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the Dreams of the Damned

I write dark fiction and I'm something of a dreamer

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Soul Screams With Sara Jayne Townsend

SOULSCREAMS-2My guest today is Sara Jayne Townsend, author of "Death Scene", and "Suffer the Children" both available from Lyrical Press.  Today she discusses her latest release, "Soul Screams", a collection of thirteen short horror stories recently released by Stumar Press.

Hello Sara, welcome to my blog!

LM: What can we expect from "Soul Screams"?

ST: It’s a collection of 13 short stories.  Some are supernatural horror; most are psychological horror.

LM: The book trailer hints at stories dealing with inner turmoil. Is this a fair assumption? What made you focus the collection on this?

ST:  The stories were actually written over a 20-year period – the earliest ones were written when I was 17.  It was only when I pulled them all together for the collection that I realised they had common themes.  They are all very angsty.  I’ve generally used short stories as a way of dealing with my own insecurities, so this is why the same themes keep coming up – betrayal; isolation; death; loneliness.

LM: Can you outline a few of the stories from "Soul Screams"? Which is your favourite?

ST: It’s a bit difficult to pick a favourite – that’s like asking a parent to pick a favourite child.  I am fond of them all for diffrent reasons.  THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR was my first published piece, and it’s about a young man who visits his friend on Hallowe’en, to encounter spooky goings-on at his friend’s apartment block.  I wrote that one when I was 17, and it’s a flawed story but I am fond of it.  THE GUITAR I am also particularly fond of.  It’s about a woman who picks up a young guitarist in a club and the guitar gets jealous.

LM: You have been successful in writing both short fiction and novel sized pieces. Is your approach to writing short and long fiction different? Are there particular skill sets required for one and not the other?

ST:  I started writing novels as a teenager, but was having no success with getting them published.  I decided to start writing short stories because I thought that might be a better place to start building publishing credits.  In my early novels I had an irrepressible urge to include a whole load of detail about everything, that I later learned were known as ‘info dumps’.  When I was about 14 I got into science fiction and I read a short story collection by Isaac Asimov that was a revelation – he showed me how to write a short story.  If a novel is a feature film a short story is a snapshot – a section of a person’s life and not the whole deal, where all that’s important is what’s going on at the time.  You don’t necessarily need to know what the character looks like, or who their family are, or what they do for a living, or even what their last name is.  Only what’s relevant to the story.

LM: Horror seems to be going through something of a resurgence of late, particularly in film and television. Why do you think that is?

ST: I don’t think it ever went away; it just went around in disguise for a while.  With the decline in popularity of horror in the early 1990s came a rise in violent crime fiction – stories about sadistic killers, torturers and so on.  The focus of people’s fear seemed to shift away from the supernatural to things that exist in our own reality.  And I think that influence is still with us.  Although supernatural horror is back – and I think it’s largely thanks to the rise of urban fantasy on the back of shows like Buffy that made it OK to write about werewolves and vampires again – there’s a lot more psychological horror out there.  Things that make us face our own fears.

LM: You are the chairperson of The T-Party, a UK based writing group for writers of genre fiction. You have thirty or so members, each with some sort of professional writing accreditation or representation, which is very impressive! Tell us about your involvement in The T Party and what does a writing group like this offer writers?

ST: The group was started 18 years ago, by me and two other people, and initially we focused on genre because there was a lack of writing groups for sf, fantasy and horror writers.  We critique using the ‘Milford’ method – everyone takes a turn to say their piece, and the author doesn’t get to respond until the end.  The critique can be rather harsh if you’re not used to this method, but our aim has always been to improve people’s writing and help them towards publication.  Because the group has been around a while member success has grown – members that were unpublished when they joined now have agents, publishing deals and in some cases three-book contracts.  The group has grown with its members, and although we started out as a group for beginner writers, we now feel that’s no longer the case, so we do have a requirement that members should have a publishing credit, or if not they have to go through an audition process.  That might sound a bit arrogant, but we’re trying to cover ourselves.  We’ve had instances in the past where potential new member have found the critiquing method difficult to deal with, so we are trying to brace people for that now.

LM: You mention on your website that you review books for Shots e-zine. Would you say reviewing the work of others has made you a better writer?

ST: I think indirectly, yes, because it’s made me more appreciative of what works and what doesn’t.  Then if I catch myself making the same mistakes in my own writing, I try to address it.

LM: What do you find the most challenging thing about writing?

ST: Time.  It’s difficult trying to find time to write around the day job, as well as all the other commitments in line.  But we all have the same number of ours in the day, so we have to organised in what we do with them.  For writers that usually means being disciplined with the writing time.  I find I get quite a lot done in my early-morning writing sessions before work, even if that means having to get out of bed ludicrously early.

LM: If you had one piece of advice for other writers, what would it be?

ST: Don’t give up.  Unless you are very lucky, you’ve got to get many, many rejections before you get an acceptance.

LM: Your Kindle is broken and you can only have one book (not your own) on there. What would it be and why?

ST: That’s a very difficult question because there’s no one book that I re-read over and over again, but there are many that I’ve read more than once.  Perhaps Stephen King’s THE STAND – the revised author edition.  If just because it’s a rather weighty tome and would keep me going for a while.


 You can find out more on Sara at her website, http://sarajaynetownsend.weebly.com, and her blog http://sayssara.wordpress.com