Author’s Spotlight: Julie Kusma Interview

Julie Kusma, author of Stuck That Way and numerous micro fiction

– First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

I’m Julie Kusma, AKA the Queen of Horror as dubbed by contemporaries in the Writing Community in 2020. I currently live in the USA, and I write speculative fiction, mainly paranormal and supernatural horror, as well as micro fiction horror.

– Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

This month, I will release my second book, The Many Worlds of Mr. A. Skouandy & Other Stories from Oakwood Sanatorium, which is like a short story collection, except in this work, a larger story is created— a psychological horror short story cycle when each piece is read sequentially. Additionally, sketches from Writing Community’s Tanweer Dar are included and admission forms and doctor’s notes, crafting a post-modern collage style work. I am very excited about this release. Also, in August, the release of Innocence and Pigglety Pigglety Poo as Audio Shorts narrated by me. Oh, and an appearance on the Writing Community Chat Show.

– Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

The main character is Dr. Shepard Blanchard, a psychiatrist summoned to Oakwood Sanatorium to evaluate a strange group hallucination in one of the hospital’s wards. Blanchard is a man of science but struggles with the meaning of occurrences that remain unexplained. When faced with a choice between logic and faith, his own sanity is called into question.

What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

I included a story written for a contest in my first book, Stuck That Way and Other Quandaries. The parameters were to write a 1000-word piece with a sock as a main component and something that gets lost and is never found. No, those couldn’t be the same thing. From those specifics came ‘Relevant Evidence.’ This story was harrowing because of the subject matter and merited the trigger warning of criminal violence, kidnapping, and sexual assault against a minor.

Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

After submitting to traditional publishers and waiting months for replies, I thought I’m not going to live long enough to see my work in print. So, I chose the indie route, and I am happy with my results so far.

– What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

The most challenging aspect of my writing journey, in my opinion, is one’s own mind. At least for me, I had to reach the point where I was compelled to write. That was when I no longer listened to naysayers. A wise and dear friend, poet/author Derek R King, recently told me, and I paraphrase, there will always be people who don’t like what you write- nothing personal –it’s the laws of probability. It’s just going to happen, so forget the negative stuff and focus on the positive.

– Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Well, I always think my pieces are independent, but as with life, they are connected. Another collection of short stories to be released this year is an example of this. The Crooked Crone was a standalone short story, then I wrote New Mummy, The Merwitch of Milkweed Flats, Haint Nothing But Blue, and Exorcisms Cost Extra and realized these were actually chapters in a novel. So, yeah, my work is connected, kind of like everything in life.

What are some of your favourite authors and books and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

I don’t know that another author inspired me to write, but I will share some of my all-time favorite authors: Man, Sir Arthur Coin Doyle’s syntax, diction, and details really speak to me as a writer. Mary Shelley, the same. I love reading her work out loud. Edgar Allan Poe- just brilliant. Nathaniel Hawthorne, again, clever writer. I’ve been in the house that inspired The House of Seven Gables, and it was an incredible experience. Last but not least, Charles W. Chesnutt for his use of irony and twist endings. These authors have influenced my writing for sure.

Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

No, I think everything has its place. There are seven billion-plus people on this planet. I believe there are enough readers— plenty of readers for every writer.

– Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

I do read them and probably shouldn’t, but I do. Fortunately, only one negative review and the comment didn’t really make any sense. I’m good with legitimate commentary, but making things up just to impact a person’s rating— not cool. This is our career. We’re trying to earn a living. Personally, I review with the Golden Rule: If I don’t have anything nice to say— I don’t say anything at all.

What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

My quirks as a writer? Well, I definitely plot. Need to for the story’s schematic, which I clearly see in my head. No, I don’t listen to music while I write stories, but I do when marketing, creating graphics and answering interview questions. Right now, I’m listening to “Hey Ya!” by Outkast.

What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

Learn the craft of writing, then throw away the parts that don’t speak to you as a writer. Carve your path with your pen, not someone else’s.

– What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

I have ten open projects, which I am desperately trying to wrap up in nice little published packages because I have a novel waiting to explode on the page. Patiently, this new main character waits in her white summer dress, red poppies splayed in a seemingly random pattern. Just swinging under a big oak tree. Shoes kicked off. Toes grazing the freshly cut grass. She’s waiting for you.

– Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please check out the interview submissions page to submit your answers.

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