Behind the Screens: Tuesday Author Interview

Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.

Melancholic Parables cover

Sabitha: We’re joined by Dale Stromberg, here to tell us about his collection of strange and mesmerizing microstories, Melancholic Parables. Dale, best of luck explaining this fascinating book to us.

Dale: Melancholic Parables is a collection of microstories that mix whimsey and dolor, irony and absurdity. With a frequently appearing protagonist who is not always the same person, they are not linked and not unlinked. Sometimes they horrify; sometimes they are almost dad-jokes.

Sabitha: This is not a typical book. What inspired you to write it?

Dale: While a musician in Tokyo, I decided to blog daily for a year to connect to fans. The blog was bilingual. I soon strayed from writing about music to writing about anything, including tiny stories. I was in a psychologically troublous period, so these fragments had a consistently melancholy tint, though I often took refuge in humour. I’d come home with a couple bottles of cheap wine and start writing. By the time the wine was done, I was done (e.g. unconscious)—which was one reason to keep it brief. Another was the fact that working in two languages required me to write everything twice. After a year, I had about 300 fragments, and I thought of collecting those I liked best into a book.

Sabitha: We have a lot of writers in our community. What’s your writing process?

Dale: Think about it. Draft it. Manicure it. If it’s not working, rewrite from scratch. Produce more than I can use, then select the good bits.

Sabitha: How did you choose the title?

Dale: Fiction writers often hope readers will “willingly suspend disbelief,” but I wondered, do I hope this? A teller of parables doesn’t necessarily have the same expectation: it is not at cross-purposes for a reader to simultaneously believe the “story” and also disbelieve and consciously examine it. I came to see my stories as parables instead—not lessons (nobody should take lessons from me) but pieces which were about something other than what they were about.

Sabitha: What book do you tell all your friends to read? Besides yours of course!

Dale: Recent good reads: Edie Richter is Not Alone (Rebecca Handler), Ghosts of You (Cathy Ulrich), An Inventory of Losses (Judith Schalansky), Knickpoint (MBF Wedge), Lilith’s Brood (Octavia Butler), The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (Arundhati Roy), Most Famous Short Film of All Time (Tucker Lieberman), Though I Get Home (YZ Chin), Warm Worlds and Otherwise (James Tiptree Jr.), The Word for World is Forest (Ursula K Le Guin), Something Like Hope (Hengtee Lim).

Sabitha: When you picture your ideal reader, what are they like?

Dale: When I first heard Sonic Youth, I thought they were doing it all wrong; when I first heard Sigur Rós, I found them boring; both ended up favourite bands of mine. I had to be in the right time of life before their music fit. Instead of an ideal reader, maybe I imagine the reader being in an ideal place—similar to where I was when I was writing. I was shut up in myself, seeing everything in dim grey colours, aware I was an ill fit, aware it was all in my head, but unable to get out of my head. I don’t wish for anyone else to end up like that, which implies that I hope not to have ideal readers. I guess that’s weird.

Sabitha: Not as weird as you think. Thanks for sharing your story and how it came to be. We’re looking forward to reading—look out for a Book Report from Zilla! In the meantime, where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?

Dale: You can mute me on Twitter or chuckle at my clumsy web design here. Preorder Melancholic Parables ahead of 29 November 2022 at Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Apple Books, or Smashwords; if you prefer paperback, a print version will go live on Amazon in late November. A lovely way to support any indie author is to leave an honest review on Goodreads or wherever you leave your reviews.

Behind the Screens: Tuesday Author Interview

Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.

He's no angel cover

Sabitha: Today we’ll talk to Ryan Uytdewilligen about his satirical novel, He’s No Angel. Ryan, can you introduce us to your book?

