After Happily Ever After: Editrix and Author Alisha Costanzo Talks Secret Agents and Creative Impulses

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After Happily Ever Cover by Dean Samed, banner by Rohit Sawant

If you haven’t heard about the After Happily Ever After anthology, this interview series is a front row seat into the creative minds of the authors who have re-envisioned the fairy tale world beyond the final credits. However, as we reach the close of the series, we now have the opportunity to turn our attention to the guiding forces behind the anthology — the editors themselves!

Welcome author and editrix Alisha Costanzo to the blog!

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Editrix and author, Alisha Costanzo

How did you begin your writing journey?

Honestly, I always have a hard time pin-pointing a beginning, and I wonder if other authors feel the same way. I’ll start here. I had sixty-seven imaginary friends before I started public school. My mother made me a cocoon in the far corner of the living room to hide and read Goosebumps books when I was eight. I had a shelf in my closet full of binders with over a hundred fanfiction stories when I was twelve. I finished my first full short story when I was fourteen, in which I killed off my protagonist. I started my first draft of my first novel when I was sixteen. I wrote ten drafts of that novel and could probably tweak it until the end of time. Really, I don’t know when it started, I was in the middle before I knew I’d begun. Total cheesy reference to a vlog version of Pride & Prejudice there. Don’t mind my geek showing.

You’re quite accomplished with an MFA from University of Central Oklahoma, where you also teach. You’re an author, editor, and publisher at Transmundane Press. Can you share with us how you’ve moved from this creative background to wear other hats, particularly as a publisher? What new challenges have you faced in that arena?

It’s funny. As long as I’ve wanted to be a writer, I’ve wanted to be a publisher. I remember filling up notebooks and binders with research on magazines and publishers and modeling agencies that I schlepped through on the internet. And I’m talking the 1999 internet, not the fancy 2016 internet. I wanted to write, take photography for, and publish my own magazine.

Well, obviously, that didn’t pan out when I was fifteen. It did, however, push me in some interesting directions when I attended college. I’m not one of those normal college graduates. I’ve only missed a year of school since I was four. The year between my undergrad and graduate work. The math says I’ve been in school for twenty-seven years. I still have homework. Always. (Okay, I’m tangeting, let’s rein in this dragon.) I started as a photo major, moved to an accounting and marketing double major, then PR and advertising. Then communication studies and rhetoric. Then English writing. Along the way, I also got a business minor and a plethora of obscure classes on my transcripts. I spent ten years as a college student and have earned three degrees amongst my 256 credit hours.

During that time, I’ve worked for online publishers as a line-editor, a tutor, a TA, and a secretary at a funeral home where I wrote hundreds of obituaries and edited plenty of newsletters/ads.

Once my MFA was safe on my shelf, I rebelled against everything—well, not everything—my degree taught me about what qualified as real fiction. I love genre fiction and vampires and weird creatures or outrageous worlds, and I love clean language and character, more often found in literary fiction if I’m honest. So, as my goal stated on my application to graduate school, I was going to find a way to lift genre fiction to comparable levels as literary fiction.

And that’s what our goal is as a publisher, Anthony’s and mine. And I have no doubts that school is what narrowed me down to this path.

That…and I might have a bit of a control freak problem…

My biggest fault, really. I struggle with not imposing my voice on the stories I edit. I struggle balancing time between publishing—editing and marketing and project creation, writing, and teaching—you know, besides having a personal life and family, so I really need to let others do some of the work and be okay with it. I’m getting better at it. A work in progress.

Wow, can you tell I’m a novel writer?

You and your co-editor and co-publisher, Anthony S. Buoni, were instrumental in putting this project together. Can you tell us the experience of sorting through subs from the perspective of an editor? 

Anthony and I had similar reactions to this project when the call for submissions seemed to sky rocket overnight, especially when we received stories from award winners and other professional editors. I was simply stunned. I actually asked my husband, “Why do they want me to publish them?” And I was bluntly reminded that I am an adult and an authority in my field, whether I felt like one or not.

Sorting through the subs needed a system. In comes Anthony, creating a list in excel where we could keep our decisions in order—a serious life saver for me. I admit, reading was 120 submissions was strenuous, but I found myself surprised by how many I wanted.

As many who have worked with me are aware, I am not afraid to dig my fingers into a story and rip out some organs if need be. Not the vital ones, I’m not a murderer. Okay, that’s a lie, I totally am. So I wasn’t merely looking for stories that were complete and ready for publication, although some were quite close. I believe in being a mentor and working with authors who want to keep growing.

