Greetings from the Ethereal Plane,
This is the third chapter in our Author Spotlight series, featuring Kurt Newton, author of “Wax Soldiers.”
Let the interview commence!
CP: You have consistently submitted fantastic works to Gehenna & Hinnom, reserving spots in Hinnom Magazine Issue 001 with “Wax Soldiers,” our Year’s Best Body Horror 2017 Anthology with your work “The Face,” and our Year’s Best Transhuman SF 2017 Anthology with your story “The Scarecrow Parade.” Can you go a little in depth as to your inspirations for each of these stories?
KN: Thank you for the opportunities. As for inspirations, “The Face” is the oldest, so I’ll start there. “The Face” was inspired by all the mad scientist stories I’d read or watched on TV as a kid. “Wax Soldiers” was written as a social commentary on what seems to be our never-ending penchant for war. And “The Scarecrow Parade” is part of a much larger alternate world I’ve been working on over the years. This world includes several other published stand-alone stories and a novel-in-progress.
“If it has an intensity and an imagination to it, I tend to like it. It’s also what I tend to incorporate into my own writing.”
CP: While speaking of inspiration, what inspired you to become a writer? And what authors helped carve your path to the darker side of fiction?
KN: I grew up reading Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, and Edward Gorey. I call them my three wise men of the macabre. Naturally, when it came time for me to write, I was more inclined toward poetry than prose. I didn’t read my first novel for my own entertainment until I was sixteen. That book, borrowed from my mother, was Stephen King’s The Dead Zone. Needless to say, I was hooked. I had to read everything King had written up to that point. I also read everything King recommended in Danse Macabre: the works that inspired him. Which led me to all the other great horror writers at the time and of the past. Charles Grant, Ramsey Campbell, Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, Machen, Aickman, Lovecraft, and Poe, to name a few. King also pointed the way to Harlan Ellison and J.G. Ballard, Flannery O’Conner and Joyce Carol Oates: all of whose work I greatly admire. I read broadly and continue to read regardless of genre. If it has an intensity and an imagination to it, I tend to like it. It’s also what I tend to incorporate into my own writing.
CP: What are your goals and aspirations as a writer? What does the future hold for Kurt Newton?
KN: Starting out, I remember it being all about the writing. Then, after I began to get published, it became serious and it became all about getting published and striving for success. Along the way, I’d lost sight of what was important. Now that I’m older, and in a better place, it’s all about the writing again. Funny how things come full circle. What I aspire to now is to simply write the best story I can. If it happens to find a home, outside of my imagination, than that’s great. Hopefully, the stories I write are thoughtful enough to make people think, entertaining enough to make people smile or shed a tear, and perhaps even inspiring enough to turn a reader to creating their own stories.
CP: Tell us something that not many readers know about you.
KN: I once ran away from home in the dead of winter and hiked across a frozen lake so I wouldn’t be found. Eventually, I got too hungry and cold and returned before dark. After that, I realized I didn’t need to actually physically run away in order to leave. I think that’s when I began to create my own versions of the world.
“It’s like that saying: “If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” I don’t need to gaze into the abyss anymore, I find it more satisfying now to simply know it’s there.”
CP: You have a very unique style of writing, handling darker topics in a way that is suitable for general audiences. How did your style develop and how has it changed since you first began writing?
KN: I’m a poet at heart and try to be as economical as possible. I remember reading somewhere that every sentence should move the story along, and if it doesn’t you don’t need it. So, my prose style, I guess you could say, has evolved from that poetic tendency toward the visual, and often, the visceral. Early on, I went through a phase of writing no-holds-barred, in your face, nothing left to the imagination horror. I thought I was peeling back the layers to get at some core truth. But over the years I’ve come to realize there are many truths. My writing now tends to reveal only so much, hinting at things just beyond our understanding. This I find to be more disturbing, more chilling. It’s like that saying: “If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” I don’t need to gaze into the abyss anymore, I find it more satisfying now to simply know it’s there.
CP: Do you have any other works releasing soon that our readers can look forward to? If not, are you currently working on any pieces?
KN: I’ve got a prose poem called “The Rose Room” coming up in issue #4 of Skelos, and a poem called “Duppy” in the upcoming Undead poetry anthology from Apex Publications. I’m always working on something, short stories mostly. I have a healthy backlog of unpublished work looking for homes, including a dark fantasy novel about a thousand-year-old body thief in search of redemption.
CP: If you could meet and converse with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?
KN: Poe would be interesting but I’m afraid he’d be so paranoid that he wouldn’t let me into his home. Seriously though, I’d have to say J.G. Ballard. The man seemed down-to-earth and unconcerned with fame. He was a free-thinker, a visionary and a prolific writer. I think any conversation with him would be out of the ordinary.
CP: What is your favorite novel or work, and/or author? Why?
KN: I’ve read a lot of books but have read very few twice. The ones I have read twice are The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard, Pet Sematary by Stephen King, and A Choir of Ill Children by Tom Piccirilli. With all the talk about climate change, I think The Drowned World would make for a great summer read, and a great introduction to Ballard’s work. Pet Sematary is the darkest of King’s work and his most economical read. And A Choir of Ill Children is one of the best novels I’ve read in recent years. Why this hasn’t been made into a movie yet, I can’t figure.
CP: What is your writing process?
KN: I usually have two or three writing projects going at once. And they’re usually dissimilar. One might be horror, one might be a surreal fantasy, one might be something in between. I work on whichever project interests me at the moment and try to push it along as far as it will go in the amount of time I have. If too much time elapses between writing sessions, I’ll usually have to wait until that interest comes back around to work on it again. It’s a revolving door of creativity, of sorts, but it seems to work for me. At times I wish I could just see a story through from beginning to end without interruption, but the structure of my life just doesn’t allow for it. Novels are a different beast, however. Because a novel can be so varied, I can get away with immersing myself in the story and write the scenes that make up the chapters as if they are individual stories. Kind of like a series of flash fictions.
“Your chances of acceptance increase dramatically if you become familiar with what an editor publishes.”
CP: If you could give advice to new, young authors concerning the publishing world, what would it be? And why?
KN: Wow. I can’t say I did it the right way, but I did it the only way I knew how, and learned a lot in the process. My biggest advice would probably be: Do your homework. Find the magazines that publish the kinds of stories that excite you (if you intend to submit short stories). Find the publishers that publish the kinds of books you like to read (if you have a novel that you can’t wait to unleash on the world). It takes some investment of time and even money to weed out the “so-so” from the “holy crap!” Editors have their own particular (and sometimes peculiar) preferences as to what’s publishable and what’s not and what they’re willing to pay for. The most common rejection you’re going to receive is “Not right for us.” This is where the homework comes in. So, don’t just throw your work into the slush pile, cross your fingers, and hope. Your chances of acceptance increase dramatically if you become familiar with what an editor publishes. And always always always read the guidelines! There. I feel old now.
Visit Newton’s website here.
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Thanks so much for stopping by. Always remember to Embrace the Unknown.