Guest Post: Louis Greenberg on who to trap in locked-room horror

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S.L. Grey is the collaboration between SA authors Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg. They published their first horror novel, The Mallin 2011 and followed it up with The Ward (2012) and The New Girl (2013) – a collection that became known as the Downside. Now they’re trying out a different style of horror in Under Ground – a locked-room mystery set in a luxury survival bunker called the Sanctum.

It’s a tense thriller that relies, not on gore or otherworldly monsters, but on the ways in which different kinds of people clash in a confined, sterile space. I love stories that exploit the most interesting aspects of their characters in tough situations and strained relationships, so I asked Louis to about how he and Sarah chose the characters who populate the Sanctum and what they hoped those people would bring to the story.

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Under Ground was always going to be S.L. Grey’s stab at Agatha Christie. With maybe a bit of Cluedo thrown in. I grew up watching Christie movies: the elegant glamour of Peter Ustinov and Lauren Bacall and Elizabeth Taylor. Murder of the Orient Express and The Mirror Crack’d terrified me and Evil Under the Sun and Death on the Nile strangely titillated me. When Sarah and I settled on locked-room mystery for our fourth novel together, we knew it would involve a similar large cast interacting against the rather less exotic backdrop we came up with.

Under Ground hbClassic locked-room mysteries are all about the inevitable conflict between different types of people, and they use both the characters’ assumptions about one another and the reader’s assumptions about the characters to create dramatic surprises. Under Ground was our homage to the form. It involves a group of fairly disparate people all rushing to The Sanctum, an ostensibly luxurious survival bunker, to escape a devastating super-virus.

When we started plotting the novel, we assembled a cast of around thirty characters, but soon realised that would be unwieldy and culled several before they even got into the story. There were a few more characters we wrote into our early drafts, fully imagined and with their own plot arcs, who also had to disappear (along with Michael Bay-style helicopter flights and other cut scenes better not spoken of).

We eventually levelled off at five families making it to their apartments in The Sanctum and two individuals who help run the place. We knew that we’d tread a fine line between strong, differentiated characterisation and stereotype in this locked-room structure. Especially with a plot that demanded all-out action pacing, there wasn’t much space to develop characters with internal monologue or flashbacks or much humanising detail. How they react to the crisis at hand is all that matters to the story. As much as we could, we subtly modified some of the characters, and allowed them to act and react in surprising ways that might either subvert or confirm expectations.

Under Ground pbWithout giving too much away, some characters experience a crisis of faith or ideology, while others are forced to push themselves beyond their predestined limits, some crack under the pressure, some blossom. One of the fun things about imagining life-threatening crises is putting yourself into characters’ position and wondering how you might react – this is something that’s entertained us through all our novels: putting normal people into abnormal situations. Would you become a hero, would you try to keep your head down, would you take advantage of others’ weaknesses?

In choosing our character set, we also selected characters who would create good tension when played off against each other. Tension between rich people and poorer people; between people who consider themselves the Chosen – whether by nationality, religion or gender – and those they think don’t belong; tension between leaders and followers; between outsiders and insiders; and of course a bit of complicated sexual tension. This led to a fairly wide variety of inhabitants and it was fun to play these different combinations off against each other.

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Thanks so much for your time and insight Louis!

Under Ground was published in the UK in July, and will hit SA and the Commonwealth in August. If you’re keen to splurge on a hardcover, this one has a gorgeous debossed black-on-black spine:

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I’ve got a review of Under Ground in the works, so check back later this week!

Daily Reads: 2 December 2014

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Hey everyone 🙂

So I’ve got the very lovely Devilskein and Dearlove by Alex Smith on my desk, and I’ll have a review for you later this week. It’s a dark retelling of The Secret Garden, set on Cape Town’s famous Long Street, and if you like YA fantasy at all, you should be reading this. But more on that later. Here’s some cool stuff to check out in the meantime.