Ryan: Charlie Fritz is a Hollywood talent agent hanging onto his career by a thread. After embarrassing himself at a movie screening, he’s in need of a comeback and a superstar client. Luckily, success comes his way in the form of his presumed-to-be dead father. When Bernie Fritz mysteriously arrives in the middle of Los Angeles by taxi, it’s evident he doesn’t remember anything about his prior life, but the white-robe-wearing man does have a cryptic message from the afterlife to share with anyone who will listen. Is he an angel from above or someone who’s simply lost his memory? 

After Bernie’s message goes viral and creates a social media sensation, Charlie seizes the opportunity to become his dad’s agent. It’s the perfect opportunity for them to finally connect and find a little meaning in their lives—even if for one of them, life is technically over.

Sabitha: That sounds delightfully absurd. What inspired you to write this book?

Ryan: I lost my father nearly ten years ago and I went on a walk one day, wondering, “What if I ran into my dad?” Then a few moments later, I thought “What if I ran into my dad, and he didn’t remember me or anything about his life?” I thought that was an intriguing premise and fleshed it out from there.

Sabitha: We have a lot of writers in our community. What’s your writing process?

Ryan: I’m one to plan ahead, so after coming up with the premise, I made a “beat sheet” with the entire plot and then wrote that exact plot, which took about seven months. I like to edit as I go too, so the first draft is very concise and polished by the end.

Sabitha: Do you have a “fan-cast” – do you have actors you’d cast as your main characters?

Ryan: Slovenly Bill Murray would make a perfect Bernie Fritz while motormouth Charlie Day would make a great Charlie Fritz. Perhaps the dearly departed Anne Meara would be a perfect Nancy Fritz. News anchor Ted is blatantly Ted Knight.

Sabitha: What was the hardest part of editing?

Ryan: It’s always tough taking criticism, but I think for this book, most of the feedback was that the protagonist was not a likeable person. But he’s not supposed to be. Some said they liked his “nasty to nice” transformation while others didn’t. That was a tough line to walk.

Sabitha: How did you choose the title?

Ryan: The movie We’re No Angels with Robert De Niro and Sean Penn is an inviting and curious title that has often stuck in my head. When I first played around with that, He’s No Angel seemed like it could strike the right chord.

Sabitha: What do you most want your readers to take away from reading your book?

Ryan: If you’ve ever had a loss and wanted to reconnect with a family member, I hope this book tugs at the heartstrings, shows grief in a relatable way, and gives people hope alongside a good laugh.

Sabitha: Thanks for sharing your story and your process. We’re looking forward to reading! Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?

Ryan: They can find my book here, or connect with me on Facebook.

Behind the Screens: Tuesday Author Interview

Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.

Sigrid and Elyn cover

Sabitha: Today we’ll talk to Edale Lane about her newest novel, Sigrid and Elyn: A Tale from Norvegr (Tales from Norvegr). Edale, we’re excited to have you! Tell us a bit about your book.

Edale Lane: Attracted by passion, repelled by war. Can two shieldmaidens navigate battlegrounds of the sword and the heart?

Sigrid the Valiant is legendary throughout the kingdoms of Norvegr for her many heroic deeds, but her heart has not found a home. Now, racing on the heels of their father’s murder, a neighboring kingdom’s raids threaten an all-out war.

Elyn is a young shieldmaiden with a score to settle, fighting her own insecurities along with enemies who threaten her homeland, but she remains unconvinced all is as it seems.

When the two clash on opposite sides of their shield walls, sparks fly from both their swords and passions. But when they talk, the two discover an antagonist’s plot has pitted their kingdoms against each other.

Will Sigrid and Elyn move past their suspicions to forge a relationship and foil the villain’s scheme, or will the enemy’s assassins end their search for the truth?

Sabitha: We love a good sapphic romance! What inspired you to write this book?

Edale Lane: I am a historian and primarily a writer of historical fiction. I love anything Viking and have been excited by recent archeological discoveries confirming the authenticity of women warriors’ roles in Scandinavia’s past.

Sabitha: That’s fantastic. Once you have the idea, what’s your writing process?

