- SH: We just unveiled the cover for your newest book, Shadow of the Vulture, book 9 of the Splatter Western Series published by Death’s Head Press. Can you let us know what you think of the cover art created by Justin T Coons? How are the covers created? Does Justin read the book or does the author give plot details and such?
RGM: I absolutely love the cover! Justin has done an amazing job of capturing each book in the series. On his end, the process must involve some kind of magical invocation that allows him to capture the essence of each book so easily – or at least it looks that way from my perspective. I’ve read just about all of the books in the series, and he has an uncanny knack for not only painting beautifully grotesque images but also accurately portraying the heart of each book. He told me that he read the manuscript, and he also asked me to share my ideas about the cover. It was a new experience for me to have input on a cover, and it was great because our thoughts were very similar. He shared sketches and images as he worked on the cover, and I think the biggest challenge for me was not immediately sharing with everyone I knew!
- SH: The synopsis sounds so intense! Witches, Warriors, and an epic battle--where did the inspiration for this story come from and what made you want to write a Splatter Western?
RGM: Thank you for saying that! This was a new experience for me in a lot of ways, and the inspiration was a conglomeration of things. My family likes to tell stories, and I grew up hearing stories about la llorona, la lechuza, the devil, ghosts, witches, and more. But I also heard about land that had been stolen from our ancestors, land that was still in dispute. And as I started reading books on Texas history – from perspectives that were not taught in my Texas history classes – I realized that much of what I had learned and what is portrayed in western movies and books only showed a singular and very slanted view. I was tired of seeing Native Americans and Mexicans portrayed as savages that needed to be tamed, taught, and converted so that they acted like white folks but were still treated as ignorant or lesser at best. I was tired of stories that featured women, particularly BIPOC women, only as objects to be raped or killed or, at best, married off. At the same time I was doing a lot of reading on Chicana feminism and the Mexican-American War, and I came across stories about women who fought in the war (on both sides). These women were strong and savvy. They owned saloons, acted as spies to share information, and fought alongside the men. On the Mexican side, women even traveled with the war party. I read snippets of stories about women who played key roles in the war, including writing about it. Mexican women spoke out about their war by writing poetry and songs. The things they did have been incredibly minimized. And then I came across a story about a wealthy young woman who used her father’s influence to be allowed to fight in the war, and she was the inspiration for Juana in the story. I gave her a much different life and then started wondering what she would do after the war. She couldn’t go home and back to the life she knew before after being in a war. What if the life she knew before was gone? What would she do? Where would she go? I read a few books by Jovita González detailing life on Texas ranches around the same time period I was thinking of setting the book, and I also re-read Grave Men by Tom Piccirilli. That book is pure Pic and could not have been written by anyone else, and it was a great reminder that I needed to write the story I could tell whether or not DHP wanted it in the end or not. But that was the point where I started seeing different characters and wondering what would happen if they connected. I had a few moments of panic because I knew that my version of a western probably wouldn’t look like what people expected. But I couldn’t write it until I stopped caring what other people might think and shared my truth. There were even times I wondered if DHP would ultimately reject it, but the story won out and I figured I could worry about that later. Fortunately, they liked it!
- SH: I have to admit, I did a Google search of your name to find a photo of you and an author bio but I couldn’t find much of that on the internet, are you a clandestine horror writer Regina Garza Mitchell?
RGM: Ha! For a long time I really was a clandestine fiction writer. I started writing for publication in the late 90s and published my first story in, I believe, 1999, a little zine called Welcome to Nod. I pretty much stopped writing when I was working full-time and writing my dissertation, and after earning the degree I felt that I had to hide who I was. At that time I was just building my reputation as a scholar, and I wasn’t sure I wanted the people who read my research on community college leadership also reading my short stories. And when I went into administration I was afraid that if people didn’t like what I wrote it could affect my job. So I stopped writing for publication for about 5-10 years and when I did submit something, I used a pseudonym. At some point I realized I was tired of pretending to be someone else and maintaining two social media accounts. So I changed jobs, started writing with purpose again, and had two years of rejections before selling a story. I still have moments of worry, but I’m not letting that hold me back. I am dedicated to my teaching and academic research, but I am also dedicated to my non-academic writing. People should be able to distinguish between the two; I am not less of a scholar just because I write other things. I even started a website that nobody visits.
