In Convo with Dino Parenti at StokerCon 2017

Mackenzie Kiera – Hi, Dino! So, what can you tell my readers  to pick up? 

Dino Parenti – Well, two days ago I finished the Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead which just won the Pulitzer and the National Book award in the same year. The book is amazing, it’s beautifully written, wonderful prose, but it is a brutal, brutal book, subject matter-wise, but it’s amazing. Just started reading today The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch. I’m only in chapter one but the book, it’s just awesome. I’m already hooked. She wrote The Small Backs of Children. Lidia Yuknavitch is an amazing writer and that’s pretty much it right now, and really whatever short stories I can get my hands on. 

MK -And what is it you do for the industry? 

DP – Right now I’m a writer and I’m also one of the fiction editors for Gamut. We’re in hiatus right now because we just fulfilled our slots for 2017. 

MK – I know! That’s incredible. Congratulations.

DP – We were getting slammed with submissions. The first time we opened for submissions we closed in twenty-four hours. The second month we closed within twelve hours.

MK – Twelve?

DP – We cap at three hundred submissions. They just rolled in, which we are thankful for. We’ve had some great work come in. I don’t know when we’ll open up for 2018, I mean, assuming we’ll still be up and running at that point. 

MK – I’m sure you will, if you’ve had this much traction in just the first part of the year. 

DP – Yeah, but we are subscription based, so go to the website and subscribe. You’ll benefit from some wonderful and awesome fiction you can really sink your teeth into. 

MK – Go to Gamut! Keep them alive! Now, you, Dino Parenti, are one of the sponsors here at StokerCon

DP – Gamut is a sponsor. Our names are on the gift bags and we’re here and we have this purple tag on our name tag so, we’re fortunate enough to listen to all of the wonderful panels and so far it’s been fun.

MK – Have you been to other StokerCons?

DP – No! No, this is my first ‘con’ ever. And this is my first interview ever. 

MK – It’s a pleasure. Tell me, would you encourage writers to come to StokerCon? I realize it’s only the second day but…

DP – If you really want to meet the writers, you’re not going to find a more open and accepting bunch of people and I mean, people think ‘horror writer’ and assume we’re weird but really…

MK – They think we’re scary.

DP – Right? And we’re teddy bears. Teddy bears with issues but still, teddy bears.

MK – I’ve heard too that horror writers are more empathetic, because if you write horror, you tend to want to connect with what makes people tick, what makes them scared.

DP – Yes! And I’ve been to the literary functions and there are some incredibly stuffy people hanging around so, it’s hard to find down to earth people. The great thing about this field is, it was known as “genre”, but it’s becoming so much richer than that. There’s incredible literary merit in everything you’ll find here, for sure. 

MK – Indeed. I did a study last year where I read the most beautiful horror I could find. BirdBox, When we Were AnimalsMongrels,  The Fisherman. So, I have this theory that the horror authors are making a breakthrough that other writers in other genres aren’t. I have read some beautiful fantasy and sci-fi but it seems to be the horror writers that are making the most drastic leaps. Could you give me a comment on that idea? 

DP – Good craft is good craft, whatever genre you are writing on. Gamut is doing a series of “craft videos”—you can buy them online—and mine was how genre and literary actually make perfect bedfellows. The rules still apply, regardless of if you’re writing a straight literary piece or a “genre” you still have to delve into character arc and motivation. How you employ language, point of view, setting and atmosphere and how they all work together to tell the story. Horror writers get the worst rap because I think it’s hard for people to think that the horrific can also be beautiful or, vice versa. 

MK – Totally. We all need to respect each other as writers. 

DP – Exactly. We’re all in the same boat. [He says this, arms extended, aboard the Queen Mary] Literally! It’s a disservice to pit writers against each other, to say that what someone does in the New Yorker is any different than what someone in Cemetery Dance does. If you could lay them out on a cutting board, all the same stuff is coursing through their system. 

We’re all in the same [totally haunted] boat.

MK – Anything you want to add? 

DP – Read more horror! Read reviews and get your hands dirty. Be brave. Read horror. It may be scary but it’s stuff we all deal with. 

When not scribbling twisted musings into spiral notebooks, photographing the odd puddle or junk pile, or building classy furniture, Dino Parenti earns a little scratch drawing buildings. He’s also one of the fiction editors at Gamut Magazine. When not plowing through slush, he writes. His work can be found in a several anthologies, as well as the following journals: Pantheon Magazine, Cease-Cows, Pithead Chapel, Menacing Hedge, and the Lascaux Review, where he won their first annual flash fiction contest. His short-story collection, Dead Reckoning and other stories, has been recently accepted for publication and slated for an early 2018 release with Crystal Lake Publishing.

