A recent interview from We Who Who Walk Here referred to Spencer Koelle’s short story, Cold Dread and Hot Slices, as “…a Lovecraftian story of minimum wage food service.” I think that captures perfectly the essence of a story that displays the full potential of a creative writer to explore the genre in the most modern of settings. One of the reasons this story hit me so hard was I felt like I was alternately reading a horror submission … and the social media feeds of many of my friends and acquaintances trying to make it through. It was a pleasure to be able to share Spencer’s work, and I hope to read (and publish) more from him in the future!
Q (Crone Girls Press): What do you write? How long have you been writing? What are your preferred genres and why?
A (Spencer Koelle): I write Horror, Fantasy, and Scifi, in that order. I started with fanfiction writing in my teens and began trying to publish original work when I started community college. Horror is the easiest genre to write short stories in because it doesn’t take much world-building or set-up, just a single disturbing idea, but I tend to favor Fantasy for novel length writing.
Q: What inspired your story in this anthology? Tell us the “story behind the story.”
A: This one is a pretty straight-forward vent story. I worked in a hipster pizzeria, and it sucked. The struggles were a bit more compelling if I dialed up the external reasons for the heroine to be miserable and added a frustratingly uncertain supernatural threat.
Q: Why horror? Why do you write it? What about the genre appeals to you as an author?
A: For one thing, it just comes naturally to me. The world is full of strange landmarks, strange objects propped up against basement walls, and disturbing ideas. Horror inspiration comes easier than oxygen. It’s an easy genre for venting/theraputic stories, too. Finally, it’s just so darn fun to write dark, creepy stories and shadowy terrible things.
Q: What draws you to the genre of horror/dark fiction? What do you find there that you don’t find anywhere else?
A: It also straddles the line between commentary and catharsis, between ideology and escapism. It’s the rare genre that is defined by a feeling, encompassing both speculative fiction and realism, with any kind of plot, characters, or setting. Sometimes you want a deconstruction of the problems in our world and a possible solution. Sometimes you want a good old-fashioned ghost story that pairs well with brandied port. When I’m afraid of ghosts, I’m not obsessing over the abject misery that permeates our planet. It’s nice to think of atrocities and evils that aren’t petty and banal.
Q: There are a number of subgenres/tropes/flavors of horror. Where does your story fit? What drew you to this particular category?
A: If I had to place it, I’d say it might qualify as Weird Fiction, or at least Eldritch Horror? I wasn’t that deliberate in picking out a subgenre. I did want something to allow a very phantasmagorical threat that would contrast with the grounded setting.
Q: What do you find the most challenging about the writing process, and how do you meet that challenge?
A: The most challenging part is getting myself to write when the internet and television provide an endless forest of distractions. One way I meet that challenge is with a special brand of Irish Whiskey that I only allow myself to drink while I’m actually writing a story/novel. (outlining doesn’t count)
Q: What was the worst writing advice you ever received? The best writing advice? Why, and how did it affect your writing?
A: There’s so much bad writing advice it’s hard to choose, but a strong contender was Creative Writing Professor Tom Bailey telling me that the best way to write my first novel was to model it after a novel I enjoyed. (I had recently read Salem’s Lot, and I had to edit my manuscript DOWN to 500 pages). The best advice I got is also hard to pin down, but I’d say “read a lot if you want to write”. I’ve exposed myself to authors with different perspectives and experiences so I can do better with representation.
Q: Of the characters you’ve created, who is your favorite, and why?
A: Hoo boy, this is full of tough questions. If we’re just talking published works, Melissa White/Umbral Blot from “Shade of Melancholy” in This Mutant Life: Bad Company, because she embodies so many of my college struggles, from self loathing to disillusionment, and still comes through with some sense of purpose. For unpublished, I think Kelly Fjordson, because there’s something so endearing about a detective who replaces hard-headed badassery with Minnesotan politeness and passive aggression, and is also a werewolf.
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: Dear Dionysus, this is hard to answer. I mostly write the stuff that I don’t see, because I’m trying to fill the gap in things I’d love to read. If you want a ghost story about clueless lesbians, read “By the Dark of Her Eyes” by Cameron MacElvee. If you want good ghost stories, read M. R. James, especially “Oh Whistle And I’ll Come to You, My Lad” or “Residence at Whitminster”. If you want adorable LGBTQ kids, read the Dreadnought series by April Daniels. Most of the stories I’m searching for are ones I try to write myself.
Q: What’s next in your writing journey?
A: I’m working on a fantasy novel about a troupe of traveling entertainers moonlighting as anti-imperial rebels/terrorists, the main character of whom is an escape artist. Trying to write up a ghost story about a suicidal self-insert on Christmas Eve. Once those are done, I plan to write a horror novel about a town beset by a Christian Angel.
Q: Anything to add?
A: Restaurant or delivery tipping is 20% minimum for decent service. People who cannot understand this need to cook for themselves.
Spencer Koelle is a stressed bisexual living in Philadelphia. He likes spiders, red wine, fake meat, 80s horror movies on VHS with that 80s horror font, and playing the same RPGs over again for the comfort of familiarity that it brings. He writes the representation he wants to see in fiction, subverts Christocentric horror tropes, and generally works to queer things up. His Website is www.spencerkoelle.com, and he enjoys referring to himself in the third person.
To read Spencer’s story, Cold Dread and Hot Slices, pick up a copy of Coppice & Brake. And if you’ve already gotten one, please consider leaving us a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Thanks for stopping by!