Author Cat Hellisen is doing a NotYourNano writing project for December, which she describes as “More like the December Let’s Start A Novel And Talk About Process And Take It Easy But Still Make Progress. Or something equally snappy.” Basically NaNoWriMo doesn’t quite work for her because of the high word count, so this month she’s planning to write 100 words a day, and you can join in 🙂 She’ll be blogging about it daily, offering ideas and guidance to those who want it. There are two posts up so far:
Planting your tomatoes (in which I actually learnt something about tomatoes)
Square brackets of absolution (an excellent writing strategy I can actually recommend because I already do something similar whenever I can’t think of good words but I don’t want to let that bring me to a grinding halt).

– Grace from Books Without Any Pictures reviews She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror edited by Tim LiederI bought this book on Kindle a few years ago because I’m the sort of person who is magnetically drawn to weird titles. And it seemed apt, considering the many, many WTF?! moments in the bible. I haven’t finished reading the anthology because, like Grace, the stories are a bit hit and miss for me, but it’s worth checking out her review to see what’s on offer.

Finally, I just loved this tweet from Kameron Hurley last week:

Writing Joburg – A guest post by Abi Godsell

Abi Godsell is a South African author whose debut novel – Idea War: Volume 1 – will be released this month by Wordsmack, a digital publishing house specialising in African speculative fiction. Idea War is a YA dystopian novel set in Joburg, and I invited Abi over to share her thoughts on living and writing about the city. Welcome Abi!

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Abi, medium

I count myself as very lucky to be living in a city that I love. It’s not something that everyone has. What’s more, Johannesburg isn’t just the place that I live either. It’s the heart of both my work as a writer and as a student of Urban and Regional Planning, so I’m triply lucky.

It’s why I write the way I do, locating stories in very specific places. At least, this love of city, and wanting to share that love is one of the reasons.

I have the, probably rather silly, hope about how people will read it. I hope that someone sometime, reading a piece of mine, say, a fight scene on a street in Idea War, would take a look at the map showing where it happens and recognize a landmark in the text and suddenly say “Hey! But that’s my street! I drive that street to the veggie shop every Saturday.”

And maybe the next time they drive it, they’ll look at it a little more closely and see it as just a little cooler.

Don’t ask me to tell you what the streets are actually like though, in this city I live in and love and write, because the picture wouldn’t be a very accurate one. At least, not accurate for anyone other than me. That’s the thing about Jozi, it isn’t one city, it’s thousands.

“A story about Johannesburg? Are you insane?” an acquaintance told of friend of mine when she mentioned that we were thinking about such a project. “What do three sheltered white girls know about Johannesburg? I’ve seen things in this city that you couldn’t possibly imagine!”

And he had. Well, not things that we couldn’t imagine, but things that we hadn’t seen, faces of the city that we’d never met. Angry, broken, painful faces, well out of our life-experience. We didn’t live in his Joburg, and he didn’t live in ours. That’s what it’s like working here, there are as many different Johannesburgs as there are Johannesburgers, and you’re always mindful of that. Even if there aren’t people to remind you of how small your city experience is, you’re always mindful. If you walk or work or write here, you move through spaces, listen to languages, see scenes, read signs that you don’t understand, because they are not part of your Joburg. No matter how well-travelled you are, or how well-connected or how long you’ve been around, your city won’t contain even a hundredth of all there is. No single person’s Joburg can.

It’s that that makes this such an incredible place to set stories.

You see, my friends and I weren’t insane, thinking that we could write a Joburg story, being who we are. (At least, I believe we were not insane, and will go on believing that, else I’d have to find a new line of work.) We just knew that we didn’t have the whole story, because there isn’t just one. I think, density wise, stories-per-square-kilometre, Johannesburg must be one of the richest places in the whole world.

Writing here feels a bit like cheating. It’s not as though I have to make up a great deal. The city I live in is built as much on stories as on gold-dust. The Neon Lions in Newtown, the metal pigeons in the shadow of the Family Court, the last curlicued iron lamppost at the edge of Parkhurst, the rusting-metal rainbow on the gates of George Harrison Park, brown hyenas in Bryanston, vultures on apartment roofs in Hyde Park. It’s all there, and that’s even before you start talking to people about the stories of their cities.

It’s more of a substrate than a setting for the stories I write. Rather drab, generic plots and vaguely dissatisfying characters grow up and fill out for me, when I sit with a map and say “but what if this happened there?”

