TIH 519: Stephanie Parent on First Experiences with Stories, Pantsing vs. Plotting, and Early Life Lessons

TIH 519: Stephanie Parent on First Experiences with Stories, Pantsing vs. Plotting, and Early Life Lessons

In this podcast, Stephanie Parent talks about first experiences with stories, pantsing vs. plotting, early life lessons, and much more.

About Stephanie Parent

Stephanie Parent is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at the University of Southern California as well as a professional submissive and switch. Her first poetry collection, Every Poem a Potion, Every Song a Spell, ​was released August 2022 from Querencia Press. Her debut gothic horror novel, The Briars, was released in May 2023 from Cemetery Gates Media.

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Michael David Wilson 0:28

Welcome to This Is Horror, a podcast for readers, writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson, and every episode alongside my co host, Bob Pastorella. We chat with the world's best writers about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Today we are chatting with Stephanie parent, the author of The briars, which is out now via cemetery gates media. In this episode, we talk about Stephanie's early life lessons growing up, Montessori School, plotting versus pantsing. Her first experience of story and a lot lot more. But before we get into the conversation, a quick advert break.

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Michael David Wilson 2:10

Okay without sad here it is. It's Stephanie Parent on This Is Horror. Stephanie, welcome to This Is Horror.

Stephanie Parent 2:22

Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to be here.

Michael David Wilson 2:25

We are really excited to chat with you. And to begin with, I want to know what early life lessons did you learn growing up in Baltimore?

Stephanie Parent 2:37

Oh, gosh. You know, I just learned to get used to anybody who wasn't from my city asking me Oh, isn't it so dangerous to live there? Aren't you scared of being shot? It was kind of ridiculous, because there are a lot of stereotypes of Baltimore being a really dangerous city. And there have been several TV shows about it. And I always get asked, Oh, did you watch the wire? You know, it is definitely true that there are some dangerous parts of Baltimore, but there's also lots of safe parts and I grew up in a safe part. And I also I did go to a public high school that was very diverse racially and it was in a somewhat an area where there was some crime, like there was a stabbing on the steps of my high school like late at night over the weekend sometime. But at the times that that we students were there it was it was safe. So you know, it was a good experience to to grow up in a place that was had such a diverse population. And yeah, I would say there was a lot of culture in Baltimore, there's a lot of art museums. Peabody music school where I went for music and I took a couple of dance classes that are two which kind of figures into the Briars a bit because I do write about dance there. Actually, I guess I could also talk about my high school a little bit. So I went to the Baltimore School for the Arts, which is a pretty famous school as high school. Like, Tupac Shakur went there, Jada Pinkett went there. So it's a pretty cool experience. I went for piano, which I was never really that passionate about piano, but I just wanted to go to that school. And that was what I got in for. But the whole time I was there, I was really jealous of the dancers, like there was a whole, you know, dance part of the school. And they would perform the Nutcracker every year and they would dance on point and they were just so good and so amazing. And I really wanted to dance like that. So that definitely influenced my main character in the briars. Claire is also like, she wants to be a ballerina, but she feels like she didn't get the proper training when she was younger, and that when she started it was too late. And that was kind of how I felt too. So I'm, I'm sure that like watching all my classmates be these beautiful, elegant, ballerinas really influenced book a little bit.

Michael David Wilson 4:56

Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, you're go into high school with such a reputation as well. Did that make it difficult to get in? I mean, you said it was a public.

Stephanie Parent 5:10

Yeah, you had to audition. It was small and exclusive. And that was why I ended up going there for piano was because that was what I was best at. I auditioned in piano and voice I don't, I didn't get an invoice. Now I don't sing at all. I'm not a good singer. So I don't know what that was about. But yeah, piano was what I got in for I knew I would never have gotten in through dance. They also had like a visual art department and a theatre department, they did not have a writing department, like a creative writing department when I went there, I think they do have one now, I don't know if it's how you audition for that too, or if it's like a supplemental thing, but, um, but they didn't have that when I went there. So yeah, but definitely helped me like to be around a lot of creative people from a young age, and also a lot of like, outwardly, you know, queer people from a young age, because artistic community, and that was kind of before it became more acceptable to to be, you know, queer as it is becoming a bit more now. So that was a great experience.

Michael David Wilson 6:16

Yeah. And do you think being at a high school that was steeped in so much history? I mean, was that kind of motivating? Or was that more pressure and it was harder to like to I guess, relax, relaxed, because you've got this sense of having deliver to all the people who have come.

Stephanie Parent 6:39

I think I was just one of those like, perfectionist, teenagers, I think I would have put the pressure on myself, no matter where I was. I actually put the most pressure myself academically, um, even though it wasn't really school known for academics, but but I was already like, really into writing and reading and stuff like that, and took a lot of AP classes. But yeah, I think I think there was this sense that like, you want to achieve something special more than just getting a regular job, you know, and I didn't, that has carried over a bit as often on I've written throughout the years, like, I think there is this drive to want to publish because it's, it's a way to reach a wider range of people outside your, you know, immediate circle of people that you would interact with in person in your life. And some of my desire to do that probably comes from being in a performing arts school, where everyone is trying to become, you know, famous, basically. So it kind of instilled that in me early in life, I would say, if you've ever seen what they're seeing the musical theme kind of a little bit. I mean, that's exactly yeah, a little similar.

