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“There’s inspiration everywhere if you are not afraid to slow down and look for it.” -Monica Kuebler

January 31, 2012

Arts & Literature, Interviews

DarkMedia Interviews Monica Kuebler:

Monica Kuebler isn’t merely a woman who wears many hats; she’s a force to be reckoned with.  Besides being the Managing Editor for Rue Morgue magazine and running her very own micro-press, Burning Effigy Press, she’s a journalist and an author in her own right.

In a time when the voices of women are becoming more and more prevalent–and significant–within the horror community, Monica’s incredible work ethic and dedication serves not only as an inspiration to women in the industry, but to anyone with dreams of making a living doing what they love.

DarkMedia had the privilege of sitting down with Monica to talk about the secret to her success, how her work as an editor has influenced her own writing, and her latest work-in-progress — the young adult vampire serial, BLEEDER.

I know you get this question all the time, but as Managing Editor for Rue Morgue, along with running Burning Effigy Press, and then writing fiction on top of that, how do you find the time to do it all? Are there any secrets to your success you’d like to share with the rest of us?

I’m a bit of a workaholic, so that definitely helps. But a lot of it comes down to regimenting my time and making sacrifices in regards to my social life and leisure activities. I get up every day between 5 and 6 a.m. and then work for about three or four hours before heading in to the office. I commit a minimum of one hour every day to writing/editing my fiction, of course since kicking off BLEEDER at the top of the year I now find myself spending a great deal more time on those two things than ever before. To help myself stay on track, I give myself firm deadlines, and rewards if I meet them. But in the end, what it really comes down to, is when you are doing something you love, you want to invest your time and energy and creativity in it. And you get a great deal of personal fulfillment out of that.

From your “Children’s Horror Literature” feature in Rue Morgue to your YA serial BLEEDER and upcoming trilogy THE COLD ONES, you’ve made it clear that bringing excellent genre fiction to young readers is a passion of yours. Can you tell us a little about how you began to write it and why?

While I’ve always been avid cheerleader of those who choose to write genre stories for teens (because back when I was teen those were the stories I yearned for most), I wasn’t always aware that it was my calling too.

For many years, I thought I was destined to write straight-up horror for adults, but I was never able to finish to anything. When I really started asking myself why that was, I noticed something striking about my work: I always cast teenagers as my main characters and the narratives always had something of a coming-of-age feel to them, albeit with monsters, horrifying situations and gore. At that point, it dawned on me that perhaps I was approaching everything all wrong. And, in fact, what I really wanted write were the kinds of stories that I wished had existed when I was a kid.

So I started reading a ton of YA genre books and sitting in on every teen lit panel I could at writers’ conventions. What I learned from that was that while YA novels are booming right now, there are still not a whole lot of people telling tales that can be genuinely classified as horror, and even less female writers doing so. Monsters are popular, sure, but in pages of books that have more in common with the urban fantasy and paranormal romance subgenres than with tried-and-true fright fiction.

While I have absolutely no problem with Twilight and its ilk – I strongly believe that there is room for all kinds of stories in this world and people should read what they like – I want to write about honest-to-goodness monsters.

How would you compare article writing and interviews to writing fiction? Which would you say is more difficult, or leaves you more vulnerable? Do you prefer one over the other?

Fiction is definitely more difficult and I think it also leaves you a great deal more vulnerable than journalistic work. Journalism (whether it be feature articles or reviews) is very structured and purposed. Your job is to convey information or an opinion in a clear, concise and compelling manner, but ultimately you are telling someone else’s story, reporting on something that already exists, so there’s only so much room for freewheeling creativity, whereas with fiction it’s all about that. Your idea is the story, you are no longer merely relaying, you are birthing and shaping. You are the sole captain at the helm. Creativity is everything here, and good stories should elicit some form of emotional response from readers. That can be intimidating and scary as hell, because what you’re putting out there is all you. I actually don’t prefer one type of writing over the other, because it’s a little like comparing apples and oranges, and both are rewarding for very different reasons.

For the editors out there who are also writers themselves, it’s interesting to see how one affects the other. How would you say your work as an editor has influenced your writing, or vice versa?

My beta readers tell me that the chapters I send them are the cleanest drafts they’ve ever seen from anyone, so I guess that’s something, but in truth it’s hard to take off the editor hat and put on the writer one sometimes. I have to be careful not to get caught in the trap of over-editing, and never moving forward with the story as a result. But as a positive, I’m constantly giving writers notes on their work, so I tend to be hyper vigilant about grammar, style and phrasing. I also love being edited, which is probably a direct result of being an editor myself. I absolutely adore it when Claire, my editor on BLEEDER, challenges me to take my narrative to the next level or calls me out on stuff that’s wonky. Some writers find the editing process difficult because they are sensitive about having their work picked apart, but I see it as an opportunity to really bring out the best in a story and I embrace it wholeheartedly.

