CHHR: Please give a brief introduction here.
My name is Cynthia Pelayo. My friends call me Cina. I’m a horror writer and horror poet.
I’ve written SANTA MUERTE (Post Mortem Press), THE MISSING (POST MORTEM PRESS), and POEMS OF MY NIGHT (Raw Dog Screaming Press). My short stories and poems have appeared in Horror Zine, Danse Macabre, Blood Moon Rising, and more.
I’m also an International Latino Book Award winning author and an Elgin Award nominee.
I have a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, am a former Chicago community news journalist, and live in Chicago with my family.
CHHR: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I remember in second grade being asked what I wanted to be and I said “artist” as a general catch all. I knew I wanted to make things, create things, and as time went on I really enjoyed writing and said I wanted to be a writer when I was in high school. I wrote essays back then, winning some city-wide contests for my high school, and in undergrad I majored in Journalism at Columbia College Chicago. I was too scared to major directly in fiction. I think a lot of people steered me away from it, and being so young, and a first generation college student I took their advice.
I later went on to get a Masters in Science in Integrated Marketing, the MFA in Writing, and am working now on a PhD in Business Psychology. I’m not only a writer, but a writer with a day job in research.
CHHR: What does your writing schedule look like?
I have two small children, a full-time job, a home to keep in order, a couple of dogs…so honestly whenever I can. I write in my phone, iPad, on a laptop, notebook, whatever for little beats at a time and then when I have a large chunk of time – usually super late evenings – I compile what I have written.
CHHR: Do you have any interesting writing rituals? If so, what are they?
I can’t write with any sound, music, nothing. Which is why the bulk of my writing really takes place after everyone has fallen asleep. My most productive writing times are usually between midnight and 3am. I know, that’s sad. Which is why I try to get as many small pieces written so when I’m going to write late night I can commit to those hours, suffer the lack of sleep the next day but it will be worth it.
CHHR: Do you like writing short stories or novels?
I honestly really enjoy short stories. I wrote mostly short stories for a long time. I like the quick satisfaction one gets with short stories, and sometimes I feel like writing a short story is harder. You don’t have much time to compel your reader. I’ve read a lot of Ray Bradbury, Margaret Atwood, J.D. Salinger, Joyce Carol Oates, etc., because they know the mechanics of a powerful short story.
CHHR: How is the horror scene where you live?
Chicago, and the Chicago area, is home to a lot of horror writers, both indie and published widely. I won’t name them here since I want to respect their privacy, but it’s a great town. Unfortunately, everyone is really busy so I don’t see people as much as I like, but that’s what social media is for.
CHHR: Do you use outlines or do you go with the flow?
I try to outline. I’ve purchased and read so many books on the writing craft, and outlining and I just can’t. I don’t formally outline, but I do like to have a general idea of where the work is going, but sometimes I wake up and the work tells me it’s going in an entirely different direction.
CHHR: How did publishing your first book or short story change your writing process?
Traditional publishing is so hard. I’ve been querying literary agents since around 2012 with various novels. My short stories and novels and poems have been published by independent presses – who have published amazing horror writers and amazing stories.
I’m starting to query agents again for a new novel I completed. I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to query, how to write a synopsis, and the overall business formalities in publishing.
Unfortunately, publishing has changed my writing process in that I’ve become too self-conscious when I start writing wondering where I’m going to place this work. It’s something I’m trying to break out of so that I can get back to writing the story I want to tell.
CHHR: What do you think makes a good horror story?
Oh man. I love this question, and I feel like I could teach a class on this. There are various genres of horror so I suppose it really depends what genre we are looking at.
For the sake of brevity, let’s break down horror into 3 categories – and not everyone will agree, but this is my quick break:
Paranormal (ghosts, superstition, supernatural, etc):
What makes a great paranormal story for me is setting and atmosphere. I like ghost stories to be subtle, and not so overt.
Monsters (Frankenstein, Vampires, Werewolves, etc.,):
If you can make me identify with the monster on some level you have me. Why is a monster a monster? Is there a line where they have humanity?
The Thing (Zombies, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, Aliens):
There is no reasoning with “The Thing.” A zombie is a shell, determined to just satisfy itself. You cannot reason with an alien – an alien has its own rules. Of course, there’s a thin line between a monster and what I would consider a “thing.” To me what makes a good “Thing” is something completely set on a path of destruction.
CHHR: What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a novella, drafting a new novel and writing a few more short stories.
CHHR: What is in your TBR pile?
The Chalk Man, C.J. Tudor
KIN, Kealan Patrick Burke
The Changeling, Victor LaValle
Baby Teeth, Zoje Stage
CHHR: What is the last book that scared you?
Honestly? The Exorcist. I don’t scare easily, but that one I had to walk away from for a bit.
CHHR: What is your favorite horror book?
The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty
CHHR: What is your favorite horror film?
It’s a tie between:
Carnival of Souls (1962)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
CHHR: What type of music do you listen to? What’s your favorite album?
If it’s that odd moment where I do want music in the background it’ll have to be something dark and instrumental. Stranger Things has a good sound track to write to.
I’m a 90s girl, so favorite album is going to have to go to Nirvana, Nevermind (1991).
CHHR: What is your spirit animal?
The crow. I have Hugin and Munin tattooed across my entire back.
CHHR: What is your favorite beer?
If it’s a Pilsner I’m happy.
CHHR: If you could have a beer with one author, who would it be?
Stephen King because he seems like he’ll tell you whatever like it is. I don’t think he’ll bullshit you. He’ll be blunt and honest, and I would just love to know his thoughts on horror and publishing today.
Follow me on Twitter at: @cinapelayo
POEMS OF MY NIGHT