In this podcast, Carson Winter talks about Soft Targets, discovering stories, Zero Boundaries Podcast: Episode 182, and much more.
About Carson Winter
Carson Winter is an author, punker, and raw nerve. His fiction has been featured in Apex, Vastarien, and Tales to Terrify, among others. His new novella, Soft Targets, is out now.
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Michael David Wilson 0:07
Welcome to This Is Horror Podcast for readers, writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson, and every episode alongside my co host, Bob Pastorella, weekly out with the world's best writers about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Now today, we are chatting with Carson winter, who recently released soft targets via tenebrous press. Now you may be familiar with it, or at least the title as it is one of the books that we are currently advertising on the podcast. And I have to say it is one of my favorite novellas OF THE YEAR thus far. And it's kind of like funny games meets Groundhog Day, but wrapped in an existential crisis. Now we had a lot of fun talking to Carson about soft targets amongst other things. But before we do get into the meat of that conversation, let us take a quick advert break.
Bob Pastorella 1:37
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Michael David Wilson 2:41
Okay, well without saying Here it is. It is the conversation with Carson winter on dare says hora. Carson, welcome to This Is Horror Podcast.
Carson Winter 2:57
Thanks for having me on, gentlemen. so stoked to be here.
Michael David Wilson 3:00
It is a pleasure. And you know, I've recently read soft targets your forthcoming novella and such a fantastic experience. So I mean, already, on that alone, you've become a must read write FMEAs. So I'm very excited to have this conversation. So thank you for joining us.
Carson Winter 3:25
Oh, that's amazing to hear. Yeah, thank you. i I'm actually, I'm a big fan of This Is Horror. This is one of those where I kind of geeked out a little bit when I saw I saw this in my inbox and I was like, Oh, shit, like, I've listened. I've taken advice from this podcast. I've listened to my heroes on here as a young baby, mid 20 Something author who knew nothing. So yeah, this is awesome. This is a big moment for me.
Michael David Wilson 3:56
Well, I mean, as you might anticipate, as you've listened to a lot of these, I want to go all the way back to the beginning. I want to know what were some of the early life lessons that you learned growing up?
Carson Winter 4:11
Oh, geez. From the podcast
Michael David Wilson 4:16
from your life? No.
Carson Winter 4:19
I actually did have one. Okay.
Michael David Wilson 4:24
Hang on. Do you have a you have a life lesson from the podcast? Okay, that's that and then
Carson Winter 4:32
I don't want to falsely attributed but I do I do think I heard this on This Is Horror, and I want to say Oh, fuck it was it was one of these three writers which shows how good my memory is. It was either Paul Tremblay, John Langan, or Laird Barron. And one of them was they were talking about a story where you know, they, they wrote something and I just, it didn't work and they were talking about how you know, one of you know, their writer friend and it just kind of told him like, yeah, sometimes sometimes your writing sucks, like you'll you'll write something I just blows. And that's just the game. I felt like that was one of the most freeing things I ever heard as a young writer that's like agonizing over every single work you, you know, you finish and then you read it and you're like, well, this didn't meet my expectations, this blue. But, you know, that kind of freedom just being like, oh, okay, this, this isn't good. And that's okay. Like, they don't all have to be winners, they don't all have to like knock it out in the park. You know, you can, you can dust yourself off sometimes take failure in stride, and just be cool with that. As far as like an early life lesson. Fuck man, that's a really hard one. You're asking me to distill everything that I am into an early lesson. I think it would probably be not to give into baser impulses, which I think is actually surprisingly relevant here. I remember very young, when I was like three or four, we had this nice shiny little window at my house in Oklahoma when I was a kid. And you know, there was also a delightful jagged rock on the ground. And I, it just, you know, in my four year old brain, there was no other option but to pick up that rock and just throw it through that window. And I I got into quite a bit of trouble for that. I think. When I when I put those pieces together, I was like, Okay, this was a this was a lesson I probably shouldn't just go around breaking windows, even though it is very fun. Yeah,
Michael David Wilson 6:47
yeah. No, I think not given into baser impulses. I mean, certainly took me a lot longer than four years old to learn that, I think like, quite a lot of my late teenage and early 20s was just giving into baser impulses,
Carson Winter 7:07
I think is
Michael David Wilson 7:09
the case for a lot of people. But I can confirm the my impulses were not to just be throwing rocks through people. It wasn't like, Oh, he's the Midlands rock fro struck again.
Carson Winter 7:29
I will say it's a lesson you learn many times over and sometimes you forget, and you still have to fuck up a couple times.
Michael David Wilson 7:35
Yeah, yeah. That's the and I mean, apart from throwing rocks through windows. I mean, how was your childhood? Would you characterize that as, like a good time, a struggle, a little bit of a mix between the two?
Carson Winter 7:54
You know, I think, um, I think I had a pretty typical, like, American middle class childhood. For the most part, I think one of the things that was most different for me is that my parents, we moved a lot more than regular families, or at least people I know who, like, were born in the same town, they went to, you know, elementary school, high school in the same towns and stuff. And that's just their lives. And, you know, for me, I was born in Montana, I lived in Oklahoma, I lived in Idaho, and now I live in Washington State. I feel like growing up, I felt maybe a little disconnected sometimes from other people, just because I felt sometimes like I was like, catching up to well established friend groups and stuff like that. And yeah, I think it kind of forced me to maybe lean a lot on my sense of humor and stuff in, you know, conversations with people trying to entertain to like kind of ingratiate myself to them quickly and, you know, leverage that leverage some social ability, in absence of like, time shared.
