An accomplished writer and author appearing in several compilations as well as offering her own novels, Amy Grech is working on carrying her career to new levels with more of her work being released showing off her talents. Now, in honor of our Women in Horror Movement, I talk with her about her early interest in writing, the process she uses for writing and several memories of her work.
Me: Hello and thank you for taking the time to do this. First off, when did you get into horror in general?
Amy Grech: Thanks so much for having me! I always loved Halloween, a day when I can transform into any scary monster I choose and college fistfuls of candy. What’s not to love? I was raised Catholic; that had a lot to do with it. The nuns at my Catholic elementary school count scare kids with just one look…Funny, I’m not very religious now.
Horror is an intense emotion that everyone has experienced at one point—we’re all afraid of something: death, rejection, etc. Horror is also extremely cathartic, enabling me to work through my fears without the expense of a therapist! I’d rather get paid to find closure.
Me: Were you into genre films growing up? What films specifically got you into watching horror movies?
AG: Absolutely! Bambi tackles some heavy subject matter, namely abandonment, death, and tragedy. From there, When I turned 12, I convinced my parents to let me start watching horror movies, like The Amityville Horror, The Exorcist, Jaws, Halloween, Hellraiser, The Shining, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Me: Who were some of your favorite writers growing up? Do you try to take influences from their style with your own voice in your work?
AG: Books by some of my favorite writers include: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Fox in Dr. Seuss Fox in Socks, Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish, Dr. Seuss, The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. When I was 12, an aunt introduced me to Stephen King’s books. I started with Pet Sematary and Cujo. I’ve been a Constant Reader ever since!
When I first started writing seriously in high school, I mimicked Stephen King’s style in early, unpublished stories before developing my own distinct voice.
Me: What was the starting point to become a writer? Were you always into writing growing up?
AG: When I was in junior high, my English Teacher, Mrs. Segel introduced the class to Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" as a special Halloween treat; that's when I knew that I loved being scared, it was such a rush, a perverse little thrill! In high school, I decided I wanted to scare unsuspecting folks with my own brand of fearsome fiction. I considered myself a writer from day one, but my friends and family didn’t agree until I sold my first story to 14850 Magazine at the tender age of 19!
Me: What is your writing process? How do you stay focused on writing?
AG: My writing process varies. I always keep a notebook nearby to jot down story ideas. I’ve had several poems published—first drafts were all written longhand. Some days I’m all in—stream-of-consciousness—I’m more of a panster. The only exception being several pages of notes I keep for reference when I’m working on a novella. I don’t edit first drafts—I’ll let the piece—be it a poem, novella, or a short story—set for a week or two before circling back in editor mode—going over it with an eagle eye.
Me: Is there any specific type of genre you prefer writing? Is there any style or format you find easier to get into even without a preference?
AG: The vast majority of my published work is horror. Horror fascinates me For me, writing horror is about telling stories where the characters are at the forefront, experiencing a range of emotions: whether it’s abject dread, or sheer, visceral terror. I want readers to empathize with my characters' triumphs and tribulations, whereas my noir fiction blurs the line between right and wrong. My protagonists are seriously and often tragically flawed. Noir can also shift focus away from detectives and overturn standard crime narratives by turning criminals and murderers into sympathetic protagonists, who become humans with complex motives rather than heinous caricatures. His nuance allows for the exploration of difficult questions about the nature of society and humanity. By concentrating on antiheroes and amoral protagonists, the ethical constructs of crime and justice and right and wrong become questionable in a world where nothing is black and white.
This ambiguity defines noir, and more than any other genre, Noir reflects the dark realities of our own world. This is what attracted me to the genre.
Me: Having contributed to various anthologies and magazine compilations in your career, what tools and skills do you acquire working on those that transferred to future projects?
AG: Being a contributor to numerous anthologies and magazines has helped me grow a thick skin. I’ve learned not to take rejection personally—sometimes an editor has already accepted a similar story. Sometimes publications fold. Editors are people too—I signed with a publisher the terms of the contract were that said publisher—I won’t name names—taking the high road here had one year to the day of signing to publish my crime novella. Well, wouldn’t you know it…the year came and went, but my novella never saw the light of day. At least they were good about reverting my rights.
Me: What is the general process for getting involved in these projects?
AG: The Horror Writers Association shares a plethora of monthly market listings with its members. The Horror Tree is another great market resource.
Me: How did you settle on the plot for your first novel 'The Art of Deception?'
AG: I majored in English, with a minor in Creative Writing. I started writing The Art of Deception as part of my senior year creative writing thesis. I was inspired by the glitz and glamor of New York City and the cutthroat world of Wall Street.
Me: With its noir-like storyline and sense of deception, were those characteristics challenging to integrate together?
AG: Yes, at my creative writing professor’s behest, I crafted detailed backstories for each of the main characters. I learned a lot about them, including how what kind of music they listen to shaped their personalities.
Me: Once it was finally written, what was the process to having it published?
AG: The novel took several years to write. One day I saw an ad in the now-defunct Village Voice for a new publisher, Xlibris; I submitted The Art of Deception in June 2000; it was published that October.
Me: Did moving from full-length novel to short story challenge your writing skills?
AG: Absolutely! In a novel, an author has ample time to dedicate to character backstories and multiple subplots; whereas in a short story, there’s often a hard limit, 2,000 – 4,000 words, the author’s characters must be succinct in their actions to keep readers invested, eager to read to the end.
Me: Your second book, 'Rage and Redemption in Alphabet City,' was a collection of stories set in New York. Was there any special significance to making the characters based from there?
AG: Yes, I’ve lived in NYC for over 25 years. New York City neighborhoods are extremely diverse: from the bohemian, mellow vibe in Alphabet City, to perilous Hell’s Kitchen, to the stately grandeur of the Upper East Side, and Central Park, a pocket of calm in a whirlwind of chaos.
Me: Was there any part of your real self-injected into the characters?
AG: Yes, there’s a bit of my personality in my characters, both the protagonists, as well as the antagonists. How much? Only I know and my lips are sealed—I like to keep my readers guessing.
Me: How do you do to keep your creative energy flowing?
AG: I always listen to music when I write—it helps me delve into the Zone—that magical place where time ceases to exist, and I work feverishly to keep pace with my mythical muse…I also carry a small notebook with me everywhere. Before the pandemic, I would get story ideas or hear snippets of real-world dialogue while on the subway—the constant rumbling of the train is hypnotic…
Me: What else are you working on that you'd like to share with our readers?
AG: I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a crime novella set in Manhattan and my old neighborhood, Park Slope, Brooklyn. Angela Payne, 30, is a brazen young woman living alone in Park Slope, Brooklyn. After being caught in East Gangster Crips crossfire in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where she sustained a gunshot wound to the arm, the subsequent gunshot wound, now a jagged scar, an indelible mark of a survivor, prompts her to apply for an NYC Gun Permit. She purchases a hot pink leopard print Concealed Carry Glock 26 9mm, which she uses against a treacherous thug in the wee hours…
Me: Lastly, being that this is for our Women in Horror Movement, what special message do you have for any women out there looking to join in the industry in any capacity as you are one yourself? Thank you again for your time!
AG: To women looking to publish horror, our legions are growing. Be brazen, believe in yourself, don’t let anyone intimidate you, go where your muse takes you, no matter how dark and disturbing the destination…The horror community is chock-full of good people who support one another and are happy to offer advice.
To follow more of her work, check out her Official Website:
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