I am here today with author Christina Estrabrook. Her short story, Glass Prison, is included in the upcoming book The Endlands.
JR: Christina, please tell us a little about yourself and your work.
CE: Well there’s not much to tell. I am a mom of 4, married to a wonderfully supportive man, and a student working on my BA in criminal Justice. I currently live in Texas. As far as my work, I love to write so it’s not really work. But, I guess the best way to speak about my writing is to say that I strive to create a scare or a mystery. I leave people wondering if they should turn on a light, close a closet, or what that noise was.
JR: After reading some of your stories I must say I learned not to read them before I go to sleep.
CE: Well, that’s a good thing, at least in my mind it is. I love creating a feeling that you should check under the bed, close the closet doors, and say your prayers.
JR: First of all, I have to ask: what and whom are your inspirations? Especially in your genre: horror.
CE: As a child I fell in love with Christopher Pike and my favorite book from him was Road to Nowhere. But the older I got, the more intense my love for horror and mystery got. I quickly became addicted to Stephen King’s work and, of course, Nightmare on Elm Street by Wes Craven.
JR: Some of the greats of horror. I must say they all are a little creepy though. Any thoughts?
CE: It maybe, for most, that the creepiness is what allows them to move past or push the barriers aside, especially in stories where it may be hard to expand those that involve children like for example Pet Cemetary.
JR: I have personally read many of your short stories and novels, and I must say, your ideas are unique and always bizarre. How do you keep coming up with unique ideas?
CE: A great deal of my stories tend to start out as dreams that I remember the next day. I try to make sure when I start a story, that I am not repeating anything I have written about before or have read or seen before.
JR: If those are based on dreams then why do you ever go to sleep? I would never sleep if my dreams were consistently twisted.
CE: Hmm. I was never plagued with nightmares about scary movies I watched or books I read as a kid. So for me, my dreams are all of my own production and I look at them as welcomed, though scary as some may be. They represent for the story trying to be written.
JR: What is the biggest criticism you have about your own work?
CE: I speed through when I get inspired, afraid I may forget something that has come to my mind and not get the thought out.
JR: So is the quality a little lacking when you speed through it, or do you just try to get it out and then go back and work out the details later?
CE: Well the ideas come out, but the quality of the writing itself can suffer with things like spelling, grammar or punctuation. I get so one tracked and still don’t have the key board memorized, probably because I have never taken a typing class. So most of my mistakes are ones I know I am going to make and need to go back and correct.
JR: When I first read your work a few years back, there were great ideas with rough edges. You’ve made great strides in my opinion. Do you feel you’ve improved? If so, how did you improve?
CE: Yes, I have. I still speed through, and that’s something I have to try to work on, but as any writer will tell you, when you’re hot on the idea, you just want to get it down and that can lead to mistakes. I have learned to slow down a little bit, take a deep breath and go back to make sure I have gotten all my thoughts out. I have to thank Vincent to for a bit of advice on techniques that helped with just that sort of thing.
JR: Yes, Mr. Hobbes does have some good tricks of trade. He even challenges me sometimes to do a writing assignment. I mean, I am not even an author.
JR: What does it take to be a horror author? Most I have met or talked to are, well …. strange. Is that part of being in that genre?
CE: I don’t think I‘m strange. Rather, I think I was given the opportunity to let my imagination run as a kid and experience the scares of a good book or movie rather than be too sheltered. I think normal is being able to let your thoughts run, enjoy a good scare, and if you can do that, you can be a good writer of horror.
JR: That’s why I don’t write. I have no imagination. Well not an imagination I would want to write about at least.
JR: In my mind, all authors have quirks; some more bizarre then others. What are some of your quirks?
CE: Once I am on a roll I hate to be interrupted. I can become very moody if I am. I need to have my house clean before I start or I can’t concentrate. I also find I write better after a walk in the woods.
JR: If I ever call when you are writing, please don’t answer the phone then. I am very sensitive.
CE: I would never be rude on the phone as people are not psychic. Lol it’s more or less things that are in my face, like seeing a mess I feel like I need to clean now, and yet I really want to finish this page. It’s a struggle.
JR: Tell me how it feels to be looking at an empty screen with no motivation to write. How do you get through writer’s block?