- SH: If readers want to find more of your work, what would you recommend?
RGM: I think all of my early stuff is out of print. Everyone should buy a copy of The Big Book of Blasphemy, which I edited with Dave Barnett. I also have work in Campfire Macabre and Space and Time 138. This fall, Nightscript 7 will feature my story, “A Perfect Doll.”
- SH: What are some of your favorite books and which writers inspire you the most?
RGM: You are going to get a much longer answer than you probably want or need. I have old standard favorites and newer favorites. Some of my older favorites are 50 Great Horror Stories edited by John Canning, Mama by Ruby Jean Jensen, The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington, Bag of Bones by Stephen King, Shadowland by Peter Straub, The Good House by Tananarive Due, Dread in the Beast by Charlee Jacob, Elephantasm by Tanith Lee. More recent faves include Hairspray and Switchblades by V. Castro; The Possession of Natalie Glasgow by Hailey Piper; Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kröger and Melanie Anderson; Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias; This House of Wounds by Georgina Bruce; Cuckoo Girls by Patricia Lillie; End of the Road by Brian Keene; The Haunting of Henderson Close by Catherine Cavendish. I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there.
I have a ton of writing inspirations: Tanith Lee, Ruby Jean Jensen, May Sarton, Charles de Lint, and Tom Piccirilli are some writers whose work continues to inspire me.
- SH: If you could pick one author to write a Splatter Western, who would you choose and why?
RGM: I’d love to see what V. Castro could do with a Splatter Western. She writes such great women characters who totally kick ass. I think she could turn the genre in a new direction.
- SH: What are some unique life experiences you’ve gone through that enable you to be able to sit down and weave fiction worlds?
RGM: Wow, that is a tough question. I’ve always preferred living in my head to being in the real world. As I mentioned earlier, my family loved telling ghost stories, so they have always been a part of my life. My family read a lot, and my parents never censored what I read, so I picked up “adult” books fairly early. My mom is a huge fan of Dean Koontz and Stephen King, and she never minded when I took her books and read them. My parents and grandparents each had a set of the Man, Myth, and Magic encyclopedias. I read those and even used them to do reports for school. My dad was a movie fan – we had both a Betamax and a VHS player, which was unheard of back in the day -- and we’d go to the video store on Fridays and load up on horror movies to watch over the weekend. A love of horror and respect for occult matters was cultivated by my family. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized other families didn’t necessarily do that type of thing.
- SH: Are you currently working on a new story? If yes, can you tell us a little bit about it?
RGM: I am working on two new pieces right now. Since it’s a short story, I’ll just say that it’s about what happens to all of those negative feelings that we are told to release. I can neither confirm nor deny that it may or may not be related to the rumored Darker Dawning 3.
- SH: What does writing a book look like for you from inception to typing that final line?
RGM: The process is different depending on whether I’m writing fiction or non-fiction. For non-fiction I usually start off with a rough outline. That outline changes as I go along, but I try to stay focused on a key idea for each chapter. Fiction-wise, I start off with an idea and run with it. I make notes along the way so that I have a vague idea of where I think I’m heading, but it is driven by the characters. For Shadow, I drew and jotted things down on different colored construction paper for each character, and I created notecards of key plot elements and characters so that I could see them and move them around to figure out where they fit. It may not seem like a very organized process, but I like to hand write and to be able to physically see and move things around, so it worked for me.
::: RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS :::
- Coffee or Tea? Tea
- Beach or Mountains? Beach
- Morning Person or Night Owl? Morning Person
- Introvert or Extrovert? Introvert
- Binge a TV series or One episode a night? Depends on the series
- Spring or Fall? Fall
- Panster or Plotter? I had to look this up! It depends
- Horror Movies or Horror Books? Both
- Coke or Pepsi? Coke
- Early or Late? Early
Regina Garza Mitchell grew up on the border of Texas and Mexico and now lives in the Midwest. She has been a writer-in-residence at Golden Apple Art Studio and has published around 20 short stories in places like In Laymon’s Terms, Space and Time, and Campfire Macabre. She is the co-editor (with David G. Barnett) of the Big Book of Blasphemy.