Deciding who we invest our time into is a bit of a gamble. We can only predict so much off of a cover letter and a story. It’s hard to tell which authors are going to put in the work and which ones will fight our aesthetic. Again, I’m working on being more flexible and allowing authors to maintain control of their stories.

I have trouble saying what exactly makes the decision for me as an editor. I spent a lot of time debating and going back and forth between yeses and no’s for some stories. So I left what I could up to my intuition and how the story made me feel. It might merely come down to voice.


When I reached out to you about interviews, you mentioned your contribution to the anthology, a “007 version of Snow White and Cinderella infiltrating the kingdom as undercover agents.” I was quite titillated by that concept! How does a writer draw a connection between espionage thriller to fairy tale? Do tell us how this happened.

Oh boy. Sometimes, I’m not quite sure how my brain works. It likely has something to do with the ten years of a liberal arts curriculum and learning how to make connections across subjects.

The more fun version, and the simpler one, was that I watched my first 007 movie at my Uncle John and Aunt Karin’s house over the summer. Side note, I stay a week with them every year, and they’re amazing. I already knew that I wanted undercover agents infiltrating the Charming kingdom. This was the actual inspiration for the anthology as a whole as you might have seen it in the call for submissions.

When I saw Daniel Craig as James Bond, my story clicked, and I started playing with fairy tale gadgets in my notebook. Enchanted DEW drops, electrified scarves, a sleeping serum. I had no plot, at least not one as action-packed as the 007 brand, and I do love action. New to the series, I researched the tropes and found myself able to reap valuable bits for satire. From there, I was rolling in a familiar direction, listening to my husband rant about conspiracy theories, and my plot was formed around vaccines, the Zika virus, chem-trails, and GMOs. And my favorite part is the acronyms, like the DWARVES, which stands for the Dangerous Wee Assassins of the Royal Villain Eradication Society.

You also teach at the University of Central Oklahoma. You’re a busy woman! Is there any secret you can share with us about how you stay fresh for creative work, when you’re engaged in creative work of some type for long hours every day?

I have a few tricks up my sleeve, but they’re not likely much in the way of innovation. I work out regularly. I work off stress by cooking or baking. I watch TV with my husband. I read a book to remind myself why I love writing and how much I love reading.

Honestly, I have stories inside me that will send me on a long, slippery slope to the insane asylum if I didn’t give them their own place in the world.

Writing itself rejuvenates me. It’s my form of meditation. Not that it doesn’t suck sometimes, but inevitably, when I sit to my own story I’ll get somewhere—sometimes fifty words, sometimes five hundred, and sometimes, a couple thousand. As long as I keep going back, my creativity won’t let me down.

Can you share details about your next project?

Ooo, my next project.

Wow. I have a lot of them on deck.

The closest to finished is out to a few alpha readers and should be published in February/March. Blood Phoenix: Imprinted is the third book in Ria’s story. It’s a satirical vampire/phoenix novel with some really strange characters, like Mindless who predicts the future and the past using ratios. Or my seven-foot-tall Scandinavian leprechaun, Boden, that a great number of my readers have dubbed grade A book-boyfriend material.

This part of the saga connects Boden and Ria all the more, challenges Ria’s new status as a vampire and her humanity by sending her to hunt and kill a group of shifter wolves, and brings to head a three-book-long rivalry with a fellow vampire, resulting in beheadings, magical implosions, and some serious scars.

I have another novel awaiting editing about a mermaid-unicorn hybrid and a vampire-lion. It takes place in the same general world as my other novels but is set in Egypt. I love how it creates a larger view of how the characters’ actions in my existing books effects characters on the other side of the world.

Other than the novel I’m drafting—and seriously, twenty other projects on deck that have some type of substantial notes—Anthony and I are throwing out ideas for our next anthology call. Think fire.


Alisha Costanzo is from a Syracuse suburb. She earned her MFA in creative writing from the University of Central Oklahoma, where she currently teaches English. She’s the author of BLOOD PHOENIX: REBIRTH, BLOOD PHOENIX: CLAIMED, and LOVING RED, and co-editor of DISTORTED and UNDERWATER; her new anthology, AFTER THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER, is undergoing serious edits for its 2016 release. Her new novel, BLOOD PHOENIX: IMPRINTED, is set for release in 2017. In the meantime, she will continue to corrupt young minds, rant about the government, and daydream about her all around nasty creatures.

You can keep up with Alisha at her website.

Keep an eye on Transmundane Press’s Amazon or main site to stay in the loop on all things After Happily Ever After!

