Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Steven Wynne

Meghan: Hi, Steven! Welcome back to my annual Halloween Extravaganza. I hope you’re liking the new blog. It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

Steven Wynne: It has indeed been a while! Unfortunately, my entire life twisted into complete shit right around the beginning of last year. I got divorced, and two weeks after that cluster bomb detonated, my dad entered hospice after a three year fight with stage four brain cancer, which led to six months of awfulness and heartbreak until he finally passed in late October 2018. On top of that carnival of giggles and mirth, my job turned into an absolute nightmare that persisted until I finally left and found a better job earlier this year.

In the midst of all that, I stopped being able to write. After the initial one-two punch of the divorce and hospice, there was a two week period where I couldn’t even read. As the year wore on, I slowly regained my focus and made a few tentative stabs at writing. There were a few other things that have happened (see answers below), but what I’m really excited for is that I’ve just finished writing a new story for the first time in over a year. It’s made the rounds of beta readers, had its due edits, and is ready to be subbed out to soak up the rejections.

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

Steven Wynne: I’m quiet as hell and pretty reclusive, more often than not. When I’m not working absurd hours, I’m usually the type to relax and read, and slowly make my way through my massive TBR pile. I’ve been playing a lot more guitar in the last year and doing some recording here and there, but by and large, I’m a solitary kinda guy.

Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

Steven Wynne: I’m cool with it? The few friends/acquaintances of mine who have showed up in my stories are the kind of folk who can roll with it. Except the one guy. Fuck that one guy.

Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Steven Wynne: I don’t know that it’s so much a gift as it is a skill that needs to be honed. I mean, I don’t think I’m all that dazzling a writer, but I can recognize I’m way better now than when I started submitting years ago. It takes commitment, years of nothing but rejections, and seeking out input from others about what you’re doing wrong and what you could be doing better. No different from any other creative hobby one might pursue, I suppose?

Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

Steven Wynne: Everything is sad, there’s not much hope for anything, the world has an all-encompassing incomprehensible terror to it, you’re all alone, and Dad’s drunk.

Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?

Steven Wynne: I’m currently working on a story with a lot of crime and murder elements to it, so there have been things like, ‘How long does it take for the eyes to cloud over postmortem’ and all the processes that go into that, and things of that nature. But then again, I’m a true crime hound and was already interested and fascinated by that kinda stuff, anyway. Not exactly ‘strange’ compared to some of my friends and other writers I know, but it’s what comes to mind.

Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?

Steven Wynne: Starting is always rocky terrain for me. It’s where I’m most likely to get distracted and abandon ship. If I’m in something and I’m cooking on it, things seem to click. That test is usually passed if I wake up on time and am able to devote forty five to ninety minutes to the thing before work, and I’m able to do that for, say, three days, that’s a good sign. The middle and end are more fun for me. Seeing how it all plays out is usually a big surprise for me as well. That opening, though, that’s fucking treacherous.

Meghan: Do you outline?  Do you start with characters or plot?  Do you just sit down and start writing?  What works best for you?

Steven Wynne: I’m a pantser, through and through. Outlines aren’t fun at all for me. Usually, I need two ideas handcuffed to each other to work. They can be a character and a situation, a setting and situation, a character and another character, whatever they are, I usually can’t run with just one. I kinda view my process as one idea is the driver, the other is the vehicle. Sometimes, the goodies floating around in the ideaspace coalesce into one weird hybrid that (I think) makes for a good story. When I write, I pretty much just sit down and go. There can sometimes be a long time between ideas merging, but the more I write, the quicker pieces tend to fall together.

Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?

Steven Wynne: Listen to them, usually. A lot of times, the story greatly benefits from a little tangent here or there. If that doesn’t work, kill ‘em.

Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?  

Steven Wynne: Remember how good it feels to accomplish something. Also remember how much it sucks to have my days consist of coffee, food, work, one good/meh shit, more food, and sleep. Remind myself that Scares is coming up next year, and how great would it be to have something to bring to share with my friends.

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

Steven Wynne: I do my best.

Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?

Steven Wynne: Sad, dark yarns that back up my preconceived notions of the world without making me do any intellectual heavy lifting and realizing I might be wrong about stuff.

I keed. Kinda.

I absolutely love short story collections, and I’m very much loving everything weird and melancholy I can get my hands on. Currently, I’m reading Cry Your Way Home by Damien Angelica Walters, and it’s fantastic in every goddamn way.

Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?

Steven Wynne: I don’t have a problem with ‘em?

