Interview Transcripts

Michael Arnzen: Award Winning Horror Writer and Poet 5/13/04



Legend:
Questions from the Audience are presented in red.
Answers by the Speaker are in black.
The Moderator's comments are in blue.

Mary Rosenblum

Hello, all, and welcome to our Professional Connection live chat interview...

 

Tonight, we will be visiting with Michael Arnzen, a poet and horror writer.

 

Michael Arnzen's latest books include 100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories www.rawdogscreaming.com

 

Michael Arnzen's latest books include 100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories www.rawdogscreaming.com  and Gorelets: Unpleasant Poems www.fairwoodpress.com .         Gorelets is currently a contender for the Bram Stoker Award in poetry.  A tenth anniversary edition of his Stoker Award-winning novel, Grave Markings www.deliriumbooks.com/essentials.htm , was recently published in
 hardcover by Delirium Books. Michael teaches in the Master's degree program in Writing Popular Fiction at
Seton Hill University, just outside of Pittsburgh, PA. If you'd like a taste of his work, visit his website, www.gorelets.com  It's a cool website!

 

Michael, welcome! I'm so glad you could make it!

Michael Arnzen

Hi everyone! Thanks for having me.

Mary Rosenblum

I am intrigued with your choice of writing interests. Horror and poetry? They seem to be strange bedfellows!

Michael Arnzen

Oh yes. It's very strange stuff.

 

But then again, think about Poe and all those early poets.

 

Fear and death are right up there with love when it comes to poetic topics, I think.

Mary Rosenblum

That's absolutely true. Perhaps it's our perception of horror that has changed? What do you think?

Michael Arnzen

Oh definitely. Great point, Mary...

 

Most people think MOVIES when they think of horror. Then come NOVELS. Poetry is the last thing on their mind,

 

probably one step below the Simpson’s Halloween Special.

 

I like to write it, though, because it allows me to explore the dark side in non-linear, non-narrative ways.

Mary Rosenblum

That's true. Fewer constraints. I have to say that I suspect Hollywood's presentation of 'horror' as special effects blood and gore has had its effect.

Michael Arnzen

Yes. And there's not anything wrong with that, necessarily. But if you've got an open mind, you might dig poetry, too.

 

Fewer constraints...and it also allows for the unexpected to creep in in a way that fiction often doesn't allow.

 

With stories, you can often guess where things are going. With poetry, it's almost always a new experiment

 

except with rhyme, and lyrical forms which have a predictability all their own.

Mary Rosenblum

Now that is a good point. I am certainly one who loses interest in a book quickly when it becomes obvious to me where that author is taking us...

 

and you have the added benefit of rhythm and meter. I am one who could quote nearly all of Raven by heart, and the

 

rhythm of that poetry was part of the whole for me.

Michael Arnzen

You can quote "The Raven" by heart! I'm impressed.

 

I'm more of a free verse writer, I think. But I think writing poetry of any form really can help

 

fiction writers with their prose. There's a poetry to prose, after all.

 

Poe was good at that... the end of the Tell Tale Heart was VERY rhythmical!

Mary Rosenblum

Oh yes. And I can't do it anymore. I think it's genetic. Lo and behold my older son quoted about the first half to me the other night...he loves it. :-)

Michael Arnzen

I can't do it nevermore, either ;-)

Mary Rosenblum

LOL! I asked for that one!

coway

Hi, thanks for coming to be with us. What type poetry? Do you rhyme and do the meters and all?

Michael Arnzen

Thanks for asking me about meter, Coway.

 

I usually write free verse

 

but I am very conscious of the beat of the syllables and the sounds of the words.

 

The pitch and tenor of language can make or break a poem

 

and I often let the poem "find its own shape" while I'm crafting and drafting.

 

But I'm in awe of poets that can write rhyming, lyrical, forms and make it work.

 

Hope I answered your question. I think horror works best when the writing is free verse. It’s more slippery that way.

Mary Rosenblum

Interesting. I use language a lot in prose...to give a scene a certain texture. Diluted version of what you do, perhaps?