After The Happily Ever After: Candace Gleave Dresses Up A New Emperor

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After Happily Ever After cover by Dean Samed, banner by Rohit Sawant

If you haven’t heard about the After Happily Ever After anthology, this interview series is a front row seat into the creative minds of the authors who have re-envisioned the fairy tale world beyond the final credits. In Candace Gleave’s “The Emperor’s Pig Princess”, a wary emperor sheds swaps his clothes for the challenge of matrimony.

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Author Candace Gleave

Every writer comes from a different background, and most end up taking a winding path to where they eventually end up. How has the writing journey taken shape for you? How did you start?

It all started with a movie…. Romancing the Stone. The opening cinematic, the gritty western, love, loss, and of course the handsome cowboy Jesse…. Mmmm. The storytelling is through the heart and passion of the writer, you seen Joan Wilder at her type-writer, finishing up her book, in tears. That’s passion… that’s what I wanted.

This romantic dream of being a writer embedded in my tiny 8-year-old brain and has never left… It’s something that has always been a part of me, the nagging, the desire, the inner pull… and I absolutely love it.

You’ve chosen the tale of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” with a new challenge for the Emperor — the prospect of matrimony. Is there a particular aspect of this tale that attracted you? How did you come to choose this one and generate this idea?

The Emperor’s New Clothes is a fantastic story. The deeper origins of wanting to believe in something bad enough, that you trick yourself into actually seeing it. This deception, pride and vanity is what ultimately made me choose this story. Not only did the emperor walk around naked, but he did it with his head held high. That’s confidence… and true, I envision a very good looking emperor, don’t we all. So taking this confident, somewhat arrogant man, and helping him search for a wife was too good to pass up.

Do you have a favorite fairy tale you’d like to share with us?

Peter Pan. The story of Peter Pan has deeper undertones that are often overlooked. I think there is a romantic longing inside of everyone to preserve the innocence of childhood. Imagine, living in Neverland, the adventures, thrill, and never worrying about the ugliness of reality.

“The Emperor’s New Clothes” is very much a story about human nature, and to some extent, the ways we lie to ourselves and the lengths we will go to in order to save face and not confront a mistake. Have you ever come across an Emperor in your own life?

No, never seen a naked emperor…. My life is so unfilled. Human nature is really fascinating, especially when we want something really bad, we tend to lie. Writers make excellent liars, haha, not sure what that says about us…. I think Oscar Wilde said it best, “Lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things, is the proper aim of Art.”

Now that your work is appearing the After Happily Ever After anthology, do you have something else you’re working on for the future that you’d like to share?

I’m always dabbling with short stories… the little darlings will get published in their own due time.


Candace Gleave best known for her off-beat sense of humor and snarky dialogue that she packs into every story, makes for an enjoyable read no matter the monster or genre. The two greatest loves in her life are family and writing – chocolate had to go. Candace lives in a little patch of earth called Midvale, Utah. It is there she and her two kids create the world, they love to play in. Want more of her writing, check out her literary delights on Goodreads and follow her on Facebook. Read more about her on the Transmundane website.

Keep an eye on Transmundane Press’s Amazon or main site to keep in the loop on everything After Happily Ever After!

After The Happily Ever After: Lorraine Sharma Nelson Unleashes the Beast

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After Happily Ever After Cover by Dean Samed, banner by Rohit Sawant

If you haven’t heard about the After Happily Ever After anthology, this interview series is a front row seat into the creative minds of the authors who have re-envisioned the fairy tale world beyond the final credits. Lorraine Sharma Nelson gives us a beastly spin on a popular fairy tale.

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Author Lorraine Sharma Nelson
You have a very full life and career, including your work on the New England Regional Board for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. What draws you to this arena, and how did it come about?

Working with UNICEF on behalf of the world’s impoverished children goes back to the days of my childhood. My parents worked hard to help underprivileged children in all the countries we lived in when I was a kid. My dad always told my sister and me that if we were fortunate enough to live comfortably as adults, we would also have a responsibility to give back. He drummed that philosophy into us, so naturally, when I grew up, donating to UNICEF seemed like the most natural thing in the world to do. I went from being a donor to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, to being on a committee, to eventually being voted onto the New England Regional Board. Knowing that my family is playing a part in helping children not only survive malnutrition, starvation, and childhood diseases like Polio, but also get a chance at an education, is immensely satisfying on levels I can’t begin to express.

