Leanne Caine Chats with StarkLight Press

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Recently, StarkLight Press sat down with Leanne Caine, long-time author and contributor, to chat with her about her story in our latest anthology StarkLight 5.

Leanne is author of a number of short stories and flash fiction, has contributed for the past four years to the StarkLight Press Poetry Marathon, and in addition has written for us in several collaborative novels, including our Tales From Space novels The Arkellan Treaty, Space Stranded.

Leanne is currently working on a memoir as well as contributing to the long-awaited sequel to The Irregulars, StarkLight Press’s first novel about the underground world of psychically-gifted homeless children in North America.

 

SLP: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’ve been up to in the past few years.

This is a hard question for me. I disappeared off the social media map and went back to ghost writing for awhile because I have been going through heavy waters.

The worst thing in the world happened to me, at least, the worst thing that I could imagine, my daughter’s bio dad put his head back into our life. After not being there for her for her entire life he showed up and destabilized everything and on top of it all called me an unfit mother. He used my writing to ‘prove’ it. Ouch.

I went back to ghosting and just about became a ghost myself in the process. It hasn’t been an easy time.
I never wanted that man in my life and I love my little girl, but that isn’t because she reminds me in any way of her sperm donor. I don’t mean I went to a sperm bank, I mean one of his little suckers got by my defences and gave me the only thing in my life I love other than writing.

Fortunately; my baby’s got a good head on her shoulders and sperm donor waited until she was old enough to make up her own mind.

That’s probably more personal than you meant about this question but that’s what I’ve been up to.

I’ve been stripped naked and shorn for all the world to see and nearly lost my baby, nearly lost my writing. I’m back and my daughter isn’t going anywhere.

SLP: Explain for our audience a little bit about the inspiration for your tale, and the themes that inform it.

My story is reaching back to the old stories about revenants and vampires. I was tired of the modern stories about vampires that seem to deviate further and further away from the original stories that our ancestors told about them.

A long time ago, we had a lot of reasons to fear corpses. We still have reasons to fear corpses, but now those reasons are more or less medically founded and we fear them because we don’t want to be contaminated. Even so, we’re also worried that the sheet will fall down, their eyes will fly open and we’ll be forced to fight with the body of the one that we loved.

It’s hard, if you’ve ever seen the body of a loved one, you might get it a bit. They go from being warm and loving to cold and, well, gone. Their eyes change and there’s this feeling of being alone, and yet there’s also the sense of being around a really creepy doll that it could become animated by anything at any point.

It’s armed with claws and teeth and the weight of a human body and it’s scary!

People, even now, often dream about their dead loved ones coming to the door and being asked to be let in. That’s where this story starts, a young wife lets her dead husband in and they make love… well, that’s the implication. It actually starts with the fruit of their intercourse, a demonic vampire baby that’s birth kills its young mother.

The baby’s a monster. There’s lots of signs that used to be well known as signs of vampire babies, this ones got several of them. The midwife thinks about killing the baby but she hasn’t been christianized enough to go running to the priest and start killing babies. Well, maybe in this case that’s the wrong thing, maybe not. It’s a story that’s caught on the cusp between the old ways and the new. There used to be old ways of dealing with vampire babies that would be at least as effective but the midwife’s hands are tied by just enough Christian influence for her to be rather impotent. The result and demon baby on a rampage.

You can read the rest to see how it turns out for everyone. The short answer is: not good.

SLP: What’s your preferred method for writing: computer/smartphone, typewriter, hand, voice transcription? Tell us the most unusual place you ever wrote down a tale- in the elevator at work, on horseback, in a crowded subway?

I really miss Aurora being a baby, it was awesome when she was teething and would scream and hit random key and delete my work. That had to be my favorite. *jk*

Seriously, it’s nice to have a little girl turning into a big girl, I can have some quiet time and it’s a luxury after being a single parent all these years. I went from being a kid at home to being a mommy and it was pretty hard. There’s a lake here and my favorite place to write is anywhere on the lake. I take my computer to the beach a lot and other times I use my friends’ boat or even houseboat for awhile if I don’t have to work. That’s the best, even if I’m limited to pen and paper and have to type it all up when I get home. There’s something about the peace and quiet of being removed from the ground and not being connected at all that makes writing more fluid than anywhere else.

I hate writing in the heat.

I hate writing at my parent’s house even though it has air conditioning and a pool because they’ve never stopped saying ‘I told you this would happen’ since I suddenly got real fat my last year in high school and then suddenly lost all the weight and had this crying baby…

SLP: Where do you like to go best to recharge your creative batteries?

