Yes, yes, that headline was an attempt at a Corey Hart pun… and I think I NAILED IT!!! Or failed.
Either way – today’s guest is one I think a lot of folks will be excited to read about. Stephanie Wytovich is a truly accomplished author and also one of the nicest folks out there. I was super honored when she agreed to do one of these ridiculous features!
So, please do welcome Stephanie!
Steve: What does your writing time look like? Do you try to write at the same time each day? Do you have a word count you attempt to hit?
Stephanie: My writing time is unstructured and chaos. Pure, absolute chaos. When I started out a decade or so ago, I was under the impression that you had to write every day, and so I tried that and I shot for a certain word count and everything and that was manageable because I was young and in graduate school and didn’t really have a whole lot of responsibility outside of myself. Plus, it kept me on a schedule, which is something I still find myself grasping for now and again. But! Fast forward to today when I have a house, a husband, a FT job, freelance responsibilities, two dogs, and a daughter under a year old, and well…every day when we all go to bed alive, clean, fed, and relatively happy is a win for me. So what does that mean for my writing? Honestly, it means I write when I can fit it in and when I feel energized to do so.
A couple years ago, I suffered from creative burnout. Bad. Writing stopped being fun for me and I promised myself that if that ever happened that I’d take a step back and evaluate myself and my goals. After doing that, I realized I wanted to keep writing—that I missed writing and that it was central to my identity as a person—but my approach to it had to change. I’m a lot kinder to myself these days. If I’m tired, I sleep rather than pulling all-nighters. If I don’t feel like writing, I don’t; no more forcing myself in the chair and losing nights and only having a couple hundred words to show for it. I no longer try to hit every submission opening under the sun. I pick and choose my projects carefully and with respect for myself as a person, not only as a writer. I know some of this all probably sounds counterintuitive to the question, especially because I do produce on a fairly steady and regular basis, but I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not as strict about it as I used to be. I try to find quiet moments in my day—when my daughter goes to sleep at night, early in the morning before everyone gets up, etc.—and I use those moments to write, edit, and brainstorm. Sometimes I take myself out on writing dates where I’ll sit in a coffee shop, have my morning coffee, and get some work done. Other times when I’m on deadline, I chat with my family and make sure that I have specific time blocks to create and work where I won’t be disturbed.
Something I do every day though without question is read. I read poetry, memoir, fiction, and true crime. I read nonfiction and books about business and PR and marketing. I subscribe to Poets and Writers, The Writer Magazine, Rue Morgue and Fangoria. I love reading what my peers have to say on LitHub, Medium, and LitReactor, and I often seek out stories and essays in Nightmare, The Dark, Vasterian, and Tor. Audiobooks have made it infinitely easier to consume stories and information, and I also listen to a bunch of podcasts, too, about books, horror, film, etc. I attribute this all to my writing process and my ability to do research as an instructor and a creative. Sometimes writing is actually not writing. Yes, you need to put your butt in the chair and produce words but thinking critically and asking questions and knowing how to seek answers and subvert what’s been done before is important, too.
Steve: If you could write a story for another author’s fictional world/series, which would it be and why?
Stephanie: This is a tough question, so I’m going to go with the first world that popped into my head, which is the Hellraiser universe (Clive Barker, The Hellbound Heart). Barker was a huge inspiration for me when I started writing, and his monsters and creatures and creations, to this day, have such a hold on my heart. If I could play with the cenobites and open the box, ah, that would be a dream—er, nightmare!—of the best kind. A close second would be Silent Hill.
Steve: Tell me about your newest release (novel/story/poem/novella) and why someone should read it!
Stephanie: I have some exciting stuff on the books for this year:
- My poem “Such Secrets, These Stones” will be published in Daughter of Sarpedon, a Medusa-themed anthology forthcoming from Brigids Gate Press.
- My poem “Dinner with Baba Yaga” will be included alongside my short story “A Trail of Feathers, a Trail of Blood” in the upcoming Black Spot Books anthology, Into the Forest, a collection of Baba Yaga tales.
- Lastly, my book Writing Poetry in the Dark will be out on October 18. Writing Poetry in the Darkis a craft book for speculative poets, by speculative poets, with a foreword by one of the genre’s most celebrated authors and creator of the Writing in the Dark brand, Tim Waggoner. This book meditates on craft, genre, style, and form as acclaimed SF/F/H poets come together to talk about their process, outlook, and approach to writing and incorporating the speculative into their poems.
Steve: Bonus Question! Do you have a cherished book?
Stephanie: Yes! We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. It’s my favorite book and it’s my comfort read. I reach for it often and I have several copies of it and have it on audio.
Fantastic! Thank you so much for doing this, Stephanie!
To find more of her work, please do check out the links!