Edale Lane: I’m a “plantser.” I engage in tons of research, write out character sheets, plot outlines, and lists of facts to include in world-building. But as I write, invariably new characters are added, plotlines may veer from their assigned paths, and I try to infuse something previously unexpected. Therefore, I plan a lot and pants a little for good measure.

Sabitha: What was the hardest part of editing?

Edale Lane: Not catching every mistake. I can take advice on content edits from betas, use my software, and hire a proof-reader, then reread. After half a dozen sets of eyes have scoured the manuscript, it still goes to print with a few mistakes. Luckily, as a self-published indie, once a reader points them out, I can easily upload a corrected copy.

Sabitha:  Which character do you relate to the most and why?

Edale Lane: I relate to both of my main characters for different reasons. As a younger person, I often found myself in doubt and indecision, like Elyn, but now, with years of experience and wisdom behind me, I display Sigrid’s confidence. At heart, I am as much a peacemaker as Elyn, but ready, willing, and able to fight off an attacker as they both are. I don’t have Sigrid’s temper or Elyn’s figure, but both women’s passions burn in my soul. I don’t shy away from a challenge.

Sabitha: When you picture your ideal reader, what are they like?

Edale Lane: She or he is someone who loves to become immersed in another world, who enjoys action, adventure, and romance, and is a sucker for a happily ever after. Ideally, this reader would love this book and go buy all my other ones—and post reviews!

Sabitha: We can relate—reviews are like gold for an author. Thanks for sharing your story and your process. We’re looking forward to reading! Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?

Edale Lane: You can find more about me at my website, my Goodreads page, my BookBub page, or by signing up to my newsletter. You can buy Sigrid and Elyn here, or see all my books for sale here.

Behind the Screens: Tuesday Author Interview

Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.

The Shareholders cover

Sabitha: Today we’ve got H.S. Down talking about a dark and exciting novel, The Shareholders. Can you tell us a bit about your book?

H.S.: In the late 21st century, Earth is ravaged by climate change. The billionaires have bioengineered immortality, fled to Mars, and rule Earth’s last biospheres as their personal shares. Those left on Earth struggle to find balance as the planet tumbles into its terminal years of habitability. Ian Gateman, one of Earth’s last bureaucrats, is tasked with finding a buyer for a fledgling colony of newly settled ecological refugees. As Ian travels to the estates of several visiting shareholders, it becomes clear the shareholders have other plans for humanity’s future. 

Sabitha: What inspired you to write this book?

H.S.: Panic. I am terrified that we will leave it up the billionaires to solve the climate crisis. The Shareholders explores this fear to what I believe will be its conclusion. The world building focuses on immortality, the colonization of Mars, and ecosystems sustained solely by prostheses. Many of the characters are hell bent on preserving an unsustainable status quo at the expense of life itself. I think the politics for the rest of this century will be framed around ‘letting go’. Letting go of postwar expectations of luxury consumption, perpetual growth, of capitalism as an organizing principle. I see The Shareholders as a crude and embryonic form of art for this movement. 

Sabitha: Was there any music that inspired you while you were writing?

H.S.: I listened to Dies Irae composed by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind for the opening scene of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. It is a heavy, solemn electronic piece, but it’s the banshee caterwaul that calls just out of frame that does it for me. For Kubrick, the piece was an exploration of colonialism and the unspeakable violence that haunts western societies. A careful reader will see that The Shareholders is preoccupied with these themes as well, and that preoccupation registers in the names of some of the characters and the novel’s setting.      

Sabitha: How did you choose the title?

H.S.: In the novel, the billionaires of the early 21st-century have become shareholders of the last biospheres on Earth. They also own shares of a virus that extends their lives considerably. So, the title is a good description of the key antagonists in the novel, but there is more to it. As the world plummets into climate crisis, the action or inaction of governments and corporations is very much circumscribed by groups of shareholders. Shareholders are determining humanity’s future. The title puts that into focus. 