Again, the water. I like to swim. Ironically, I also like to hike in the desert. There’s something about the extreme heat and the deprivation that I like. I don’t like to be sun burned so I go out covered up because I like being fair and have my gothic moments. I like to go skiing and snowboarding in the winter, there’s something about it that’s similar to swimming.

Otherwise, I guess I like to go out and dance my brains out on the dance floor and act like I’m a lot stupider than I am for a portion of the night and blow off some steam that way.

SLP:What, in your opinion is author kryptonite? (antithetical to the creative writing process)

Dealing with family problems. Those are awful. Feeling overwhelmed and having no privacy or quiet time. That sucks all kinds of balls. Feeling like you’re losing what matters most to you. Being attacked for what you’ve already written.

 

SLP: What are your three favorite mainstream books, and what are your three favorite indie/independently published works?

This question is hard and is responsible for this being late. I’ll tell the truth. I’ve been re-reading group anthologies that I’ve been in in StarkLight and getting ready for next projects. I haven’t had a lot of time for other reading. I’ve been reading the entire GAF Mainframe and all the books I can get my hands on. A lot of the other authors have been writing stuff on the side for The Irregulars and I’ve been sinking my greedy little hooks into that too.

I spent too long on this question, I wanted to make something sound super profound and make me sound deep, but no, oh, and also some manga that likely few have heard of but is absolutely silly and serves no earthly purpose.

SLP: What is the last movie you saw? Give our authors a brief review.

The last movie I saw was a Chucky binge. I don’t think I need to give a review. Doll comes to life, doll kills everyone. Usually, some poor kid gets blamed for being a little psycho. Awww, poor traumatized kids! Watch their family get hacked to pieces and then they get called psychos. Next movie comes along and they’re in a psychiatric hospital, just about to leave and then some dumbass psychiatrist decides that before they leave they need to face their fear and they give the guy a Chucky doll. Wow. Jerk!

It’s a funny horror series if you’re into that sort of thing (which I am) and I love the one where Chucky gets a girlfriend. I can’t recall the name of the actress, but man, she is an awesome actress. She did some stuff with John Waters but mostly does voice acting because she has an amazing voice. She’s a bit buxom and I think that’s why she didn’t do more acting acting, I thought she was pretty hot (but not as a doll, terrifying as a doll).

Anyway, horror binges are awesome and they’re also good things to watch when you’re working on a scary story for ambience.

SLP:  What are your next big projects, so that our audience can keep an eye out for them.

I’m working on the sequel to The Irregulars from StarkLight Press. I’m hoping to work more with the character, Jet, that I’m writing. I love this series so much, it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written and I love working with the other writers on it. When you get the right people working with a project it just ROCKS.

Thanks for taking the time to fill out our StarkLight Volume 5 Questionnaire!

More of the Great Richard White- plus, Cover Art!

You can find Richard White’s great vlog on YouTube here , where tonight at 8 eastern, 5 Pacific, you can watch our own Anthony Stark, BOFA award winner and two-time BOFA nominee, talk about his graphic design work in covers and interiors, for StarkLight Press and other publishing houses.

 

Virginia Carraway Stark is in the House!

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Next on our author interview series, StarkLight Press talks with Virginia Carraway Stark, whose writing resume is rivalled only by her acumen in helping fellow authors find and refine their mots justes.  You can find her at the sites listed below!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’ve been up to in the past few years.

The past few years have been a time of change and acceptance for me. A lot has changed and I’ve had to adapt to a lot of new things. I’ve endured betrayals from friends that I thought I would always have in my life and made new friends that I never imagined being in my life. Through it all; I’ve kept on writing.

I think the biggest thing that’s changed for me is that I’ve had to take a walk in the wilds. I had to take some time of introspection and quietude and get to know myself all over again after the things I’ve been through in life. I’ve explored myself deeply and I’ve written profoundly about my family and my childhood. I’ve explored the world through others perspectives while keeping the writings private except for a very few, trusted friends and family.

Nevertheless I do have a lot of new publications. I have several drabbles coming from Black Hare Press, a new novel coming from New Moon Press, and I have the third book in Verna’s Saga coming out as well as the fourth novel in my ‘Daughter’s Series’ starring the always popular Sasha Wheaton. Interspersed is the novel, ‘DoYou?’ which explores some of the concepts looked into in the collaborative novel Space Stranded and problems with anti-matter beings meeting matter beings. The SegDeb Galaxy is explored by Sasha and ‘Shroom.

