Interview with Author Stephanie M. Wytovich

May 03, 2018

Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her work has been showcased in numerous anthologies such as Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Shadows Over Main Street: An Anthology of Small-Town Lovecraftian Terror, Year's Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 2, The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 8, as well as many others. Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing.

Brian M. Sammons – Before authors began to write, they were readers, so what were some of your earliest literary loves? Who inspired you and made you want to keep on reading?

Stephanie M. Wytovich - I read, and continue to read, just about everything I can get my hands on. When I was younger, I was fascinated with mythology, so I read a ton of books about Greek and Egyptian history, and then as I got older and began to get interested in horror, I started reading Stephen King and Anne Rice, Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne, but once I found poetry, I began devouring it at a pretty intense rate, my bread and butter being anything by Ellen Hopkins. She was really the author who inspired me to be a writer because she wrote/writes novels in verse poetry, and that both fascinated and excited me.

BMS – What, or whom, are you reading now?

SMW - I just finished reading And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe by Gwendolyn Kiste (and it was magnificent), and I have the following books in my TBR pile to tackle this summer: Thirteen Views of the Suicide Woods by Bracken MacLeod, The Changeling by Victor LaValle, Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman, and Experimental Film by Gemma Files.

BMS – When did you realize you wanted to write your own stuff? Was it a sudden epiphany, a slow, gradual dawning, or something else?

SMW - I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was little, and I think it was third grade when I announced to my teacher and my classmates that I was going to pursue writing. Looking back on it, I don’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t writing. I always had my head in a book, and I would write stories about vampires and pirates for my parents to read. They actually gave me a whole bunch of manuscripts from my childhood the other day, and it was a blast going through them. I had a dark mind for such a little kid.

BMS – Do you remember your first sale? What was it and to what market did it go?

SMW - Oh yes. I sold my poem “The Necklace” to Eclectic Flash. I was still in undergrad at the time, and when I got the magazine in the mail, it was like opening the best present in the world.

BMS – You are also known to do quite a bit of poetry. What drew you to that and who are some of your influences there?

SMW -  I actually came to poetry as a form of therapy. As a kid, my therapist recommended that I start journaling and writing poetry as a way to confront my trauma since I wasn’t comfortable talking about it. Once I started, I just never stopped.

As to some of my influences, I tend to like confessional poetry, but I also like poetry that challenges my beliefs, both personally and spiritually. My favorites starting out (and to this day) are: Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Emily Dickinson, Charles Simic, Allen Ginsberg, John Keats, William Blake, and W. B. Yeats. Some of the more contemporary writers I’ve fallen in love with recently though are: Rachel Wiley, Sabrina Benaim, Zachary Schomburg, and Kim Addonizio.

BMS – I openly admit that I don’t get the vast majority of poetry. What am I missing or doing wrong?

SMW - I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong. I think like most people, including myself, we’re taught poetry at a young age in a very strict, unapproachable manner, and that tends to turn people off to the genre as a whole because it appears unattainable, elite. Truthfully though, poetry is so much more than that, and its experimental nature whether we’re talking verse, structure, or syntax, opens up a world of possibility both for poets and for prose writers.

I think what’s important is reading and reading vastly in the genre. Find what you don’t like and then stay away from that, and then when you find what you do like, whether that be traditional verse or free-verse, you’ll find the language start to open up for you, challenge you, and give new breath to your voice.

BMS – Which do you prefer writing, poetry or fiction?

SMW - I’ll always be a poet at heart.

BMS – What is the best thing about being a writer?

SMW - For fiction, it’s creating worlds. When I was writing The Eighth, building Hell was one of the best parts about the process, and I’m very much looking forward to expanding upon it in the sequel.

For poetry, it’s the catharsis that comes from word play. When I write poetry, I feel like I’m purging emotion, almost like I’m dripping my secrets on the page. It took me a long time to work up to the voice I have now, but it’s the most freeing feeling I’ve ever had as a writer. I’m looking forward to seeing how I continue to grow.

BMS – What’s the worst thing about being a writer?

SMW - For me, the hardest part about being a writer—regardless if we’re talking fiction or poetry—is confronting my demons. I’m a confessional writer by nature, so there are little parts of me in everything I write, and sometimes that’s harder to do than you would think. So yeah, I guess for me, it’s facing down what scares me, what challenges me, and then learning how to survive it.

