The next in our series of GHOSTS AND GHOULS AND OTHER CREEPY THINGS interviews. For those just joining us, we are crowdfunding three projects on Kickstarter and also taking some time to introduce you to our participating authors, some of whom are new to eSpec. The campaign launches February 1, but you can check it out today and click to be notified!
Today’s interview is with Robert P. Ottone, contributor to Even in the Grave, edited by James Chambers and Carol Gyzander.
eSB: Even in the Grave is a collection of ghost stories, without spoilers, can you tell us a bit about your story and how you came up with the idea?
RO: Long Island has always had a history of ghost stories, and one of those is the concept of the “lady in the lake,” which is supposedly the spirit of a First Nations princess who claims the life of one young man every year. I wanted to play with this idea of a haunted lake, or a lake with a haunted history, and so, there you go.
eSB: What was the greatest challenge you had coming up with an idea that would stand out among the other submissions?
RO: I think being rooted in Long Island folklore, something I’ve studied my entire life hopefully set me apart from the others.
eSB: Is your story a part of a greater universe stemming from other stories you have written, or does it stand alone? Whichever your answer, can you tell us about what makes that universe unique?
RO: Everything I write takes part in what is more or less a larger literary universe, past, present, or future. The universe I’m trying to craft is one where you could live your entire life and never have anything spooky happen, or, if you’re lucky (or unlucky) enough to stumble across the impossible, it’s a relatively seismic thing. What I try to do is mingle the absurd with the plausible, and I hope that translates.
eSB: Do you foresee writing more stories with this character or in this world? Whichever your answer, why?
RO: Definitely in this world. I may revisit the plot as a mention in another story, or the location, maybe even a couple of the characters, but I have no immediate plans to do so.
eSB: Okay, first off the top of your head, who is your favorite ghost and why?
RO: The Headless Horseman. There’s something about a spectral nightmare on horseback with no head and a jack o’lantern that gets me going.
eSB: Do you believe in ghosts, and why? Is there an experience in your life you can share with us that strengthened that belief?
RO: To quote M. Night Shyamalan, “I believe in believing.” I would never be so reductive as to say there’s no such thing, and I’ve had some interesting things happen. I would say that when my wife and I stayed at the Stanley Hotel (aka: the place that inspired The Shining), things happened that I have a hard time rationalizing.
eSB: Have you ever incorporated aspects of your own experiences in your fiction? Tell us about it.
RO: For sure. Losing my dad a few years back has been something I’ve revisited a few times in my writing. Using that heartache I feel every day to exorcise the demons has been cathartic, but also, there are lines of dialogue I’ve cherry picked from decades of friendships, moments with my wife that I’ve swiped and fictionalized, etc. Characters very loosely based on people in my life.
eSB: What haunts you as an author?
RO: The desire to get better and to grow. I am constantly thinking about it. I’m always thinking about writing, whether I’m doing it or not. I want to just keep growing and keep working my butt off to get to the next level, and then work harder to get to the level after that.
eSB: What drew you to appreciate the horror genre? What inspired you to write in it?
RO: I grew up with horror. Every day is Halloween in my heart, all other holidays are for children. My parents raised me on a steady diet of horror, and I have yet to waver in my love for it. I’m inspired by the stories and books I read, the folklore I study, and the myths of old that are present in our everyday lives.
eSB: Other than horror, what genres do you write in? Tell us something about your other works and what makes those genres different from writing horror.
RO: I’ve dabbled in science fiction, and have enjoyed it. I really enjoy YA, because I think the notion of pushing the boundaries of what “kids” are meant to be reading is exciting. There are YA novels that are complete massacres and have sex scenes that are pretty cringey, so, I think living in that YA space and introducing speculative elements into that is exciting. That said, my first YA novel, The Triangle, is due for release in 2022 and it’s the first in a trilogy of dystopian-horror.
eSB: What is your least favorite aspect of being an author, and why?
RO: Not having enough time to write. I have a normal job like everyone else and it sucks. I’d love to be able to coast on book deals and whatnot, and focus solely on my craft and writing the next thing, but that’s not feasible, especially here on Long Island. That normal nine-to-five gig is the bread and butter.
eSB: Could you tell us about one of your most amusing experiences promoting your books?
RO: I did a library event where literally one person logged in online. It was meant to be a “writing horror” class that I put together an entire presentation on and worked out all the nitty gritty, then, one person showed up besides the librarian hosting the event, so, I pivoted and turned it into a question-and-answer session where I read some of my work in between chatting with the very kind lady who attended.
eSB: What is one thing you would share that would surprise your readers?
RO: I’ve only read one fiction book by Stephen King and it was Thinner. Unsurprisingly, it was awesome and I loved it.
eSB: What are some of your other works readers can look for?
RO: Readers can pick up my two collections Her Infernal Name & Other Nightmares, along with People: A Horror Anthology About Love, Loss, Life & Things That Go Bump in the Night wherever fine books are sold. You can also find me in a variety of anthologies such as Unburied, Hookman & Friends, In the Shadow of the Horns and many others. Also, keep on the lookout for The Triangle, the first part in my YA trilogy, courtesy of Raven Tale Publishing.
eSB: As a horror author, where do you find support for your writing?
RO: I’m very fortunate to have the Horror Writers Association to provide networking opportunities, which have been valuable. Also, I’ve cultivated a nice group of folks I interact with on Twitter, Instagram, and online who all support writing and one-another. Finding your tribe is the second hardest part when it comes to writing, beyond finding the time to actually do the writing.
eSB: What advice would you give aspiring horror writers?
RO: If you can work a job that requires as little as possible from you in terms of brainpower and time commitment while offering you a livable wage, then take that job and use your free time to write. Avoid social media unless you have something funny to say or something to promote.
eSB: What projects of your own do you have coming up?
RO: My debut YA horror-dystopian novel The Triangle is due out this year from Raven Tale Publishing, so I’m stoked about that. I’m also currently shopping around a third collection of short stories that’s ready to go.
eSB: How can readers find out more about you?
RO: Follow me on Instagram, folks. You can follow me on Twitter, but Instagram is still fun, so, follow me there. Head over to SpookyHousePress.com and sign up for my mailing list. I literally never send anything out unless my small press has a new release or if we have a monster sale going on. Say hi!
Robert P. Ottone is an author, teacher, and cigar enthusiast from East Islip, NY. He delights in the creepy. He can be found online at SpookyHousePress.com, or on Twitter & Instagram. His collections Her Infernal Name & Other Nightmares and People: A Horror Anthology about Love, Loss, Life & Things That Go Bump in the Night are available now wherever books are sold.
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