For those of you who haven’t yet been introduced, Mary SanGiovanni is a unique voice in the world of modern horror. Her works include The Hollower its sequel, Found You, and Thrall as well as several appearances in periodicals and anthologies and a novella entitled For Emmy. Mary has a unique writing style and an incredible ability to bring you into her world utterly and completely. She wraps you in a blanket of carefully woven suspense, intriguing characters, flowing dialogue and immersive landscapes. If you haven’t yet read her works, I highly suggest you do. This is one author who deserves a place on your bookshelf.
Alyn Day: What inspired you to become a writer?
Mary SanGiovanni: I think it was a couple of different things — my father was one. He used to tell me science fiction stories from Asimov and Herbert. He told me about these sweeping epic worlds that people had created, and, having been a big fan of the Vivid Imagination Home Movie myself, I thought writing my own stories and sharing them with the world would be great. I also have to credit Stephen King, of course — mostly because of his nonfiction about the joy of creating, and the life he had as a result.
I never set about looking to be rich and famous — just comfortable and well-read. That, to me, is writing success.
AD: What are some of your favorite books?
MS: Skeleton Crew, Houses Without Doors, Ghost Story, Shutter Island, Enduring Love, IT, The Shining, The Exorcist III, and damn near anything Lovecraft.
AD: What are some of your inspirations?
MS: I’m a very visual writer, I think, so I find visual media most inspiring. Sometimes when I’m stuck on something, I try to work it out in computer art or painting, and then write off what I see. Sometimes I go surfing for images online — photography, art, even video game stills — to get concrete visual details.
AD: What is your favorite food?
MS: Pretzels. I also love chicken lo mein and pretty much any kind of seafood.
AD: What is your favorite movie?
MS: I have two: In The Mouth Of Madnes and Session 9.
AD: How long have you been writing?
MS: I’ve been writing something or other since I was little, but I’ve been writing seriously, with the intent to be published, since about 1999.
AD: What can you tell me about your current projects?
MS: Currently, I’m working on a third Hollower book due out later this year, called THE TRIUMVIRATE. I am also working on a short story for an anthology, a possible novella, and another novel I’d like to have finished by the end of this year. I think 2012 will be a productive year.
AD: How do you feel about the trend of writers self-publishing their work?
MS: My feelings on this have changed over time. Coming up in the business, we were always told this was a bad way to go if you wanted a serious career as a writer. But really, to have a career as a writer at all, you need to adapt with the continually changing landscape of publishing. I think we’re in a unique position now as writers to pioneer the new technology available to us for reaching wider audiences and promoting ourselves and our work. I think self-publishing can be a viable option for writers in certain cases. If you have an established fanbase, for one, and find that traditional publishers at this point can’t offer anything you can’t get yourself. Also, certain genres (I’m thinking SF, for example) are tough to break into, and even magazines look for a writer to have a following before publishing their short fiction. I think self-publishing could work there, too, in helping to establish a platform and sales figures/fanbase to show potential publishers. However, I think self-published writers absolutely need to be great promoters (which I am not – heh) of their own work. They need to make sure they have as much editorial gateway as they can, to assure they’re putting out the best quality product, and they need to be somewhat tech savvy. I think traditional publishers should still be considered, though. The thing is to see where your time and energy are best spent, without sacrificing the old mantra that money should always flow TO the writer.
AD: Do you listen to music while you write? If so, any favorites?
MS: You know, it’s funny; I used to. I can’t now, I think, because I like to sing, and the lyrics distract me from writing. I tried just listening to instrumental stuff, but strangely enough, I found what works best for me is something droning on the TV behind me. I guess I do like words in the background, just not words that will distract me from my own.
AD: Any words of advice for authors who are just starting out?
MS: “Write what you know” really means “Write what is close to your heart.” And if you write what is close to your heart, finish it. Always finish it. Believe in the stories you’re telling. Do not let rejection slow you, let alone stop you, because it happens to everyone. Read as much and as widely as you can, and know your genre. Listen to those who came before you (their experience is valuable), but also consider the ideas of those who come after you (their fresh perspective is also valuable). When you write, make sure you’re saying something, even if you’re just saying “let’s have fun for a while.” Carry yourself with dignity and respect online and off, but don’t forget to be just you. And be patient.
AD: How do you want to be remembered?
MS: I’d like to be remembered as a woman with a beautiful soul, a woman whose love for her child and family and friends was a treasure, a woman who made others smile. And hell, I’d like to be remembered as a good writer, a significant contributor to the body of horror literature I love so much. I’d like there to be those young people who have my books and wish they could have met me at least once in person to chat about them.
AD: If you couldn’t write horror, what would you write instead?
MS: Thrillers. In lieu of that, if thrillers are too close, probably fantasy. I think it would also be fun to write a western, maybe.
AD: Any last words, anything you’d like to share?
MS: Just thanks for interviewing me.
A great big THANK YOU! to the lovely Mary SanGiovanni for participating in this interview.