Q: What was the hardest part of writing your story for Unearthed?
A: Doing the research. Dog fighting is a brutal sport, and, like many people who are ambivalent towards humans, I love animals. Reading the underground magazines published by the people who participate in dog fighting was a sickening yet oddly fascinating experience, like watching a car crash in slow motion. Over and over.
Q: What's the title of your story in Unearthed? In general, do you get the title first, or do you write the story first? Do you remember what prompted this particular title?
A: Dogfight was an idea first, but there was really only one title it could have. When I get the right title for a piece, it fits into place like a key into the right lock. And this one did it all: described without giving away, set a tone of violence, and called up thoughts, not only of the fighting dogs, but of the bravery and recklessness of aerial combat and warfare.
Q: Please tell us: one book you've read recently, one book you're reading now, and one book on your to-read list.
A: Recently I read Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent, a very good history of a fascinating time. Currently I’m reading My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, a short fiction collection of new fairy tales and retellings of old ones. Like all collections, it’s a mixed bag so far: some very good, some that I wish I could have the time it took to read them refunded to my life. And next up to the plate will probably be either Canal Dreams by Iain Banks (on the recommendation of a friend), the fourth volume of the excellent Locke and Key series by Joe Hill, or The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum (for…research purposes. Yes.)
Q: What's the best/worst writing advice you've ever been given?
A: The two best pieces of advice came, strangely enough, from the father and son pairing of Stephen King and Joe Hill. King’s was the well-known advice to writers: “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” (Yes, I know it was originally a Faulkner quotation, but I first read it in King. And I like his phrasing better.) And Hill’s was about what needs to be in a manuscript: “I hate writing. I just want story. Story and a little music.”
Q: What are you working on now, or what's your next planned writing project?
A: I have around half a dozen pieces in various stages of completion at any time. Checking my desktop, today’s list is a novel that’s being rewritten, another novel that I’m outlining, two beginnings of short stories, a blog post, and a small cut scene for a friend. Oh, and this interview. But the biggest project is a horror novel titled Strangers about a man who realizes that the voices his crazy brother hears are real. And now they’re talking to him.
You can visit Steph online at her writing blog: http://www.bareknucklewriter.com/