Meghan: Hi, Joanna! Welcome back to my annual Halloween Extravaganza! It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?
Joanna Koch: Hi Meghan! Thank you for having me back. Since we talked about Doorbells At Dusk last Halloween, I’ve had about a dozen stories published in journals and anthologies. A project I’m especially thrilled to be part of is Not All Monsters, edited by Brahm Stoker award winner Sara Tantlinger! It’s a privilege to work with her. My story “The Revenge of Madeline Usher” will be included along with so many amazing female authors. I’m still a bit speechless. There will be a deluxe hardcover version with gorgeous illustrations by Don Noble (Twitter), and the images I’ve seen released on social media are fierce.
Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?
Joanna Koch: Addicted to privacy, a lover of silence. I work a day job dealing with financial and quality control matters in a hectic environment; lawful evil surrounded by chaotic good. I’m a former counselor. I’m an artist, too, although most of my energy goes into writing now.
Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?
Joanna Koch: I try not to think about it. My inner critic is loud enough.
Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?
Joanna Koch: You know, it’s a drive to create or make a mark, the same as any other drive. I don’t like perpetuating the myth of talent and gifts and all that. You follow your drive and make something, or you don’t. Instead of a gift or a curse, let’s call it a choice, a way to direct energy.
Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?
Joanna Koch: I’ve moved around the US and experimented with a variety of lifestyles. I feel like I’ve lived enough different lives to give me a good pool of material to draw upon, and heard a plethora of stories and secrets as a counselor.
Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?
Joanna Koch: How to make compost out of dead bodies in outer space.
Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?
Joanna Koch: The middle. Until recently I exclusively wrote short stories without bulk in the middle. Moving on to pieces where I want more character change, I find I need more time to get through the arc while staying true to the character. But it’s challenging to linger. My natural tendency is to get in, stir some shit, and get out quick.
Meghan: Do you outline? Do you start with characters or plot? Do you just sit down and start writing? What works best for you?
Joanna Koch: I go with something that hooks me. It might be a character, an event, a feeling, an abstract idea, a memory or impression from my life. Or someone else’s. I trust there’s a pattern to what captures my interest, start running with it, and apply logic and orderliness along the way.
Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?
Joanna Koch: I try to get to know them better.
Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?
Joanna Koch: I sit down and write. I’m too impatient for writer’s block. Besides, I’m getting old. I’ll be dead soon. I don’t have time to waste.
Meghan: Are you an avid reader?
Joanna Koch: There are so many books I want to read! I can’t keep up. Yes, I love reading and always have, even long before I tried to write.
Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?
Joanna Koch: I like writing that is both intellectual and shocking, realistic and poetic. beautiful and ugly, that takes me to an unexpected place. I want it all!
Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?
Joanna Koch: They are separate mediums. One cannot replace the other.
Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?
Joanna Koch: This is difficult to answer. I’ve been playing with boundaries and ambiguities surrounding identity, existence, and physical integrity lately with my main characters. I have definitely killed villains and libidinal objects. My work is not always wholesome.
Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?
Joanna Koch: Not exactly. I’m interested in testing characters and exploring how they fail, because I think we all do that. I’m interested in what we do with suffering and how it changes us. I want to get more into that in the future.
Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?
Joanna Koch: My current main character is three characters that will be a single entity by the end of the story. One of their current forms is that of a hemimetabolous insect.
Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received?
Joanna Koch: “Readers are smart; you don’t have to tell them everything.” This sounds obvious, but it’s what I needed to hear at the time to move forward.
Meghan: What’s the worst?
Joanna Koch: The critique that a female character who’s my own age is “out of character” or “not believable” if she swears or makes racy remarks. Apparently I’m a badly written human.
Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?
Joanna Koch: Do I have fans? That’s a lovely idea. When someone takes the time to let me know they appreciate a story, it means the world to me. It’s not only the ego-gratification; it’s about the way I get attached to a story or the characters in them and want them to have a life of their own outside of my head. Readers give them that life!
Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?
Joanna Koch: Uh-oh, I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to steal! I stole Madeline Usher from Poe because I wanted to give her a voice.
Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?
Joanna Koch: My first stand alone work – a novella called “The Couvade” – is in the editing phase and will be published soon. I’ve been invited to create a longer serialized piece that I’m working on now with an editor I trust. It’s the biggest challenge I’ve ever taken on, and I’m filled with fear that I won’t be able to pull it off. I’ll keep faking confidence and let you know next year if it works out!
Meghan: Where can we find you?
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?
Joanna Koch: Thank you, Meghan, for inviting me back; thank you to readers who indulge me while going through this process of becoming a writer. I’ve delved into variations in style and content over the past year that range from fairy tale to splatter. I think I will always be a work in progress and I hope you enjoy the ride!
Author Joanna Koch writes literary horror and surrealist trash. Her short fiction has been published in journals and anthologies such as Synth, Honey & Sulphur, and In Darkness Delight: Masters of Midnight. Look for her novella, The Couvade, coming soon. Consumer her monstrous musings at Horrorsong.
In Darkness Delight: Masters of Midnight
Midnight strikes like an invocation, clock hands joining in prayer to the darkness. After the twelfth chime, there’s no escaping the nightmare.
Fear reigns supreme.
In Darkness, Delight is an original anthology series revealing the many facets of modern horror—shocking and quiet, pulp and literary, cold-hearted and heart-felt, weird tales of spiraling madness alongside full-throttle thrillers. Open these pages and unleash all-new terrors that consume from without and within.
Midnight is here. It’s now time to find . . . In Darkness, Delight.
Featuring stories by:
Josh Malerman: One Thousand Words on a Tombstone – Delores Ray
William Meikle: Refuge
Jason Parent: Violet
Ryan C. Thomas: Who Are You?
Mark Matthews: Tattooed All in Black
Evans Light: One Million Hits
Lisa Lepovetsky: Kruze Nite
Israel Finn: The Pipe
Patrick Lacey: In the Ground John McNee: Dogsh*t Gauntlet
Michael Bray: Letters
Monique Youzwa: Rules of Leap Year
Billy Chizmar: Mirrors
Espi Kvlt: Pulsate
Paul Michaels: Angel Wings
Andrew Lennon: Run Rabbit Run
Joanna Koch: Every Lucky Penny is Another Drop of Blood