Michael David Wilson 7:49

Yeah, and I mean, on the note of perfectionism, I know that you have said previously that perfectionism held back your writing for quite a while. So I'm wondering, what did that look like? And what was it that finally gave you the impetus to say, You know what, I'm going to go for this. Anyway, in spite of the perfectionism in spite of the doubt, let's just submit the Bryan's let's get things done.

Stephanie Parent 8:21

Yeah, that's a good question. I mean, I think part of it, it's just getting older, because, like, at a certain age, you just kind of realize that you are what you are, and you're not going to change. And this is kind of what it's going to be, I think, um, I mean, I still do struggle with perfectionism. I think I just struggle with it more when I'm drafting. Like, right now I'm very hesitant to start a new novel, because, you know, I don't want to start it till I kind of have lines in my head. And like, like, I want it to be, you know, they will say, like, really messy first draft, it's hard for me to write that way. Like, I want to try to make things as good as possible as I'm doing them. And I edit a lot as I'm doing it. So there's still that perfectionism. But, you know, when I was writing the briars, and some of the things I was writing before that, at that time, in my life, and especially during the pandemic, I really did have quite a drive to create and to share my words with other people. So I think that overcame the perfectionist, and also all just kind of, I have to trick myself, like, sometimes I'll just be like, this is like a school assignment, you have to finish it tonight. And you have to turn in what you finish. And obviously, that's not true. But if I tell myself that, then I'll force me to just write like, just write what you can write what's good enough, you know, so sometimes I have to play those games with myself. Because nobody creates something that's perfect. And especially, you know, in publishing, you're gonna have to compromise with other people. Eventually, you know, people are gonna have ideas, and you're gonna have to change your work anyway. So trying to make it perfect on the first draft is really pointless, because you're probably gonna have to rewrite based on other people's suggestions at some point along the way, anyway.

Michael David Wilson 9:59

Yeah. Yeah, I find something that I have to remind myself of on a semi regular basis is to not compare the first draft of a current project to the published version, either the final story that I previously did, because if I do that, then I feel like look, whatever, writing magic I had, it's gone, cuz it's not there. But yeah, it's only in the second or even third draft where I start to think you know, what, that could be something in this. This might be okay.

Bob Pastorella 10:37

When you say being, like, you know, in perfectionism and all that, when in writing, are you talking about not now, obviously, you're not talking about just being like, involved with grammar and things like that. But I mean, are you talking about a level of characterization or plotting of structure? That's something that I'm currently struggling with right now.

Stephanie Parent 10:59

Yeah, all of it. What are you struggling with, in particular, where to start?

Bob Pastorella 11:03

And usually, that's like, the thing that I got down pat. It's like, Fuck, I know exactly where I'm starting this motherfucker, you know, but now it's like, okay, I have like 90 million different options to start with. And so it's like this overwhelming sense that I have to start in the right place. And so, you know, if you're, if you feel that same way than Hey, yeah, then, you know, a kindred spirit. Yes. Because I'm going through that right now.

Stephanie Parent 11:32

Yeah, I've always thought, and I haven't done this, but I thought, I've thought that the best way to write like a really good opening may be to not let yourself write it till the end, like start on the second scene in the book. Because then, you know, once you're finished, and you go back to the beginning, you kind of know more of the images, you're gonna use the themes and stuff, and then you can bring that out more as you write the opening. So I've always kind of thought of maybe trying to do that in the future, but haven't yet.

Bob Pastorella 12:01

Yeah, I find that my early work that some of the critiques I was getting is like, you know, especially in longer work, and say, Hey, like, you know, if you're writing a novel, that, like, you should start with the third chapter, because that's where your story really begins. So I try to put that into into my foreground, you know, actually, starting now, but now I'm like, I don't know where to start. You know, and so I'm just like, I can't get no momentum going. I just, you know, and kind of knowing aimlessly, I may have to try that plotting thing that outlining thing that Michael loves so much,

Stephanie Parent 12:40

because I can't, I can't outline, I don't like it. It feels very safe. And my brain just doesn't work. That way. I can't outline until maybe if I've already written part of it, and then I can outline the rest of it. But I can't just sit down with nothing and just come up with an outline.

Michael David Wilson 12:58

Yeah, I find for me, I have to outline to some point. Otherwise, about probably the 50% mark is like, right, where am I actually going with this? But then I can't, I can't outline so meticulously that now everything is boring. So it's finding that middle ground for me?

Stephanie Parent 13:24

Yeah. I usually to have an idea of where the of what the ending is gonna be like, that helps me, right.

Michael David Wilson 13:31

Yeah. Yeah. Now, I think that the trickiest part for a lot of people is that kind of middle ground is like, right, we know where it starts. We know where it's ending, but what what is the journey? Yeah, yeah, I think, to a point we all, we all kind of outline because for some people, the outline is that kind of first draft that discovery process. Whereas, you know, even if I'm planning, I'm kinda, I guess I'm kind of doing a first draft. It's just a very, yeah, it's a very short, short version of it, because these ideas they have to come from, from me, in some sense. So it is an outline. You know, it is both a draft and an outline in a way.

