- The benefits to regularly writing short stories.
- Writing horror helps us understand fear, our strongest emotion as human beings.
- Various strategies for overcoming writers block.
The possibilities are endless.
Welcome to the second episode of Interviews from the Void, where I interview writers about their writing process, discussing the mechanics and physicality of the craft. I’m fascinated with writing as a physical effort and the perspectives of other writers on the process itself.
In this episode, I’ve asked horror writer Avrin Kelly about her writing process and where she finds her inspiration.
A. Macabe: Tell me more about your #52weeks52stories journey? What made you want to start? Is it helping you improve as a writer?
Avrin Kelly: So far this year, I’ve written ten stories. #52weeks52stories is something I knew I wanted to take part in because short stories are life, for me at least. They’re like literary Robot Chicken, or teleporting somewhere new for a short time. The possibilities are endless. With every story I write, I feel like I get a little bit better at the craft.
A. Macabe: When did you start writing?
Avrin Kelly: I’m 30. I didn’t start writing in earnest until last year. I wrote my first short story in April of 2017. It was horrible (laughs).
A. Macabe: Why was it horrible?
Avrin Kelly: It was horrible because – at the time – I didn’t know the first thing about story structure and the ending was confusing. So, I decided to try again – now with the confidence that I could finish a story – and I did. The next story was a little better.
Learning to improve your craft is just as rewarding.
A. Macabe: Has writing more often helped you?
Avrin Kelly: Writing more has definitely helped me. Practice makes perfect as they say. And though I don’t believe one can ever become a perfect writer, I do believe that learning to improve your craft is just as rewarding. Practicing helped me understand the subtle nuances of story structure, foreshadowing, and “kick you in the butt” endings; my favorite kind of endings. Stories hit harder when you foreshadow a shocking end.
A. Macabe: What’s your writing process? Do you write by hand? Type? Do you have a daily word count?
Avrin Kelly: My writing process is a little weird. It usually starts with a creepy hook of a first line. I do this until I find something interesting enough to expand on. At any given time, I have about 10 to 15 short stories in play. I switch back and forth depending on what ones I want to work on at the time. I write in Scrivener, on my phone in Google Keep, and in Google Docs. I don’t push myself to write according to word count, although I wish I could. I just try to tell a jarring story that is ultimately haunting and that makes sense.
A. Macabe: Speaking of haunting, are there things which haunt you? Like deep water or the dark?
Avrin Kelly: When I was younger, I used to be horrified of deep water. If I couldn’t see the bottom, I was sure that there was something in there just waiting to get me. Something else that haunts me are parasites. That show, “Monsters Inside Me,” I can’t even watch it. It really, really creeps me out. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Tooms from the X-Files. Saw that episode as a kid and I was never the same afterwards.
A. Macabe: Besides #52weeks52stories, do you have other writing goals for 2018?
Avrin Kelly: Yes! I’d like to finish my first full length novel, “Trigram”. It’s about a Warlock who has the ability to Pulse between dimensions.
A. Macabe: This sounds like an awesome concept. Also, you’ve got some great artwork on your website. Do you do your own artwork?
Avrin Kelly: I do my own artwork. I have always been an artsy-type person. With the emergence of great software for free in Canva, I feel like anyone can be an artist with the tools they’ve provided. I made the cover for “Trigram” in Canva. It didn’t take me very long at all. I used free source photography from Pixabay. When I was a teenager, I was super into photorealism and pencil art. I still am, but at some point I found myself drawn more to writing than to art. Get it? Drawn to writing? (laughs).
There’s a recent sketch that I did for the novel. Thierry, my Warlock main character, and his Witch friend Tess are both characters in “Trigram.”
A. Macabe: Wow. You’ve got a talent for drawing also. It’s great when there are multiple creative outlets within a person’s personality. So let’s talk a bit more about creativity and inspiration. Where does your inspiration come from?
Avrin Kelly: I find it is easy to come across inspiration and I see it everywhere. I think the trick is settling on one thing to focus on at a time. I can find the horror in just about any situation.
Fear is our strongest and most base emotion as human beings.
