Mary Ann Peden-Coviello is my Woman In Horror today! Mary Ann is really coming into her own with some great stories. She wished to do an interview with me, poor lass. I made sure to ask her questions that would let the whole world know about the charming lady she is and to get to the heart of why she writes what she does and where readers can find her tales. She did tell me that I asked her some tough questions. Wow! Me? Okay. So I did. Damn me anyway. Read this interview and see what I'm talking about. You will be impressed with Mary Ann. She is a great person as well as a fantastic author and editor.
Mary Ann Peden-Coviello Woman In Horror
It's such a pleasure to have you here, Mary Ann. Before we get started with our interview, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I'm a wife (one man/nearly 41 years), mother (2 sons, one almost-son, one amazing daughter-in-law), pet-Mama (adorable pit bull-mix) and pet-Gramma (one dog, two cats). I hate housework, like to cook, can lose myself in a book or a film till I forget who and where I am, and love grammar and playing with sentence structure more than might be healthy.
Thank you. Now it's time for some Q&A fun!
Q. Humor is a big part of who you are, I believe. Do you have any tricks in staying in this fun zone?
A. I wish I could tell you. Humour (yeah, I use too many British spellings for an American broad) has always been my fallback, my default setting. I once cracked up an entire operating room when I was about to go under anesthesia in a life-threatening situation. Later, the surgeon told me he'd never had a patient crack wise under those conditions. It's just something I do. One of my sons told me he'd know I'd died when I stopped being a wiseass.
Q. In addition to humor, you also manage to blend horror, the paranormal, and thrillers into your tales. Quite an accomplishment. This must certainly take some work.
A. I don't so much blend them as write all those genres. I do blend paranormal and thriller genres because they seem to go together nicely. I suppose you could say I write thrillers that involve not-so-human characters. And horror and humour go together well, I think. First you crank up the emotions and the fear. Then you throw in a little wordplay or a funny moment and you pop the tension – only to ramp it back up again.
Q. You have a great little tale in Write Her Story, the brainchild of Nina D'Arcangela. Could you tell us about the story you wrote?
A. Thanks. I like that little story. It's a succubus tale, told from her point-of-view. I did a little misdirection there, too, leading the reader to think it was going to be a vampire story and then switching to the lesser-known succubus. In this story, "How Do I Love Thee," the succubus is watching her victim sleep just before she takes his soul. She doesn't really want to, but she must because it's what she is. Even so, she can't bring herself to look at her handiwork. So you can have some pity for her, even as you shudder at what she's done.
Q. You share a lot about other authors. You haven't missed a beat this Women In Horror Month. My congratulations to you for being such a supportive soul.
A. Thanks. I like to support other writers. We're in this together. I don't understand the idea some seem to have that attention is finite, that if I share another writer's book, I'll lose a customer for my own. I see a reluctance, sometimes, to share or promote other writers' work. I'm not sure people are even aware of it. I just see who shares and who doesn't. That said, sometimes we think our work isn't shared because we look only on one platform (say, Facebook), and then we miss the shares on another (say, Twitter).
Q. Sirens Call Publications has your story Daddy's Little Girl in the special Women In Horror issue. This is another feather in your cap. Could you tell the folks where you got the idea for this great tale?
A. I love "Daddy's Little Girl." I really do. Usually, I'm using horror to talk about something else. For example, my story in Fright Mare – Women Write Horror, "One Hour Before the Dawn," is about the love of a mother for her children, even in unimaginably horrible circumstances. "Daddy's Little Girl" is just straight "Can I creep you out?" It was inspired by a commercial for a home security system. You might have seen it. A little girl goes to her daddy, scared. He shows her their security, and then he says, "Not on my watch." The story, with all its monster-under-the-bed twists, sprang into my head the first time I saw that commercial. There's a new version of this commercial on the air now, I think, but my inspiration was a commercial from a couple of years ago.
Q. I ran across an article of yours about writing in 1st person. I love 1st person tale-telling. You made some excellent points. This POV style is not for everyone.
A. I love writing in 1st person. I love the challenge. No, it's not for everyone, mainly because it's so difficult to keep in mind that the 1st person narrator cannot know – and tell the reader – things he/she cannot see, hear, or infer. It's a limiting style, but it's fun because you can surprise the reader in ways you might not be able to do with 3rd person narration – because the narrator him/herself can be surprised in that same way and in that same moment. I've seen comments – and even gotten them from writing teachers – about how "I will never read 1st person. It's lazy." I say if you skip 1st person just because it's 1st person, you're missing a lot of great stories. Done right, it's the last thing from lazy. Done wrong, well, that writer is going to be doing a lot of things wrong, not just the POV. You do have to create a character readers will find interesting enough to want to spend time in his/her head, too, because there's no real break.
