Interview with Horror Writer, Paula Cappa

Today’s interview is with short fiction writer Paula Cappa, another fiction writer whom I’ve discovered through Goodreads.

A few words about Paula:
I am a reader. I write because I love to read and love the world of imagination. Stories are like food to me and I delight in stories every day.

SARETT: You’ve written horror and scary fiction. What attracts you to the form?
CAPPA:  The supernatural is so mysterious and unlimited. That dark other side opens doors and windows to the  imagination, and we can leave the confines of this physical world. I prefer ghost stories and more “quiet horror”  than the high violence that some horror novels have.

SARETT: There are lot of rules about what’s good writing and what’s bad.  Is there any rule that you secretly enjoy breaking?  
CAPPA: I hate all rules and I like to defy every single one of them. For example, many say rule number one is never start your story with the weather (It was a dark and stormy night.)   Of course you can start your story with atmospheric settings or descriptions, as long as it relates to the character or the plot in a compelling way.

SARETT:   Do you think that men and women have a different sense of what is scary? 
CAPPA: In terms of horror, not really. Monsters, vampires, ghosts, evil, these all have the same powers over humans in general. Fear is more individual, I think.
I do think women writers have been overlooked through the years (through the centuries) Calling readers’ attention to women writers today is a way of compensating for the rejection and suppression that women writers have endured. The publishing industry has been male dominated; today things are changing. In horror, men have dominated the genre. As we pay more attention to women authors, this domination will hopefully lessen.

SARETT:  Some horror writing depends explicitly on the supernatural, and other writing is purely psychological (e.g., Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle.)  What’s your preference?
Cappa: I prefer the supernatural. But when you mix supernatural with psychological, this is a very heady story!

SARETT: Lots of writers, including the estimable Henry James, have toyed with the ghost story.  What is it about ghost stories that writers love?
Cappa:  Again, it’s that mysterious other side of death and making that real to us as writers and to the readers. Making the ghost real is the mysterious challenge, one that I can’t resist.

SARETT: I noticed that you’re a big Hawthorne fan.  What do you think that modern writers can learn from his work?
Cappa: His prose is smooth as silk, a good lesson in pace, word choice, and rhythm. Characterizations are fully drawn. But his motivation to write was key. Hawthorne claimed to have seen ghosts and used that belief to flavor his fiction. He also used his family history to inspire his fiction. So, using your own life in your work is a key ingredient.

SARETT: I’m always trying to discover new interesting (or forgotten) short fiction writers.  Do you have suggestions for our readers?   
Cappa: The more we read the classics, the more we grow as readers:
--Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, a vampire story, suggested lesbianism at a time when such things were not popular.
--The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is unforgettable.
--Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories by Algernon Blackwood. This author is not only atmospheric but his prose strikes deep with horror.
--The Ash Tree by M.R. James is a page turner.

SARETT: Any lessons from the world of self-publishing that you’d like to share with our readers?
Cappa: Treat yourself and your work as a professional.  Keep writing. Keep learning the craft. Keep publishing.

SARETT:  What are your current projects -- and is there any new horror in the works?
Cappa: I’m working on a Lovecraftian short story. I have a third novel that is drafted. In October, I have a ghost story (published in Whistling Shade) that takes place at the Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts.

Follow Paula here:  

Find her ebooks on Amazon:
Paperback editions to be released, November 2013, CrickHollow Books.

Short stories at Smashwords:
Abasteron House, first published in Every Day Fiction
Hildie at the Ghost Shore, first published in Fiction365
The Haunting of Jezebeth first published in Twilight Times

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