Michael David Wilson 9:21
Yeah, yeah. And I think, yeah, having that dark sense of humor is certainly something that shines through in your fiction. And I mean, we've said this often, too, but I do think that, you know, horror and comedy, they're so closely connected. I mean, with the exception of erotica, they're the only genres that are actually trying to produce a physical reaction and a response to the size in the camera like Hit that like, oh boy, we go in 10 minutes in.
Bob Pastorella 10:07
I'm insane. We need more and more. Yeah.
Carson Winter 10:10
Oh yeah. There we go. Okay, I know where your mindset and there's also that element of like comedy and horror both of them can kind of like hinge on like a setup and delivery, I think yeah, where, you know, I feel like the structure can be similar and shared between the two.
Michael David Wilson 10:35
Yeah, yeah. And I mean, I definitely want to get in to soft targets soon and it's so tempting now we've gone into horror and comedy and I guess I can see the segue, but I do before we go there want to talk about your earlier journey as both a writer and a reader? So, I mean, I'm wondering, what were your first experiences with stories, you know, as a reader, what were the first stories you were reading? And how were you experiencing those?
Carson Winter 11:13
Okay, yeah, so it's actually kind of funny, everyone in my family tells me that I was actually I struggled as a reader when I was young. And I wasn't really into it or anything. And apparently, I was put into kind of like a, like a special class to help people lagging behind and then I became a very good reader, a very voracious reader. I some of my early memories of fiction, I've always been into horror since I was very, very young since the rock throwing days. I've I remember reading Dracula in sixth grade. And I also remember Frankenstein and not understanding a fucking word of it. At around the same time. It was a little bit above my head. For like an 11 year old dealing with the philosophical grapples of a man made monster. It wasn't nearly as exciting as you know, it's alive. It's alive. But I was reading I was I was reading a lot of classics at the time. Like after mentioned Frankenstein Dracula, I was making my way through like a lot of Poe. I love 1984 by George Orwell, I had like a phase where I was really into like dystopian fiction. And I was also devouring like paperbacks, like Michael Crighton and John Grisham stuff that kind of had like a little bit of a thriller vibe, I guess. But I didn't really get into like, proper, proper proper, like modern horror fiction, I feel like until like my early 20s, when I got tired of seeing Clive Barker's books of blood stare back at me from the shelf. And I'd like I'd walk past it all the time. And I was like, I liked Hellraiser. I knew who Clive Barker was because I was always a very big film fan. But and I never really thought of like short stories is the primary way to engage with horror fiction yet, despite reading Poe and stuff like that. And I've picked it up and I felt like like it scrambled my brain I like immediately expanded their horizons of what I thought horror fiction could be. Because it's pretentious of a young man, as I was, I didn't really know like, what literature could do or could be. And when I was reading those stories is just like, wow, this is this just changed everything. For me. It was really magical. And then, you know, a couple years later, when I started getting really serious about like, Okay, I need to stop talking shit about doing stuff, I need to do it. I am now an old man at 24 I need to make big decisions about my life. I wanted to be a filmmaker, but I kept this talking shit about it in the back room of a jacket and box and wasn't doing anything. So I was like, Okay, I want to make art. I don't I realized I didn't really care about film that much. I wanted to be a storyteller. I always loved books. I loved writing. So I was like, Okay, this is something I can do. Now. I don't have to make excuses about like, not having a fucking microphone or not having a proper light bulb or whatever. Because I was very, very focused on having equipment at that time. I just wanted to buy film equipment. But then I just started making decision I need to understand the landscape of horror fiction so I can properly engage with it in you know, finally being artists myself. Make the art that I'm stoked about. And you know, from there, you know, the rest is history I caught into, well, gaudy weird fiction, a lot of the major weird masters. And you know, to this day, I'm still kind of, I'm still figuring out what I like, but I've really kind of, I've narrowed the funnel a little bit. And you know, I definitely find myself working more in the weird fiction arena.
Michael David Wilson 15:24
Yeah, so it sounds like then 24 years old was kind of that turning point for you. But then, I mean, my my understanding is that you'd been creating art in other ways before that point. I mean, you know, I were you in punk rock bands. Is that right?
Carson Winter 15:45
No, I wasn't in punk rock bands. I mean, I play guitar. I write songs and stuff. Anyone wants an example of that I wrote the I wrote and sang the little ditty that opens the dead languages podcast, which I co host. And I wrote about punk rock from, you know, probably my early 20s. To my late 20s. I, I found a lot to love in the punk scene kind of early on, you know, the DIY nature. And I think that was actually one of the biggest influences for me on anything just in like my worldview, because it kind of convinced me it's like, you don't have to be special to do something, you just have to do it, you know, just commit to doing something. And I kind of took that. That passion that, that willingness to suck, and just threw myself at writing with it. But in that time, yeah, I was writing tons of reviews for like small punk bands and stuff writing show reviews and stuff for a punk zine called dying scene.com. I covered a couple festivals and stuff, just all volunteer fun stuff. But I always admired the punk scene like being involved with it.
Michael David Wilson 17:02
Yeah, yeah. Is it pretty much exclusively punk music that you listen to or your friends of other genres?
