Wednesday, October 31, 2012

31 Days of Halloween: Talkin' About Sea Monsters with Amanda C. Davis

Happy Halloween everyone! Today's post brings my monthlong series of holiday-themed posts to a close with an appropriately awesome discussion of sea monsters, submarine ghosts, and writing in the bathtub.
Photo Credit: National Geographic

For this seasonal topper, I interviewed SF author Amanda C. Davis. Amanda is a combustion engineer who loves baking, gardening, and low-budget horror films. Her short fiction has appeared in Shock Totem, Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show, and others. I read her short tale, "My Rest a Stone," in the ghost story collection Specter Spectacular, and was impressed at its brevity and simplicity. It is a slender, wispy, wraithlike tale. And plus, it takes place at sea... so you know I was completely sucked in. Check it out in the anthology, and read more of Amanda's work on her website.

1. How did you come up with the idea for "My Rest a Stone"? What inspired you?
I wish I could tell you! But it's been three years since I wrote this piece. I can say with certainty that it was written 2) for a nautical-themed horror anthology and b) in the bathtub.

2. What inspires you in general? How does an idea come to you, and how does it transform from idea to finished story?
With short stories, I really don't get that mysterious glimmer of an idea and the "I have to write this!" urge. I'm motivated by deadlines, so I'm more likely to see a theme, toss it around until I know which way I want to approach it, and then go about making it as fun for myself as possible. These days I go out of my way to make sure the final piece has all the components of an actual story, which can be surprisingly easy to skip.

3. What got you started writing SF/F/Horror?
The morbidity of the childhood mind? I can remember writing stories as far back as first grade, and they've always been speculative fiction. Sorry, Mom.

4. What is your favorite book or story in the horror genre? What is your favorite horror movie?
I might pick Stephen King's The Long Walk as my favorite horror book. It's so sweet and traumatic. I have ten thousand favorite horror movies, but let's go with The Devil's Backbone.

5. When it comes to underwater ghosts, do you share my obsession with or interest in nautical things?
If not, is there any particular location that you find terrifying (e.g. the NYC subway, an underground cave a la The Descent, etc.)?
YES. Yes I do. I keep writing watery stories, even without meaning to (next coming up in Dagan Books' FISH anthology and Graveside Tales' Beast Within 3: Oceans Unleashed, in fact). You know what gives me actual skeeves? Sea monsters. I cannot look at a picture of a plesiosaur without recoiling. They're massive, they're under you, they're just unspeakably horrible. I could never go whale-watching.

The Descent was an incredible movie too, by the way. In my top five.

6. Is there one book/story/movie script you wish you had written?
Haha, I had to think about this. I wish I'd written "It was a dark and stormy night..." Not the book, just the line. It's been mimicked and parodied, it's got a contest named after it, it's a piece of language that well outlived its writer and its context. If anything I wrote came even close to that, I'd go to my grave happy. And use it as my epitaph, probably.

7. What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received? (Or worst, if you feel like scaring people!)
Apart from the usual "read a lot, write a lot," maybe the most useful piece of advice for me, psychologically, came from a random somebody on the Internet who suggested that writing and publishing should be treated as two separate hobbies. I know this is infuriating to hear when you're still seeking that "published" label, but you have to be happy with your stories to be a happy writer. When you're happy with your story, when you enjoy it and you're proud of it, selling it is just icing on the cake. Really. It's so valuable if you can keep one of those two hobbies from spoiling your enjoyment of the other one.

8. What is your advice to writers just starting out?
Read a lot. Write a lot. More than you think you can.

9. Finally, on the subject of being a horror writer at Halloween: how do you feel about it? Amused indulgence at "amateur night?" Thrilled that other people are finally on your wavelength? Happiness at the chance to watch Simpsons Treehouse of Horror re-runs while consuming homemade Skittlebrau? (That last one might just be me)
I love it. I love that people spend a month being excited about things I'm excited about all the time. And, you know, horror movies all over the TV, plastic skulls all over Wal-Mart, everybody trying to be creepy--very briefly, I get to live in a world just crammed with stuff I enjoy. Halloween is great.

If you are an SF or horror author interested in guest blogging or being interviewed on Spinster Aunt, I'd love to hear from you. You can find me on Twtiter @SpinsterAunt. And if you're a Halloween fan disappointed by the season's imminent demise, fear not! I do horror pretty much year 'round. I am also obsessed with Christmas ghosts... so stay tuned. 

Happy Halloween everyone!

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