Five Things Friday: Mini-Interview with Author Rebecca Rowland

Next up in the “Five Things Friday”  interview: Horror Author (and Animal Advocate!) Rebecca Rowland! (And she’s an editor, too!)

Willow Croft: In your Ginger Nuts of Horror interview (https://gingernutsofhorror.com/interviews/bits-and-pieces-an-interview-with-michael-aloisi-and-rebecca-rowland), you make a passing reference to a roller derby jammer. Do you have a favorite roller derby team? And/or, if you were a roller derby jammer/athlete, what would your roller derby skater name be?

Rebecca Rowland: What a fantastic question! The team I have gone to see most often is the Western Mass Destruction (WMDs), and two years ago, I started putting their try-out dates on my calendar. (https://www.pioneervalleyrollerderby.com/teams/western-mass-destruction/) Then, CoVid hit, and well, we all know how that sentence ends. New England has mostly flat-track derby, so it’s a smidge tamer than the derbies in the Midwest or South, but the Northern women still bring it. The sport is a lot like rugby in the sense that it takes a lot of bravery to put your body out there for guaranteed bruises and scrapes, but as I have no desire to jump out of a plane or bungee jump off of…well, anything, I suppose this would be my adrenaline outlet. And my derby name is Rita Slayworth, of course!

Willow Croft: Somewhere in your corner of the virtual world, you mention that you go travelling at times. And that you count Flannery O’Connor as one of your favorite authors/key literary influences. Have you been to the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home Museum (It’s in Savannah, Georgia, and it’s awesome!) or do you have another author/literary historic site that you’ve visited that you enjoyed?

Rebecca Rowland: Yes, I have visited! It’s funny: I traveled to Savannah for the first time during one of the hottest summers up here in New England. I went to Georgia in July and my weather app listed the temperature as “feels like 106.” I know it gets that hot in the Southwest, but I’ve been to Las Vegas in the summer: the heat in the South is a completely different world! It truly felt like I was walking through soup, but everything about the city: the O’Connor museum, the riverfront, the people, the food—it was all so beautiful and interesting that the weather didn’t bother me. And the bonus was, when I returned home, our “heat wave” here felt refreshing!
You and I have exchanged our frustrations with being grounded these past months. I love traveling and normally try to venture somewhere a good distance away two or three times a year. Every place I visit, I make it a point to see a famous author’s homestead or museum. I drank a shot of Wild Turkey outside of Hunter S. Thompson’s former Kentucky home (much to the amusement of the neighbor, who told us that he sees quite a few tourists do the same), stood on the second-floor balcony of the courtroom in the To Kill a Mockingbird museum in Alabama and imagined Atticus Finch walking by below, pet the ubiquitous feline residents of Hemingway’s estate in Key West, and wrapped my arms around Poe’s gravestone in Maryland. However, one of the coolest literary places I’ve been, I have to say, is right in my backyard: The House of Seven Gables in Salem is right on the waterfront and it features a hidden staircase that tourists can climb. That architectural detail didn’t appear in Hawthorne’s novel, but it’s a fun experience to wiggle up anyway!

(Interview resumes after the photos–Willow Croft)

MonroeCourthouseRR
Rebecca Rowland sitting in the galley of the courthouse in the Monroe County Museum, Alabama https://www.monroecountymuseum.org
HemingwayRR
Rebecca Rowland at the Hemingway Home and Museum, Key West, petting one of the famous cats https://www.hemingwayhome.com
PoeRR
Poe’s original burial site, Baltimore https://www.eapoe.org/balt/poegravd.htm
SevenGablesRR
A photo of The House of Seven Gables, Salem, MA https://www.salem.org (Photo taken by C. Grygorcewicz)

Willow Croft: One of your guest blogs is titled “The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste: Insanity as a Horror Trope”. (https://ninasoden.com/2020/07/21/the-horrors-hiding-in-plain-sight-by-rebecca-rowland/) As a lighter spin-off of that post, what is the vilest foodstuff you’ve ever eaten? What’s something you’ve sampled, food-wise, that you would never eat again?

