An interview with… FELIX I. D. DIMARO

I am primarily a psychological thriller and horror writer, though I do venture outside of those genres. I was born in Nigeria, the youngest of five children. I moved to Canada when I was four and was raised in Toronto, in areas that were considered to be ‘high risk’. In those areas I learned hard lessons at a young age, about things like death and discrimination, but also about strength, survival and passion. I was able to graduate from the University of Toronto with a BA in Psychology (minors in Philosophy and Classical Studies) and I have worked mainly as a Social Worker since my graduation.
So far, I’ve released two books and I am working on several projects at the moment. My first release was an anthology of psychological horror stories called “How To Make A Monster: The Loveliest Shade of Red”. My debut novel is entitled “Bug Spray: A Tale of Madness”. It deals with topics such as toxic relationships, retribution, and mental health issues.

Your debut was To Make A Monster: The Loveliest Shade of Red, that’s an anthology. One of the stories was inspired by a newspaper article that you included at the end of it. Beside the supernatural events, how much real life is there in the stories of this anthology?

The newspaper article was actually something I created as part of the story. I’m glad it was convincing. There is quite a lot of real life in the stories in How To Make A Monster. I wrote them to explore many of the things I have seen and experienced in both my personal life and in my previous career as a social worker. I’ve heard of and experienced too many real-life horror stories concerning issues that I don’t think people talk about nearly enough. So, I’m trying to shine a light on some of these issues in a way that I hope will be both thought-provoking and entertaining.

Did you know you were writing an anthology, or did you start writing short stories first and then decided that they could feature together?

I had no idea I was writing an anthology when I started working on these stories. I wrote Casper first, which was way back in 2013 or so, and I think I was just writing for fun. I had an idea in my head and I just wanted to jot it down. It wasn’t until a few years later that I decided to put the stories I had been writing together.

Are there any characters that will come back in future works?

Nearly every major character in the book will make an appearance in the future. Some you’ll see more than others, but How To Make A Monster was sort of an introduction into the worlds I am building, and I hope readers in the future will reference back to this book and get a kick out of the easter eggs I’ve put in and the characters that have popped back up, unexpectedly. There may even be a surprise or two in Bug Spray: A Tale of Madness, my debut novel which was released in August of 2020.

The book is objectively fairly dark. Despite all that, I can’t decide whether it has a fundamentally optimistic undertone (people deserve some slack because even if they do negative things, we could be there too if our background was bad enough), or a negative one, for basically the same reason (even if you’re an ok person, you could be a “bad” one with the right upbringing/situation). So I need to ask: is the glass half empty or half full?

Despite how dark the stories can get, I honestly believe there are more positives than negatives to gain from them. There are choices to be made by many of the characters, just like most of us have difficult choices to make in life. The book is my way of encouraging people to make the correct choices. Or run like hell if there are no other alternatives.

You followed that with Bug Spray, which is your second book, but your first novel. Do you want to tell us about that?

Bug Spray, like How To Make A Monster, is a social commentary. Bug Spray isn’t as dark as How To Make A Monster, and I hope it will actually give people a few laughs, but it is an exploration of humanity and society. Of corruption and power dynamics. Of what people are willing to do to attain the goals that they have been made to believe are important. And how love, and the idea of love, often makes us vulnerable to pain and manipulation.

Both books seem to be very popular on social media. Are you someone who’s fairly good with marketing, or – like me – you post something with a caption and some hashtags and sort of cross your fingers that people’ll like it?

I’m like you. I put something out and hope for the best. I’m glad that my books have a little bit of a buzz building because I truly dislike self-promoting. I always feel like I come off as a used car salesman (no offense to used car salespeople. I’m sure many of you are awesome). I want to write things that people feel inclined to talk about, because if you’re the only person talking about your book, eventually you’re the only person listening as well.

What is going to be next after Bug Spray? What’s in your future?

I will be putting out a free novella very shortly after Halloween. It’s called Viral Lives. It is a modern-day ghost story that also looks at society’s obsession with documenting everything, sometimes even before helping others. And it explores how we’re all one unfortunate circumstance away from going viral in the worst kinds of ways. After that, I am planning to put out a sci-fi thriller in early 2021 that involves time travel and Adolf Hitler. It takes place in the year 2222, and that is also the title of the book. It will be full of very cool graphic novel style art. I’m very excited about both projects.

What – if anything – is missing from the indie community?

A willingness to accept criticism. I find that many writers take it as a personal offense if someone gives their work anything less than a four-star rating. I’ve known of authors actually messaging reviewers to chastise them for giving their book a three-star rating. What this does is put reviewers in an uncomfortable situation. Everyone feels compelled to give everything a great review in order to avoid backlash. And what that does is create false expectations for the reader, and inevitably makes it more difficult for people to take independent authors seriously when those expectations are not met.

Does the horror community perpetrate its own alienation from the rest of the indie world?