*This interview originally appeared in Dwarf + Giant

In Convo with Stephen Graham Jones at StokerCon 2017

Mackenzie Kiera – Dr. Stephen Graham Jones. Good to speak with you again, thanks for meeting with me.

Stephen Graham Jones – Absolutely. 

MK – Sir, was hoping you could tell my readers at The Last Bookstore what books to pick up? Give us some ideas. What are you currently reading? 

SGJ – Currently reading Elizabeth Hand's’s Wylding Hall and audiobooking John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire

MK – He’s so cool. I like Red Shirts.

SGJ – Red Shirts is amazing, that’s one of my favorite all time novels.

MK – What else have you read this year?

SGJ – This year? Man, my favorite has got to be Grady Hendrix’s My Best Friend’s Exorcism.

MK – I’ve heard good things about that book. 

SGJ – I love that book. And, just got to hang out with Grady. He’s a cool dude, smart. I think I’ve read that book three times this year.

MK – This year? You don’t have to put it down or…?

SGJ – No, no what happened was, I finished reading it, then started another book and thought: “This sucks.” So, I just went back to reading what I knew I liked. Also? He and I are the same age and it’s set in 1988, I think? So, it feels like a landscape, a cultural landscape I’m familiar with, I guess. Same way Ready Player One spoke to me.

MK – Because you’re from the future?

SGJ – Ha! No. I was born the same year Earnest Cline was born so, for some reason it’s comforting to read about my growing up through people who also grew up in the same time. 

MK – So, in the late eighties, you would have been an adolescent. I heard you say once that writing adolescent characters was something you preferred if not what you bend towards. 

SGJ – I do, I don’t know why but that’s where I’m really comfortable. 

MK – How many of your books are in that age range?

SGJ – Counting Mongrels, five. So, five of sixteen.

MK – Why not more? If that’s where you’re comfortable.

SGJ – Um, probably, you know, when I published The Ones That Got Away in 2010 I guess, I didn’t realize it but some of the reviews said, I mean, they liked it and all but some of the reviews said: ‘This really is a neat way of haunting up childhood.’ I guess I didn’t realize that all those stories are from, like, a kid. I didn’t even know I was doing that so, that told me I probably need to do that less. 

MK – So, what do you think of YA horror? 

SGJ – It’s totally a thing. Gretchen McNeil who is here I believe, she does YA horror. I just read Wolf Road for my class at UCR, and that’s totally YA horror/science fiction. Yeah, I like YA horror. It’s fun to see what you can sneak past the gatekeepers. 

MK – Totally important. Are you allowed to tell me what’s next? Can you talk about Mapping the Interior

SGJ – Yep, it’s about a family trying to hold together after the father died, they are living a few hours off the reservation but then, one night, the oldest son, he’s about twelve, he sees his dead father walk through the living room. Decides to chase him or, follow him. And then, yeah, things happen. Also, there’s this. You seen this yet?

MK – No, tell me. 

SGJ – It’s a comic book called My Hero and it’s coming out in June.

MK – So you have two things coming out in June. Awesome. What made you write this one? 

SGJ – I wanted to engage the comic book form, and I wanted to do it in a way nobody had and, well, a comic book without pictures is a way no one has done comic books before. 

MK – You really got to play. 

SGJ – Yeah! Yeah, I did get to play. 

MK – May I take a picture of this?

SGJ – Yep. Absolutely. 



MK – It’s like you were trying to find all of the corners no one ever writes in.

SGJ – I was trying to get people to read words as images. 

MK – You succeeded. So you have those two coming out and also, you were writing a slasher?

SGJ – Just finished it, it’s going to New York on Monday. 

MK – Good luck!

SGJ – Thank you. Thank you. I’ve also got a crime novel called Texas is Burning, going to try to get it in bundled in with the slasher somehow. And what else? I have another novel called Washed in the Blood. I wrote it in a month and, I mean, it was a month four years ago, I just never sent it out. It’s about bow hunting in West Texas. 

MK – You always come back to West Texas in your writing, don’t you? 

SGJ – I do. Really I think we all, as writers we have only one place where we know all the emotional contours of that place, and for me, that’s West Texas. So, any other place I’m writing about, peel back the scrim and it’s West Texas, whether it’s off planet or inter-dimensional. 

MK – So, you have a lot of desert planets, then?

SGJ – I do. And a lot of tumbleweeds. 

MK – “The Night Cyclist” though, that’s Colorado, isn’t it?

