Friday, September 7, 2012

Author Interview--Jennifer Loring

Hello again,

It’s interview time. This week we have Jennifer Loring—a horror writer. All right, enough from me, let’s here from the interviewee.

About Jennifer
Jennifer Loring has published nearly 30 short stories and poems in various webzines, magazines and anthologies, and has received an honorable mention in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror for her short story “The Bombay Trash Service.” Jennifer is currently studying for her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She works as an editor for Musa Publishing's YA imprint, Euterpe, and is a member of

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

I started writing when I was about 12. I'd been reading Stephen King since 10 (Misery was my introduction to him), and I knew I wanted to write horror. King is to this day one of my biggest influences. Also, my mother is a writer, so I grew up watching her at a typewriter every night. I would even help her edit some of her work.

-What genre(s) do you write? If more than one, what’s your favorite?

I write horror and dark fantasy primarily. I've dabbled in fantasy and science fiction as well. Horror is my favorite, because exploring the darker emotions can be very cathartic.

-What project(s) are you working on now?

Four short stories that need to be finished, nine short stories and a novella that need to be revised, and of course my first novel. Never mind the giant list of story ideas I haven't even begun to tackle yet!


This is part of a scene that comes about halfway through my novel. I've always really liked it.
"Time no longer exists for me as it does for you. There was a day, a long time ago, when I stopped to watch the flowers blooming on a tree in the forest. I saw the blossoms burst forth as if mere minutes had passed, yet it turns out I had stood in that same spot for a month.” A tiny gasp escaped Blessing’s lips. The sun’s warmth bled away, and a cocoon of frigid air encased her. A shudder, followed by a frenzy of shivering, wracked her entire body like a seizure. As if turned to ice, she could not escape no matter how urgently her body willed it.
“Do you notice how no one sees me? Even when standing still, I can be invisible to others just by wanting it. I can be anywhere I choose, at any time. I am everywhere and nowhere, for the dead travel fast.”
Every hair on Blessing’s body stood on end. She stared down at her hands folded in her lap. “So you really aren’t human.”
“Not in a very long time. It’s harder and harder to remember what it was like. There are many things I cannot remember anymore.” Anastasia turned her face to the sun and closed her eyes. Bathed in tones of peach and gold, her white skin took on an almost natural appearance, and for a moment the girl she must have been so long ago sat there in her place. “But I remember I had a dress once. Just like the sun. My father gave it to me.”
Her lips trembled, but not with grief. What lay beneath them struggled to burst free and, unable to restrain it, her mouth contorted into a scowl. “I hate the sun.”
Anastasia opened her eyes, the eyes into which Blessing swore she’d never fall again, she must never fall, and flames ignited by the sunset or by some unholy inner conflagration danced within them. Then Anastasia stretched her jaws wide, her horrible sucking lamprey mouth full of pearlescent and razor-bladed teeth, as if she would devour the sun itself.

-For other aspiring writers, any tips?

Take some classes on craft--and the business of writing, for that matter. I've learned more in the past year and a half of grad school than in the previous 13 years (which is how long I've been publishing my short fiction) combined. The rise of self-publishing has unfortunately perpetuated the myth that writing is easy, when it's anything but. You should never stop striving to become better at it.

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

It would be impossible to name my favorite book! However, the last three books I've read are House of Leaves, The Passage, and Eyes Everywhere, and I enjoyed all of them very much. I love reading horror, but I'm also a big fan of non-fiction. I get tons of ideas from it.

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

That's another tough question. My favorite is probably my short story "The Bombay Trash Service," which earned me an honorable mention in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror. My novel is finally shaping up to be something I really like, too.

Want more from Jennifer?

Check out her blog.

Also find Jennifer on twitter and facebook.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Villains are People too?

On Monday I announced that I changed my blog settings so that anyone (not just account holders) can leave a comment. I wanted to repeat this as this post lends itself a bit better to discussion. Enjoy.

Hello readers,

I wrote an intense villain scene in my thesis the other day (that I’m probably going to have to rewrite), and it got me thinking. What are villains?

The obvious answer is the antagonist—the guy that does everything in his power to make sure the protagonist(s) doesn’t succeed. Is that all, though? Are villains more than simply evil?

I’d argue yes and no.

I know—so helpful.

One of my Seton Hill chats last semester (which one escapes me at the moment) included a lengthy conversation about humanizing villains. Most of my fellow WPFers agreed that it was important to give the villain a good quality to fill out his/her character.

I, being the ever-present devil’s advocate, argued against this idea, siting Lord Voldemort—the world-famous villain of the Harry Potter series. What good quality does Voldemort really possess? He wants to live forever, has demonstrated the ability to kill without remorse, was willing to divide his soul (thus mutilating his body), and, even at the very end when Harry presents every ounce of truth, refuses to acknowledge that he was at all wrong. Aside from all this, he’s deceptive, uncaring, arrogant, and power hungry.

No one countered these points. The overwhelming response to my analysis was that Voldemort was the example to prove the rule. He was one of the few villains with no good qualities.

