Today I'm answering a few more FAQs and sharing a look at my unsettling horror novella, Nightmare in the North.
Who, or what, has influenced your writing? Although most people think of me as a romance author, I also write short horror stories. The author who has had the most influence on my writing is Stephen King. The first “grown up” book that had a major effect on me was Stephen King’s Night Shift. I read this collection of stories when I was nine or ten, and I was impressed. Up until that point, I’d read the Little House books and Nancy Drew mysteries. They were okay reads to pass the time, but something about horror clicked with me. I was entranced by the way the stories were told, the characters, the descriptions, and the tone.
King creates interesting characters, brings the reader into the setting with sensory details, and sets up unique plots. The telling of the story (regardless of genre) is the core to any good book. I think his On Writing is a must-read for anyone who writes or wants to write.
Once I discovered King’s writings, I was hooked. I decided I wanted to write horror fiction and have my stories published in a book someday. From then on I read every horror novel and short story I could find.
Eventually I began writing my own tales of terror. In addition to my horror fiction, I’ve also published a collection of 18 science fiction stories called Extraterrestrial Encounters. Readers can learn about it here: https://www.kelliwilkins.com/extraterrestrial-encounters
You write horror fiction, so readers want to know… what’s the most shocking book or story you’ve ever read? The first horror story I ever remember scaring me is “Wendigo’s Child” by Thomas F. Monteleone. It was in an anthology for children called Monster Tales: Vampires, Werewolves, & Things. I read it when I was in grade school. Anyone who has read it understands the last line: “It was looking up at him.” I’m still searching for a copy of that book and the illustrated version of the story.
In addition to your full-length romance novels, you’re also a prolific science fiction and horror short story writer. What is your key to creating a successful piece of short fiction? The best advice I ever got for writing short stories is: write tight. Take out anything and everything not essential to the story, such as extra words, details, and dialogue tags. This is especially important when I’m writing sci-fi or horror. Too many words or distractions can break the tension, ruin the suspense, or otherwise distract the reader.
You also need a compelling plot that draws readers into the world of the characters and holds them there. Not everyone believes in ghosts, but if you write a ghost story that sucks readers into that world and scares them, you’ve done your job. A “hook” beginning and a great ending are musts in creating a good short story.
Have you ever started a project, felt it run out of steam and had to abandon it?
Yes. I think most writers have, for one reason or another. I’ve started a few horror stories, then wondered, “Why am I writing this?” and either scrapped what I had entirely, or revamped it. I have lots of story ideas, so if one project isn’t working out, I can start another story. I have more ideas than I have time to develop them.
Do you keep a notebook near you for when new ideas pop into your head? Absolutely! I never know when I’ll get a story idea, a name for a character, a snippet of dialogue, or an outline for a scene. I keep paper and pen handy at all times and have been known to scribble ideas on the backs of envelopes and paper towels!
I keep all of these ideas, etc. in a folder, and when I’m ready to start a new project, I pull it out and see what’s in there that I can use. Ideas are fleeting, so you have to write them down as soon as they come to you.
Anything you would say to those just starting out in the craft? The best advice I can give to any writer (regardless of what genre he or she writes) is to keep writing. It takes a lot of dedication and determination to sit down every day and write something. But the more you write, the easier it gets.
Writing classes are a great way to learn the basics and meet other writers. If possible, join a writer’s group or a critique group to get feedback on your stories. When you’ve written the best story you can, submit it. You can’t get published if you never submit, and you never know when your first acceptance will arrive.
I wrote my own “how to write” book, You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction. It’s a fun guide that walks beginning writers through every step of the process. I also created two online writing courses on Teachable: Fiction Writing for Beginners and Fiction Basics: Finding Ideas. Readers can learn more about them in the non-fiction section of my site: https://www.kelliwilkins.com/non-fiction
Can you share with us something off your bucket list? I don’t have an official bucket list, but I do have a list of places I’d like to visit.
One of them is Easter Island.
What’s more fun to write and why: A steamy romance novel or a gory horror story? They are both fun to write, but right now I’m focusing on horror. My horror fiction is more psychological/scary than gory, and the stories are much shorter than my romances. I have fun writing horror because I can explore plots, characters, and ideas in horror that I can’t in a romance. And I get to scare people!
Speaking of horror… here’s a look at Nightmare in the North.
It’s cold outside, and now is the perfect time to read Nightmare in the North — a cautionary tale about traveling alone in the winter…
NIGHTMARE IN THE NORTH
Stranded during a violent blizzard, Mark hikes to the only house nearby. George, a well-mannered University professor, welcomes Mark and gives him shelter from the storm.
By morning, Mark suspects that everything isn’t what it seems. George’s adult daughter, Kate, who also lives in the house, shares a disturbing and unsettling tale. When questioned, George insists that Kate has a psychological issue and can’t be trusted to tell the truth.
Mark quickly finds himself caught in a game of cat and mouse. Who should he believe? Is Kate’s desperate plea for help sincere? Should he be suspicious of George? Or are both of them plotting something together?
Isolated from everyone, Mark is forced to wait out the storm—and find a way to escape—if he hopes to make it out alive.
Order your copy here:
All other platforms: https://www.books2read.com/u/m2vqOk
Read a 5 star review for Nightmare in the North here:
If readers want to learn more about the making of this disturbing story, I blogged about it:
What’s on the horizon for you?
Currently, I’m revising a contemporary paranormal mystery, outlining a new gay romance, and working on several short horror stories.
I welcome questions and feedback from readers. I enjoy learning which characters and books they love the best. Readers and other authors can get in touch with me via the contact page on my website (www.KelliWilkins.com) or via these social media links:
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins
Facebook Horror Fiction: https://www.facebook.com/HorrorFictionbyKelliAWilkins/
Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/kelliwilkins
Kelli A. Wilkins