AN INTERVIEW WITH… ROBERT P. OTTONE

Robert P. Ottone is an author, teacher, and cigar enthusiast from East Islip, NY. He delights in the creepy. He can be found online at www.SpookyHousePress.com, or on Instagram (@RobertOttone). His collections Her Infernal Name & Other Nightmares and People: A Horror Anthology about Love, Loss, Life & Things That Go Bump in the Night are available now wherever books are sold. 

You are the author of two horror anthologies. Can you tell us something about those for those readers who aren’t familiar with your work yet?

My first collection is very much rooted in emotion, whereas my new collection is rooted firmly in fear. I like to offer readers a look at the honest and true reactions to horror that I think many of us might experience, should these situations, as insane as many of them can be, were real.

Resting Hollow is a recurring setting in your stories, a la Derry for Stephen King or Arkham for Lovecraft. Is that based on anything?

Resting Hollow is my own version of the Tarrytown/Sleepy Hollow area of upstate New York. It’s also a fictional play on a town near me, called Sayville, that I believe is one of the more interesting towns on Long Island.

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

I’ve always been a writer, in some capacity or another, but I think my first foray into writing about horror was mostly journalistic. It as great, working as a film critic and interviewing filmmakers (Nicolas Winding Refn threatened to kill me, for example), but writing fiction is way more fun, and certainly a more exciting outlet.

Her Infernal name opens with an amount of praises for it that is impressive for a second indie anthology. How did you manage that? Was it all due to the quality of your first book People; you’re very, very good at marketing; a little of both…?

I’d say it’s a bit of both. I’ve been very lucky to make some really wonderful connections in the horror community, so when I asked some of the authors for blurbs for the book, they were very sweet to agree to do so. There’s one who I consider my “white whale” so to speak, and he agreed to do so, but never gave me the blurb. I’ll get him one day, though.

Being a fairly big gamer myself, I really enjoyed one of your stories based on a videogame. Are you a gamer in real life?

I am! Unfortunately, these days, I don’t have much time for gaming, but I was huge into The Sims and Overwatch for years. I play a little bit once in a while, mostly single-player stuff, things that are easy to pick up and play. Most recently, I’ve been making my way (slowly) through Man of Medan.

There are some Lovecraftian influences in your work. Is there any other author in it that I missed?

I definitely send some love Bret Easton Ellis’ way, through pilfering one of his characters for a reference. Other than that, I think it’s fair to say there’s some Lovecraft in there, some Ellis, maybe a dash of Langan and Evenson.

I know you’re a teacher. Was there an infestation of gnats in your school?

(laughs) There absolutely was. Not at my current school, mind you, but a school I worked at previously. It was disgusting and the janitorial staff at that school literally did nothing to help the situation.

What, if anything, is missing from the indie scene?

I think we’re very lucky that we cover so many different types of horror, so, I’m not sure much is missing. I think we’re missing more eyes and more attention on our work. Not just mine, but other amazing authors like James Chambers, Lou Rera, Michael David Wilson, etc.

Do you come from a literary background?

I do, yeah. I was a journalist, copywriter and social media strategist before becoming a teacher. I also tried my hand at playwriting, screenwriting and held the screenwriting fellowship for a time.

Was horror something you always loved growing up, or is it something you discovered later on?

Absolutely. Horror remains the most interesting genre for me. One can explore so much within the confines of a horror story, that other genres don’t always afford the opportunity for. 

Writing, editing, proofreading, cover design, marketing… do you wear all these hats yourself, or do you have some trusty person who helps?

I do in some respects, yeah. When it comes to cover design, I typically draw up a rough version, then create a rough digital version, then send that to my cover artist, who’s done both of my books so far. Editing and proofreading, thankfully, Spooky House Press has a wonderful editor named Louis Maurici who handles that for me.

When you were writing the stories for your anthologies, did you know you were writing an anthology or you wrote the stories first and decided they could be strung together in an anthology in a second time?

I started writing the title novella, Her Infernal Name for a possible submission to Midnight in the Pentagram, but once I got going, I couldn’t stop, and eighty pages later, it was its own novella. From there, I wanted to construct an experience all centered around similar concepts of fear and the human experience, which is always part of my storytelling, I suppose.

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

I am currently in the process of obtaining two additional Master’s degrees, on top of the one that I already have. Being in college again sucks, and it takes up far too much of my time.

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

For sure. From my first collection, Ebba is certainly a character I’d like to return to at some point, in fact, I’ve started on a short story all about her. I can see Royce from Her Infernal Name possibly coming back at some point. There’s a character from my first collection who’s made it into this new collection, too, even as a small reference, so yeah, I love having characters return at different points for different stories.

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

Other than for building a mailing list, I don’t really think so. Most of the writer websites I see are either free or low-tech. Mine is pretty low-fi, I guess. Meh. I’m an Instagram and Facebook guy, personally.

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

I don’t think I am, but I think those around me would say differently. I’d much rather dedicate more time to my girlfriend, my niece and my nephew, and all other concerns be damned, but nevertheless, I’m forever busy.

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?

That’s an interesting question. No. I don’t think there is. I’m very lucky that my book is on shelves, as well as on Amazon. Is most of my business from Amazon? Absolutely. Do I hate Amazon? No, I literally order from them all the time. There are other outlets for self-publishing, and many of them are quite good, but Amazon just does everything better, it’s a fact.

Is there a subject you wouldn’t write about?

No. I write like everyone I know is dead, and that frees me to write whatever I want.

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?

This is the question I’ve been most excited to answer (laughs). There’s a certain level of existential horror ingrained, deeply, in religious texts. Now, I’m not one of these anti-religious hipsters or whatever, I’m all for people believing whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t become weaponized, but, especially in the fire and brimstone nature of Catholicism, if one can’t see the horror just under the surface of religious teachings, then, you’re not looking close enough.

They’re two sides of the same coin.

A horror cliché you would like to erase?

Final girls. There can be final boys, too. There can be male protagonists who just, for a multitude of reasons, can’t handle a situation. Women aren’t always helpless. Men aren’t always superheroes.

 What is next after Her Infernal name? What is next in your future?

I have my first full-length horror novel that I’m working on, as well as a novella I’m sorta’ obsessed with at the moment. 

I just finished a revision of a horror-sci-fi YA novel, that I’m hoping to make some waves with in the near-future. There’s a pun there, since it takes place on the water.

I also have a few short stories being published in The Half That You SeeUnburiedHollywood Holocaust and other anthologies coming out in 2021.

Would you like to give us some of your contacts?

Follow me on Instagram: @RobertOttone and join my mailing list at www.spookyhousepress.com

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