Ginger Nuts of Horror
E. A. Black writes unusual and frightening fiction. Her horror and dark fiction has appeared in Zippered Flesh 2, Teeming Terrors, Mirages: Tales From Authors Of The Macabre, Wicked Tales: The Journal of the New England Horror Writers, Vol, 3, and other publications. She also hosts the podcast Into The Abyss With Elizabeth Black. Past guests include Joe R. Lansdale and Jack Ketchum. Friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. You may sign up for her newsletter on her web site. Find her books at her E. A. Black Amazon Author Page.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I write erotic fiction as Elizabeth Black and horror as E. A. Black. My erotic fiction has been published by Xcite Books (U. K.), Cleis Press, House Of Erotica (U. K.), Circlet Press, Ravenous Romance, Scarlet Magazine (U. K.), and other publishers. I was awarded a Top Pick award from Night Owl Reviews for my novel Don't Call Me Baby, published by Naughty Nights Press (now out of print). I have also tried my hand at self-publishing with a successful run for two erotic fairy tales, Trouble In Thigh High Boots (erotic Puss In Boots) and Climbing Her Tower (erotic Rapunzel). My horror stories have appeared in Zippered Flesh 2: More Tales Of Body Enhancements Gone Bad, Mirages: Tales From Authors Of The Macabre, Stupefying Stories, Teeming Terrors, Midnight Movie Creature Feature 2, I Kissed A Girl 2, Partner Swap, and other publications. My short horror story Invisible shall soon appear in Zippered Flesh 3: Yet More Tales Of Body Enhancements Gone Bad. Zombie Clusterfuck, another short story will appear in the group project The Super Market very soon. In addition to writing fiction, I host podcasts on Blog Talk Radio. I was a host on The Women Show for a year and a half, ending in November, 2016. I currently host the podcast Into The Abyss With Elizabeth Black. My guests include writers such as Jack Ketchum (The Girl Next Door), Joe R. Lansdale (Hap and Leonard on Sundance), Daniel Knauf (The Blacklast, Carnivale, Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Dracula), and Trent Zelazny (son of award-winning fantasy writer Roger Zelazny). My February 23 show includes four female writers for Women In Horror Month. They are Billie Sue Mosiman, Dana Fredsti, Sèphera Girón, and Nikki Guerlain. I also write sex toys reviews, and I have been a guest speaker at conventions including. Balticon, Arisia, NoVaCon, SheVaCon, John Con, and two Worldcons.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Watching movies (especially horror movies), baking sweets and other treats, walking on the beach (even in the dead of winter with snow on the ground), traveling around New England including stays in hotels with Jacuzzis (Hilton Honors is my friend), reading, and making my own bath products like soaps, bath lotions, and shower gels. My husband and I drive around Massachusetts just to get out of the house, and we discover all kinds of cool places. I like to attend writer's events like the New England Writers Coffeehouse and various conventions and get-togethers with other authors. I love book readings and I really need to do more of them. I've joined a local writers group and it gives me a chance to socialize at least once per week. My husband and I have also joined a local skeptics group that meets once per month in a Chinese restaurant. That group is loads of fun. The food is good, cheap, and lots of it.
Other than the horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?
Mysteries, erotic fiction, and weird news. My major influences outside the horror genre include Agatha Chrisie, Jonathan Kellerman, Sue Grafton, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, and Dorothy Parker. In erotic fiction circles, I've been influenced by K. D. Grace, Kay Jaybee, Lucy Felthouse, and Victoria Blisse. Weird news interests me and it often finds ways into my fiction. I'm a Total Farker and I find the most bizarre news there. Really weird stuff with funny headlines submitted by Farkers. One of my stories inspired by weird news is an erotic Christmas-themed short story in which a man erects a zombie nativity scene that pisses off his neighbors. I first read about the exact same thing in news reports of a man from Ohio who had erected a zombie nativity scene and the town wanted him to take it down. He refused. He's been erecting this scene for years, and each year he gets flack for it. I thought the whole ordeal was hysterical.
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?
Although I prefer the term "horror" to other terms tossed around, I believe it carries a lot of baggage. You say "horror" to people who are not into it or don't really understand it and they pull away from you as if you are some kind of parasite. I've found that softening the blow by calling it "dark fiction" and "dark fantasy" helps get a conversation going. Otherwise, I'm comfortable calling it what it is – "horror".