With such varied pursuits, how did you find your path to writing? Naturally, having a Bachelor’s in English Language and Literature and a Master’s in Mass Communications lends wonderfully to the craft, but not everyone ends up delving into the creative writing spectrum.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. It’s as natural to me as breathing. By the time I was ten-years-old I’d written so many stories, my parents assumed, as did I, that I would grow up to be a writer. The idea of not being able to put pen to paper, or firing up the computer when inspiration hits, is something I can’t even fathom. For a long time, my children, and volunteer work, and life in general, took precedence, but I’m finally writing and submitting, and loving seeing my stories in print. I feel very fortunate to be able to pursue the profession I’ve always had a passion for (try saying that three times fast). Long live writers.

Do you have a favorite fairy tale, one that particularly speaks to you?

That’s a tough one, as I heard all kinds of fairy tales and folk lore in the different countries I grew up in. So many of them spoke to me at different stages of my life. I don’t think I have a particular favorite, although there are times I get the urge to revisit certain fables.

You’ve chosen “Beauty and the Beast,” and have tackled the very pragmatic view of a less recognized hurdle in relationships — when we discover that the person we met or fell in love with has changed is no longer that person. It’s a very poignant subject to my mind, because it’s an aspect of human relationships that doesn’t get much fanfare, but this happens in many different relationships along with marriage. I’d love to know more about how you ended up delving into this concept, how this evolved into the story you wrote.

I read “Beauty and the Beast” as a child, and watched a couple of screen versions of the story. Even at a young age I felt betrayed when the Beast, who was warm and caring, was suddenly replaced by this stranger, this human. I could never understand why Beauty wasn’t outraged by this sudden and disturbing turn of events, and didn’t demand that her beloved Beast be returned to her. Of course I was too young and innocent to consider the ramifications of a marriage between a human and a beastly animal. All I knew was that it was wrong that he was replaced by a human. Beauty deserved to be with the person she fell in love with, even if said person was a shaggy creature with fangs and claws.

Why choose “Beauty and the Beast?”

I needed to know, once and for all, what happened to Belle and Adam, after he reverted back to his human form. My story, “Beauty and the Beast: The Beast Within,” takes place after they’ve been married for a month, and Belle has come to the realization that she is still in love with the Beast, not this stranger who’s taken his place. The story of “Beauty and the Beast” is such a universally-loved fable, made even more so by the Disney version released in 1991. Surely there were other people out there who ‘shipped Belle and the Beast as I did? Maybe they were as curious as I was to know what happened to them. Did they live happily ever after, or was their marriage plagued with problems? Enquiring minds (mine) needed to know.


Lorraine Sharma Nelson grew up globally as a child, but for most of her adult life she has called the United States home. She has a Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature, and a Master’s in Mass Communications. She is on the New England Regional Board for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, and is grateful for the opportunity to do her part in helping children worldwide. In addition to being a writer, Lorraine is also a wife, and a mom to two amazing children. She is an avid sci-fi geek, who loves traveling, reading, movies, and coconut cupcakes, though not necessarily in that order. Lorraine has written a number of short stories, and is published in horror, sci-fi and fantasy. Her latest short story, “Beauty and the Beast: The Beast Within” is published in an anthology entitled, After the Happily Ever After, from Transmundane Press, Dec. 2016. The story takes place after the Beast has transformed back to human form and marries Belle. After a month of marriage, Belle realizes that this is not who she fell in love with. Prince Adam is very different from her beloved Beast. And this is where the problems begin. Lorraine has a blog post on the Transmundane Press website, on the dark side of “Beauty and the Beast.”
Her website is currently a work-in-progress, but please feel free to drop by anyway: lorrainesharmanelson.com. You can also find her on Twitter: @loneriter

 

Keep an eye on Transmundane Press’s Amazon or main site to keep in the loop with all things After Happily Ever After!

After Happily Ever After Interview: Claire Davon Serves Up “Pea Soup”

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After Happily Ever After cover by Dean Samed, banner by Rohit Sawant

If you haven’t heard about the After Happily Ever After anthology, this interview series is a front row seat into the creative minds of the authors who have re-envisioned the fairy tale world beyond the final credits. Claire Davon gives peas a chance in her revamped version of The Princess and the Pea.

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Claire Davon

Your bio lets us know that you’re passionate about writing, and this passion comes through in your enthusiasm for story — no matter the genre! Why is this so? How many different genres have you dabbled in and is there one you prefer more than the other?

I think of myself as a genre writer, but what that basically means is that I love writing in fantasy, romance, science fiction and horror. I don’t know that I prefer one over the other although all of my novellas and full length novels to date have been some form of romance, whether contemporary, time travel or paranormal. A lot of times the muse comes out of whatever I am thinking about at the time or where a call for submission takes me. Sometimes I write a story and find a call that fits and sometimes a call inspires me to write a story. For instance, when I saw the call for After the Happily Ever After I started thinking about the different fairy/folk tales in their original forms and where that would lead when the original tale was done. Pea Soup grew out of that.

