Hi Renee, it’s wonderful to have you with us today. Please tell us about your humble beginnings as an author.
Thank you for inviting me to be featured on Literary Retreat!
Even though my debut book came out in 2019, I still feel like I’m in my humble beginnings as an author because that release, as well as the preparation for the release and the work that always comes after a book release, all happened during a very difficult time in my life, and it did not receive as much of my attention as it needed. Six months before the publication of The Bone Cutters, I was diagnosed with MS, and in May 2019—just four months before publication day—I had to undergo an invasive and high-risk experimental treatment, a form of chemotherapy also used for leukemia, that left me without an immune system. It took nine months for my immune system to fully grow back, and during that time of healing I was supposed to avoid crowds and wear a mask—before wearing a mask became a common occurrence around the world—when around people who didn’t live in my home. I had all of that going on, and I had to somehow figure out how to promote my book release. Then, six months after my book release, the pandemic hit. And while I am very thankful to my first publisher, Eraserhead Press, for taking a chance on me as a newbie author and releasing my work as part of their New Bizarro Authors Series of 2019, I feel like it all happened at the least opportune time.
Now, here I am, still writing, still submitting my work to publishers, and still getting my work published. So, even though it may have been what I see as the least opportune time for a book release, it still helped pave the way for me to start my writing career. Just as the saying goes, “Anything worth doing never comes easy.” And everyone who knows me well knows that no matter the storm, I always persevere
Your 2019 novella The Bone Cutters has been re-published in 2024. How was the process like?
The rerelease process for The Bone Cutters has been a very smooth and exciting process. Since I decided to go with a new publisher for the sequel to The Bone Cutters (for various reasons), I thought it best to have both books with the same publisher so that we could use book one to promote the sequel, Chisel the Bone, which is set for publication on July 23, 2024. It just so happened that Chisel was accepted for publication by Encyclopocalypse Publications in May of 2023—only three months before the contract for The Bone Cutters was set to end with Eraserhead Press. (It was like it was meant to be all along.) When I asked my new editor, Sean Duregger, if Encyclopocalypse would be willing to takeover book one, he immediately jumped at the chance.
Working with Sean and Encyclopocalypse has been a dream. I have had a lot more say with the cover art, the back cover synopsis, choosing the voiceover actress for the audio books, and everything that goes along with the whole process of getting the book ready for rerelease. Sean even had me work directly with the book cover artist to make sure the cover design turned out just how I wanted it. That brings up how wonderful it was to work with Grim Poppy Designs for both book covers. She took all my input and suggestions during the whole process, and she was even willing to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch if I wanted her to. That never needed to happen, but the fact that she wanted nothing more than my ultimate happiness with the finished products meant the world to me.
Please inform us about your musical endeavors.
I am currently the lead singer-songwriter and rhythm guitarist for the all-original punk-metal band Scars Aligned. (Yeah, I see that is a lot of hyphenates, but I guess that just follows in line with how my writing combines genres as well. I, nor any of my work, fits neatly into any one box, and that is just how I intend to keep things. I crush boxes under my combat boot.) My band is fairly new, and we are currently working on polishing a handful of our tunes so we can bring them into the studio, hopefully, sometime in the near future. We are on a very tight budget, so that factors into the whole process.
We would like to get on stage soon, but it is difficult to coordinate with other bands when the first thing they say is, “Let me hear some of your music,” and we still do not have our tunes recorded so that we can share our music with others yet. It is important to match the right bands together for gigs, so I completely understand where they are coming from. But we do know many local musicians because all four of us have been playing in bands most of our lives, so we should still be able to book some shows before we get our demo/EP recorded. Many of our songs are short, hence our punk-metal genre, so we also need a couple more tunes to fill a set-worth of time. But that part I’m not worried about at all.
A couple of the songs I have written for the band go along to stories I have written. I wrote one song titled “Flay the Flesh” that goes along with my short story “Faceless” that was published in January 2024 in the Dethfest Confessions: The Devil’s Playlist anthology. The lyrics for that song were also purchased by the publisher, Vincere Press, for them to use in a companion publication to the anthology. The song follows along with the premise of the story and is suppose to stand in as a song by the fictional speed metal band, Fleshpeel, in my story. Scars Aligned was suppose to record the song for the publisher to use in promotional videos for the book, but my band is not a speed metal band and our lead guitarist is yet to write the solo for the song. We may even go with a bass solo instead of a guitar solo—which will be kickass! If I could play the solo, I would, but I suffer with severe carpal tunnel syndrome on both sides, which is why I play rhythm guitar rather than lead. Plus, it seems like a bit of an ego-trip if a person wants to take on the lead singer and the lead guitarist role in a band, in my opinion. Lead singers already have a bad rep of being egomaniacs, so I am all set with tossing that fuel on the fire.