Stephanie Parent 14:26

Yeah, I do a lot of like thinking if I'm actively writing something like I do a lot of thinking while I'm walking, so a lot of it kind of that time.

Michael David Wilson 14:35

Yeah, yeah. If I am stuck, I get out the apartment. I get into nature and I just walk I just think and usually it works. If I stay out the house long enough, then an idea for a solution will come to me. Yeah, but it's frustrating because there's almost a pet or adopts because you don't, you don't want to force the idea or it, it's kind of like when you can't sleep, you don't want to think about trying to sleep, you just have to kind of lay there and, and wait for it to happen. But if you obsess over the fact that you can't sleep, then you become even more wide awake. And it's the same with these ideas. It's like get into nature, walk around, don't try and force your brain to think of the solution. The solution will come to you. And often it does. Yep, exactly. But before we get into the writing deeper, I want to know about your first experiences with stories. So I mean, was this oral storytelling? Was this reading? Was it films was it being left to your kind of imagination? So what were you reading? And what were your first experiences with story?

Stephanie Parent 16:04

Yeah, I just always remember being a huge reader from early childhood. Like, I guess as soon as I learned how to read, certainly elementary school. I came of age before the internet was big thing. So you know, there. Luckily, books were still a big thing. Back then, and I just like I was, I was almost an only child. Like my sister wasn't born until much later, an introvert and had like a lot of emotions. I didn't really know how to share with other people or didn't feel like other people understood. So I really gravitated to books like feeling like my emotions were reflected there. And I was really into like, anything kind of fantasy, dark fantasy, like anything that just wasn't reality. So I like to read a lot of the like the original old Grimm, fairy tales, and things like that, and then got into, you know, fantasy novels. And I would read like almost pretty much anything that the children's librarian recommended to me or that was like on the shelf at the library, I would read. So I read all, you know, the Newbery medal winners and stuff like that. Ones, I remember having a huge impact on me is Bridge to Terabithia, if either of you have read that one, because there's like a horrible death in it. And I just, I just remember, like, sobbing when I read that it was like it was real to me. So just like the power of, you know, reading for that. So I was just one of those. I was just like, always known as the reader kid, I would spend a lot of time reading, especially over the summer when we didn't have school, but just all the time. So yeah, that was that was basically me, I was just always a big reader. And it just kept up. Once I got to high school, I didn't have quite as much time to read what I wanted to, you know, I did the AP English, so I had to read a lot of those books. And they were good, but like, didn't necessarily connect to all of them the same way that I did to more modern books. I do like, like, the older books that I do connect with, like, or the Gothic ones, which then, you know, we'll talk about maybe more when we get to the briars, so like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and things of that nature, Rebecca, but first, whatever reason we never read any of those classes. I do read them on my own. I don't know why we did read Dracula. That was like the one Gothic that I think we read. And watch the movie, which I love. I love the movie with Winona Ryder because it's just so Gothic. But yeah, and Jane Austen, I like Jean OS, but a lot of books I didn't connect with as much but still, you know, just really into reading and just always tried to keep reading books that I wanted to read as often as they could. So yeah, that was my first experience with stories. I think books and also fairy tales. I really was obsessed with fairy tales from a young age.

Michael David Wilson 18:56

And at that time, what was the home dynamic like for you? And I mean, what were family were friends instrumental in encouraging your reading?

Stephanie Parent 19:08

Um, yeah, I mean, my mom was definitely very encouraged my mom and my dad my dad was like kind of known as being the smart or that the intellectual one in our family kind of like he was he had, you know, always been the head boy at his school and they've given him books for being the head boy and like, we still had them so I remember reading some of them like one of them was the complete Sherlock Holmes. So I remember reading them all from his book, and it had like his name in it. So So yeah, but I think it was more that my parents like my parents sent me to Montessori School. I don't know if you are familiar with Montessori, but it's kind of like a more alternative. The idea being that that kid can choose what they want to work on and just encouraging independent thinking. So I think that the reading was the thing that I was drawn to. So my parents just were okay with that, you know, so they just encouraged it because I liked it. My mom did try to read a lot of the books that I read like not with me, but she would just read them separately so that she would know what we were talking about and what I was talking about. And then we did we even went on family vacations like when I got into the really into the and of Green Gables books. So we went to Prince Edward Island, where those books are set, and stuff like that. So yeah, definitely encouragement from family. And like I said, I was most I was like, almost an only child for a while. And when my sister was born, she did like to read, but she was not never as big a reader as I was so. So it was, it was always like my thing, or the reading.

Michael David Wilson 20:41

Yeah, I wasn't really familiar with Montessori school. But the concept sounds fascinating. And I kind of wish I'd had that, like, I love the idea that you get to make more kinds of creative choices, and you can self direct your learning.