While horror has historically been such a male-dominated scene, we’ve recently seen an encouraging surge of more and more women coming up in the ranks, in all aspects of the genre. As a woman in horror, how do you think the atmosphere has changed over the last several years? Is it more welcoming to women now than it was before?

I think it’s becoming ever more acceptable for women to go into untraditional fields (from science and computing to genre writing/filmmaking). There’s also been a lot of celebration of geek culture lately, making it that much easier to be female and a die-hard genre fan. But that said, I’ve worked in the horror biz for almost a decade now and I can honestly say that I have never found it anything less than totally welcoming to me as a woman. If there’s a boys’ club going on somewhere, I haven’t been affected by it, but then again I was a tomboy growing up and before working in horror I worked in another male-dominated industry, so perhaps I’ve built up a certain immunity to it.

What would you say the horror community’s greatest strengths are? What about its greatest weaknesses?

The horror community’s greatest strength is just that: the community. I have never been involved in a genre that has been so committed to championing and supporting its own. There’s a real feeling of “we’re all fans and we’re all in this together.”

Its greatest weakness is the sheer amount of crap that gets created and released each year – I also believe that’s a big part of what keeps horror ghettoized in the eyes of the mainstream, but horror fans are the ultimate fans and many will gobble up almost everything the genre pumps out, regardless of quality, just because they’re that hungry for everything weird and scary.

Who, or what, inspires you? As an author, what have your greatest influences been?

Great stories by other writers and filmmakers. Crazy stuff I read about in the news (I’m an unrepentant information junkie). My nightmares. Personal pain, heartbreak and struggles. And just the act of living itself – being and dreaming. There’s inspiration everywhere if you are not afraid to slow down and look for it.

People who make a living doing what they love are such an inspiration to everyone. What would your best advice be to someone who’s trying to make a career out of a talent? What’s the best, or worst, advice someone ever gave you?

Best advice: Persevere, work hard, and try not to be a jerk. Of course, I’m only human and haven’t always been as gracious as I would have liked to have been in difficult situations, but the idea is that you never know where you are going to end up and who you might have the opportunity to work with in the future. Your reputation will proceed you, so having a good one is important and should definitely be nurtured. Other than that, be prepared to make the time investment needed to break in and understand that sometimes working your dream job means making sacrifices in other areas of your life, whether that be in regards to free time, financial security or whatnot. Still, there is no greater reward than getting to do what you love for a living.

What projects are you currently working on, and what can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?

Well, of course, there’s BLEEDER, my serial YA vampire novel that you can read at bleederbook.com. That’ll take us into the summer. But I’m also hard at work putting the finishing touches on THE COLD ONES, the first book in a YA horror trilogy that’s set in the same universe as BLEEDER but doesn’t involve vampires. For that series, I have devised a monster of my own creation, but fans of BLEEDER definitely have something to look forward to there as well, as Mildred plays a rather large role in third book. That was part of the reason why I wanted to write BLEEDER, to tell her origin story.

What’s the best way to support BLEEDER, and all the other fantastic work that you do?

The best way to support BLEEDER is to help get the word about the serial out to readers. Like its pages on Facebook and Google+, tell your YA-lovin’ friends and teenagers about it, and check out and comment on the individual chapters on Wattpad, Scribd, Goodreads and Authonomy.com. If you prefer grown-up horror, snag a copy of Rue Morgue magazine and if you like what we’re doing, subscribe! Also be sure to check out www.burningeffigy.com, my own horror fiction imprint where I curate a line of terrifying and groundbreaking genre tales that are undeniably aimed at more mature readers. Regardless of your tastes, there’s probably something in the cauldron over there that’ll appeal to whatever your particular morbid fascination is.

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Monica Kuebler is currently featured on  DarkMediaCity, a free social network for those who like it Dark.  Whether it be literature or film, music or art, horror or sci-fi, paranormal romance or paranormal investigation, we’ve got something for you.  www.DarkMediaCity.com

She can also be found on her website and on Twitter @monicaskuebler.

(All interviews are the exclusive property of DarkMedia, and may not be reproduced or shared without permission, excepting links to the interview.)

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  1. » Talking BLEEDER with Dark Media City Bleeder - February 1, 2012

    […] recently grilled me about writing BLEEDER, teen lit and the state of horror. You can check out the interview […]

  2. WiHM Feature #4: Monica S. Kuebler | Darkeva's Dark Delights - February 7, 2012

    […] asked about whether the atmosphere of the horror genre is more welcoming to women now; from an interview with Dark Media Magazine, “DarkMedia Interviews Monica Kuebler,” January […]

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