Michael Arnzen

I'd assume it's definitely the same. When we're in that weird space, creating ideas,

 

building a world in the reader's mind,

 

it's also an echo chamber of sound that establish a general atmosphere or vibe that has to "match" the ideas that we're writing about.

Mary Rosenblum

Very good point.

paja

I've just read your short works at Raw Dog Screaming. Which came first for you, the physical thing, moon/cadaver, or the point you wished to make?

Michael Arnzen

Thanks for asking about my short-shorts, Paja.

 

I think you're referring to the sample stories from 100 Jolts -- "Moustachio Moon" and "A Donation" at rawdogscreaming.com

 

In general, I start with a wacky idea, then build on it...the point (or theme, I guess) comes to me as I'm drafting.

 

I often end up somewhere I didn't intend to go! So I write to discover it...it's all kind of an exploration for me.

 

But with short-shorts or 'flash fiction' there's a requirement to be tight, so once I find a point, I edit down to make sure that the piece focuses on it.

 

It's a complicated process...hope I answered your question. I start with a vague idea, but I'm open to revising it as I go.

Mary Rosenblum

Do your find that your flash fiction...your short shorts...begin to merge with poetry?

Michael Arnzen

smiles.

 

I don't know if I see a huge difference between the two

 

because flash -- while it's hard -- is also open to experimentation with form the way that poetry is.

 

So they do kind of merge. The differences are there, of course -- flash fiction is still narrative at heart, whereas poetry need not be.

 

Did I avoid -- I mean answer -- your question?

Mary Rosenblum

That's why I'm asking. I write short shorts to focus on language...it feels like a different form of creativity to me.

 

And yes, you answered it. :-)

 

I feel as if I am using a different part of my brain.

Michael Arnzen

Oh yes... the good part!

 

not that there's any bad part. lol

paja

Wacky ideas first is a freeing concept. I like that. Yes, Those were the shorts I was referring to.

Michael Arnzen

You know, Paja, you’re right: "wacky" is freeing. We need to give ourselves permission to be wacky

 

when we're composing -- especially in horror -- we need to just get things out of our system.

 

It’s like producing some sort of clay that we can reshape later.

 

besides, being "wacky" is what readers are looking for, I think... horror and humor share a lot of qualities.

arfelin

What do you mean by pitch and tenor?

Michael Arnzen

That's difficult to say, arfelin. I guess I just meant that words have attitudes attached to the very sounds.

 

Like, some words are "shrill" and have high pitched sounds that suggest panic or terror

 

whereas others are "low" and suggest death and the grotesque. I'm having problems coming up with examples right now.  But I think of words as the soundtrack that is playing in the background behind the meanings they convey.

Mary Rosenblum

Loom or groan to suggest dark and threatening or pain? Things like that?

 

I think of them as 'nuance words' that are shaded with a particular emotion or association.

Michael Arnzen

Yes Mary! Precisely. We associate feelings with the sounds. Writing poetry plays with that. I'm not always sure readers pick up on it, but it's great to write for people who pay attention to the emotional "feeling" in the language.

coway

I write free verse, and have had people tell me that it is not poetry, but I love free verse.

Michael Arnzen

Those people who say free verse isn't poetry think poetry is a prisoner of language.

Mary Rosenblum

I happen to love it too, more than many 'rhymed' poems.

deb1234

Some people say there is and others say there is not a specific form to free verse. What is your opinion?

Michael Arnzen

Anything that leads me to an unexpected idea -- anything that surprises me -- is something I value. So free verse let's me roam and find the unexpected.

 

It’s just another route to the unconscious.

 

I think that the "form" of free verse is determined by the poem itself.

 

And there should be an attention paid to patterns, repetitions, echoes, slant rhyme, etc.

cloux

This may be silly, but what are short shorts? Are they the same as flash fiction? How many words are in flash fiction?

Michael Arnzen

Not silly at all, Cloux...

 

I'm not a stickler for definitions by word count -- editors can be, however -- so always check the guidelines.

 

To me flash fiction is anything under 1500 words. And "Microfiction" is anything under 150. I use the other terms: "short short" "sudden" and so on to mean anything that's shorter than you'd expect!

deb1234

Do you feel there needs to be any repeated phrasing in free verse?

