresque as it rarely is the same in one place from day to day no matter how often you go to a particular place and we have been going there for thirty years. And the sea air. There is nothing like sea air.

 Quirky? I write my poems by hand on actual paper so I will be forced to do close revisions. When I mentioned this to a college English class I was talking in front of, they thoguht that was hilarious.  Prose usually directly into the computer as my handwriting sucks and there is more editing to do.

As for outside editing, it depends upon the project. I have a friend now who is a professional editor/ghostwriter and a compulsive editor so when I send her something to look at for a reaction, she sends it back with comments. And edits, though I hadn’t expected her to.  It is enormously helpful as I seem to have slept through grammar lessons in high school and it is only recently that I have mastered most of the rudiments of spelling. And I am among the world’s worst two fingered typists. Touch typing ha! I have been known to destroy computer keyboards.  My first typewriter was a Smith Corona “portable” that weighed about fifty pounds.

My wife has helped me greatly with various projects. She’s a good editor but the process is painful. Tact is not her strong point.

How did you come up with the idea for your poem “Past the Point of No Return”?

Years prior to that piece, I wrote a long enjambed poem called “Marching North “which begins as soldiers in a place like Vietnam walking North through the jungle. Along the way they encounter the desolation of a ravaged land that becomes, elementally, increasingly hostile until they are in an Arctic like setting.  There is no reason given why they are marching north and no one appears to be compelling them or leading them, they are just marching because that is what they have to do.  It’s like a Beckett play in that respect.  After 9-11, I thoguht of using that concept only now it was marching to the city.  It is an urban dystopia we can all relate to perhaps inspired by McCarthy’s The Road, but not consciously so.

You could read the piece as a sharp story or as along poem.  Once at writer’s workshop at State University of New York at Albany, the visiting writer, Irishman John Montague said I wrote prosy poetry and poetic prose so take your pick.

What is your background in literature? How much reading do you do? How necessary do you feel it is necessary for an author to read?

 I studied English in college and have a BA.  I am an ABD for an MA that I completed the course work for at Albany but blew off the last steps once I got my draft deferment and I got full time work in my unchosen profession as a barman.

I have always been a voracious reader. I can’t remember not being able to read. Generally speaking, I read 300 plus books and chapbooks a year. I can say this with confidence as I keep track of the titles. I am what has been called an eclectic reader which means I will read just about anything not Romance, Cowboy or fantasy related.  My favorite used book purveyor says no one reads like you do and no one brings in more off the wall books to sell than you do.  I consider that a compliment. I read roughly the same amount of fiction as poetry in a year, though recently I have been upping my non-fiction totals. And I edit a poetry journal on line.  If you check out the review section you can get an idea of what I like to read. I am proponent f reading is essential to a writer. That’s how you learn stuff that might be useful later on.

Could you give us an idea of your upcoming works without spoiling anything?

I spent good deal of the Summer revising old work, most of it prose.  One good thing to come out of the year of reclusive living during a plague, is that I organized, well weeded would be a better description, my personal writing archives.  I literally found whole books of fiction I had completely forgotten about that were never published.  Apparently, I envisioned myself as a prose writer and novelist who occasionally wrote poetry up until I was around 30. I quite my “best job” (as in respected) as a bar manager in a supper club and wrote a half-decent novel that would best be described as speculative fiction/revised history. It was never published, and I sent I to the Brautigan Library of unpublished novels for safe keeping where, appropriately, it disappeared.  I have a certificate sayig that received it once upon a time anyway. Luckily, I have copies. Anyway, one of the first projects was to rewrite a chapbook that is a follow up (companion) to my poetry book Sunshine Superman (Cyberwit). Superman was about my college years in Ice Hell where I majored in English, Intellectual History and Substance Abuse with a minor in card playing.  The premise is a young poet, who just got a fatal diagnosis, writing his friends one last letter as a prose poem, not mentioning that by the time they get it he will be dead. It’s called Dead Letter Office and Cyberwit will be doing it later this year.