That’s the second reason why locating stories in very specific places is so important to me. The setting is so much more than a stage. It’s a force that enlivens and enriches, forms and shapes. My writing simply couldn’t be half of what it is, if it wasn’t nourished, and taught by my city.

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IWmediumThe Idea War

Callie Baxter is 16, and damned if she’s going to just sit tight and accept the invaders who have occupied her city. She’s worked hard to keep her fledgling group of passionate and righteous rebels alive, but as they uncover the new government’s most heinous plot yet, she realises she has only just begun to understand the pain of loss, and the true cost of growing up.

Idea War: Volume 1 is the first installment in a thrilling new urban series which outlines the story behind the fight for the soul of a future Johannesburg.

The city represents a shining example of recovery to the outside world, but can a small group of determined teenagers overcome the decay that has taken root at its core?

You can follow Abi @Cyanseagull or check out her blog Worlds and Words to find out more about the book and Johannesburg as a setting.

 

Review of The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma

The Unchangeable Spots of LeopardsTitle: The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards
Author: Kristopher Jansma
Published: 21 March 2013
Publisher:
 Viking
Genre: literary fiction, metafiction
Source: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 8/10

This one is a gem – a book about writers and writing, fiction, lies, and truth.

Apparently one of the ‘absolute’ rules of fiction is that you don’t write about writers, but like Kristopher Jansma, I have never heard this and I don’t buy it. In an interview with Interview Magazine he dismissed the idea that such stories are only interesting to other writers – we can all understand the practice of storytelling:

Even if readers aren’t writers, they tell each other stories; they process great books the same way that we all do. Some of us sit down at a typewriter or computer and write out what we’re feeling, other people call up a friend. We all go through the storytelling process to make sense of it all.

I am glad Jansma ignored the rules – I love metafictional tales, not to mention the intimate portrayal of a writer and compulsive liar. The unnamed narrator of The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards claims to have “lost every book I’ve ever written” beginning with a short story written during the after-school hours and vacations he spent waiting for his mother at the airport. In high school, he discovers that he is a talented liar when he’s asked to act the part of a high-society teenager and escort a debutante to her ball. He goes on to study ‘lying’ at college, in a fiction and poetry class. Here he meets Julian McGann, a writer as talented and troubled as he is. Julian is the stereotypically tortured, eccentric artist. He seems to come from another age, and works only on a typewriter. He drinks too much, sleeps with too many young men who he discards in the morning, and writes in ferocious bouts of inspiration when he barely eats or sleeps.

Julian and the narrator begin a years-long friendship characterised by competition and jealousy, but strengthened by their shared love of writing. Julian introduces the narrator to his friend Evelyn, a gorgeous, charismatic actress. He is instantly infatuated with her, and she becomes his lover, the love he will never have, and the subject of a novel he spends years trying to finish.

The trio travel around the world, and although the novel is set in the present day, the characters’ tastes and habits often create the sense that they’re living in the Jazz Age. Our narrator goes from his tiny home town of Raleigh to New York, the Grand Canyon, Dubai, Ghana, Iceland and Luxemborg. He lies constantly, making himself up as he goes along, and struggling with relationships based on fictions. It’s one of those magical debuts – fresh and enchanting.

It feels like a book that’s going to get a lot of well-deserved attention this year, partly because of the delightfully dishonest narrator. You never know when he is lying, and he lies to everyone – strangers, lovers, friends, you, himself. Although you never learn his real name, he invents or borrows names. Eventually, he’s more accustomed to lying than telling the truth. Everything he writes or says is true in some way, but because of the way he twists fact into fiction, you learn to be sceptical. There were occasions when I was completely surprised to learn the extent of his lies. The novel is kind of trick, but you feel captivated rather than conned.

