Interview: Dona Fox interviewed by Roma Gray June 2018
Book Name and Description: Shypoke
What gave you the idea for Shypoke?
As you would find, if you knew, in many of my stories, bits of the past have clung to me and begged for a spot on the page. I actually had an Uncle Frank who rode the rails, dropped by occasionally, and taught me how to cuss when I was a kid. This story is sort of my homage to him, but, of course, these characters took on their own lives and told me their story which came as a huge surprise to me. Maybe I need to look more closely into my family tree.
What got you into writing in this genre?
I write in this genre because I can’t help it. I’m an orphan. I’m afraid of the dark. I know that it’s aswirl with the evil living and the dead. The horrible loneliness of death creeps closer everyday as those around me fall. This is my experience, what I know and where I’ve been. This is the voice in my head.
How long have you been writing?
Or telling stories?
As children we had a television for a brief time but our television didn’t have a picture, we could listen but there was nothing to see so the pictures came from my imagination. But we were always surrounded by books.
And my father was a born entertainer. He told us stories. He read to us before we went to sleep and he even read to my mother when they went to bed. On car trips, on the school bus, and at night after the lights were out, my sister made me tell her stories.
Growing up in Oregon, our parents took us out to pick blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and hazelnuts. On the farm, my older sister did the housework and I did the outdoor chores—bringing the wood for the fire onto the porch and hauling the broken hay bales from the field. My mind spun tales to entertain myself during the repetitive physical labor.
Tell us about your past books and stories?
DARK TALES FROM THE DEN – this was my first collection – on these dark pages there is no distinction between the living and the dead for ghosts do walk beside us and the paranormal is normal here. A touch of Lovecraft in one tale, an alien abduction in another-or was it? Facts blend with fiction so easily in the Dark. Settle in with a Smoky Martini and end up in The Darkest Den. Find within these pages seventeen unsettling tales that will ooze under your skin, cozy little tales that twist slowly strange and violent-delightfully dark. There’s a mean doll, a box full of bones-and newspaper clippings, a bank robbery gone horribly wrong-for almost everyone. Daddy’s last train, and the train that must be caught again and again, a haunted carousel that sparks up the night, an alien abduction, a meeting with the evil Lilith. And foxes. A girl you wouldn’t want to meet in a bar-if you value your ink, a drug of the future with certain finality about it. Many graves dug, barns to die in, and ghosts and more ghosts. Seep into this book, it may take you back to your childhood.
DARKER TALES FROM THE DEN – this is a thicker book containing sixteen stories and a novella, some of the stories are slightly longer. Stories of death, ghosts, and wicked delusions. Poisons, secrets, and lovers from the past. Murders by curse, serpents’ fangs, herbs, and flowers. The discovery of crystal bones, the smell of singed gossamer wings, the sound of a wooden puppet dancing in the dark and the touch of a cold hand beneath the grave. Here I am paraphrasing and borrowing liberally from your generous reviews for these descriptions:
These are dark, macabre stories about people in bad situations that only seem to get worse as the night goes on. Characters lose their horizon to grief, they yield their memories to science, and glean knowledge in parallel worlds. The edge of reality is always in question.
Here’s a taste of just a few of the stories:
Something bad crawls out of the dark attic in The Chill and Wiley Snake dragging long forgotten family secrets in tow.
Bruised Cardamom begins with a poignant description on the death watch of a woman, Mrs. Macy, true in its words and gut wrenching to anyone that has watched a loved one die. The description of the woman shredding tissues and curling them into little balls as she’s waiting in fear for death is unsettling. “How many boxes of tissue does it take to die? How meaningless are paper tears?” The volunteer stays with her into the night learning a deep dark secret in this outstanding tale.
In One Historic Night, one friend invites another into his twisted Nazi fanatic world and drags him down to the depths of madness.
In The Calais Curse, we visit the French Resistance of the German occupancy. In this haunting tale an aging woman takes a trip on a train with her granddaughter in an attempt to change history and free her from her nightmares. The story has a tragic, moving ending.
Li Gran Toy Zombi – this story is a creepy tale originally published in the TOYS IN THE ATTIC, an anthology. It takes place in New Orleans, 1977, and if you’re thinking Voodoo Curses you are correct.
What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like? What have been the biggest influences on your writing?
Sometimes a voice takes over and the story flows out – that’s what happened, for instance in the first story in DARK TALES FROM THE DEN, Smoky Martini. A lot of readers really liked that story and, I confess, I like to read it myself for the cadence. I’ve read this one many times, like a record I never get tired of hearing again. There’s just enough mystery in it, too.
Other times, it’s like herding kittens, or bull wrestling, I imagine, though I confess I’ve never wrestled a bull, though I may have ridden a calf. Then I just give up and do something else. Maybe write a review of someone else’s book.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
There are two pieces of work that I am proud of for different reasons.
I really enjoyed writing the novella, Crystal Bones on Gossamer Wings. This novella appears at the end of DARKER TALES FROM THE DEN. This was my second novella and there are several very strong images in it that haunted me so that writing each part became an obsession. My years working for the US Attorney, time spent getting to know many of the US Marshals, and weeks spent working with documents in the offices of the FBI, gave me a good feel for some of the background that appears in portions of the story. Also, I did a lot of research so that the medical portions are as accurate as can be expected for descriptions provided by a simple young man of procedures performed by a deranged, disgraced surgeon.
Of course, I am most proud of Walking on Water, as it was accepted by THE BEAUTY OF DEATH VOL 2, DEATH BY WATER, which was a Bram Stoker finalist. There were a lot of big names in that anthology—Ramsey Campbell, Clive Barker, too many to name. But I know you can’t judge yourself by who you share a TOC with, and that my story didn’t make it a finalist, still … it was my big moment of the year—maybe of my career, so far—maybe ever. That story was kind of a frankenstory—bits and pieces of little writing exercises that I thought rang true so I pulled them together along with some narrative poetry and to quote someone else, it created a story that was “beautifully written, subtle, sad, unsettling, eerie and just plain strange in all the right ways.”
What are you doing next?
Novellas, shorts, and audible shorts! I have too many things in the works!
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Be kind to each other and believe in yourself. Let the only other voices you heed be the ones whispering in your head, the ones telling you your stories. Don’t compare yourself to others, keep your own goals in mind.
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