Stephanie Parent 21:03

Yes, that's exactly what it is. I wish that that most schools for at least for like the younger students were like that. Yeah, cuz they're like, like a large portions of the day. It's just basically like, free time almost, you get to pick what you do. And then once you get older, they give you a list of tasks you have to do for the week, you know, and but you were picking when you do them. And then of course, there are still, you know, group classes that go to but I didn't go to like a Montessori middle school or high school. I don't know if they even had one in Baltimore. But if they do have them, I think like, by that time, they have to kind of make them more like a normal school. Not because it's better, but because unfortunately, part of school is teaching kids how to exist in society, which is, you know, somewhat conformist. And if you don't learn any of that you're gonna have a hard time keeping down a normal job and I did have a hard time with that anyway. It would have been harder. But yeah, definitely for younger kids, the creativity and self directed aspects of the Montessori is great. And a lot of like experiential learning to like there's lot of hands on activities and stuff.

Bob Pastorella 22:12

I'm glad you cleared that up. Because I originally thought you said monastery school. No, that's a totally different concept.

Stephanie Parent 22:22

Completely not religious.

Michael David Wilson 22:28

You can lost my train of thought there for a second. Interjection but I mean, it did that make it quite a difficult transition, then when you went from such a free learning environment to kind of regimented system was that yeah,

Stephanie Parent 22:51

the transition that was harder was when I went to middle school because like, I went to like a regular private Middle School. And that was a little difficult. I mean, it was still it was, it was somewhat alternative there too. But like, I remember when I started, I got made fun of a lot through saying that I liked reading, you know, and that I read a lot. And also got made fun of for like my clothes because I was into fashion and wearing somewhat unusual clothes and stuff like that. So I never really fit in at that school. And that was another part of the reason that I decided to go to the performing arts high school because I fit in much better that there because that was also somewhat more alternative. So yeah, and then I also had a hard time when I went to college because my college was more. I ended up going to college just because I got a scholarship there. It wasn't like my first choice. It was okay, it was Franklin and Marshall College in Pennsylvania, but they were also it was a bit prep your prep, you're like more upper class more white than compared to my high school. So that was a little that was difficult. You know, it was more conformist environment. I never really felt like I fit in there. So but it was only for a couple of years.

Michael David Wilson 24:01

Yeah, yeah. No, I hate that there seems to be this tendency, particularly in like the UK in the US that, you know, from from an early age. It's like, if you like reading, people will mock you. And it's like, if it's like this, you'd be encouraged and like, I mean, living in Japan at the moment, and certainly, when I was important you go to like, you just didn't see things like that. It's like, oh, you're a reader. Or what the hell is going on here? Why is that? Why is that something that we're making fun of? Or it's like, Oh, you like fashion? You know how to put an outfit together. I just walk up to my wardrobe and pick out anything. Why don't we make in front of this? Why don't we? Probably they do the same. We've got cooking as well, because it seems like we're just poking fun at basic life skills and things that more people not only should be interested in, but they just bring pleasure to your life, you know, so? Yeah,

Stephanie Parent 25:15

I think middle school especially is the time when everybody's just gets making fun of people for everything, you know. social order, I guess.

Michael David Wilson 25:26

Yeah. Yeah, unfortunately. So. I mean, you said before, then, I mean it. So in terms of the writing, when did you start creating your own stories,

Stephanie Parent 25:43

I mean, I always want. So here's where the perfectionist thing comes in. Like, I always want to kind of wanted to be a writer. But I remember doing this probably from his earliest, like, maybe fourth or fifth grade, I would, you know, buy a really beautiful notebook. And I would write like, one really good sentence that I thought was a really good opening sentence to a story. And then I would write like a second sentence, and it would not be quite as good. And then I couldn't even think of the third sentence. And then I would just, like, put the notebook in a corner and never, ever, very young age. To me, that's the first times that I really, you know, wrote finish things like I remember writing some poems, and I guess stories, too, in middle school, like I remember, in middle school was the first time I really did dance, like I was in the dance group there. And like, I actually wrote a poem that they used with the dance like they, they set it with the dance, I'm sure it was really cheesy, but at the time, I thought it was so cool. And then in high school, like, you know, occasionally, and in English class, we would have creative writing assignments. And I took some summer writing classes, too, but I was never really able to motivate myself to write a lot when it wasn't an assignment. Unfortunately, I wish I had been but yeah, I think it was partly the perfectionist thing. And partly just like writing is hard. For me, it's a lot of hard work. So I wasn't really able to motivate myself too much. After college, I did write a couple stories that like, got published. And so that was motivating. And I went to grad school and had to write some things for that. wrote some, like early novels, young adult novels and stuff like that was I was kind of an off and on thing, like, I wouldn't be motivated for a while, and then life would kind of get get in the way. And I wouldn't be or I would just feel like what I created wasn't that good or didn't get the reception I want. And so I was stopped for a while. I've never been one of those people who like just wrote all the time every day, you know, for their whole life. And I'm really jealous of people like that. I wish I was like that. But I feel like personally, if I, the times that I'm most driven to write, or if I'm sad about something like writing tends to come out of negative emotions for me, and especially if I feel like I can't describe it in a way that the people in my life, understand and empathize, like, so I'm trying to describe it in a way that someone will understand that someone will like connect to. So I think that's where the desire to write comes out of for me. So I was definitely feeling that pretty strongly. And the couple years before the pandemic, and then during a pandemic. So that was the time that I wrote the Briars and also wrote a bunch of other things. So yeah, but it's always hard. I mean, it's still hard. Like I said, I'm like having a hard time starting something new. I think starting something new is the hardest part. Because like, once you're far enough in you like, well, you know, I wrote 40,000 words, I gotta finish it now. Because otherwise I'll be a waste. But like that first 10,000 words or so it's always like the wanting to stop and start something better. You know what I mean? So,

Michael David Wilson 28:47

oh, yeah. And then there's even projects on my hard drive that kind of incomplete and that they're out 40,000 words.