Of course, there is also a lot about creating fiction. His aim, taken from Emily Dickinson is “Tell the Truth but tell it slant”. He tries to figure out what exactly this means for him throughout the novel. It’s a question of how much of your own experience to put into your fiction. He always writes about himself to some extent but alters details, trying to give meaning or structure to his life, or write his world as he would like it to be. We also see his development as a writer. As a child, the narrator began by writing about the people he saw in the airport while waiting for his mother. He wrote so he could tell her what she’d missed while she was working, but of course he was also developing a skill for writing characters. At college, he is intimidated by Julian’s ability to write incredible stories about people from all over the globe, until he finds out that Julian too takes his stories from real life; he’s just very wealthy and has had a much more varied life so far. It’s interesting to see which details they pluck from their lives and how they re-imagine them for fiction. The narrator’s stories are usually borne out of his personal obsessions – the women who captivate him, his competitive friendship with Julian, and of course his struggles with writing.

Each chapter tells a full tale that fits into the whole, and stories are embedded within stories through things like summaries of Julian’s work and extracts from the narrator’s projects. I enjoyed most of them a great deal. Like the narrator wishing he had Julian’s talent, I wanted to be able to tell stories with such quirky details and great lines. I would have easily given the novel five stars if only there weren’t a few parts that proved a bit dull in comparison to others.

I didn’t really enjoy the extracts from the narrator’s writing, especially the snippets from a romance inspired by his affair with Evelyn. It makes sense that his voice in these stories would differ from the novel itself; unfortunately it’s rather bland. Then he parts from Julian and Evelyn after a falling out, and the novel slows down. Julian is such an eccentric and disastrously passionate character that I missed him even though I had no problem with where Jansma was taking the story. I was however, quite annoyed when the narrator travelled to Ghana, but kept using the blanket term ‘Africa’; a common, infuriating habit.

Those aren’t book-ruining problems though. This is one of the most inventive and enjoyable novels I’ve read this year, and I often think of what a good decision it was to request a review copy. It’s the kind of book that bridges the gap between popular fiction and literary fiction, in that it’s smart and well-written, but also entertaining and easy to read. I hope it does well.

Up For Review: The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards

I love novels about writing…

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma

NetGalley Blurb:

An inventive and witty debut about a young man’s quest to become a writer and the misadventures in life and love that take him around the globe

From as early as he can remember, the hopelessly unreliable—yet hopelessly earnest—narrator of this ambitious debut novel has wanted to become a writer.

From the jazz clubs of Manhattan to the villages of Sri Lanka, Kristopher Jansma’s irresistible narrator will be inspired and haunted by the success of his greatest friend and rival in writing, the eccentric and brilliantly talented Julian McGann, and endlessly enamored with Julian’s enchanting friend, Evelyn, the green-eyed girl who got away. After the trio has a disastrous falling out, desperate to tell the truth in his writing and to figure out who he really is, Jansma’s narrator finds himself caught in a never-ending web of lies.

As much a story about a young man and his friends trying to make their way in the world as a profoundly affecting exploration of the nature of truth and storytelling, The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards will appeal to readers of Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists and Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize–winning A Visit from the Goon Squad with its elegantly constructed exploration of the stories we tell to find out who we really are.

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards will be published on 21 March 2013 by Viking.

Links:
Goodreads
On the publisher’s website
YouTube
Read an excerpt
Buy a copy: Book Depository | Amazon | Exclusive Books

About the Author
Kristopher grew up in Lincroft, New Jersey.  He received his B.A. in The Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University and an M.F.A. in Fiction from Columbia University. Each month he writes a column for Electric Literature’s blog, “The Outlet” about Literary Artifacts, and loving books in a digital age.
Currently, he lives in New York City, where he is an Adjunct Professor of Creative Writing at Manhattanville College and SUNY Purchase.​ – Author’s website
Website
Social: Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | Instagram
Debut Author Snapshot interview on Goodreads
Goodreads profile

Review of The Bay of Foxes by Sheila Kohler

Title: The Bay of Foxes
Author: Sheila Kohler
Published: 26 June 2012
Publisher: Penguin Books USA
Genre: drama, metafiction
Source: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 6/10

Dawit is an Ethiopian refugee living in Paris in 1978 after having escaped torture and imprisonment under the violent, oppressive rule of the Derg. He has no money, no job, and no visa, so he lives in fear of being caught by the police and deported. Then one day in a café he sees M., “that rarest of writers, a literary best-selling one.” Dawit – a well-educated aristocrat – has always admired her work. She’s in her sixties now, and her face is ravaged by both age and alcoholism, yet he still finds her beautiful. He goes over to speak to her, and they strike up a conversation.

