Ginger Nuts of Horror
As part of Ginger Nuts of Horror's support of the Kickstarter for Tales From The Shadow Booth, we have teamed up with some of the contributors for a series of exclusive interviews. Today Ginger Nuts of Horror welcomes Annie Neugebauer.
Annie specializes in horror, literary fiction, poetry, gothic, and speculative fiction. Her work has appeared in more than a hundred publications, including magazines such as Apex, Black Static, and Cemetery Dance, as well as anthologies such as Bram Stoker Award finalist The Beauty of Death and #1 Amazon bestseller Killing It Softly. My story “Hide” was included in Ellen Datlow’s recommended list for Best Horror of the Year Volume 7. Her book of poetry received an honorable mention in the Stevens Competition by the National Federation of State Poetry Societies and placed 2nd in the Edwin M. Eakin Memorial Book Publication Award by the Poetry Society of Texas.
Annie is an active member of the community, a founding member and past president of the Denton Writers’ Critique Group, webmaster for the Poetry Society of Texas, member of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, and active member of the Horror Writers Association. She is a columnist at two different Writer’s Digest award-winning websites: Writer Unboxed and LitReactor.
She lives in Texas with two terribly cute cats and a husband who’s exceptionally well-prepared for the zombie apocalypse.She is hyperactively organized and willing to share that neurosis with other writers at The Organized Writer. While you’re there, you can also find her published works, read the latest buzz about them, and browse pictures of writers’ offices at The Decorative Writer. She usually post new blogs 1-4 times a month, and she loves to read your comments! You can also find her flitting around the Twit-o-sphere @AnnieNeugebauer, and generally hanging out anywhere books live.
Hello Annie, Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
Hi there! I write novels, short stories, poems, and blogs. Horror, literary fiction, and speculative work are my main genres.
And what exactly is a craftologist?
A goofy word I made up for a person who invents and does a lot of crafts. I’m big into design, aesthetics, and DIY, everything from dinky little paper throwaways to retiling our bathroom floor. (Mostly somewhere in the middle.) In fact, look for my horror-reader-geared craft tutorial on this year’s Halloween Haunts, the October blog event hosted by the Horror Writers Association. I’ll be sharing how to make your own ‘witch books’ using old hardbacks you don’t want.
And just how prepared is your husband for the zombie apocalypse?
More than your average bear, but less than your average prepper. We don’t have a secret basement stockpiled with gear, but my spousal unit happens to be the single best person to have around in an emergency that I’ve ever known. All our friends and family agree that if zombies happen, they’re headed to our house. With his survival skills and my zombie knowledge we’d be an unstoppable team.
You have had a lot of success in publishing your short stories through some amazing publications such as Apex, and Black Static. What advice would you give to up and coming authors with regards to submitting to publications such as this?
Thank you! Yes, I’m very honored by the markets who’ve published my work. My best advice: never give up. That’s the only way to crack the big markets. (You need to send in good work, obviously, but there’s some kismet to it too.) Keep a submissions chart with detailed records of dates and responses. Submit way more times and to way more markets than you think you should need to. Seriously, my submission chart is pages and pages long. The market can’t say yes if you don’t send in your work. So send, send, send.
You also write for LitReactor and Writer Unboxed, how does writing for sites such as these help a writer?
LitReactor and Write Unboxed are quite different in tone and readership, but they’ve both helped me in countless ways. They’ve enabled me to reach a wider audience and connect with people: other writers, editors, agents, and readers. LitReactor is a steady part of my income. Writer Unboxed gave me the incredible opportunity to contribute to their Writer’s Digest anthology Author In Progress. And they’ve both taught me lessons about time management, writing on deadline, and receiving impersonal reader feedback. They’re both great sites I’m grateful to be a part of.
You write in many different styles horror, literary fiction, poetry, gothic, and speculative fiction, do you have a favourite in which to write, and do you have a thematically common thread that runs through them all?
I always answer that horror is sort of my home base, but I could never commit to a single one. Really my favourite place to live is in the blurring of genres and styles. I like the work that falls between labels and strikes me as fresh and interesting. I have plenty of thematic threads that connect my work, but none of them are overly intentional or rigid. I just explore what thrills me and hope to find readers who feel the same.
There is a move from the more literary side of the writing world into writing about the weird, traditionally this has been the domain of the lowly genre writer. Why do you think they are doing this?
Honestly, I think the designations are somewhat arbitrary and the shifts are in perpetual cycle. I’ve largely stopped worrying about it; that’s just marketing. I write what I like, which is often a blending of literary and weird and genre, and let labels come after I’ve created something I’m happy with. Readers have distinct tastes, but they’re as vast and varied as any writer’s, so I just follow my own.
One of your stories has been selected to appear in Shadow Booth, how did you come to appear in the anthology?
I heard about it on Twitter, I think, and reached out to share my excitement for the project. Then Dan invited me to send something in for him to consider, which he thankfully liked!
Can you tell us about some of the themes of the story?
“That Which Never Comes” is an experimental horror story about what it means to run or hide from our fears.
What has been a major influence on your writing?
