• Gaby Triana

Interview with Poet and Author, SARA TANTLINGER

Happy Ostara! On today's blog, I welcome a poet and novelist of dark fiction, a cat lover, and a fellow Stevie Nicks fanatic. Clearly, she has good taste. Please welcome SARA TANTLINGER!

WH: Hi, Sara! Please give us a brief introduction of your fabulous self:

Hello and thank you so much for having me! My name is Sara Tantlinger and I write horror. While I mostly write dark, speculative poetry, I’ve been exploring more prose lately, which has been a blast. I live about an hour outside of Pittsburgh in the middle of the woods, a great location to inspire spooky stories. When I’m not writing, I’m usually teaching college courses, editing, reading, drinking coffee, or finding new places to explore.

WH: Thanks for being here! What are the themes that connect the poetry in each of your collections, Love for Slaughter and The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes?

The themes are pretty different in each, but I’d say they are connected by a sense of discovering how much darkness a person can hold. In Love for Slaughter, that darkness stems from a sense of all-consuming love and passion – how something as beautiful as love can turn out to be deadly and corrupt. For The Devil’s Dreamland, the darkness is more societal and reflected in the actions of serial killer H.H. Holmes. He was a man of many schemes, cons, and of course, murders. His evil is horrifying, yet his inner darkness was derived from a radically driven ambition, and many of us can relate to ambition; so, the horror really stems from the reality of what ambition can drive a person to do to other human beings.

WH: Did any personal experiences contribute to the poems found in these collections? How much of what you write stems from life experience and how much is simply fictional?

Some personal experiences definitely inspired a few ideas in Love for Slaughter, but a lot of it also came from literary influences like Wuthering Heights. For the collection inspired by H.H. Holmes, it was all entirely research-based with my own fictional twists added to them. I think for writing in general, it’s really difficult to completely escape yourself. Our individual backgrounds, experiences, cultures and more always affect our writing styles, so more likely than not experience from real life will end up on the page, but it may not be in a way you expect.

WH: I'm a big fan of Wuthering Heights, and you're right--the collection of an author's works tells their own personal journey, doesn't it? Do you have any writing rituals to get the creative juices flowing?

I love making playlists while I brainstorm. It’s a fun challenge to find songs to fit the theme of whatever I’m writing. However, I can only do this when brainstorming and plotting. When I’m writing the first draft and revisions, I have to have silence. Otherwise, I find just going for a walk or a sunny drive helps the ideas take form in my brain.

WH: I'm so happy to hear this! For so long, I've thought myself to be the only person who needed silence while writing! Do you have any plans to write/publish any horror novels? How would your poetry-writing experience affect your fiction-writing skills?

Yes! My thesis novel from graduate school is done and with someone right now, which is all I can really say about it, but it’s a horror/dark fantasy novel that hopefully I can talk about more later! I’m also currently working on a historical horror novel inspired by the “Mad Queen” of Madagascar – Ranavalona I.

Poetry has been incredibly helpful for writing prose. It teaches you how to be concise, how to evoke sensory descriptions in powerful ways, and how to make prose sound interesting and poetic without making it “purple prose.” It can also be a great tool for getting ideas floating when you’re not quite ready to dive into the first chapter or something like that. I love writing poems from character or setting viewpoints to get ideas going.

WH: I would definitely sign up to a workshop on using poetry to strengthen prose skills if you ever gave one. Who are some of your literary inspirations?

So many! I’m a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe, of course. William Blake has been another monumental inspiration for me – his work really pushed boundaries and explored genre-bending in new ways. Kate Chopin is another all-time favorite; The Awakening is a story I come back to time and time again when I need some perspective in my life.

WH: How have you changed as a person from your early life until now?

I think I’ve definitely grown more confident over the years with my writing and just trying to get myself out there. It can be incredibly difficult some days. I’m an introvert, but I love socializing with other writers, especially in the horror community; so, comparing where I’m at now to how quiet I was during earlier school years both socially and confidence-wise, I think I’m finally starting to become a person I always knew I was meant to be, which has been an exciting process!

WH: I empathize completely. I think most writers would. What is something few people know about you? Any secret talents?

I’m a really competitive gamer. My sister and I always played everything from Mortal Kombat to Mario Kart to board games like Monopoly and Scattergories,so we really enjoyed challenging each other (and still do) but it’s definitely made me really competitive any time I get the chance to kick someone’s butt, especially with Mortal Kombat :-)

I also love mixology and am working on my own drink recipes inspired by my poetry!

WH: How cool! Speaking of which... How do you like your coffee? Do you have a favorite meal? What’s your favorite dessert? (I love asking people about their food choices. Says so much about personality!)

I love a good iced coffee with a shot of flavor – any flavor will do! I don’t really have a favorite meal, but going to the beach and getting fresh seafood is one of my favorite things in the world when I get the chance to go. Crab legs are the best! As for dessert, I do enjoy a yummy slice of cheesecake.

WH: Wonder what you would grab at the seafood markets here in Miami and the Keys. So, what is the witchiest thing about you, Sara (we’re all a little witchy)?

Definitely my cat – he’s my little familiar and follows me wherever I go. I’d also have to say my nearly all-black closet and my obsession with Stevie Nicks (my witchy queen – she’s amazing and so inspiring!).

WH: Stevie Nicks is my spirit animal. I don't know how my husband doesn't get sick of me playing her music over and over again.

What is the most awesome thing happening in your life right now that you’d like to share with us? What’s next for you? We can’t wait to see what you have coming up!

My debut novella will be out this July! I am so excited to share a longer prose work with everyone. It will be published with Unnerving, who I love! It’s titled To Be Devoured and is a dark, psychological horror tale about a woman (Andi) who becomes infatuated with vultures – her desire to understand their taste for carrion sends her life spiraling down a path from which she can never return the same. Her girlfriend and her neighbor try to help, but will Andi’s obsession prove to be too much?

Wow, great title! Can't wait to get it. Sara, thank you so much for being with me here today. I hope to meet you at StokerCon in a few weeks, so we can talk Stevie Nicks and horror over a slice of cheesecake!

To follow Sara Tantlinger, visit the following links:

* Website: saratantlinger.com

* Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Sara-Tantlinger/e/B06X6GBXZB

* Latest release: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KQMCR3Z

* Twitter: sarajane524

* Instagram: inkychaotics

Sara Tantlinger resides outside of Pittsburgh on a hill in the woods. Her dark poetry collections Love for Slaughterand The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmesare published with StrangeHouse books. She is a poetry editor for the Oddville Press, a graduate of Seton Hill’s MFA program, a member of the SFPA, and an active member of the HWA. She embraces all things strange and can be found lurking in graveyards or on Twitter @SaraJane524 and at saratantlinger.com. Sara’s poetry, flash fiction, and short stories can be found in several magazines and anthologies, including the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. II and V, the Horror Zine, Unnerving, Abyss & Apex, the 2018 Rhysling Anthology, 100 Word Horrors, and the Sunlight Press. Currently, Sara is editing Not All Monsters, an anthology that will be comprised entirely of women who write speculative fiction. The anthology is set for a 2020 release with StrangeHouse Books.

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