Carson Winter 17:11
I think as I've gotten older, my interest have expanded a little bit. But I think for me, punk always feels kind of cozy, it feels like home for me. And most things I like, you know, even if they kind of, they jump away from, you know, the formula of angry person and four chords, that they're still kind of adjacent to that scene, or that sense of ethics and DIY mentality.
Michael David Wilson 17:39
Yeah, yeah. And, I mean, to this idea, as we've kind of touched on a number of times, and I mean, Hemingway said it to that the first draft of everything is shit. very eloquently put it, and I find that freeing and, you know, often when I'm writing the first draft, like, there is this annoying tendency to try and compare it to the final draft of other writers, or even the final draft of projects I've done before. And it's like, oh, this is looking a lot rougher. It's like, a course it's looking rough a year in the first draft. And, yeah, that's something that I I battled with. But as long as you can remember, you know, that that kind of phrase or that idea, then you can keep going. And I mean, I understand too, that a lot of your work. You pants rather than plot. Is that still the case for you today?
Carson Winter 18:48
Yeah, I do. I think it's, it's, it's easier for me to maintain, like enthusiasm for the story I'm writing if I'm also discovering it at the same time. But also, I'm not like super strict. You know, I kind of feel like we have a tendency to put ourselves in camps and be like, I'm a strict plotter, or I'm a strict plan. pantser I mean, I do what the project demands of me and sometimes, you know, I, I pants something and it just does not fucking work. And I have to go back. And you know, I have to, I have to, I have to do the plotting that I don't prefer to do. But it sometimes just makes it a tighter story and makes it a little bit easier on me for revisions. So yeah, I'm primarily a pantser. But you know, I do I do what the work demands of me.
Michael David Wilson 19:39
Yeah. Yeah. And do you often work on one project at a time or do you have multiple going on at any time? Yeah, well,
Carson Winter 19:51
kind of usually. Usually, I'm doing I won't do more than like one rough draft at a time. You know, I'm usually locked in but I might, I might revise something like at the same time as I'm writing it, but I don't typically, I'm not going to be like going full bore on like a novel and a short story and another short story at the same time, I usually like to get one thing done from point A to point B, in some version of completion before I move on to the next thing, and then I usually let it rest and edit.
Michael David Wilson 20:22
Yeah, yeah. And I mean, in terms of, as we said, 24 years old was the kind of catalyst for right we are doing this. What was the point where you kind of felt like, oh, yeah, I am genuinely doing this. Oh, like a kind of moment of success or whatever. It was a publication, or an acceptance or just a story that you wrote. And you felt like now that this, this is the Carson winter voice. This is what you know, I've been looking for.
Carson Winter 20:58
Yeah, there was there was a couple of moments there. One of the ones that comes to mind was my first big publication, it was with grim scribe, vest Aryan, or they, John accepted my story win big. And that was huge for me, because I was like, I was just totally geeking out, like, I had read Paget's collection not too long before then. And I was still at the point where I was imagining these authors is like, rockstars to me. So I was like, Oh, my God, John Padgett just fucking emailed me. I am like, so close to greatness right now. I was I was telling everyone like, it was huge to me to be part of our star. And because I was like a newly minted legati nerd to, so I just felt honored to be like, even like, tangentially connected to that legacy. But the other big thing was, I don't know if this came before or after it might have come a little bit before was I had the story called Zero boundaries Podcast, episode 182. And I, I was doing this challenge for myself at the time. And it was just a challenge, a personal challenge to make me a better writer, I was trying to write and complete a short story every month for a year. And now to me, that seems pretty slow. I write a lot faster. Now. You know, I can pump out like one a week, if I'm really going. But back then, you know, I was really struggling with making things feel complete and intentional. And I wanted to, I wanted to do it all in a month. And zero boundaries was one of those first stories where I just, I felt like things clicked together in revision. And I submitted a couple places. Actually, I submitted it to grim scribe, and they rejected it, it was very nice, but it didn't really quite fit what they were looking for. And then one day, just on like, a total impulse, I was like, I'm gonna just put this on Reddit to no sleep. And I did. And it it was, it blew up, relatively, I'm their stories much bigger, but I got like, 1000 upvotes. I got, like, you know, 50 or so comments, people were DMing me like, is this real? You know? Can you send me more information about it? And I think that moment, like I said, it exploded my ego for a day or two, where I was like, Oh, wow, like, okay, so I wrote something and people are, like, legitimately, enthusiastically engaging with it. And I was like, okay, so I think I'm on the right track. I'm doing the right thing. I need to keep doing this. Because this, this is a good feeling. And I've I'm progressing I'm doing I've gotten better than I was before.
Michael David Wilson 23:45
Yeah. So I listen to zero boundaries Podcast, episode 182 On no sleep, but I assume that you know, you'd submitted it via the regular channels. But no, you'd put it on there. Read it first.
Carson Winter 24:01
Well, I put it on the Reddit first, and then I submitted it. I think by the time I got into it, they weren't just taking stories from the subreddit anymore. They were taking submissions. So yeah. I submitted it just at some point after it was published, and I don't think they really care if it's a reprint or anything. So yeah, I was really stoked and I was really happy with what they did with it on the podcast, too, which was really cool.