My love of books, the books I’ve read, the poetry and horror and comedy and romance and drama. I mean, everything I live and love influences my writing. Some stand-out influential authors have been Poe, King, Laurell K. Hamilton, Anne Rice, the Brontës, Ray Bradbury…
The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations. What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?
I feel so passionately about this that I’ve written entire essays. Here’s the short version: horror explores fear and associated emotions. That’s it. That’s the only defining requirement. Monsters and gore and genre conventions are secondary. So the best way to break past the stigma and assumptions associated with horror is to use the label liberally and consistently – to claim all of the types and styles of horror, not just a select few. People have to get past this equating of slasher gore with horror; there’s so much more out there that’s deep and intellectual and emotionally valuable. And fun, too. Don’t forget fun. They’re all valid uses of the genre.
What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?
I touched on this above. Poe was one of the earliest. House of Leaves came later in my life and changed me. Shirley Jackson as well. Films are slipperier for me. Wait Until Dark stands out, as does the first Paranormal Activity (I’ll fight you), Halloween, and Psycho. Eraserhead scarred me the most deeply. My passion catches easily, so I’m vastly influenced by more art than I could ever list.
What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice off?
This is an awesome question! I mean, the really new ones I guess I don’t necessarily know yet. But of the somewhat newer-wave contemporary authors working hard in horror, I adore Gemma Files, Gillian Flynn, Paul Tremblay, Lucy Snyder, and Justin Cronin. I’m also watching Iain Reid and Marisha Pessl.
How would you describe your writing style?
What I aim for is the tagline of my website: Sharp, dark, and beautiful.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Probably the non-writing accoutrement. Fear, doubt, waiting, disappointment, those types of things. The lifestyle is hard. The writing is hard sometimes too, but in such a rewarding way.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
There aren’t any subjects that I can say with 100% certainty I’ll never write about, no. There are plenty that I don’t feel called to write, but I never make anything off limits – there just has to be a purpose.
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years?
My confidence and the clarity of my artistic vision has certainly grown. I’d like to think my skills and abilities have improved as well. I think I’ve become more comfortable being true to myself, to staying the course and not letting outside opinions influence me unless I want them to. I feel sure.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
A computer, a word processing program, and the time + space to write. Everything else is icing.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?
It’s a quote from Lisa Morton at World Horror Con 2015. I keep it on my bookshelf as a reminder. It simply says: “Be bold.”
Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?
Sheer stubborn persistence! I just keep believing that if I work hard, create good writing, and continue to put it out there then eventually people will take notice. I do the marketing stuff too, but at the end of the day I have to believe that good work rises to the top – so I put most of my effort into writing well and challenging myself.
To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least favourite to write for and why?
I’ve honestly never felt that way, maybe because I don’t always write particularly ‘likeable’ characters. More often they feel like parts of myself – or like people I would want to watch but not know. My least favorites are the ones who I struggle to make come to life; my favorites (whether villains or protagonists) are the ones who spill onto the page as if on their own. I enjoy writing characters I ‘know,’ not the ones I ‘like.’
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
I’m proud of different projects in different ways. I’m very, very proud of the story I have forthcoming in Cemetery Dance as well as the one coming in Apex this October.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
Of course. They live in a folder in my computer called The Cellar. I never open it. (I once wrote a cheeky horror poem about them coming back to get me.)
For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?
Of my stories, I’d say my super short piece “Hide” in Black Static Issue 43 is fairly representative. That one was long-listed by Ellen Datlow for that year’s Best Horror and podcasted by Pseudopod, where you can listen to it for free.
Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
There’s no way I can choose a single favorite! But how about a little sneak peek at my story forthcoming in Shadow Booth?
It was in the closet, whatever it was. It was alive, but not breathing. Unspeaking, but audible. Invisible in the darkness of his bedroom, but absolutely present. Daniel couldn’t help but wonder if there was some seed of truth to all the monster-in-the-closet stories. Was it coincidence, or had people’s lizard brains been on to something from long since before he was born? It didn’t matter. It was in his closet now.
It had started as a faint click, like the sound of two plastic coat hangers tapping together. Click, click, click. The air conditioning wasn’t on, though. It was still spring enough to feel cool at nights. So how had the hangers clicked? The slow slide of gravity finally shifting a shirt, maybe, or a fly hitting a wrinkle just so on its path through the air, or maybe even a distant vibration snaking imperceptibly through the house, up the wall, and through the wooden rod the hangers rested on, moving them ever so slightly from beneath.
Click, click, click.
Or a long fingernail tapping the painted shell of his hollow closet door.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
Books disappoint me all the time, but I don’t like calling them out. The last great book I read was The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. What a masterful piece of work.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
I think every writer wants to be asked, “How can I help?” I have to make a living. You can help me do that by donating directly through my website, or – totally free to you – shopping at Amazon through my affiliate link so I get a percentage of your spending there. And of course, I want to be read. Money pays the bills, but readers are why I do this. Much of my work is available free online in various magazines and journals if you’d like to check it out – others for purchase. If you read something and enjoy it, please consider telling your friends, leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads, or even just dropping me a note to let me know. It means the world to me.
Thank you for having me, Jim!