Sabitha:  If you could pick any author to read your book, who would you want to read it? Why them?

H.S.: I am drawn to the irreverence and storytelling of Kurt Vonnegut and J.G. Ballard. I’d love to receive notes from them on craft for this book, but not now of course, because that would have to come from beyond the grave, which would be, at the very least, distracting. Margaret Atwood wrote some of the first dystopian climate change novels, so I’d like to get her take on The Shareholders as part of the genre.

Sabitha: Thanks for sharing your story and your process. We’re looking forward to reading! Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?

H.S.: You can find my book here, and I’m on Facebook.

Behind the Screens: Tuesday Author Interview

Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.

The cover of the sad bastard cookbook

Sabitha: Today we talk to one of the Night Beats creators, Zilla Novikov, about The Sad Bastard Cookbook. Full disclosure—I beta read this cookbook, and I love it already. But for people who haven’t had the chance to read it yet, Zilla, tell us about the project that you created with Rachel A. Rosen and Marten Norr.

Zilla: Thanks Sabitha! The Sad Bastard Cookbook is a cookbook of coping mechanisms and dark humour. There’s a lot of mental illness in the Night Beats community—and the world. We wanted to share how we get through eating on the days when picking up a spoon seems impossible. Also, we wanted an excuse to make jokes about Watchmen when we eat beans straight from the can. This cookbook let us do both at once.

Sabitha: What inspired you to write this book?

Zilla: I realized I needed to write this book while watching Mrs P stream Dead by Daylight on Twitch. We were discussing ramen hacks, and someone mentioned adding egg to ramen soup to up the protein. Mrs P asked whether you needed to cook the egg first, and the whole community chimed in with suggestions for ways to make egg-in-ramen soup. Before that chat, I thought everyone already knew about eggs in ramen. And I thought there was only one way to prepare them. 

As we’ve worked on this project with our community, I’ve realized that everyone has a version of my story. Sometimes it’s about teaching their sibling, sometimes their students, or sometimes their friends. Eating is essential, but when you’re depressed, or exhausted, or overworked, it can be really hard. Little tricks like eggs in ramen can be so important. This cookbook meant Rachel and I could share our coping strategies, and at the same time learn from everyone else in our community. 

Sabitha: You’ve written two books already, Reprise and Query, and Rachel’s published Cascade. How did writing The Sad Bastard Cookbook differ from writing fiction?

Zilla: You’ve already mentioned the first difference—this is my first time co-writing a book, and my first time having it illustrated. I’m so lucky to work with such fantastic, creative people, who understand what I’m trying to express even when I can’t put it into words. Which is a bad trait in a writer!

The other difference is that this cookbook was sourced from the community. We asked around widely for suggestions about recipes to include, and we were not disappointed! From Cheater Channa Masala to a new pancake recipe, I learned so many tips and tricks, and it’s been wonderful seeing how caring our community is.

Sabitha: It’s an unusual process, but also an unusual sales tactic. You’re making it free.

Zilla: We’re making the e-book free. Unfortunately, we don’t have the wealth to make the paper copy free to everyone who wants it. But we’re not impressed with how capitalism makes it expensive to be mentally ill or in poverty. There might not be much we can do to fight that system, but we can make our book free for people to learn these coping strategies. 

We’re going to release early December, in time for Christmas gifting. The paper copy will go up on Amazon then, and our newsletter subscribers will get access to the free e-book. Both editions make great gifts! We’ll “sell” the e-book version to the general public in Jan, but newsletter subscribers get the bonus of early access to the e-book. We hope you like it!

Behind the Screens: Tuesday Author Interview

Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.

Nigel and the Festival of Flames cover

Sabitha: We’ve got Macy Lewis here, telling us about her children’s book Nigel and The Festival of Flames. Macy, can you introduce us to your book?