Michael David Wilson 24:30
is so good. You know that the podcast production of it and it is genuinely frightening, particularly as we get towards the end of that episode. There's something about the ambience, the sound effects, the delivery, it all just goes together. And I mean, so that the genre of which you know, there aren't that many has to be found podcast, you know, that kind of equivalent of have found footage but I mean, I'm wondering in terms of the sound effects and things. Did you have any say in terms of that? I mean, did you say this is how I want you to do it or
Carson Winter 25:14
zero? Like, I gotta say, I, I was I was surprised as everyone else. I didn't hear anything I, you know, I signed the contract or whatever, I had no idea who was going to read it. I only found out when you know, the payment was in my pay pal. And they send a quick little thing mean like, Hey, here's the episode, I was like, Oh, well, holy shit, okay, I better check this out. And I was I was just, you know, it could have been total dogshit, I probably would have still been stoked. Just because this was, you know, the first time anything been adapted of mine. And that was the cool thing to me is that, like, I was experiencing other artists interpretations of what I had written, they were making their own artistic choices, and they were different than my own. You know, in my head, my character on the page doesn't sound the same way. Atticus performs them, but I really liked the fact that, you know, he was doing his own thing. He was making choices, and it kind of added depth in history to the character that isn't on the page. It kind of it alters it a little bit, but in a in a positive way, I think.
Michael David Wilson 26:22
Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, what was the inspiration for that particular story?
Carson Winter 26:31
Okay, so first, I was reading a lot of Laird Barron at the time. And yeah, I was I was in my like, layered barren phase, I was reading tons of layers. I don't think I've ever left my Laird Barron phase. Honestly, I love everything he's written. But the other thing it was pretty strange is that I was really into throwing just really fucking awesome Halloween parties for my friends. And how this started was that one, one Halloween, we decided to do, me and my wife decided that we were going to do like a Halloween murder mystery. We I was going to write it, we were going to have like props around the house with like, little, you know, title cards that kind of told the story through, you know, different objects and little key cards. And one of the things one of the clues was that there was a podcast recording, and some of the elements of lore kind of came from just me, you know, playfully figuring out what this murder mystery was about. And it was hilariously convoluted. So cosmic, it made zero sense. But there were, I did a quick recording of this podcast, I put it on YouTube, and they have like, follow a link. And there's like, a seven minute, you know, very, very, very early version of zero boundaries on there. And then just down the road I came back to and I was like, you know, what, actually, that that would make a pretty good story. And I want to see if I can, like do it properly. And yeah, that's that's how it happened.
Michael David Wilson 28:05
So when when you originally wrote it, you know, to submit to places like signal horizon and frost Aryan. Did you have kind of concerns that you're putting this out as a print piece, rather than, you know, an audio podcast piece? And what did you do? If you did have concerns to mitigate those?
Carson Winter 28:31
I was actually more concerned submitting it to no sleep, because it was really written more to be read on the page, because it was presented as like a transcript. And that's where the whole like notion of the editors notes came in. Yeah. So in some ways, it's kind of a weird falsified impression of a podcast. But I think, you know, it actually did turn out really well. They found a good way to do the editor's notes and audio, which, you know, it barely makes sense to actually hear them in the podcast, but they do it so well. You don't really think about it too much. But yeah, I wrote it to be read. But yeah, it just it ended up working really well for for the podcast. I think that's really just, that's down to the no sleep team. Making good decisions in the production.
Michael David Wilson 29:27
Yeah, for me, the editors notes did work in a podcast and they kind of reminded me a little bit of Matt Wesolowski of stories and he's had a leader those adapted into or not adapted into audio. I mean, that they're up on Audible. There are audio books of their stories, and then we'll be like little interjections and fact correcting, and I think we see that a little bit in Chios. If not, says fix Shouldn't as well does another that he's kind of done in that vein. I feel that that occasionally happens on podcasts like cereal, perhaps not cereal specifically. And it just kind of works particularly if you're like, look, this is a, this is something that we found all but we now need to retrospectively correct something. And so yeah, like it didn't take me out of it all and it it it almost adds to the terror and the unease because it's like, hang on, if there's another voice now correcting is not boding well for the presenter. Oh, good situation. Yeah.
Carson Winter 30:50
It was funny you mentioned cereal because I I listened to that much too late. I was like way late on the train of that probably like five years after it was popular. And you know, I was hooked on it. And I, I wrote a spin off to zero boundaries podcast that was kind of more like a serial format as like a, like a limited podcast series. That might still happen. It hasn't happened yet. But I think I've written most of it, I need to revisit that project and see if I can get it properly off the ground. But that might happen as a a true crime version of a black pilgrimage phenomenon.
Michael David Wilson 31:32
My interest is immediately piqued. So yeah, you must keep us informed. If that happens.
Carson Winter 31:40
I will end it for anyone who's really into that stuff. The guts of myth with split screen that one also ties into the zero boundaries podcast and builds on the lore and stuff.
Michael David Wilson 31:52
Nice. I will check that out. For is interested in. So you've written about a podcast, there were zero boundaries. And then in the Museum of loss things, also, oh, yeah, no sleep podcast, you've written as a blogger. So I kind of sense that in your stories, you enjoy tapping into these modern mediums, these modern ways of conveying news and information and then kind of putting your horror spin on.
Carson Winter 32:27
I think it is definitely a reflection of my age, and that I'm terminally online, and which I probably need to quell to some degree. But yeah, with the Museum of last things, that's absolutely big influence. The thing I was really pulling from was my time writing for dying seen the punk online punk zine, where I feel like a lot of kind of the woes and highs of being a under appreciated, at least in my own mind, you know, writer documenting the punk scene and stuff was kind of transferred into the character and adapted to be more horror focused.