Next, I tackled my novel about my nightclub job which I bill as a fictional memoir, called Chaos Management which Alien Buddha printed a couple of months ago and is available on Amazon.  It only took me 14 years to get around to revising it and it took me about 4 hours to get a text together.  I have one last book of Noir movie poems to send out soon. I have published most of the others already under the working title Hollyweird, two as chapbooks Hollyweird (Night Ballet Press) and Blue Velvet (Slipstream winner of the 2017 Slipstream Chapbook contest). The full-length books of three chapbook each are Lessons in Darkness (Luchador Press) and The Road to Perdition (Alien Buddha/Amazon).  The last set for three is Desolation Angels.

I have a complete pair of Memories books ready to go that I am looking for a publisher for. These are abstract, fragmentary prose poems in the manner of the bio above.  I think of them as my unpublishable poems The first book, Memories, of 140 poems, was published by Alien Buddha and the second, Memories Too was published by Dos Madreswas published earlier this year.

Do you have any writing events coming up? For example: something being published/released? A reading of one of your works? Interviews? Any speeches or talks?

Alas no. I used to be fairly active in the area (Tri-city area upstate NY) which and literally dozens of opportunities but the trump Plague shuttered down and most have not reopened. I have done one live streaming at legendary Caffe Lena on Insurrection Day which should still be available through their archived U-Tube app. I did one live reading in the Spring but other than that nada.  Doesn’t look promising going forward either.

What do you hope to achieve as a writer?

I think all writers want to be read. I have had modest success doing that. As I have several books archived in various libraries, research and rare books like Buffalo and Harvard so my books may outlive me.

What do you think of bad reviews? Are they helpful or harmful to you?

The most scathing review I ever had was a rejection letter for Chaos Management which it took me about a decade to realize was, substantively, correct.  I rather wished she had been a little less forthcoming with the diatribes contained within it.  I think her judgment was somewhat prejudice by her intense dislike of the sample she read.

In general, bad reviews and sometimes good ones, just don’t get it and all they do is show how ignorant the reviewer really is. I have been guilty of this myself.

What advice do you have for novice writers?

Persevere. No one ever got anywhere giving up.

What do you feel are the most important resources a writer can use?

Your own imagination.  I think true creativity is in synthesizing what other people have done, prior to your writing, into a form that works or you and is entirely your own.  I credit Bernadette Mayer for the origin of my Memories series but as I went along with other influences equally as important, like David Markson, Carol Maso, helped shape poems and provide direction.  Still others occur as I work, too numerous to mention, though right now I am giving the project a rest after a huge outpouring of work. It’s important to know that every idea you could conceive of, every plot, every device, has been done by someone previously and probably better, though maybe not quite as uniquely as you have. There are no purely original ideas.  So read a lot and adapt.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? (websites, social media, etc.)

I am editor of the online poetry journal Misfit Magazine. I write an essay for each of the most recent issues (there are 33 so far) and have done so for roughly six years.  I write most of the reviews so you can get an idea of where I am coming from that way. Any of the standard search engines will yield all kinds of leads though, I haven’t searched myself in years and I wonder what I might find now. The mind reels at the horrors such a search may reveal

How many collections of poetry and novels do you have to your credit? Do you have an agent? How hard is it for you to find a publisher?

I honestly have no idea how many collections, chapbooks anyway, that I have published since early 80’s.  A lot. Several dozen easily.  Most of my books are poetry and a good deal of them are out of print and totally unavailable.  The subjects of these vary from highly personal books about a schizophrenic parent, to a series of drink recipe poems, to bar wars, alien nations, and lately the more noir based Hollyweird series.  I wrote a novella called From the Waters of Oblivion loosely based on my last bar job that I self-published and I have some copies left. Also a group of stories called Death Angels.  And Chaos Management is the novel is easily attainable.  I am trying to decide where to send a loosely related series for stories after Chaos including a novella based on a real life, local serial killer. I’m spinning off a character from that novella in another novella about that character in and out of blackout drunk, fugue states in which he may be killing young women. Even he doesn’t know for sure. I know I don’t know if he did or not.

No agent. It was a bitch finding first publishers. I hit three after years of trying but had to wait years for two of them. My selected poems, Drunk and Disorderly took about five years after the guy who was going to do them literally walked off the street into the bar I was working and proposed a book. After you get to know people, establish a kind of reputation, or establish a relationship, it may get easier.  I have had a rich history of publishers either doing my book and the process failing or dying before they could do the book.