CE: Oh, good question. I don’t think you really do get through a spell of writers block without feeling frustrated and angry, but I have found that, for me, if I write a poem, go for a walk and set aside the story I want to write, the ideas come a bit easier. I have also found that talking to other writers I know, or my husband who loves a good book, can also help to stir up my brain.
JR: What is the longest case of writer’s block you have had?
CE: I think it was about a month during the writing of my newest novel, Black Candle. I hate writers block and nothing I did worked to relieve it at that time. The inspiration came back during a snow storm when I was in New England.
JR: What are your opinions about the publishing industry as a whole?
CE: I think it is really a hit or miss type of thing. You can have the greatest story the world would ever know, but if you don’t get that one publisher to take a shot, especially if you are no Stephen King, it can be a very hard business to break into. I also think that a person who wants to write, needs to do it because they love to write and love to see people enjoying what they wrote, Not because they think they will get rich on their first book. The publishing industry as a whole really doesn’t work that way.
JR: That is a very accurate view of the publishing industry and I love your thoughts on why authors should write.
JR: I meet many self-published authors, many whom use vanity presses. Do you have any experience with this?
CE: Well not with a company who advertises that they are a vanity press, but the company runs very much like one. I know a few authors who have great stories and are very talented, that had to go through vanity presses simply because getting into most traditional publisher, when you are not a big name, is hard to do. I do not usually recommend this rout simply because the ones I knew, put all the expense and risk on the author ,and expect an author to promote entirely on their own and, do not try to put the finished book in the hands of the public. There may be a few who are good when it comes to vanity presses and even a few success stories, but I think a person needs to do their research before going with just any vanity press.
JR: Good advice. You seem to have this figured out.
JR: I talk to struggling authors on a frequent basis. Many simply want to be published, yet have no idea how to do so. What is your best advice to an author wanting to get his or her foot in the door? Especially in such a closed knit community.
CE: Keep trying and don’t let the “NO’s” you will hear get you down. Keep writing and don’t think that your not getting accepted is not anything negative against your writing ability. Try to look into smaller publishing companies or even literary agents. If you come across a publisher who tells you they are full at this time, or are not publishing your genre at this time, try them again later. In the mean time, keep writing.
JR: Does it ever get easier when a manuscript is declined?
CE: No, I don’t think it does. You learn to expect it and know it is a law of averages. It just takes time and resubmitting to some, even if it takes a few years. A publisher who thinks you have potential will take the work and back you up.
JR: Tell me something people would be surprised to know about you.
CE: I started writing poetry at the age of 13. Most of it was dark or strange, and I was a major tom boy.
JR: 13!! The only thing I wrote at 13 is what I was forced to write in school. You are motivated.
CE: Lol, I will have to send you a few of them as I am sure you would like them. I have no idea what to do with them.
JR: You had a recent move from the Northeast down to Texas (my neck of the woods). How is the weather treating you?
CE: Lol, you’re kidding right? Lol, I was born in Houston 30 years ago and lived in Texas until I was about 15. I remember it being hot and not really being bothered by the heat. As you stated though, I moved to the Northeast many years ago and have just come back. This heat, well, they say you get acclimated in about 30 days,,, that is wrong… I love the sun but the 100 degree heat, wow.
JR: Just another day in a Texas paradise.
JR: What do you want to accomplish in the book industry? Where do you see your career in the future?
CE: Well, I have several short stories that I am hoping to get out to the public over the next few years, and another novel I have recently finished writing. I am always trying to write something new and hope to have my writing career take a big jump into well known mainstream horror and sci/fi culture.
JR: What are your thoughts about me? (I promise your answer won’t be held against you, unless it is negative, of course.) Just kidding.
CE: Well, I think you seem to enjoy your job and speaking with your clients. I think you want to see the authors you take on succeed and not get frustrated when the wheels of time turn slowly. Getting a book published starts after it is written, and you take the time you explain the steps and try to keep anxious authors updated.
JR: I do want authors to succeed but I also want to help them become better authors. Almost every publisher just either accepts or declines a manuscript with no useful information to help the author improve. I am not a writer and it frustrates me how impersonal most publishers treat authors. It is an accomplishment to even finish a manuscript and I think publishers should have an obligation to remember how much work was spent writing a manuscript.
