Stephanie M. Wytovich is a technical writer by day and a horror writer by night. Recently it has been announced that she is joining the team of editors at Crystal Lake Publishing to assist with their mentoring program, with a specialization in poetry and short fiction. She is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, and a book reviewer for Nameless Magazine. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction.
Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated poetry collections, Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and Brothel earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press, and her debut novel, The Eighth, is simmering in sin with Dark Regions Press. Follow Wytovich at http://www.stephaniewytovich.com/ and on twitter @JustAfterSunset.
I first came to know your work through your poetry. You have also written a novel titled The Eighth, are an academic and you work as the poetry editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press. Which role comes to you most naturally, and which do you prefer (as those may not be the same)?
Most naturally? Definitely poetry—it’s no contest. I’ve always been drawn to poetry and it’s my favorite thing to read, write, and experience. I love writing fiction, but even my prose as a poetic flair to it, so even when I try to walk away from the form, it still sneaks up and leaves its mark.
Editing is wonderful and I thoroughly enjoy it, but teaching is my preferred role. I’ve been blessed with a handful of truly life-changing professors and mentors in my academic life, and without them, I don’t think that I would have had the drive or the skill sets necessary to go after my dreams. If I can return the favor and do the same thing for someone else, I’ll consider myself successful.
You have signed a deal with DarkFuse to produce a series entitled Inside the Skin Bouquet. Can you tell us about that and the experience of writing something for serial release?
Inside the Skin Bouquet is a collection of stories that meditate on a variety of obsessions with human flesh: the need to touch it, the desire to collect it, reconstruct it, wear it, eat it. If I were to compare the inspiration and thematic qualities behind this collection to classic and/or contemporary works, I would say this collection is what happens when Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) meets Norman Bates (Robert Bloch’s Psycho) at a dinner party hosted by Hannibal Lecter (Thomas Harris’s The Hannibal Lecter Trilogy). These stories will pain as much as they will pleasure, forever seesawing between the erotic and the frightfully sadistic. The foreplay is fixation, an inherent psychological and physical need to be surrounded by flesh, but the climax is one of consumption, an intense fetish turned pure passion.
Working on the series has been a lot of fun because it keeps my mind in a delicately dark space, and it forces me to think outside of the box with a theme that I’m constantly carving into. My first story, “Dear Adelaide, I Want to Eat You” will debut in March and it’s a very Hannibal-esque, Stockholm Syndrome piece.
I think readers will enjoy it.
And then hate themselves because of it.
Your writing is extremely vivid and visceral. Do you have a routine or ritual to get you in the mood for writing or can you do it anywhere?
Awe, why thank you! I tend to be a very visual person, so I think that’s where my love of imagery and sensory circumstance comes from. But when it comes time for me to write, it’s always at my desk whether that’s at home (which I prefer) or at work (which I hate, but I’ve had to train myself to be okay with it). I make playlists for whatever I’m working on, so that is a huge help for me when it comes to setting the tone or mood of a piece, and I’ve also been known to make vision boards in real time and on Pinterest. Essentially, I’ll make of thematic collage that goes along with what I’m working on, and that usually gets the juices flowing.
Are you a plotter or panster?
I’ve become better at plotting, but I still think that I’m going to be a pantser for life. Even if I make an outline, I always end up changing things. I like to think that my freewriting sessions are me outlining, but they typically end up being poems, so I think I just vomit on the page in an orderly fashion and go from there.
However, to completely contradict that, I do have a process that is pretty special to me that I oftentimes don’t deviate from. When I’m working on a poetry collection, I write five titles to each letter of the alphabet, and then once I have everything laid out, I’ll start working on the poems. It’s kind of a reverse outline, which very well may be cheating, but it helps me layout the arc in my head and then organize the pieces in such a way where there is a new balance between literary and speculative.
Basically, I’m just a mess.
From your point of view as an editor, what advice would you give about the submission process?
Follow the rules in the submission guidelines.
Address the editor personally.
If it says they are closed to submissions, they really mean it; it’s not a lie.
Query if you have questions.
This is WiHM and I was wondering what you think about the current presence of women within the genre? Do you think that women have a realized voice in horror?
I think the atmosphere is definitely changing and that people are reading more women for sure, but do I think we have a long way to go? Absolutely, and here’s why. When I was at AWP last week in Washington D.C., I had a gentleman (and that’s being nice) come up to me and rant about the fact that I wasn’t publishing war stories. He nicely (insert sarcastic voice here) told me that all anyone cares about reading today is stuff by women, and if he would have known that was the case, he would have just had a sex operation before he came to the conference in order to get published.
Now, I think someone missed the air of the publishing industry for let’s see, I don’t know, FOREVER? But what really frustrates me about this the most, is the entitlement aspect of it. Because someone other than a white male was getting attention, he perceived that to be a direct attack against him. To me, that’s a problem and that’s sexism and it’s worth discussing in regards to the industry.
Who or what inspired you to write?
I started writing at the request of a therapiast, so I guess my dark mind as realistically always been the influence and Kickstarter to my writing. However, if I was going to pick specifics artists? Well, it would depend on the project.
The Eighth: Clive Barker (Mister B. Gone), John Milton (Paradise Lost), Dante Alighieri (Inferno)
Brothel: Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Charles Bukowski
An Exorcism of Angels: Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, W. B. Yeats
Mourning Jewelry: Charles Baudelaire
Hysteria: Edgar Allan Poe
What authors are you into at the moment?
Presently, I’ve been reading Kim Addonizio for poetry and a variety of essays by Roxanne Gay.
What else are working on in 2017?
Inside the Skin Bouquet will take up some time for me in 2017, but I’m also working on a poetry collection sporadically, as well as another larger fiction project. My goals for this year were to try to write more literary-infused speculative poetry (HA! What even is that?) as well as finish some of the short stories I’ve had marinating in the corner for a while.
I like being around art a lot, so museums, theatre, and music are steady contributors to a happy Stephanie. I also have a Pit bull (Apollo) and an English Bulldog (Edgar Allan) who keep me pretty busy and active, so being outside and talking walks and getting exercise is high on my list, too.
My boyfriend and I also love to travel so we’re usually out and about doing something. We have a New Orleans trip planned for this year, so I’ll be excited to be surrounded by voodoo and the Mississippi air for a bit.
What is the best way for readers to keep up to date with you?
Readers can find me on Goodreads and Facebook (Stephanie M. Wytovich) and on Twitter (@JustAfterSunset). I also blog regularly at http://stephaniewytovich.blogspot.com/ and my website is always up to date with appearances, new releases, etc. http://www.stephaniewytovich.com/