My bookshelf has swelled to bursting with the coming releases of The Decay of Man and the release of Gendler’s Landing.
The personal set of based on true biographies that I’ve written about my family will also be coming soon, Preacher Man being the first and based on the life of my deceased elder brother. Coming close on the heels of that will be the story of my mixed race half sister.

Recently I’ve done interviews for Joshua Pantescellara’s award winning Vlog and been on a panel for historical fiction for CyCon.

After this April’s poetry month I also have enough poems to release an illustrated book of poetry, my second book of poetry that is only my own writing. I’ve been part of many poetry anthologies but having one just for me is always very special!

2. Explain for our audience a little bit about the inspiration for your tale, and the themes that inform it.

I contributed a few stories to StarkLight 5, but I think the one I’ll address is “Looking Glass”. The inspiration for it came from a series of dreams. I think it’s probably an unusual thing to dream about being summoned by a Pope who wants to use your wings for spells and bathing in a pool of mercury… but that’s just me!

This was a series of dreams that started many years ago and I felt a close relationship to many of the people in the world of the past. I’ve tried to pinpoint it to what Pope it would likely have been, but everything is all a dream. I’m pretty sure it’s a highly offensive story, but I’ve given up all thought of not offending people. I’ve learned in life that someone is always going to be unhappy by something that one does, so one might as well do as one pleases.

It’s liberating when you get past the depth of pettiness people can go to!

3. What’s your preferred method for writing: computer/smartphone, typewriter, hand, voice transcription? Tell us the most unusual place you ever wrote down a tale- in the elevator at work, on horseback, in a crowded subway?

My favourite place to write is on my laptop, ideally in a nest of cushions. I often write on my notepad on my phone or in my bullet journal or on any scrap of paper that’s handy when desperate. The most unusual place that I wrote was to write nearly an entire screenplay in between making lattes at Starbucks. I wrote it all on those brown, recycled napkins and some on my arms and hands when I ran low on napkins. It wasn’t even quiet, it was during the Christmas season and Starbucks was a madhouse. Thankfully I had an understanding manager and I was able to keep up with orders as well as writing so I didn’t get into trouble! My screenplay did go to Cannes, but that particular one didn’t get made into a movie…yet!

4. Where do you like to go best to recharge your creative batteries?

Nature is best. Animals are definitely a plus. The best place to go is to the other worlds that I imagine with my husband and creative partner. We met creating and we have continued creating together for many years now. There’s something about the way our minds meld and merge beautiful and magical worlds and characters that is like nothing else.

If I was to pick anything, I would say, with my husband, in the trees, by the water and or in the water. That’s my bliss.

5. What, in your opinion is author kryptonite? (antithetical to the creative writing process)

Reading too much about what people think about you. The worst thing is to let that influence you. I think that’s why so many television shows get punched with the suck fairy. People go through Google and FB etc to find out what people think about their writing and they lose control over their worlds. It’s really easy to get ‘feedback’ that is poisonous. Pick your feedback carefully and reject the stuff that sounds like crap. Be the ruler of your own worlds and people.

6. What are your three favorite mainstream books, and what are your three favorite indie/independently published works?

I’m going to give my three favorite mainstream authors: CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien and Richard Adams… although there are a lot more and I could probably go on and on! Indie authors are a little bit more difficult because a lot of them started off Indie and quickly became more mainstream. I tend to think of them as Indie more because they are friends than because of the nature of their writing. I really enjoy a lot of the writers from Writer Punk, I’ve published with them and always look forward to picking up the book at the end and reading everyone’s work. Robert Sawyer is by no means Indie, but he’s a friend along with Randy McCharles who also has a conventional contract, still, being more chummy, I’d list them as ‘Indie’. My absolute favorite is my bias but it’s absolutely true, my husband. He’s a wonderful writer and I can always count on co-writing with him without ever being let down. His novels are superb and his science fiction is the hard, well developed kind that could actually turn into real technology one day. His characters have seduced me a thousand times over and there’s no one whose work I’d rather read… not even Tolkien!

7. What is the last movie you saw? Give our authors a brief review.

The last movie that I watched was Solo… it was, umm, okay. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be from the review that I had heard, I think that most people didn’t like it because there was a total lack of Jedi and clearly written intending for most of the questions to be answered in a sequel. The actor who played Hans did a good job of it, his voice was eerily like Harrison Ford’s voice and he may possibly have been cloned off of Harrison Ford at some point to play the role… well, it’s science fiction, anything is possible!

