My name is Regina Stephens, or so you may call me. I’m going to be 29 this July and I am a hobbyist when it comes to writing and drawing. Like most of my profession, I hold down a day job in a mundane field where I can earn enough to feed myself and keep the lights on all while pursuing my dreams in the dark of the night.
CHHR: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
My tale might have taken a very different direction if I hadn’t become friends with a certain person. I’ve always had a passion for telling stories. Stephen King once described his past as dim lights shining through the fog, and I think much of my childhood is like that. So while I have vague recollections of telling people stories or acting them out with toys in the bathtub- telling stories and writing are different things. Writing became a thing of wonder when my best friend revealed she had written a manuscript. Granted, it was a book written by a twelve-year-old about unicorns and princesses; but I was in awe. You could make your own stories. Your own books. and share them. I was twelve when I began to create my own ideas and tales, and I began to write them down.
CHHR: What does your writing schedule look like?
Schedules are a good thing. I believe in them. But much like any good thing (be it broccoli or exercise) I seldom implement it into my own life. Perhaps this is why I’m not a professional novelist, because I don’t block out time to write specifically. I write when there’s a lull at work. I write when I can’t sleep. I write because I have to. Because if I didn’t, I think something would be missing from me… It’s an old, dear friend; writing. And if I don’t visit with it in some way or another, something feels off or wrong. Perhaps if I were more segmented, if I was more consistent, I could be more than just a hobbyist. But don’t give me any ideas. That may be far too much power for one person.
CHHR: Do you have any interesting writing rituals? If so, what are they?
I prefer to write in quiet spaces, with few people or interruptions. But I would also prefer to have a million dollars and not have a day job that sucks my soul dry like a bone in the desert. I don’t schedule my times for writing, so rituals can’t be a part of it or I would never get anything done. If I had to, say, get a cup of coffee before I could write anything; that might hinder me when I wake up at three in the morning with an idea and then try to go back to sleep. When you’re visiting your best friend, do you need a ritual to see them? No. You come as you are. In your underwear and oversized tee that has more holes than a Stephenie Meyer plot. Sure, writing is work, but so is any relationship.
CHHR: Do you like writing short stories or novels?
I like both to be honest. Short stories are my instant gratification, fast and to the point. But they have to be simple ideas, easily conveyed in a moment or two. Novels are the big ideas, the big concepts. Big worlds to explore and travel in when the days are long. Each have their place in my heart like two children you love equally but differently.
CHHR: How is the horror scene where you live?
I guess that depends entirely on what you are afraid of. I live in the middle of nowhere, off the grid, high up in the mountains. I have heard that isolation frightens a lot of people. I never has scared me, but everyone is different. There’s no community of Horror aficionados where I live, but I do live near old mining towns, and there is a love (or at least a commercialization) of ghosts and ghost hunting in the area.
CHHR: Do you use outlines or do you go with the flow?
Some stories require an outline, because there are a lot of moving parts. Usually I have a notepad on my phone where I jot down notes and reminders for the story I’m working on, or little ideas I get. The rest of it I try to keep as natural as possible. I want these characters to be real, to feel real, and life seldom has an outline. At least, mine never has.
CHHR: How did publishing your first book or short story change your writing process?
Now when you say “publish”... I have not been brave enough to submit my writing for the public. I’m hoping to change that this year. But I wanted an idea that was good, fresh, and meant something. Now, my friend who got me into writing in the first place, she and I self-published a collaborated story of our two supernatural horror stories called “The Drowned Ghost.” I drew the cover art, which she colored, and she gave me a copy for Christmas last year. I wept.
CHHR: What do you think makes a good horror story?
So many things. Suspense? Foreshadowing? But ultimately, what makes a good horror story (or any story for that matter) is good characters. I don’t mean likeable, I don’t mean good people, I mean believable characters. Why do you think shows like NCIS can keep pushing the same shlock over and over without changing anything? Because of the characters. We like them. We want to see them doing things together, working off each other, solving the obvious crimes in familiar ways because we have come to love them. Horror takes it a step further- if these characters are in danger, you need to like them in order to feel afraid. You have to want them to survive in order to feel afraid. Otherwise, it’s not good horror. If you don’t care if they live or die, that writer did not make you afraid.
CHHR: What are you currently working on?
I am writing a historical horror set in 1859. It’s about a first mate on a whaling ship that gets damaged in a hurricane. After floating aimlessly on the sea, the crew begins to get hungry, and lots are drawn to see who will be the first to die to save the others. Our first mate is chosen and has twelve hours left to live before his crew will feast on his body.
