I introduced you to this author last year, and she is back with a brand new book, fresh from the press, perfect for your Halloween pleasure. I also had a chance to do an interview with her about her horror writing,
I’m so excited it’s October. Thank you for letting me interview you.
Today we are sitting down with Sonora Taylor to talk about Little Paranoias: Stories and what makes her tick.
So, you’re a horror author. When did you first realize you loved horror?
I’ve gravitated towards horror and the macabre since I was a kid. I loved Halloween, and I loved spooky stories. I also liked writing, and creepy elements appeared in my work even as a youngster. For instance, when I was around 9 or 10 years old, I entered a storyboard contest for Cartoon Network and pitched a show about a bat and a skeleton living in a graveyard.
What came first? The horror movie or a scary story? Tell me about it.
Hmm, I’m trying to recall, because my experience with horror started so young! I’d say a scary story, but not truly scary – some of the books my parents read to me before bed were fun children’s stories that featured Halloween. A favorite growing up was The Vanishing Pumpkin by Tony Johnson and Tomie dePaola. It’s about a pumpkin that disappears, and an elderly man and woman’s mad chase as they search for it. They question a cat, each other, and even a ghoul! I kind of love benign scary stories for kids because it shows that the macabre isn’t always dreadful. I hope we always get stories like that because they’re a godsend for weird little kids like I was.
(Interviewer interrupts: I was a weird kid too. Now, I’m a weird adult.)
Have you ever met a ghost or had a paranormal experience?
I’ve had a couple paranormal experiences. The one that’s the most interesting was in the Mount Washington, a large hotel in New Hampshire, where my friend was getting married. My boyfriend (now husband) and I were staying in one of the tower rooms.
One of the first nights there, I saw a streak of light dash across the room, like someone struck a match across the air. The next night, I heard rustling on our desk, like someone was shuffling papers. It was too early in the morning to be the hotel newspaper, and it sounded more like a plastic bag being crinkled.
And, without me saying anything to him about either of these occurrences, my boyfriend said to me as we got ready for breakfast, “I think our room is haunted.” He’d heard things and felt disturbances as well. The bride’s parents also reported paranormal activity in their room.
When I got home, I looked up the hotel, and it turns out that many people believe the hotel is haunted by the princess who first owned it.
(Interviewer comments: That’s such a cool story!)
What is the hardest part of writing horror for you?
Despite the above story, the hardest part is writing stories that delve into the paranormal. It’s hard for me to write about monsters, creatures, zombies, etc. because I don’t believe in them. I know it’s fiction, and I enjoy other people’s stories about paranormal/supernatural/fantastic happenings; but it’s hard for me to write something that isn’t entirely rooted in reality, especially because I like to focus on the inner workings of the characters’ minds for my scares.
That said, strictly psychological horror can only go so far. I can write stories entirely in the realm of possibility – Without Condition, for instance, contains nothing that couldn’t happen in our world – but you’ll only get so far with that being scary each and every time. I love delving into depraved minds, but being scared means being surprised. Therefore, my writing should take surprise turns with each new story.
So, I do infuse fantasy into my literary realities when it feels right. I love to write nature going awry. In Little Paranoias: Stories, the tales “Quadrapocalypse” and “Seed” both see Mother Nature taking the end of the world into her own hands. I also enjoy writing unexplained presences and spirits, be they a feeling, an emotion, or something sinister that makes its way into the psyche of a person. Weary Bones is probably the most supernatural of my published work, in that a serum brings people back to life in a way they weren’t expecting.
My work-in-progress, Seeing Things, is my first ghost story. It’s about a teenage girl who discovers she can see the dead, but also discovers that none of them want to talk to her. It’s been a challenge, but I also like facing challenges when I start new projects. I always want to turn new corners!
(Interviewer comments: This sounds like something right up my alley. )
How far do you go on Halloween?