8. What are your next big projects, so that our audience can keep an eye out for them.

I have a lot of projects coming out soon! The Family Series, The Daughter Series, a whole lot of short stories and poetry, the Royal Maze series… gosh… yeah, lots. Once I bring out all the things I’ve been working on in private over the past year or so it’s going to be a deluge!

Bio:

Virginia Carraway Stark has published numerous novels. She has been part of dozens of anthologies, collaborations, guest blogs, drabbles and has written screenplays that starred Rowdy Roddy Piper and Nick Mancuso. She has upcoming releases from a variety of presses including Dark Moon Publishing, Simon and Schuster, Black Hare Press and StarkLight Press. Virginia enjoys new writing experiences. She has taken part of many writing marathons both for poetry and novels. She’s a regular for the yearly novel writing exercise NaNoWriMo, the 24 hour poetry marathon and the 3 day novel writing competition. She writes a poem a day for poetry month and once went three years writing at least a poem a day. Some of her poems have been turned into songs. She has even contributed to online ‘choose your own adventure’ series! Virginia has won awards for her novels and poetry, her works have been part of other award winning series and nominated for her essays, blogging and other writing. She is well known for her passion her spirit of adventure both on and off the page. Her stories range from science fiction. Supernatural, horror and the true stories of her life, historical books (one of which was endorsed by the Prime Minister of Canada as well as the Army Corp of Engineers) or studies of the paranormal. You can find her by Googling her or at www.virginiastark.wordpress.com,

on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/Virginiacarrawaystark/

and @tweetsbyvc. She loves to get fan mail and to take part in new adventures in writing and always, to share her passion with the world.

 

Thanks for taking the time to fill out our StarkLight Volume 5 Questionnaire!

Alfie Elkins Returns!

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Back from what was recently a tropical paradise and now is being scouted as a possible location for the shooting of “World War Three”, Alfie Elkins shares with StarkLight Press a little about his story, based on his time in Venezuela, his past and his difficulties in getting binders.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’ve been up to in the past few years.

I started out as a bank clerk in London, then took a teaching degree and taught in public school for a number of years. I then went (perhaps stupidly) to a first aid course so I could help out on excursion trips, and got hooked on medicine. I then became a paramedical specialist with the NHS, and a few years ago, I moved to Venezuela to help them to revamp their emergent care services.

I’ve spent the past two years in Venezuela helping overhaul a public health paramedic corps that is now in shambles due to the current unrest. So, time well spent. Hopefully some of the procedural changes and policies we’ve developed are still preserved and the improved work culture will restore itself once the turmoil is through. Then it would be a good use of time.

Currently, I’m in Manitoba, resting with some mates of mine and keeping one eye on the river levels, because flooding is the last thing I need to round out this long, strange trip of mine!

2. Explain for our audience a little bit about the inspiration for your tale, and the themes that inform it.

Venezuela was a trippy time, and a peculiar place to me. I had no idea how riddled with folk voodoo, magic and superstitiousness it would be- so much so, that it bumped up against my work life as a paramedic. People would shake sticks with little things on them at me. They would prevent me from saving someone until an offering had been completely burned. They would leave little gifts outside the paramedic building (cigarettes, whisky, weed, other things, food (areppas, hallaca, mondongo bowls etc) out for us. There were hundreds, perhaps thousands of little favelaways and dark nooks and corners in Caracas alone, let alone in the other areas of the cities in Venezuela.

I had been helping Tony and Virginia write on the Tales from Space Continuing Stories (I love that series! and working on it is a true pleasure) when I had a truly bizarre encounter with another Brit. It was eerily similar to the sort of thing that we have been injecting into the ultimately doomed GAGA universe, (I don’t want to give too much away here, but let it be known that ‘this sort of thing’ we are writing on gives the GAGA new hope, and not in a Star Trek IV kind of way, but a holy sh*t, this opens up everything! kind of way). I started writing a journal entry about it (as I had been continuing to keep a kind of regular accounting of the time I’d been having, and it turned into my story, Nueve Dedos, Pellirojo.

The whole time was very surreal when the encounter happened, and the writing time after- one of those weird times when you think, is this the Neverending Story? Am I  writing reality? Don’t know, but I’m very grateful to StarkLight Press for keeping so much of the espanol intact, as it cannot be truly separated from the story.

3. What’s your preferred method for writing: computer/smartphone, typewriter, hand, voice transcription? Tell us the most unusual place you ever wrote down a tale- in the elevator at work, on horseback, in a crowded subway?

