Author Interview - STEPHANIE M. WYTOVICH
Updated: Jul 21, 2018
Today on The Witch Haunt, I’m super stoked to have on Stephanie Wytovich, American poet, novelist, and essayist. I attended Stephanie’s enlightening workshop on women in horror films at StokerCon 2018 and have been following her blog since. Stephanie’s 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.
WH: Welcome, Stephanie! Please give us a brief introduction of your fabulous self:
I’ve been writing speculative fiction/poetry (SF/F/F) professionally for the past nine years, and I try to be as involved in the genre as I can, whether that be through mentoring with Crystal Lake Publishing, blogging about the genre and the craft over at my blog, working as the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press. I’m also a HUGE movie buff and I collect rare editions of Alice in Wonderland and crystals in my spare time.
WH: Would love to see that Alice collection sometime! What other career would you have if not writing/publishing?
When I’m not working, I actually work as an Adjunct Professor at Point Park University (Composition, Literature, and Creative Writing) and then I teach/lecture in two graduate programs: Western Connecticut State University’s MFA Program for Professional and Creative Writing and Southern New Hampshire’s MFA Program for Creative Writing. Also, if I can spare a few hours here and there, I work as a writing tutor at Point Park as well.
WH: That’s a lot of writing instruction! What is your own writing process like?
Lately, I’m all over the place with writing. Usually, I do try to write something (even if it’s only a paragraph) every day, but I’m the queen of writing myself cryptic notes and stuffing them in my purse, or texting random ideas to myself or my husband and then forgetting about them later that night.
During the summer, it’s a little easier for me to focus on writing because I’m *usually* not teaching, so I try to write poetry on Mondays and Fridays, and then the rest of the week is dedicated to fiction is some capacity (drafting, revising, brainstorming, researching, etc). The one big shift that I’ve noticed about myself now though is that I used to be a night owl and write until 3 am, and now I’m very much a morning/early afternoon writer.
WH: I would love to know how you managed that shift. I’ve always been a night owl writer, which deeply interferes with motherhood. When you have to be up at 5:55 AM to take your kid to high school after writing until 3 am, it can mess up the rest of your day. Which of your written works are you most proud of?
The Eighth (my dark fantasy/horror) novel is definitely a huge point of pride and accomplishment for me because it was my MFA thesis, and I felt like I went to hell and back while writing it (no pun intended…okay, maybe a little). Having said that,my latest release, Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare definitely holds a special place in my heart because it’s a collection that is half speculative/half memoir, and honestly, I feel like I’ve been writing the past five years in an effort for me to develop the courage and bravery that it took to write this book.
WH: Both sound like amazing stories I need to get my hands on. And now, for the food portion of the interview… :) Do you have a favorite dessert?
I tend to treat all desserts equally, but I’m a sucker for anything chocolate/salted caramel.
WH: Oh, hell yeah. When I first started making salted caramel cupcakes (I used to own a bakery), I thought that sounded like the weirdest combo, a trend that would soon be over, but it’s grown to be one of my favorites. Okay, back to books. If you could interview any horror author, gone or alive, who would it be?
This is a tough one for me, because I think anyone who knows me would immediately assume that I would pick Edgar Allan Poe to sit down and have a chat (and a beer) with, but honestly, I would love to talk to Mary Shelley. Frankenstein is my favorite book and her life was so intense and so tragic that I would love to sit down with her and honestly just ask her a hundred questions and give her a hug.
WH: Mary Shelley is a huge inspiration for me, too. I wrote a book called WAKE THE HOLLOW, where I explore her rumored romantic relationship with Washington Irving after the death of her poet husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley. So, Stephanie, how have you changed as a person from your early life until now?
I’ve changed so much over the last ten years that I think my younger self wouldn’t even recognize the person I am today, which I have to say, is a good thing. It’s been a lot of work, and I’ve gone through several circles of Hell, but I think—actually, I know—I’m better for it. The only part that I think my younger self wouldn’t be surprised by is that I grew up to be a writer. I’ve wanted that for as long as I can remember.
WH: How do you like your coffee?
I love coffee—my Starbucks order is a hazelnut macchiato with soy—so much so that I had to give it up. My gallbladder exploded when I was in college, and despite my body not being able to process caffeine after that, I was drinking 12 cups a day in grad school (full time student, working four jobs; you get it). Since then, for my health, I’ve slowly been cutting down, and after four years, I’m happy to say that I’ve kicked coffee completely.