Fanfiction is increasingly being the way that people are exposed to fiction and inspired to join the ranks of writers. Tell us how your journey down the writing path took form, and is it still evolving?

A lot of what I did for fan fiction “back in the day” came out of my desire to see the tale continue and/or being unhappy with the way a storyline ended. For instance I used to watch soap operas and if a character that I liked was written off then I would design my own story about what happened next. And if the female character happened to resemble me, well… I think that fan fiction is a great way to explore your creative side since it’s a universe someone else already created for you that the writer gets to play in. I felt very passionately about these characters and did not want to let them go. It was also wish fulfillment for me, and a desire for a certain outcome. Some of those original stories are ones that I am revisiting in a completely changed form (while keeping the spirit of the initial story) to be my own. These days I want to create my own universe rather than play in someone else’s.

You’ve chosen to tackle the Princess and the Pea in this anthology. And you’ve given the princess an interesting spin as a former barmaid turned aspiring royal. Tell us how this came about, and are there any interesting jobs you’ve held before you reached the place you are now? Do tell.

I’m one of those people who gravitates toward the unusual, so when I saw this anthology call I wanted to explore a fairy tale that wasn’t one of the main ones such as Cinderella or Little Red Riding Hood. There wasn’t any one thing that made me select this fairy tale other than it being one that I didn’t think a lot of people would choose. When Hecelin/Giselle sprang to mind I knew that this was the fairy tale that needed a continuation/a bit of a retelling. Further to question #2 above, when you think about it these continuations are their own form of fan fiction, albeit for much loved tales that have been around for hundreds of years rather than writing about the Cassadines from General Hospital in the 1980s (who, me?).

Do you have a particular fairy tale that speaks to you? Which is it?

There isn’t one in particular per se, what interests me is to dig back into the origins and/or the first versions of these tales and see how they changed over time. Especially when the first tellings were decidedly more gruesome than today’s versions. I went looking for such a version when I investigated The Princess and the Pea but that tale was a bit newer than others and didn’t have some of the gore associated with early Grimm versions (cutting Little Red Riding Hood out of the wolf’s stomach…brutal!). It’s the chronology of the telling of a tale that fascinates me rather than one in particular.

While you’re busy conquering so many genres in the writing field, is there anything special you’re working on, that you’re hoping to share soon? Future projects on the line?

Why yes, yes there is! On the novel front the second book in my Elementals’ Challenge series, titled Air Attack, is being released by Samhain Publishing in late March. This paranormal romance series is near and dear to my heart and I am most excited for my readers to experience the continuation of this series. I am also going to be self-publishing a fantasy/paranormal romance novella that I hope will also be the start of a series sometime later this year. As always I am writing short stories in all those genres I love so much and am subbing them far and wide. A reprint fantasy short story is being turned into a podcast but I don’t yet know the release on that.


Claire Davon has written on and off for most of her life, starting with fan fiction when she was very young. She writes across a wide range of genres, and does not consider any of it off limits.  If a story calls to her, she will write it. She currently lives in Los Angeles and spends her free time writing novels and short stories, as well as doing animal rescue and enjoying the sunshine. Claire’s website is www.clairedavon.com.  

Keep an eye on Transmundane Press’s Amazon or main site to keep in the loop on all things After Happily Ever After!

After Happily Ever After Interview: Sati Chock Tames A Very Different Beast

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After Happily Ever After, Cover by Dean Samed, banner by Rohit Sawant

If you haven’t heard about the After Happily Ever After anthology, this interview series is a front row seat into the creative minds of the authors who have re-envisioned the fairy tale world beyond the final credits. Sati Chock turns our attention to all that is ugly and beautiful with her rendition of Beauty and the Beast.

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Author Sati Chock
Sati, your bio reveals that you have traveled to far flung places across the globe before landing in Honolulu. I was fortunate enough to visit Maui as a child and remember clearly stumbling upon the locals performing traditional dances for the tourists. It left quite an impression! Do you feel the local flavour of the places your pass through, or live in, find their way into your artistic endeavours?
 
Good question. Sometimes I do, yes. But the stories that truly haunt me, that I can’t let go of, are the ones born in a landscape that I am quite familiar with, such as my childhood in Massachusetts, or in Hawaii (where I have now lived for 20 years).

You work at an art museum. The collection of artefacts for the viewing public is such a fascinating, specialized field. In your work at the museum, is there an object or an art piece you look forward to seeing every day?