CE: I have to agree with you. It is very frustrating when you spend hours, weeks and months doing a manuscript and no one wants to give you a reason for being rejected, or tell you what the industry is looking for.
JR: I love to ask this question in my interviews. What do you do about distractions when writing? Could be kids playing loudly, or a barking dog or loud TV. I am curious how you find a way around these distractions of, well . … life. (I know I would personally love to put a muzzle on my neighbor’s dog when I am trying to work, but that’s another matter).
CE: Well, as a married mom of 4 and a school student myself, distractions are everywhere. Especially when you’re like me you have to clean because you have the urge. I hate messes and I am constantly running around to pick up something. I actually drive my husband crazy with that, and he will say “Christina, it’s clean. Sit down and relax for a bit.” Lol. You just have to try to sit down at a time when the house or life distractions are at a minimum. Bed time or early in the mornings. As far as the dog… lol we have one dog and two cats who actually play together. Ear plugs can help.
JR: You are soon to be published in an upcoming anthology by Vincent Hobbes called The Endlands. How do you feel about the project? Are you excited to read it?
CE: Yes, very excited about it. I found the writing of the short stories to be fun and the ideas for the ones I wrote came easy. I am anxiously waiting to see where this goes and what will happen next.
JR: How do you think this project can help your career goals in the industry?
CE: I hope that this will get one of my short stories into the hands of the public so that people can get ready for more to come.
JR: Tell the readers a bit about your story, Glass Prison.
CE: It’s pretty much the internal struggle with the good and bad self we all have, and the feeling of going crazy when we fight it. The main character in the story starts to notice strange things in all the pictures in the house, is plagued with horrific nightmares, and sees terrible images when she looks at herself in the mirror. Her husband tries to convince her that all is fine, but she knows better, but not until it is too late.
JR: I won’t tell the ending, but it is definitely twisted. Is this your favorite short story to date?
I think so as far as my short stories go, but I have a close second which is Velvet Choker that one I believe you are also familiar with.
JR: I wrote a story for The Endlands myself. It was quite the feat, considering I’m not a writer. I felt a new respect for authors as I typed away, as I edited again and again. I even felt that strange tingle run down my spine while I had others read it. Explain, in your opinion, how difficult it is to motivate yourself to write. What does it take for you to get in that ‘writer’s world’. The Zone. Once going, how hard is it to turn off when you’re done?
CE: I don’t have a problem with turning it off once I am done with the story; it’s turning it off when I need to take care of other things when I am on a roll. I love to have people read what I write, but when it is time for a decision from a publisher, the tingling and the nervousness is there and it can be heavy. I try to take a walk and focus on the rest of my normal routines while I wait. It I all you can do. I don’t really have a problem with motivation for the writing. When a story comes up in my head, I get the urge and I write. If I cannot write in the zone for some reason, I try to jot down the ideas so I can come back to it.
JR: By the way, that will probably be the only thing I ever write. I enjoy my sanity.
CE: I find writing to be relaxing. For that time, I am the character I write about. I am in my own world of my own creation, and it can be a great way to vent or relieve stress from normal life, by throwing yourself into something way out there.
JR: And you say you are not weird. I would end up in an asylum if I ever wrote again.
CE: Hmm, strange. I think if I could never write again, I would be antisocial and, well, psycho would probably not cover the depths of weirdness I could reach. After all, I know what’s in my head and I write about it.
JR: Now, your turn. Ask me any question you like.
CE: What would your favorite type of book or movie genre be?
JR: Weird you ask. It used to be horror hands down, but over the last few years I have acquired a taste for science fiction fantasy. I was forced to read Dune by Vincent Hobbes and I have now fallen in love with the genre.
I have a crush on… My husband. I know, aww. Jeff Estabrook.
People tell me I look like… Holly Marie Combs.
A simple way to fix the oil spill is…If I knew this I would be rich.
I think Brittany Murphy…had a life cut way to short, way to fast.
My favorite thing about Texas is…mimosa trees and bluebell ice-cream.
Authors are… Creative, imaginative individuals, who express themselves with a pen or computer and hope to leave something behind generations later.
Publishers are…stuck in their ways and hard to break into, but if you find a good one, best to stick with them.
My last meal would consist of…turkey and ham, with butternut squash pumpkin pie, and fresh baked bread.