Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English, Journalism, and History. She has 20 years of experience in her field which includes being an author, a journalist, an editor, and a PR Professional/publicist among many other things.
Breathe. Breathe.,published by Unnerving in 2017, was her debut collection and a mix of dark poetry and short stories. Her work has been called raw, honest, evocative, and beautiful by industry professionals, reviewers, and readers alike. She has stories featured in several other anthologies (Hardened Hearts, Dark Voices, PEN’s My Favorite Story) and magazines (such as Enchanted Conversation: fairytale and folklore) and was the co-editor of the gothic anthology Haunted are These Houses. She continues to write multiple stories and poems from the forests of rural Ohio.
She is an editor at Sinister Grin Press, assists with publicity at Raw Dog Screaming Press, and owns Hook of a Book Media, from which she’s busy editing and coaching writers and doing publicity for them.
You can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org and find her easily at www.hookofabook.wordpress.com. You’ll also find her on her Amazon page, GoodReads, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
#1. Looking back, what’s one fiction book that you feel truly made an impact on your writing? Do you still gravitate towards that author?
#1. The inevitable “one” question! I am very bad at picking just one of anything so that’s hard for me. There isn’t one defining book, but there are a few. They aren’t horror because I wasn’t allowed to read horror as a kid. They are Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, Mother Earth Father Sky by Sue Harrison, The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King. I think you can see I have a slant toward fantasy. Soon after Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne came along for me, then Shirley Jackson. Shortly after that, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work. All of those impacted my writing because my collected works are a mix of fantasy, horror, sci-fi, and history and any short pieces I dabble in you’ll find an array of it all (or I’ll rotate genres). I do have some novels I’m writing that are solely one genre, but in the end, I think I’ll still find I’ve somehow meshed at least two of them somehow. I still gravitate towards all these authors, but I definitely re-read Poe, Jackson, and Hawthorne quite a bit and most anything new by Stephen King….now that I’m #adulting and allowed to read horror.
#2. How do you feel about the use of sub-genres in the industry? How do you describe your work overall?
#2. As a marketing/PR person, I think they are very useful. Over the years I’ve had many authors get mad at me for wanting to define their horror category or sub-category, because “I just write it” or “let readers define it,” but honestly, it’s the only way readers can make choices when spending their hard-earned money. Everyone falls into some type of sub-category(ies). I know for myself as an author I can’t really define what sub-genre I am in horror, because I am really a mash of dark fiction that includes gothic, horror, crime, thriller, quiet, cosmic, historical meshed with fantasy, sci-fi, literary with subs of killer, monsters, psychological, and many more, but I might write something someday, a novel perhaps, that might fall into one particular sub-genre of horror.
Given that, I do understand writers hating labels or sub-genres, but I look at it this way (and really it’s ultimately what it’s for)— it’s like looking at the card catalogue at the library (you know when we used to have to pull the cards out of the drawers) or the categories on Amazon. It has to fit in somewhere to be found at the library and it has to fit in some category (and correctly) to sell on Amazon. Sometimes people like a sub-genre and they are searching by that; sometimes people just want to know what your book is about, and a synopsis never gives enough information. The whole point is that labeling by sub-genre is there for a reason—for your work to be found or sold.
#3. What about your writing process do you think is unique or quirky? What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?
#3. I’m old school in my writing process and I still 90% of the time use paper and pencil in the beginning stages. I only transfer to the computer for editing, except for the novels, as those would take too long to re-type and so they are written and housed on the computer. However, when working on those (slowly) I still sometimes work out sentences on paper and type them into the document. I know a few people still use paper and pencil, but not many. I often can only write fiction or poetry between 3 a.m. to say 8 a.m.—I sometimes wonder if this is because it’s after the witching hour begins. Ha!
As for the worst I’ve received—I don’t think any advice has come my way that’s screaming at me now. I try to do my own thing. I think probably at university dealing with various English professors: “too many commas,” “not enough commas,” “I like semi-colons,” “never use semi-colons.” It was enough to make your head spin from class to class. Once I received the compliment, “you have a strong writing voice,” I didn’t really care where they felt the placement of my comma should be, and besides, I knew and still know exactly where to place my commas, which is why I’m an editor.
#4. How does music and media factor into your writing? Do you feel it plays as much an inspirational role as literature?
#4. I love music, but I don’t feel it plays as much an inspirational role as literature per se. I like to listen to music while I write and work, predominately 90s grunge or alternative rock. Nirvana, Soundgarden, Audioslave, The Cranberries, etc. – they all speak to me. Sometimes lyrics or the musicians themselves will inspire my poetry. Music from the stage or classical will sometimes incite scenes. I love Phantom of the Opera! I find inspiration in everything though, not just literature either. I pull from nature, art, color, people, history, travel, trends, fashion, as much as music and books.