BMS – Any words of advice, or even warnings, you would like to give to beginning authors or poets?

SMW – There’s no one way to be a writer, so follow your gut and do what feels right to you. Read everything, both in and outside your genre, write the stories you want to write, and don’t be afraid to experiment with your voice.

BMS – If I asked you for three stories or poems that would give a reader who is unfamiliar with your work the best representation of you as a writer, what would those three be?

SMW –  Hmm, this is a tough one. If I had to pick three poems, I would probably go with: “Of My Wounds, There Are Many” from Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare, “Dare I Keep the Body” from Mourning Jewelry, and “Exit 55, Cincinnati, Columbus” from Brothel.

BMS – Let’s get to what you’ve had published through Dark Regions Press. You appeared in the anthology Chiral Mad 3, what can you tell us about your contribution to that?

SMW –  I was beyond excited to be included in Chiral Mad 3, and my poems “Welcome Home, Darling,” and “Put Me to Dream” were written based on this haunted house dream I was working with.  A lot of times, I write about sleep and ghosts because 1) I have insomnia and night terrors and 2) I fully believe in ghosts and have done my fair share of paranormal investigations and urban exploring.

BMS – Your debut novel, The Eighth, is out through Dark Regions Press. First, congratulations on that. Second, what can you tell us about that book?

SMW – Thank you! This was a real treat for me, not to mention a huge moment in my writing career because Dark Regions was my first choice for my novel. I wrote this book after reading Paradise Lost by John Milton and The Inferno by Dante Alighieri. As for the pitch/summary, here’s a little about the book: After Paimon, Lucifer’s top soul collector, falls in love with a mortal girl whose soul he is supposed to claim, he desperately tries everything in his power to save her from the Devil’s grasp. But what happens when a demon has to confront his demons, when he has to turn to something darker, something more sinister for help? Can Paimon survive the consequences of working with the Seven Deadly Sins-sins who have their own agenda with the Devil—or will he fall into a deeper, darker kind of hell?

BMS – How is writing a novel different that writing a short story? How is it different than doing a poem?

SMW – My writing process is kind of weird, so this answer is going to be a little wonky. When it comes to poetry, I can just sit down and work with my emotions—usually with some music on in the background—and my vision boards. When it comes to short stories, I usually write the poem version of it first, and then move into turning it into prose. Novels are easily the hardest for me, and my process is rather slow. I typically have to outline the book, and then for each chapter, I write the poem version of it first, and then work on turning it into prose. I guess the big difference here is that I don’t need to outline for poetry and short stories, but novels, well, with them I need all the help and organization I can get.

BMS – Can you share any info on what you’re working on now?

SMW –  Right now, I’m working on finishing up some short stories as well as steadily working on my next poetry collection, The Apocalyptic Mannequin. I’ve also been working on a sequel to The Eighth, and I’m looking forward to having some more time this summer to get back to into it.

BMS – What is the best way for people to learn more about you and your work?

SMW -  Readers can follow me on Facebook (Stephanie M. Wytovich), or on Twitter and Instagram (@swytovich). I also blog about the horror industry and my work at: http://stephaniewytovich.blogspot.com/

Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her work has been showcased in numerous anthologies such as Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Shadows Over Main Street: An Anthology of Small-Town Lovecraftian Terror, and The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 8 (edited by Ellen Datlow).

Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, and a book reviewer for Nameless Magazine. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction. Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collections, Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and Brothel earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press, and her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press.

Her poetry collection, Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare, was released October 2017 from Raw Dog Screaming Press, and her short story collection, Inside the Skin Bouquet was released from Dark Fuse.

Follow Wytovich at http://www.stephaniewytovich.com/ and on twitter @JustAfterSunset​.

After Paimon, Lucifer’s top soul collector, falls in love with a mortal girl whose soul he is supposed to claim, he desperately tries everything in his power to save her from the Devil’s grasp. But what happens when a demon has to confront his demons, when he has to turn to something darker, something more sinister for help? Can Paimon survive the consequences of working with the Seven Deadly Sins-sins who have their own agenda with the Devil—or will he fall into a deeper, darker kind of hell?

"The Eighth is a stellar horror debut from Stephanie Wytovich. An intimate, painful map of personal and literal hells that would make Clive Barker proud." - Christopher Golden, New York Times bestselling author

Read More: darkregions.com/theeighth