Michael David Wilson 33:10
Yeah, and I mean, with the Museum of Los things, I owe my story as a kind of precursor to soft targets in terms of the ideas that are being explored. And, you know, see, magically, there's certainly, at least one element that you return to with soft targets. I mean, what was that a conscious thing? When you were writing soft targets? Did you know that you'd be drawing on some of the things from the Museum of loss things? Or was this more just like, look, this is the magically something you're interested in. And when we analyze, writing, we realized like, oh, we keep returning to different things. I mean, the same thing even Yeah,
Carson Winter 34:01
it's, it wasn't meant to be related really, at all. I think it was really just an example of like, obviously, I'm very interested or preoccupied with the nature of reality. It comes up a lot I think in you know, my mind, just thinking and wondering about, you know, what is real, what isn't, and, you know, sometimes fantasizing or catastrophizing about what could or couldn't be so, I really, really think it's just one of those pet themes I returned to, and I if anything, when I was writing soft targets, I was almost like, well, I am maybe I'm a little bit of a fucking hack because I keep beating this dead horse. But I remember ponies like written so many stories where someone gets buried alive. So I was like, You know what, the pope could have been buried alive in a lot of different ways. You know, I can have my pet alternate realities or whatever.
Michael David Wilson 35:00
Yeah, yeah, I think so. And I mean, you know, I've got themes that I returned to. And then sometimes I'll consciously write something not using those themes. But eventually, I just will not even eventually, pretty soon, then return to those themes because they're just of interest to me. And I think too, if we can interest ourselves, then we can interest the reader. But if we're, if we're too, consciously avoiding things that are of interest, and then it's perhaps harder to get the writing done, than I think that is going to, you know, translate to it being a more boring or futile experience for the reader. I think people can pick up on authenticity and passion. So it is important to make sure that we're, you know, enjoying it. And if we think oh, well, we can't return to the same theme. It's like, Well, hello, let's look at music. Look at Motorhead songs. It's not as if like, wow, it's completely different. And yeah, they pretty well, for the 30 or 40 years that they, they were about. And I mean, I think, you know, it's similar with a lot of kind of punk rock bands and thrash metal and it doesn't detract from us enjoying them.
Carson Winter 36:27
Yeah, 100%. I mean, I think that's kind of what I realized through the process was like, you know, it's more important to be authentic and interested in your own work, rather than, you know, trying to, you know, constantly do something different from your last work when it doesn't feel authentic. And, you know, I also had a, probably a couple of years between those stories. So I think at that point, I was, I was ready to revisit that idea and play with it a little bit more.
Michael David Wilson 37:02
Yeah. Yeah. Now, you said that you can typically pump out one story a week. Now. I can? Yeah, yeah.
Carson Winter 37:15
Yeah. I mean, I, I like to think I'm a pretty fast writer. But yeah, I mean, it's one of the things that I think I think it was Laird Baron who said, it is like, you know, he only writes 600 words a day. And, you know, if you write 600 words a day, if you like, you know, look at that, from a years perspective. That's, that's a lot of words. Yeah, like, that's, that's a couple novels. You know, that's like 20 short stories, like you're pumping out work, if you just do 600 words a day, like, some of my merch, earliest experiences, writing, I've done NaNoWriMo since I was like, 13. So I've done, you know, I've written many, many, many bad novels as a kid. So I've trained myself really well, to be able to, you know, pump out like 2000 words a day. But even giving myself the freedom just to not do that and do like, you know, 1000 or, you know, 1500, or, you know, 500, you can easily get a 2000 4000 word story and a handful of days, revise it in a couple days. And Bam, you got a story in a week.
Michael David Wilson 38:29
Yeah, yeah. And I mean, to have done NaNoWriMo, slow many times. And also, you know, to set yourself these challenges like a course before you did, it was the challenge to put out a story, karma finding, getting this routine and realizing that yeah, we can have this discipline to keep crafting. It really does set us up for doing this in the long term. Because you know, that, that barrier, initially, like early on, it's just getting the words on the page and actually finishing things that's like stage one of the battle.
Carson Winter 39:09
Yeah, one of the things that like really flipped my brain early on in my writing, was that I think I heard I heard someone say like, and maybe it was like Harlan Ellison or something, it seems like something he would say it was like, you know, stop thinking of yourself as an artist. Think of yourself as like a journeyman, like a blue collar worker, you know, punch in, do the work. And that's kind of it helped kind of burnout some of that, like, pretentious idealism. I had in my mind, like, where I was connecting more to the identity of a writer that I was on the fucking beach scribbling a masterpiece, while there's like fucking birds flying by me or whatever, the oceans roaring and everyone wants to interview me like you guys. But
Bob Pastorella 39:56
you weren't an ascot.
Carson Winter 39:57
Yeah, exactly. But you know Once you get into the nitty gritty of it, and it's this is this is fucking work like everything else and you got to put in the work you that. And once I kind of accepted that once I like got rid of the the idea of the writer as like an ego figure and just started focusing on doing the work figuring out how to make the work work for me. Everything just got so much better.
