Today, I'm sharing excerpts from my interviews about writing horror fiction and my story "Thursday Night Bingo" that appeared in the Wrapped in White horror anthology.
I also included links to my latest guest blog on writing paranormal romances, and a link to the spooky October issue of my newsletter.
Kelli A. Wilkins is the author of the story
THURSDAY NIGHT BINGO
in the anthology from Sekhmet Press
Hi Kelli! Thank you for joining me today. Let’s kick off this interview with the most important question. Have you ever encountered a ghost?
Yes, I’ve had plenty of “supernatural” or “paranormal” encounters with spirits. My husband and I like to explore creepy old places (historical houses, castles, battlefields, etc.), whether or not they’re reputed to be haunted. Sometimes we come across spirits, sometimes not. Our travels have taken us all over: the UK, Gettysburg, Alcatraz, Eastern State Prison, local historical sites, and hundreds more I can’t even remember.
Sometimes we get a “feel” that there’s someone around and other times we’ve heard things that have no rational explanation such as voices, footsteps, and we’ve even seen a few apparitions. There are too many to go into details on all of them, but I wrote about seeing my husband’s deceased dog in the anthology Departed Pets. When I first saw the dog standing in front of me, I didn’t think much of it. He looked like he always did. Then a minute later I remembered that the dog had been dead for a few weeks.
These things don’t scare me or freak me out. I think they’re interesting. A lot of people have ghost stories, but most of them are reluctant to open up about what they’ve experienced.
Your short story, Thursday Night Bingo” is based on a true story, tell us more!
When I heard about Wrapped in White I thought, “I have a ghost story that’s not doing anything, let’s give it a try!” Growing up, I read lots of horror anthologies and always dreamed of “one day” seeing my stories in them – and now I have. Most of my horror tales have been published in anthologies and I love being included in them. I think they’re a great way to reach readers and it’s always fun to read the other stories in the collection.
This story was a unique family betrayal story. I love how the dead continue to find new ways they have been wrongly killed. Can you tell us how you were inspired to write Thursday Night Bingo?
This story is based on a real incident. Several years ago, my great aunt was convinced that every night she saw a woman walk down the hallway and go into her linen closet. We didn’t think much of it (maybe she was dreaming…) but she was very insistent. Then she told us that her dog used to bark and scratch at the linen closet, like he was trying to get in there. That got me wondering… What if there really was a ghost (or spirit) wandering around? What if the dog saw something we couldn’t?
Many of my horror stories are based on a conversation, a detail, or something else that most people wouldn’t notice, and then I start to wonder, “What if…?” I put all these thoughts on the backburner for a while, then one day decided to write a story using her “ghostly encounter” for the premise.
I took liberties with a lot of the details, but kept the part about her being in a wheelchair, not taking crap from people, and nobody believing her. (But in real life, her son is nothing like the character in the story!) I let my imagination wander and got creative with how the ghost got there and what she wanted, but kept the son’s motive open-ended. The original title for this story was “The Ghost in the Green Dress.”
What’s the most shocking book or story you’ve ever read?
I’ve read a lot of things that have stuck with me for one reason or another. The first horror story I ever remember scaring me (and still sticks with me) is “Wendigo’s Child” by Thomas F. Monteleone. It was in an anthology for children called Monster Tales: Vampires, Werewolves, & Things. (And I'm still looking for a copy of it - with the illustrations!!) I read it when I was in grade school. Anyone who has read it understands the last line. “It was looking up at him.”
Do you remember a particular moment or incident that made you decide to be a writer?
Yes. The first book that ever had a major effect on me was Stephen King’s Night Shift. I read this collection of stories when I was nine or ten, and I was impressed. Up until that point, I’d read the Little House books and Nancy Drew mysteries. They were okay reads to pass the time, but something about horror clicked with me. I was entranced by the way the stories were told, the characters, the descriptions, and tone.
At that moment, I decided I wanted to write horror fiction and have my stories published in a book someday. From then on I read every horror novel and short story I could find. Eventually I began writing my own tales of terror!
Do you have a certain space and time set aside for writing or is it more of a free-form process?
I’m definitely free-form. I’ll write anywhere, anytime. I don’t block out certain hours of the day to write or give myself a goal of writing so many words or pages a day. I find that too suffocating. If I’m writing a story I’ll work on it as much as I can (or want to) until it’s done. Then I put it aside for a while and write something else or take a break from writing for a day or two. I find it hard to be creative on schedule!
What other sorts of themes or genres would you like to explore?
When I’m not writing horror stories, I write romances! Yes, it’s a very strange combination and I like to say that one half of my mind writes the horror and the other half writes the romance. On occasion, I combine them into a paranormal romance, but I have to be careful that the “horror side” doesn’t take over and make the romance too scary or bloody. I am a traditionalist when it comes to “monsters” though, so I have to get past the idea of someone falling in love with a bloodthirsty undead creature. (I think my novella Confession of a Vampire’s Lover did a good job balancing the two ideas.)
I like switching between the two genres because they’re so different. Horror lets me explore characters, themes, plots, and settings that I couldn’t write about in romance. After I finish a romance I usually go on a “binge” and write two or three horror short stories just to switch things up. Aside from horror and romance, I’ve also had dozens of sci-fi stories published in The Sun.
Please briefly describe your path to publication.
I started out writing horror stories and submitting them everywhere I could: to contests, magazines, anthologies, you name it. One of my first acceptances came from The First Line. They published my short story “Guest of Honor” and even included it in The Best of the First Line. From there, I wrote sci-fi stories for The Sun, and then won the First Place Award in the Weird Tales World Horror Con writing contest for my story titled, “The Uninvited”. Since then, I follow the same format, write the best story I can, and submit it. I’m happy to say that my short stories have appeared in several horror anthologies.
Who are your favorite fictional antagonist and protagonist and what was it about them that struck a chord for you?
I thought about great literary characters and drew a blank. Then I asked myself, what movie do I watch over and over every time it’s on? One of my favorites is Slingblade. The connection between Frank (Lucas Black) and Karl (Billy Bob Thornton) is interesting. I like how Karl immediately bonds with Frank and looks out for him in a big brother way, and yet, Karl has a dark side that everyone else is a little leery of. I think deep down, they both understand more about their situation than they’re letting on, and on a surface level they pretend everything will somehow turn out okay.
And I absolutely love Doyle (Dwight Yoakam). He’s a delightfully nasty SOB who goes over the top and eventually gets what’s coming to him. (The scene where Doyle is playing with his band always cracks me up, because I’m also a fan of Dwight’s music.) The dialog and the many subtle layers of interaction between the characters also make it one of my favorites.
Aside from writing, what is your favorite artistic medium?
I’d have to say music. I’m constantly listening to music and I go to concerts as often as I can. And after all, songs are short stories set to music!
Thanks again for joining me today and letting us get to know you better. I wish you the best of luck with Wrapped In White and all of your future endeavours.
Thanks for letting me share my thoughts about writing and horror fiction. I welcome feedback and questions from readers.
Don’t miss the October issue of my newsletter. It’s filled with news about horror anthologies, paranormal romances, and more!
Read my newest Saturday Storyteller Interview here:
Catch my guest blog on writing paranormal romances: http://gottawritenetwork.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/exploring-paranormal-romances-just-in-time-for-halloween/
See you next week!