In celebration of the upcoming Women of Horror month, today’s spotlight is on another horror author. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to interview this queen of scream, Sonora Taylor.
Name: Sonora Taylor
Latest Release: Wither and Other Stories
Genre: Horror/Dark Fiction
- Has writing always been a passion of yours?
It’s something I’ve enjoyed doing for a long time. I’ve been writing stories since I was a little girl. I’m constantly imagining stories in my head, even when I’m not writing. I also love to tell stories. When I was younger, my friends told me I’d be a good comedienne because of the way I told stories. I have a good sense of humor, but I’d be a terrible comedienne. I get nervous when I give presentations, but my worst quality is laughing when I tell funny stories. At least when I write funny stories, no one can hear me laugh.
- At what age did you begin to write seriously?
I started writing seriously when I was 29 going on 30. In 2016, I made a New Year’s resolution to take a little time each day to write fiction. I had a few stories swimming in my head, but more so, I wanted to write and I wanted to be more disciplined about it than I had in years past. I started working on what eventually became “All the Pieces Coming Together.” I’ve been writing most every day ever since, and have completed two short story collections and two novels.
- What is your favorite genre to write and does that differ from the genre you like to read?
I gravitate towards horror and dark fiction. Most of my horror is reality-based — if the supernatural is involved, it’s more mysterious or strange, and usually tied to nature acting in a way that it isn’t supposed to. I also like writing about terrified mental states or nagging thought processes, ones that usually lead the characters into darkness.
I read many genres, so what I read doesn’t differ too much from what I write. However, I don’t read horror as much as I write it. I prefer straight literary fiction, humorous memoir essays, and nonfiction books about food.
- Where does your inspiration to write come from?
Lots of places. “All the Pieces Coming Together” came from me thinking about how it’d be funny if a serial killer found a place so perfect to hide the bodies, that there was no one around to kill. “Please Give” was inspired by my work in the nonprofit sector, which is my day job. But other stories were inspired by articles I found online. For instance, “The Crow’s Gift” was influenced by the story about a girl who befriended a murder of crows when she gave them food, and they brought her gifts in return. My next novel, “Without Condition,” was inspired by an article about the metal band Ghost. A story-in-progress was inspired by the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor. Ideas flicker in and out of my head, and I try to catch them and turn them into good stories.
- How does the generation you belong to impact your writing style, or does it?
I’m a Millennial, and one major influence on my writing is how social media keeps me writing every day. I don’t put the same amount of thought into my tweets and Facebook posts as I do into my stories, but I want to write well-written posts. I usually want to be funny, and I often want to tell a quick story. Doing this every day is good practice for sitting down and writing fiction.
- What does your writing schedule look like in a typical week?
I usually write for an hour or two each day, either before or after my office job. I try to write 1000 words a day for a book, and a section a day for a short story. I usually don’t write on weekends, and if I do, it’s a sentence or a paragraph.
- Are you a pantser or a plotter?
In looking up what a pantser is (I’ve heard the term but never really knew what it meant), I found the term “plantser” — a little of both. I would say I’m a plantser. I usually think up a plot and characters in my head and then start writing the story right away, no outlining or anything. I’ll write myself notes if I’m in the middle of another project or if I’m away from a computer, but these notes often become a loose synopsis or even passages. With a book, I sometimes outline as it grows so I won’t keep juggling notes and plot points in my head. With a short story, I write notes so I won’t forget things; but the length usually means I don’t bother with an outline. It’s much easier for me to plan what happens next by writing what happens first.
- Can you name an event in your life that has made the biggest impact on where you are today?
Honestly, no. Where I am today has come from a series of events — wanting to live and work in D.C., choosing to major in Communications, having parents who love horror, and more. I can’t name any one thing. Sorry!
- Do you think writers have better luck going the traditional or the self-publishing route?
I think it depends on what the writer is looking to achieve. Both traditional and self-publishing routes have their merits and their drawbacks. Most of my work is self-published, a path I chose because I liked the idea of putting my work out there and having more control from start to finish (for instance, when I learned that traditional publishers can change your title, I was rattled, ha ha). I’m lucky, though, in that I have access to a talented cover artist, Doug Puller; and a talented editor, Evelyn Duffy; who’ve worked on all of my books and really helped to make them look and read as good as a book that you’d find in a bookstore.