#5. As an author, how much do you engage in social media? Do you feel it is more for your own entertainment, or for marketing and networking?
#5. I engage daily, I come and go in spurts, though many times I really don’t want to—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest. I do, because my job as an editor and PR professional depend on it, but even if you remove that reason, I feel it’s very important as an author too. It’s the number one way that indie authors get the word out about their books and writing. You must do it right though, and make the best use of your time, for it pay off. I would wish to tell more authors to be leery how much time they spend in the time suck of social media reading comments, debating, flying down rabbit holes. The negativity can suck your emotions and the insane amount of time some spend on it makes me wonder if they ever see their families, go outdoors, or even write fiction. I spend a majority of my social media time on Twitter, where there are people talking about books – reviewers and readers – and find the highest benefit to my person as well as my work being noticed.
#6. Where do you see the future of horror fiction heading? In turn, what changes would you love to see, either socially or technologically?
#6. I saw the Grady Hendrix article in Forbes magazine on Oct. 1 that said there is a resurgence in horror, due to the popularity of movies, and movies of popular books all of us read in the 80s and 90s. Maybe even that’s true because all of us who read Stephen King off the mass market stands as teens and young adults are enjoying all the SK adaptations for the screen. Teens enjoying watching King on the screen are in turn now reading his books from their parent’s shelves or on retail stands with new covers. King will always be a doorway to horror for most people. What’s not changed is that many of the same horror of everyday life still exist. However, I also feel that everything is less taboo for those now in their teens and twenties (and hence, for people like me in their 40s – GASP) because of social media. They have no filter, no boundaries, and because they face many more real day-to-day fears and anxieties than we did growing up in the 80s and 90s, horror movies are their go-to because they want an adrenaline rush of being scared. AND it takes more to scare them.
I see horror continuing to go mainstream and the gatekeepers finding the best horror fiction out there. However, it will be mixed with other genres or focus on the usual supernatural, hauntings, witches, or literary themes and we’ll continue to see things with a folklore bent. Quiet horror. Classic works will continue to revitalize the gothic. I think we will also continue to see more domestic or real-world horror come to the forefront as well. As an editor, I’d love to see more of this and less demons/devil. With the world what it is today, horror can be a brilliant way to deal with fears, for both writer and reader.
Indie horror will continue to flood the market and sales will continue to decline but more and more people will continue to dabble in writing. I hope that more indie publishers will open to support them all; however, self-publishing with a quality cover and professional editing is increasing in respect. I’ve seen readers not know the difference or care as long as they love the book in look, then content, or like the author.
I’d love to see less drama among authors socially and for them to get a grasp that all online presence is professional now, nothing is personal. Authors need to use social media to sell themselves, their brand, as it’s the only way to truly find return readers. Readers love to be able to access their favorite authors online.
#7. What can you tell us about any forthcoming projects? What titles would you like to promote now?
#7. I’m working on a poetry-only collection featuring water elements, and I’m very close to being done and heading into the editing stages. Water has always been a huge source of inspiration for me, supplying me with energy, both physically and mentally. It’s healed some of my chronic pain; it clears my mind. I feel at peace by the water, but also the anger and danger in its depths. I can channel emotions, and give and take emotions, near the shoreline. I believe water has special power for me. There will be sadness in this collection, but also sea monsters, ship wrecks, and coastal village intrigue. I’m a huge fan of the last three. I hope others like it, but I’m writing it because it’s fun for me! I’m looking for a publisher for it.
I’m also working on a short story collection based on the works of Van Gogh as well as stand-alone short stories and poetry for submission.
In larger works, I’m working on a novel still that I’ve been picking away at for years. It’s a revenge novel, as far as I’m concerned at this point, featuring an abused woman and the ghost of Emily Dickinson. It takes place in Emily’s hometown. I’m excited for this one.
And since writing my Vahalla Lane episodic revenge series in Breathe. Breathe.,I’ve had some good response to it and so I’m writing on a novella when I have the chance featuring the story of one of the women, both in prequel and in sequel to what happens.
I’m talking with my good friend Duncan Ralston about writing a novel with him that has a cult theme (we both love cults – I mean not being IN one, but you know….) and hopefully we can work on that in small spurts. I’d also really like to write something soon with J. Daniel Stone and we’ve talked about it a bit as well.
It’s the one-year anniversary of the publishing of my debut collection, Breathe. Breathe., so I’ve been heading around online continuing my promotion of it. I’m very proud of it. The cover doesn’t indicate how heavy and brutal its content is! Much of it tells my life’s pains and haunts and fears poured, sometimes savagely, onto the page. However, there is also legend, folklore, and fantasy as well. You can find it here on Amazon!
Waves “Hi!” to readers and thank you for this opportunity Brian!