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Interview with Karen Wiesner, Author of Woodcutter’s Grim Series

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Prolific, multi-genre, award-winning author Karen Wiesner has written over 55 books in the past 10 years, many of which have been nominated or won awards. She's a member of Jewels of the Quill, a group of 12 award-winning women authors from the Midwest who help to promote each other. Karen’s books cover such genres as women’s fiction, romance, mystery/police procedural, suspense, paranormal, futuristic, gothic, inspirational, thriller, horror and action/adventure. She also writes children’s books, poetry, and reference titles such as her bestseller, First Draft in 30 Days, available from Writer’s Digest Books.

Thanks for this interview, Karen. Please tell us about your romantic horror short story collection, Woodcutter's Grim Series: Classic Tales of Horror Retold.

For the ten generations since the evil first came to Woodcutter's Grim, the Guardians have sworn an oath to protect the town from the childhood horrors that lurk in the black woods. Without them, the town would be defenseless… and the terrors would escape to the world at large.

The collection contains my previously published books in the Woodcutter's Grim Series: "Papa" (Book 1) and "Blood of Amethyst" (Book 2), plus 2 bonus stories in the series never before published: "Dancing to the Grave" (Book 3) and "The Amethyst Tower" (The Final Chapter).

"Papa" (Book 1)

A wickedly horrifying rendering of the classic children’s story “Hansel and Gretel”, in which modern revenge is served up sweet…

Less than a year after Randall Parker left his family for elementary school teacher, Amy, the unthinkable happens – his ex-wife and two children are killed in a car accident. Ever since the accident, Amy has had terrible nightmares in which Rand’s son and daughter return to exact revenge on their father and Amy herself (the wicked step-mother) for abandoning them. When Rand convinces her to come away with him for a healing respite to an isolated cabin in the woods, Amy’s guilt-filled nightmares turn into pure horror.

"Blood of Amethyst" (Book 2)

A blood-curdling answer as to why the childhood-nightmare creature Rumpelstiltskin so wanted a child of his own…

Amethyst Phillip's father — her only family — disappears in Woodcutter Grim's evil woods. Town Sheriff and Guardian Gabe Reece sends out a search party and eventually they find the body, completely drained of blood. A devastated Amethyst refuses to do anything but carry on all by herself in the isolated area she grew up.

But something strange is happening, and Gabe realizes it every time he drops by to check on the woman who's held his heart for long years. She's grown pale, cold. She's sleeping all the time, waking only in the night, when her taste for blood overwhelmes her. Then Gabe becomes aware that something in the woods is calling to her, something that's stealing her life…

Gabe will face his deadliest foe yet when the woman he loves falls prey to a nameless creature who wants her very soul.

"Dancing to the Grave" (Book 3)

Loosely based on “The Pied Piper of Hamelin.” The children of Woodcutter’s Grim are changing… and only one person, music teacher Diana Anders, realizes the truth. Can she and her husband, Kurt Jones, a member of the ancient lineage of the Protectorate’s Chosen Seven, save them and the future of their town?

"The Amethyst Tower" (The Final Chapter)

Loosely based on "Rapunzel." The isolated maiden meets her knight in a time-traveler who's come into the future to rescue her from the Warlock Lord holding her captive in the amethyst tower. Where else but in the fairy-tale-horror town of Woodcutter's Grim?

You write a fair share of romantic horror. What is romantic horror and how is it different from paranormal romances?

There’s very little difference between these genres. I guess I’d have to say the main and maybe only real difference is that I consider romantic horror a harder version of scary—paranormal romances are generally much “lighter” than romantic horror. Some paranormals aren’t even scary. They’re simply unusual or include some unnatural elements. My romantic horror is the kind that you don’t want to be alone in a dark room while reading, not unless you like being scared stupid, lol! Also, with a romantic horror, there may or may not be a happy ending and certainly the ending wouldn’t be “traditional”. Two carnivorous creatures, for instance, going off to spend an eternity together isn’t exactly your typical romantic ending. In a paranormal romance, there’s the usual happily-ever-after you’d expect to find.

There are many subgenres under Horror. Do you think some have more literary value than others–traditional vs. extreme body slashers?

