What: Born in Alabama, raised in Louisiana, her short stories have been published by Thrills, Kills and Chaos, Flash Fiction Offensive, Yellow Mama, Revolt Daily and more. She has stories in anthologies offered through Static Movement Publishing, Horrified Press, and, soon, Gutter Books. Her first novel, ROUTE 12, is now available through All Due Respect Books.
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.
Your debut release from All Due Respect is ROUTE 12, two novellas set in Appalachia in the seventies and eighties. Why was this era and that location the right time and place for these stories and characters?
Poverty is the wolf at the door in ROUTE 12, ordeals borne directly from need. The seventies were a particularly difficult time in Appalachia. Slashed jobs in the mines, bad soil on the farms, and stripped cuts along the mountains made for little money. As they had been for years, young people were leaving in waves. This area, at that time, seemed isolated and vulnerable, much like the characters.
Plus, I got to listen to loads of cheesy seventies music and tell everyone it was for inspiration. I mean come on…The Raspberries?
What appeals to you about writing novellas? Do you enjoy them as a reader?
Novellas are great to write because I get in, spin a little tale, and get out before anybody realizes I don’t know what the hell is going on.
I’ve always been a big fan of novelettes. Chap books. Stephen King is the master. THE BODY. And do you remember when he put out THE GREEN MILE as a series. Gah. Classic.
I would like to say it’s more difficult to write a rich story using a minimum of words but, for me, it’s the opposite. I have a hard time filling up space. I can’t stand clutter. Unnecessary. I’m a slasher by nature.
With novellas, do you start writing a short story and just keep going? Or do you know the length when you start writing?
Once a story has been floating around my head awhile I try to get it out as soon as possible. As a rule, I bring everything I write in at around 2,000 words at first. It’s my magic number. If I read it and it can be slashed, I keep cutting. I love writing flash fiction, as well.
If I read it and it feels like there is more to be told, then I dig deeper. I think I have a mental hiccup…I hit 2,000, try to take it 10,000 and then 20,000. Everything needs to be nice and rounded.
Extremely exciting, exact and exasperating.
I’m a horror reader. Gothic. Splatter. Literary. Doesn’t matter. I love to be scared or creeped out. In my head each story I write starts as a horror story. As I read it through, I have to make it more believable. I lack the confidence to just follow my imagination. By the end of the process my horror story has become a crime story.
The darker the better. Extreme situations really test a character, allowing you to learn more about them.
When I have a story in my head, it’s a panic to get it down. I get all jittery and weird when I have an unfinished or unwritten piece. When it’s done…crack open a beer and relax. It’s the best therapy in the world.
Your writing has been compared to Flannery O’Connor and Joyce Carol Oates, among others. Who are some of your literary heroes? Why?
My mother must be writing reviews again! I’ll have to check the lock on the attic door.
Heroes? Flannery O’Connor. Joyce Carol Oates. Shirley Jackson. Kate Chopin. I love the beauty of their writing. Sentences sound like songs. Stephen King. Details conjured make characters feel like friends. Their story feels like your story.
Joe Lansdale is the man. I love the fact that he can do horror and crime. Short stories and novels. His writing is painfully perfect. His characters are so brave and fragile. I could go on forever about Mr. Lansdale. I mean the man wrote a novella about JFK and Elvis fighting off an ancient Egyptian mummy. And it was perfectly believable. He leaves me awe-struck.
I have to say it was more difficult for my family when I decided to commit and write a full piece. Dad took over lots of the mom duties. Hidden advantages? Both girls can now throw a nasty curveball and hip check your ass to the ground. Thank you very much.
If you had to pick one of your short stories to point new readers to, which one would it be? Why?
I’m such a dork. I have an emotional connection with everything I’ve written. So, they’re all special to me.
However, when people began responding to my flash piece “Tell Her” I was overwhelmed. It was published by Flash Fiction Offensive. When Joe Clifford messaged after reading the sub, I cried. I think he cried, too. Don’t tell him I said that. Will Viharo has mentioned that story several times online. I had a friend read it before I turned it in to Joe and Tom Pitts. She called me immediately and told me it made her throw up. Winner.
Or “Virginia,” one of the two actual horror stories I managed to write. David Barber over at Thrills Kills and Chaos ran it for me. I received great comments from some of my favorite people. And, as I said, I love horror.
What are your publishing plans of the rest of 2016 and beyond?
Wanda. I’m working on Wanda. She’s a real ass-kicker. She’s got some things to take care of. People to straighten out. I like her very much. Hell, I love her.
S.W. Lauden’s debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, is available now from Rare Bird Books. The second Greg Salem novel, GRIZZLY SEASON, will be published in September 2016. His standalone novella, CROSSWISE, is available now from Down & Out Books.