This is a tough question. I don’t think so. I think horror is difficult to understand from an outside perspective. People who don’t like it, don’t get why other people like it. And people who like it, are very proud about their enjoyment of horror. There’s a natural divide in general that sort of seeps into the indie world. I think once people in general begin to accept that horror is more than gore, blood and violence, and can actually be beautiful and thought provoking, then that will also be reflected in the indie world.

Considering the power that social media have today, is there still a point for an indie writer to have their own website?

I am wondering the same thing as I’m preparing to launch my own website. I say it’s a matter of preference. And it depends on what the website has to offer. If, as an indie author, you have supporters who are interested in learning about you beyond what has been published, and if you can offer them what they are looking to learn (a unique blog, free stories, insight into your process, etc.), then I feel like a website is a good idea. If you aren’t providing more than what is already on your social media, then a website becomes a redundancy.

Vampires fear crosses and all that’s holy, ghosts can’t move on to the afterlife, possessions are the devil’s faults, demons are from hell… how difficult is it to separate horror from religion?

I think horror and religion are intertwined. When you deal with horror you deal with death. When you deal with death you deal with religion. I think horror is often just another way of exploring our fears and expectations when it comes to mortality and what comes next. The afterlife. And, in a lot of ways, religion and horror are the same. Both are apt to scare you into making better decisions in life.

Writing, editing, marketing… Do you wear all these hats yourself or do you have someone who helps you?

I definitely have someone helping me when it comes to editing. I understand that many people take pride in doing every aspect of their published work themselves, but I feel like a lack of editing is hurting the indie community, which is why I make sure my work is always edited by someone else. Because none of us are perfect, and a second perspective usually helps. I’ve been working with my wonderful editor, Ally Sztrimbely for several years, and she has given me insight and perspective that I otherwise might have overlooked. Editors are underrated. And people who publish without having their work edited by an outside source are usually doing themselves and the indie community a disservice. The writing and marketing is all me, though I dream of a day when I no longer have to worry about self-promotion.

To Make A Monster features some very nice artwork throughout its stories, who made those?

The artwork was created by an incredible artist from my city of Toronto named Katrina Canedo (@kat_cee on Instagram). I expect that she is going to go on and do great things. I saw her for the first time competing it an Art Battle. I hope anyone unfamiliar with what that is will Google it and have their mind blown a little bit.

Are you quite good at balancing life’s demands and writing?

Currently, partially because of the pandemic, my life is my writing, so there isn’t much balance necessary at the moment. I am very thankful that I am able to focus on my work during crazy times like these.

Is there a horror cliché that you would erase?

Having otherwise reasonable characters doing unreasonably idiotic things to cater to a plot. It always makes me roll my eyes when I read or watch a character doing something that no one on Earth would do just to get them into a situation that suits the purpose of the story.

As you know, Amazon basically has the monopoly on the self-publishing market. How bad it is and is there anything that “normal” people can do to create a market that’s more free?

I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s good or bad. Amazon made this interview possible for me, so I have to be thankful for that. That being said, Amazon is as convenient for authors as it is for shoppers. And, just like malls and department stores still exist for shoppers, there are other options for self-publishing for writers. They just may not be as easily accessible, unfortunately.

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

I think about what to write next :P. These days there isn’t much to do. I run, I walk, I probably watch too much television and Youtube, and I also read. Reading has been a lifelong hobby of mine that I never see myself getting tired of.

Despite the old adage “Don’t judge a book from its cover”, the importance of a book’s cover is massive. How did you create yours?

I judge books by the cover all the time. Cover art is pretty important to me. And the better the art for my own books is, the more I feel motivated to make sure my writing is worthy of that art. I have been fortunate to find very talented artists to work with. I am most recently working with a brilliant cover artist out of Australia named Roscoe Nischler (@rosconisch on Instagram).

I have asked quite a lot of authors whether there is anything they wouldn’t feel comfortable writing about, and most answered stuff that you wrote about. So, is there anything that you wouldn’t write about?

Is it wrong that I sort of take that as a compliment? I am not comfortable with writing the things that I write. I generally don’t talk about my books with people in my personal life, but I feel that if something is happening in real life, if something is being done to make humanity worse than it needs to be, then I will explore it. I have several stories written for “How To Make A Monster II: Human Skin”, and I am genuinely worried about releasing some of them. That being said, the more we ignore the darkness in our society, the more that darkness spreads. I only hope to shed light on topics that most people don’t realize many others are suffering through. And try to make the process entertaining for the reader at the same time.

Would you like to give us your contacts?

Sure. I’m most active on Instagram. My username is @thingsthatkeepmeupatnight
On Facebook I run a page called These Are The Things That Keep Me Up At Night (facebook.com/thingsthatkeepmeup) which is full of odd news stories, mostly funny memes and my thoughts about current events. 
And, for those on Slasher, my handle is @Dimaro. Slasher is an app for horror lovers, and I discuss horror books and movies on this platform.

Thank you for your interest in interviewing me. I really appreciate Bandit Fiction for reaching out. These were great questions. 

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