Stephanie Parent 29:01

I have one and I keep thinking I'm just gonna delete it. But like my book that kind of reignited my desire to write. It wasn't a horror, it was more of like a noir mystery. And I think it's at 37,000 words. And then a couple of words of like, a couple 1000 words of notes to, but I had to abandon it. Because at the time, I was really hoping I could like actually make some money from writing and like, publish stuff. And I just realized it was basically on publishable so I was kind of like, okay, UK, you can't You gotta let this one go. But if I ever finished it, I think it would be like extremely long. So it wasn't even a third of the way through it. But if I ever go back to that idea, now, I think I think I will like not let myself look at what I wrote because I wrote it and I think 2018 to 19. So I'm sure that if I just forced myself to not even look at it and just started over now with what I've learned about writing it would be much better. So

Michael David Wilson 29:55

yeah, yeah, this last year. My regular so called writing routine has gone absolutely out of the window. And I mean, it all kind of happened to when I started querying agents because I knew that you know that they're going to ask me, what else are you working on? So then I came up with the elevator pitch for another three novels. I'm quite good at coming up with elevator pitch one sentence, but, you know, I can't kind of like, there's a British comedy, Alan Partridge, and he's pitching ideas. And yeah, he'll just come up with these sentences. And they're like, Oh, what, what's that all about? He's like, Oh, let's just the sentence at the moment I got, I can't do that. I've got actually written some more so so then I created this bizarre situation where I've got three novels that are about the first 50,000 words, and it's like, Why the hell did I do that? You don't 50,000 just finished the bloody thing. Apparently,

Stephanie Parent 31:17

it's really hard. If I have to let something go for like long enough, then I it's really hard to come back to it, you know?

Michael David Wilson 31:25

Yeah. Yeah, the the only good thing about that is like, if you leave in that amount of time, then when you come back to it, you can be that much more critical, which is I'm saying that it is good. And it is bad. Because if you're too critical, and it's like, right, this is just absolutely gone. But I do think, I guess like I've got my editor mode and my writer mode. So if I'm coming back to a project after a long time, my first read through as an editor, so then I might have enough distance from the story that I can see bits that weren't working and know how to fix them. Yeah. The advantage that the disadvantages I might be so out of that mode and that mindset, it's now impossible to write the rest.

Stephanie Parent 32:18

Yeah, habits me. Yeah, yeah.

Michael David Wilson 32:20

I am not recommending the old first 50k method. That is a terrible idea. Nobody do that.

Bob Pastorella 32:31

I have a 68,000. Word orphan. 68,000 words. And I was about a third from being done. But I can't I can't use it. It deals with people that I know in a fictional setting. And I have permission from one person and the other person was absolutely not. And I'm like, It's they'll never know about you. And he's like, I don't care. You ain't writing about it. Sounds like a, it's a friend. And I said, Okay,

Stephanie Parent 33:08

you could just be like, well, it's happening anyway.

Bob Pastorella 33:11

I've known him too long. I mean, even if he pisses me off, we'd still be friends. You know, so I mean, it's just it's one of those situations. Now, I'm pulling things out of that story. Yeah, leaving the personal bit out. I gotta admit that it did get a little personal. Because we, you know, we had a good conversation about it. And he was like, No, no way. So Oh, well.

Stephanie Parent 33:38

Yeah, that's one of the things about writing is like, just how much like, it feels like and I know, you would say it's never wasted, because you learned something from it. But how much kind of like wasted work or how much work ends up on the cutting room floor for one reason or another? Throughout trying to make it as a writer, this kind of happens.

Bob Pastorella 33:59

Yeah, we cut out, cut out quite a bit. I always try to find stuff that I can tweak and keep. Yeah, that, to me that that's, you know, the part of writing or rewriting that I like the most is like, if I cut this, then I'm gonna rework some of the things. Maybe I can tweak it and keep it. Yeah. And so that's what I like to do is like, okay, how can I twist this, to make it to where the person especially if I'm working with the editors, like, hey, you need to cut this out or figure out what you're going to do with it. And then I sit back and like, oh, that's brilliant. And it's like, yes, yeah.

Michael David Wilson 34:36

Yeah, I'm currently reading Haruki Murakami's on novel writing book, released last year, and I mean, he like no one's writing a novel to like kind of creating models and like you're just kind of tinkering with little bits, here and there. Though you're spending so many hours of the day, just just reading and go, and you might have changed one sentence in your work. So this is not for people who want kind of quick results. This is, I mean, we're obsessive about it. And goodness, you can't go into writing, as we've said before, for for making money, if you want to make money, then go into another profession, because it will have a much quicker kind of return on investment. You might make some money from it, but it's not a good use of time if you're looking purely at time taken and money made. But yeah, we we do it in spite of it, we spend months editing a project rereading it obsessively, just to change these little bits here and there. And, you know, we might have spent months doing it. And then would anyone have noticed if we hadn't changed that thing?

