When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been writing on and off all my life, especially when I was much younger, but I fell off of that by high school because I had become a heavier reader and started playing guitar. I was devouring horror and dark fiction, and some Sci Fi (mostly Magic: The Gathering novels). In high school my guitar instructor turned me onto Brian Keene’s “The Rising”, and my book buying increasingly got more out of control. Keene became Lebbon. Lebbon became Gonzalez. Gonzalez became Laymon, and so on. It completely reinvigorated my love for horror. By the time I had graduated the Atlanta Institute of Music, I moved back home and wasn’t really happy playing music anymore. I desperately needed another creative outlet. In 2007, I met Brian Keene for the first time at a small convention setting, and it kind of sparked me to get back into writing. I started my first novel shortly after.
What does your writing schedule look like?
I try to write every day―TRY being the key word. Since our move to Pennsylvania from Indiana, my wife and I don’t have cable anymore, so that’s a huge plus for my writing time. But unfortunately I’m a massive hockey fan, and from September to May my brain is being stretched into different directions. I try to get anything out a day, even if it’s just a few hundred words. Something is better than nothing. I’m sure that would change if I ever went full time.
Do you have any interesting writing rituals? If so, what are they?
I don’t really have any rituals. I can’t listen to anything while working either. I’m very easily distracted. I love music, and I’m an avid podcast listener, but I have to write in complete silence. The only noise from my office is the laptop keyboard and my incoherent mumbling.
Do you like writing short stories or novels?
I like both. I only have one novel out right now—“The Betrayed”―but I have many short stories out there in different markets. I enjoy writing longer pieces. I just finished my first novella about a month ago and I’m currently on the next one, but I think there’s something very satisfying about crafting a really great short story. At this point, I think I’ve written in most lengths. One type I really enjoy writing is flash fiction. The challenge of keeping a coherent story together in five hundred words or less is really fun to me.
How is the horror scene where you live?
I’m very fortunate now that I’m living in Pennsylvania, and I’m currently surrounded by very large group of people in the horror community. And that doesn’t include just writers. There’s artists, filmmakers, photographers, etc. It was difficult where I grew up and lived most of my life in Indiana. I won’t speak ill of my old home, but I didn’t have many creative friends, and as a writer, it’s hard not having others to relate to. Writing can be a very lonely, solitary lifestyle, and your creativity truly strives when it’s part of a larger nucleus. I love the community I belong to now. It’s helped my drive and creativity tremendously. I’m in a very good place.
Do you use outlines or do you go with the flow?
It just depends on what I’m working on. My novel, for instance, I used a sparse outline. At the time I was new to writing long fiction and didn’t know any better. The novella I have just completed, I had no outline. I had a general idea of what I wanted to do and where I wanted it to go, and I just let it flow. I think that’s why I had such a blast writing it. The current novella, I’ve had to take a lot of notes because the research has been much more extensive. It all just depends on what the story calls for.
How did publishing your first book or short story change your writing process?
It made me much more aware of what editors and publishers are looking for, and what it takes to stand out in a crowd. I makes you conscious of how much better you can always be, and how not improving yourself is just standing pat, and that’s not good enough. If you want to succeed in this business, you have to work for it. Rarely does it ever come to you.
What do you think makes a good horror story?
Dread and uncomfortability. It’s horror, it’s meant to bring the reader to shrink into themselves and wince. Absolutely nothing can be easy for the characters. It has to be fascinating and daring. It has to make old tropes seem new. And at times it has to run the gamut of emotions.
What are you currently working on?
I’m just starting a new novella, but I don’t have a title for it yet, which is really bugging me. I almost always have a title before I even start a new project, but I can’t honestly think of one for this. Hopefully that will change.
What is in your TBR pile?
I more than I care to admit. Right now I have Ronald Malfi’s “Bone White” and Bruce Campbell’s “Hail to the Chin” to look forward to, but I’m currently reading Graham Masterton’s “The Hell Candidate.”
What is the last book that scared you?
It honestly feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve been truly frightened by a book or story, but my brain keeps going back to Wrath James White’s “The Resurrectionist”. It’s one of my all-time favorites, and I remember being wildly stressed out and sick to my stomach while I was reading it. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favor and pick that one up. I promise you won’t regret it.
What is your favorite horror book?
My favorite will forever be Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend”. I read it in grade school for the first time (thank you, Scholastic Book Club!), and I still have my original Tor paperback, which I have to keep in a plastic bag because it’s falling apart, along with the 1954 hardcover edition.
What is your favorite horror film?
“From Dusk till Dawn”. I can practically recite the entire movie word for word.
What is your spirit animal?
An otter, mainly because I wish I owned an otter farm.
What is your favorite beer?
I’m not much of drinker, but I do enjoy SKI soda probably too much. Cut me and I’ll probably bleed green bubbles.
If you could have a beer with one author, who would it be?
I’d love to a have a cold beverage with either Graham Masterton or Ray Garton. I’m a huge fan of both gentlemen, and I think they would both be fascinating to speak with and to pick their brains.
Wesley Southard is the author of the novel The Betrayed, which was named one of Brian Keene’s Top 15 Books of 2017, and has had short stories appear in numerous outlets such as Cover of Darkness Magazine, Eulogies II: Tales from the Cellar, Grindhouse, Dark Bits, Blood Reign Lit Magazine, The Book of Blasphemous Words, and Clickers Forever: A Tribute to J.F. Gonzalez. A few of those stories are collected in his chapbook Unfit for Burial: Four Short Stories. When not watching numerous hours of ice hockey, he spends his free time reading and drinking copious amounts of green soda. He is also a graduate of the Atlanta Institute of Music, and he currently lives in South Central Pennsylvania with his wife and their cavalcade of animals. Visit him online at http://www.wesleysouthard.wordpress.com.