Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Gal's 2017 Halloween Frivolities Day 18: Among the Stacks with Steven Wynne

Photo by Hannah Carroll

I met Steven Wynne earlier this year at Scares That Care, and he was part of the big group I hung out with on Friday night.  I knew then that I definitely had to have him on the blog.  His passion for writing is contagious, his personality and sense of humor made me know that he's 'my kind of people,' and I look forward to reading some of his work.  


The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Welcome to The Gal, Steve.  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Steven Wynne:
I was born mid-Reagan in Central Pennsylvania. Moved around a bit, but still haven't escaped. Started writing and submitting short stories in early 2016 after years of writing aimlessly and never finishing anything. I'm happily married, and I have a cat named Tubbycunt.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are five things most people don't know about you?

Steven Wynne:
I love Indian food. I have deep roots in punk rock, and played in a band that opened for Catch 22, Murphy's Law, and a number of others I can't remember. I didn't smoke, drink, or do drugs until well after I graduated high school. I've been homeless, and have lived in what was basically a squat/crackhouse for a year. When I was a tiny kid, 'The Brave Little Toaster' was my favorite movie, and I can still remember large swaths of dialogue and songs from it by heart. I hold this in large part accountable for why I'm so fucked up.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What is the first book you remember reading?

Steven Wynne:
Probably one of the Goosebumps books. The Barking Ghost stands out in my memory, but I know I read tons more than that before I got around to that one, none stick out in my memory though. Apart from Goosebumps, though, the first book I read that resonated with me heavily was Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What are you reading now?

Steven Wynne:

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn't expect you to have liked?

Steven Wynne:
I fucking loved the entire Harry Potter series.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What made you decide you want to write?  When did you begin writing?

Steven Wynne:
I wrote stories when I was a little kid, trying to emulate the Lone Wolf role-playing books I loved. They all sucked, all of which ended with the protagonist literally finding a literal switch that would literally fix everything.
            I was a stupid fucking kid.
            I didn't write too much between then and my early twenties, apart from stuff for school. Whenever I did start trying to write in my second run, it was just blatant pastiches of Chuck Palahniuk that I never finished. Took me until maybe about 28 years old, a few years ago, to actually write a whole story, from beginning to end. After I'd done that a few times, I started writing and submitting out in spring of 2016.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have a special place you like to write?

Steven Wynne:
Eh, just my desk.  Nothing too fancy.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Steven Wynne:
I like to stare at the blinking cursor for a good 20 minutes or so before stopping what I'm doing and moving the mouse a bit.  Repeat.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Steven Wynne:
Just trying to convince myself that what I'm writing isn't a bunch of derivative hackneyed bullshit.  Sometimes, I don't succeed.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's the most satisfying thing you've written so far?

Steven Wynne:
That's a tough one. I think my short story I just sold, 'Song of the Soil'. It's the first story I've really written that isn't entirely autobiographical. Almost none of it is; it's the first story that is just a story that I made up, and still feels real. I'm really proud of it, and I got some really good feedback on it from my friends who did beta read it for me. Everything I write I initially think is pigshit, and it takes me a while to go back and look at it for something other than a sad, meandering piddling attempt at narrative. This one took much less time to get me to liking it.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What books have most inspired you?  Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Steven Wynne:
Chuck Palahniuk is probably the first author I read as an adult(ish) that really hooked me. I absolutely loved the sheer nihilism and depravity of books like Choke and Invisible Monsters, but I kinda fell off after Rant. It's been a good long while since I've read anything of his, but I'm pretty sure I've never been able to scrub his lingering influence from my sleeve.
            In more recent years, with my pull towards Horror and Weird fiction, the biggest influence on me has been, without a doubt, Gary A. Braunbeck. I had woke up stupid early one December morning to get my wife out the door for her terrible fucking warehouse job (which she's escaped from, hail Satan), and I picked up In Silent Graves on my Kindle. I read it over the next few mornings, and it blew my head off and tore my guts out. It was the first book to blow me apart like that. The sheer emotion and beauty and poetry is kinda what made me decide that this was a genre I could explore and do whatever the living hell I wanted, and be myself to the fullest extent.
            I've devoured everything Braunbeck I've been able to get my hands on since then.
            Now, for some other authors who have been hugely influential (but won't get the fanfare, my humble apologies): Laird Barron's style of writing has always amazed me, as well as his ability to flip a story on it's head three quarters of the way through and change the entire dynamic. Livia Llewellyn, for all the same reasons. Mary Sangiovanni is great for blood and guts flying. Joe R. Lansdale, for his incredible characters. I could go on, but I'll leave it here.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What do you think makes a good story?

Steven Wynne:
Characters. Heart. Humor. Personality. Pain. In order for me to be sucked in, the characters need to have flaws. Everything needs to be real. It doesn't have to be a mind-blowing original concept, it doesn't need to be a sprawling dystopian sci-fi landscape with strange nuances of some speculative futurism. It's not about the idea, it's about the execution.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What does it take for you to love a character?  How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Steven Wynne:
Humor and wit definitely help. I can't ever boil things down to a simple set of things that will always work, because again, it's all in the execution. Billy Butcher from Garth Ennis's The Boys is cocky, witty as all hell, smart as fuck, and funny. Also, he guards what leaves him vulnerable, and when you see him open up, it can be heartbreaking. He's a great protagonist, and (spoiler) an even better villain at the end. When I'm writing my own stories, I try to just be honest and make you relate to the characters. They just need to be real. I have a difficult time writing witty characters who are smart and know everything and have the best quips because I'm just not that smart. Still, I try.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Steven Wynne:
Probably the ones who are specifically me. Billy, from my story 'The Absence of Souls', for example. A good deal of that story is pretty autobiographical. As well, Abby from my novella 'Mackenzie's Rose' is pretty much like me.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Are you turned off by a bad cover?  To what degree were you involved in creating your books cover?