CHHR: What is in your TBR pile?
I just recently bought “The Dark Half” by Stephen King. I tried to read this when I was younger, but I lost interest and I can’t remember why. I’m going to give it another shot. I’ve also been working my way through “Moby Dick” and “Frankenstein” lately. Those have proven harder, but for different reasons. “Moby Dick” is hard because Melville keeps going off one two-chapter-long tangents about different kinds of whales that have no bearing on the plot. And “Frankenstein”... well it’s just damn depressing. Now I will finish both of these, but they just take more effort. I also want to read “Stand By Me” by Stephen King, and I’d like to read a few more Michael Crichton novels, but I haven’t decided which yet.
CHHR: What is the last book that scared you?
I guess I have to ask in what way. The last book to give me nightmares was “Jurassic Park” by Michael Crichton. Mostly because the way he writes the Raptors in the book is just damn terrifying. I was plagued for years by dreams of Raptors coming to devour me alive. But if you want to ask the last book I was afraid to read, that was “Pet Sematary” by Stephen King. This frightened me for different reasons, and I’m still trying to read it. I have read it before, I know what happens. But for some reason, Gage’s death hit my feelings a little harder this time and I’ve been on the struggle bus to finish.
CHHR: What is your favorite horror book?
“Red Dragon” by Thomas Harris. Sure, you could argue this is more of a “thriller” than a “horror” book and I would almost be inclined to agree with you. If we didn’t get the segments about Dolarhyde falling in love with Reba and then fighting himself to not murder her, then I would absolutely agree. But those are there. And I think they bring the book just far enough into Horror to qualify as an answer for this question. Coincidentally, this is also my favorite book.
CHHR: What is your favorite horror film? “Pan’s Labyrinth” a little unconventional, I’m sure, but hear me out. This movie takes place in Francoist Spain, where a fascist government is ruling the lives of suffering people. A little girl, who has dived deep into fairytales to escape the horrors around her, finds horror bleeding into her fantasy as her real life crumbles around her. When I told my brother this was one of my favorite movies, he replied with “Of course you would pick a movie you had to read.” Fair enough, but it’s worth it.
CHHR: What type of music do you listen to? What’s your favorite album?
I have a pretty wide variety, everything from video game soundtracks to country music to Finnish operatic metal. Tirelessly, I will listen to the “Skyrim” soundtrack or even “The Poet and the Pendulum” by Nightwish.
CHHR: What is your spirit animal?
Owls. Specifically Toyto Alba or the Barn owl. I like owls, they are interesting for many reasons, but my favorite is how people all over the world view them. The Greeks herald them as the symbols of wisdom. The Celts believed they were symbols of unfaithful wives. The Japanese regard them as lucky. The Hispanics say they bring death. One creature evokes such powerful emotions all over the world, and yet it simply exists. Quiet, silent, deadly. I used to have a black owl in my home. He was a Halloween decoration. He had bright red eyes, and I stuck him high up in a loft above my living room. I named him Lester. Friends hated Lester, they said he watched them wherever they walked. I thought he was cute, and I had him for five years before my dog Roscoe devoured him, leaving chunks of styrofoam and painted chicken feathers all over the house. I never did find his right eye. I assume he watches whoever lives there now...
CHHR: What is your favorite beer?
Oh dear. You would think that because I live in Colorado I certainly could find a craft beer I enjoy. Because I am on medication for depression and anxiety, I am technically not supposed to drink alcohol. However, when I do, I drink things I know I will enjoy. Usually wines, or amaretto. My favorite drink, however is a “Sidecar” and if you don’t know what that is, you need to have one. It’s like a margarita, but with cognac and lemon instead of tequila and lime.
CHHR: If you could have a beer with one author, who would it be?
Living or dead? Living, hands down I would have a drink with Stephen King. I wouldn’t need to ask any questions, or even talk. I think I’d just enjoy sipping a glass of wine in a rocking chair on his porch in Maine just watching the sun go down. Maybe listen to stories, maybe just listen to wind. But that would be enough for me. However, if I got to pick someone dead, I’d want to hang out with Edgar Allan Poe. I don’t feel as though he would be the quiet type who would just want to sit, but I think we could laugh, share some great stories, and probably cause a lot of trouble together. I should have liked to have my tombstone read “Was once arrested with Edgar Allen Poe.” That would be a lot of fun.
I have not made a website yet, but feel free to follow me on twitter @ReginasHorror