Michael Arnzen

It often works that way, deb1234. It often works that way.

 

I don't know if repeated phrases "need" to be in there.

 

But they do often lend a cadence and a sense of inevitability to the structure.

 

Just like a chant or a ghazal poem or something like that.

jonathanreitan

Mike, congrats on the Stoker award nomination!

Mary Rosenblum

Yes, that is quite an honor!

 

Want to tell the audience about it?

 

Many won't be familiar with it.

Michael Arnzen

Hi Jonathan! Thanks so much you guys! ...

 

The Stoker Award is probably the highest accolade in the horror genre.

 

Mystery has the Edgar award (named after Poe), Sci-Fi has the Hugo and the Nebula Awards...etc.

 

And the Bram Stoker Award is named after the author of Dracula. It is given every year by the HWA -- the Horror Writer's Association.

 

I won it in 1995 for my first novel, Grave Markings

 

and I'm up for it in two categories this year: Poetry (for my collection, Gorelets) and Alternate Forms (for my e-mail newsletter, The Goreletter)...

 

Needless to say, I'm stoked! It's really quite an honor. Nothing means more to me than getting a nod from my colleagues

 

telling me that I'm doing something they like. It really motivates me to keep writing as best as I can.

Mary Rosenblum

I have to say, Michael, that when I am at SF conventions and the topic of horror comes up, your name nearly always shows up. :-) You get a lot of respect as a writer, period.

Michael Arnzen

Blushes

Mary Rosenblum

And now that you're done blushing.. J

 

Want to explain what a ghazal poem is? I should have asked for that

 

right away and to be honest, I must confess that I don't know myself.

Michael Arnzen

Heh... it's actually a form from Pakistani culture,

 

a poem with couplets of loooong lines that all end in the same word. I can't really explain it beyond that. You'd have to see an example.

 

I once led a class discussion on terrorism in the Middle East

 

and asked students to write about their nuclear anxieties in the form, calling them "Atomic Ghazals"  They loved it.

 

But it was kind of creepy all the same.

Mary Rosenblum

Great exercise! I bet you got some interesting examples.

Michael Arnzen

Yes indeed. Nuclear fear is something beyond comprehension, beyond language. Monsters are much safer and more manageable ;-) Except nuclear accident mutants, like the Toxic Avenger or whatever.

Mary Rosenblum

Perhaps that is why horror is so popular? Monsters we CAN deal with?

Michael Arnzen

Yes Mary: you really hit the nail on the head. Horror fiction can provide a sort of "service" for us to help us think about the unthinkable.

jonathanreitan

Who are some of your favorite horror writer poets?

Michael Arnzen

Good question, Jonathan...

 

I try not to get too caught up in playing favorites, but I do have some poets I read time and again if I see their name in a magazine or whatever.

 

So I'd say John Grey, Mark McLaughlin, Charlie Jacob, and ... gawd, I've started down a path I can't finish!

 

One guy whom every would-be poet in sf/fantasy or horror should read is Bruce Boston..

Mary Rosenblum

Now he is a name I know and I do read!

Michael Arnzen

I edited, selected, and wrote the intro for his Stoker-nominated book, Pitchblende.

 

It’s all his darkest stuff. A KNOCKOUT book! He's been writing in the genres for something like thirty years and has won virtually all the poetry awards possible.

 

In fact, if he beats me for the Stoker this year, I'm going to accept the award for him...that should be an ironic moment...but quite an honor, too.

deb1234

What inspires you to write this genre and what gave you your first clue that this was you field?

Michael Arnzen

I like freaking people out, deb1234. I think I picked that proclivity up from my father, who used to scare me all the time.

 

Not with abuse, lol,

 

but by taking me to horror movies I was far too young to attend.

 

I also found myself loving the books I was reading. It all comes down to reading, really. I first started writing it

 

after I had read my umpteenth Stephen King novel and thought, "Hey I can do better than THIS!" And of course

 

I couldn't.

 

But I kept trying to improve and I started reading more and more in the genre

 

and that inspired me.

