David AET from Dark Moon Digest; Last Writes Blog (DMD): I read your story in the very 1st Issue of Dark Moon Digest titled: “Slut,” it is truly frightening and echoes many modern issues we find in stalkers and the like- how did this story come to you?
Erin K. Coughlin: The idea for “Slut” came from a nightmare. I’ve always had very vivid dreams. They’re a great source of inspiration. In this nightmare, I saw a teenage girl in a big dark house. I knew she was being held there against her will by an unseen entity that never left the basement. This thing left her presents and forced her to display them around the house. Her parents were too scared to help her. She was on her own and didn’t know what to do. I woke up never knowing what happened to her. The sense of terror and helplessness in the dream felt uncomfortably real and it lingered all day. I started writing “Slut” to make it go away.
DMD: I really enjoy your writing and the pace you set up, real dread and tension, it all seems so believable, how did you hone in on these difficult emotions and put them to paper?
Erin K. Coughlin: I really identified with my heroine. She’s supposed to be fifteen and fifteen is still fresh in my mind. I gave her a lot of the insecurity and confusion I felt at that age (and still feel occasionally). I purposely didn’t give the admirer a back story or even a specific identity so that he stayed as much a mystery to me as he is to the heroine. As for pace, that comes from practice. The more you write, the more you get to know when to keep it moving and when to stop and look around. Thanks for the compliment by the way.
DMD: I understand you have participated in various writing workshops how valuable have these been to your writing and how do we find out more about them?
Erin K. Coughlin: Workshops are great for a bunch of reasons. One: they force you to write. The hardest part of writing is sitting down and doing it. When you have a workshop approaching and you’ve put money down or blocked off time to attend, it lights a fire in your head and gets you writing; which is always a good thing. Two: It makes you a better editor. You need a thick skin to write and nothing toughens you up like twelve other people saying your story needs work. In workshops, you’ll get many (sometimes contradictory) suggestions about how to improve your writing. You’ll learn how to take advice and when to trust your instinct. Three: workshopping gives you a chance to meet other writers. Writing can get lonely sometimes. After all, it’s just you and your characters. It helps to know people who understand the need to write and the hazards that come with the job. I’ve had conversations with writer friends where we just vent about our characters. These friends can also become readers who will look at your story when it’s done. You can find out about workshops in your area by searching on-line or consulting magazines like Writer’s Digest or Poets and Writers. Also many colleges offer Creative Writing courses.
DMD: Who are some authors you enjoy reading? Who would you say influenced you style and desire to be a writer.
Erin K. Coughlin: My favorite book is J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. It’s achingly beautiful, and it breaks my heart every time I read it. I also love fairy tales. I couldn’t get enough of them as a kid, and I still read them compulsively. I’m partial to the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, but I have favorites from all over the world. Fairy tales are essential for the developing horror writer. You have murder, cannibalism, incest, deals with the Devil, famine, and disembodied feet dancing away into the woods; all the good stuff. I’ve wanted to be a professional writer since I was seven years old and my first stories were fairy tales with the characters’ names changed. I still turn to them whenever I’m blocked. My love of fairy tales eventually led me to Angela Carter who is now one of my favorite authors. Her novel The Magic Toyshop had a big influence on “Slut.” The themes are very similar. Carter had a lot of courage about her subject matter. You can tell she didn’t give a damn about offending people, and I admire that. One of the most influential short stories of my childhood was Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt.” I read it when I was eleven and it changed everything; [I] can’t say why without spoiling it. Also Shirley Jackson; anybody interested in the dark fantastic should read Shirley Jackson. Even if you’re not interested in the dark fantastic, read Shirley Jackson. Especially We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Brilliant.
DMD: Arts go through periods and movements where do you see writing is today?
Erin K. Coughlin: Obviously, technology has made the literary world a strange place. There’s this constant threat that print will soon die out completely and e-books will reign supreme. Maybe I’m naïve, but I hope that never happens. I love the feel and texture of a book in my hands. Reading a file off a slab of metal just isn’t the same. A room without real books strikes me as unbearably cold. I’m not home unless there are books around. The one good thing about this print vs. e-book debate is that it proves people still care about reading. I never bought the cultural assumption that nobody reads anymore. Yes, there are a lot more distractions now, but all the technology in the world can’t replace getting lost in a good story. We need stories to put our lives in perspective, to enrich our culture and to remind us that we are alive. I know a lot of young people who love books and are passionate about creating new stories. I do wish, however, that there wasn’t such snobbery between genres. It upsets me that genre fiction is considered less noteworthy than literary fiction, especially since literary fiction is itself a genre. It makes me furious that we still use the derogatory term “chick lit” to describe books by and about women. We’re so fixated on labeling everything and manufacturing hierarchies, it’s ridiculous.
DMD: Have you had any luck yet getting locked into a library overnight?
Erin K. Coughlin: Unfortunately, no. It’s not for lack of trying, I assure you.
DMD: You are very good with this horror writing stuff, is this where you focus your fiction work or do you try other genres?
Erin K. Coughlin: I write stories of all kinds and will continue to do so, but I love the sadistic glee I get from scaring people, this is probably because I scare so easily. I have an overactive, extremely paranoid imagination. Whenever the phone rings, by the time I say hello, I’ve imagined a dozen horrible scenarios about why the person on the other end is calling me. Writing horror isn’t just fun for me, it’s therapeutic. I get to exorcise my demons and make them to my bidding.
DMD: Are you a cat or a dog person? (It’s ok to love Hamsters too.)
Erin K. Coughlin: I was a cat person for most of my childhood until I realized I’m allergic to them. Then when I was 14, we got a dog and I defected to the other side. Now I am unashamedly a dog person, and every cat I meet treats me like a traitor.
DMD: I did a bit of a web search and well where is the best place for our reader to find out more about what you are up too and where we can find more of your writing?
Erin K. Coughlin: I keep a blog, “The Sandman’s Last Stop” located at www.themaninwhitepaperandothers.blogspot.com, where I review books, movies and other fun things. I post all my writing news there. I’m also on Twitter as coughlinek. http://twitter.com/coughlinek
DMD: What plans do you have for the future of your work?
Erin K. Coughlin: My short story “To Talk of Many Things” will appear in an upcoming issue of Dark Moon Digest. Check back to find out which one. There’s also novel afoot, but I have no idea when it will see the light of day.
DMD: Finally: Thanks you very much for the time Erin it has been a pleasure.
Erin K. Coughlin: Thank you!