The other song I wrote to go with one of my stories is titled “Chisel the Bone.” That one, obviously, goes with my novel of the same name that is set for publication on July 23, 2024. I am hoping to have that song professionally recorded before publication day so my publisher and I can use it to accompany book promos. If only I had the nerve to start a Kickstarter campaign to help raise money for recording costs, then maybe we could get this done sooner, but I have never been someone who likes to ask for help, especially not with money. If it is meant to be, we will make it happen.
Who are your favorite authors?
I never like to be asked this question, not for authors and not for bands/musicians. There are so many different authors who inspire me and feed my desire to write it is hard to name favorites, and I am sure I will miss some. I will do my best to name some of the authors who standout in my mind first.
Some of my favorite contemporary authors: Stephen Graham Jones, Elizabeth Hand, Paul Tremblay, Mary SanGiovanni, Grady Hendrix, T. Kingfisher, Joe Hill, Victor LaValle, Gemma Files, Gabino Iglesias, Chuck Palahniuk, and Scott Wolven. If you look closely, they are not all strictly horror authors, and many fall under the ‘literary-’ umbrella. I am finding that the more I write and the more various authors I read, the more I lean toward the more literary side of each genre because I love character-driven stories. I want to get to know the ins-and-outs of each character so that I can really feel like I am living within their minds and within their story, experiencing everything with them. There are many more contemporary authors who greatly inspire me: Kealan Patrick Burke, Morgan Sylvia, Eric LaRocca, Emma Gibbon, Joe R. Lansdale, Katherine Silva, Jayne Anne Phillips.
Notice that I did not list Stephen King as a favorite. That is not to say he is not one of my favorite authors because he absolutely is, and I partially credit him with inspiring me from a very early age to want to write horror. But there was a time in my life when he was the only contemporary horror author I read. Since I discovered indie horror authors and all the other amazing dark fiction and horror authors who are out there, I now barely have enough time to squeeze a SK novel into my reading time. And that is not to say I do not want to, but there are just so many amazing authors to read, I do not want to limit my focus anymore.
For authors of yesterday: Edgar Allen Poe is my first, the one who inspired me to want to become a writer. I feel I owe him so much. He and his writing did not fit in any one box, and I greatly admire that about him. He was outspoken and brutal, but he was also passionate and loving—the best of both worlds. Poe’s my man! Next up: Shirley Jackson, Kurt Vonnegut, Mary Shelley, Ray Bradbury. I do get a lot of inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft as well, but my relationship with him is a sort of love/hate relationship. I also greatly admire the work of William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsburg, and Jack Kerouac of the Beat Generation.
Well, that was quite a long answer for naming my favorite authors! I am sure I missed some, but there it is.
Tell us about your upcoming projects.
For short fiction, I have a dark fiction/sci-fi story, “Rex and Roxy’s Roadside Café and Glass Emporium,” forthcoming in the Phantoms from the Sky anthology from Rogue Owl Press. I am also currently revising an Edgar Allen Poe inspired piece, tentatively titled “The Character: Neverbreak,” for another anthology that I am not quite sure if I can announce yet.
I was recently asked to co-author a horror movie screenplay, but that, too, I am not at liberty to divulge the details for yet. Plus, it is all in the early stages of development as of right now, so this could go anywhere at this point.
In the world of comics, I have a comic book that I wrote back in 2020 that is finally going to be released through Phi3 Comics. The pandemic certainly played into that delay. The story takes place in the Spiralmind universe, and the title is “Spiralmind, Book 4: Gateway of Destruction.” I do not have a release date yet. I am currently awaiting edits to come back, so I can polish the final copy and then start working with the artist.
The release of the audiobook version of my debut book, The Bone Cutters, is forthcoming. We have already chosen the voice actress, and now I am anxiously awaiting the final product. It should not be too long now.
My big release for this year is the sequel to The Bone Cutters, which will be my first full-length published novel and is titled Chisel the Bone. It is coming out through Encyclopocalypse Publications on July 23, 2024. It will be available in eBook, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook formats. I do not yet have a link to share for Chisel the Bone, but I do have the book cover to share.