Friday, March 16, 2018

Interview With D.R. Bartlette

CHHR: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

DB: There was no one moment when I thought to myself, “I want to be a writer.” It was more like something that had always been a part of me. But the first time I actually sat down and wrote a story was in the 8th grade; it featured Ozzy Osbourne, a demon, and a teenaged occultist who is the only one who knows how to save the world.
Twenty-ish years later, the cartoon Metalocalypse aired an episode (“Dethtroll”) that has a nearly identical storyline, so it made me feel like maybe it wasn’t so bad after all!

CHHR: What does your writing schedule look like? 

DB: Usually I set aside either a Saturday or Sunday morning for writing. I roll out of bed, have some coffee (nectar of the gods), and then get on it.
When I can type, I set a goal of 2,000 words. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to type well for a couple of months due to a messed-up wrist, so my output has been drastically reduced. So I just write longhand for about 3 hours.
It’s actually been interesting to go back to writing longhand – it’s like it uses a different part of your brain than typing. I’m kind of digging it…but I’ll still be glad when I can type again.

CHHR: Do you have any interesting writing rituals? If so, what are they?

DB: Well, I’m not sure how interesting it is, but I like to listen to appropriate mood music while I’m writing. Like when I was writing The Devil in Black Creek, I listened to lots of 80s music – from pop to hair bands and heavy metal. Right now, I’m writing a novel set in the 1970s, so I’m listening to early Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, and Led Zeppelin.
I also have a certain brand of Japanese incense I like to burn while writing.

CHHR: Do you like writing short stories or novels?

DB: I like short stories better, though in some ways, they’re a lot harder to write!

CHHR: How is the horror scene where you live?

DB: There must be something in the water, because I’ve met quite a few horror/thriller writers in Northwest Arkansas: Brad Carter, Fiona von Dahl, Amanda McKinney. The mystery writer Joan Hess lived here (and I was her housekeeper for a time). That said, we don’t have as much support as the “literary” genres, and I’d like to change that.

CHHR: Do you use outlines or do you go with the flow?

DB: I’m an outliner all the way. I don’t mean to disparage anyone’s process, but I hear all the time from writers how they’re on draft seven, eight, 21… and I can’t help but think, “that’s because you didn’t know what your story was!” I was trained as a journalist, so I approach writing fiction the same way: what is the story here? How can I tell it most effectively? And so, by necessity, I’ve got to plot it out beforehand.

CHHR: How did publishing your first book or short story change your writing process?

DB: It didn’t, actually. But every piece is a learning experience in one-way or another. For example, my publisher, while fine with the most graphic depictions of violence and gore, and language that would make a sailor blush, was absolutely immovable about the n-word. I hate that word as well, but when you’re writing about racist assholes, they use that word! But the editor/publisher is god, so you have to play by their rules. I’m not saying this out of bitterness, just to let aspiring authors know they can’t always have control over their manuscript if they’re going to use a publisher. Whether, and how, you accept that fact separates the amateurs from the professionals.

CHHR; What do you think makes a good horror story? 

DB: Great question! I agree with Gillian Flynn: jump scares are cheap. It’s the building sense of dread that scares me. I’m much more affected by Gothic horror – close, intimate, domestic horror is the worst kind. Giant bugs and aliens have nothing, in my mind, on the quiet sociopath who walks around in sunlight then comes home to do unspeakable things behind closed blinds. William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” and Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” are classics for a reason – they are damned creepy; no monsters needed.

CHHR: What are you currently working on?

DB: Another throwback thriller, this time set in 1972. The protagonist is a 15-year-old girl whose mother has gone crazy and formed her own psychotic religion along with her boyfriend. They go on a killing spree across the country, dragging the teenager along with them, until they end up in an abandoned house deep in the Ozark woods. There, things really start to go off the rails.
This one is different than my first book, where elements of the supernatural just poked their heads in to wave “hi.” In this one, supernatural forces of evil are front and center, manipulating people and events.

CHHR: What is in your TBR pile?

DB: Oh, my, it’s a big pile. Just on top: The Woods by Amanda McKinney, Blood Will Out by Walter Kirn, Where Nightmares Come From, and I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara.

CHHR: What is the last book that scared you?

DB: It’s Even Worse Than You Think by David Cay Johnston. But if you’re asking which horror book scared me last, that honor goes to Pet Sematary by Stephen King.

CHHR: What is your favorite horror film?

DB: That is a tough one… but since I have to pick just one, I’m going with The Others. It was creepy all the way through, and the ending was just perfect.

CHHR: What is your spirit animal?

DB: A cat. They’re cute, furry, lazy little potentates… and absolutely vicious killing machines. I only hope that if I’m a good person in this life, I can come back as one.

CHHR: What is your favorite beer?

DB: Sorry, I never developed a taste for beer. I do, however, enjoy a good hard cider. Or, if you really want to drink, a 7&7.

CHHR: If you could have a beer with one author, who would it be?

DB: Stephen King, of course! But I’m happy to meet and drink with any writer who’s not a self-absorbed asshole.

Author Bio:

D.R. Bartlette is a Southern author who writes smart, dark fiction. A nerdy weirdo who hung out in libraries for fun, she discovered horror at an inappropriately early age, and her mind has been twisted ever since. She wrote her first short horror story in eighth grade. Since then, she’s earned both a bachelor's and a master's degree in journalism and written dozens of short stories, articles, and essays from topics ranging from school lunches to the study of human decomposition.
Her first novel, The Devil in Black Creek, is set in 1986, when 12-year-old Cassie discovers an unspeakable secret in the local preacher’s shed.
She lives and writes in her hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas, where she still hangs out at the library for fun. 

Link to buy my book, The Devil in Black Creek

My blog, The Deadly Digest: A Journal of Psychos, Sadists & Serial

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