How did you find out about The Chamber Magazine?

A post in a call for manuscripts in a group listing on Facebook. One of the only ones I followed up on from there. I read your guidelines, and some stories, and I liked what I saw plus the layout is good. The site looked like someone was invested in the project and cared about it. I submitted despite not being a writer of horror or anything close to it though I can and will do darkness. Actually, if I were to say name on theme I do best or am most interested in, it would be darkness.

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Interview with Author John Ryland

  • Approximately 100-word (more or less) summary of your life

      I grew up with a big family rural Alabama in a tiny coal mining town named Brookwood. After high school, I joined the U.S. Navy and had the opportunity to see a large part of the world. After my stint was up, I moved back to Tuscaloosa County, and now live in Northport, Alabama with my wife and two sons.

  • What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?

      Although I have had ten short stories published in wonderful journals, having two of my novels accepted for publication by traditional presses is my greatest accomplishment so far. These two books, Peripheral (World Castle publishing) and The Man with No Eyes (Moonshine Cove press) will both drop on 2022.

  • Why do you write?

     I am 100% a “pantser”, as in flying by the seat of my pants.  I cannot plot a novel to save my life. I’ve tried. The characters won’t mind. I do, however, think about a story for a long time before I sit down to write it. I develop the general feel of the story and characters. When I do sit down, I just allow things to flow as they will. Sometimes this forces me to backtrack to fix plot holes, but the backbone of the story rarely ever changes.

  • What is your writing process? (Any favorite places to write? Any interesting quirks, traditions, or rituals you may have? How many times might you revise something before being satisfied with it? Besides you, does anyone else edit your work? Etc.)

     I don’t really have a process. I now have an office and desk I write in, but I wrote my first novel, Souls Harbor, at our dining room table with kids and dogs running around the house. For me the story is ready to be written and all I have to do is stay out of the way. I do extensive revisions, often making eight or ten passes over a novel and countless passes over a short story. I have used Nicole Neuman on multiple occasions. She edited my collection Southern Gothic and several other short stories for me as well. 

  • How did you come up with the idea for your story “Last Chance Cabin”?

     I was watching National geographic Channel one night and they mentioned the fact that people who build remote cabins in Alaska always leave them unlocked when they leave in case someone is caught in a snowstorm and happens upon them. I began to think about being snowed in in one of these remote cabins, miles from nowhere. The isolation, the mental fatigue, the outright fear. It would have to be one of the worst feelings in the world. From there, my natural tendency to lean toward the macrabe took over.

  • What is your background in literature? How much reading do you do? How necessary do you feel it is necessary for an author to read?

     I don’t have time to read as much as I used to, but I still read quite a lot. I think it’s imperative for a writer to read. I’ve leaned from reading the “masters” as well as pulp fiction paperbacks. For me it’s sentence structure, the ebb and flow, building relatable characters. As a writer you have to make your reader connect with someone you made up, seeing how others do it teaches you a lot.

  • Do you have anyone (friends, relatives, etc.) review your works before you publish them?

     My wife and my nephew read almost everything I write before anyone else. I also employ beta readers. Sometimes as a writer, it is easy to miss the most obvious things. Other eyes can catch what you miss. Having an editor that you trust helps immensely.

  • Could you give us an idea of your upcoming works without spoiling anything?

     In Peripheral, a young wife is drug into a nether world between life and death and must find a way to fight a centuries old demon if she wants her body back.

     In The Man with No Eyes, a blind genius with the ability to control every system within his body must cross the perilous Yemen/Saudi border region to exact revenge on the sadistic owner of a secret lab that he used to work for who had his eyes surgically removed as punishment.

     Also I have a short story about a mother’s unique way of disciplining her children called “the boards”, and one about a young man who returns to the gravesite of a girl he murdered, only to find himself in deeper than he expected.

  • Do you have any writing events coming up? For example: something being published/released? A reading of one of your works? Interviews? Any speeches or talks?

