March 4, 2015

Songbird Singing In the Dead of Night: an interview with Damien Angelica Walters, author of "Sing Me Your Scars"

Damien Angelica Walters’ short fiction has appeared in various magazines and anthologies, including Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume One, The Best of Electric Velocipede, Shock Totem, Nightmare, Shimmer, Apex, and Glitter & Mayhem. Forthcoming in 2015: Sing Me Your Scars, a collection of her short fiction, from Apex Publications and Paper Tigers, a novel, from Dark House Press.

I had the chance to ask Damien a few questions about her new short story collection, which you can find on Amazon.com or you can buy it directly from the publisher to support the small press even more by visiting Apex Books.. Enjoy!

Gef: So how did the ball get rolling for Sing Me Your Scars?

Damien: Maurice Broaddus approached me at Killercon to talk about a possible collection with Apex, and I didn’t believe him at first. I believed his intent, but my dark little pessimistic heart thought he was being nice because who would want a collection of my work? (I’m so sorry, Maurice!)

I started to believe him when he emailed me after the convention, and after that, I put my then-agent, Linda Epstein, in touch with Jason Sizemore and they worked out the details. I’ve loved working with Apex and would do it again in a heartbeat.

Gef: For folks like me who've been checking out your short stories for years now, there's some familiar gems included, but a number of new ones too. What was the process like in choosing which stories to include, particularly the new ones?

Damien: Deciding what stories to include was difficult. In the end, I picked stories, both new and reprints, based on theme and tone. The first draft had several additional reprints, but as I read through the collection as a whole, I realized that some didn’t fit quite as well as others, so I ended up cutting a few. Maybe they’ll end up in a later collection, maybe not, but I hope the end result of this collection is cohesive and enjoyable.

Gef: Looking back on the stories you've had published thus far, do you have any personal favorites, or do you tend not to dwell on such things and keep soldiering on towards the next tale to be told?

Damien: This is a hard question to answer because many of them mean different things to me. Like Origami in Water was my first professional rate sale, so it has a special meaning because of that; both Melancholia in Bloom and Glass Boxes and Clockwork Gods were influenced by my grandmother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease, so they hold a special place in my heart. I find that with every half-dozen or so stories I write, one will stand out as my favorite, and usually it’s because of a deeper meaning that isn’t necessarily apparent in the story.

Gef: Along with the short stories, you also have Ink under your belt. So how much of a gear shift is there for you between short fiction and a full-length novel?

Damien: Novels and short stories require different skill sets, a changing of the toolbox and the focus. With respect to short fiction, I like the ability to experiment with form, voice, and tense, and with novels, I like the deeper exploration of a character and the bigger aspects of the story.

Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of the horror genre?

Damien: I think the strength of the genre is that it doesn’t fit into one box. Horror has a wealth of authors right now, all bringing something new, something different, to the table. We have Helen Marshall, Livia Llewellyn, S. P. Mikowski, Molly Tanzer, Laird Barron, John Langan, Nathan Ballingrud, Simon Strantzas, Mercedes M. Yardley, Scott Nicolay, Mike Griffin, Michael Wehunt, and so many others. And then we have authors like Sunny Moraine, Sam J. Miller, Usman T. Malik, E. Catherine Tobler, and A.C. Wise who write horror as well as science fiction and fantasy.

The genre is big, the talent even bigger, and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon. It’s a good time to be both a fan and a writer of horror, because there’s something for everyone.

Gef: Is there any kind of local folklore that influences your taste for horror?

Damien: Not really, although I like setting stories in Baltimore and the surrounding areas, and last year, I moved near Annapolis and now find the Chesapeake Bay creeping into more and more of my fiction.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Damien: The worst: Don’t worry about money, just publish your stories and get your name out there. No, no, no. I wish that advice would go away; I wish writers would stop listening to it; I wish I hadn’t listened to it. Yog’s Law, folks, Yog’s Law.

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Damien: I love to read thrillers and mysteries and when it comes to movies, I’m a huge fan of dinosaurs and superheroes and monsters. And—the only thing I feel a trace of guilt about—disaster flicks. Even if it’s a terrible movie, I’ll still watch it and relish in everything falling apart. Controlled disaster and chaos is always easier to digest than the ugliness of the real world.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Damien: I have short fiction forthcoming in several anthologies and magazines including the UK zine Black Static, Cassilda’s Song, edited by Joe Pulver, a King in Yellow anthology of all new stories written by women, and in Paula Guran’s The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu: New Lovecraftian Fiction. I’m also working on more short fiction, some solicited by editors and some not, as well as a portmanteau novel.

I post news, sales, and publications at http://damienangelicawalters.com and I’m on Twitter as well @DamienAWalters.

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