Friday, August 31, 2012

Author Interview--Stephanie Wytovich

Good Friday,

Welcome to another interview. This week we have Stephanie Wytovich with us. She is most known for her poetry, and I will say no more. Take it away, Stephanie.

-What book and/or experience made you want to be a writer?

Novels in general made me want to become a writer. Even as a child, I couldn’t be found without my head in a book, and now it’s very seldom that you’ll run into me without one in my hand, or at least tucked safely away in my purse. I started with poetry and then moved on to prose, and when I look back on it, it’s always been horror. I’m not sure what drew me to it as a child, but as an adult and in terms of poetic and genre influences, I owe a lot of my background to Edgar Allan Poe.

His style of writing, and his portrayal of the gothic has always mesmerized me, and he pulled me into horror with the subtle squawk of a raven because he showed me that while the genre is gruesome, that there’s still a tragic beauty unto it. Personal favorites of mine include, “Ligeia,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Bells”, and “A Dream within a Dream.” I also tip my hat to Sylvia Plath for poems like “Lady Lazarus,” “Fever 103,” “You’re,” “Daddy,” and “The Rival,” for they swept me into the addiction that is the breakdown of the mind, and ever since I started reading them, my prose has grown to introduce character’s with psychological demons and fears.

As for the erotic content of my prose, I am/was highly influenced by Poppy Z. Brite’s Exquisite Corpse. She was able to write something so horrible, but so appealing that you couldn’t help but be drawn in and disgusted at the same time. Everyone wants a good gross out in horror, but my mindset with it is very strategic. I want to turn you on, get you hot as you read the scene, but then slowly have you question and circle around to what you’re reading. When you realize that it’s sex with a corpse, or oral with a severed tongue, it’s not only shocking, but it literally leaves a sick, sour taste in your mouth. That’s the beauty of a good gross out- not just severed limbs and tubs of blood but a mental mind trick as well.

-What genre(s) do you write?

I write Horror and Dark Fantasy, but at times with heavy helpings of Paranormal Romance, although there’s nothing romantic about what goes on in my stories. Love tends to be a perversion to highlight the horror.

-Publication history?

See blog.

-Upcoming publications?

Horrotica Magazine will be publishing my poems “Hysteria” and “Clean Break” this August.

I’m also in the process of putting the final touches on my poetry chapbook, HYSTERIA. It’s a collection of 100+ poems, one of which I collaborated with Mike Arnzen on, and it details the breakdown of the mind in terms of obsessions, fetishes, social stigmas, oddities, and personality defects. It will soon be looking for a home, despite the fact that HYSTERIA lives within each and every one of us.

-For other aspiring writers, any tips?

Write every day, even if it’s only a sentence. It took me three days to write the first sentence to my novel, but damn, it’s a good one if I do say so myself. Also, never throw away your work. You never know when you’re going to need it, even if you only siphon the idea from it.

-What’s your favorite book/genre to read?

I love Horror, and I devour it constantly, but I also read a lot of what I like to call “Addiction Fiction,” or stories about real life horrors. For instance, Ellen Hopkins has put out a number of novels, written in free-verse poetry, that I’ve consumed several times. The same goes for Augusten Burroughs, and James Frey. Since I write psychological horror, I like to delve into novels that detail the breakdown of the mind on as many levels as possible, and this also steers me in the direction of True Crime with novels like Al Carlisle’s I’m Not Guilty. The Development of the Violent Mind: The Case of Ted Bundy.

-What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?

I’m quite fond of a lot of the pieces that are going into my poetry collection, HYSTERIA, however the world hasn’t seen most of them yet because they are laying in wake until the right moment. In terms of what I’ve published, I would have to go with “The Necklace” because while it’s short, it hits pretty hard, particularly in the neck region. Look for it here.