Michael David Wilson 40:29
Yeah, yeah, I just guess we are interested in the kind of logistics of craft and writing routine, I'm gonna return to the like, you pull out the one story a week, but what what are we talking? Do you mean? Have you gone through every draft? And that is now ready to submit? Or do you just mean you've kind of first drafted it in a week? And when you say short story, what kind of word count? Are we looking at here? And then that kind of begs the question, how long is it going to take you to write a novella or a novel? Well, I
Carson Winter 41:10
will say I don't write a short story every week. So I'm not like, you know, pumping out 52 Shorts a year, I'm not, I'm not that powerful yet, one of these days. But when I do decide to write a short story, oftentimes, it'll come together within seven days. And, you know, sometimes I'll do those back to back weeks or three weeks in a row. And sometimes, you know, I'll do a week care, you know, work on a novella for a couple of months, and then come back to shorts or whatever. I think I despite kind of taking a lot of pride in you know, being a discipline writer, I'm also carry with me, you know, the idea that it's okay not to write, I feel like, if we're, if we're too rigid with our discipline, we just, we lose all hope it becomes something we can't do. So I make I make failure part of the process. But yes, for the most part. These days, most of my stories I will be submitting after a week. I don't usually do like full rewrites or drafts, I think I've gotten as a pantser, I've gotten pretty good at figuring out my personal process, so that I take into account the things that get me off track that make me have to do big revisions, and get rid of those early on. And usually, for me, that's controlling the scope of the story, identifying the scope of the story earlier, and being like, Okay, I'm writing a short story. So this, this much plot goes into the short story, I need to make sure I don't introduce these elements, I need to, I need to know where this is going. And then I can write towards that. When I write a short story in a week, usually I'm writing between 2005 1000 words, I would say.
Michael David Wilson 43:09
Yeah, yeah. And I certainly think being aware of the scope is such an important lesson for writers and like, I'm, I'm so good in inverted commas, like, I start a story. And then I'm like, let's just have this little tangent or this, like, hilarious, like comic scene, with, like, a big character that's just turned up for this. And it's like, well, I mean, it's humorous, at least to me, but is it actually furthering the narrative? Is it actually driving the story forward? And that is something you know, we have to be so aware of. And even though you know, story writing, we are simulating reality. It isn't actually a carbon copy of reality. So you might have these weird little exchanges in life but you're not replicating life. You're giving this weird bastardized cover version. And so if it's not in any way contributing to the story, the narrative the ascetic, then, I guess this is what was meant by murdering your darlings.
Carson Winter 44:22
Yes, that's absolutely right. What I think about a lot is, I think it's called pose unity of effect, where every element of the story should be working toward the same goal. I think about that a lot when I'm writing is that you know, I have a I have a theme, I have an idea. Every decision I make on the page should be in support of that. And if it's not, it needs to go.
Michael David Wilson 44:51
Yeah, yeah. And I think that is something you do incredibly well and I mean, soft targets they In particular, the sense of pacing is just astounding. And every chapter ends in a logical place, but it also ends up making you want to read more. So soft targets is a very fast read, it's just got it down that you're, you're compelled. And even if, you know there are some things foreshadowed and so you kind of know where the story's going, you particularly can predict, you know, one thing that will happen, it's not exactly like gonna be a spoiler, but you want to be on that journey. You want to find out how it happens. You want to find out the repercussions both literal and psychological. And yeah, pacing is something that unis absolutely nailed with his so on.
Carson Winter 45:56
Oh, thank you. Yeah, I think it was a with that one, I felt like I kind of lucked out a little bit. But it also that was a soft targets was a story that I had very little trouble writing really just flowed out of me. I did, I did not do any major revisions. After the first draft, I had a couple of beta readers, I did a Polish, just kind of prose wise looking for things that just, you know, rhythmically don't feel right. Word Wise, but otherwise, like I it was really close to the final version. When I finished the first draft, which, you know, is ideal, really, for me is, you know, I don't want to spend a lot of time working on the same story because I get bored. And then I want to move on. As soon as I finish something, I'm ready for the next idea. But yeah, that story, that one, just it felt like I just it just vomited out onto the page. And I was, I was really lucky for that, to have such an easy experience with it.
Michael David Wilson 47:05
Let's just dig in to soft targets, then I can wait no longer. We are going there. I mean, for me, it's very funny games meets Groundhog Day with a lot of existential angst and philosophical quandary is, and a splash of Fight Club lb with less ego. So that's kind of my impression of soft targets. In terms of what you were initially going for, it isn't what I've said about the size of it, what were other kind of ingredients and things that you wanted to achieve when you initially set out right in this.
Carson Winter 47:54
I mean, I think you've nailed a lot of it. A lot of what I was pulling from were kind of like those, what I would call like angry white guy novels and stuff like Fight Club and everything I fight club was, I would say a major influence but kind of in a not maybe in the way people expected is that I was I was trying to not be too much like Fight Club because I have a little bit of a mixed history with the book where I really, really really liked it as a teenager, as every teenage boy does when they read Fight Club. And then as an adult, I became more and more uncomfortable as it you know, became this kind of like rallying cry for kind of alt right people and I was like, Well, I don't really want to be associated with that. And I thought about it more. And I was like, Well, the problem is, is that you know, in the book, Tyler Durden is so fucking cool, that he undermines the entire you know, critique in the book. It's, it's almost a little frustrating and I don't think it's really politics, intention, but it is, to me a little bit of a flaw in the book is that this character is so charismatic, that by the end of it, you kind of forget that this is a critique of like toxic masculinity, you'd much rather just be a tossed toxic masculine. So Fight Club and kind of like movies like The Matrix office space, those things that kind of went in that similar vein. One of the biggest influences though, for me, was like the work of Nicole Cushing. I just absolutely fucking love her books. She is one of my favorite authors. Ever. She's in my like, top five favorite authors. Like a sick gray laugh all of her books hurt and her new one moth woman is genius. They're also amazingly like dark blue. Like absurdist they pull from, you know, legati and stuff, but also like Jack Cachan stuff, which is like, you know, so far away from legati. But yeah, it's just, it's so good. So I was pulling kind of from a couple different influences. But yeah, I would say like, you know, classic middle class malaise of the late 90s type books and Nicole Cushing. And, you know, Thomas legati to my work has not yet done John Padgett compared to soft targets that and I, that was absolutely on my mind also.