     I will soon be featured on Twitter’s The Writing Wall podcast and I am organizing a local book signing. I have also just released a YA magical realism novel called Shatter. It’s not my typical genre, but it needed to be written. It’s the story of a young girl made of glass who is tired of playing it safe.

  • What do you hope to achieve as a writer?

     I would like to be successful enough to write full time, but also have at least a small group of devoted fans who really enjoy my work. Being recognized in a restaurant and having someone else pick up the bill wouldn’t be terrible either.

  • What do you think of bad reviews? Are they helpful or harmful to you?

     All reviews are just people opinions. There are people who hate Poe, loathe Stephen King, can’t stand Follett. That’s their right. I am lucky that I haven’t gotten anything less than a 4 star, but I am also aware that my writing is not for everyone. If a review is bad, but genuine, I think an author can learn from it. Readers have expectations, realistic or not, and whether we as authors live up to them is that reader’s opinion.

  • What advice do you have for novice writers?

     Never give up. Keep writing. Just write. It doesn’t matter if you never intend to publish that piece, it will teach you. I’ve written three other manuscripts that will never see the light of day, but I learned a lot about structure and flow from them.

  • What do you feel are the most important resources a writer can use?

     The world around them. Most of my ideas come from simple things. I am writing a novella about what might be locked inside a bank vault I saw sitting on a vacant lot. I wrote an entire novel about a sign that I saw that simply said “Watch That Child.” Stories seeds are out there, we just have to find them and co something with them.

  • Where can people find out more about you and your writing? (websites, social media, etc.)

     The best way to find all things John Ryland is at gspressbooks.com It’s my author website with all my book links, news, my blog, upcoming events, and even a “poetry corner”. I am also on twitter @johnryland10, Instagram at Ryland364 and I have a Facebook author page at https://facebook.com/JRylandtheWriter

  • You have two novels to your credit, Souls Harbor and The Man with No Eyes, which will be published by Moonshine Cove Press in March 2022. How difficult was it for you to find a publisher? Do you have an agent?

     I do not have an agent, though I have tried. It’s a tough business. Souls Harbor, Southern Gothic, and Shatter were all produced through my production company Gnat Smoke Press.

  • How did you find out about The Chamber Magazine?

     I saw your magazine on a submission call. When I checked out your site, I knew I had to submit.

  • Is there anything else that you would like our readers to know?

     I plan to be around for a while. With two novels coming out next year, two already written and waiting, and no end of ideas in sight, there will be plenty of reading material if you like my work.

Interview with Author and Filmmaker Julian Grant

Bio:

I’m a college professor teaching at Columbia College Chicago and a former professional producer/director. Born in London, England and raised in Canada, I now write, teach and make art here in the Chicagoland area. I’m an outsider by nature pushing boundaries and buttons in all that I do and encourage other artists to be radical creators. It’s my hope as a writer to make works that challenge the conventions of established genre and it’s a great opportunity for me to make worlds as large as I want without the restriction of budget. My work has been published by Dark Fire UK, Quail Bell, Avalon Literary Review, Crepe & Penn, Alternative History Magazine, Granfalloon, Altered Reality, The Chamber Magazine, Clever Magazine, Peeking Cat Literary Journal, Danse Macabre, Fiction on the Web, Night Picnic, CafeLit, Horla, Bond Street Review, Piker Press, Free Bundle, Filth Literary Magazine, Horror Sleaze Trash, The Mythic Circle, Murderous Ink Press & The Adelaide Literary Magazine. 

What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?

I’ve recently completed three ‘murder memoirs’, crime novels based upon my life as a professional filmmaker. They’re loud, brash, full of kinky sex, violence and (I hope) a lot of humor. I’ve self-published my first YA novel, “N00bs” which is available on Amazon along with my work as an illustrator on the graphic novel, “History of Her Future” also available worldwide.

What is your creative process? (Any favorite places to write? Any interesting quirks, traditions, or rituals you may have? How many times might you revise something before being satisfied with it? Besides you, does anyone else edit your work? Etc.)

