Q: What do you write? How long have you been writing? What are your preferred genres and why?
A (M.P. Giddings): I write mostly science-fantasy and dabble in personal narrative. I like writing in these genres because it’s open for possibilities–I’m a fan of anything weird, and those unseen things that make us uncomfortable, and our hair stand on end. But I also like space, magic, and epic Masterpiece Theater-like stories. It allows me to get philosophical, but also talk about weird creatures, romance, and adventures.
Q: What inspired your story in this anthology? Tell us the “story behind the story.”
A: L’appel du vide is a real thing, and I think it’s one of those terms that doesn’t translate well into English, but it’s this feeling of wanting to jump off a cliff, or in the case of my story, a boat. It’s very different than the sense of vertigo or wanting to commit suicide because it’s something that is spontaneous, which is what makes it so terrifying. It really freaks people out when it happens. I was participating in a flash fiction contest, and I needed a plot. My mother-in-law had just come back from Washington State, was at Mt. Olympia and couldn’t get out of the car because she felt she might fall in, and it started a conversation. I’ve spent a lot of time on boats and piers and have had my own experience with it, so it just set me in motion. Write what you know, haha.
Q: Why horror? Why do you write it? What about the genre appeals to you as an author?
A: It’s fun! I like writing it because it’s challenging to do. As a new writer, especially, it gives me a lot of thought into word choice and structure.
Q: There are a number of subgenres/tropes/flavors of horror. Where does your story fit? What drew you to this particular category?
A: I’m not super into writing gory horror (I like watching and reading it though) because it’s just not my style, and frankly, I’m not that good at it. I’m a bit of a cliché of a person and have a dark existential, nihilistic take on a lot of things. I like quiet, weird, absurd horror that makes people uncomfortable because I’m always uncomfortable.
Q: What do you find the most challenging about the writing process, and how do you meet that challenge?
A: Self-doubt is probably my biggest challenge, as it is, I think, for many writers. There’s this manic rollercoaster that comes with writing where you’re up and up, then suddenly crashing towards the ground, only to bank to the left and go back up. It gives you emotional and creative whiplash sometimes. One moment you love something you’ve done, and the next, you hate it more than anything, and that can lead to nasty internal dialogue, depression, and anxiety. I try to ride it as well as I can. Sometimes, it’s really a sign of being burnt out, and its time for self-care, which might mean sobbing while eating a donut. And that’s okay.
Q: What was the worst writing advice you ever received? The best writing advice? Why, and how did it affect your writing?
A: Oh, jabber. Well, the worst and the best are the same, “Kill your darlings.” This is pretty standard advice and has its place. I had that newbie phase where I was all, “But I like purple prose, so back off,” and then as I grew as a writer, I understood more about why this advice exists. But then I took it to an extreme and like, “I like this sentence, it must die,” which left me with pieces where I lost my voice and style because I was basically cutting out anything that was well… me as an author. It’s forced me to reflect on what I’m writing, how I want it, and how to find that sweet middle spot.
Q: Of the characters you’ve created, who is your favorite, and why?
A: I love this question, mostly because I’m low-key in love with the villain in my novel for my MFA, Renaldo de’Pazzi. He’s this well-to-do wealthy banker, Victorian “scholar, and gentlemen figure.” He’s a collector, historian, all intellectual and stuff like some 19th-century archaeologists. But then underneath it all, he’s no better than some mafia boss who blackmails and cons his way into power. He’s also the reincarnation of the god of the void, and he has a score to settle. He’s just so much fun.
Q: What draws you to the genre of horror/dark fiction? What do you find there that you don’t find anywhere else?
A: This is tough. I’ve just always liked weird, creepy things. Growing up in New England with old sea-side towns and eerie woods, it’s sort of part of the vibe and tradition. My grandmother use to tell me all kinds of stories about pukwudgies, and Black Phillip-like things. She used to talk about them in a severe sort of way, and it really got my attention. What I like about horror/dark fiction [is] it forces us to think about how not everything in this universe is a tangible or comprehensible thing–if that makes sense.
Q: If someone asked you to recommend books/stories similar to what you write, who/what titles would you be giving them? And, why?
A: I recently got into Thomas Ligotti’s “Songs of a Dead Dreamer.” He’s certainly selling my brand of horror. I also recently got really into this author Clark Ashton Smith, who wrote a lot of these dark fantasy/horror poems and short stories for early pulp magazines. His stuff is weird and bizarre. It’s had an impact on how I write dark fantasy. If someone loves epic poems, I suggest “The Hashish Eater – or – the Apocalypse of Evil.”
Q: What’s next in your writing journey?
A: Well I’m in the middle of my thesis project, which will be my first novel. It’s science-fantasy, little Lovecraftian with some eldrich references in some parts, maybe more Dune or Wheel of Time in others. It’s turned into this epic of a story, and I’m passionate about it, but sometimes I think I’ve opened up a forbidden tome and am staring into the face of madness.
M.P Giddings is a speculative fiction writer currently working on her debut novel. She is passionate about old-timey things, existential dread, and donuts. M.P. is currently pursuing an MFA degree in creative writing at Southern New Hampshire University. She lives in Providence, RI, with her husband and feline overlord.
To read M.P.’s story, L’appel du vide, pick up a copy of Stories We Tell After Midnight. And if you’ve already gotten one, please consider leaving us a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Thanks for stopping by!