SGJ – It is, and I have another that’s based in Colorado, coming out in Gamut soon, I believe. 

Mk – What was the other one you had in Gamut?

SGJ – That was “Love is a Cavity I can’t Stop Touching.” Also, I think I’ve had another in there, um. “Spider Box,” “Second Chances,” and another called “Teaching a Sociopath to Cry.” Oh! And “The Lazarus Complex.” But the one coming up is “The God of Low Things.” It’s about prairie dogs.

MK – How do you teach a sociopath to cry?

SGJ – I think that’s what it was called. I don’t know. I wrote that one at a talk, and I mean, I got bored at the talk so, I wrote a short story. As you do. 

MK – I remember that. You had a whole bunch of paper in your fists and you were just, “Hey, guys. Wrote a short story.” And then you disappeared. So, wait, you teach for the University of California, Riverside and also for Boulder. Don’t you have a new title for CU Boulder?

SGJ – Yep, I’m an endowed chair now. 

MK – Congratulations. Any other books you can recommend? Before we sign out? 

SGJ – Scary books?

MK – Up to you. 

SGJ – Man, I just finished Bracken MacLeod’s Stranded and that book impressed me a lot. But I mean, all of the Stoker Con finalists have amazing books. 

MK – And you are one of the finalists?

SGJ – I am, I am. For Mongrels.

MK – Well, best of luck to you sir, and thank you for meeting with me. 

SGJ – Thank you. 

Dr. Stephen Graham Jones was raised mostly in Greenwood, Texas. Currently, he teaches English and Creative Writing for the University of Colorado, Boulder and University of California, Riverside-Palm Desert. He is the author of twenty-three novels and some 250+ short stories. His latest novella Mapping the Interior and comic book My Hero will be available June, 2017. Dr. Jones lives in Boulder, CO with his wife, two teenage kids, some dogs and too many old trucks.

*This interview originally appeared on Dwarf + Giant

In Convo with John Palisano at StokerCon 2017

Mackenzie Kiera – Hi, John! Could you tell me who you are?

John Palisano – I’m John Palisano. Vice President of the Horror Writers Association. Bram Stoker Award winning author.

MK – Very cool. What year did you win?

JP – Last year! 2016.

MK – What brought you to HWA? 

JP – I joined fifteen years ago. I met Lisa Morton when she was at the Iliad Bookshop in North Hollywood and I was trying to get back into the fiction world after being in the movie business—I’d been writing screenplays—and I love it. It’s an amazingly supportive organization for new writers and I felt like I had met my tribe. 

MK – So what’s the name of your Stoker award?

JP – It was a short story and it won for Outstanding Achievement in Short Fiction. It’s called “Happy Joe’s Rest Stop,” and it was in the anthology Eighteen Wheels of Horror, edited by Eric Miller. 

MK – What are you working on now?

JP – I’m writing a couple of short stories for a new anthology, it’s called Monsters Exist. And there’s another really fun story I’m working on for a book called Alternate Histories, or, something like that. I don’t think they’ve settled on a title. I chose Marilyn Monroe, and everyone thinks Marilyn was ditsy but she was actually very smart. In the story I have her as an undercover agent and she has the ability to call out demons, and there’s a demon that’s making the Korean war happen, so she goes into the jungle, does her little act and then she goes into the jungle while everyone’s asleep and glams this demon out of the forest—out of the woods of Korea—captures him in a diamond, puts him on her finger and walks out. 

MK – So, diamonds really are a girl’s best friend?

JP – [Laughs] Absolutely, because, if you know anything about Marilyn, she’s very intellectual. Avid reader.

MK – Was she?

JP – Oh, yes. That’s why she married Arthur Miller. She was wicked smart. So, for the short story, I thought it would be so perfect because no one would suspect that she really has a demon on her finger. The story is called: “The Prince of Darkness and the Showgirl.”

MK – Nice!

JP – It’s been really fun to write.

MK – So, short stories tend to be your wheelhouse?

JP – I write everything. I write non-fiction, I write for Fangoria, I’ve written for Dark Discoveries and soon, hopefully, for BlumHouse. I’ve done screenplays over the years, I have had some tiny films made. My first love is fiction and poetry. Like beat poetry. I love it. 

MK – Have you tried your hand at poetry?

JP – Sure. I have a couple published poems out there. I was in a collection that was Alfred Hitchcock themed and my poem was titled: “Mother You Can Watch.” I have another big poem in the HWA Poetry Showcase called, “Meet the Beetles.” That poem is about a battered wife who kills her abusive husband by putting poisonous spiders in his bed, and the poem is all watching him slowly decay as the flies and beetles go into him, and the beetles ultimately fly away with what’s left of him into big clouds and then disperse. It’s a riff on the Beatles album. 