Macy: I wrote my Nigel and The Festival of Flames to help children learn that being different is what makes us unique, which is something we shouldn’t feel nervous about. It also teaches them to be kind and kindness can be difficult to find these days.

Nigel the dragon is competing in the Festival of Flames, but he can’t throw his flames as high as the other dragons can because he’s smaller than the other dragons. When Nigel takes a walk, he meets Princess Rakella, can she convince Nigel to return to the Festival of flames and try again?

Sabitha:  Which character do you relate to the most and why?

Macy: I relate to Nigel because I’m blind and sometimes, I don’t think I can do things that sighted people can do, but when I talk with friends or my family, they always encourage me to try and more often than not, I’m able to find a way to do what I have wanted to do. I think we all need a little encouragement like Princess Rakella does for Nigel, and it’s such a beautiful thing to watch as the story unfolds.

Sabitha: What do you love about the writing process?

Macy: I love writing children’s books because it’s a challenge. I always feel like I must captivate children with the first lines of my story, so they’ll want to continue reading my books. I couldn’t have written Nigel without my editor Emily. She’s the one who gave Nigel’s text the rhyming rhythm that everyone loves so much.  My illustrator, Miara, hand painted each one of the pictures, and I think they turned out absolutely beautiful. I knew I wanted Nigel to be light blue, but I let Miara do what she wanted with everything else and create her own vision when she read the text.

Sabitha: That sounds really sweet and meaningful. Thank you for sharing. Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?

Macy: They can find my books at their favorite online bookstore, but here’s my Amazon author page. They can follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Behind the Screens: Tuesday Author Interview

Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.

The Debt Diary cover

Sabitha: Joshua Neal is with us today to talk about his YA science fiction novel, The Debt Diary. Josh, take it away!

Josh: The Debt Diary is dystopian young adult fiction. It focuses on Harry, a teenage climate refugee, as he struggles to survive living on the streets of an inhospitable city. The book also has a supernatural hook in the form of Harry’s debt diary, a book that Harry uses to track his debts but that begins to predict his future. 

Sabitha: That sounds very topical. What inspired you to write this book?

Josh: Brexit, mostly. But also a complete and utter disdain for the heat. There was a decent amount of xenophobia tied up within the Brexit narrative, and I’m sure I don’t need to make anyone aware of the continuing discourse about our changing climate. Take these two things to the extreme and you’ve got some very desperate people in very desperate situations. I was also inspired more specifically by the Essex lorry deaths and other similar news stories.

Sabitha:  Which character do you relate to the most and why?

Josh: I think Harry is the most relatable character. He has no idea what the future holds, yet he’s forced to make decisions every day that will inevitably change that future. Whether it’s changed for better or for worse, he has no idea. All he can do is make the best, most informed decision that he can and hope the rest falls into place.

Sabitha: We have a lot of writers in our community. What’s your writing process?

Josh: The writing process for The Debt Diary was very different from the process that I’m developing now. The Debt Diary is my first novel, and I pantsed it pretty hard. I just put my head down and wrote until I finished it. Then, I sought direction from a number of sources and used the feedback to fix everything that I’d done wrong (which was a lot). The experience was enlightening but I’m plotting my current projects far more thoroughly.

Sabitha: What was the hardest part about editing?

Josh: Fleshing out act two and trying to ensure that Harry’s transformation was a satisfying and moving one. Also, trying to tie together the two book’s two primary themes and ensure that they synthesise in the final act.

Sabitha: What do you most want your readers to take away from reading your book?

Josh: That the future is uncertain, but that doesn’t mean that you can compromise your morals or hang others out to dry. We can achieve more together than we can alone, and it’s up to each of us to continue to build connections rather than burn bridges.

Sabitha: Thanks for sharing your story and your process. We’re looking forward to reading! Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?

Josh: You can find The Debt Diary on Amazon (UK and US) and it is free on Kindle Unlimited. You can find me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook

I’m donating 25% of the proceeds of my book sales to a local charity in Norwich. You can find out more about this on my website.