Michael David Wilson 50:36
Yeah, I mean, everyone that you've mentioned, I could just, you know, endorse myself. I mean, they're all so good. I mean, that Nicole Cushing is such a unique voice, actually, to a point where, yeah, if someone had never read Nicole Cushing and like, Will, who is she like, is it well, she kind of isn't as like Nicole Cushing is like Nicole Cushing. Yes, you know, a circular definition is not very helpful. But yeah, she must be one of the most unique and remarkable voices and I'm sorry, but you're just gonna have to read a salary by habit. I'm not really sorry. Because there's gonna be a good time for you lb, you might come away shaking and like questioning everything you've ever, you know, thought to be true and real laughter. But yeah, well, I
Carson Winter 51:37
remember when I first read Mr. Suicide, it just blew my mind. Like, it was another one of those moments in reading horror, that I was like, Well, I didn't know this could happen. I didn't know this can be done. I didn't know writing could be this good. And also just this remarkably funny, which I love. I love how she has a great sense of humor. You get like, some of the bleakest laughter imaginable from her books. And it's just, it's every every page is delicious. I love it.
Michael David Wilson 52:10
Yeah, yeah. And I mean, we've the whole cat, cat, chimp thing I can see as well. Like, particularly in your writing style, there is something Jack Ketchum in it's kind of minimalism and focus, but also just pointed details, you know, you can say a lot with very few words, which, you know, is such an admirable trait as a writer. But yeah, it's almost as if you've got you writing in a jack caption ascetic, but through a Thomas legati lens. That's kind of what you're Yeah, yeah. I'll quote that. You can, if you want. Yeah, yeah.
Carson Winter 53:04
Oh, I will. No, that's great. Yeah, I love Jack Ketchum. I think he's a tremendous writer. Like the girl next door is another one of those books that just blew me away. Nothing writer, though I really liked that influences me a lot is like Brian Evanson, because I really am into minimalism in horror. And I really admire writers, you know, that can leave so much off the page. I think it's almost become such a part of my writing style. To the point it's a detriment sometimes when I'm writing a novel, and I think I've written in epic, and it clocks in at 52,000 words. Because I don't need that many words. You know, I, I couldn't fucking imagine what story I'd have to tell to get to like 80,000 or something. That'd be like my Infinite Jest.
Michael David Wilson 53:52
Yeah, yeah. I've read a number of stories that are about 50,000 words. And that's like, great, you're technically a novel, but you're short enough that many publishers wouldn't bother putting it out. So thanks a lot brain for producing this story. I mean, I always say that story is what matters, certainly, to me, you know, marketers. In terms of books, I think you're actually a marketer is your day to day but not his books. They might. Yeah, they might disagree because like, motherfucker, we're trying to sell this. What do you mean like, story is most important, but I think it has to be because the the art and the story is what matters is not about creating a commercial product. Obviously, you know, I'd like to make money and I tried to make money but it can't be the primary focus, if that's the primary focus Yes, then I can dust off my graduate diploma in law and become a lawyer. And believe you, me, it is collecting a lot of dust and it will continue to do that. I didn't become a lawyer, but you know, if you're in this for making money, be a lawyer, be an accountant, go to medical school and become a doctor. But it's a fool's game if you're writing purely for the money.
Carson Winter 55:31
Yeah, absolutely. I feel like once you realize that there is really no other option, but to you know, treat your writing as art, like, write what you want, because, you know, even the, even a horror novel that gets picked up by an indie or whatever. You know, at the end of the year, when you're doing your taxes, you might only be a couple $100 richer. It's this, none of this is about the money. It's about, you know, making shit that you're proud of the kind of art you want to read. You know, that's the exciting part to me is putting that stuff out there. That's a piece of me that I'm, I'm really excited about that is like a literal part of me that other people can experience and get to know me by.
Michael David Wilson 56:22
Yeah, yeah, I know. So I mean, to the point of what counts just so we haven't depressed everyone else, right? In these 50,000 word novels. I mean, there are a lot of classic books that kind of are in that space of that, you know, they're technically a novel. So 40,000 words, but they're under the 60,000. Now, I'm doing this off the top of my head. So I might be a little bit wrong. But I think that you know, Rosemary's Baby is about in that space. I mean, it's certainly a very tired novel. I'd imagine a clockwork oranges as well. So there are a lot of the height
Carson Winter 57:06
451 Yeah, that one's under 50, I believe. Yeah. And if they call that a novel, I feel like I should be able to call anything above 40k. A novel at that point, if we're all celebrating, Fahrenheit 451 is a classic novel in American literature. That's, that's perfectly fine with me. I, you know, I think I just sold. I don't know if I could say it for sure. But I do have a 40 Something K novel sold, that's going to be coming out in the next year or so. And, you know, whether it's marketed as a novella, novella or novel, I don't know, but to me, it's always going to be a novel, even if it is only 43k.