Stephanie Parent 36:05


Michael David Wilson 36:08

It's an interesting pursuit, but what we are all drawn to it. And I mean, speaking of being drawn, you said your relationship with writing is an on off one. Do you feel that that is still the case? Or has the recent success that you've had with the briars? And before that your poetry collection? With the creative nonfiction book that's coming out next year? Do you feel that you're now on and that you've, you've somehow kind of cracked that is permanently set to Oh, no, do you think it will always be this on off relationship?

Stephanie Parent 36:53

I think it's always gonna be a bit of the on off for me, I think, ideally, if I like was independently wealthy, my writing process would be that like, when I got really inspired to write something, I would just kind of like, go to a retreat and write in like a month, and then maybe not write anything for six months, and then look back at it and edit it like that would be my ideal. Like, I'm not somebody who needs to write every day, if I'm not inspired. And like when I try to write, and I'm not inspired, honestly, a lot of times, it's not that good. Because I can do that, like and during the pandemic, I was really writing all the time. Part of that was just, you know, everybody was online, everybody was on Twitter, talking about writing all the time, there were a lot of calls, and there was really not that much else to do. So I, you know, tried to write a lot of stories like specifically for anthology calls and things like that. And honestly, some of them just weren't that good, because I think that's just not how my brain works. Like, I need to be really inspired to tell a story that like I want to tell that came from summertime year, it's just, it's just not going to be as good and might be okay, but it's not going to be as good. So yeah, ideally, I think I would just like write in these kind of bursts. Because also what happens when I'm writing something longer, like the Breyers it's really, starting is really hard for me, as we already discussed. So like the first 30,000 words, or so it's like such a slog, it's such a slog, every day to get into it, it just feels stiff, feels like it's not going anywhere. And then finally, kind of get to a point where it just starts to make sense in your mind, and you feel like you know, the characters and it just starts to come to you and it gets so much easier. So like the second half of the book, so much easier to write, even parts of it felt like automatic writing, like I wasn't even deciding what to write. But I have to kind of slog through that part, before I can get to that, you know, so that's why I say like, it'd be great if I could go on a retreat or something and just like, remove myself from you know, everyday life and work obligations and just push myself through that part and then hopefully get to the part where it flows. But practically speaking, that's not really an option for me right now. Because I need to make a living you know, so um, so honestly, I'm I am kind of in an off an off moment, I think. Because like between making a living and then doing the promotion for the Briars that's really taken on my energy, like I haven't really had time to write. Unfortunately, I do have like another book idea. And it's getting to the point where when I go jogging, like parts, ideas will just come to me. So I'm just trying to write them down so that I'll have them when I'm ready to start. And I'm also going to work on putting together a short story collection and kind of doing what what you said that you do Bob, like trying to make use of things that maybe weren't working in a larger story, but some of that so yeah, so I'm glad that I have the nonfiction coming out next year because it's like I do have something else to look forward to. I also have a poetry book that I finished last November, that I'm still trying to get published and it's the more like nonfiction poetry and then the short stories and then I also have some like little nonfiction pieces. Actually some of them I I've been working on for years. And the reason they're taking me so long is because I want to reference all these different novels and movies and things. It's taking me forever to reread the novels and re watch the movies and like write down all the notes. But I still want to finish those at some point. And they're all related. Like, they're all about, like my experiences with BDSM, or sex work or whatever that influences the prior. So hopefully, when I do finish them, they'll be good for promotion. If it's not like too late, like five years. Future maybe. But yeah, so it's still it's still a bit off and on. I don't know if that will ever change for me. Like, I don't know, if I'm, honestly, I don't think I would be able to just sit down and write every day as if it were a full time job. Like, I think it would just, it just wouldn't be good writing, if I did it that way. So yeah, just kind of waiting for the right moment. To start the next book.

Michael David Wilson 40:52

Yeah. And I think it's completely normal that, you know, even if it was the first time that you can't constantly be writing, and we, when we were recently speaking to Josh Malerman. I mean, we were talking about the idea that most writers, they have a kind of maximum of about three hours of writing and getting them per day, at that point is diminishing returns. And if you read memoirs, or books on the craft, I mean, you look at Stephen King's on writing, when he's talking about his writing routine, the general pattern seems to be that people will get up early, they'll write to about lunchtime. And then the rest of Day of the Day is for them to do whatever non writing things they want to do it, of course, could be promotion and book related things. It might just be that you're going to the gym. If you're Stephen King, you can do what you want, you can zone and what the fuck you want. So

Stephanie Parent 42:04

then you got to do another job, which is draining. So that's where the rub comes in. Like, yeah, all those things.

Michael David Wilson 42:12

Yeah, I get I guess, the liberating thing to find out that you there's about a maximum of three hours, it means like, well, even if you're not a full time, right after you, you can probably, you know, simulate that even with a job now, maybe not three hours, but you can probably try and get 30 minutes or an hour in a day. And that's so start. Yeah. Yeah. But I mean, you said the first kind of third of writing. The Brian was a slog, you said, that's often the case with any story that you're working on? Why is it?

