Hi Sam, thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became a horror writer.
Aside from some months of scattered adventure, I’ve always lived in the state of Washington (high school on the eastern border, college on the coast), and I now write for a newspaper right in the middle of the state. As for becoming a horror writer (as well as, say, a city government reporter), I’m definitely a genre-bender. Many of my horror stories are likely to have speculative elements as well, be it sci-fi or fantasy or both. That said, I read Stephen King’s On Writing before I hit puberty, and I think Richard Matheson is one of the best short story writers of all time. This is likely why many of my stories, no matter the genre, are experienced through a horror lens.
How did you know you wanted to write?
It was never really a decision. I remember writing, doodling, and stapling pages together when I was five, and I haven’t stopped since. It’s very meditative for me. I drop into a scene and suddenly time stops, and I’m not thinking about anything else. There are very few things I’ve experienced that have done that for me, so I keep coming back to it.
What books did you read as a child that inspired you to become an author?
Undeniably the works of Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky inspired much of my early writing. As I grew up and thought consciously about style and craft, short, declarative sentences and minimalistic descriptions really caught on. Say, Ernest Hemingway, Richard Matheson (again) and Cormac McCarthy. For newswriting, too, you almost must write this way. So, it stuck.
Tell us about the first piece of writing you had published and how that impacted you?
My first published story was called “Numb,” about a wandering outcast who doesn’t understand why literally everyone around him keeps dying. It went to a small online magazine called Liquid Imagination. This was a landmark moment for sure, but it also sort of demystified the whole idea. I realized that “getting published” just means I’m going to read the story in a different place than my Word doc, and anyone with a Twitter account can publish anything. Now I’m more interested in the aesthetic of the publication and the community surrounding it.
Do you have any writing rituals?
Other than black coffee and daily persistence, not really. I’ve never been the type to take long breaks and then spend all night writing. I crack at it slowly, in fragments, every day. It’s meditation!
It’s almost cliche that authors live on black coffee and hard liquor. What are you drinking right now?
Oh god. Currently black coffee. And I’m hungover. Cringe.
Any advice for people who are considering becoming an author?
When I was going for my creative writing degree, I asked one of my professors if it’s better for writers to take small steps up a ladder or shoot for the stars until they eventually make it (only submit to publications like The New Yorker, for instance). She told me it doesn’t really matter how you do it, because most people eventually stop. It’s not about where you go or how you get there, it’s about going. Stick with it, and you’ll get somewhere. I’ve really taken that to heart. Writing itself must be the goal. Once it is, any goal surrounding falls into place much easier with time.