I took this as a personal victory. I’ve always been able to find examples to prove the opposite of the prevailing theory. I was that student in Spanish class who, when it was explained that the -ar, -er, or -ir at the end of a verb was dropped to conjugate, asked “what about ‘ir’” (translated as to go)? My teacher shook her head at me a lot.

However, on closer examination, I did find a possible good quality in our dear Lord Voldemort.

-His undying devotion to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Toward the end of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” Voldemort says (after the first half of the battle at Hogwarts) that he wishes not to spill anymore wizard blood. In “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” and Deathly Hallows, it is shown, through Harry and Dumbledore’s extensive study of Voldemort’s past, that the young Tom Riddle exhibited great care when handling the items that would become his horcruxes. Note that it was items that had strong connections to the wizarding school that Voldemort used as the hosts for his soul.

As loathed as I am to admit it, the almost love that Voldemort shows for Hogwarts and its founders is moving. If you discount the fact that behind it was a plan to see wizards in a position of ultimate power over muggles and the possessive desire to kill a boy made guilty only by Voldemort’s own actions, he could almost be a hero. (All right, not quite.)

That’s the hitch. Voldemort has this “redeeming quality,” if you will, but it’s only redeeming if you remove all of the evil deeds and motivations that surround it.

So I’d like to amend my earlier statement. Villains should not have “good qualities” but rather the potential of good qualities. If they are too easy to relate to/like, they’re not villains. It’s that element of potential that makes them real but still evil. It’s knowing that there’s a part of them that could make them good but that they choose to ignore it. I don’t want to be able to root for Voldemort’s plan of ultimate destruction. I do want to know that, deep down beneath the layers of horcrux damage, there is a boy who was misunderstood or misguided somewhere. But I want to be able to forget that. I want to hate him—need to hate him. Give me just enough to remember that he could clean up his act but won’t and never will.

Rowling does a very good job of this, and I, for one, can only hope to emulate her.

Does this mean that every villain in history has a “potential redeeming quality?” Probably not. I can’t seem to find one in Darken Rahl—the ruthless D’Haran overlord from Terry Goodkind’s “Wizard’s First Rule.” Maybe he’s the one truly evil villain.

Thoughts? Have something to say about villains you’ve read about or your own villains? I know mine always want more attention—greedy jerks.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Aristocat Lady

I have changed my settings so that anyone may comment (not just account holders). I am sorry I didn't realize this setting was like that a few weeks ago when I held a contest for commenters to win a free ebook. It has been fixed for future reference.
Thank you and onto this Monday's post.

Good Labor Day,

I’d like to address a topic that recently entered my mind. I had a brief conversation recently with a friend who once said to me “I don’t want to be single and end up a cat lady.”

I wondered why she feared so much. I think I’m allergic to cats, but this friend loves cats.

The extended stay I’m currently living in has a cat named Sylvester. Roughly every morning, someone else at the extended stay (who is NOT me) walks down the hallway to get to the lobby where breakfast is served, looks out the window overlooking Sylvester’s food bowl, and sings “Abraham de Lacy, Giuseppe, Casey, Thomas Sylvester the hotel cat.”

For those who don’t know, this is a parody of a catchy little ditty from Disney’s 1970 animated feature “Aristocats.” Put simply, the movie is about a rich woman who has rich cats. Thus, the title is a pun off of aristocrat.

How is this related to my friend? The woman in the movie (Adelaide) is elderly and lives alone with four cats and an under-appreciated butler. Since the butler doesn’t really count, Adelaide is, for all intents and purposes, the cat lady.

A week or so ago, I read a blog post somewhere that detailed what peoples’ Facebook pictures say about them. This person said that a picture of a person with their cat means that said person has a cat obsession, will talk constantly about their cat, will post pictures of their cat, and will even post annoying pictures from that Lolcats app. (This is a summary.) That is exactly the kind of behavior my friend wants to avoid.

And Disney made a movie that condones becoming a cat lady. Since almost every kid in America (and many other countries) grows up watching Disney movies, this is as good as broadcasting “becoming a cat lady is cool” into the sky.

Adelaide lives with four cats. She encourages her cats to sing, play the piano, probably dance, and value manners. She goes so far as to leave everything to her cats in her will. At the end of the movie, Thomas O’Malley becomes part of the family, and Adelaide is insistent that provisions be made for future little ones. She says this while the cats are posing for a family photo. If this isn’t bad enough, she adopts all of O’Malley’s street friends, makes a home for them in the basement, and announces that it is her new foundation for all the alley cats of Paris.

Woman, you have a problem.

I see now why my friend thinks becoming a cat lady is a real possibility. “Aristocats” could literally frighten someone into thinking they’ll grow old and collect house cats. Me, personally, I’d prefer a panther, but those don’t make for terribly good pets.

So if you or anyone you know has gotten to “that point,” it’s time to seriously analyze your future. If there are too many cats in the house to move, sit, eat, go to the bathroom, or any other in-house activity. Think about “Aristocats.” If you start getting music lessons for your cats, YOU’VE GONE TOO FAR!!! Come back.

Thank you for your time. And remember, you're only as much of a cat lady as you want to be.

See you out of the box,