About Stephanie
Stephanie M. Wytovich is an Alumni to Seton Hill University where she was a double major in English Literature and Art History. Amongst having numerous publications, the most recent being her poem “When The Dead Wake Up,” she enjoys painting and playing the piano. She is currently attending graduate school to pursue her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction, and is working on a novel. She plans to continue in academia to get her doctorate in Gothic Literature.

Want more from Stephanie?

Check out her blog, which has links to all of her pages and publications. Follow her on Twitter @JustAfterSunset.

Stephanie is the blog editor for Dark River Press. She is also on Facebook and can be found by name on Klout, Goodreads, and Shelfari.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

451 Shades of Grey: Fire Doesn't Heal

I need to stop promising content. I’ll get to the rant I said I’d write today at some point. Like last Wednesday, something else came up that took all of my attention. Unlike last Wednesday, however, it’s not something fun.

The new erotic romance trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey” has taken the book market by storm—selling more paperbacks than you can shake a whole bunch of sticks at. The books chronicle the life of Anastasia Steele (a young twenty-something virgin) who meets the “seductive” Christian Grey (a wealthy older businessman) and proceeds to do all sorts of sexual stuff with him. I am not a fan of these books. Why? I don’t think they are well written, and I don’t dig the plot. Romance isn’t my favorite genre to read, but, if it’s good romance, I’ll make an exception. I’ll never make that exception for Fifty Shades.

My personal feelings about the books aside, the Wearside Women in Need Anti-domestic Abuse Charity is taking their dislike (and I use that term loosely) of the books too far. According to an article from the Huffington Post passed to me through the Seton Hill WPF community, the charity group is planning a bonfire burning of the books this November because they believe its content excuses domestic abuse.

Hello, “Fahrenheit 451.” For those who don’t know, aside from the temperature at which book paper will burn, this is a 1953 dystopian novel by Ray Bradbury. The book tells the story of Guy Montag, a fireman in a future where firefighters start fires—not stop them. In Bradbury’s world, books are a thing of the past—tossed aside in favor of faster forms of entertainment. In addition, authors in this dystopia are locked away for the heinous crime of writing and, thus, making the common man feel inferior or confusing him with controversial content.

Society degrades, people become apathetic, Montag’s personal life is destroyed. The book ends with Montag joining a band of exiled book-lovers and watching his city get bombed.

The moral of the story is…


Do I believe that burning copies of Fifty Shades will lead to an apocalypse? No, but I do believe that is a path that should not be strayed down.

This aside, what is burning a FICTION erotic romance trilogy really going to accomplish? It’s not going to stop domestic abuse. It’s not going to keep people from getting hurt.

One last point about Fifty Shades and its supposed condoning of domestic abuse—Anastasia Steele “willingly” enters into the contract with Christian Grey, and she could have broken said contract at any time. If she’s really being “abused” then, she asked for the abuse. That’s a far cry from women who are beaten by their significant others. I hate to tell people this, but bondage and sadomasochism turn some people on. Not me, but, hey, live and let live. It happens in the real world, and people like it.

So, I restate my earlier question.

What will burning a FICTION erotic romance trilogy about a young virgin and a wealthy older businessman in which the sexual acts (many of which involve bondage and sadomasochism) are consensual really going to do?

Answer—spark more interest for the book. Translation—nothing to stop domestic violence. If you want to stop abuse, then educate people. Don’t burn a book that has no fault in causing the abuse.

Monday, August 27, 2012

"Game of Thrones" and the Fantasy Genre

Good Monday,

This Monday, as promised last Monday, is all about George R. R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones” the first book in his “A Song of Ice and Fire” series.

Before I begin, though, I’d like to observe a virtual moment of silence for Jerry Nelson, who recently passed away. He was the voice of many beloved characters from my childhood—“Sesame Street’s” The Count and “Fraggle Rock’s” Gobo Fraggle to name just a few. Please, pause with me.