A lot of good horror movements have arisen as a direct result of the socio/political climate, considering the current state of the world where do you see horror going in the next few years?
Donald Trump's presidency easily lends itself to both satire and dystopia. I see much more of both coming down the pike. Although he's not horror, Chuck Tingle has already tackled the Trump phenomenon in the most hilarious way possible. Pounded In The Butt indeed! I haven't written many politically inspired fictional pieces but my unpublished story The Rage Eaters is about an elderly black man trying to get home during the Ferguson riots. I bring in the black-eyed children for extra terror. This story did have a home until about two weeks ago when the anthology series went belly-up. I'm now looking for a new home for it, and I hope to find one soon.
What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?
"The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson as well as the 1963 movie version. "Hell House" by Richard Matheson as well as the movie. Edgar Allan Poe's "Tales of Mystery and Imagination" had a huge influence on me in part because I grew up in Baltimore. I've been to the Poe House and Westminster Church where he's buried. The man has had a huge influence in my taste in horror. My grandmother's collection of Alfred Hitchcock books scared the hell out of me but I couldn’t get enough of them. My mother was not happy about that. LOL I also grew up watching Hammer Films at stupid o'clock in the morning. I'd watch them in the dark basement about two inches from the TV screen. Then, when the movies ended, I'd race to my bed two stories up and hide under the blankets until dawn. I couldn't get enough of those movies. "Quatermass and the Pit" and "Curse of the Demon" also made quite an impact on me.
What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice of?
Bracken MacLeod, Paul Tremblay, Josh Malerman, Sephera Giron, Dana Fredsti and Nikki Guerlain. Keep an eye on all six of them. They write some impressive stuff.
How would you describe your writing style?
It varies. Most often I write quiet horror, but I have written splatterpunk and historicals. I have also written horror comedy and satire. My horror most often is atmospheric and subtle. I don't slam you over the head with a lot of gore or violence unless it is necessary to the story. I lean towards psychological horror with a sense of dread.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
Not a review per se, but a fiction rejection. Early in my career I made the huge mistake of sending splatterpunk to a literary horror publisher. The editor rejected my story and chewed me out something fierce. Called the story hard-core porn, which was probably a somewhat accurate portrayal of it. Said if I ever submitted anything like that to them every again I'd be blackballed, or something to that effect. I won't say the name of the publication but it's well-known and highly respected. I didn't make that same mistake twice. The story was eventually accepted and published. It's Shattering The Meat Tunnel and it appears in Mirages: Tales From Authors Of The Macabre. Noir writer Trent Zelazny edited that book and he liked the story so it must have some merit, LOL. I haven't received any outright bad reviews, but the good reviews please me and stay with me. I love to be mentioned in anthology reviews.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Keeping motivated and optimistic in light of the usual rejections and lackluster sales. At times, I'm ready to throw in the towel and just give up but that would leave me with nothing so I plug away.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
Not really, but I do have to say I'd probably never write about a cat or kitten being abused or killed. That would upset me too much. I'm a cat lover and currently am owned by three of the little furballs. However, if such a dreadful act moved the story along, I'd write it. I'd only feel very uncomfortable afterwards. I have noticed in movies when a cat or kitten is killed, whoever harmed it often comes to a horrible end. Serves them right. Herbert West in Re-Animator killed his girlfriend's cat to test his serum. Christine Brown in Drag Me To Hell sacrificed (murdered) her kitten to keep the gypsy curse at by but she was unsuccessful. Andre Delambre (Al Hedison) put his cat Dandelo in the pod in the original The Fly, and the cat's meows as it disintegrated haunt me to this day. All three human characters died in the end, and got what they deserved for that. Yes, I even remember Dandelo's name. I can't watch the original The Fly anymore because of that scene.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
Names are very important. The first name must flow well with the last name. Names to me also invoke a character's position or personality. The main characters in my short story Invisible have the surname Bottom because it sounded uneducated (apologies to actor Timothy Bottoms). 15 year old Blair Bottom, her 21 year old morbidly obese sister Bethany Bottom, and their mother (also surname Bottom) live in a trailer park. I talk more about this story below.
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years?