I’m diligent as a writer setting aside specific writing times and formats. I read extensively in the genre(s) I am working as I believe it is important to know the tropes and techniques of specific stories. I love crime/mystery tales, fantasy and whimsy – even straight out horror and espionage stories and each have very specific guidelines. I like outlining and using a ‘big picture’ mind map to help keep longer stories or novels on track while short stories benefit from a fast sketch or outline.

How did you come up with the idea for your stories “Pride and Joy” and “Little Wild”?

This is an example of two distinct genres in my mind. “P&J” is a straight-out horror fiction that is an entry point to a longer piece I’d like to do about vampires and the Old West. “LW” is literary influenced fantasy name dropping a specific author with an ending that allows for transformation for both main characters. Even though both stories are unique, they touch upon themes that are common to all my stories – namely retribution and evolution. My characters and stories are about growing, building and persevering – all traits I believe essential to us as human beings, let alone as writers. Both stories came from the dark, furry recesses of my mind.

What is your background in literature? How much reading do you do? How necessary do you feel it is necessary for an author to read?

I read a lot. Every day in multiple genres. I read for fun, for study, to breakdown timing. I outline timing and paragraph structure by established authors, curl up in my reading chair and read for fun and spend at least two hours or more every day furthering my love and knowledge of writing, voice and technique.

Do you have anyone (friends, relatives, etc.) review your works before you publish them?

My wife is often a first reader, tagging me for punctuation. I have Beta Readers for my novels and will occasionally send out a short story to a trusted friend if I’m worried about voice or tone – but I usually trust in myself and the editor I’m submitting to.

Could you give us an idea of your upcoming works without spoiling anything?

So many. I’ve got an “Ironwood” forest fable series that is mulling around plus a continuation of my ‘murder memoirs’. Book 4 takes place at the American Film Market. I’ve got a ‘House of Leaves’ inspired Post-Modern novel I an currently researching not to mention oodles of shorts for online, literary magazine submissions. I love writing these short stories and getting them out there (via Chamber Magazine, naturally) and seeing these pieces embraced.

Do you have any writing events coming up? For example: something being published/released? A reading of one of your works? Interviews? Any speeches or talks?

I don’t do talks (yet) but I’m no stranger to public speaking. I’m waiting for the publisher to give me a date on my ‘murder memoir’ books.

What do you hope to achieve as a writer?

It would be nice to make a living wage – but it’s not why I write. I’d like to be enjoyed, remembered and even (one day) studied as an author of merit or substance. I hope to achieve some level of personal, professional satisfaction with my written work as I continue to evolve as a wordsmith. I’m getting better with every story.

What do you think of bad reviews? Are they helpful or harmful to you?

Having made over 30 movies, I have had my fair share of good – and bad – reviews. I ignore them all (mostly). There are some that cut deep ( a recent IMDB review of my self-produced animated feature stung) but I can’t let them stop me. If I do, the bad guys win. I just keep on slugging knowing that it is easy to hide behind an internet handle or nickname. My best response to critics is – “What have you done?” If they haven’t done anything, well, enough said.

What advice do you have for novice writers?

Write, Read, Repeat. It’s really important to just keep at it. Expand your literary borders a little and read outside off your usual genres. Try different creative writing forms. Publish a lot of short stories for free everywhere you can.

What do you feel are the most important resources a writer can use?

They should BELIEVE they can do it and just keep on working it. Don’t fall pray to the endless workshop and guru seeking ‘formulas’ for success. Find a workflow that works for you and use it. Software doesn’t make the writer nor does an elitist attitude or whining about how unfair everything is. Find your peeps, your audience and interact with them. LISTEN to writers that have gone before you and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Know that we are all works-in-progress.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? (websites, social media, etc.)

Find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jgesq. You can also find my WordPress blog under https://juliangrant.wordpress.com/

Checking out your website http://www.juliangrant.com, I see you have a lot of works in literature, graphic novels, and film to your credit. I could ask questions for days about your work. Your work ethic must be incredible. Undoubtedly, with all these successes, you had to have had a lot of rejections too. What drives you to create not only in writing short stories and novels and graphic novels, but to work in film too? To me it seems you must have a great spring of creative force that you channel into four or more directions.