Rebecca Rowland: I have been a vegetarian for almost my entire adult life, so I do have to say, the few times I have eaten meat haven’t been the most…pleasant ones for me. I’m always up to try new things, though, and one experience in particular sticks out. I was in my early twenties and was dating someone who wanted to take me for sushi. I had never tried it, so I ordered the sampler plate. I ate the tuna. I ate the mackerel. I ate the yellowtail. I ate the cucumber roll (and wondered why all sushi couldn’t just taste like that). They all went down fine, and I continued through the plate. The final piece was salmon. I wasn’t loving the experience of eating sushi, but I thought, in for a penny, in for a pound. I’m not sure what it was: the taste, the texture, or the color, but after swallowing the salmon, I nearly projectile vomited. It took everything in my power to keep the food down. Since then, I can barely look at a plate of sushi without feeling a bit queasy. But at least I can say, I tried it.

Willow Croft: When I read through your guest blog posts and interviews, I saw a mention of events and happenings in the real world that you draw from to create your horror—where writing horror acts as a catharsis to those tragic events (https://transmundanepressblog.wordpress.com/2020/09/13/should-writers-write-what-they-know-by-rebecca-rowland/). I know, personally, that writing darker stories is beneficial to coping with things out of one’s control, but that I also have to take a break from it (like, I can’t watch gut-wrenching TV/movie dramas). So how do you take a break from the darkness within, and in the real world? What are some of your favorite non-horror books and TV shows, or other pastimes you take part in?

Rebecca Rowland: I’m a fan of edgy comedies and crime shows. I loved Fleabag, Schitt’s Creek, and Shameless, and right now, I’m catching up on Flack and am excited to start the new season of City on a Hill (because…Boston, Kevin Bacon in a bad porn mustache, and early 1990s hair and fashion: what’s not to love?). But there is one other television staple that is my guilty pleasure: I will not mention which author this is, but a fellow horror writer and I are die-hard fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race. We watch it together every Friday night when a season is airing. The show is beautiful and bright and juicy and creative, and it never fails to take my mind off of anything that might be plaguing me.

Willow Croft: And, lastly, do you have pets [or a beloved plant(s)]? Who are your animal companions, and do they help or hinder your writing?

Rebecca Rowland: (Sigh) This pulls at my heart-strings a bit. I have always had a cat companion; at one time, I had five living with me: all rescues. People would tease me about being a “cat lady” constantly, but now that I’ve had to say goodbye to all but one of them in the past decade, I think, what was missing in those people’s hearts that they thought it was silly or crazy of me to share my life with animals? I can’t say any of my four-legged friends have been particular helpful in my writing, however; even as I write this, my lone survivor has pushed his way onto my lap and is trying to rub the keyboard. However, I think it’s imperative that writers have someone to care for, whether it’s a pet, or a child, or a special partner. Writing, at its bones, is about connecting. We don’t write and shove our stories under the rug; we write and want others to read and feel. Writers who have never truly loved someone or something…their readers can sense it in their work. The stories are missing something. Even if the tale is a gory slasher or a science fiction set in a sterile, metallic world, if the story lacks that ingredient, readers don’t have the essential piece needed to empathize with the characters.
Also, I am going to take this moment to climb up on my little soapbox and ask readers to spay and neuter their pets and to adopt shelter pets! Mine have been sources of true joy for me…and so in that sense, I guess they have been a help to me in my writing after all.

Books and short stories that Rebecca Rowland has coming up/out:

The Half That You See (anthology, edited), released March 15
“Thug,” short story premiering in the Australian literary magazine Curiouser, April 10
“The View Master,” short story written with Pieces collaborator Michael Aloisi, releasing on Kindle April 21
Unburied: A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction (anthology, edited), releasing June 1
Visit RowlandBooks.com for all the info, and follow her on Instagram @Rebecca_Rowland_books for, as she puts it “horror recommendations and random ridiculousness.” https://www.instagram.com/Rebecca_Rowland_Books/

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Stay tuned for my “Book Look” of Unburied: A Collection of Queer Dark Fiction when the ARC gets “unburied” from my to-read pile! “Unburied”–get it? *nerdy laugh*

The Incendiary Power of Change

I meant to post this before, but I was having so many issues with WordPress. My grown-up version of a temper tantrum felt incendiary enough to scorch the whole planet. *laugh*

As you all know, I already tried to change blog sites once, and that didn’t work out. 