Thank you

All right, back to business. “Game of Thrones.” It was my first required book for my contemporary sf and fantasy class this semester at Seton Hill, and I didn’t dislike it as much as I thought I would. One of my classmates who had read the book before told me back at residency “You’ll be lost for the first 50 to 100 pages, but after that it starts to pick up and make more sense.” True, at least I found it to be true. I didn’t really understand what was going on until Bran saw the queen and her brother together, which falls between the 50 and 100 page mark. So, when Eddard Stark confronted Cersei about her bastard children, I had an “ahah” moment. It all made sense, which was probably Martin’s intent, and I no longer felt like I’d read several hundred pages of “wtf’s going on here?”

I intend (when I have tons and tons of free time) to read the rest of the series. I want to know what happens.

Moving on to the meat and potatoes of this post. One of the instructor’s prompts was to compare Martin’s fantasy to Tolkien’s. Basically, the following is my post for class on that topic. Here goes.

What genre is this again? All of Martin’s characters are human, and their problems all center on politics. If not for the dyer wolves, the dangers beyond the wall, and Daenerys, the events of “Game of Thrones” could have happened in our world. To compare to Tolkien, try saying the same about “Lord of the Rings.” You can’t do it. “Well, if not for the elves, dwarves, Lady of the Lake, hobbits, wizards, orcs, oh—and by the way—the giant eye that is the ultimate evil—” See what I mean? There are no magical artifacts of power in “Game of Thrones,” and it’s not about the destruction of the dark power that threatens the world.

This brings me to ask what makes “Game of Thrones” fantasy? It’s certainly not the majority of the conflict. There’s Daenerys and the dangers beyond the Wall, but those are minor compared to all of the political conflict. The Starks are good people. The Lannisters are, with the possible exception of Tyrion, bad people. The story is about the people who want to do the right thing against the power-hungry people and how the power-hungry people win. It’s something you could find in many parts of our own history.

So, what does this say for fantasy? Fantasy is one of the “escape genres.” I made that term up just now, and I’m going to define it as “a genre where the reader can escape the real world.” Unless classified in the paranormal section (and sometimes not even then) mystery, romance, young adult, and any other “non-speculative fiction” genre keeps the reader on Earth. “Game of Thrones” takes us off of Earth and dumps us in a world that could have been Earth. Pardon my directness, but what’s the point?

Tolkien introduced the reader to an exotic landscape filled with fantastical species. That, to me, is what fantasy is about. I expect some kind of fantasy in my fantasy. Heck, Maester Luwin says to Bran “But, Bran, no man can teach you magic” (580). And, why can no man teach him magic? Because it doesn’t exist. What kind of fantasy is that? No magic? In reality, there is magic—Bran just doesn’t know it—but its presence, at least in this book, is so small it’s like it’s not even there.

It seems, too, that I’m not the only one that noticed this. Many other epic fantasy authors (David Eddings and Terry Goodkind to name just a couple) stuck with the idea of mythical species and exotic landscapes. Their worlds had political strife and war, but it wasn’t what the stories were about. They were about people with supernatural powers fighting supernatural odds. So, if Martin is so influential, does that mean that readers want political strife as their fantasy? While a good read with wonderful characters and intense conflict, “Game of Thrones” doesn’t give me the imagery of the flaming swords, magical blasts, or even reading of minds that I want from the genre.

If I sound harsh, that is not my intent. I really did enjoy the book, and it is clear to me, as a writer, why Martin is given such high praise for what he has constructed. I praise him too. To keep seven main POV characters straight and to not have them overlap is amazing. My complaints are really opinion based. It’s nothing to do with the telling of the story or the writing. It’s to do with what I want from fantasy and what “Game of Thrones” doesn’t give me.

See you out of the box,

P.S. A few weeks ago, I talked about ”Hazard Yet Forward”, an anthology to help a fellow WPFer battle cancer. I have another one. This time it’s to help the wife of one of my instructors with her own cancer battle. Have a look here. Many thanks!