M. is clearly enraptured by the stunning, young Dawit and invites him to stay with her in her luxurious, spacious apartment overlooking the Luxemborg gardens. Dawit eagerly grabs hold of this opportunity. He’s been living in a cramped apartment in the ghetto with many other Ethiopians, and appreciates the luxury of having his own room at M.’s place.  More importantly, he’s no longer has to worry about starving.

However, this is a strange arrangement, and as you can imagine their relationship is disturbing from the start. For a while, Dawit does nothing and barely even sees M., since she spends most of her time locked in her room, writing. He wonders what her motives could be, but there are no prizes for guessing what she wants from him. M. uses Dawit for inspiration, ideas, and shows him off to her friends like a living African artefact. Obsessed with Dawit’s youth and beauty, M. clearly expects their relationship to become sexual, but unfortunately – for both of them – Dawit is gay. It’s unfortunate for Dawit, because he is almost powerless here. M. provides him with everything – a home, food, designer clothes (Hermès, Armani). With his excellent French, he eventually starts to do secretarial and editorial work for her, so she pays him a monthly stipend. She even secures a tourist visa for him so that they can travel to her villa at The Bay of Foxes in Sardinia.

M. holds the power of wealth over Dawit, and unless he’s willing to live in fear and poverty again, he has to put up with patronising racism and can’t raise many complaints when the old woman comes into his room at night, switching on the light to watch him sleep naked, or crawling into bed with him. His life with M. actually reminds Dawit of his imprisonment in Ethiopia. The guards would also leave the light on, making it impossible for him to sleep, and like M. they could enter his cell whenever they wanted and do what they wanted with his body.

Dawit is at M.’s mercy, but in this case his imprisonment is cushioned by wealth, comfort and safety, so it’s not hard to understand why he stays. He also picks up some useful skills and information. As M.’s secretary, he takes care of all her correspondence and to do so he learns to impersonate her – she teaches him her signature, so that he can answer her letters and sign documents; he learns to imitate her rough, masculine voice so that he can take phone calls for her. They’re both very tall and skinny, and because she sometimes buys men’s or unisex clothing, he initially wears her pants suits and shoes. She calls him her “very young and dark double” and is amused by this comparison.

From here, it wasn’t difficult for me to see where the story was going. Although I can’t think of any specific examples, I’m pretty sure I’ve come across some version of this tale before. It also parallels Kohler’s earlier novel Cracks in several ways. Predictable as it is though, it’s not too bad. I like novels that intimately explore strange, manipulative relationships, and the psychology of obsession. The Bay of Foxes is also detailed and well written in a way that I find engaging even though there are no surprises. When Dawit speaks of M.’s work, he says he “does admire her spare, concentrated prose, her brief evocative novels” and I wondered if Kohler was using a description of her own work here; I’d say that’s an excellent way to describe my feelings about the two novels of hers that I’ve read so far.

The Bay of Foxes didn’t explore Ethiopian culture as much as I’d hoped (if you strip away a few names and details, Dawit could be from any number of countries), but I suppose this novel isn’t really about Dawit as an Ethiopian, but rather about the relationship between a disempowered young African man and an old, rich, white European woman. I don’t like the use of ‘African’ as a blanket term since the continent is so vast and diverse, but in this novel it doesn’t matter that Dawit is Ethiopian – to the French, the Italians and perhaps even to himself, he’s an African, a black man.

I wasn’t sure what to make of the ending though. It’s not unsatisfying (although I wouldn’t be surprised if many readers feel otherwise), but it’s a tad… convenient? Dawit is trapped in a difficult situation, but the most likely conclusion would, in some ways, be unjust and displeasing to the reader. Instead, Kohler smoothes everything over in a way that’s more palatable but doesn’t feel quite right. I can’t say much more of course, but I’d be interested to know what others think. All in all, a good, quick literary read, if a little predictable.

