Monday, August 1, 2022

Author interview Gerri R Gray/ Book review 'Madame Gray's Vault of Gore'

 AUTHOR INTERVIEW

You’re in for a great horror treat this week, 29 short stories all with gory themes! I’m delighted to welcome Madame Gray herself, the wonderful Gerri R Gray, to Tweetables. I started by asking Gerri to introduce herself.

‘I’m a novelist, short story writer, editor, and lifelong aficionado of horror and dark humor. My debut novel, The Amnesia Girl, was published by HellBound Books in October of 2017. Over the years, my writing has appeared in many different anthologies and literary journals. I’m a member of Ladies of Horror Fiction, and one of my short stories was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I live in upstate New York, and when I’m not busy writing and editing, I can often be found rummaging through antique shops, exploring allegedly haunted locations, or traipsing through old cemeteries with my digital camera.’

What a great intro! Gerri writes in the genres of Horror, Dark Humor, Bizarro and Poetry and was first published in 1976. She has eight books with HellBound Publishing, and over two-dozen books with other publishers under a different pseudonym. The book we’re discussing is Madame Gray’s Vault of Gore, the second volume in HellBound Books’ Madame Gray series, and a third volume is currently in the works. So what inspired her to write this book?

‘I had so much fun compiling and editing the first Madame Gray anthology (Madame Gray's Creep Show) that I thought, why not put together another one, but with more gore? My publisher at HellBound Books thought it was a terrific idea and gave me the green light. And that’s how Madame Gray’s Vault of Gore came to be.’ 

I’ve not had an editor on the blog before so, being naturally inquisitive, I asked her to explain the process:

‘After I'm contracted to compile and edit an anthology, a call for submissions is put out. I read through each story that's submitted, and the ones that I accept are put into a special folder to be edited at a later time. I then send a letter of acceptance to the contributors whose work I've chosen for publication, along with a contract for them to sign and return to me. After I edit their stories, I send a copy of the edits to each contributor for their approval before adding their work to what I call "the master copy." After the "finishing touches" (such as an introduction, foreword, table of contents page) have been added and everything looks good, the manuscript is then delivered to the publisher, who takes the ball from there.’

Gosh, she’s so organised! But it seems like a lot of work to me and the idea of controlling all of those stories, editing them, deciding where they’re going to sit in the book, yikes - it sounds a nightmare to me, but what does Gerri think?

‘It's not as difficult as it might appear. My favorite part of compiling a multi-author anthology is reading all the stories that are sent in. I also enjoy being able to give a voice to aspiring writers as well as established authors. However, editing and proofreading tend to be tedious and are my least favorite part of the process. But the end result is always worth the many hours of hard work and eye strain. As for the order, I always pick the three stories that I feel are the strongest ones (not always an easy task), and place one at the beginning of the book, one in the middle, and one at the end. This isn't to say that the other stories are of a lesser quality. They all have merit and something  to offer the reader, otherwise they wouldn't be in the collection. I like to arrange the stories in a way that they best compliment each other, as each one has its own unique tone, style and aesthetic. This is where gut feeling comes into play. And if an author has more than one story, I try to space them evenly apart throughout the book.’

How lovely that she’s able to give a voice to new writers, that must be so rewarding! My next question is of a more personal nature – is that her on the front cover?

‘Yes, that's me (on one of my good days). But seriously, I'd rather have a publisher butcher my picture than my writing!’

I love that answer (and I wish I looked that good!) but horror is such a specific genre, so what is it that attracts her to writing it?

‘Creating strange worlds filled with strange characters is a sensual and gratifying experience for me. As a horror writer, I’m privileged to be able to share with the world the weirdest and most disturbing things my imagination can produce, and still remain respectable. No other profession that I know of can provide such an opportunity!’ 

That does sound like a lot of fun! How does she find names for her characters?

‘Sometimes a name will just pop into my head and be perfect for a particular character; other times it'll be necessary to hunt around until I come across a name that jumps out at me. Websites that offer extensive lists of baby names and their meanings are great resources. There have been times that I've changed the name of a character more than once while writing a story, or sometimes even after completing it!’

And what does she enjoy the most and least about writing?

‘Overcoming writer’s block and staying focused in a world full of distractions can be hard. Also, I tend to obsess over every sentence as I put thoughts to paper, rewriting them numerous times until I get the words to sound just right. On occasion I can spend an hour completing a single paragraph. Other times, the words just pour out like a spigot on full blast! As far as the business end of writing is concerned, I've always found marketing my work to be far more difficult than creating it.’  

Oh my, what pressure she puts herself under, it sounds so stressful! She’s the first author to mention writer’s block so I wondered if she had any ways of combating it that she’d like to share?