Tea is my go-to now, and in a few months, I’ll try to integrate a cup of coffee or two back into my morning routine. But for now, I drink Earl Grey, and if I’m feeling sassy, I’ll drink a Chocolate Candy Cane blend I have.
WH: Tea is one of those drinks I’ve always tried getting into but failed. I love the ideaof it—curling up with a good book with a lovely cup of tea, but then I take two sips and leave the rest in my porcelain cup. But it does look delicate sitting next to my writing chair. Alright, lady, what’s your favorite Halloween tradition?
Every year on All Hallow’s Eve (my pup’s birthday!), I watch Trick ‘r Treat and then on Halloween, I watch Pet Sematary because it was the first horror novel I read as a kid. I also always bake a Halloween treat for my classes and celebrate with some kind of spooky writing/film activity that week.
Spiritually though, I’m working on my altars, lighting candles (and pumpkins!) for my family/dearly departed, and I’m leaving offerings and libations for their spirits in hopes of safe passage/reconnection.
WH: “Sometimes, dead is better.” Love it. What is the witchiest thing about you (we’re all a little witchy)?
Well, I’m a practicing witch, so I guess you could say that most things about me are witchy, ha! In some ways, it took me a long time to realize that this was my spiritual path, but in other ways, I’ve always known, even if my parent’s raised me Catholic.
I tend to turn to witchcraft for a lot reasons, and I mostly work with flowers and herbs, specifically as a way to combat grief, anxiety, and depression, so if I had to classify myself one way or another, I’d say calling myself a green witch/kitchen witch is where I feel most comfortable. Lately though, after the deaths of two of my grandparents and my aunt’s suicide, I’ve been working with and developing a number of ritual practices surrounding death and acceptance. You can read about my work here: http://stephaniewytovich.blogspot.com/2018/05/opening-up-to-death-using-ritual-as.html.
WH: I’m so sorry to hear about your grandparents and aunt. That has to be difficult. I consider myself a kitchen witch too, and even wrote a romantic young YA novel about one called CAKESPELL. Stephanie, I love asking people this question, so I have to know…who would be your favorite Addams Family character?
Wednesday, hands down. At one of my old jobs, my co-workers actually called me Wednesday, ha! I think it had to do more with my resting bitch face rather than the fact that I tend to dress in all black, though.
WH: YES. Wednesday Addams is my spirit animal! What do you feel makes a horror novel scary?
I think anything that challenges and makes you confront your morals, your spiritual beliefs, the ins and outs of what you think you’re sure of as a person, makes for a great premise of a horror novel. To me, horror is a genre that pushes us, it makes us look our fears and bias in the face and then learn how to survive despite/ in spite of them.
WH: Absolutely. It’s about pushing those characters to the most extreme limits. What is the most awesome thing happening in your life right now that you’d like to share with us?
Professionally, I’m teaching a True Crime class next semester that I’m really excited about, and I’m also looking forward to seeing two of my short stories published this year: “The Girl with the Death Mask (Fantastic Tales of Terror, Crystal Lake Publishing) and “The Monster Told Me To” (Tales from the Lake, Vol. 5, Crystal Lake Publishing).
Personally, my husband and I will be celebrating our one year anniversary in a few months and as we’ve recently won a trip to Disney World (thank you Pittsburgh Pride!), we’re in the process of planning our honeymoon.
WH: Congrats on your marriage, and yay, a magical honeymoon! If you go during the fall, don't miss Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and the Hocus Pocus Villain Spectacular. So, what’s next for you? We can’t wait to see what you have coming up!
Right now, I’m about halfway through with my next poetry collection, an apocalyptic science fiction piece titled The Apocalyptic Mannequin. I’m also finishing up a weird horror novelette that I’m been working on for about three years now. Aside from that, I’ll be giving at lecture at WSCU at their summer residency (Writing Women and Violence in the Horror Genre) and at the end of the month, I’m teaching two courses in a film workshop for young women at Pittsburgh Filmmakers (History of Horror in Film and Writing Horror, On and Off Screen).
This all sounds super exciting, and I wish I lived in Pittsburgh to attend some of these sessions. Your workshops are all fantastic. Have a great summer, Stephanie! Thank you for participating in The Witch Haunt blog!
To learn more about Stephanie Wytovich, follow the links below:
Amazon Author page:
Latest release: Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare
Facebook: Stephanie M. Wytovich
Stephanie 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. 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 collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare. Her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press.
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🔮 GABY TRIANA ☠️