Michael David Wilson 57:51
Yeah, I mean, it is by by definition, you know, 40,000 words novel 39,999 novella. Literally, that is it. I mean, that the issue is getting some of the publishers to sell the short novels, but they're absolutely novels. But I mean, I think this is how, you know, indie presses have come in. Certainly, you know, more concerned with the art we spoke about, some of them are fair, you know, places like ghoulish like cemetery gates media, of course, like tenebrous, press and, like the fantastic, incomparable Grimms gray press.
Carson Winter 58:40
Yes, all of those guys are so great. I love the work. And you know, there's also folks like dark lit, I've been noticing recently, I've been really excited about they got a novella coming out with a written by Scott J. Moses, I think it's called our unique affliction. And he I'm particularly aware of it because I shared a split screen with Scott. So you know, I've read his novelette beside mine, I really like his work. And, you know, that's, that's on my radar there. We were lucky to have a lot of a lot of horror publishers really interested in the small press world in shorter works right now. And I think horror really works in that length.
Michael David Wilson 59:24
Yeah, yeah. Cool. So you know, my list of publishers that wasn't exhaustive that was just like scratching the surface, we can read clash books, and we can throw tore Nightfire so many, whatever so many, that if I then did make it an exhaustive list, they'd be like, Oh, I was a really good podcast with Carson winter until it got to about the 55 minute mark. And then a five minutes Michael David Wilson he just wouldn't stop name dropping publishes. He got really weird like Bob just stole I'm off after about 10 minutes just
Carson Winter 1:00:02
to name as many as possible. So they'll buy my books. That's the strategy here. Yeah, I'm playing the long game as a daytime marketer.
Michael David Wilson 1:00:11
Yeah, yeah. We might need to reevaluate indie horror. How we go in about Voc go on.
Bob Pastorella 1:00:22
I was gonna say that, you know, indie horror kind of changed the whole strategy of how what we're seeing with the big presses, too. You know, heart slumped. We all know that. If you if you, you know, follow the genre along for the last couple of decades, we know that now we're back in the Renaissance. But horror never went away. Small presses took the place of what the big publishers were doing, because the big publishers were afraid to touch it. They changed it to supernatural thrillers, things like that. They were able to put out smaller products that were getting noticed, you know, noticing, noticed by by readers, and that's when the developer came back. The eBook really kind of helped that out because hey, now we don't have to print it, we can actually just put it out in ebook. And as time has gone on, it's like, hey, you know what, there is a market, people will actually buy this thing in print, because now we have the trade paperback format. And so we can put out a bigger looking book that isn't that big. And so and now what we're seeing is some of the big publishers, were talking about things that were actually novellas that hellbound heart, which is now listed as a novel. Oh, that's interesting. Yeah, it's actually a novella. Kind of, I guess, length wise, it would be it structured like a novel. You don't see too many novellas that didn't swap POVs as often as he does. But that's a good point. At the same time, you know, it's basically a novella. So we're seeing this, this shift. And it's all because of independent press. And now we have the big publishers that are trying to emulate that they have their own, you know, imprints and things like that. And it all makes sense. It just, it's taken a long time to get there. It's not a gotcha moment. It's like, It's about damn time moment. And that's, and but it's happening, and we should be grateful for it. And at the same time, we can still put out, you know, the things that we want to be controlling, you know, or be emphasis on the story without having to worry about word count and stuff like that.
Carson Winter 1:02:32
Yeah, absolutely. And you're right, I do feel like we're kind of in a horror renaissance right now. And it is so refreshing. I feel like you know, horror right now is for horror readers and horror readers do appreciate, you know, the novella format, a short story format, I think those kind of non standard forms of fiction, mean a little bit more to us than in other genres sometimes.
Michael David Wilson 1:03:07
Thank you so much for listening to costs and winter on This Is Horror. Join us again next time for the second and final part of that conversation. Now we are fast approaching episode 500 of This Is Horror, which is simultaneously happening in conjunction with it being our 10 year anniversary. And the best way that you can support us and help us to celebrate 10 years and 500 episodes is to either become a firstname.lastname@example.org forward slash, This Is Horror, or to leave us a review on Apple podcasts. We really do appreciate your support. And yeah, I'd love to see some new reviews for the podcast this year because we haven't got so many in thus far. And I really want to just check that everybody is having a good time that you're enjoying the podcast. And of course, if you're not enjoying it, or there is a way that you think we could improve, then I would love you to let me know that as well. So if you have the time if you are so inclined, I would love a review on Apple podcasts. And if you're up for it if you've got the financial means then do consider also becoming a email@example.com forward slash This Is Horror. Okay, before I wrap up, it is time for an advert break.
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Michael David Wilson 1:05:43
Now as always I would like to end the episode with a quote and as I am want to do, I am turning to the stoics so this one is from Marcus Aurelius. Everything is destiny is to change to be transformed to perish so that new things can be born. I'll see you in the next episode for the second and final part of the conversation with cast and winter. But until then, take care yourselves. Be good to one another. Read horror. Keep on writing and have a great, great day.