‘I'm no stranger to writer's block, having experienced my fair share of dry spells throughout my writing career. Overcoming them can be a real challenge at times, especially when your daily life is filled with thousands of distractions competing for your attention. I've found that sitting down with a good book and a cup of tea, or reading the works of my favorite poets, often help to get my creative juices flowing. But when those fail to do the trick and inspiration is proving to be elusive, I simply put down my pen and walk away from the story or poem that's been giving me a hard time. When my muse decides that the time is right (it might take days or even weeks), the gears start turning again and the ideas and words begin flowing. Creativity is something that cannot be forced; it ebbs and flows as it pleases. Sometimes you need to just let it happen.’

Wow, I really appreciate her honesty. So to one of my favourtie questions to authors, if Gerri could go back in time, what would she advise her younger writing self?

‘To my 1970s writing self: "Don't wait 40 years to re-write that rejected novel and send it out!" To my 1990s writing self: "Ditch that typewriter and get yourself a computer. It makes writing and researching so much easier!"’

Oh, how true, on both counts! I asked if she reads reviews of her work and how she deals with them?

‘I’m always interested in what my readers have to say. Their opinions, good or bad, matter to me. I appreciate constructive criticism that helps me hone my writing skills. Bad reviews are something that comes with the territory. I recently had a reviewer refer to one of my books as "the product of a deranged mind." It actually made me laugh.’

Thanks goodness she can laugh at them! So what’s her favourite novel?

‘To be honest, I seldom read novels, and don't really have a favorite. My reading interests gravitate more towards short horror stories and non-fiction, particularly biographies, true crime, and anything that’s offbeat.’ 

I wanted to know, if she could say something directly to you, her potential reader, what would she say?

‘I value each and every one of my readers, and I’d like to thank them all for supporting my work. A reader is what gives a book its life. Without readers, a book is nothing more than paper and ink. Just knowing that my thoughts and words have touched someone in some way, makes it all worthwhile for me and inspires me to pick up my pen and continue writing.’

To finish up, I asked Gerri for a tweetable synopsis of her book (click here):

‘An absolute must-read for all who enjoy their horror with gallons of blood, lashings of guts, and dollops of severed body parts! Brutally crafted to chill the soul and turn the stomach.’

And I also asked for a tweetable-sized favourite extract from the book too (tweet here):

‘I hope you're not the squeamish type, for you’ll discover, as you venture deeper into the cobwebbed depths of my vault, that no story is too bloody, too freaky, or too taboo for this anthology.’

 

BOOK REVIEW

I used to love reading horror when I was younger but I’d stopped, I’m not sure why, so I was looking forward to dipping my toe back into the genre again! The title is apt, it’s definitely gory at times and I tip my hat to the creativity of some of the authors - they really do inhabit an amazingly creative space!

The compilation is highly entertaining with each story being unique. They vary in length, a few being under ten pages, which is great if your eyes are getting heavy and you just want to read another one before sleeping (although being a bedtime reader did lead to some rather odd dreams!). The subject matter featured an array of creative murders with blood and gore oozing out in all directions – it was rather fun! I particularly enjoyed the suspenseful stories where I could play the ‘what’s going to happen next’ game.

As the stories are so diverse I’ll focus on Gerri’s, so that you get a flavour of what’s in store. ‘A matter of taste’ is just under 20 pages long and I was hooked from the start:

‘And in local news, more human remains have been found in a Port Devlin sewage treatment plant for the third time in less than a week.’

Who wouldn’t want to know more with that cracker of an opening line?

Gerri has a great way of introducing her characters too – you know exactly what sort of woman our protagonist Roberta is:

‘Being married to a retired hepatologist with a fat Louis Vuitton wallet, she could have easily afforded to pay the men from the moving company to unpack all of her boxes, but she preferred doing the job herself rather than trust her treasures in the grimy, careless hands of modern day Neanderthals.’

Her description of their new neighbours is equally succinct and she had me squirming as Roberta and her husband spend an interesting evening with them. I’m not going to spoil the story by revealing anymore (short stories make it tricky not to give away the twists), but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed where Gerri took me and she had me laughing too.

The stories are all well written and I think everyone will have their own favourites. It’s an easy read and a great compilation – Gerri has done a great job of including a brilliant range of horrific themes.

I recommend this to anyone who enjoys gory horror stories, although it’s not really suitable for youngsters. It’s great fun as long as you have the stomach for it! 

Find out more by visiting the author at:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/gerri_r_gray

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GerriRGray

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gerrigray13

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gerrirgray

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17311761.Gerri_R_Gray

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2 comments:

  1. I'm not usually a horror fan but I like the idea of short stories. Will give it a try.

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    1. Good for you Penny! I really enjoyed them but they are gory at times. Good luck and let us know how you get on!

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