Buy a copy of The Bay of Foxes at The Book Depository

A.M. Harte: A Conversation and a Giveaway

A.M. Harte is a London-based, chocolate-addicted, passion-fuelled webfiction enthusiast and indie author. My first encounter with her work was a postapocalyptic biopunk story in the webfiction anthology Other Sides, and I recently relished and reviewed her collection of zombie love tales in Hungry For You. You can (and should) check out most of her fiction online, as she publishes it on her blog where you can read it for free.

Anna graciously subjected herself to my curiosity about her writing, the world of indie publishing, and the grossness of zombies. She’s also giving away one of the brand new print editions of her book, so without further ado, I give you the talented Anna Harte.

Zombies and love are a rather… strange combination. What possessed inspired you to write on that theme? Especially since you don’t actually like zombies?.
Funnily enough, I’ve actually included an afterword in the print edition of Hungry For You musing on the inspiration behind the collection. To cut a long story short, it’s all thanks to fellow author Lori Titus for introducing me to the Zombie Luv Flash Fiction Contest last summer. I thought it would be a fun challenge to take part in and it would push my limits as a writer since zombies terrify me; I never realised I would end up possessed by the idea.
I don’t particularly like zombies because of the gore factor (I have a weak stomach). But writing Hungry For You pushed me into thinking about zombies differently, as metaphors for loneliness, obsession, lust and desire. They stopped being mindless, terrifying machines to me, and I think that really shows throughout the collection.

Hmm, I actually found the intimacy just as gross as gore! Decaying people kissing, the zombie boner in the title story… shudder.
I thought the zombie boner was hilarious when I wrote it. 🙂 The bit that grossed me out the most was Michael’s nail ripping in “The Perfect Song”. Yuck!

The stories in Hungry For You and on your website are all on the shorter side of short story. What is it that you like about this writing style/format? What are the challenges?
I’m a commitment-phobe. If you compare writing to a relationship, short stories are the hot summer flings and novels are the long-haul relationships.
Writing a novel can be pretty lonely and frustrating; at some points you’re certain you’ll never finish writing and you begin to wonder why you’re bothering. On the other hand, writing a short story is very intense, exciting and inspiring, because it’s all crammed into a very small space. And, of course, in today’s world of instant gratification, it’s addictive to get that satisfied sense of completion so quickly.
Not to say that writing a short story is easy. It’s tough to cut down, to tighten your prose and make sure only the essential elements are included. In fact, writing short stories has improved my writing far more than any other format.

I’ll confess that “Arkady, Kain and Zombies” was my least favourite story. I was intrigued, but I also thought it was the one story that really did need a bit more development, as I didn’t understand the connection between the two main characters. However, I noticed that a book entitled Arkady and Kain is listed among the upcoming releases for 1889 Labs – are you planning to turn the story into a novel?
Argh! I was worried about that. As a matter of fact, my fellow 1889 Labs author MCM wrote Arkady & Kain (a full length novel) last year – the story follows longtime CIA agent Kain as he is assigned to protect and control air-headed celebrity Arkady, who is affiliated with a terrorist organisation. The novel was available to read online for several months, and was then taken down for revision/editing and eventual re-release. It was actually supposed to come out February, at the same time as Hungry For You, but the plan flopped somewhat!
I assisted MCM on the editing process, so his characters took over a small part of my mind. I began to wonder how Arkady and Kain would be affected by a zombie apocalypse, and that was that. So what you have left is… Err, well basically a piece of fanfiction with added zombies, for a novel no one can read yet. Oops?
I feel the story stands well enough alone to be enjoyed by those unfamiliar with MCM’s novel, but in either case the revised edition of Arkady & Kain will be coming out this year and I highly recommend it!

You have several other writing projects going on at the moment – the Above Ground postapocalyptic fantasy series, the Darksight horror serial novel, and various short stories, all of which are published on your blog. Can you tell us something about those?
I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve been neglecting my other writing! Eep.
The Above Ground series is set in a world where humans live underground and monsters live on the surface. The story follows Lilith Gray, a human girl who is trapped above ground and must learn to adapt… or die trying! DarkSight is a horror serial set in London about a small-town Irish girl, Maeve, who discovers that she can see demons, and they can see her. It’s a haunting, gory tale about possession, loneliness, and fighting against evil.