Mary Rosenblum

I wouldn't say that. I would say that you couldn't sell as many books as he does. :-)

Michael Arnzen

LOL!

paja

What is horror based on? Like inner fears, the desire to scare others...?

Michael Arnzen

I'm really not entirely sure, paja. Scaring people is one major element of it. But I don't think of myself like a carnie,

 

jumping out from the shadows at the haunted house attraction.

 

Instead, I think of my goal as going into the dark places of the mind where others seldom give themselves permission to go.

 

Horror writers go into the caves and report back to the tribes what they find. Something like that. Those "caves" are metaphorical .

 

(I just typed "meataphorical" by accident and spit coffee)...

Mary Rosenblum

LOL

Michael Arnzen

But I think one of the goals of horror is to help people to see...even if it's to see what they don't want to or shouldn't look at.

 

It's enlightening through the dark.

 

Think of the game of "peekaboo"...that's a lot of the pleasure of reading horror or viewing it on screen. The desire to see and not see...the play between the two.

 

Inner fears get caught up in that too.

 

I'm rambling. Follow-up question?

Mary Rosenblum

I was going to say...it can be a journey into our own darkness, too, can't it?

 

That little black pit we pretend isn't there?

Michael Arnzen

Oh yeah. That's when it gets freaky...but also very rewarding. When -- while writing -- the world sort of drops away and we realize we've fallen into that pit.  And it's a very scary but meaningful space.

deb1234

So do night dreams or day dreams ever give you inspiration?

Michael Arnzen

I don't keep a dream journal anymore, deb1234, but I do draw on my nightmares from time to time.

 

I write early in the morning -- while drinking coffee -- and so I often just start with a sentence that captures some snapshot from the dream.

 

Like, I don't know, "The man with the wolf's face snarled." Then I'll run with it and see where it takes me.

 

But that's when I'm not working on a bigger project that's been outlined... when that's the case

 

I'm often dreaming ABOUT the book... it's like the project has taken over not only my waking life, but also my sleep.

 

I once woke up with a chapter already written in my mind and I raced to the computer to try to recapture it

 

and failed, of course,

 

but I did have the plot resolution that I was needing the day before.

 

Once I remember waking up and realizing that I spent the whole night TYPING in my dream! It was like a three-dimensional dream.

 

I was imagining that I was imagining. Weird stuff. I awoke exhausted.

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, I know that state of being well! Including the perfect scene that you can't quite get down fast enough...sigh. I’ve done the typing thing, too, and like you, woke up weary. :-)

gerryd429

Do you believe the goal of all writing is to inspire emotion in the reader?

Michael Arnzen

Getting an emotional response is integral, gerryd429.

 

But I wouldn't call it "the goal" with a capital T.

 

I mean, horror is a feeling...an emotion...and I am trying to get the reader to feel fear or revulsion or terror or just an uncanny sense of dread

 

or hell, even crazy laughter

 

but I like to think that there's an intellectual level to it, too -- that ideas that trigger "wonder" or that raise "issues"

 

are just as valuable. I want my readers to not only get a belly-level reaction, but also a brain-level reaction. A one-two punch, so to speak.

 

That doesn't necessarily knock them down to the mat

 

but which makes them turn right back to the beginning and reread it all over again. That's one thing I'm going for: re-readability.

Mary Rosenblum

So the first read is the roller coaster drop and the second time, they can pay attention to the scenery?

Michael Arnzen

I love the way you put that Mary! And hopefully the roller coaster will catch them off guard with a few extra dips and turns

 

that they were too busy screaming to realize the first time through.

Mary Rosenblum

Exactly! :-)

doodledorry

What do you call emotional-other than the over the top type of stuff?

Michael Arnzen

Tough one doodledorry!

 

Emotion is the word we give to that which we can't really put into words, after all

 

I could list a bunch of synonyms for fear: dread, chill, creeps, frisson, etc.

 

But I'm also just getting a reader to DESIRE. That's the main thing. To want to keep reading. To want to feel something authentic.

 

And to feel like the only place they can get that feeling is in the writing. Not in the movies or at the carnival... in the books.

 

But naturally, horror is a genre that is centered on fear, but there's the whole range of emotion in it: love, hate, cuddliness...the works.