I've toned down my pace over the past few years. I don't work at a frenetic pace anymore. All that did was make me physically ill since I couldn't keep up with myself. I'd over-extend myself and take on too many projects. I have found now that I've relaxed and taken on only the projects that 1) interest me the most and 2) will further my career the most, I'm much more successful and productive.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
A computer and especially some kind of back-up. I always back up my work. I want to be sure I have a spare copy in case my computer goes belly-up or if by some horrible chance I accidentally erase something important or I lose a document.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?
I have several pieces of advice I rely on. Don't edit your work as you go along. Write something. Anything. You may edit it later. If you edit as you go along, you'll never finish the project. Also, don't let the rejections and bad reviews get you down. I learn from rejections and bad reviews. Some bad reviews are petty acting-out, but others have valuable insight. You can't please everyone. It's good to remember that. Once I receive a rejection, I edit according to the feedback if necessary and then I send the story right back out. I always have fiction in circulation as a submission and I look forward to hearing back from the publishers.
Getting your worked noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?
That's a tough one since I struggle with it. What worked even two years ago doesn't work anymore. I used to rely on blog tours and ads but neither seem as effective now. I know better than to spam people with endless book ads. That only turns off potential readers. Thankfully, some of the anthologies where my stories appear have been very successful thanks to the efforts of the publishers. I've been noticed in Wicked Tales: The Journal Of The New England Horror Writers Vol. 3 with my story Fog Over Mons. That one is set during WWI and it involves the Angels of Mons legend tied up with cosmic horror. I'm also proud of my story Invisible, which will appear in Zippered Flesh 3. The Zippered Flesh books (which are about body modifications) have sold well and received critical acclaim. They've even been noticed by the Stoker committee. My dream would be to get Stoker attention for Invisible.
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?
This is another tough one. I don't have a least favorite child. My favorite character is Ethan Harris from Trailer Trash Zombies. This one is a horror comedy/satire that appears in Midnight Movie Creature Feature 2. Ethan is a put-upon, brand-new zombie who is coping with both his new life as one of the undead and living in a slum apartment complex in Massachusetts. I imagine him as being a bit like John Cusack. Ethan and other characters from Trailer Trash Zombies shall soon appear in Zombie Clusterfuck, a part of a new project called The Super Market. Keep an eye on my Facebook page for details about this group project.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of? And are there any that you would like to forget about?
Honestly? No, there are no works I'd like to forget about. I'm happy with all my horror, even the stories that didn't get much attention. I don't regret writing any of them. If I had to pick some personal favorites, I'd choose Infection, Trailer Trash Zombies, and Fog Over Mons. They appear in Teeming Terrors, Midnight Movie Creature Feature 2, and Wicked Tales: The Journal Of The New England Horror Writers Vol. 3, respectively. My erotic fiction? Some of that I regret writing because it's simply awful.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?
I haven't written a novel yet. I'm working on one now called Hell Time. I hope to finish it by the end of 2017. I'm proudest of my three aforementioned short stories Infection, Trailer Trash Zombies, and Fog Over Mons. All three are completely different from each other.
Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
This is a passage from Infection, which appears in Teeming Terrors. You may find this book at Amazon. Mr. and Mrs. Jones are at the emergency room. Mr. Jones has a nasty infection in his leg, and the doctor is about to cut it open to take a look, clean it, and dress it. But… this is no ordinary wound.
"Something's moving in there. I feel it crawling around, lots of things, tiny things. Oh, God, it hurts." Mr. Jones buried his face in his pillow. "Please, get it out of me. Now!"
"Okay, Mr. Jones, I need you to calm down. I can't open your leg with you thrashing about. Lie on your back and I'll get started." The doctor said.
"John, lie back." Mrs. Jones said. "You're going to be alright but you have to do what the doctor says."
He turned onto his back and shoved a fist in his mouth, squinting his eyes in pain. The doctor turned to the wound nurse.
"Gauze and alcohol." He said.
She handed him both. He poured alcohol onto the gauze and then swabbed the wound and the rash around it. Then, he tossed the waste into a trash can with a red bag inside with biohazard symbols on the plastic.
"I'm going to inject a numbing agent into your wound, Mr. Jones. This will help you with the pain. It's a topical painkiller."