Stephanie Parent 42:59

So I have such a hard time with short stories, because like the first part of getting into it is such a slog. And that's like the whole thing and the short story.

Like, by the time we finally got into it, it's like, well, now it's over. I'm not writing as many short stories anymore, I don't think they're my strength.

Michael David Wilson 43:15

Right, right. Well, for a long time, I found that my so called short stories were pretty long, I took the kind of John Langan School of short stories, which is like, well, a short story is 10,000 words minimum, isn't it? But what keeps you going, you know, when you're having those moments, when you're in the slog, as it were, is it just the fact that you know, that you've found a story before so past experiences telling you this isn't going to indefinitely happen? Or is there something more?

Stephanie Parent 43:51

I mean, I think it would depend on the project with the Breyers. Part of it was that it was the pandemic, so there weren't really like a lot of other options available to me. At the time, you know, there I was kind of in a very isolated living situation. So I just had more time and I think I also kind of fooled myself into thinking it was really going to like that it was like a really unique idea and that people were was going to like sell easily or that people were really going to like it with the combination of like, the horror and the and the BDSM stuff because the sex work BDSM sucks. It had not really been done before. Like that, to my knowledge and it really is like a good twist on a gothic haunted house story, I think. So I think I you know, I think no matter what you're writing, you can have to trick yourself into thinking it's going to be like the best thing ever and that everybody's gonna want to read it because otherwise if you don't believe that, then it's really hard to stay motivated. Whether it ends up to be true or not once you're finished, not a question but like what, you know, you kind of like have to tell yourself whatever you have to tell yourself to get through art. Like I said, like sometimes I'll do Tell myself pretend it's an assignment, pretend you have to turn it in tomorrow. So you have to write X number of words, whether they're good or not. Like sometimes that's the only way to get it done. And then maybe they're not good. But maybe the second half of what you wrote is good. You know, like, yeah, there's a lot of tricking myself that goes on.

Michael David Wilson 45:20

Well, yeah, I certainly don't think that you tricked yourself into believing it was an original story. Because I would say actually, in reality, it is an original story is something that hasn't been told in this way in this mode, even in the setting before. So we are going to get in to you know, what makes this so unique and special imminently. But before we get in, to the Brian's, I mean, I understand prior to this, and kind of the piece of work that you worked on previously was a memoir, on your time working in a commercial BDSM dungeon. Now, you said that, you wrote that and you shopped it around, but unfortunately, you didn't find the audience or the publisher threat. Or I'm wondering, is this now the creative nonfiction kept book my dungeon love affair? Or was the difference?

Stephanie Parent 46:33

Here is like basically the best parts of the memoir like, yeah, just distilling it down to the best little pieces. And I do think that when I was trying to make it as a full length memoir, I was working with an agent and everything and like, I think I was just trying to do too much. And like what I wanted to do and what the agent wanted me to do it, we're not always on the same wavelength, because it was just a lot like I trying to both describe what it's like to work in a dungeon, like for people who have all the practical questions. So there's that aspect of it almost like a tell all like, this is what it's like to work in a dungeon for the curious people. And then I was also you know, I wanted to make it like a beautiful literary thing with references to fairy tales and all that stuff. And then also a story of me and finding myself and it was just like, a lot, like a lot to try to do and memoirs, especially if, unless you're, you know, already famous person like Oprah or somebody, like most of them are not expected to be that long, like probably like 80,000 words, tops. So like, that's just, it was just too much to try to do. And so I think like with some of the short pieces I published, and with the chapbook, like, I got rid of the part that was trying to explain everything about how a dungeon works, like trying to be factually, you know, complete and let people know all the details as if they were going to work there. Like that part had to go like that's, it's not that people don't, not everybody even wants to know all that right? You certainly don't need to know all that to like, get something out of the two, this just kind of distilled it down to some of the like most emotional experiences and more of like artistic writing. So I think it works for for my strengths, which is that more kind of like lyrical, artistic writing? Yeah, I think basically, I was just trying to do too much. And it wasn't like the right time because it was during the pandemic, and people will just work really distracted. And just, it wasn't something that was a cultural interest or seemed important to people, you know, so

Michael David Wilson 48:34

Right. And so are you still working with that agent?

Stephanie Parent 48:39

I am not. No. And it was it was a it was amicable, but it was just like, I'm not really working with traditional publishing goals right now. Like I think, for me, the indie world is a lot better for me. There's just more freedom, like wider range of stories to be accepted and not so much focused on you know, trying to sell to the widest range of readers possible. So yeah,

Michael David Wilson 49:07

do you think it was this experience with the memoir and with the agent that made your mindset shift, pursuing a more indie career for want of a better word

Stephanie Parent 49:20

part of it, but I've had experience i This is not my first go round on the publishing around like I tried to publishing young adult novels before I that agents before. It's a rough business, you have to like really, really want to see a big publishers name on your book. And you really, really, really want it to be in the bookstore. And you have to want that so much that you're like willing to shelve multiple projects and willing to write things that isn't really what you want to write. And just a lot that you have to do and I respect people that do that and there are definitely ways to do it and still keep your voice and, and your integrity and all that and Like a lot of people manage it, but but for me, it just it was too much. You know it just what it's not for me right now maybe in the future but but not right now. So I am reading a lot of indie books better to like a lot of times when I read a debut probably get in trouble for saying this like, but a debut that's traditionally published, I sometimes get the sense that there were too many cooks in the pot, like, you can kind of see where the author had their intentions. And then maybe like some different agents and editors and people on the way and all these like pitch were contests and all these things like all these rounds of editing, sometimes it just seems like the story gets a little mixed up. Like it's like, not really sure what story is being told here. Just feels like, like same thing that happens in movies, you know, where they they have, the studio's saying one thing, and the director saying one thing and screenwriter singing just a lot sometimes. So

