Gwendolyn Kiste is a speculative fiction writer based in Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including LampLight, Nightmare Magazine, Flash Fiction Online, and Electric Spec as well as Flame Tree Publishing’s Chilling Horror Short Stories anthology. As a regular contributor, she writes for multiple travel and entertainment sites including Horror-Movies.ca, Wanderlust and Lipstick, and her own 60 Days of Halloween, a collection of humorous essays chronicling her autumnal misadventures. She currently resides on an abandoned horse farm with her husband, two cats, and not nearly enough ghosts. You can find her online at www.gwendolynkiste.com and on Twitter (@GwendolynKiste).
1. How long have you been writing and what got you started?
It’s a cliché to say, but I’ve been writing pretty much my whole life. My parents read to me constantly when I was a child, and it taught me to love the art of storytelling. That was where my devotion to literature started—not in the written word, but in the spoken word. I love the way language sounds. To me, if a story doesn’t work when it’s read aloud, then it isn’t a good story.
Once I was old enough to learn how to write, I started creating “books” for my parents to read. I remember being five or six when I held my first “book fair.” There were a whole bunch of these poorly stapled pieces of paper with my stories written on them. My parents were good sports about it, and bought a few for a quarter. Fortunately, my skills of promotion have advanced, at least marginally, since then.
2. What is the best piece of advice you have for new writers?
Be prepared for rejection. That’s almost specious advice though, because no one’s ever ready to be told ‘no’ over and over again. So perhaps a better piece of advice would be that once you get rejected (and no matter how good you are, you will get rejected at some point), don’t ever respond to a rejection negatively. I’ve heard of writers who send angry messages to editors over rejections. Don’t do that. You’ll get a reputation, and it won’t help you.
3. Are there any writing resources, such as books or websites, you’d like to recommend?
The video tutorials on the Writer’s Digest website have been an invaluable tool for me. From perfecting your writing on the sentence level to crafting query letters and submitting to agents, there’s always something new to learn about the art—and the business—of writing, and Writer’s Digest probably has a tutorial that will help explain it in 90 minutes or less. That sounds like a commercial, but I honestly can’t overstate how much the site has helped me.
4. What is your favorite type of fiction and who are your favorite authors?
Horror fiction is definitely my favorite. I love fantasy and science fiction too, but horror’s where my heart is. I grew up reading Ray Bradbury and Edgar Allan Poe, both of whom remain among my favorites. Now that I’m older, I’ve added Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, and Charles Beaumont to the “best of” list.
In terms of modern writers, I’m fortunate enough to count some fantastic up-and-coming horror writers among my personal friends. So when I think of my favorite modern authors, Scarlett R. Algee, Brooke Warra, and Lee A. Forman immediately come to mind. They’re all in the early stages of their writing careers, but so far, I’ve been consistently impressed with their work, and I can’t wait to see what they’ll create next. I think they’re going to set the literary world on fire.
5. What tips do you have for finding time to write?
I’m fortunate that my only job at this time is writing. However, even with what might seem like an infinite amount of time to write, you still have to set boundaries. When you’re self-employed, you have to be disciplined; otherwise, your time just disappears. So I would say learning how to say no, either to personal or professional engagements, is key. Sure, there are times I’d love to go to that Labor Day barbeque or New Year’s Eve party, but if I have stories that require editing or deadlines I need to meet, I have to decline the invite. Likewise, if I’m offered a writing project but I simply don’t have enough time to do it well, I’ve also learned to turn it down. The most important thing to me is that my quality of work never suffers.
6. Do you prefer to outline a story in advance or write on the fly? Why?
Most of the time, I write on the fly. I love to let a story develop organically. It’s as though I’m discovering the characters and the plot as I go along. That being said, I do occasionally map out everything before I start. It depends on the piece. In particular, when I try more experimental forms, I like to do a little more planning. Otherwise, the story can end up a serious mess.
7. How do you deal with rejections?
I want to take the Zen route and say that I view rejection as part of the writer’s journey. Most of the time, that is true, and I’m able to deal with rejection really well and brush it off. But sometimes, especially if too many arrive in quick succession, I respond to rejection by cursing at my computer screen and scowling a lot. However, I do always take my own aforementioned advice—I keep my irritation to myself. Or at least I keep it within my family and immediate circle of writer friends. Responding to editors with negative emails is the way madness lies.
8. What are your writing goals for the next twelve months?
It would be great if I could complete a novel in that time, but as long as I’m writing and happy, that will be good enough for me.
9. For the next five years?
At least one novel by then? Hopefully, a few novels and scores of short stories. But again, as long as I’m writing and happy, I’ll have no complaints.
10. Is there anything you’d like to plug? Feel free to share a link.
I’m really proud of my story, “Ten Things to Know About the Ten Questions,” which was recently published at Nightmare Magazine. Also, my first project as editor—A Shadow of Autumn, a multi-author anthology of fall and Halloween tales—just debuted. That was completed in a whirlwind, and it might be the best thing I’ve ever created. You can find out more about both of those projects as well as my other fiction at my website: gwendolynkiste.com