MK – Very scarab-like.

JP – Yes, it absolutely has Egyptian-like qualities because, you think: “How can we dispatch of someone these days?” It’s really hard because they can find anything. And, for a while, you could feed a body to a wild boar. That doesn’t work anymore because now they can test the DNA of the pigs guts for traces, whereas they couldn’t before. I was so angry because I was like, well damn. I should have acted sooner. 

MK – Maybe now all of your stories can take place in the eighties? Before the DNA tech savvy stuff came out. So, what can you suggest for people to read at The Last Bookstore. What are you reading right now?

JP – What am I reading right now? I just read Michael Griffin’s Hieroglyphs of Blood and Stone and it’s unbelievable. A very slow burn. It’s more haunting than visceral, I tend to go towards that, because, I love the new horror that’s out, the weird-fiction and the noir. It isn’t about that crazy guy chasing teenagers, it’s about a different kind of ‘crazy’ and it’s more reflective of the times. What’s scary these days is that life is changing, the world is changing and a lot of people are getting upset. Political opportunities, doors closing, and all of it’s horrific because you start to wonder if you have a future anymore and there’s a collective helplessness that has invaded our country and I think the art is starting to reflect that. That’s something horror has always done, is reflect the times. If you think of the zombies, that’s when they first came out they were kind of immigrant based in the 20s and 30s. They came off ships. Then they were brought back in the sixties, around when there was nuclear fear. They were the ‘living dead’ zombies and were created from nuclear bombs. And then in the seventies, they were in the mall, and were reflective of consumerism. Now, with The Walking Dead, I think it’s reflecting terrorism. So, horror always reflects the times. 

MK – So, any other books you would recommend?

JP – The Fisherman, by John Langan was excellent. I think I’m not alone in being obsessed with Stephen Graham Jones and trying to track down everything he writes. I mean, Mongrels is just . . . it blew my mind and it’s a very different style. 

MK – Indeed. And the two books that you mentioned? Have you noticed that horror writers are bridging the gap between literary and genre? 

JP – Yes! You’re right! It’s a beautiful thing that’s happening, and I hear there are even publishers that are calling it, ‘literary horror.’ Trying to distinguish between say, a slasher from Frankenstein. But really, I think the thing with a writer, is it’s so much about the voice of the storyteller, people ask me, “Why was Twilight popular, why was Fifty Shades of Gray popular?” It’s all in the voice. So, if there’s a voice you can connect with, no matter what, you’re on board with that character. Think about Stephen King or Anne Rice, you feel it: the escape. The world.

MK – Is that what you like to create most? Other worlds? 

JP – I try. And you know, when you write a short story, there’s just as much world building as, when you write a novel, sometimes. Because if you really want to do it well, you’ve got to know all these details. 

MK – Absolutely. 

JP – So, a lot of times when you’re writing a short story you have to build it all and maybe you only use a sliver, in a novel you can use the whole thing. 

MK – And you enjoy that?

JP – I do. It’s pleasurable. 

MK – Anything else you would like to share?

JP – I’ve always enjoyed writing. I love everything about it. The process. I mean, I do a lot of other things. I’ll play music or draw or something. Actually, if you’re a writer, you tend to have many different talents because if you’re creative, you’re creative. 

MK – Absolutely. So, where can we look out for you? 

JP – My website is my name, and I’m on Facebook and Twitter, where you can find me pretty easily. I love talking to people, as you may have noticed. 

MK – It’s been a pleasure. Thank you very much for your time and congratulations on your Stoker award. 

John Palisano has a pair of books with Samhain Publishing, Dust of the Dead, and Ghost Heart. Nerves is available through Bad Moon. Starlight Drive: Four Halloween Tales was released in time for Halloween, and his first short fiction collection All That Withers is available from Cycatrix press, celebrating over a decade of short story highlights. Night of 1,000 Beasts is due soon from Sinister Grin press. 

He won the Bram Stoker Award© in short fiction in 2016 for “Happy Joe’s Rest Stop”. More short stories have appeared in anthologies from Cemetery Dance, PS Publishing, Independent Legions, DarkFuse, Crystal Lake, Terror Tales, Lovecraft eZine, Horror Library, Bizarro Pulp, Written Backwards, Dark Continents, Big Time Books, McFarland Press, Darkscribe, Dark House, Omnium Gatherum, and more. Non-fiction pieces have appeared in FANGORIA and DARK DISCOVERIES magazines.

*This interview originally appeared on Dwarf + Giant