I was even more frustrated in trying to deal with WordPress, because I’m in the middle of the move, and lots of other life changes. But today, I was suddenly back into the regular format, or pretty close to it. The only thing I did was go into a draft that I apparently made last time, and then open that. That may be the trick to have it like it was. Because hitting the “classic block” editor” didn’t work. Luckily, things like the feature to add tags was back, and wasn’t disappearing/reappearing. Even little things, like the ability to put in a strikethrough, was back.

Anyway, I wrote a couple of guest blogs that deal with the element of fire as the more productive way of dealing with change and upheaval, sans the temper tantrum!

Please go check them out, and thanks to Katzenworld and Mookychick for the opportunity to write for them!

“Fighting Fire with Fire” on Mookychick: https://www.mookychick.co.uk/health/witchcraft-spirituality/fighting-fire-with-fire.php

“The Cat that Walked into the Line of Fire” on Katzenworld: https://katzenworld.co.uk/2020/08/13/the-cat-that-walked-into-the-line-of-fire/

 

Aether and its Feline Minions…

A quick-as-air post this week! 

I don’t know how I did this before the shutdown: juggle writing and the day job and all the other life stuff. Right now, even without the day job, it feels like I have too many balls up in the air. But I’m submitting to lots of great writing opportunities, like this call for “Whodunit” mystery stories, hosted by Jersey Pines Ink: https://www.jerseypinesink.com. (Click the Submissions tab or just scroll down.)

Annnd, it looks like I might have my manuscript polished and ready for #PitMad. I don’t want to rush it, though, because I’d rather have a finished manuscript over submitting something that’s not as best as I can (re)write it.

In the meantime, I’ve been writing about the air element and kitty cats! Check out the elemental-themed post on Mookychick (https://www.mookychick.co.uk/health/witchcraft-spirituality/exploring-the-aether-realm-when-all-is-shut-down.php), and the story I wrote for Katzenworld (https://katzenworld.co.uk/2020/05/21/the-cat-that-watches-through-time/)!

Have a fantastic rest of the week, and hope it’s filled with lots of flights-of-fancy!

Getting Lost in a Good Goodreads Binge…

AbandonedArmyBase
A potential site for my upcoming middle grade horror book? Or is this what the world looks like out there without humans after a month? *laughs* (Photo Courtesy of Canva 2020)

 

I’m starting to get a little rambly with the shutdown. And I was pretty bad for rambling on and on even before the pandemic restrictions…

Anyhoo, I’m finally getting caught up on everything that got pushed to the wings when I was working the full-time day job and trying to write full-time on top of that.

I finally found enough time to squeeze some reading in: Beautiful Darkness by Jay Wilburn (which I read in order to review on Madness Heart Press) and so that may be posting sometime soon (at that website’s/publisher’s discretion, of course).

And manage my social media on top of all of that. But now I have plenty of time to waste! Well, not really, as I seem to be even busier than before the day job. 

When I’m not wasting time pining over homes for sale on Old House Dreams and Circa Homes, I am spending more time than I should on Goodreads. I love that site almost more than reading everybody’s blogs. If I didn’t set a timer, I could spend hours there reading reviews and checking out new books…

But, I got my middle grade horror/suspense manuscript back from the editor (Lady Knight Editing: https://ladyknightediting.com/) and so it’s back to the grind on the next round of edits and rewrites. Hopefully (ha ha :-p) I’ll be done in time for #PitMad.

So, I’ll have to start minding my “Ps & Qs” on my blog, and work on my blog’s tone so that it can also appeal to a younger audience. But maybe by then, I’ll be able to get a custom website to go with the book’s release. 

And it’s time to go shopping, pandemic-style, soon. And who doesn’t want a kitty-cat mask to wear out and about?

Other than that, I’ve been re-watching Psych, and I just love Dulé Hill for the class and polish (well, mostly!) he brings to counteract James Roday’s goofball character.

And, that’s it. That’s enough rambling. Gotta go order supplies for my spoiled, fat, ex-feral kitties. And get back to writing and editing and snacking in-between!

