Gwendolyn Kiste is an author, filmmaker, storyteller, and crooner to cats…you’ll get that joke later on. She’s incredibly talented and approachable when it comes to all things fiction. Her stories will grip you from word one, and keep you hooked and wanting more once you turn over the last page. Gwendolyn was kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions for me, so you’ll learn more about the inner workings of what drives her, what it takes to put together an anthology, and what it’s like to get that very first acceptance letter. So please, enjoy the insight this wonderful woman of horror has to say.
Q: It’s no secret that you’re a successful and talented writer. It shows in your
works and collaborations; so what is your favourite style to write? Shorts, novels, novellas, poetry, something I’ve not mentioned? And what would you like to try style wise? Is there a genre or a style you’d like to do in the future?
A: Short fiction is probably my favorite right now. I love the way it allows you to shift worlds so quickly. One day, I’m creating a universe where people are disappearing one by one, and the next, I’m developing a character who’s sprouting wings. I’m impatient and I don’t always have the longest attention span—I bore far too easily—so short fiction always offers me a new challenge.
That being said, by the end of 2016, it’s my goal to have completed my first horror novel. I already have a story plotted out and characters that I’m eager to develop, so we’ll see where that goes.
Q: You do a lot of collaborative work; how do those projects come about, and do you enjoy being a part of an anthology or doing your own thing more? What’s been your most interesting experience while being a part of an anthology?
A: So far, I’ve only put together one anthology as editor. The idea for A Shadow of Autumn originated simply because I love Halloween, and I feel there’s always room for another horror/fantasy anthology focused on the fall season. There were so many great aspects of producing that book, but I think my favorite part was that despite the anthology coming together in only two months, the authors I recruited were all very devoted to the process. Everyone met the deadlines and participated in each aspect of the production, from choosing the artwork that accompanied their stories to promoting on social media and elsewhere. It’s great to see how much writers can support each other. I love working independently, but I probably enjoy collaborating with other writers just as much. You can learn so much from the process.
Q: What can you tell us about your filmmaking? I know that’s sort of vague, but what are some differences writing for print and writing for screen? And what inspires you to make a movie? Where can we see your films?
A: Cinema was one of my first loves, and between books and movies, I’ve always had a full roster of entertainment from which to draw inspiration. For the most part, I’ve moved away from filmmaking (you can see some stills and descriptions of my films at deadlyunderground.com which is mostly a graveyard these days). However, the skills I learned while writing screenplays has been invaluable to my fiction. Crafting a scene in a film requires a completely visual approach to the material, and I think literature is always better if the author can help the reader visualize the setting and the characters. Having a background in film certainly set me up well for that.
Q: Do you remember your first piece of published work, and can you describe the feeling you had when you got word that it would be published? Has that feeling ever been topped? If so, by what?
A: Although I’ve been writing since I was a kid, I haven’t actually been submitting to markets for very long. My first acceptance was only about a year and a half ago, so I do remember it well. I was sitting in a coffee shop and refreshed my Gmail, and there it was—the email from editor Sarah Glenn saying she loved my story, “Bedroom Bureau,” and wanted to include it in the anthology Strangely Funny II. That was incredible, and for hours, I couldn’t stop grinning. Since then, I’ve honed my style and grown a lot as a writer, but that story is still one of my favorite things I’ve ever created.
In 2015, I’ve had a few big acceptances (including one earlier this week that caused me to holler so loud I was hoarse for the rest of the day), but there is something about the first story acceptance that feels really special. For me, that experience can never be duplicated.
Q: You have such a friendly demeanor about you, and you do have a bright welcoming smile, so that makes me think you work with the community, be it locally or within the writing world. What sort of work with the community do you do, or what would you like to do in that sense? Writing workshops, readings, events and promotions?
A: I’m always trying to engage with other writers, especially those who are just starting out. It’s difficult enough being an artist, even once you’re established, but in those early stages, when you’re not sure where to send your work or how to properly format a document or any of the other basics, that can be really challenging. Consequently, I’m always trying my best to promote authors whose work I admire. There’s some great fiction out there right now; you can find some of it in the pro-paying magazines, but there’s plenty of good writing in anthologies and sites from even smaller presses. Although it’s true that we’re all looking at the same magazines and anthologies and literary agents when it comes to submissions, we as writers are still in this together, and the more good work we get out there as a group, the better the genre is.
In terms of working with the community out in the “real” world, I’ve done readings of my fiction, and I’d love to do that again, possibly with a group of writers from the area. At some point, I’d also love to start a literary event with a focus on horror in Pittsburgh, but that’s down the road, if at all. Sometimes, I overestimate my own ability at socializing. I’m usually happiest behind my computer, so sticking with interviews and other social media stuff is probably best for me.
As a side note, in regards to me looking friendly, you should tell that to some of my friends and family. They’ll assure you it’s all a ruse.
Q: You too run a blog, complete with interviews and features, what was your most fascinating interview so far? Any crazy stories or funny moments?
A: All the interviews I’ve done so far have offered me something new to ponder concerning the writing business, so I don’t think I can pick a favorite or most fascinating interview; I’ve loved all of them! However, probably my favorite question to ask established writers is how they deal with hearing ‘no’ over and over again in the publishing industry. The rejection aspect of writing can be the most difficult for many people, myself included, so hearing from authors who have been doing this for years gives me inspiration and helps get me through the lean times. I always hope it might help other writers who read the interviews as well.
Q: So we have fiction writing, we have filmmaking, we have blogger and interviewer – is there any other hidden talents you’re keeping in your back pocket? Any surprise talents that maybe, just maybe not many know about, but you’re willing to reveal here?! It could be anything – touching your tongue to your nose perhaps?
A: I sing way too much. Just last night, I was crooning out a Motown tune to my cat, and she was running away as I followed her through the house. So if you ask me, I’d call that a talent. Ask my cat, however, and she may give you a different story.
As you may have thought, Gwendolyn is all over the internet, with works and websites abound. Feel free to check out her main website Here, where you can read a number of interviews, get to know more about her, and check out some of her works.
As well, she’s offered to share a couple of stories which you can check out Here and Here.
Lastly, you can check out her very own anthology, A Shadow of Autumn, on Amazon, Here.