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

Steven Wynne: Every time, it seems.

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Steven Wynne: Not really. I hate seeing people suffer in any capacity, even if I’m the person creating the whole scenario, people included. If the characters are suffering, it’s to serve a purpose and to serve the forward momentum of the story. I don’t enjoy it at all, but sometimes the stories I spit out can’t help but be born in those environments.

Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?

Steven Wynne: A time/dimension traveling woman who *could have been* a main character’s aunt, who carries around a tiny living puppet of the main character’s father in a glass bottle.

Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received?  What’s the worst?

Steven Wynne: I will always defer to Russell Coy’s wisdom when it comes to editing and pointing out what works and doesn’t in stories. I think I still have the first things he beta read for me saved in my google drive with their miles of red strikethrough and explanations of why things don’t work, and when I’m being overly wordy, how *this* whole paragraph is redundant because everything substantive in it is hinted at subtly in one sentence three paragraphs before. John Boden has also been fantastic about pointing out things that are hacky.

Worst feedback was from a friend who clearly misinterpreted everything about a story I sent him. Character motivations, denouement, attribution, just. . . everything. Don’t want to go too into specifics with that, but it was the first time I heard someone being critical of something I wrote and made a fart sound and jerk-off motion. Haven’t sent that dude anything else I’ve done since. 

Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?

Steven Wynne: My mom means the world to me.

Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?

Steven Wynne: That is a damn good question. I might have to say Tiny, from John Boden’s Spungunion. He’s turned up in a few of the Knucklebucket Thang books that Boden has cranked out. I absolutely love his character and how he remains a compassionate and empathetic figure despite the solitary, moribund, morose nature of his work.

Meghan: If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?

Steven Wynne: Gotta double down on the aforementioned Knucklebucket Thang series, by John Boden/Bob Ford. As much as I’d love to take a crack at a story exclusively about Tiny, I doubt sincerely I could do him anywhere near the justice he would deserve for his own standalone story. I’d want him in there, though.

Meghan: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?

Steven Wynne: Haha! I’m currently collaborating with my friend and fellow author Justin Lutz. actually, and I’m so goddamn happy to be doing so. Without going into too terribly much detail, it’s about a serial killer operating in Central Pennsylvania and using the Opioid epidemic as a means of trapping victims and covering up his crimes, while a reclusive clairvoyant coroner is slowly gaining clues as to not only who the killer is, but the identities of the Jane Does in her morgue who can talk to her but can’t remember who they are.

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Steven Wynne: Hopefully? I’ll get some more short fiction published, get one of the few novellas I have sitting around published as well, and this still unnamed collaborative novel between Justin Lutz and I. I have a feeling that when that’s done, folks might really enjoy it.

Apart from that? Expect to see me at Scares that Care 2020, probably drunk and trying to give Wile E. Young my phone number again for the third year in a row.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Steven Wynne: Oh, I’m on the usual haunts. Track me down on Facebook, and I’m on Twitter.

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview or the last?

Steven Wynne: Read Gwendolyn Kiste. Come to Scares that Care. Buy me a shot.

Steven Wynne writes dark fiction. His short fiction has appeared here and there, online and elsewhere. His metabolism is slowing down, and he looks bad. Like, have you seen him recently? Someone should call someone. He resides in Central Pennsylvania with his pain in the ass cat.

Reaper Black Book 1: Death’s Garden

The Lycan Valley Reaper has a new hobby — Gardening. He tends to each plant’s every need from seed to harvest. The black seeds bloom in the shadows, petals unfolding as the twisted vines take root in your mind. These 13 stories and 12 poems are planted, germinated and ready for the harvest. Souls collected from Edward Ahern * Shaun Avery * Ross Baxter * R Bratten Weiss * Jonah Buck * O.R. Dalby * JG Faherty * Dale W Glaser * Jill Hand * Michael H Hanson * Liam Hogan * Mathias Jansson * Jordan King-Lacroix * Chad Lutzke * A.M. Nestler * Kurt Newton * Gregory L Norris * Allan Rozinski * Susan A Sheppard * David F Shultz * Claire Smith * Max D Stanton * John McCallum Swain * Sara Tantlinger * Steven Wynne

I also have a short story, Escape Velocity, in the December 2016 edition of Sirens Call Ezine. (The link will redirect you to the .pdf that you can download.)

You can also find my short story, Fireflies, as part of a previous Halloween Extravaganza here, as well as my short Hallowen story, The Yellow Line, last year’s contribution, here.

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