Steven Wynne:
Sometimes, maybe? Won't kill my interest outright, but it won't help. Thus far, I've had no books published, apart from the anthologies that my short stories will be appearing in. Neither of those have come out yet, but I'll be having no say in those covers either, I'd imagine.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What have you learned creating your books?

Steven Wynne:
With what I've written so far, the most important thing I've learned is to not be afraid to reach and do unbelievable shit. Sometimes, just having the courage to listen to where my head is saying the story should go, and following through.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Steven Wynne:
A short story called 'Two Bedrooms at the End of the Hallway'. There's a scene where a character confronts a terminally ill parent about their lifetime of abuse. I've never done a revision or an edit on that story because it hurt too much the first time.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Steven Wynne:
*puts on pretension helmet* I'd like to think my stories (no books of my very own yet, apologies) give a worldview unique to me, and maybe that's something people might enjoy.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?

Steven Wynne:
Story titles usually come to me while I'm writing the actual story, but every so often, the title comes with the first sentence I type. For example, stories of mine like 'Song of the Soil' and 'Escape Velocity' gave up their title in the first paragraph. However, my story 'The Absence of Souls', let me get through a good 7K words before the title came. The actual phrase itself came from an argument I'd had with a friend years ago when I was a fucking idiot conspiracy theorist woo-woo subscriber (I actually bought a David Icke book or two. I humbly beg forgiveness.) I was arguing with a skeptic/atheist friend about souls, and trying to be a smarmy douche, I told her I didn't believe in souls, rather the absence of souls.
            Seriously.
            Ten years later, I've been able to revisit that painful memory and cherry pick the one phrase out that sounded somewhat cool. That's about the only good thing to come out of that particular phase of my life. Most of the memories still make me want to crawl into a cave and paint the walls with my cerebellum out of shame. Don't feel bad, if you were there and saw how many people I tried to make watch Zeitgeist, you'd sell tickets for the event. You'd be owed.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Steven Wynne:
I've written one novella thus far, and I'm working on another that might get to novel length, but I've written a good deal more short stories. I love short stories. I love writing them, I love establishing characters, creating a situation and world, and getting out in a brief period of time. I always feel much better when I finish a short story. When I finished my novella, my general feeling was along the lines of “Jesus. I'm glad that's over with.” It's taken a year for me to get back to it; I finished the last one in NaNoWriMo, and I'll probably try to do the same thing this time around.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Steven Wynne:
I try to write between horror and weird, much like my favorite authors. I have no clue who my 'target audience' would be, as the two anthologies I've sold stories to haven't yet been published. I'd like to do my part to maybe influence some friends of mine by guilting them into buying the anthologies I'm in and maybe have them read some of the other stories and get them into the genre as well. Plus, I just want my friends and fellow authors to like what I do. As for what I'd like people to take away from my work, I'd just hope they like it and would maybe like to read more.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Steven Wynne:
As previously stated, much of my work is lifted directly from life and is very autobiographical in nature. I've gone back and cleaned things up a bit from time to time to make the “this is a work of fiction” line in the contracts and front pages of books much more palatable and convincing.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What's in your "trunk"?  (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn't necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a 'rainy day' or for when they have extra time.)

Steven Wynne:
I've got a few things started that have been kinda collecting dust that I may or may not get back to. Some of em, I think, have cool ideas in 'em and might serve as decent story fodder in the future. Also, sitting in an unopened file in my computer for the last few years, is a sprawling, sci-fi/horror dystopian story that I got 60K words into before abandoning due to a complete lack of direction and plot. I thought I had some cool ideas in it, but I've since come across those 'totally cool and original ideas' in other books. C'est la vie.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
What can we expect from you in the future?

Steven Wynne:
I'm always working on short stories, and am in talks with some friends at Orb Weaver Press to do a chapbook with them. I'm also working on this novel/novella right now, of which I don't want to say too much, apart from it deals with heroin and a serial killer. Also, expect my first few anthology pieces out sometime in 2018, hopefully?

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Where can we find you?  (STaLKeR links.)

Steven Wynne:
Facebook is the best place to get at me. I'm also on Twitter, but I still haven't figured out how to use it. I'm one of the shitty millennials who had too much Gen X beaten into me by Baby Boomer parents.

The Gal in the Blue Mask:
Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to cover in this interview?

Steven Wynne:
Keep an eye out for “Cranial Leakage: Tales from the Grinning Skull Volume 3” from Grinning Skull Press, and “Death's Garden” from Lycan Valley Press Publications. I have some flash fiction in the December 2016 issue of The Siren's Call E-zine.


About the author:
Steven Wynne was born mid-Reagan in Central Pennsylvania and has yet to escape.  He lives with his wife and pain-in-the-ass cat off a back road surrounded by neighbors who keep to themselves.  His work has been published by The Siren's Call E-zine, and will be appearing in upcoming anthologies from Grinning Skull Press and Lycan Valley Press Publications.

  1. 27.Steven Wynne was born mid-Reagan in Central Pennsylvania and has yet to escape. He lives with his wife and pain-in-the-ass cat off a back road surrounded by neighbors who keep to themselves. His work has been published by The Siren's Call E-zine, and will be appearing in upcoming anthologies from Grinning Skull Press, and Lycan Valley Press Publications.

Photo by Hannah Carroll.

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