The past few years, whatever is handy. Since I joined the NHS, I’ve been writing story ideas and things on abdominal pad wrappers, tissue boxes or what-have-you. In Venezuela, I had a notebook, and was able to use the smartphone, but with increasing irregularity in my cloud access, I moved more to hand writing and note-taking again. Which was refreshing. I can thoroughly recommend it- I miss handwriting!

4. Where do you like to go best to recharge your creative batteries?

Somewhere quiet, and ideally a little out-of-the-way. Which is how I met el estrano in my story. Ideally, I’m a night hawk, so I like it after dark, places that were bustling, now quiet. Soaking up the residual hustly bustly in the nighttime seems to help inspire and organize my thoughts. Or give me some!

5. What, in your opinion is author kryptonite? (antithetical to the creative writing process)

Overthinking, and overcomparison. Definitely. Also, I bloody hate autocorrect and that new Google finish function. It’s great for driving the flow right off!

6. What are your three favorite mainstream books, and what are your three favorite indie/independently published works?

I like Robert Ludlum, and Agatha Christie, and Kyril Bonfiglioli. Any of them (I know I had to pick books, but I’m going to be broadly incorrect!) I have to say that indie works are great, and I love to peruse them whenever possible, but the Tales from Space universe is just phenomenally detailed and well-plotted, with characters and scope that stick in your head, no matter how preoccupying your day has been, which keeps me coming back to the series and also pestering the core group of authors for more.

7. What is the last movie you saw? Give our authors a brief review.

Speaking of Bonfiglioli, I finally got to watch Mortdecai, which was, wow, not one of Depp’s better performances. I think it was cinematographically a good representation of the books, with the exception of the over-CGI’d location cards (but hey, Johnny Depp had to earn his money by badly Britishly narrating something, right? It was a book, after all).

I thought that Ewan McGregor just nailed Inspector Martland, however, and the scenes involving the Inspector were just delightfully paced and worked! It was like watching a fan edit of the movie of Bonfiglioli’s work, with the real movie being about the case, and then all these strange fan-acted scenes injected in between of someone in a bathrobe mincing about, pretending to be Charlie Mortdecai.

I would watch a series based on Martland and the international MI-6 angle, by the way, Netflix.

8. What are your next big projects, so that our audience can keep an eye out for them.

I’m working on a memoir of my time in Central America, which blends what I’ve researched and seen first hand of the local culture with my own time there. Untitled yet, but I hope it’ll be ready for full-color publication in 2020.

Also, a few short stories for the next Tales from Space anthology, as well as some independent stories from other worlds in which I’ve written a few times before.

Most excitingly, I think, I’m partaking in The Irregulars, Part 2, which is set to be a really rollicking ride through the world of international espionage, psychic operations of governments and- believe it or not- cybersecurity, biometrics and Celtic culture! Can’t say much on that, but I’m writing with Van Fleming, Will Norton (an old mate of mine), Leanne Caine, Krista Michelle, Tony Stark and Virginia Carraway Stark as well! It’s going to be a real spot of fun, that one!

 

Thanks for taking the time to respond to our questions, Alfie! You can find his story, “Nueuve Dedos, Pellirojo”, in StarkLight Volume 5.

StarkLight Talks with Lee F. Patrick

StarkLight Press sits down with Lee F. Patrick, author of Dark Reflections, a thrilling tale found in our Hallowe’en anthology, Wild, Wicked and Sparkling.

 

1. Tell us a bit about your inspiration for your tale.

The idea of a stalker makes for a creepy tale, but I wondered what might make a stalker worse. They are certainly a horrible thing to endure. However, you can’t slap a restraining order on a reflection! This story was mostly written a few years back and I kept coming back to it, trying to make it better. Psychological horror, for me, trumps slasher horror. Who in their right mind would believe what Francie is going through?

2. What draws you to the Hallowe’en season?

I enjoy fall as my favourite season. The ideas of the old celebrations of honouring the dead, and that it’s possible to cross between this world and another one is fertile ground for my subconscious. I’ve written some Celtic style poems and short stories with the same sort of theme.

3. Tell us about what would make the best Hallowe’en party ever.

I’m not a big costume party fan, but having a bonfire out in the woods, staying up all night to watch the stars would be wonderful. We’d just have to remember NOT to chase any white stags that happen along. Or, maybe we should.

4. Who has inspired you to not just write, but to keep writing?

I started reading when I was young and my parents gave my sister Lesley and I access to the Science Fiction Book Club, so we read Heinlein, Asimov, McCaffrey, Norton and a host of others. I still have some of those books.

