Interview with Stoker Award Winner Marge Simon

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Marge Simon has mastered many talents – poetry, art, editing, short stories, and…cooking. She edits the journal Star*Line. Her collaboration on Vectors: A Week in the Death of a Planet with Charlee Jacob won a Bram Stoker Award in 2008. She has received the Rhysling Award for her poetry, and the James award for her illustrations. When she’s not writing or painting, she enjoys catering to the monsters we know and love and will be happy to share her recipe for Zombie’s Delight. So tonight, I will chat with Marge about her writing and other talents.

BARBARA: That meal you’ve got going is a zombie’s delight. So yes, you’ve got me curious about the recipe.

MARGE: All right, Barbara, Zombie’s Delight is a secret family recipe which I’ve been given permission to reveal only once:

Purchase hand fresh from your local Hand Stand. Make sure it is tender by pinching the skin. A male hand, bone in, is best; some female hands, if adequate, will suffice.

Prep hand with garlic salt. Boil five minutes on medium heat. Drain juice, put aside.

Place in large kettle. Combine 2 cups chopped celery, 1/2 cup diced liverwurst, 6 used bandages (preferably gauze), 1/3 cup toenail clippings, 1 egg, slightly beaten, 5 cups watery plasma, 2 tbsp. Saki, 1 cup wallpaper paste. Pour over hand. Cover. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. You’ll know when it has the right consistency. Remove from heat. Chill one hour. Pour or scrape into baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 3-5 hours, or until the aroma becomes overwhelming.

Serve warm with the au jus you set aside and probably forgot about.

BARBARA: Moving onto writing – I noticed you used your own illustrations for Vectors as you did with Artist of Antithesis. Many publishers prefer to assign their own cover art to their books. How did you approach the publisher about using your own?

MARGE: In both cases you mention, the editor/publisher knew I was/am an artist. In fact, I’ve never had a problem with providing cover art for my collections. As fate may bring luck, I’ve also illustrated five Bram Stoker winners. But I don’t for a minute think that it was on the strength of my art that the publication won.

BARBARA: How did collaborating work out for you and Charlee Jacob during your work on Vectors? What are the advantages and disadvantages of collaboration?

MARGE: Here’s how it happened. Charlee had written a series of poems about an apocalyptic virus that went global, infecting every mortal on this planet. In May of 2007, she invited me to join her as a kindred voice in this collection, as I have written numerous poems along the same lines.

Problems with collaborations? Charlee and I had no problems between us. If you want me to make this more exciting, Charlee and I had crazed fits and vowed to never to speak to each other again. I refused to change a single word, and so did she. But that isn’t so.

BARBARA: From what I’ve seen in Night to Dawn, you wear several hats: illustrator, poet, and fiction writer. Which one do you like best?

MARGE: I like them all. I also wear an editor’s hat (for Star*Line, digest for the SF Poetry Association). Then there is my TV talk show: DEADLY SURVIVORS and my Food Channel show: DYING TO EAT.

Oh, as for the other hats–I love multitasking. I’m happiest having something going in all departments.

BARBARA: I notice that you’ve collaborated with other artists for the Night to Dawn illustrations. How does collaborating work for illustrations, especially if you and the other artist live miles apart?

MARGE: Cathy Buburuz (Saskatchewan, Canada) and I “met” thanks to ETOU magazine, about 1989. I was so intrigued by a cover she did, I had to get acquainted. We started collaborating long distance snail mail in the 90’s. I thought her excellent designs would work well with my (then) stylized pen/ink line and vice versa. She agreed, and for about a decade, we continued to work on art–mostly dark fantasy. She would send me about five or more unfinished compositions or vice versa. Cathy marketed our collaborations both in the USA and abroad. It was a wonderful experience, which continues with our work that she still has available.

Today, you don’t need to wait weeks to do collaborations, thanks to the Internet. I can’t think of anyone else that I’ve collaborated with in a long time, and I don’t do digital art, though I now use Photoshop for enhancing my paintings/illustrations.

BARBARA: What has been the most challenging part of the writing/illustration process?

MARGE: Leaping off very small buildings (outhouses) to get attention on U-Tube. Singing shocking songs in London Square. Pointing at my own paintings/book display, saying, “OMG!!”

Seriously, “challenging” is a personal word for me. I challenge myself. I know what I think I can do. Sometimes it’s a nice surprise. Other times, I see I’ve gone over the top and need to scrap it.

Writing a novel would be a real challenge for me. But I’ve always tended to write flash fiction–that’s a fun challenge. A book would be too much like work, and besides, I’ve a short attention span. (That is my excuse, anyway!)

BARBARA: When did you first get into writing? Where did you get your first credit?

MARGE: If you mean professionally, that’s hard to say. I’d guess somewhere in the mid-80’s. Which makes me old enough to be a witch. My first big (to me) credit was Bradley Strahan’s Visions, Black Buzzard Press. It was an all SF theme, and I’d never written a SF poem until that time –never even heard of one. Wrote one anyway. He took it. After that, I got into Amazing Stories with poetry. Around the same time, I started doing pen/ink stylized art –mostly dark which was well-accepted. My style and media are constantly evolving; I prefer watercolor with oil or watercolor pencils nowadays.

BARBARA: Which contemporary authors would you recommend to readers who love dark fantasy?

MARGE: Peter Beagle, Harlan Ellison, Charles Beaumont, Ted Sturgeon, Kurt Vonnegut, Bruce Boston, Gene O’Neill, Stephen King, Elizabeth Massie, Cormac McCarthy, to name a few writers of dark sf and fantasy. I know this may be contradictory, considering my recipe and lifestyle, but horror per se doesn’t appeal to me.