Behind the Screens: Tuesday Author Interview

Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.

Sabitha: Emma Berglund is here! She was an editor on the Into the Unknown science fiction anthology, a set of short stories which (spoiler alert!) we absolutely loved. She also wrote a story in the anthology, “Birds of Fortune.” Emma, can tell us us a bit about the book?

Emma: Into the Unknown is a science fiction anthology, with eleven new stories covering everything from the aftermath of an excursion to the dark side of the moon, to outer space, to the recesses of a closet, to a mysterious island and to alien worlds. It’s like a well sorted bag of candy; it has something for everyone. The anthology is edited by me, Rohan O’Duill, and Jason Clor.

Sabitha: We know Rohan—close readers will recognize him as the chef behind the Night Beats Feature Fiction to Sink Your Teeth Into. What inspired you and the rest of your team to write this book?

Emma: It all started when Rohan first got the idea of us putting together an anthology in the science fiction writing group that we all are a part of, and both Jason and I weren’t hard to persuade. And luckily, the crew thought it was a fun idea, too! When we had decided on a theme—which also ended up as the title—I settled for an adventurous steampunk story with a touch of romance. And so “Birds of Fortune” came to be. I was going for a matinee feel, with a fast-paced story line and problems to solve along the way. The flirty part happened by itself, I’d say.

Sabitha:  Was there any music that inspired you while you were writing?

Emma: I like to have music that matches the mood in the story or a beat that keeps me going. Mostly the latter, or I fall asleep, as I usually write late evenings. I like alternative/indie rock/pop, so bands like Smash Into Pieces, Daughtry, ViVii, and artists like Zayde Wølf, AURORA, Alba August are on repeat, just to mention a few. But honestly, I’m an omnivore when it comes to most things, so don’t be surprised if you find K-pop or classical music on my playlists as well.

Sabitha: What do you most want your readers to take away from reading your book?

Emma: I’d like the readers of the anthology to have an open mind when they read our stories. We are all different and like different things, and that’s how it should be. At the same time, it’s great to read something you wouldn’t have picked up in the first place, and find out that you really enjoy it. Or not. But you tried.

Hopefully the reader finds a new subgenre in science fiction to explore. The anthology is a smorgasbord; pick what you want or eat it all.

Sabitha: Thanks for sharing your stories. We’re looking forward to reading! Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?

Emma: You can find the book here, or read it on Kindle Unlimited; all proceeds from the sale of this anthology go to The World Literacy Foundation. Our press has a website and a Twitter. If you want to get in touch with me, you can contact me on Twitter.

Behind the Screens: Tuesday Author Interview

Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.

Most Famous Short Film of All Time Cover

Sabitha: Tucker Lieberman joins us to talk about his weird and wonderful literary novel, Most Famous Short Film of All Time. Tucker, what can you tell us about your book?

Tucker: Most Famous Short Film of All Time is a philosophical novel. It’s set in Boston in the 2010s. Lev Ockenshaw is a thirtysomething transgender man who works for a tech company. He sees supernatural beings, which isn’t a big deal to him, and he likes telling campfire stories with his friends. One day, he receives an anonymous, threatening email, and things start to get weird. 

The literary style is absurdist with nonfiction-style digressions. There’s a bibliography: books, film, pop music.

Sabitha: It sounds absolutely delightful. What inspired you to write this book?

Tucker: Several overlapping cultural problems in the US are of concern to me. First, not knowing what an anonymous threat might mean, given the frequency of mass shootings. Second, the inability to make yourself heard, or a more active silencing perpetrated by people who you hoped would help you. Third, problems of visibility and invisibility, and self-interpretation and being interpreted by others, specifically as a transgender man might experience that. Of course, everyone’s experience is different, and this character is fictional, but his perspective is a transgender one. He’s not giving dictionary definitions of how trans people feel, but many trans people might relate to a lot of what he says. Ultimately, his philosophy is his own. It’s one attempt to unpack some of the cultural experiences of people who are transgender.