I’ve been writing not very seriously since the late-1980’s as an alternate to my hard science day job. From there, ideas kept knocking on the inside of my head demanding to be let loose. Lots of projects were started and then languished as I started writing on the next idea, or because I wasn’t sure how to build the plot and believable characters. I decided to get serious and publish last year. Since then, I’ve published a thriller novel (Alter Egos), and had three short stories/poems published. Dark Reflections is the third (Thanks to Starklight Press!!). Another story was accepted and is awaiting publication.

A big bonus is my husband, G.W. Renshaw, is also an author. I did the 3-Day Novel contest years back and he was my support staff. He made sure I had food and tea and quiet to write in. Now, he’s also the tech guru who keeps updating templates and helping with all sorts of weird issues with covers and formatting.

The Imaginative Fiction Writers Association, which I’ve been part of for many years, gives inspiration and information of many kinds. When Words Collide also gives me lots of contact with other authors and folks who love to read.

5. Where can people find your work and more about you as an author?

I have a FaceBook page under Lee F. Patrick, and of course, at Amazon. A website is in the planning phase. The ideas and writing keeps intruding on the marketing time.

 

You can find Lee’s tale in Wild, Wicked and Sparkling, available now at the StarkLight Press Bookstore or on Amazon here:

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Virginia Carraway Stark Talks Hallowe’en

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1. Tell us a bit about your inspiration for your tale.

So many people are ‘into’ magic and it’s always at Halloween that I ‘discover’ that I have several dozen friends that are witches that I had no idea about the rest of the year. I have no objection to the practice of Wicca or to witches, but what I do object to is dabblers. This story was more or less inspired by the idea of dabbling gone completely overboard. Dee is that crazy girl who doesn’t know what she’s doing and takes things way too far. I pretty much climbed into that girl’s head and ran with the idea.

2. What draws you to the Hallowe’en season?

Costumes are one of my favorite parts of Halloween. I don’t understand why we can’t go around in costume every day of the year if we want to. No one has ever been able to give me a good answer to that question and I insist that if we were socially uninhibited enough to wear costumes whenever and wherever we wanted that most of our social ills would fade in the freedom to express ourselves in the multiplicity of ways. People have these expectations of sameness from the people they work with and major changes are met with fear and trepidation. Isn’t that odd?

Imagine if we could dress how we feel, or even dress the opposite of how we feel. Feeling glum? Get the glitter and the glam out! Or wear your emo on the outside for the day and dress goth if you feel sad. Feeling happy? Why not wear that unicorn horn? Put in your rainbow hair extensions and strut it! Oh yeah, and there’s candy. Can’t forget candy.

I like the autumn weather, the leaves, the moodiness. The feel of mist and a little bit of eerie creepiness… but not too much. There’s a poignant feel as the year lets go with a sigh and the ground freezes, Halloween spells the last of sunlight warming my shoulders and the start of snowflakes and warm sweaters. Pumpkins and apple flavored everything for the rest of the year until fruits start are harvested again and on and on the wheel of the year turns with cinnamon to warm my veins and hot chocolate to warm my hands. It’s quite the tradeoff for losing the sun. I’m glad I don’t have to make the choice, fortunately it’s been made for me and Halloween makes me not responsible for what’s to follow.

3. Tell us about what would make the best Hallowe’en party ever.

I have to think back to the past to parties of the past and what I liked best for this because I’m not feeling in a party place right now. The funny thing is, the most fun I ever had at a Halloween party was probably one of the ones I had as a Girl Guide! I’ve been to some crazy parties since then and experienced some wild fun, but there’s something so classic about bobbing for apples, having mask put over your eyes (These were her BRAINS… And these were her EYES cue peeled grapes and cold spaghetti).

There’s something so rewarding in the pretend fear and the sheer innocence of those little games that puts those nostalgic parties at the top of my list. Maybe that is the most boring answer that anyone has ever given for one of these, but all the other parties I’ve gone to for Halloween, no matter how much effort has gone into them, no matter how sophisticated and realistic they are, no matter how good the cocktails, has something that is somehow cheap about it compared to the joy of those parties. Besides, is there anything really more scary than carving jack-o-lanterns in a group and having pumpkin innards fight? Try getting that out of your hair! Truly the things nightmares are made of!

