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.

Tony Stark Interviewed for Hallowe’en Anthology

This Hallowe’en, check out a chilling collection of stories from North American authors, compiled and edited by Laura Callender of Collaborative Writing Challenge fame.

Tony Stark has included a tale in The Grim Keepers, entitled Remus. It is an accounting of the events that transpired following the pivotal incident of the founding of Rome… in this story, Remus, trapped on the edges of life following his murder, uses the magical time of All Hallows Eve to settle accounts with his brother Romulus.

Below, find the interview regarding the Anthology- Many thanks to Virginia Carraway Stark for the interview opportunity!

Interview with Anthony Stark about his upcoming short story in The Grim Keepers anthology available October 23!

1. What is your favourite part about writing scary fiction?

My favorite part about scary fiction is the more subtle, spiritual aspect of horror. I like finding the place where culture meets horror and expanding that membrane, making myths and legends meet the modern day.

2. What inspired your story for The Grim Reapers anthology?

My inspiration for this story is, of course, the Roman legend of Romulus and Remus. With the fading of the year, the plight of Remus the famous ghostly brother seemed fitting. I combined it with oriental ideas of Yang and Yin, because in the old myths, demigods didn’t just die that easily… So I asked, what happened to all the life Romulus stole, and what dark place would that have left his brother?

3. What scares you most?

The things that scare me most are stories without beauty, hope and redemption. That’s not a good scary, either, but a horrible terror. The current obsession with worlds and movies that are post-post apocalyptic in nature, where everything is FUBARed and a ‘happy’ ending is merely some twisted form of survival for another day, that scares me. It scares me just as much that people eat up these bleak tales as that people can think to make them, let alone make them into gigantic movies. So much energy goes into them; like any creative product, it propagates itself in the world. That is truly scary.

Look for a link to the anthology to be posted on StarkLight Press later this month!

– Tony Stark,

Publisher and CEO,

StarkLight Press.