I have also been traditionally published in an anthology and an ezine. I submit my work to calls for submissions and contests. I like to keep all my options open, and I like that self-publishing helps my work get seen between acceptances. Self-publishing also boosts my confidence in putting my work out there, and opens my work to feedback and critique that helps me improve my writing.
- What are you working on right now?
I am doing a final read-through of my next novel, Without Condition; before sending it to beta readers. It’s a dark fiction story about a serial killer navigating through her first relationship. It’s equal parts horror, dark comedy, romance, and family drama. It will be released on February 12, 2019, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
- What do you find are the most effective means of promotion?
Finding ways to get a link to your book out there as often as you can. I have trouble with this, as I worry that my posts are repetitive. And while you don’t want to SPAM people, you also have to remember that no one is thinking about your book as much as you are. If you want people to know about it, you have to put it out there and you have to put it out there often. I try to link to at least one of my books every week or so. I usually do this on Twitter.
I also recommend asking for reviews, and not being afraid to ask more than once (though if you’re asking someone personally and they say no, don’t ask them again). Reviews are incredibly helpful, since they show that the book has been purchased and read. I try to remember to ask for reviews in my social media posts.
- What advice do you have for someone just beginning his or her journey into writing?
Write what you want to write, and have fun with it. Let yourself be a little sloppy in your first draft — you can always go back and clean it up. Write for you first and foremost. Write what you want to write. Try not to think about what an editor or a reader will think of this sentence or that passage — the first draft is for you. Let the story get out of your mind and breathe a little before corking it all back in. And, if you’re serious, try to write every day, even if it’s just a sentence or a revision.
- What piece of fiction has made the biggest impact in your writing career and why?
“Calvin and Hobbes.” Dad would read me the collected anthologies like books. I still read the comics to myself (my husband and I received “The Complete Calvin and Hobbes” as a wedding gift). The humor and flow of dialogue really helped me develop my skills in both, and both are prominent features in my work.
- What final thoughts would you leave potential readers with?
Read often — and read a variety of authors and genres.
- What is your favorite story you’ve written/read? Tell us about it.
If I had to pick a favorite story I’ve written, it’d probably be “All the Pieces Coming Together.” The first story I wrote and finished when I started writing seriously will always have some sentimental value to me. I also enjoy the darkly humorous concept, and how the dynamic plays out between the two main characters. I still laugh to myself when I think about one of their exchanges.
My favorite story I’ve read is even tougher to choose — I like so many! One that immediately came to mind, though, is an essay: “Blood Work,” by David Sedaris; featured in “Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.” It’s about one of his house-cleaning jobs, a job where the client expected something very different from his services. It’s funny and well-played. I love Sedaris’s work. But that is one favorite of many.
- What three things must you have on hand to write?
A computer, a glass of water, and a comfy pillow or chair to lean against as I write.
- Where do you see yourself/your writing in 5 years?
I see a couple more books and short story collections under my belt. I hope I’ll also see more appearances in anthologies and ezines. And in a “shoot for the moon” prediction, I’d like to see an award under my belt.
Luckily, I’ve found him! I’ve been with my dream mate for eight years, and married to him for four. He’s tall, has brown-and-red hair, and pretty blue-green eyes. I hope our kids get his eyes. He’s funny, relaxed, and patient. I love him more than anything.
- If you could be anything other than what you are, what occupation would you choose?
I’d work in an animal shelter. Animal welfare is an ongoing passion of mine, and so many dogs, cats, and other companion animals need a good home. I’d love to work at a shelter and give the animals love and care before they’re adopted.
- Name two things you’d like to do before you die.
1) Travel to every continent (so far, I’ve only been to two: North America and Europe)
2) Make a sizeable donation to my alma mater, NC State, so that the Witherspoon Student Center — home of the campus cinema, where I worked during most of my time there — will be named after me.
About the Author
Sonora Taylor is the author of The Crow’s Gift and Other Tales, Please Give, and Wither and Other Stories. Her short story, “Hearts are Just ‘Likes,’” was published in Camden Park Press’s Quoth the Raven, an anthology of stories and poems that put a contemporary twist on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Her work has also been published in The Sirens Call, a bi-monthly horror ezine. Her second novel, Without Condition, will be released on February 12, 2019. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband.
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