Mary Rosenblum

I think this is the goal of most writers...to involve the reader in a way that visual media or even that carnival cannot.

Michael Arnzen

Yes, Mary. Though agents and sometimes editors and other writers will advise you to write cinematically

 

to be able to resell the book to the movie market. But I think that sort of contaminates things, if that's your goal.

 

I like to play in the field of language and try to write what can only be told in language.

 

That's why I do other genres, like poetry and short-short fiction.

Mary Rosenblum

I also. Of course I have received very little interest

 

from any movie producers. Oh well. :-)

arfelin

Do horror stories and poetry require graphic detail--blood and guts?

Michael Arnzen

Quick follow-up: with good writers, we will ALWAYS complain that the movie isn't as good as the book because of this.

Mary Rosenblum

Yep.

Michael Arnzen

"Require" is a pretty strong word, arfelin, but I do think that readers often expect morbid bodily sorts of stuff to appear in horror.

 

But of course, it can always be suggested, hinted at, or barely mentioned. The very thought of something can be horrifying, without the grizzly detail.

 

But one thing that I think people don't realize is that there's a sort of poetic art to describing gore.

 

A good writer can make you go "Ewww...." but also "Damn (s)he's good!"

Mary Rosenblum

HP Lovecraft and his unseen monsters. :-)

Michael Arnzen

Right.

 

And there are also many subgenres that avoid gore altogether and readers go there because of it,

 

like lots of ghost stories, or some YA horror stories. Though I would never make a hasty generalization and say they're ALL soft.

coway

For instance a couple have two small kids, the house is haunted, events get scarey,,,,emotions run over the top..they decide to leave and move within one day...no blood or guts but still horror?

Michael Arnzen

Yes: the fear of losing the family is at the heart of that one, coway. See -- it's fear that drives the genre, not body parts. Though a dismembered limb now and then can't hurt.

paja

What sub genres?

Michael Arnzen

Well...you know...different monster stories can get their own subgenre (werewolves, vampires, etc.)...

 

And then there's "dark fantasy" and other "types" of stories that are sisters and brothers to the horror genre. It's kind of complicated to categorize.

 

But some writers are known for being "soft" horror writers while others are "extreme". Some don't affiliate either way and you never know what you'll get from 'em.

 

Charles Grant was the king of "quiet horror" -- stories that push you right to the edge and then only with the barest of suggestions tip you so that you jump off and imagine the worst on your own.

 

Then there are the "splatterpunks" who go for the throat and tear the head clean off and shove it in your face.

 

There's a famous Stephen King quote about the hierarchy of horror: First he tries to horrify, and if he can't do that, then he tries to terrify, and if he can't do that, then he goes for the gross-out. .

 

I'm sure I'm misquoting him, but it's a good model, generally. Save the gross stuff for when it's appropriate. Let fear drive the conflict.

Mary Rosenblum

I like that break down. Me, I like the horror best.

Michael Arnzen

You guys are asking some great questions!

jonathanreitan

I think you got the quote right.

speckledorf

Just curious...do you have a favorite Stephen King novel?

Michael Arnzen

Thanks Jonathan! I think I left out a fourth one: "...and if I can't gross-out, then I retire." Heheh.

 

Yes, speckledorf!

 

Two, actually. Well... I like almost all of them, but my favorite is MISERY.

 

It's King at his most literary and experimental, I think

 

and there are some scenes in there that genuinely got to me... like one moment (not in the movie) where Annie Wilkes makes Paul Sheldon drin

 

well... let's just say it's not clean cool water.

 

And my favorite of King's "traditional" works is THE SHINING. True, it also features a writer

 

which is probably how I identify, ultimately

 

but it's genuinely creepy. Everyone talks about a scene where the Jack Nicholson character goes into the bathroom and sees the woman in the tub.

 

I don't know how he did it, but King really spooked me with it too... the language just "works" to generate that frisson that makes you look over your shoulder.

 

It's feelings like that that make me keep reading the genre; I'm always on the hunt for something that will get me. And I try to write books that will "get" others.

