I hope to bring you at least one interview a month in 2017. I love talking to people about their art and I feel like these people deserve a much bigger audience, so let’s see how we go. Last week I spoke with UNNERVING MAGAZINE and today I’m chatting with Betty Rocksteady. Betty is a writer I have a lot of time for. She first came to my attention via the NBAS (New Bizarro Author Series) series of books from Eraserhead Press. Her spider love story (yes, you read that correct!) ‘Arachnophile’ was absolutely superb and one of my all-time favourite Bizarro books. Betty’s writing kept popping up in anthologies I was reading. Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing’s LOST SIGNALS anthology contained her tale ‘The Desert of Wounded Frequencies’ and Word Horde’s ETERNAL FRANKENSTEIN delivered ‘Postpatum’. Both of these stories were absolute standouts inside two books where Betty is rubbing shoulders with some of the best in the business.
With a novella to be released later in 2017 through PMMP, Betty Rocksteady is an author I definitely believe more people should be reading. However, books and stories aren’t the only arrow in Betty’s quiver…
The Grim Reader: Starting things off a little differently. Tell us something, anything about yourself that has nothing to do with your writing.
I haven’t seen my natural hair color since I was 13. The last few years I’ve been going blue/green in the winter and pink in the summer.
The Grim Reader: Where does your love of writing come from? Were your family big readers?
I just always thought books were cool. I was a huge reader when I was a kid – up until I was around 8 I just read anything I could get my hands on, and that’s where I discovered Goosebumps and got crazy into horror from there. My family weren’t really big readers on their own, but they read to me a lot when I was small. There were always books in the house and my hobbies and interests were always encouraged.
The Grim Reader: What was the first story you ever had accepted? What year was it published? Who accepted it?
I always kinda meant to start writing, but I only got serious and started finishing things a few years ago. I started writing in the summer of 2014 and had a flash fiction piece “Devil’s Night” accepted at Halloween Forevermore in October of 2014.
The Grim Reader: How do you think your writing has developed since this first story acceptance?
I was just taking baby steps back then. My main concern was getting beginning, middle, end to work together. I’ve done a lot of work since then on all the other million elements of storytelling. Characterization and self-editing and thinking outside of the box all came later, and thank god they did. I’ve gotten a lot weirder, and dissolved a lot of my boundaries, which I think has made my writing a lot more unique. It took a while to trust my style and figure out what kind of stories I wanted to tell.
The Grim Reader: How does the writing process work for you? Do you outline the story or is it more free-flowing than that?
I’m an outliner, but I really reject the idea that outlining is somehow stifling. I usually spend a day or two kinda chewing on an idea and brainstorming ways to go weirder or deeper with it. Outlining is awesome because it lets you test out different ways the story can go without committing a ton of time to writing in directions that might not pay off. The years I spent not writing, before 2014, I thought that in order to be a “real writer” you just had to sit down and let miraculous ideas flow from your fingers, but I always got stuck and confused when I did that. Outlining lets me finish things. I like to know where I’m going. I like to know my characters and my character arcs and plot points and all that fun stuff before I start actually typing it up. Outlining and brainstorming are super fun! Editing is fun! Rough drafts…eh. Get em out as quick as possible.
The Grim Reader: Did you study creative writing anywhere or is it simply something that comes naturally to you?
Not really. I dropped out of several local courses and online courses before I started really writing. Mostly I read a ton of articles and books about writing and kinda condensed it into the stuff that made sense to me. Particularly helpful were Story Engineering by Larry Brooks and Self Editing for Fiction Writers. And definitely making friends in the writing community and trading beta reads. Editing other people’s work helps you get a good eye for what to look for in your own stories, and hearing feedback from other writers on your own work is super useful too.
The Grim Reader: Your stories seem very character driven to me. Is this deliberate on your part?
Oh man, thanks! I struggled with characterization for a while when I started, and I definitely think about character arcs and personalities very consciously now. When I come up with a cool concept to write about, I really think about who the best (or worst) person would be for it to happen to and tailor accordingly.