I’m an active member of the online fiction (or webfiction) community, a great group of writers who post their work online, often in instalments. Both Above Ground and DarkSight are serial stories in that way, posted chapter-by-chapter over on Qazyfiction. It’s a wonderful way to connect with readers — and many times the comments readers leave on each chapter influence the storyline! Of course, what is posted is very much raw and unpolished; I will eventually re-release the serials as edited ebooks.

I’m also a member of the #fridayflash community on twitter. On Fridays, authors post short stories (under 1000 words) on their blog and tweet about them using the hashtag. I don’t take part every week, but I do love the creativity of the community as well as the chance to test plot ideas in a small format. It’s also a great way to meet new authors and procrastinate at work on lazy Friday afternoons!

You’re an indie author, which basically means you do everything yourself, not just the creative stuff, but the business side of it too – selling, marketing, etc. According to your guest post on The Inner Bean, it’s a labour of love. I find that amazing – it shows such incredible commitment to your craft! But how do you manage it? And do you ever feel that “being a business” as you’ve said, can disrupt the creative process?
Oh, most definitely! Every now and then I realise that I’ve neglected my writing in favour of doing marketing work or admin jobs like formatting. Then I start feeling frustrated and become cranky, until eventually I realise what the problem is. It’s a constant juggling act, really — I write and write until I realise I’ve neglected my marketing, then I focus on that until I realise something else is slipping, and so on. I rather enjoy the challenge and variety, to be honest — I work best under pressure.

You’ve obviously found some kind of cure for sleep – are you willing to give up the formula/spell/recipe? Please tell me it’s all in the chocolate…
My cure is just oversleeping ridiculous amounts on weekends! And having no social life, ha. I always notice that the more I go out, the more my writing suffers, so I tend to write less during the summer when the weather is good. Oh, chocolate definitely helps too!

Most of your fiction is available for free online, and Hungry For You costs only $0.99. Clearly you’re not in this for the money, but that’s not a decision most writers would be willing to take; they’d want some kind of financial compensation for their efforts. So how is that you (and other webfiction writers) have had the determination to do it?
As you mentioned, writing is a labour of love. Whether or not I make money, I want to write — and for me the more important thing is to be read. I’d rather have thousands reading my books for free than ten people paying me to read it. Webfiction also has its own rewards: direct communication with readers, instant feedback, flexibility, a strong online community….
From a business point of view, however, offering free samples of my work is a great way to hook in readers and create an audience willing to eventually pay for something – Hungry For You is my way of testing the waters. 🙂

Hungry For You was published by 1889 Labs a publisher with some unusual initiatives, like Livewriting and allowing people to read all their publications for free online. Can you tell us more about them?
1889 Labs is an independent publisher dedicated to producing the best strange fiction conceivable by the human brain. Catering to a specific demographic of men and women between the ages of 3 and 97, they print everything from kids books to serious stories for adults.
I believe 1889 Labs is one of the most cutting-edge indie publishers around, willing to try new business models and experiment with the online format (livewriting being a prime example). I highly recommend checking out Dustrunners: Typhoon!

Hungry For You is being released in print this month – are there some extra stories exclusive to this edition?
Yep! As I mentioned earlier, there is an additional afterword which includes a little more insight into the stories, plus three extra stories which are all broadly more on the humorous side. We’ve also included a non-zombie story by 1889 Labs author MCM, which is drawn from his short story collection Kidney Disease Gave Me Brain Damage. So oodles of extra content!
It’s lovely to see my work in print. As much as I am a big fan of efiction, there are some things that only work in print, such as having cool stylized chapter headers and other formatting flourishes. I am actually holding the proof copy in my hands right now – it’s very surreal to have tactile evidence that I’m an author!

Congrats Anna, you certainly deserve the pleasure of seeing your work in print! And thank you so much for taking the time out for a chat 🙂

If you’re keen to see the book Anna’s so excited about and with which I was suitably impressed, then don’t miss your chance to win a copy of her unique zombie story collection. To enter, subscribe to Violin in a Void using either the email subscription or the WordPress one and leave a comment on this post. This giveaway is international, and entries will close on 28 March. Good luck!