Welcome to another author interview.
February’s most-read story was “Monster” by Krystyna Smallman. Krystyna’s story, a chilling horror piece featuring a small boy and an all-too-believable ‘monster’, gave readers the shivers.
EDF: What should people expect
when they see a story with your byline under it?
KS: I write two wildly different types of stories. Some are heartwarming and positive, laced with liberal dollops of humour, each one a small oasis of comfort in the vast wasteland of bad news and media misery that stretches out as far as the eye can see in all directions, for example “The Fat One” and “The Bit In The Middle”, both of which have won prizes. Then there is my dark side. Stories about the unpleasant, the twisted, the gruesome, the downright nasty, such as “Monster” and “The Best Bit”. Really, they are two sides of the same coin: the best and the worst that people are capable of. The fascination of extremes.
EDF: “Monster” works very well on a psychological level. What writing tips can you give to others who are trying to write horrors like this?
KS: Hooks are vital. I’m a big fan of hooks, not just in the first paragraph, but sowed at regular intervals throughout the story — for example: And then something quite unexpected happened — making the reader stop and think: Oh, now what? I make shameless use of tried and tested techniques of horror films, such as: the back of the head. You just know that when that head turns round it will scare the pants off you. The reader has seen these ‘triggers’ countless times, so it sets up expectations, sends a tingle down the spine. The horror is in the waiting, the speculating, the fearing the worst. Also the title, I believe, is very important. It is the packaging that attracts a potential consumer, or not.
EDF: Your bio mentions that you won first place in the JBWB 2007 Competition and also the City of Derby 2008 Short Story Competition. Can you describe your experiences as a winner?
KS: Ah, winning the first prize! Exhilarating. Gratifying. Thrilling. Generally wonderful. It is like giving birth. The baby makes you forget, almost, the hours and hours of pain and agony, the suffering, the blood, sweat and tears that led up to it – and all the stillbirths.
EDF: Do you have any current projects you’d like to talk about?
KS: I’m constantly sending out stories to magazines, websites and competitions, the more the better, so there is always hope despite a rejection. Like playing the fruit machines — slot machines in the States — ever hoping for the jackpot. A double thrill: writing and gambling.
EDF: What has been your best moment so far?
KS: The excitement of starting a new story, and writing it, the satisfaction of completing it, every acceptance, every prize, every feedback from readers, this interview – all these are best moments. But I suppose the most unforgettable one has to be the first time I had a story published, a piece of flash fiction entitled ‘Get Stuffed’ in Twisted Tongue magazine. The first time you see your story and name in print is when you feel you are a real writer, at last. The truth is out there, and so are you, wow!
EDF: Your worst?
KS: Oh dear, the worst moment. The feeling that you suddenly don’t know what to write, how to write, why to write, and the horrible suspicion that you will never ever be able to write again for as long as you live. It’s gone. All over. Kaput. Until you bounce back and start writing again. And rejections. A rejection is a dagger in the heart, a piece of flesh gouged out, without anaesthetic.
EDF: Where and when do you write? What music or other background noise do you prefer, or silence? And does the physical/background environment influence of affect your writing?
KS: Every morning at dawn, more or less, I get up, stumble down to my desk in the corner of the living-room, switch on the computer and get on with it until lunchtime. The rest of the day I dedicate to survival so I can continue writing next day: shopping, working, eating, and so on. And to my husband and children, more important to me than anything else. I write in utter silence, apart from the parrot screeching, the dogs barking and the chinchilla pounding round his very squeaky wheel. My surroundings are extremely important. My desk has to be arranged a certain way. I am a toy mouse fetishist, and my collection has to be displayed on my desk in the right order. Or I can’t write. I feel much better after the medication.
EDF: What is next for you as a writer?
KS: I’m gradually putting together a somewhat eccentric book of short stories which reflects the Jekyll and Hyde nature of my writing, and which I hope to publish one day.
EDF: Thank you for your time.