Sabitha: What was your favourite thing to write?

Tucker: The first scene I wrote was the Tele-Quiz gameshow where the main character makes 20 attempts to solve a question. I wrote it as a short story, and it was published in an anthology in 2019. That was fun. What came later felt harder. It took three years to write the next 100,000 words. I suffered with it.

Sabitha: The book’s got a catchy title—how did you choose it?

Tucker: In thinking about the stress of watching footage related to mass shootings on television news, I thought about the home video footage of the assassination of JFK in 1963. How much has changed in a half-century—the guns, the cameras. Most Famous Short Film of All Time is a reference to the presidential assassination that was captured accidentally by a bystander with a camera. The book is illustrated with the 486 frames of the film, with permission from the museum that owns it. I was thinking also about how each of us play certain memories on a loop, especially traumatic ones, and those memories become our own privately famous “films” that we examine, looking for clues, hoping to find answers.

Sabitha: Thanks for sharing your story. We’re looking forward to reading! Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?

Tucker: Most Famous Short Film of All Time was released on September 20, 2022. You can find purchase links here. You can find my website here, or find me on Twitter.

Behind the Screens: Tuesday Author Interview

Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.

Dread Cold cover

Sabitha: Kester R Park joins us to talk about his five stories in the Dread Cold anthology. Kester, how did you end up being so involved?

Kester: In 2019, Fantastic Books Publishing ran a competition to write short horror stories featuring the scene on the front cover in some way. There was no limit on the number and I had a year, so I wrote five. All were selected for publication in a blind judging process and two were selected for prizes. The book contains twenty other stories selected the same way plus some commissioned works.

Sabitha: That’s fantastic! What inspired you to write these stories?

Kester: Although horror is not my usual genre, I think it’s ideal for exploring the theme of vulnerability. When you look at the world through that lens, it’s everywhere: the vulnerability of youth, our vulnerability to love and disease. The future itself is vulnerable to the actions we take today. I found it fascinating to develop that theme through my five contributions. I don’t think I arrived at anything spine-chilling but I hope my stories will be thought provoking for most readers.

Sabitha:  Which character do you relate to the most and why?

Kester: I haven’t admitted this until now, but without a doubt it’s the narrator of Return of the Hunter. In a couple of my submissions, I really enjoyed developing the voices of thoroughly malevolent protagonists and the narrator of Return of the Hunter is easily the most evil. Fear not, though! I have no wish to spread disease, desperation and despair across the world as the narrator does. The point of identification is more to do with the anger expressed by the voice in this piece. The figure is trapped and unable to pursue its ambitions. It’s hungry for influence and its desire to exercise its true power is frustrated. As a writer who is obliged to sell his services to an employer 40 hours a week, I feel that frustration very keenly.

Sabitha: That is a very relatable feeling. How did you choose the titles of your stories?

Kester: I’ve already mentioned Return of the Hunter. The other four titles are Moon and I, Sunday Lamb, The Giants, and Utopia Mine. In each case, I limited myself to a short phrase. I think that horror pieces need short titles because they can only permit the prospective reader to peek into the terrifying world you’ve created as if through a crack between the door and the jamb. Additionally, each is an encoded clue to a key location, character or event in the story. In a perfect world, such a title initially disorients or misleads the reader and then, as the story goes on, ultimately comes to crystalise the sheer horror of the tale, and that’s what I tried to do in each case.

Sabitha: Thanks for sharing your stories. We’re looking forward to reading! Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?

Kester: An electronic version is currently available for pre-order at 0.99 USD. A paperback version is also available. A proportion of the purchase price will go to Anti-Slavery International and Embrace the Middle East. You are very welcome to follow me on Twitter (I follow back!) and you can find a collection of my stories, essays and poems in English and Spanish at my website.