Are there ANY bad restaurants in France?

 

Why, yes! Well, according to Alexander McCall Smith in his latest Paul Stuart novel, The Second-Worst Restaurant in France. (I still find it hard to suspend disbelief that France could have a terrible restaurant. Hence the appeal of Smith’s great title!)

But this book was delicious enough to make up for the book’s restaurant that’s being run into the ground by a restauranter-hopeful named Claude.

It reminded me of how much I love to read. More than that, though, it also appealed to my former self that used to work in the restaurant biz, and loved shows like Restaurant Impossible and Kitchen Nightmares back when I had access to cable in a non-rural, non-frontier locale. This book is a great literary version of that.

But, more than that, I found that the side character of Chloe (Paul’s mysterious and unconventional cousin) upholds what Alexander McCall Smith does best–using the main character to develop secondary characters that are just as interesting, if not more so, than the main character. And, without giving away too much, I also related to the character of Hugo–a sensitive individual trying to create his own life based on his ideals and passions. During the course of his journey, he’s aided by Paul in fulfilling these dreams. And I can really relate to Hugo at his stage in life, even though he’s a lot younger.

(This review contains spoilers!)

This is where I struggled with the book. I love the works of Alexander McCall Smith that I’ve read but my own life development stage and mindset as I enter middle age sometimes made The Second-Worst Restaurant in France an emotionally fraught read. And, boy, did I have bias in spades that was hard to put aside while I read the book that I won via a Goodreads giveaway hosted by the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf.

But that’s also the great thing about reading. It’s just you and the book and the characters that feel real enough to debate with in the privacy of your own mind and feelings.

As most writers will agree. Especially when you find out that Paul Stuart can’t work in his apartment where, for some reason, his girlfriend has decided to bring her noisy two cats for a staycation at his apartment, even though she has a flat of her own.

Anyone who’s ever had cats would be like “why on earth would she do that?” Naturally, the cats complain a lot to Paul about the situation, but he’s got a book to write, and eventually has to relocate his writing space into another apartment that Chloe offers him use of.

Poor Paul.

But the apartment doesn’t suit him either, as there are a bevy of young people upstairs doing what they do best–making sure everyone knows they are there with lots of loud music. 

And poor Paul ends up in a silly man-predicament with the younger woman, where he swears the interaction they have in the store is “innocent” to his girlfriend Gloria, who witnesses the weird olive-feeding interaction that somehow gets mistaken for a kiss. Let’s hear it, everyone: a big, resounding “Innocent, my a**!” *laugh*

So, poor, poor Paul has to pack up and relocate to the French countryside to finish his book that he doesn’t even want to write, but in between lecturing his experienced, worldly secret agent cousin about how to act and think, and nurturing poor, belittled, sensitive, chef-hopeful Hugo in fulfilling his cooking-promise, he realizes he doesn’t want to write the book he was working on, about the philosophy of food, and he also realizes that nobody will want to read it, either, despite the fact that his influential editor/girlfriend Gloria has pulled strings and gotten a publisher to back it.

So, wonderfully understanding and supportive Gloria arranges a whole other wonderful project for Paul to undertake, all the pieces fall into place, and everything is happily ever after–all thanks to Paul, presumably, not Gloria and Chloe (who comes to the aid of a local mother-to-be in an unconventional and fascinating way)–in the idyllic French countryside villa that I, and a million other hardworking writers who are also working day jobs (like me) and (unlike me) also trying to raise kids and maintain romantic relationships, are probably thinking that poor Paul is anything but poor.

But it’s proof positive that a main character doesn’t have to be likeable in order for you to fully engage with a book. And that’s why I like books so much. So much diversity there that gets left out of movies.

And, despite my mixed critique of Alexander McCall Smith’s book (which, again, I liked so much I read it twice!); yes, I’m a fan! I would definitely read more of the Paul Stuart series, including his first book in the series, and others. It comes down to the writing, which is, as always with Smith, so good!

And the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is fabulous, of course! Visit Alexander McCall Smith and discover his fantastic writing and compelling characters for yourself, here: https://www.alexandermccallsmith.com/.