4. Who has inspired you to not just write, but to keep writing?

More than anyone else I’d have to say my husband and my mother. It seems like there reaches a certain point in your writing career where there isn’t anything that ‘enough’ to tell you how you’re doing as a writer. I’ve won awards, I started off making a substantial amount of money on screenplays with names in them that most people would recognize. That’s something that most writers don’t get, let alone start with. It makes it hard, especially when there are people who just sit there like turds (ICBC, yeah, I see you!) saying that you aren’t a writer, or other people who get so jealous that they drive you out of the arts community rather than admit that you’ve had a few wins (Dawson Creek, tipping my hat to the artists there).

Things get complicated.

Friends act weird when you get some wins under your belt that aren’t going to make you world famous but are enviable nevertheless.

There are the people in writing who say absolutely nothing about what you’re doing and ignore your writing as though you’ve done something gauche like farting in front of the queen mother. There are friends who make snide remarks about how far you haven’t come and ignore everything you have done.

There comes a time when you look around yourself and realize that you have fewer friends than you thought you had because of your success and more people wishing you ill because of them.

It’s heartrending to any artist to be torn down and that’s why cruel people who don’t feel like they’re achieving their own goals in life do it: it’s easy money to kick an artist/writer etc when they’re down. We’re baring our hearts and souls on the page and making ourselves vulnerable. My mother wrote her whole life, she kept journals. Keeping a journal isn’t easy and keeping a truthful journal is even more hard. I can’t tell express to a non-writer how hard it is to turn off the inner critic except through analogy: imagine never once questioning the way you look in any outfit ever again… or naked. Do your thighs jiggle? Is your makeup okay? Suck in that gut… Nope, none of that. Let it all hang out. Cellulite flopping in the breeze, not a care in the world about whether or not looking down like that gives you a double chin… Do you get the idea? Could you ever do that?

Now imagine that isn’t your body, it’s your essence. It’s your soul. It’s your most secret thoughts. It’s thoughts that aren’t even yours but things that are, ‘what ifs’ that you wonder in the dark as you try to imagine why someone else did something. Let all that flab in your mind, all those bits jiggle around and let anyone who happens to pick up your writing make of it what they will. No one is ever going to really understand what you have to say on the page. Everyone is going to misjudge you. If you know the people reading what you wrote; it’s going to be an exponential number worse. Every little bit of guilt is going to tell them that any negative thing you put on the page is surely about them. Every character who is a villain is surely a thinly veiled version of them… they just know it! How they’ve caught you out!

While you go blithely writing your world, crafting your characters as you would a child there are people turning each tap on the keyboard into a diabolical scheme of paranoia against them. They try to dig into your psychology. They try to ‘figure you out’. They try to find you in the page.

You’re so vain, I bet you think this song is about you, don’t you?

That was my mom’s favorite song when she was alive. One of the last communications we had was a card where she congratulated me on my writing and told me how excited she was to see where my writing would take me. She wrote that she had never been able to write except when her soul ached, that was why she only wrote journals.

After her death, during the divorce from my father, at other pivotal moments in her life, her journals were plucked from her hands and used against her. After her death my family poured over each pen stroke and internalized every word that could be interpreted as harsh to cut their souls with. They hated her because of those journals. I only read a few of them, but the ones I did read made me love her so much more. I understood our differences and our sames so much better. I cried because she had never said the words on the page to me out loud and even if she had, I don’t know if I would have been in a place where I would have understood what she was saying to me. But she wrote. She wrote without an inner critic telling her that she was writing ugly things, or beautiful things, she wrote because her soul was screaming and now I understand her more than I ever did before.

I know that my writing has made me no end of enemies and will likely make me many more, but I also know that my writing has been there for people when they needed to hear the words I spoke. I know that I have helped people in my lifetime with my words and as my mother gave me the gift of understanding after her death to inspire me to keep writing, I understand what the ability to speak the words needed when I cannot physically be there to say them means to people. That is how my mother has encouraged me in life and death to keep writing.

My husband has had a much more intensive role to play in my writing life. He is the guardian of the very soul of my writing. When people are cruel I know that there is one person who will always be kind. He won’t lie to me, he’ll tell me the truth about my writing, but he will talk to me. He won’t seal up like a clam the way people do to writers when they feel withholding. People stop talking or acknowledging writing, or deliberately push buttons to try to stop up writing, as though every word I personally write is somehow an affront to them.

But Tony Stark isn’t like that. He’s there with me. He WANTS to hear the words I write. We share back and forth and through our symbiotic encouragement and enthusiasm he puts my hands gently back on the keys after they’ve been squished flat by the stomping brutality that is relentless as soon as those pages leave the drawer and are shared with the world. It’s a strange thing that writers are repaid with little or no money, cruel words as often as kind, and yet they write the words that need to be there for those people who need to hear them most. Like my mother. Even after her death more people hated and reviled her for her writing than ever thanked her for her courage, but her words changed the world for me. They gave me a mother where I had none, or at least, when I thought I had none.

