Joining me on the blog today is dark poetess Stephanie M. Wytovich. Stephanie is an Alum of Seton Hill University, where she double-majored in English Literature and Art History. Wytovich is published in over 40 literary magazines, and HYSTERIA is her first collection. She is currently attending graduate school to pursue her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction and is working on a novel. She is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press and a book reviewer for S.T. Joshi, Jason V. Brock and William F. Nolan’s Nameless Magazine. She plans to continue in academia to get her doctorate in Gothic Literature. Read on for a glimpse into the mind of this beautifully bloodcurdling wordsmith.
Tell us about the subject of your current book.
Hysteria is a collection of dark poetry that takes place in the madhouse. Hysteria is my nurse/muse of madness, and the premise of the book is that she walks me through the asylum and introduces me to the different patients in Ward C. The collection spans a variety of physical and psychological oddities, all wrapped up in a straightjacket and ready to go.
Readers will meet serial killers, cannibals, sociopaths, and vampires. They’ll look into the eyes of an innocent, see the breakdown of the mind, and maybe find something out about themselves in the process, because madness—true madness—lives within us all.
Why did you choose to write horror?
I wouldn’t say I chose it. Horror is just always what I’ve done, and most likely what I’ll continue to do. I don’t see myself running from it either, not even when it starts wielding a chainsaw. Horror is an addiction and fear is one hell of a supplier.
Where did your love of poetry come from?
Edgar Allan Poe won me over with The Raven when I was twelve.
There’s something about poetry that hits me harder, deeper, and stays with me longer than any other style of literature. It’s romantic, horrifying, and it doesn’t just tug at my heartstrings; it severs them. I might cry when I’m done reading a novel, but a poem has the power to bring me to tears at the turn of phrase.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing poetry—bad poetry—when I was in middle school. And then I wrote more bad poetry in high school. I never looked at it as something that I would share with other people, because to me, it was always just a way to expel my thoughts and get my emotion down on the page. I racked up journals and notebooks by the dozens, and then before I left for college, I bound them all in duct tape and put them in a box under my bed.
I didn’t want anyone reading them. Including me.
Halfway through my first year of college, I’d accepted that I wanted to be a writer, more specifically, a poet. So I went home, ripped all my journals open, and started to read through them. I took notes, scanned some pages, and then I burned everything. The whole lot. All turned to ash.
Then I started writing again.
And this time, I wasn’t scared to let it breathe. All those years spent scribbling in journals taught me something very important, even if the words or images didn’t quite capture what I was trying to convey. They taught me how to be vulnerable, how to step out of my comfort zone and learn how to bleed. And now I don’t have a problem with blood anymore.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Hysteria took me to some dark places and introduced me to some voices that I probably could have gone without hearing. I did a lot of research, both on and off site, and sometimes when I go back and read certain pieces, I’m even surprised that I wrote them.
Plus, I wrote the book when I went through one my worst spells of insomnia to date. I basically survived off caffeine and did nothing but read about/ study madness, so the joke is that maybe I even went a little mad.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
The traveling. I did a lot of onsite research at asylums and prisons (all of which are no longer functioning) to write this book, and I experienced some of the wildest and strangest things because of it. I spent the night at the West Virginia Penitentiary and sat in the infirmary and walked through the psychiatric ward. I heard things, saw things. And I wrote the whole time I was there with my back up against the isolation cells.
There’s a certain air to sickness, both physical and mental. And it damn near choked me when I walked into that place.
What is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about horror, that isn’t so?
Blood and guts don’t make something scary. They just make them dead.
What inspires you?
Music. Whether I’m reading or writing—doing anything, for that matter—I’m listening to something. I grew up classically trained in piano, so I love classical music, but I’m also a metal head and I love rock n’ roll, alternative, and industrial.
Another fun fact is that I associate people, characters, stories and events all with songs and melodies. Right now, I’m listening to “Change [In the House of Flies]” by Deftones.
Does that mean something? You bet.
I’m a writer. Everything is a symbol.
Who are some of your favorite authors that influenced your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
Edgar Allan Poe. Richard Matheson. Poppy Z. Brite. Jack Ketchum. Clive Barker… I could go on, and on. These authors in particular have all showed me—in one way or another—how to do horror and how to create nightmares. And I’m not just talking about the scary dream where you lose sleep for one night. I’m talking about the reoccurring thought that you think of every time the lights go out and you’re stuck in the dark.
These authors taught me fear.
Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?
If I clocked my writing time throughout the week, I bet it would come pretty close to full-time, but I don’t consider myself a full-time writer because it doesn’t pay my bills yet. Juggling the day job(s), being a full-time graduate student, and freelancing(!) is a bit insane sometimes, but I can’t imagine not doing it.
I find time to write, and if there isn’t time, I make it happen anyways.
Or I just don’t sleep.
What did you find most useful in learning to write?
If you want to be a writer, you have to write. Not just talk about it, not just go to conventions and socialize about it, but actually sit down and write. Writing is the only way that you become a writer. So the most useful thing I learned…sit down and put words on the page.
Then you can talk about it, drink to it, and socialize about it all you want.
HYSTERIA, RDSP: http://rawdogscreaming.com/books/hysteria/