Q. You have a story in the anthology Fright Mare, which just so happens to have made the final five for the Stokers. Could you tell us about your tale? Also, are you stoked about the Stokers or do you see awards as a sort of added extra to writing? Yes, that's certainly not the easiest question to answer.
A. I am so totally stoked about the Stokers. And in this case, I can truly say without the tiniest hint of irony, deflection, or dissemblance that it is an honour to be nominated. Billie Sue Mosiman did a splendid job choosing some lovely, dark, and frightening stories for this anthology. You never want to write with an eye toward getting an award, I think. But being nominated is brilliant. About my story: Set in my hometown, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, "One Hour Before the Dark" tells of the beginning of a zombie outbreak through the eyes of a young widow who's becoming a zombie. She's desperately, alongside her dog who's also rapidly zombifying, trying to get her unbitten children to a pickup point where they might be taken to safety. She succeeds, just as she and her dog succumb. The story is told in 1st person, but the narrator isn't at all based on me. The dog, however, is based more than a bit on my now-deceased Chow-Akita Moses, who'd have died to save me if he'd been called on.
Q. I love your Author/Editor page on Facebook. You have a lot of great advice there. One saying you have there is Don't overthink it. Just write it. This is certainly great first draft advice, along with Write now. Edit later.
A. I am absolutely talking to myself when I post things like that. I overthink everything and edit and re-edit almost every sentence. It's a curse. I am constantly working to overcome my perfectionist tendencies when working on first drafts.
Q. What is your opinion of self-publishing in general? Compared to Small Press and Big Five Publishers specifically?
A. I am in favour of publishing. Period. I like any and all methods of publishing. I intend to self-publish two collections of short stories soon. I have self-published one short story as part of an anthology. I plan to self-publish a novella soon. I've been published by small presses, with both excellent and awful results. I learned a lot from the awful results about what not to do, by the way. Big Five? For almost all writers, the Big Five are a pipe dream. However, if a writer wants to take a shot at that dream, go for it. I'd say don't go for it exclusively, though. If you want a Big Five career, you probably need some small press credits first. Still, if you have a truly stellar story (think "The Martian" or "Wool"), you can probably skip the small press, start with self-pubbing, and then go straight to New York. Those stories are few and far between. How many of us are really Andy Weir or Hugh Howey?
Q. Do you have any more short stories coming out soon? How about novels? In other words, what's on your platter, young lady?
A. I am working on a novella (and have been for ages), "Zombies Ate My Homework," a victim of my inability to stop editing a first draft, I fear. I have a vampire novel that's on the back burner. I'm working on a rotation of about a dozen short stories. And I have several editing clients, which is always nice.
Q. Who are your favorite authors. Your favorite books?
A. Oh my lord. I have so many favourite authors and books. I'm afraid to start. I know I'll miss some. Off the top of my head, with apologies to anyone I forget, even if they'll not see or ever know I forgot them. Billie Sue Mosiman. Jaime Johnessee. Lori Lopez. Lori Safranek. Jerry McKinney. Allison Dickson. Valerie Douglas. Kai Wilson. Suzi M (Suzanne Madron). Stephen King. Christine Sutton. Paula Ashe. Lisa Lane. Mary Ann Back. Dane Hatchell. Kathy Reichs. P.G. Wodehouse. Jack Douglas. I'm a big fan of Chuck Wendig, both his writing craft and his fiction books. I also read all the James Scott Bell craft books I can find. Alexander McCall Smith.
Now we come to the part where you get to say whatever is on your mind. Anything at all.
This is dangerous territory, Blaze. Okay, let me climb up onto one of my soapboxes. I remember, back in the Dark Ages when I was a mere youngster, not long after we'd invented the printing press, reading cheap paperback novels. Mysteries and horror mostly. Badly printed. Badly edited. Badly written. Lots of spelling and grammatical errors, errors clearly visible even to schoolkids like me. Eventually, the paperback business gained respectability. Right now, the self-publishing industry needs to have a good look at itself. We could step up and become a real force in the publishing world. To do that, we need to get over the idea that self-publishing means doing everything yourself. You cannot edit your own work well. I'm an editor, and I can't edit my own work. There are lots of reasons for this, the largest of which is that you, the writer, know what you meant, so you don't know when you're being unclear. You don't know those rules of grammar that you don't know, so you don't know when you've broken them. Unless you've had training in design, you probably can't design an effective book cover. A skillful formatter can make your book look better than you can. Hire people to do those things. You want your book to look as good as possible. You don't want it to look like something you threw together with ClipArt and the limited editing tools available on Word. We will never be taken seriously or convince people to stop thinking of us as third-rate writers telling third-rate stories as long as we present ourselves that way.
Slather this interview with any and all links, my friend.
It's been a joy having you here today, Mary Ann Peden-Coviello. Happy writing!
Thanks so much for having me. And thanks even more for all you do for Women in Horror – not only in February but throughout the year.