These people who will be there for you and who understand the subtle rays of goodness that writers put into the world are few and far between and my husband is the strongest and most steadfast of all the people.

5. Where can people find your work and more about you as an author?

Google me. Seriously, I don’t mind, I kinda like it 😉
I’m all over the internet. You can find me on my author page www.virginiastark.wordpress.com

@tweetsbvc

On Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Virginiacarrawaystark/

www.starklightpress.com

www.gafmainframe.com

Amazon, and a variety of other blogs, radio guest spots, interviews as well as brick and mortar stores in Canada, Texas, New York, Iceland, Argentina and Australia.

Alfie Elkins on Flotsam

For the first of our Wild, Wicked and Sparkling author interviews, we speak with Alfie Elkins from off the coast of Venezuela, where he talks about what inspired him to write his haunting love story, Flotsam.

1. Tell us a bit about your inspiration for your tale.

I’ve been living by the ocean for the first time since I was a boy, not in British Columbia but down in Venezuela. It brings up a lot of poignant thoughts about the past, about roads I didn’t take, paths I wasn’t able to tread. Also, moving across the ocean was a complete shake-up. I’ve never been out of Europe for living before, and the strange, disjointed, ethereal feeling I have for not having English soil under my feet- no matter how irritated I am at it presently- needed an outlet.

Walking by the ocean seems to be a real grounding point. It is all one sea, after all. I’m amazed by the sheer quantity of detritus that washes ashore. I’ve also been thinking a lot about relationships, and how they end, and how it connects up with both seasons and spirituality. Then I was reading a story from Tony featuring one of his characters, and I thought- this guy could go on a pretty dark journey, so I asked Tony is he’d mind if I popped him out of the tale and into a little Outer Limits-style classic horror story. It all kind of wove together with my memories of going to the west coast of Canada, and how much it seems like the border between the overworld and the underworld in Irish myth.

Oh, and I’ve also been reading a lot of Manga, too, lol.

2. What draws you to the Hallowe’en season?

It’s always been a very festive time for me. Growing up in London, it wasn’t actually Hallowe’en, but it was pagan style bonfires and all the old myths and beliefs, which usually lie dormant, were just suddenly back as though they had never left. Stories about the otherworld, about the spirits walking abroad, stories about loved ones coming back. Redemption across insurmountable odds, and the magic that comes with the dark time of the year.

3. Tell us about what would make the best Hallowe’en party ever.

You’d need a bonfire, for certain! Good music, not popular stuff, but mood music. Keep the costumes to a fantastic or archetypal nature, none of the flavors of the month. Lots of stout and cider. Would have to be able to go outside, in a natural space. And, of course, some spontaneous spectral activities.

4. Who has inspired you to not just write, but to keep writing?

I first started writing as a way to reduce stress from my job at the NHS. I was a paramedic and a supervisor of a station in London- not a fun job. Journals, then poems, then strange stuff started coming out of me, and a friend of mine, Pearl, knew Tony from the GAF Universe website. So I got into that, and couldn’t stop writing and working on it.

I’d have to say that Tony and Virginia, and also Will Norton, have been an exemplary model for making writing not just an activity, but a part of one’s life. The ease with which they accept whatever-old-thing you’ve been pounding out, be it a poem, a story fragment or what have you, makes it easy to silence the inner critic. Their communal worlds like the GAF Universe and The Program at Green Hill fire the imagination, and they allow you to jump on in and add your own inspiration, which helps if a free-formed idea just isn’t available. Then they take that idea and through some mystic process- bam! it’s incorporated into the whole. Will’s energy and sheer cock-eyed imagination is an inspiration, because the stuff he writes is just crazy brilliant. It makes you start thinking outside whatever bounds you’ve been placed inside.

5. Where can people find your work and more about you as an author?

People can find it through StarkLight Press, www.starklightpress.com and online at the GAF Mainframe site www.gafmainframe.com [Editor’s Note: The works are taken down until servers come back up following Hurricane Harvey, and should be available in four or five weeks]

There was also an autobiographical piece that did rather well for itself back in the day, based on my work as a teacher turned taxi driver, thence to the NHS. I’m in talks currently to get the publishing rights transferred to StarkLight Press, and hopefully it will see a third printing in North America sometime in 2018.