I’m thrilled to welcome Damien Angelica Walters to the blog today! I recently reviewed her new short story collection Sing Me Your Scars (read my review here) and I loved her pain-infused look at the world. Damien’s writing is simply beautiful, and you will be hard pressed to find stories like these anywhere else.
Welcome to Books, Bones & Buffy, Damien! Thank you for answering some of my questions.
BB&B: First of all, I want to say I loved Sing Me Your Scars. Your stories are some of the most unique and horrifying I’ve read in quite some time. How long have you been writing, and how did you get started in publishing?
DAW: Thank you very much. I’m so glad you enjoyed the collection! Like most authors, I’ve been writing for much longer than I’ve been published. I wrote mostly poetry and vignettes and several unfinished novels. After I finally completed one of the latter (a bad one, I might add, that will never see the light of day), I found Absolute Write, a forum for writers. I knew absolutely nothing about the publishing industry when I joined, but I knew I needed to learn about it if I wanted to try to get published. During my time on AW, I spent most of my time in the horror forums and that’s when I started writing short stories and discovering all the markets for short fiction, which then led to the Shock Totem forum, where I participated in their monthly prompted story contests. From there, I continued to work on my craft and hone my voice, both of which are an ongoing process, and sent my work out into the world.
Your stories have the recurring themes of abuse, loss, pain and body alteration. What is it about these things that compels you to write about them?
I recently wrote a guest post about writing and trauma for Locus Online, and I’m going to borrow a bit from that essay here to answer that question:
Life does its best to break us in ways small and large, and many of my stories, regardless of how fantastical they seem, have their roots in the real. “Sing Me Your Scars,” the title story of my collection, owes its birth, in part, to my frustration with the endless onslaught of memes about what real women look like. Although they’re completely different stories, both “Melancholia in Bloom” and “Glass Boxes and Clockwork Gods” share the common thread of loss of memory and loss of self. I lost my grandmother to Alzheimer’s, and another family member is in the middle stages of the disease right now. I can’t help but use it in my fiction as a way to help make sense of things, to help cope.
But the trauma that seeds my work is not always my own, and the real horror in the world is that it’s everywhere you look. The world sings it scars every day. I could never read the news again and still have enough story seeds to grow a lifetime’s worth of stories. This is what makes my heart hurt. This is why I write of such things.
I’m very excited to see that you have a novel coming out soon from Dark House Press! How was writing a novel-length piece different from writing short stories? And do you prefer one over the other?
Novels require a different skill set, a changing of the writer’s toolbox and the focus, but I prefer writing short fiction. While writing a novel allows you to spend more time with a character or group of characters, short fiction allows you to experiment with form and voice and tense and points of view in ways you can’t with longer works.
You are part of the Kickstarter project Genius Loci, edited by Jaym Gates, which by the way is already funded even though it still has a week to go. How did you get involved in the project, and is this your first experience with Kickstarter?
I’ve worked with Jaym before on another project and when she put out the call for Genius Loci, I knew I wanted to try to write something for it. I knew, too, what I wanted to write about and was fortunate that Jaym liked the story I wrote. GL is not my first Kickstarter experience. I’ve written stories for Streets of Shadows, Not Our Kind, and Glitter & Mayhem, all of which were funded successfully via Kickstarter.
What do you do when you’re not writing? Any pets or interesting hobbies you’d like to share with us?
Here’s where I wish I had a spectacular, dazzling hobby, but I’m afraid I’m rather boring. I spend time with my family and friends, wrestle with my dogs, read a lot, eat dark chocolate, drink red wine, gaze at the stars, watch movies, and secretly wish for a pet velociraptor.
Ha ha, those are all awesome things to pursue;-D What’s next for you? Are you currently working on anything new?
I have several short stories currently in the works, and I’m trying my hand at plotting a novel. Not sure if that will be successful or not, but thus far, my novel first drafts have been a mess and I’d love to find a way to make them a bit less messy.
Publication-wise, Paper Tigers will be out later this year from Dark House Press, and I’ve short fiction forthcoming in several anthologies and magazines, including the UK zine Black Static, Cassilda’s Song, edited by Joe Pulver, a King in Yellow anthology of all new stories written by women, and The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu: New Lovecraftian Fiction, edited by Paula Guran.
Can you tell my readers three things about you that CAN’T be found on your website?
My favorite color is orange (although that might be implied with the color scheme of my website), Damien is my real name, and I think sea salt caramel gelato should be a separate food group so I’d have an excuse to eat it every day.
Thank you so much, Damien!
About the author:
Damien’s short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in various anthologies and magazines, including The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2015, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume One, Cassilda’s Song, Nightmare, Lightspeed, and Apex. She is a 2014 Bram Stoker Award nominee in the category of Superior Achievement in Short Fiction for “The Floating Girls: A Documentary,” originally published in Jamais Vu.
Writing as Damien Walters Grintalis, her short fiction appeared in magazines such as Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, and Interzone, and a novel, Ink, was released in December 2012 by Samhain Publishing.
She’s also a freelance editor and, until the magazine’s closing in 2013, she was an Associate Editor of the Hugo Award-winning speculative fiction magazine, Electric Velocipede. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two rescued pit bulls.