I can’t really answer this with anything other than my own opinion. I don’t see the point of gratuitous violence in movies or books, especially if there’s no real purpose for it. If the story can get across the impression without, it’s best not to go slasher. I don’t read or watch either. If it’s realistic and furthers plot and characters, okay, include it, though you’ll get an “Eew, that wasn’t necessary!” out of me. I do love a good scare though, and that’s what I write…stories that will make you scared of your own shadow.

An atmosphere of dread is important when writing horror. How do you achieve this? Do you have any special writing quirks–lighting up candelabra, moody music, etc?

I try to listen to music that fits the story I’m writing, and I have an absolutely huge CD collection that allows me to have on hand just about any genre of music to do this. It also doesn’t hurt to write a scary story when it’s night and you’re in the dark with only a candle lit. Plus, I think watching a movie in the genre that you’re writing before you start writing helps immensely, too. Not to get ideas, but just to get that feeling of dread deep in the chest.

What are the most important elements of a horror story?

Suspense. That’s the true key to writing a horror. Moving slowly, using all of the senses, painting a picture in the mind of the reader that gets the short hairs standing up all over their body. Also, setting the terror up well in advance makes a story irresistible. The reader knows something awful has happened, you’ve given them a taste of it, but when it comes… that reader will be shivering in his shoes. Really, really good characters (and the word “good” here refers to both well-drawn, sympathetic, intriguing characters as well as to their moral goodness) are also a cornerstone of any great story, but if you don’t have a balance to the evil you’ve presented in your story it won’t be anywhere near as satisfying. Dracula had his Van Helsing. The aliens had Lieutenant Ellen Ripley. Keep in mind, of course, that the “good” character may not set his goal to vanquish evil but might end up doing so because there’s no one else to do it. But this character shows his quality by not quitting when it might be easier to do so.

Who are your favorite supernatural fiends? Why?

Aliens (from the Alien movies). Vampires. Loved ones coming back from the dead (isn’t that a horrible thing to even admit to? but they make for the most excruciatingly scary fiends!). Dinosaurs—I just adore big, terrifying dinosaurs, and nobody does them better than Michael Crichton in my opinion. I also just read The Ruins by Scott Smith. It’s been so many years since I read a horror this good, I honestly can’t remember anything that captured me this much. The movie was terrible (gratuitous), but I read the book in a single day. I couldn’t put it down. The “fiend” in this one is totally unexpected and unique.

Who are your favorite horror authors?

A slew of the classics with a mix of some modern authors: Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Stephen King’s old stuff, Michael Crichton, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Anne Rice’s vampires and witches. Some Dean Koontz (I’m still waiting for him to finish his Christopher Snow trilogy).

Are you dressing up this Halloween? If yes, what as?

No. Until I was older than should have been allowed, I trick or treated, usually dressed as a witch. Sometimes, as an adult, I’ll dress up as a cat. Come Halloween, you’ll find me passing out candy and trying not to eat too much of it as I do!

Will there be a second collection of the Woodcutter's Grim Series?

Definitely! This second, four book volume will be based on the oldest family in Woodcutter's Grim, the Shaussgenys (yes, owners of the cursed cabin spoken of in the first volume stories).

I'll be writing the first story, "A Friend in Need" (Book 4 of the Woodcutter’s Grim Series) This one is loosely tailored after "The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse." It'll be included in Jewels of the Quill's third Christmas Anthology, Christmas Gems, coming September 2011 as well as in the Woodcutter's Grim Series collection, Volume II (early 2014 release).

Other stories in this collection will be: "Bewitched" (Book 5), based on "The Little Mermaid", to be published in Bewitched and Bejeweled, a Halloween Anthology (September 2013 release), and two bonus stories: "One Night of Eternity" (Book 6, based on "The House That Jack Built") and "Beauty is the Beast" (Book 7, based on "Beauty and the Beast"). Find out more here.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?

Check out my backlist of other paranormal-themed, Halloween suitable titles:

The Bloodmoon Curse
Gothic Inspirational Paranormal Romance

"Blood of Amethyst" (Woodcutter's Grim Series–Classic Tales of Horror Retold, Book 2)
Romantic Horror Novella

"Papa" (Woodcutter's Grim Series–Classic Tales of Horror Retold, Book 1) Romantic Horror Novella

"Creatures of the Night"
Romantic Paranormal Novella

Mirror Mirror, Book 3 of the Wounded Warriors Series
Romantic Psychological Thriller

Sweet Dreams
Paranormal Romance

Thanks, Karen!

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.