Thank you. I’m a creative artist working in multiple disciplines and as I age, I am leaning into writing more as I can do this as long as I can string words together from anywhere in the world. Filmmaking is a young person’s game and I’m getting old now, not that it’s slowing me down, and I greatly enjoy the opportunity to write as large as I want without having to figure out how to pay for it. This is a luxury I have never known.

Interview with Author Mehreen Ahmed

  • What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?

I am widely published and had editorial reviews from several notable places, such as The Midwest Book Review, Drunken Druid and reader’s reviews. My book, The Pacifist, has received DD Magazine’s Editor’s Choice. My flash fiction, Dolly, was one of the winners of The Waterloo Short Story Competition, UK. And my short story, The Flower Girl, was finalist in The Adelaide Magazine short story competition. Additionally, my flash and micro-fiction have received Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominations. I have written seven novels and the eighth on is in the pipeline.

  • Why do you write?

I find writing exhilarating. It serves as a portal leading to a world of pure fantasy. The Narnian world, for instance, where animals can communicate with humans in human language. The Lords of the Rings, where trees walk. Imagination-filled worlds, where practically anything is kosher. Well, nearly anything.

  • What is your writing process? (Any favorite places to write? Any interesting quirks, traditions, or rituals you may have? How many times might you revise something before being satisfied with it? Besides you, does anyone else edit your work? Etc.) Do  you have any recurring themes or motifs?

I have an obsession for the surreal. Almost every book I wrote, and every story I penned, I have had these outer-worldly themes. One way or the other, they have shaped my style of writing, which is experimental, unique character development, pushing boundaries. Here, my mind traveled freely, weaving the most unexpected stories in the most unusual settings.

  • How did you come up with the idea for your story “Musk”? It seems to hint of a background in folklore or mythology.

Believe it or not, ‘Musk’ was inspired by the planet Mars. I found myself thinking, what if there were no life on planet Earth? What if it were completely barren like Mars? There would be no tragedies: wars, turmoil, greed and lust. The planet would be freed from every vice. And it was in that moment, I conceptualised ‘Musk.’

  • What is your background in literature? How much reading do you do? How necessary do you feel it is necessary for an author to read?

I have an MA in English literature. I am a slow reader but I am always reading.

I think reading provides the necessary infrastructure in word building, sentence constructions, the language per se. It also provides insight into plot and character development. Reading is vital and lays the foundation for research for original work, a writer may wish to pursue.

  • Do you have anyone (friends, relatives, etc.) review your works before you publish them?

My editors review them upon acceptance, usually. After the book gets published, my readers then review, criticise and play with it anyway they want.

  • Could you give us an idea of your upcoming works without spoiling anything?

My new novel is set in 1960, East Pakistan, present day Bangladesh. It is about a fallen aristocratic family. I don’t have a publisher for it yet, looking for one.

  • Do you have any writing events coming up? For example: something being published/released? A reading of one of your works? Interviews? Any speeches or talks?

I have done quite a few interviews, readings and keynote speeches on youtube. I was one of the jury members for the KM Anthru International Prize for the Litterateur Magazine. The prize went to Jack Foley.

  • What do you hope to achieve as a writer?

Recognition and love from my readers. I want their understanding for my passion as a story-teller, and understanding of my hard work as a writer. I want them to understand the work first, before they sit down to criticise it, however, that maybe an unrealistic expectation.

  • What do you think of bad reviews? Are they helpful or harmful to you?

Some of them will always be there. Not everyone can be satisfied.

  • What advice do you have for novice writers?

Read before write. Know how language works before you can play with it and weave it into your thoughts.

  • What do you feel are the most important resources a writer can use?

Editing Formatting services, reviews and criticism services, publishing platforms such a personal blogs where they can publish and harness followers, readers and feedback.

  • Where can people find out more about you and your writing? (websites, social media, etc.)

Amazon stores, online book stores, various literary magazines around the world. I don’t publish anything on social media or websites, other than announcements, except, goodreads.

  • How did you find out about The Chamber Magazine?

From the twitter feed, I think. I really liked the website layout. I think its very classy. Of course, what gets published there, goes without saying.

  • Is there anything else that you would like our readers to know?

