When the spoiled rich son of the old master of the house inherits the property and the servants, those servants take a dim view of the level of class and dignity the son displays at his dinner parties. With vampires. Samantha Bryant’s short story, “The Cleaning Lady,” is a flash fiction that embodies just the right amount of nostalgic, bloody ennui for a time gone by…
Q (Crone Girls Press): What do you write? How long have you been writing? What are your preferred genres and why?
A (Samantha Bryant): I’m a Jill of all trades when it comes to writing. I love experimenting and trying new forms, genres, and styles. Though I’ve written since I was six, I’ve considered myself professional since 2015, when my first novel was published. My published work is in speculative fiction: the Menopausal superhero series, and a variety of short stories including ghost stories, horror, fairy tale, romance, gothic, apocalyptic. I’ve even got some nonfiction and poetry out there.
Q: What inspired your story in this anthology? Tell us the “story behind the story.”
A: I had recently watched a rather bloody horror movie and had an odd moment wondering who would be cleaning up the mess. Occupational hazard of motherhood, I suppose. Then, Margarita stepped onto the page, angry at her inconsiderate boss and a story was born.
Q: What draws you to the genre of horror/dark fiction? What do you find there that you don’t find anywhere else?
A: Writing for me has always been about what scares me. Sometimes that’s more esoteric and existential, like aging or motherhood. Sometimes, it’s more direct, like violence or personal tragedy. Horror/dark fiction lets me explore those darker moments of the soul in a less realistic setting. When characters are facing their fears, they are revealed cleanly for who they are and nowhere is that clearer than in horror stories.
Q: There are a number of subgenres/tropes/flavors of horror. Where does your story fit? What drew you to this particular category?
A: “The Cleaning Lady” is probably best identified as dark humor. I’m fond of a story that makes me gasp in surprise, and sometimes that comes from a seeming mismatch in setting and tone.
Q: Why horror? Why do you write it? What about the genre appeals to you as an author?
A: I’ve long been a fan of horror as a reader, so it only makes sense that I’d wander dark and lonely paths as a writer as well. The psychology of it speaks to me–the way we can scare ourselves, especially when alone–but it’s also about heroism, finding the strength in yourself it takes to stand up to something dangerous. Besides, I’m a total sucker for a good spooky setting. Give me dilapidated houses, ruined landscapes, and ancient gravesites any day!
Q: Of the characters you’ve created, who is your favorite, and why?
A: My favorite is always the one I’m writing now, so that would be Devon Brook, the lead character in my current WIP, a gothic romance with a working title of The Architect and the Heir. She’s a woman ahead of her time with a passion for her work and a steel rod of stubbornness for a spine.
Q: What do you find the most challenging about the writing process, and how do you meet that challenge?
A: Time management. I’m a writer with a day job and family responsibilities, so efficiency is the name of the game. I’m brutal with myself when it comes to scheduling and devoted to my calendar and lists to keep myself on track.
Q: What was the worst writing advice you ever received? The best writing advice? Why, and how did it affect your writing?
A: The worst writing advice was to wait for inspiration. You can take a very long time indeed to finish anything if you only write when you’re “feeling inspired.” Writing is work, and inspiration often comes from the work itself. If you’re waiting for the stars to align, you might never see your stories to fruition. In contrast, the best was to find a discipline that works for you. For me, that ended up being a commitment to write every day. My string of writing days is now over six years long. I know every day doesn’t work for everyone, but I firmly believe that a writer needs to have a regular, dedicated practice in order to move forward on their projects! Define it as you will.
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 like to have fun and make people think at the same time in my stories. In that way, I am like Stan Lee, Gail Simone, and Neil Gaiman. But I have a darkness beneath that echoes the strange ambiguities of Shirley Jackson and Daphne du Maurier. Though I’m a little less direct in my social critique, you might also find the influence of Ray Bradbury, Ursula LeGuin, and Margaret Atwood in my pages.
Q: What’s next in your writing journey?
A: 2020 is a busy year for me! I have three novellas coming out in my Menopausal Superhero series, so I’ll be in and out of editing cycles all year. I’m also finishing my gothic romance, and will soon need to begin work on the fourth novel in the Menopausal Superhero series, due to my publisher in 2021. I’ve been pushing myself to submit more of my short work, so I’m hoping to see more of it into anthologies and magazines this year as well.
Samantha Bryant teaches Spanish to middle schoolers. Clearly, she’s tougher than she looks. She writes The Menopausal Superhero series of novels, and other feminist leaning speculative fiction. When she’s not writing or teaching, Samantha enjoys family time, watching old movies, baking, reading, gaming, walking in the woods with her rescue dog, and going places. Her favorite gift is tickets (to just about anything). You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @samanthabwriter or at: http://samanthabryant.com.
To read “The Cleaning Lady” by Samantha Bryant, pick up a copy of Stories We Tell After Midnight 2. And, once you are finished, please think about leaving us a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Reviews make our cold, dark little heart so happy…