An interview with… Hailey Piper

Hailey Piper is the author of The Possession of Natalie GlasgowAn Invitation to Darkness, and Benny Rose, the Cannibal King. She is a member of the HWA, and her short fiction appears in Daily Science Fiction, Flash Fiction Online, The Arcanist, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror, and elsewhere. She lives with her wife in Maryland, where they spend Friday nights raising the dead. Find her on Twitter via @HaileyPiperSays or at www.haileypiper.com.

Do you remember what was the first story you’ve written?

Oh wow, that’s going a ways back. I know I told stories when I was 7 and asked adults around me to write them down.  Those I don’t remember.  The first that I wrote all on my own was a Jurassic Park knock-off story when I was 8. It was probably all of seven pages, but I had just read the Michael Crichton book and somehow hoped my story was likewise long enough to make into a movie.

Do you want to tell us about The Worm and His Kings?

Absolutely! The Worm and His Kings is my latest novella, a cosmic horror story set in 1990 Manhattan, New York. Living rough after having been ousted by her parents, Monique Lane is now searching for her girlfriend Donna, who’s been missing three months. Monique hears rumors that someone or something has been snatching women off the street, and follows the lead in hopes of finding Donna. The world beneath Manhattan is mysterious and complicated, a window into secrets both ancient and frightening.

How important is the setting in your stories?

I think setting is important to every story, it’s just a matter of detail. Some stories can vaguely take place in a city or in the woods, while others must take place in specific locations. One story, “The Last Night, the Same Road in the Morning” that’s coming in Haverhill Publishing’s anthology Would But Time Await: An Anthology of New England Folk Horror had to take place in that stretch of Vermont, and gets specific down to the roads. Likewise, The Worm and His Kings needed to take place in 1990, when Freedom Tunnel was at its busiest.

Many horror creatures, are tied to religion (at least in classic versions); do you find this to be a limit to creativity?

I think the only limit on creativity is within the creator. We can lean hard into the religious aspects of a vampire, for example, or completely ignore them, or subvert. I think it’s interesting to explore those elements at times. Even when someone isn’t religious, religion affects culture.

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

The Worm and His Kings releases from Off Limits Press on November 15, 2020. We’re working on the edits now, actually. Soon I’ll be working with The Seventh Terrace on editing my first short story collection, Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy, due for release in spring 2021. Short stories will be coming in Planet Scumm, Chiral Mad V, Places We Fear to Tread, and more. Right now I’m working on a body horror novel and getting outlines together for revamping an old novella idea, but I hope to fit some short stories in between those two bigger projects.

Do you have a writing place?

I have a corner desk next to our bookshelves where I write, though I’ll usually sit my notebook with me wherever I am in the house just in case anything springs to mind.

Can you tell us something about your beginning in the indie world?

I think that started a couple years back. I sold my first short stories in September 2018, and then self-published an ebook that would eventually be The Possession of Natalie Glasgow. Sci-Fi & Scary and Ladies of Horror Fiction took note of it, and it seems to keep winning over readers even as new work is released. I’m very fortunate to have had the support.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

The big one is not writing. That sounds silly, but really the difference between an aspiring writer and a writer is whether they’re actually writing. When people are starting out, they somtimes have this thought that everything will just come to them, or they’re looking forward to the end result too much (seeing their name on the cover) over the work itself, but really the writing happens while writing. Even if it’s not coming out the way you want, at least something is being generated. Not writing is the worst trap to fall into.

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

It’s kind of a combination? While I’m writing, my mind is on fire and I can’t sit still. But when I’m done, I feel deflated and need to relax a little so my thoughts can calm down.

Do you have a formal writing instruction (for example, a degree in creative writing)? Do you think that a formal instruction helps writing?

I don’t, and I don’t want to judge on whether or not it helps someone. Everyone’s experience is unique.

What was a prominent genre on your bookshelf growing up?

Horror definitely took up the most bookshelf space. I had all the Goosebumps books up to somewhere in the 40s of them before I stopped reading them, plus Michael Crichton novels that, while sci-fi, felt horror adjacent. By 10, I was wandering into my mom’s room and grabbing up her Dean Koontz books. Horror has always been there for me.

Is there anything you find bad about the horror movement?

I’m not one hundred percent sure what this means. I think overall horror gets a bad reputation from people who don’t understand it. For me, horror is healing. There’s comfort in hauntings and monsters and all things spooky.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?

I can’t be sure. Never is a long time, and there are infinite elements of humanity to explore.

What do you do when you’re not knee-deep in writing?

I’m usually reading (my to-read pile is enormous), or taking care of the house, or working my day job. 2020 makes this a tough question; we used to go to the movies, and I’ve been making a good practice of trying to watch at least one movie I’ve never seen each week.

How do you manage to fit your writing with the other demands of life? Are you good at managing your time?

I have a pretty strict routine. I’m a morning person, so I’m usually up at 4 or 5 AM writing. On weekdays that’s until I have to get ready for work, on weekends it’s usually until noon when my wife wakes up. Keeping a routine makes it easier to focus. I think at this point my mind associates morning with writing, so I’m less prone to getting distracted or mismanaging my time than when I was younger.

Writing, editing, proofreading, marketing, cover design… do you wear all these hats yourself or do you have someone you can trust to help you with it?

It depends on the project. I write, edit, proofread initially, and my wife takes a pass on some stories or books too, but once I’ve signed a contract, there’s an editor, a proofreader, an artist, and how many hats each person wears on that end varies per project. I’ve been fortunate to work with many incredibly supportive people.

How important is a book’s cover?

I know the old saying is to not judge a book by its cover, but people do. They might like or dislike the book itself for what’s inside, but cover art and design can make or break whether people even give a book a chance.

With the advent of social media, is it still important to have a personal website for an indie author?

That’s another situation where it depends on the author. Some dislike maintaining and updating a site, others want to be sure they have a landing pad. Everyone’s needs vary; what matters most is understanding what works for you. Someone might try a website and find it’s not for them, or they might not and then find they need one. There are no hard rules for any of this.

Do you plan the story in advance, or start with a premise and see where it goes from there?

Some of each, depending on the story, but I prefer to know the story in advance because I have an easier time building toward a desired conclusion (even if I end up completely changing that conclusion by the time I get there!) than starting with a premise and seeing where it leads. Some stories aren’t that cooperative though.

How important are the names of your characters?

I definitely think they matter, less about a meaning though, and more about how that makes a character feel. One great example someone gave me when I was younger was Laura vs Lauren. They’re similar names at a glance, but you might feel differently about a character whether she was named one or the other. It’s not crucial, but not insignificant either.

Do you want to give us some of your contacts?

My website is at www.haileypipercom, and then I’m on Twitter as @HaileyPiperSays and Instagram as @haileypiperfights. Thank you for having me!

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