|Illustration by Luke Spooner, © LVP Publications|
Welcome to The Pulp Horror Author Interview Series. Today's interview is with Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel who explores the fear of being beaten with. magic wand in her short story "The Toxic Magician" in The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias.
LVP PUBLICATIONS: What draws you to horror, both as a writer and as a reader? Who is your favorite horror creator? Who are your inspirations or influences?
SHERI SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: I’ve always been fascinated by the dark side of life. When I was about four, I swear I saw one of my plastic toy dinosaurs come to life and move around. I wasn’t scared, but I was curious. There’s probably a reasonable explanation for this phenomenon, but the image has stuck with me for almost 40 years! I think all humans experience scary things, but horror fiction is a safe space to explore those feelings.
My first love in the horror genre was Ray Bradbury. I discovered Bradbury’s work in my elementary school library in the second grade. The librarian wouldn’t check out books in that section to “little kids” (there was some rule or another, but it has been lost to the mists of time). I’d sit on the stool in the aisle and read, and I was entranced instantly. That summer, my mother took my brother and me to the Bookmobile, and I was finally able to bring those books home. I think the first thing I ever read from him was The Halloween Tree, which I introduced to my children when they were quite young.
I am constantly inspired and influenced by so many women writing horror today. Elizabeth Massie is such an amazing writer—and a lovely, lovely person. Same for Linda Addison, whose sultry poetry leaves me wanting a cigarette, and I don’t even smoke. Mary SanGiovanni has made cosmic and weird horror her own, and I really admire that. I’m also blown away by my contemporaries like Cat Scully, Michelle Renee Lane, Morgan Sylvia, doungjai gam, Nadia Bulkin, and Mary Hart. Other writers who have inspired me over the years include Michael Bishop, Christopher Golden, Jeffrey Ford, Stephen King, Joe Hill, and George Alec Effinger.
LVP: What were your biggest fears as a child? Do you have any current phobias or fears now as an adult?
SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: I was terrified of thunder. I mean, hide under the blankets, shivering terrified!
As an adult, one of my worst fears is something bad and beyond my control happening to my kids. I think when you have children, you come to understand just how little control you have over your bubble. For some reason, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed a pretty bad fear of being trapped. I wouldn’t say I’m claustrophobic, as cramped spaces don’t bother me, but being in a locked room alone with no way out sends me into a panic.
LVP: Horror has a million sub-genres, from psychological to splatterpunk. Which sub-genres have you written in? What's your favorite flavor of horror?
SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: My novel, Spirits, is quiet horror. It’s been compared to the works of Rick Hautala. I’ve done other things in the quiet horror vein. I’ve also written noir, dystopian horror, and cyberpunk.
I love psychological horror. I love stories that get under your skin and nestle there. Blood and gore are fine, but those things have never disturbed me on the level that psychological horror has. I like stories that make you question reality––and ultimately your own sanity. I like stories that mirror the real world and show it for the ugly place it can be, but I also like to see some hint of hope. I don’t think we’re doomed, but, dammit, we’ve got a really big hole to dig ourselves out of.
LVP: Is there any sub-genre or area of horror that you won’t go anywhere near? Any one area that is completely off-limits?
SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: I don’t believe there’s any sub-genre I won’t read or haven’t read. I love Jack Ketchum’s work, but I always feel emotionally drained when I finish one of his books. His stuff can be daunting, but you can’t deny the amazing talent he had. Same for Skipp and Spector. I don’t write splatterpunk, but I enjoy it as a reader.
LVP: In your opinion, what is the scariest or most terrifying thing you’ve ever written?
SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: Spirits, my novel set for release in July, terrifies me. I managed to creep myself out on a few occasions, and I’m pretty hard to creep out. There are some brutal scenes, but I find a quiet sense of dread way more terrifying.
LVP: Have you ever had an idea for a story so scary or disturbing that you couldn't bring yourself to write it down? Tell us about it.
SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: Certainly I have ideas I want to explore down the road, but I don’t think any of them have been too disturbing to write down. If anything, I find writing down the disturbing things cathartic.
LVP: Are there any ways that your interest in horror bleeds over (so to speak) into other areas of your life? Do you throw legendary Halloween parties, do you dress like Alice Cooper when you go grocery shopping, do you have a pet albino snake named Nosferatu?
SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: Every day is Halloween at my house! My taste in decor is, shall we say, a little offbeat. There are a lot of skulls. My cookie jar is a large skull. I have a skeleton sitting on my bookshelf. Skelly Bones came to live here for Halloween, but she was decorated for Christmas, too. And now she is an everyday skeleton. There are demon masks and other assorted weird things. My Conquistador lamp is probably the most peculiar thing I own, but I love him! My kids swear he’s haunted––and they’re probably right! He does have vacant, soulless eyes.
LVP: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to try dabbling in horror writing for the first time?
SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: I would say just go for it. Read extensively and not just in the horror genre. Write the things you want to read. Writing in general is all about persistence, so don’t get discouraged by rejection. It happens to all of us.
LVP: What would you like your legacy to be? Or alternatively, what should your survivors engrave on your tombstone?
SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: My tombstone will probably read: Holy shit! What a ride!
My legacy, I hope, will be about pushing myself, not just in writing but in life. Life is an adventure. The only way to refill the creative well is to get out there and live!
LVP: Anything else you'd like to say or add? Any final thoughts?
SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL: I’m just so thrilled to be included in The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias! I hope everyone enjoys my story, and I look forward to seeing some of y’all on the book tour circuit! Spirits comes out in July, so I’ll be out and about this summer. Drop on by and hang out with me!
~ Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel’s short fiction has appeared in a number of publications over the past decade. Her first novel, Spirits, is scheduled for release in July from Haverhill House Publishing. She lives in the Northeast with her partner, the writer Matt Bechtel; her three children; and an 80-pound lapdog named Nya. www.sherisebastiangabriel.com
Pre-order The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias (paperback or hardcover) from your local indie bookstore through IndieBound, from Barnes & Noble or Amazon now... or come see us at Crypticon in Seattle, WA and StokerCon in Grand Rapids, MI to read this story along with all the other madness contained in The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias (including limited edition autographed phobia card sets, available at conventions only)!