I’m excited to bring you an interview with recent Bram Stoker Award winner Nicole Cushing. Her latest book The Sadist’s Bible is out now.
First of all, congratulations on your Bram Stoker Award for Mr. Suicide! How does it feel to be honored among such company as past winners Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, and, my favorite, Clive Barker?
It’s exciting and satisfying. I’m proud of the book and the Stoker award validates that pride. I’m also happy for my editor/publisher, Ross Lockhart. He took a risk by publishing something controversial. It’s gratifying to see his risk publicly rewarded.
Can you tell us about your latest book and where the inspiration came for it?
In April, 01Publishing released my novella The Sadist’s Bible. Like Mr. Suicide, it’s a work of transgressive horror fiction.
It was inspired by a strange vision I had while resting on a rooftop in New Orleans–a day-dreamy, half-hallucinatory vision of a savage mystical realm. (And for those who might be wondering, I was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time. Nor was it an actual encounter with the supernatural. Nor am I nuts. It was just a particularly vivid flight of the imagination.)
I don’t want to describe this vision in more detail because I don’t want to spoil the plot. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything, though, by saying it was a disturbing experience that inspired a disturbing book.
Do you remember the film or book that first ignited your passion for horror?
I grew up in a conservative, religious household that restricted my access to horror films and books. But it was hard for them to censor television, because I eventually had a little black-and-white TV in my room. So I watched a lot of horror-related TV programming, and that’s how I got my fix.
One of the UHF stations showed horror movies (mostly from the ’50s, ’60s, and early ’70s) each Saturday afternoon on a program called Creature Double Feature. That was one of my main sources of horror back in the day. I also enjoyed a lot of anthology series (which seemed to flourish back in the ’80s). Freddy’s Nightmares and Tales from the Darkside were two of my favorites. (Though the opening theme music to Tales from the Darkside scared the shit out of me.) I remember watching a few episodes of the ’80s reboot of The Twilight Zone as well as sneaking a peek at old late night reruns of Night Gallery. (I never saw the original ’60s Twilight Zone episodes until I was an adult. For some reason they weren’t in syndication when I was a kid. At least, not where I was living.)
Where did it all begin for you as a horror writer?
Well, I first attempted to write horror fiction about twenty years ago–right after I got out of college. However, I lacked the work ethic and stability to make a true go of it. After the first few rejections came in, I gave up.
A few years later, I made another attempt. That time, I got in touch with a local writers group. But I still didn’t have a great work ethic. I mostly used the writers group as a party group. I did manage to sell a handful of stories. Ultimately though, that effort also fell apart.
In 2008 I was in my mid-thirties and I decided to make yet another try. By that point in my life I had acquired enough maturity and enough of a work ethic that I was able to withstand all the rejections. I enrolled in a few inexpensive writing workshops that were quite helpful. And I’ve been writing steadily ever since then, working as hard as I can to get better and better. It’s been a long slog, but I’m so glad I didn’t give up.
When do you normally write? Do you lock yourself away and have a set routine?
When I get up in the morning I read for an hour. Then I start writing. I’m fortunate. I don’t currently have a day job. So I might spend eight or nine hours a day writing or attending to writing-related business tasks. I try to keep to a strict schedule. Routine is what keeps me from watching cat videos all day.
Who are your favorite authors and which of their books mean the most to you?
I’m a huge fan of Thomas Ligotti (an author of short stories that straddle the line between cosmic horror and literary fiction). His collection Teatro Grottesco ranks among the greatest horror books ever written. (And I don’t say that lightly.)
I also very much enjoy the work of Jack Ketchum. At his best, Ketchum offers the reader a heartbreaking, emotionally-honest depiction of cruelty, trauma, and loss. This is perhaps nowhere more evident than in his masterpiece The Girl Next Door.
Do you have a favorite story you’ve written?
Nope. Once I write something, it’s in the rearview mirror and I don’t think about it too much. Maybe one day when my writing career is over and I’m a toothless old hag in a nursing home, I’ll have the time to think it through and decide on one.
What scares you?
Death, heights, mice, roller coasters, terrorists, debt and ignorance. Not necessarily in that order.
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading The Annotated Poe, edited by Kevin J. Hayes. It’s a beautiful hardcover with lavish illustrations. Hayes provides a wealth of information in this edition of Poe–information that can increase a reader’s understanding of both the author and his work.
What are you currently working on?
A novella tentatively titled Broken Animals.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Remember that the writing is the main thing. Focus on that. Don’t focus on the controversy du jour on Facebook. Don’t focus on drama. Don’t focus on the resident egomaniac in your local writing group. Don’t focus on the egomaniacs out in the blogosphere. Don’t focus on marketing or developing your so-called “brand”. Not when you’re new, at least. Just write everyday and read everyday. Get better at your craft.