Halloween isn’t a day, it’s a lifestyle! Ha ha. During the month of October, my Halloween decorations come out. I have skeletons, pumpkins, and little statues of witches and ghosts. I also enjoy placing real pumpkins and decorative gourds around my living space; and I cook with winter squash and apples throughout the season.
Halloween proper has gotten a bit less eventful in my 30s. I used to go to Adams Morgan, a local neighborhood, in full costume; and do a bar crawl with my friends. That diminished to sitting in one bar and watching everyone in costume walk by. That’s still fun and not out of the realm of my Halloween possibilities, but with my friends and I all getting older, having children, working full-time, etc., it’s a little harder to justify preparing a costume and a big Halloween to-do.
That said, I still have a nice Halloween planned. My husband and I are going to have dinner – I’m either going to make Paprikash (a dish featured in Dracula) or heat up some Tombstone pizza, depending on how tired I am after work – and we’re going to settle in and watch spooky stuff. I also bought Halloween candy in case we get trick-or-treaters this year.
(Interviewer comments: Sounds like a nice evening to me!)
Does your ability to write horror impact your ability to enjoy other horror books and movies?
No. I find myself critiquing them differently than fellow readers because I’m also a writer, but my enjoyment hasn’t lessened. If anything, it’s increased my enjoyment because I have some ideas how the sausage is made, and I love seeing the different ways that different authors make it!
If you could only own one horror book for the rest of your life, which book would you pick?
Dracula by Bram Stoker. Classic. I saw the first edition at the Writers Museum in Dublin last summer, and had a huge fangirl moment in the museum (don’t worry, I was quiet).
(Interviewer comments: Dracula is one of my top 5 favorite horror books.)
Do you listen to music while you write? What’s on your horror playlist?
Definitely! I listen to all kinds of music when I write, from metal to current pop music to new age. I need music on when I do any sort of work.
I also make playlists for my novels, which help keep me in the mindset of the piece whether or not I’m working on it when I listen to it. Here’s the one I made for Without Condition, my most recent novel. It’s mostly late ‘90s and early ‘00s rock, and a tribute to my favorite N.C. radio station, 96 Rock.
And finally, what three pieces of advice would you give a fledgling horror writer?
- My own variant on “write for you” – write about what scares you.
- Read often, and make sure you read plenty of non-horror books too.
- Watch horror films (and non-horror too) for tips on pacing and dialogue.
Sonora Taylor is pleased to announce the release of her latest short story collection, Little Paranoias: Stories. Featuring cover art by Doug Puller, the collection features 20 short stories, flash pieces, and poems.
Little Paranoias: Stories is Taylor’s third short story collection and fifth overall release. The collection features an assortment of dark tales, including “Hearts are Just ‘Likes,’” a contemporary reimagining of “The Tell-Tale Heart” that was originally published in the award-winning anthology Quoth the Raven (ed. Lyn Worthen, Camden Park Press).
Little Paranoias: Stories is available in ebook and paperback on October 22, 2019; exclusively on Amazon.
Is it a knock on the door, or a gust of wind? A trick of the light, or someone who’ll see what you’ve done?
“Little Paranoias: Stories” features twenty tales of the little things that drive our deepest fears. It tells the stories of terror and sorrow, lust at the end of the world and death as an unwanted second chance. It dives into the darkest corners of the minds of men, women, and children. It wanders into the forest and touches every corner of the capital. Everyone has something to fear — but after all, it’s those little paranoias that drive our day-to-day.
Link to Order (ebook only): https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WQGDGSQ/
About the Author
Sonora Taylor is the author of Without Condition, 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’ Quoth the Raven, an anthology of stories and poems that put a contemporary twist on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Taylor’s short stories frequently appear in The Sirens Call, a bi-monthly horror eZine. Her work has also appeared in Mercurial Stories, Tales to Terrify, and the Ladies of Horror fiction podcast. She is currently working on her third novel. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband.
Visit Sonora online at sonorawrites.com.
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