This is a hard question to answer because there are many. Having worked at the museum for nearly 16 years, a number of the works now feel like old friends! If I had to choose only one, though, it would be our 11th- century Chinese wooden sculpture of Guanyin, the bodhisattva of compassion, or mercy. It is one of our most popular works, and this enlightened lady is far ahead of her time because she transcends gender– historically she has been depicted variously as either male or female.
I began working at the museum only a few weeks after 9/11, and it was such a sad, unsettled time. I was far from my East Coast family & friends, and worried about them. I often visited Guanyin during breaks to absorb some of that serene energy. I suspect I will be visiting her a lot in 2017, too. 😉

Having experienced a melange of cultures, did you happen to pick up any interesting folklore, folk tales, or fairy tales in your travels?

Certainly. Ghost stories and other supernatural tales have always interested me, and they are told everywhere in the world. In much of the United States, though, there is generally a fair bit of skepticism that accompanies the telling. People say things like: “I don’t really believe in ghost stories, but…” Perhaps with a little laugh or an eye-roll. In other areas of the world, there is more acceptance. In some places, it isn’t even a question. It is understood that our ancestors might come back to visit, and that we should probably take care of them in the afterlife, just in case. This sort of thinking has various origins, including ancestor worship and Buddhism, and has permeated the social fabric of many countries.
For example, in China, ghosts are usually vengeful. So there are things that are done to appease them–such as the Hungry Ghost Festival, which is celebrated in other parts of Asia, too-Singapore and Malaysia, to name a couple of places. Other Asian countries with strong beliefs in ghosts include Thailand, Japan, and Tibet.
While living in Japan I became fascinated with female ghosts. They are hard core–tough and seriously scary, considered capable of all kinds of terrifying things (remember The Ring??) in their quest for revenge. There is one lass with vampire-like tendencies called the yuki-onna, or snow woman, who is believed to freeze men to death during sexual intercourse. Other ghosts are known to devour children, remove testicles, or cause natural disasters, among other things. Not the sorts of creatures you want to bump into in the middle of the night!
This doesn’t really qualify as a folk tale, but you can’t talk about female Japanese ghosts without mentioning the Tale of Genji, (c. 1008), considered by many to be the world’s first novel, and written by a woman–Lady Murasaki Shikibu. One of the major themes of this complex work is revenge, and female ghosts and instances of spirit possession recur throughout the pages of the story.

You chose to tell the story of Beauty and the Beast, a beloved tale with roots in the story of Cupid and Psyche. However, one could say we encounter beasts all the time in our daily lives, whether it’s someone who we clash with at work or in the home. Have you any experiences with real life “beasts”?

I’m afraid that we have all experienced beasts in our real lives. But here is the bright side: this is often how we come up with good stories! They make excellent material, don’t they?

 

As someone with an interest — a Masters — in Japanese literature and working in a museum — how does writing pull you in a way these other interests do not?

Well, my first passion is reading. But I have a young child and work full time. So my biggest challenge is taking time away from reading–and, yes, family–so that I can create something of my own.  But although (to me) reading is like breathing, unless I am occasionally writing as well, I do not feel balanced. We escape when we read, and we escape when we write. But the escape when we write allows us to explore our psyches and work out issues in a way that we cannot when reading someone else’s story. I mean, we might identify strongly with a tale and feel tremendous empathy. But it is a different experience. It doesn’t provide the same cathartic release that writing does.
An excerpt from Sati’s story, “Eye of the Beholder”:
Father has done something so, so foolish. He didn’t want to tell me, but I coaxed it out of him in the special way that only I can. He purloined a rose from a beastly lord for me and was caught. Now, either he must stay, or I must go as payment for his crime. Of course, I will go. I’d never do otherwise. But I confess that I am horrified at being handed over to a husband sight unseen, even if he does live in a castle. 
 
At least we won’t starve.

Sati Benes Chock was born in Kathmandu, Nepal, but grew up in New England. She attended Wheaton College (Massachusetts) and taught English in Tokyo before getting her MA in Japanese Literature at the University of Hawaii. She currently lives with her family in Honolulu, where she works at an art museum. Her short fiction has been published in a number of online and print publications, including Amsterdam Scriptum, Hawaii Pacific Review, Hiss Quarterly, Flash Me Magazine, Thereby Hangs a Tale, and Mouth Full of Bullets.

Keep an eye on Transmundane Press’s Amazon or main site to keep in the loop for all things After Happily Ever After!