 

Not just books -- "texts" of any kind.

sweet_muse

Misery was awesome!! Have you read Insomnia?-- I read it when I was suffering from Insomnia it was like he was describing stuff going on in my mind.

Michael Arnzen

Your handle is ironic when discussing Misery, sweet_muse!

 

I actually haven't read Insomnia yet. I intend to!

gerryd429

Who are the writers that have most influenced you?

Michael Arnzen

That's really tough, gerryd429. Aside from King and Barker, there are lots of horror writers -- classic and contemporary -- who still do influence me.

 

Bentley Little really made an impression on me when I was getting started. This was before he sold his first novel. His short stories just knocked me out.

 

Another guy, Paul Dilsaver, who nobody probably knows, also showed me that anything could be done with fiction. Anything.

 

I'd say my number one "hero" in the horror genre is Robert Bloch. He wrote PSYCHO before Hitchcock adapted it...and he was a big Lovecraftian writer.

 

His blending of humor with witty plotting really opened my eyes.

 

I better stop, now, or else I'll fall into the massive list trap, where I name every writer I've ever read.

 

The point is that I'm very susceptible to influence. I try to be. It keeps me open-minded, and I get ideas from everything ... from the shampoo bottle to the latest bestseller.

Mary Rosenblum

You don't answer this question any more definitively than I do, heheh. I feel SO much better. J

Michael Arnzen

lol

smeagol

What inspired you to start writing horror poetry? Did you write "regular" poetry prior to writing horror poetry?

Michael Arnzen

That question is precious smeagol

 

Arnzen hears everybody groan

Mary Rosenblum

LOL

Michael Arnzen

I think it was college classes, actually. I had a teacher who was very open minded to my dark side and I really got into the openness of poetic forms.

 

But I think it was listening to poetry readings that really made me think: what if horror writers did this? And at conventions, I found that they did.

 

So I guess I sort of found myself a part of a community of folks who would read, write, and talk shop about poetry and that got me started.

 

I used to exchange letters with poets and we'd critique each other. They taught me a lot.

Mary Rosenblum

Michael, smeagol is the fan who asked me to invite you here, originally. Although Patrick Swenson had been singing your praises, too. :-)

Michael Arnzen

Thanks, smeagol! (And Patrick!)

 

Nice to meet you.

jonathanreitan

What kind of music or musical groups do you enjoy listening to while writing?

smeagol

Yes. Smeagol fan. Number 1 Fan :-)

Mary Rosenblum

Had to slip that one in...LOL

Michael Arnzen

lol!

 

Yes, what if Gollum played the Annie Wilkes character in Misery... heh. Oops, did I say that out loud? Too much coffee!

 

Jonathan: I often write in silence anymore. Singers distract me. I absolutely can't listen to the radio.

 

The chatter from DJs infuriates me! I can't write when others are talking, period.

 

But if I play songs that I'm familiar with so much that the lyrics disappear or I can sing along while I write as if I'm humming.

 

then it's mostly hard rock. Not classical rock, per se, but older heavy metal, I guess. Music with a driving beat.

 

But I'm eclectic. I  can't listen to music when I read, so I can't listen when I write, either.

Mary Rosenblum

I wanted to ask some questions about your teaching.

Michael Arnzen

Sure thing, Mary. Shoot.

Mary Rosenblum

You teach at Seton Hill University. Is the course part of the creative writing program?

Michael Arnzen

Yes: we offer a Master of the Arts graduate degree in "Writing Popular Fiction" -- which is a unique degree in this country!

 

You can get your masters for writing a genre novel.

 

I also teach the creative writing classes (and literary criticism and some journalism courses) in their undergraduate program. That's the day job!

 

THIS is why I got my PhD. ... hoping there'd be a job where I can teach what I love. And so far, I love it!

Mary Rosenblum

Do you run into much prejudice from other professors for writing ...gasp...popular fiction?

Michael Arnzen

Well, yes and no. At Seton Hill they're very open minded. But some folks at other colleges (when we meet in conferences and what not) do raise their noses a bit.

 

Usually folks keep their biases to themselves and only snipe behind my back :-)

 

Maybe they're afraid of that "horror" guy. heh.