Bob Pastorella 51:00

I know what you're talking about, I'm seeing it in books. And it's really kind of hard to articulate it because you don't want to talk bad about an author or anything like that. And you know, a lot of times, still, you can have like a really, really great idea. And you have a great team that works with you. But the execution of that idea wasn't that good. And you have some talented people behind the scenes that will show you the ropes. And you know, they kind of go back to the old Hey, this is you know, the foundations of story that we need to get back on this. And you can see that in the work. What I like to see after a debut like that is I want to check out that author's next book. Yeah, I want to see what they've learned from that. I want to see how they've grown from that.

Stephanie Parent 51:48

In the traditional publishing world, like you do get a lot more freedom after that first book, as long as they keep publishing. Yeah, then you go like a lot more freedom to do what you want to do and keep with your vision. clients

Bob Pastorella 52:03

know what they end with the indie world there's a there's total freedom with with extremely talented people who are going to put together a package that is going to appeal and especially when it comes to indie horror, which is you know, cover and you know, you used to I used to think any horror was only like extreme horror, because like the only people who's gonna publish the most extreme people are indeed people. No, that's not the case at all. We have every sub genre available, plus some new ones, you know, so,

Stephanie Parent 52:34

yeah, I mean, I think that's why I was so drawn to writing harder, like during the pandemic, like not just the priors, but contributing doll that are trying to contribute, like writing stories for all the anthologies and stuff is because it like the indie horror scene is so thriving as compared to like other genres, maybe you don't have quite as good of an indie community. So definitely drew me to want to continue in the horror realm just because that indie community and the books coming out from so many different publishers are all so strong.

Michael David Wilson 53:10

Yeah, yeah, we have so many exciting publishers at the moment. Of course, cemetery gates media, but also tenebrous, press, ghoulish clash books. And I could go on and on and on. But the I mean, I feel as we've kind of alluded to that, it just means that you get a pure revision, you get a more raw story, something unfiltered, it's closer to the writers original intention. And

Stephanie Parent 53:47

that's really like that's, that's important, because heart is like more raw and visceral compared to some other genres.

Michael David Wilson 53:55

Yeah. Yeah. But I love to that, you know, I mean, Eric la rocker. He's got some pretty big publishers now such as Titan books, and they're just going along with this, this vision, but But I, I tend to find that that can happen. But you almost have to start off with an indie press. You then prove yourself and you prove that there's the appetite for what you're doing. And then the TRad publisher will let you have free rein.

Stephanie Parent 54:29

Yes, I think that's right. Like I think if you want to do traditional publishing first, then you kind of have to like kowtow to what they want a little bit like, you know, make it more palatable to the masses in general, like I'm generalizing. But if you go way out there and do something that's very original and very, you know, maybe dark and transgressive in an indie, but it does well enough that it sells big numbers. Then at that point that yeah, the big publisher will like because they've seen the numbers like you know, they can make to profit off it.

Michael David Wilson 55:00

Yeah. Yeah, I mean that that's essentially, you know, in, in raw terms with a big publisher, what it's all about, it's about making the money. So then I mean taking making Safer Choices is that's kind of the bet that that will then result in more money. And it might in terms of kind of mid Lister. But ultimately, I mean, the ones that really break through and become household names, those are the people who really took the chances. But I guess like, you know, it is volatile, it is risky, because if you take those chances, it's either going to do phenomenally well. Or it's just not because people weren't ready for it, or it didn't resonate, and I yeah, I can see why people decide to play it safer. Yeah, it's the same with investing. It's like, are you gonna put your money into this steady option where it's going to grow slowly over time, or are you going to put it into this wild cat hat and you end up with no money or you might become a millionaire? Quite a gap between the two. Yeah. Thank you so much for listening to This Is Horror. Join us again next time for the second and final part of the conversation, when we will be diving deep into Stephanie's gothic novel to Brian's amongst many other topics. Now if you would like to get that and every other episode ahead of the crowd, please become a patron@patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror. You can also submit questions to our interviewees and coming up soon we will be chatting with Keith Rosson and Richard she has ma amongst many others. So head over to patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror. Have a little look at the other extras we offer included in special episode special shows for our patrons and see if it's a good fit for you. Okay, before I wrap up, a quick advert break.

Bob Pastorella 57:30

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Michael David Wilson 58:15

As always, I would like to end the episode with a quote. And this is from George Orwell. When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, I am going to produce a work of art. I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose some fact to which I want to draw attention. And my initial concern is to get a hearing. I'll see you in the next episode for the second and final part with Stephanie parent. But until then, take care yourselves be good to one another. Read horror. Keep on writing and have a great, great day.

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