After Happily Ever After: KT Wagner Goes Bugs For Cinderella

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After Happily Ever After Cover by Dean Samed, banner by Rohit Sawant

If you haven’t heard about the After Happily Ever After anthology, this interview series is a front row seat into the creative minds of the authors who have re-envisioned the fairy tale world beyond the final credits. KT Wagner pushes new boundaries in the Cinderella mythos using the bizarro genre.

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Author KT Wagner

From your bio, it sounds like you spend a lot of time in dedication to your craft, attending programs and running groups. I find many writers to be a mix of the introspective and extroverted. Are you one or the other, and how do these qualities come into play with your writing life?

I am definitely an introvert, but can convincingly display extrovert traits as long as I don’t have to keep it up for too long. I need time alone to recharge, and then I’m ready to be around people again.

It’s important for writers to have their own communities and networks. Writers require support and feedback. We also need to get out a bit and socialize with people who share our passion for writing (I expect we’ve all had the experience of enthusing about an experimental technique or something, then noticing the eyes of non-writers glaze over). There wasn’t much available in my area, so I organized what I needed. Six years ago, I helped found a local writing group (https://www.facebook.com/goldenearswriters/) and we put on workshops and readings ten months a year. I also run a “just write” meet-up group once a week, and this November I’ll hold the third annual Ghost Story Writing Retreat at a lodge in the British Columbia wilderness.

How did your journey as a writer begin? Did you always know, or was it a winding road that led you here?

I wrote non-fiction for several decades. I’ve always been interested in politics and justice, even as a child, and my first published piece was a letter to the editor of a national newspaper in my early teens. I expressed my views about the province of Quebec separating from the rest of Canada. I also wrote for school newspapers. As an adult, I continued to write columns and articles about political topics, mainly the need for public education reform until about six years ago when I turned my attention to writing speculative fiction.

You’ve got this clever take on Cinderella, using the bizarro genre — a very dynamic way to re-envision the classic tale. Tell us how the idea of bringing the characters to life as insects came about, because I love it!

I love writing bizarro!! An online Litreactor.com workshop with Rose O’Keefe of Eraserhead Press introduced me to writing the genre.

Growing up, my sister kept milkweed and Monarch butterfly caterpillars in ventilated jars. We watched them pupate and then emerge from the chrysalis before setting them free again. That memory from summers at my grandparent’s cottage sparked the story 3-D Monarch.

Do you have a favorite fairy tale? And what drew you to the Cinderella tale in particular?

I find many (most) traditional fairy tales are misogynistic, which is irritating, but at the same time fascinating in what they show us about the history of culture and attitudes. Two stand out: The Brothers Grimm retelling of The Juniper Tree for the visceral horror, and Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen because Gerda, the main character, is a rarely seen (in fairy tales) strong, heroic, competent female.

Cinderella is a malleable tale for retelling with its universal themes, and many layers and characters to explore. I’m currently working on a space opera novella, loosely based on the Cinderella story.


KT Wagner loves reading and writing speculative fiction. Occasionally she ventures out of her writers’ cave to spend an hour or two blinking against the daylight, or reacquainting herself with family and friends. Several of her short stories are published and she is working on a sci-fi horror novel. She puts pen to paper in Maple Ridge, B.C., organizes Golden Ears Writers, and attended SFU’s Southbank program in 2013 and The Writers’ Studio (TWS) in 2015. KT can be found online at www.northernlightsgothic.com and @KT_Wagner, and facebook.

Keep an eye on Transmundane Press’s Amazon or main site to keep in the loop on everything After Happily Ever After!

After Happily Ever After: Matthew Brockmeyer Tinkers With The Nightingale

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After Happily Ever After Cover by Dean Samed, banner by Rohit Sawant

If you haven’t heard about the After Happily Ever After anthology, this interview series is a front row seat into the creative minds of the authors who have re-envisioned the fairy tale world beyond the final credits. Our next interview presents Matthew Brockmeyer who delves into the story of a very curious nightingale.

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Author Matthew Brockmeyer, in wolf’s clothing!

One of the most amazing features of this anthology is that each contributor has something wildly unique to bring to the table. You seem to be living in the archetypal fairy tale setting — in an off-grid cabin with your family in the woods of North California. Could you share with us how your journey took you there, all while running a nursery and an herbal products business — and how your writing flourished from this?