 

But I've also got clout as a scholar, I think. I'm on an editorial board for a literary journal (Paradoxa) and I publish here and there on film history.

 

I try to practice what I preach, and I think pop culture is getting more and more accepted as legitimate stuff for scholars to study.

Mary Rosenblum

I have to admit that I have routinely discouraged college age students from seeing a creative writing degree...but your program sounds interesting.

 

So what can a university degree do for an aspiring fiction writer?

Michael Arnzen

Yeah, the job prospects are minimal...

Mary Rosenblum

Laughing!

Michael Arnzen

But it worked for me! ...

 

But seriously: teaching is one thing that you can do. But there's more than that.

 

A lot of folks with degrees in writing get into editing and publishing and even become full time writers. They usually

 

don't write their dreams if they go that route (ie., they start writing greeting cards and porn to pay the bills!)

 

But it's an option. But I think the payoff is not in employment, anyway,

 

it's in getting "shortcuts" to learning the ropes, learning what to avoid, learning what to read, or how to do things .

 

And it's in getting a community of other writers who might be your writing buddies and network connections for years to come.

Mary Rosenblum

I agree with you...but I have to throw in my concern here,

 

which is that if your interest does lie in popular fiction, not all university settings are as open to that as Seton. What do you think? Things may have changed.

Michael Arnzen

Things are changing and a lot of scholars respect anyone who can publish a book.

 

But you're very much right: there IS a bias against genre fiction .

 

It’s considered "easy" or "emotional" ... it becomes OUR job to show that it can also be "complex" and "intelligent" as well.

 

Let's say you went to school to become a Chaucer scholar. Doesn't get more "scholarly" than that. .

 

But even then you'd meet with a bias against "medieval fantasy" or some such bologna. There are always biases.

 

Scholars are often, by nature, snobs who expect you defend your intellectual pursuits.

 

But if you can talk about what you're doing in interesting ways and also round yourself out with other interests, you might find more acceptance.

 

But to get back to your point: if you're applying for an MFA program and submit a romance novel, your chances are slim that you'll get in. The trick is to write romance disguised as a literary novel.

Mary Rosenblum

No kidding! :-)  There are a few of those out there, certainly! :-)

coway

When you seriously started sending work out to publishers, did it sell right away?

Michael Arnzen

Not at all. I learned a lot from editors who would kindly write me with feedback and suggestions.

 

This is why I enjoyed working with the small press in the genre... the editor/writer relationship can be like a teacher/student relation.

 

I "worked my way up" in the genre over the years, I think.

 

But don't shoot me when I say that my first novel sold to the first publisher I sent it to, cold!

Mary Rosenblum

That was after you had published short fiction?

Michael Arnzen

Yes. I think having some small publications under my belt in national magazines helped me sell the book, sure.

 

But I was very lucky: I was in the right place at the right time. I didn't really "research" the market or even see if they were open .

 

I just threw the ms in a box and sent it to the publisher I thought had the best book covers. And they called me back in two months! Astoundingly lucky! Genre publishers are often more open to first novelists, so I think that helped, as well...

Mary Rosenblum

No kidding! :-)

brimcbam

How do you find time to continue to write while at SHU?

Michael Arnzen

I try to write early mornings, for at least two hours if i can, every day, before I even think about school or grading or classes.  

Michael Arnzen

I need the ritual, Bri.  But it really is hard to keep things going when the papers are flying in. Can only draw from the language well so many times!

smeagol

Def poetry and Russell Simmons have been a force in changing the landscape of poetry in 2002-2004. Did this make it easier for you to publish "horror" poems? (and btw, would you get in a MFA program if you submitted a horror, SF, or Fantasy novel?)

Michael Arnzen

Good question, Smeagol!

 

I think that editors and publishers are opening their minds toward poetry again... rediscovering "spoken word." So there's more markets or market openness.

 

Did that make it easier? I dunno.. It's only as easy as my latest poem. It has to be good to break into print no matter what.

 

It's hard to say about MFA programs. Research the faculty. If they seem open to genre forms, then try it out!

jonathanreitan

Your novel, Grave Markings, originally published as a Dell Abyss paperback, will see print as a limited edition from Delirium. Can you tell us about the new edition? Is there extra material or other nice incentives?