The wound nurse prepared the injection and handed the syringe over to the doctor, who injected close to the wound's opening. A high-pitched but faint buzzing droned around Mrs. Jones, as if it came directly from the wound but much like a cricket's chirping it was hard to tell exactly where it came from. It sounded similar to air being let out of a balloon. The noise was shrill and angry, but so faint she thought she imagined it. Maybe it was an I.V. alarm going off down the hall. The nurses let those things beep forever, but somehow, Mrs. Jones doubted that was the case. That noise came from her husband's wound, and it scared her.
"Did you hear that?" Mrs. Jones whispered.
The doctor looked up. "I'm not sure what that was. Let's get the wound opened and cleaned out. Scalpel." He said.
The nurse opened a small package to reveal a sterile scalpel, which she handed to the doctor. Mrs. Jones held her breath as the doctor's steady hand approached the wound, which by now had turned a deep shade of rose with black edges and yellow pustules erupting on the surface. Mr. Jones gripped his t-shirt in his fists so hard his knuckles had blanched. Terror etched across his face. What the hell was wrong with his leg? Was it a brown recluse bite after all?
The doctor leaned over his leg and cut down the center of the boil. Blood gushed out, running down his leg and staining the bed linens. Creamy yellow pus filled the wound. As the doctor picked up the instrument to scrape out the infection, that shrill keening sounded again, coming directly from the opening he had cut.
Mrs. Jones backed away, closer to the bathroom.
The doctor inserted the instrument into the wound, and Mrs. Jones was shocked to see it disappear nearly an inch into his calf. When he scraped along the inside, Mr. Jones cried out in agony, but Mrs. Jones barely heard him. Hundreds if not thousands of tiny mites flew from the wound's opening, covering the doctor's white jacket so thickly it appeared to be crawling. They flew onto the nurse, who swatted at them, screaming and howling with surprise and terror. Mr. Jones screamed and crept up the bed towards the wall, but the mites surrounded him, flying in his face and against his arms and legs until they held fast.
Then they began to bite.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
My latest work is a short story called Invisible. It's going to be published in Zippered Flesh 3: Yet More Tales Of Body Enhancements Gone Bad, which will come out late in 2017. It's about a bulimic 15 year old who is livid that she has to take care of her morbidly obese older sister. Blair Bottom's older sister Bethany weighs 600 pounds and she's bedridden. By her sheer size that girl rules the family roost and Blair doesn't get the attention she needs. She wants to disappear so she can leave her family behind in the trailer park. The story is about how Blair copes with being invisible both against her will and by her will.
My work-in-progress Hell Time is about a 13 year old girl named Dani Birchfield who is dealing with an oppressive family setting and bullying at school. She gets a Ouija board from her favorite aunt for her birthday and she may have reached a demon using it. The question is, has that actually happened or is Dani imagining it? What else is going on that contributes to her problems and her hallucinations? She's a typical lonely outcast drowning in a world of serious problems. How does she cope? Will she survive?
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
Geez, I can't name just one, but Eddie Murphy said it better than I ever could about white people vs. black people in haunted houses. If there are demons in the house why the fuck do people stay? LOL Here's a quote:
[normal voice] It's real scary. You know what I was wondering about movies? I was watching those movies -- I'm moving out of my house, I was watching movies like Poltergeist and Amityville Horror. Why don't the people just get the hell out of the house? ... You can't make a horror movie with black people in it 'cuz the movie'd stop, you'd see niggers runnin' down the street, the movie's over! ... That's the movie. You can't have a movie like that. See, white people, you all sit on the toilet, see blood in the toilet, and you all go get Ajax. ... Brothers won't sit on the toilet. ... Movie be just like this: [brother's voice] "Wow, baby, this is beautiful. We got chandelier hangin' up here, kids outside playin', it's a beautiful neighborhood, I really love - this is beaut--" [demonic whisper] "Get out!" [brother's voice] "Too bad we can't stay." [instantly spins, starts walking upstage] ... [cheers and applause, Eddie returns to face the crowd, wipes his nose]
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
The last great book I read was A Head Full Of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. I haven't read any books that disappointed me, but I will say I'm looking forward to two new books – Bracken MacLeod's Stranded and Christopher Golden's Ararat.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
The question I'd like to be asked is "Would you accept this Stoker Award?" I'd answer, "Of course! Are you crazy? LOL."
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