I suppose I am living in a fairy tale setting, though that never really occurred to me until now. I better keep my eyes open for the big bad wolf! My journey? Well, I always wanted to be a horror writer, but I’ve also always been a bit of an anarchist and was easily sucked into weird subcultures like punk rock that distracted me from the focus and dedication writing demands. After travelling around, exploring the world and touring with the Grateful Dead, I ended up studying literature at the University of Oregon, where I was in a creative-writing fellowship with award winning novelist Chang-Rae Lee. After graduating, I planned on getting an MFA in creative writing, but, as fate would have it, got pulled into the back-to-the-land scene of permaculture design, biodynamics and organic farming. I met my wife, and we purchased forty isolated acres of heavily forested, hilly land on an old hippie commune called Shit Fuck Piss (no joke!). We were seeking an alternative lifestyle, closer to nature. We homesteaded, raising milking goats, chickens, turkeys, ducks, growing our own vegetables and before I knew it we had two children and over a decade had slipped by. Then the writing bug hit again. Hard. I’d say my writing flourished because I had the time and space to read deeply and contemplate humanity’s existence. In the past three years, I have completed a novel and started another, written a collection of short stories, and been published multiple times.

You have two children. I find the raising of family is often an overlooked component of artistic life, but fairy tales have often been able to tackle family matters in both their dark and light aspects. With all your obligations, how has the rearing of children affected your writing for better or worse? What have they taught you about life?

The rearing of children has been invaluable to my writing. It has added depth and maturity to my understanding of the human condition beyond measure. Nearly all of my stories involve a family’s struggle to exist. My children have taught me so much about life I don’t know where to begin. They have taught me patience (lol), understanding, the nature of innocence, a deep and all permeating love that is hard to describe. The protectiveness of a mama bear, the need to impart wisdom like a father fox. The preciousness and fragility of life. My wife and I actually struggled for many years to have children and had many heartbreaking, failed attempts. My family is absolutely the most important thing in my life and I suppose I owe all my inspiration to them.

You chose a lesser known Hans Christian Anderson story called “The Nightingale”. I’m intrigued by the style and setting of your story, especially because it takes place in a brothel. Tell us a little more about the concept behind your take on “The Nightingale” and how you landed on this modern idea to present it.

I am a bit of a history buff, and find myself drawn to the turn of the twentieth century. It was a time when the clash of modernity with old-time ways was most prevalent. Horses and cars fighting it out in the streets, machines beginning to take over the labors of humans. In the original story of “The Nightingale” the Empress forsakes her flesh and blood bird for a mechanical creation encrusted with jewels. I found this to be the perfect metaphor for that time period, and decided to have my Empress shun her loyal pianist for a player piano. I had done a little research into how the entire Old Town of Eureka, California had been a red-light district and it just seemed the perfect setting. So full of intrigue and drama. I’ve always been a big John Steinbeck fan, and East of Eden, I suppose, had some influence on my decision to use a brothel as the setting. As for the concept, I’d never written a story in the epistolary style and thought I’d give it a try. An interview conducted by the historical society just seemed like a good fit.

Do you have a preferred genre that you normally write in, and is this story a departure from that, or how does it dovetail into your interests?

Horror is my genre of choice. Ever since I was a child I’ve been obsessed with horror. I find it a medium that is easily used to explore our existential nature, absurdity, and the human condition in general. It’s also a lot of fun. A roller coaster ride. But I try and put a literary touch to it. I actually don’t read that much horror, though I did as a kid, sticking these days mostly to literary fiction. I hope that brings a level of maturity to my writing (I can hope, lol) and keeps my work original. I’d like to think this story exemplifies that prerogative.

Even though I realize I’m supposed to be promoting After Happily Ever After, I can’t resist asking on purely selfish reasons, more about your herbal business — partly because I’m hoping there will be an opportunity to order something for a nice cup of tea or maybe for an enchantment to beautify myself for the mirror, mirror on the wall!

Ha ha. My wife is a certified herbalist. Her business is called Blainey’s Botanicals. She distills essential oils and hydrosol from lavender, lemon balm, roses, mint, plum blossoms, etc. and makes lotions, tinctures, salves, and all sorts of potions and teas. We mainly sell locally, to neighborhood health-food stores and at farmer’s markets. But if you give me your address we can send you some samples and if you’d like to order more I’m sure she can accommodate you!


Matthew Brockmeyer explores the dark caves and caverns of the human mind using words as his flashlight. His work has appeared in Cultured Vultures, Alephi, Timeless Tales Magazine, Dark Fire Fiction, Pulp Metal Magazine, and the anthology 100 Voices, among others. He resides in an off-grid cabin, deep in the hills of Humboldt County, California with his wife and two children. Find more of his work at http://www.matthewbrockmeyer.com.

Keep an eye on Transmundane Press’s Amazon or main site to keep in the loop on all things After Happily Ever After!