Mary Rosenblum

And since we're drawing to a close here

 

timewise, I would like you to tell our audience

 

about your work -- Gorelets, 100 Jolts, and where they can be found!

 

Shameless shelf promotion, please!

Michael Arnzen

The tenth anniversary edition of Grave Markings has a new intro and some edited bits and pieces throughout... it's really just the reissue of that book that's important, I think.

 

A whole new generation can be corrupted! :-)

jonathanreitan

Like me!

Michael Arnzen

Hah!

 

My latest stuff is short-short-short! Gorelets are very short poems, a book of 52 poems all of which were written on a Palm Pilot.

 

You can read up on that experiment at my website, http://www.gorelets.com ! One of the cool things about that book

 

is the digital art I made to go with many of the poems. It was a real labor of love... and it's on the Stoker Award ballot right now for best Poetry collection of last year!

Mary Rosenblum

Gorelets link

sweet_muse

Where can we get your work?

Michael Arnzen

100 Jolts is a collection of one hundred flash fiction pieces ... a book I'm really proud of. The reviews are raving so far. And I adore the cover art.

 

sweet_muse, the easiest thing to do is click around on my website to find links to booksellers, or to subscribe to my newsletter, which often gives

Michael Arnzen

direct links (and even coupons from time to time). I always recommend an online bookseller who is carrying all my work

 

And it's also up on amazon.com ...

Mary Rosenblum

bookseller link

Michael Arnzen

Because I don't have a mass market novel out right now, you won't find me on the shelf at Barnes and Noble, save for the occasional anthology. Buy horror anyway, and I'll be happy.

Mary Rosenblum

If you all read the transcript afterward, you will find active links to all his work and the publisher websites that feature them.

 

And to his website!

Michael Arnzen

This has been a great crowd! Thanks for passing up the Frasier finale to visit with me! I just wanted to say that real quickly.

Mary Rosenblum

You have been a great guest! Any one piece of advice for folk here?

Michael Arnzen

"oh baby I hear the grue's a calling, tossed elbows, and severed heads...."

 

Oh, sorry. That was the Frasier theme...in my head.

 

Um...advice...okay...

 

1) write the stuff you wish they had on the bookshelf but isn't there

 

2) read what IS on the bookshelf and learn from it

Mary Rosenblum

AMEN!!!

Michael Arnzen

3) write a little something every day. Not in the mood? Writing makes the mood.

smeagol

I write very dark and edgy (and some horror) poetry, and I think my poems are getting accepted by some small literary presses now because of you. Thank you! Thank you!

Michael Arnzen

4) don't be afraid of making mistakes or looking the fool ... writing is about truth-seeking.

 

5) thanks smeagol! that means a lot to me. I'm very happy for you!!!!

arfelin

Thanks Mary and Michael it's been interesting and fun:-)

jonathanreitan

Thanks for the fun time, Mike...I had a great time and I learned a few things here and there!

smeagol

Mary, ask him to come back some time!!

Mary Rosenblum

Oh, I will. Unless you go hide, Michael!

Michael Arnzen

grins evilly.

Mary Rosenblum

I hope I get to World Fantasy con and can say hi in person,.

 

You really have been a great guest!

 

Thank you SO much for the time and great conversation.

Michael Arnzen

I'd be happy to return. Thank you for the kind invite and the warm welcome and for listening to my wild ideas. And for READING. Keep it up, folks!

Mary Rosenblum

Thanks, Michael! We'll let you go rest your fingers.

 

And I will definitely talk to you about coming back.

 

This was a lot of fun.

Michael Arnzen

Whew...has it been two hours? What a blast... you all made this easy on me. Thank you so much.

Mary Rosenblum

Thank YOU so much!

 

And good night!

Michael Arnzen

bows.

Mary Rosenblum

You were a fine guest!

Michael Arnzen

Cheers all!

 

Good night.

Mary Rosenblum

Good night!

 

Thanks all for coming!

 

I will definitely invite Michael back.

 

He was a wonderful guest.

 

Bye!

 

Thank you smeagol, for suggesting Michael!

 

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