BARBARA: What do you believe the future holds for dark fantasy and supernatural thrillers? Will ebooks replace paperbacks, do you think?

MARGE: Don’t know. But as for what I hope–NO. A book is to be held and cradled, if you will. A book can be laid down on a surface where you know what it is by the cover and then you pick it up and start reading it again. You can have a personal relationship while reading it. A book has its own smell. It gives you secrets.

BARBARA: What advice would you give to aspiring authors and illustrators?

MARGE: Never marry a musician.

 

 

Interview with Eppie Award Winning Author Margaret L. Carter

An Eppie award winner, Margaret Carter is the author of Sealed In Blood, Crimson Dreams, The Vampire In Literature, Dark Changeling, Different Blood, and many other dark works, both fiction and nonfiction. Some of her stories have appeared in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover anthologies. She received her MA in University of Hawaii and Ph. D. from the University of California, both in English. Her magazine, The Vampire’s Crypt, enjoyed a long run. When she isn’t creating nightmares, she works part time as a proofreader for the Maryland General Assembly.

Visit her website at www.margaretlcarter.com

BARBARA CUSTER: Margaret, thank you for being the first to join the NTD blog. Could you tell me when you first began writing?

MARGARET L. CARTER: At the age of thirteen. I was inspired by DRACULA, which I read for the first time when I was twelve. The public library didn’t have enough readily available horror fiction for my taste, and I had trouble finding any of the kind I wanted — sympathetic to and from the viewpoint of the “monster.”

BARBARA CUSTER: The Vampire’s Crypt enjoyed a healthy run. Any chance of revisiting the Crypt in the future?

MARGARET L. CARTER: Not a chance — too much work! Fortunately, NIGHT TO DAWN fills the same niche.

BARBARA CUSTER: Where may the readers order back copies?

MARGARET L. CARTER: The top page of my website, www.margaretlcarter.com, has a link for THE VAMPIRE’S CRYPT. It leads to the distributor’s website and also to my own pages listing tables of contents for each issue and summaries of the book review columns.

BARBARA CUSTER: What is your favorite theme as a writer?

MARGARET L. CARTER: The Ugly Duckling — the misfit whose apparent defects turn out to be gifts when he or she finds where he or she truly belongs. My other favorite theme is the allure of the Other, expressed in relationships between human and nonhuman characters.

BARBARA CUSTER: How did you come up with the idea for your particular vampire species?

MARGARET L. CARTER: My husband, Leslie Roy Carter (see his page on my website), wrote a story, “Vanishing Breed,” for my first book, an anthology of vampire fiction. (This story is still available in the SF vampire anthology TOMORROW SUCKS, edited by Greg Cox.) Although extraterrestrial vampires had existed in movies and fiction for a long time, this is the first story I know of to use the premise that the vampires who’ve lived among for thousands of years originated on another world. I was excited by the idea of vampires as a naturally evolved species and began transforming the characters I’d already created into natural rather than supernatural blood-drinkers. As my fictional universe developed,the biology of my species was influenced by other authors such as Suzy McKee Charnas, George R. R. Martin, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Elaine Bergstrom, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (although her Count Saint-Germain is, of course, traditionally supernatural). My website link labeled “Vanishing Breed” lists all the available stories and novels in my vampire universe in internal chronological order.

BARBARA CUSTER: What do you find most difficult about your work-in-progress?

MARGARET L. CARTER: The first-draft writing process. I feel anxiety when facing a blank screen, and I’m a very slow writer compared to what I’d like to be.

BARBARA CUSTER: What do you enjoy most about the creative process?

MARGARET L. CARTER: Outlining. I love conceiving the characters and planning the story in detail. It’s the *execution* that gives me trouble.

BARBARA CUSTER: I notice that you also teach and proofread. How do you budget time for your writing?

MARGARET L. CARTER: I work as a legislative proofreader only two days a week during the nine-month interim and a heavier part-time schedule during the annual 90-day session. I try to get in at least a few hours every week on my days off. I haven’t taught any classes in many years.

BARBARA CUSTER:Tell the readers about your current work in process / latest release.

MARGRET L. CARTER: In May, Ellora’s Cave (www.ellorascave.com — or google Jasmine-Jade for their new website, if the forwarding doesn’t work to bring up the latest books) released a “Quickie,” a short erotic paranormal romance, called “Lion’s Bower.” It’s a Beauty and the Beast type of story, in which a maiden desperate to help her brother get a potion to heal his sick daughter finds forbidden fruit in a catlike sorcerer’s secret garden. I’ve just sold Ellora’s Cave a short ghost romance set at a bed and breakfast in the Blue Ridge Mountains region of Virginia.

BARBARA CUSTER:What advice would you give to a person trying to get their short story / novel published?

MARGARET L. CARTER: The annual WRITER’S MARKET always contains many useful articles on how to get published. WRITER’S DIGEST magazine is a good resource, too. A writer could also look into Internet resources, starting with the website of the professional organization in whatever genre one is interested in, e.g., Romance Writers of America, Horror Writers Association, SFWA. Polish your craft, of course, and seek a good critique group or critique partner to give feedback before submitting a story or novel. Never give up.

BARBARA CUSTER: Where may someone order a copy of your books?

MARGARET L. CARTER: My website has links to purchasing pages for each book listed. To buy directly from my publishers, go to Amber Quill Press (amberquill.com), Hard Shell Word Factory (hardshell.com), Ellora’s Cave
(ellorascave.com), and Cerridwen Press (cerridwenpress.com). Also, I have many books and short stories on Fictionwise (fictionwise.com). Search “Margaret Carter” with no middle initial to bring up all of them, including stories from Marion Zimmer Bradley’s SF anthologies and the e-book version of my Silhouette vampire romance, EMBRACING DARKNESS.

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