“Don’t be afraid to write your stories, as opposed to writing what you think you should write to fit the genre.”
As a horror enthusiast and a proud supporter or independent artists and creators, it should come as no surprise that I am featuring Damien Angelica Walters on MANGLED MATTERS.
Walters is an esteemed author who has earned accolades and enthusiastic reviews on her work since her first short story was released in 2011. The author of over fifty published short stories and several more coming out soon in a variety of publications and anthologies, Walters has also released two books.
Paper Tigers received incredible feedback after being featured in Cemetery Dance and Apex Magazine prior to being released and the reviews came in loud and proud shortly after the book’s release. Described as “haunting”, “beautiful” and “frightening”, Paper Tigers is clearly just the beginning of an illustrious book-writing career.
Sing Me Your Scars is a collection of short stories that showcased Walters’ prose and made it clear that her assortment of stories is just as vivid and entertaining as the author herself.
I had the wonderful pleasure of speaking with Damien recently. Walters is a talent you cannot afford to miss out on if you are as avid a reader or fan of the macabre as I assume everyone reading this is!
MANGLED MATTERS: When did you realize writing is what you wanted to do?
DAMIEN ANGELICA WALTERS: Thanks to weekly trips to the library with my father, books have always had a place in my life. I wrote quite a few as a kid, the folded and stapled construction paper with illustrations variety, although, sadly, none survived my childhood. As a teenager, I wrote poetry, and again, none survived, but I suspect that’s a good thing. I’m certain it was all rambling outpourings of anger and angst. As an adult, I moved from poetry to fiction, but it took many years and many words before I wrote anything worth reading, but everything I wrote helped shape my voice and the way I tell stories. So, there was no one defining moment where I realized I wanted to write. It was simply something I’d been doing forever.
MM: How long have you been writing professionally, full-time?
DAW: For several years, I was both writing and freelance editing, but earlier this year, after I wrapped up an ongoing editing project, I switched to writing full-time.
MM: As a writer, do you ever find yourself incorporating people in your everyday life into your stories?
DAW: Not necessarily specific people, but phrases and sayings they use, definitely. An offhand comment by a family member or a friend will spark a what if? that will spin-off into a story idea or a character. Or sometimes I’ll be out and see a complete stranger, and maybe they look sad or angry or bored or maybe I’ll hear part of their conversation, and the what if will unspool from there.
MM: Do you have a set writing schedule each day? How does it go?
DAW: It depends what I’m working on. If I have writing-related business, like interview questions, I typically take care of those in the morning while I have my coffee. Or I’ll check out Facebook and Twitter. Then I start on the current work in progress. If I’m first-drafting a novel, I set a daily word count goal, usually 2,000 words, but I always stop in the middle of a scene or with the first sentence of the next scene written. When I’m writing short stories, I don’t follow a daily word count goal as closely.
MM: Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what’s on your playlist?
DAW: No music for me. I need silence to write. When I’m not writing, I’m fond of Tori Amos, Duran Duran, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Lana Del Rey.
MM: Is there a specific story of yours that strikes you as most personal?
DAW: I think every writer draws from their own life and experiences. I know I have for more than one story, but the circumstances are altered in such a way as to be mostly unrecognizable. With that being said, “Girl, With Coin,” originally published in Shimmer Magazine and reprinted in Sing Me Your Scars, contains more of me in it than others do.
MM: If you had to pick three books to take on a remote island with you for a year, which books are you packing and why?
DAW: This is an answer that I suspect I’d answer differently day by day, but today I’d go with We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, The Shining by Stephen King, and Shadowland by Peter Straub, because they’re among the favorites I can reread a hundred times and not get bored.
MM: What advice would you give to an aspiring author, particularly young women interested in the horror and fantasy genres?
DAW: The usual advice of read a lot, write a lot, and don’t give up. To young women, I would add that you’ll see plenty of lists online of favorite authors and they’ll all be men. You’ll see anthologies with all-male contributors. You’ll see that male authors often get more press and more reviews. So it’s easy to think your stories don’t matter or that the genre isn’t open to you, but there are plenty of editors who take more care with their tables of contents, who read and review work written by men and women. And there are plenty of women working in the genre and writing great things. Lastly, I’d say don’t be afraid to write your stories, as opposed to writing what you think you should write to fit the genre.
MM: Where can fans find your latest stories?
DAW: I’ve had stories published in several anthologies: Lost Signals, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, and Autumn Cthulhu, to name a few. I keep a complete bibliography on my website and take care to keep it as up to date as possible.
MM: What are you currently working on?
DAW: I’m working on a few solicited stories and also brainstorming the next novel. I’m not a plotter, but I do write a lot of notes and snippets of dialogue before I start the first draft.
Damien Angelica Walters is the author of Paper Tigers (Dark House Press, 2016) and Sing Me Your Scars (Apex Publications, 2015), winner of the This is Horror Award for Short Story Collection of the Year. Her work has been nominated twice for a Bram Stoker Award, reprinted in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror and The Year’s Best Weird Fiction, and published in various anthologies and magazines, including the 2016 World Fantasy Award Finalist Cassilda’s Song, Nightscript, Cemetery Dance Online, Nightmare Magazine, and Black Static. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two rescued pit bulls. Find her on Twitter or on her website.