I write literary fiction. Anyone interested in my books can buy them from online stores. I am on goodreads, twitter and facebook. I strive to have a long, interesting life.

Interview with Author James Hanna

I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina because my father was a State Department officer. At the age of twenty-one, bored with my life in America, I dropped out of a Midwestern college, caught a freighter to Australia, and spent seven years roaming the continent. Returning to the United States, I served a stint in the Army and picked up a couple of degrees in criminology on the GI Bill. I spend twenty years as a counselor and program director in the Indiana Department of Corrections and recently retired from the San Francisco Probation Department where I was assigned to a domestic violence and stalking unit. Due to my background, the Australian Outback and the criminal element figure strongly in my writing.

What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?

My most popular book is Call Me Pomeroy. It’s about a narcissistic street musician on parole who joins the Occupy Oakland Movement and its sister movements in Europe. He does not join for political reasons but to get on television, attract an agent, and score a million-dollar recording contract for his music. The character, Pomeroy, is a consolidation of several criminal types I knew.     

Why do you write?

I write because it is necessary to me. If I don’t write, I feel as though my soul has become congested.

What is your writing process? (Any favorite places to write? Any interesting quirks, traditions, or rituals you may have? How many times might you revise something before being satisfied with it? Besides you, does anyone else edit your work? Etc.)

I write every day for most of the day, taking occasional breaks to play tennis. I revise my work continuously, sometimes even after it has been published. I also run my work through my writing critique group.

How did you come up with the idea for your story “The Tallyman”?

When I was a San Francisco probation officer, I had a client who was on probation for stalking a famous movie actress. He was placed on probation after he showed up on a movie set in San Francisco where she was being filmed. I think he intended to kill her because he was carrying a sword. The stalker kept harassing the actress even after he was placed on probation, so I had to arrest him and put him in jail. When the actress did not come to court to testify, the stalker was released and started stalking me personally. Sadly, the San Francisco courts are not very effective in dealing with stalkers because the victims rarely show up to testify. Perturbed by this, I decided to write a story in which a stalker receives justice on a more ethereal plane.

In “The Tallyman”, the narrator references famous literary works several times. What is your background in literature? Did you read English and world lit just in college or do you read it often now? Is it a passion or a way to kill the time or somewhere in between?

I didn’t read much literature in college, but I read a lot of great books after dropping out, sometimes by campfire in the Australian Outback. I particularly like the classics because I’m not sure the best writing was done in more modern times. Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, and Homer will always be among my favorite writers.   

How much reading do you do? How necessary do you feel it is necessary for an author to read?

I read every evening. Television is okay, but I burn out on television after an hour or two, and then I pick up a book. It is vital for an author to read, and I would recommend that aspiring writers read like the wolf feeds.

Do you have anyone (friends, relatives, etc.) review your works before you publish them?

Yes, my critique group reviews my writing by checking it for content and grammar. An author can’t go it alone—he needs the help of others to get it right.

Could you give us an idea of your upcoming works without spoiling anything?

My latest book, The Ping-Pong Champion of Chinatown, was just launched. This is a tale about a naïve young girl from backwoods Kentucky who leaves her dead-end town in search of fortune and love. She ends up getting into a bizarre series of misadventures, which includes starring on a foot fetish site in Los Angeles, hustling bets as a mechanical bull rider in Texas, and serving a stint in West Virginia’s Alderson Prison because she “trusted the wrong kind of fella.” Her ultimate mishap occurs after she seeks the ping-pong championship of San Francisco’s Chinatown—all while hiding out in the Witness Protection Program. The Ping-Pong Champion of Chinatown is a short, fun read.  

Do you have any writing events coming up? For example: something being published/released? A reading of one of your works? Interviews? Any speeches or talks?

I have nothing scheduled at this time, but that is likely to change.

What do you hope to achieve as a writer?

I hope to write the best books and stories that I can and to market them effectively.

What do you think of bad reviews? Are they helpful or harmful to you?

If you put your work out there for anyone to see, you have to expect hurtful reviews. These are usually written by mean-spirited people who have not read your book in-depth. Bad reviews can embitter a writer if he lets them, so he has to learn to shrug them off. He has to be able to tell himself that whoever wrote the review does not count. Occasionally, an author may glean something from a bad review, but I find this to have rarely been the case.

