An interview with… SCOTT J. MOSES

Scott J. Moses is a Baltimorean writer of horror and dark fiction. His short fiction has appeared in STORGY, The Cabinet of Heed, Coffin Bell, and elsewhere. His debut horror collection, Hunger Pangs, is slated for release in October, 2020.

What was your first story and when did you write it?

I vaguely remember writing something with dinosaurs chasing people in maybe second or third grade. If we’re talking when I began taking writing seriously, I wrote a post-apocalyptic novel back in 2015. I spent two years on it, edited, revised, queried, the whole nine yards. Let’s just say that I had many polite rejections from agents…I learned a lot from it though and keep thinking that I’ll return to it one day. Perhaps as a novella, or a short story.

Can you tell us something about your upcoming debut collection Hunger Pangs?

At heart and in my bones, I’m a short fiction writer, and I’ve been focusing on short stories for the last three years. The stories within deal largely with grief, loss, and what one might do amid said grief to *loosely defined* make things right, or back to normal.

There are some subtle, and not so subtle, supernatural stories, including a freelance exorcist, a freshly made ghost, a demon masquerading as a father’s deceased daughter, and so on and so forth, but the collection also deals with everyday woes we all experience. Failed relationships, and what it’s like to live through them as they decay, wanting to ignore the signs pointing to their eventual downfall. The turmoil of our country, on social and political fronts, as well as some personal mental health issues when it comes to depression.

But yeah, Hunger Pangs is out October 2nd, 2020, and I’m hoping it resonates with people. Even if it’s just one. There’s nothing like sitting down with a story and feeling understood, like it was written just for you. My goal was to get personal, and get stories down, sure, but if it resonates with someone in that way, well, that’d be the ultimate cherry-on-top.

What is your next project? What’s next for you?

Being an indie author, I don’t have anyone in publishing waving their hands from the side-lines to stop me saying too much. So, all I’ll say is that it’s a novella. One-part: Noir. Two parts: Cosmic horror.

Do you perceive that there is a stigma in being a horror writer?

Oh, sure. I think a lot of people hear “horror writer” and assume you worship Satan, and perform ritual sacrifices in your backyard, and while that may be the case for some, (I don’t judge) I lean towards horror because one, I’m a fan of the genre, and two, it’s such a vehicle for empathy. I think dark subject matter can get to the heart of what it means to be human in a pinch.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Honestly, labelling themselves as “aspiring.” If you write anything at all, you’re a writer. Period. You have to own it, because in those early years, you may be all you have to lean on.

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

A bit of both, for sure. A lot of emotion goes into writing, and I think if you want your reader to feel something reading your work, you have to feel something writing it.

How do you choose your characters’ names and how important are the names of the characters in your stories?

Sometimes, I just know their names. Almost like they walk up and introduce themselves with a sliver of a story that comes from that strange ether where ideas are grown.

Others, well, Alice Ann, the protagonist of the final story in my upcoming collection, Hunger Pangs, is the name of a street I pass every day on my way to the office. It just stuck. A character will let you know when you have their name wrong. The story won’t flow, there will be hiccups, but something clicks, for me at least, when I nail down their name.

How important is the cover for a book?

People say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” and while we all know what they’re trying to say, we all do when it comes to books. We’re only human.

Do you normally research your stories before you write it, or do you start with a general concept and see where it goes while writing?

Usually an image springs to mind when I’m in the shower, driving, or doing the dishes, and for whatever reason, it normally ends up being the last scene of the given story. I tend to ask myself how we got there, and plot backwards that way, ultimately working to that initial imagery.

Oddly enough, entire stories have come from dreams on more than one occasion. “Of Turbulent Seas,” a story in my upcoming collection, Hunger Pangs, was a dream I had one night. When it comes to research, most of my stories, though horror, are based in the past and have a historical bend to them. My current project is set in the late 1930s in post-prohibition America, and honestly, the research has been half the fun—*Imaginary publishing person waves their hands, tells me to keep my mouth shut*—but yeah, I research the culture, the dress, the slang—and try to make it all as authentic as possible. It’s nice looking into the crevices of the past like that. It really interests me.

Lastly, I envy the pantser’s ability to sit and spew a coherent story with no real direction, and only a concept or character to guide them. I’ve never been one to do that with ease, though oddly enough, a pantsed flash fiction I’m quite happy with titled “Adelaide” made it into my upcoming collection.

Writing, editing, proofreading, cover design, marketing… Do you wear all these hats yourself or do you have some trusted person helping you through it all?

I wear a few of them, sure. As an indie author, I’m learning you’re required to. That said, I have a handful of people I trust in all things writing. Rachel Oestreich, at The Wallflower Editing, is an old friend and has been editing and reviewing my work for years. Julia Scott, of Evenstar Books, did the formatting for Hunger Pangs and it looks amazing. The cover was illustrated by Daniele Serra who, if you’re in the horror world, needs no introduction. He’s a sorcerer with paints and took my concept to the next level, and then some. He’s worked with some of the greats: (Clive Barker, Paul Tremblay) and is such a heavy hitter when it comes to his craft. They’re all available for hire, and I recommend them all wholeheartedly.

Do you want to give us some of your contacts?

Twitter/Instagram: @ScottJ_Moses


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