A. Macabe: What has made you stick to horror?
Avrin Kelly: I like to write horror stories because I think that they stick in people’s minds longer than other genres. Fear is our strongest and most base emotion as human beings. Even in the dawn of time, humans new fear before they knew morals, before they believed in God, before anything really. They knew fear. It’s what kept them alive.
A. Macabe: Do you write outside the horror genre?
Avrin Kelly: Yes! I like to write magical realism and speculative fiction; sometimes I even tackle sci-fi. But horror is my one true love. One of the reasons “Trigram” hasn’t been published yet is because I’m still looking for a way to make it scarier. Creepier. More disturbing. Oh, and also, I need to finish it (laughs). It’s only about halfway done.
A. Macabe: I really enjoyed your article on National Writing Month. Did you participate in #NaNoWriMo and if so, was it beneficial for you?
Avrin Kelly: I did participate in #NaNoWriMo in 2017. It was my first year trying. I worked on “Trigram,” but I didn’t win last year. I did learn a lot about my tendencies as a writer, and now I know novel writing – and long pieces in general – are not my strong point. But that’s okay. I’m adding it to a list of things I want to improve on this year. For #NaNoWriMo 2018, I may not win, but I hope to learn even more than I did last year.
A. Macabe: Do you encounter writer’s block?
Avrin Kelly: Heck yes! I have it right now.
A. Macabe: Do you have a strategy for overcoming it?
Avrin Kelly: Writer’s block can drive you crazy if you let it. But I have a theory on why it’s important and what might be happening when we get blocked up. I think writer’s block is simply our brains processing the things we’ve learned as writers recently. Most of the time, when I have writer’s block I just find myself something else to do. Another task to concentrate on. Once I’ve sufficiently distracted myself, I usually have an idea of what I want to write next when I’m done. Also, it helps to be observant when you have writer’s block. Sometimes lines that belong in stories you haven’t thought of yet will just pop into your head. At least for me they do, inspiration usually strikes when I’m busy doing something else.
A. Macabe: Have you been published before? What was the process like and how to do you promote your books? Does it work?
Avrin Kelly: I’ve self published all of my books so far. As far as promoting them goes… well, I can’t say I have much of an answer. I tell people on Twitter about them, but I rarely advertise my own work. That’s not to say you shouldn’t. I’m just a bit shy and I’m horrible at promotion.
I think writers block is simply our brains processing the things we’ve learned as writers recently.
A. Macabe: Do you have favorite horror novels or movies?
Avrin Kelly: I’m so glad you asked! Favorite horror novel: “Abode” by Morgan Sylvia, it was so horrifically good. Very creepy. In fact, I’ve never really been terrified by a book until I read this.
“Favorite Collection of Horror Stories: Small Horrors” by Darcy Coates. Excellent collection of 50 short stories and every one of them is magnificent!
Favorite horror movie: “Get Out.” That film was a masterpiece. I had no idea what was going on until nearly the end.
A. Macabe: You have two short stories on your website which I thought were great. “Ms. Burgess’s Pets” involves a drain snake and plumbing work, and “The Room That Doesn’t Exist” takes place on what seems to be a residential construction site. Without getting too personal, do you have experience unclogging drains? The writing is such that there seems to be personal experience there. And how did it inspire you to write this story?
Avrin Kelly: My family runs a small handyman repair company, so that’s where the Have Tools Will Travel stories are from. Some of the calls we get spark my imagination. When I think about the stories homes can tell, it always makes my mind go to dark places (laughs evilly).
Connor and Sam don’t exist in real life – that I know of – but if they did, I’d totally love to tag along with them on a work order. But, I’ll be the first to admit I am not a very handy person myself. If it weren’t for YouTube, I would never get through any home repairs.
A. Macabe: Thanks again, Avrin Kelly, for sharing your writing wisdom with us here at Strange World. Check out Avrin’s short stories and follow her 52 week journey here. We’ll be checking in with her later this year to hear more about her upcoming novel: “Tigram.”
Next week in Episode #3, horror and weird fiction writer Andrew Hope and I discuss screenwriting, Fantomex, and how we find time to write when we have full time jobs.