What advice do you have for novice writers?

Read in-depth, write continuously, and join a critique group. Also, learn how to market your books. If an author does not effectively promote his books, he will become the equivalent of a musician playing outside a subway station. No matter how well the musician plays, ninety-nine out of a hundred people will stroll on past him without giving him a second thought.   

What do you feel are the most important resources a writer can use?

Talent is important, but persistence is more important. There are countless people with the talent to write a book, but lack the persistence to do so. They let life get in their way to the point that their talents never come to fruition.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? (websites, social media, etc.)

They can check out my books on Amazon. Here is the link: amazon.com/james-hanna.

Is there anything else that you would like our readers to know?

Yes, I hope they enjoyed “The Tallyman.”


Interview with Author and Film/Video Game Producer Tim Carter

Tim says about his life:

“I was born and raised on the West Coast of Canada. Began writing professionally while still in graduate school and survived as a writer and editor ever since. I’m gradually morphed from corporate writing and magazine editing into screenplays, video games, and now fiction. I live in Vancouver, Canada, with a toe still in Los Angeles.”

What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?

I’m proud of my produced movies, but I would have to say the game Sleeping Dogs is my greatest source of pride. The production was very challenging but I love how it came out. Also it’s probably found the greatest worldwide audience. And many of the gangsters are named after friends and in-laws.

Why do you write?

I love storytelling. Also I’m crappy with numbers, so accountant was out of the question, I could never run for office and Canada already has enough hit men.

What is your writing process? (Any favorite places to write? Any interesting quirks, traditions, or rituals you may have? How many times might you revise something before being satisfied with it? Besides you, does anyone else edit your work? Etc.)

Except during film production, I start writing every weekday at 9 AM and try to do at least 3 hours of solid creative work. Anything more is a bonus. Anything less is a problem. I have various friends and fellow writers who I exchange notes with. It various from medium to medium. My short stories were all workshopped on the Zoetrope website.

You have written numerous films and several large video games and only recently started exploring narrative fiction. What has the transition from films and games to stories been like so far for you? Have you faced any new challenges in writing narrative fiction?

I’ve found it very different but very rewarding. It’s fun to get inside your characters’ heads, which you can’t do in film. On the other hand, you have to make a lot more decisions about detail, description, etc. There’s no production team to back you up. In a film script I might write “He walks into the office. It’s a mess.” The rest is the set decorator’s problem. You can’t get away with that in fiction, but choosing where and how to be specific and detailed becomes a real challenge.

Do you have anyone (friends, relatives, etc.) review your works before you publish them?

Yes, I have a whole network of people. Different people review different types of writing. I try as hard as possible to have at least one expert read it, and at least a few women.

Could you give us an idea of your upcoming works without spoiling anything?

My day to day work is in adapting video games. I’m working on several, but I can’t reveal specifics. The gaming industry cares a lot about confidentiality. I’m also working on a novel and a series of short stories that I hope will evolve into a collection or a longer work. It’s fantasy based, so look for it in a fantasy magazine near you soon.

Do you have any writing events coming up? For example: something being published/released? A reading of one of your works? Interviews? Any speeches or talks?

Nothing during covid until my next film or tv project is announced. At that point I’m in the hands of (and at the mercy of) studio PR people.

What do you hope to achieve as a writer?

I love to tell stories and make people feel something. Could be fear, laughter, it really doesn’t matter. Some of my work has political points to get across. Hopefully at least one series lands on the air soon. Beyond that, a happy life and creative fulfillment. Whatever that means.

What do you think of bad reviews? Are they helpful or harmful to you?

They suck. But they’re part of life in a creative field. You have to be zen and just move on, I think.

What advice do you have for novice writers?

Keep writing. Finish things. Send them out. Write some more. Build a community of fellow writers. Most of all, keep writing.

What do you feel are the most important resources a writer can use?

I guess it depends on the story you’re telling. I don’t think you need much.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing? (websites, social media, etc.)

http://www.contradictionfilms.com