The Grim Reader: Who/what are you reading at the moment and what did you enjoy reading from 2016?
Right now I’m reading Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer and its pretty inspiring. I’m also halfway through The Unnoticables by Robert Brockway and its good. Next on my list is Max Booth III’s The Nightly Disease. I read a lot of anthologies, I’ve always loved short fiction most. I really liked Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories last year, and I Can Taste The Blood. Oh, and I loved Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Tremblay. I think a lot of the other stuff I read and enjoyed recently were older books I had missed (HEX, Blister, Quicksand House).
The Grim Reader: Since your NBAS novella, you have been published in some pretty damn cool anthologies. The story in ETERNAL FRANKENSTEIN in particular is a doozy. How did this one come about?
Postpartum deals with a mother who doesn’t connect with her baby after the death of her boyfriend. After the discovery of an unclassifiable skull, she takes up cryptotaxidermy and falls down a rabbit hole of obsession. It was written specifically for the Eternal Frankenstein. I reread Frankenstein first and really thought about which themes I wanted to touch on. The parts I was drawn to were the frenzy of creation and the rejection of the creature – and of course, the assembling something from dead bits.
The Grim Reader: You are also a super-talented illustrator. You are a contributor to ‘Theme of Absence’ an online horror, fantasy, sci-fi magazine and have a host of items available on your website (links are at the bottom). Were your family a big influence on your art or has it come from elsewhere?
My dad was super talented artistically, he had a cartooning show on our local cable channel and did wood carvings and paintings. His topics were quite a bit different from mine, but it definitely contributed to me thinking that art was a fun thing to do.
The Grim Reader: You have a novella coming out through Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing later this year. Can you tell us a little bit about what to expect?
Without giving too much away, this book is quite a bit different from Arachnophile, and very much straight from my gut. Arachnophile was erotic and… weird. This book is straight up horror, very surreal, and deals with themes of guilt and memory.
The Grim Reader: Will you be illustrating the cover art yourself or are you leaving that to PMMP?
That’s in PMMP’s hands! Max has shown me an idea or two already and I think it’s gonna be beautiful.
The Grim Reader: What else has Betty Rocksteady got in store for 2017 and beyond?
Oh gosh, more of the same. Developing and improving always. Writing more and more and more. I’ve got a few more things coming up in anthologies and magazines, and I’m knee-deep in ideas for projects right now. I’m gonna write a novel sometime this year for sure, now that I’ve pulled off a couple of cool novellas.
The Grim Reader: Some nonsense to finish things off:
The Grim Reader: Coffee or tea?
Both! I used to drink a ridiculous amount of coffee, and now I’m down to a manageable two a day. I drink tea sometimes. I got a tea leaf reading set for Christmas and I tried it out tonight. I’m not very good at it.
The Grim Reader: Books or movies?
Both. Movies are easier when I’m lazy though.
The Grim Reader: Cats or dogs?
I’m positive you know the answer to this. I’m a crazy cat lady forever.
The Grim Reader: You have been invited to contribute a story to an anthology. Who are the other authors involved with the book? They can be living or dead!
Hmmm. Stephen King, Josh Malerman, Max Booth III, Joseph Bouthiette Jr., Gemma Files, Nicole Cushing, Bentley Little, Matthew Bartlett, Blake Butler, Gina Ranalli, Jack Ketchum, Danger Slater, Laura Lee Bahr, Lee Widener, Scott Nicolay, Jessica McHugh, John Langan. This is a pretty big book, I’ll stop now.
The Grim Reader: Hollywood approaches you to make a movie of Arachnophile! Who stars in it is up to you. Who is it?
Some big ol’ spider. Cameron Diaz looking exactly like she did in Being John Malkovich. Jeff Goldblum? I dunno, I just like him. Yeah, stick him in it.
The Grim Reader: Betty, thanks heaps for stopping by. The Grim Reader truly appreciates your time.
Be my friend on facebook! https://www.facebook.com/BettyRocksteady
Sometimes I tweet! @bettyrocksteady
Betty Rocksteady books on Amazon.