Death’s Realm Mini-Interview: Jay Caselberg

Everyone, welcome Jay Caselberg to the blog. I’m featuring fellow contributors to Death’s Realm, of Grey Matter Press, with a short mini-interview to learn more about the talent involved, a preview of what we can expect from their story, and speculate on what lies ahead in the great beyond.

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Tell us about your background, who you are, and how you came to the writing life.

Me, I’m Australian, though I have lived in Europe for a number of years now, traveling around for day job related stuff. I spent time growing up in various countries as well. Despite all that, I still retain an essential component of the Australian psyche, or so I believe, and it tends to seep through into the fiction. Embedded in the Australian subconscious is the sense of removal, of separation from the rest of the world, because, you know, from most places, it is a long long way away. Anyway, I always thought I’d turn out to be a scribbler and I read and wrote as I was growing up. Then, at an impressionable age, I stumbled across a book on how to write a novel. Within those pages was a piece of the worst advice I have ever heard: you cannot write a book till you are over forty because you don’t have the life experience to make it real. What rubbish. Anyway, taking that to heart, it caused me to stumble. Much later, I happened across on online forum that acted as a kind of virtual critique group and suddenly, it was as if the world had opened up. I’d had no dealings with other aspirants until that stage and about then, I realised that I was probably good enough. I wrote a few stories, sent them out and the first one I sent out, a little science fiction tale with a pretty dark edge sold within a couple of months.

Although I write and have written novels, science fiction, horror, literary and even YA fantasy most of my work is short fiction and generally, it tends to be what I would characterise as soft horror, more the psychological, but none the less dark for that. Literature, ultimately, is about the human condition, and the inside of people’s heads is often a dark and squirmy place. I like playing with that.

Gray Matter Press has released an anthology, Death’s Realm, featuring your work, “Penumbra.” Give us a preview of your short story without giving away too much.

The concept for “Penumbra” is what happens to someone who is deeply, madly in love, and they die. What efforts would one go to to keep that bond alive even though you may not be.

The premise behind Death’s Realm is what happens after death. If there is a great beyond, what do you imagine it to be?

I’m not a great believer in a great beyond per se. I have no vision of heaven or hell. I do believe that there is something there. I have seen and experienced too many things to accept that there is simply nothing, things that defy normal everyday explanation. Despite that, I am not going to sign up to any orthodox set of rationalisations that make the less certain feel more certain. For me, it’s not about faith or anything else. Sure, there’s something going on there. You just need to be able to live with it.

We thank Jay Caselberg for coming by to share his thoughts. He’s got a web page here, and twitter account you can stalk him at here.

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Death’s Realm Mini-Interview: Jay Caselberg

Death’s Realm Mini-Interview: Matthew Pegg

Everyone, welcome Matthew Pegg to the blog. I’m featuring fellow contributors to Death’s Realm, of Grey Matter Press, with a short mini-interview to learn more about the talent involved, a preview of what we can expect from their story, and speculate on what lies ahead in the great beyond.

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Tell us about your background, who you are, and how you came to the writing life.

I grew up in Staffordshire in England. We lived in an old farmhouse that had a cellar that filled up with water every so often, open fireplaces, no central heating and windows that got covered with ice on the inside in winter. My mother insisted that there was a ghost on the top landing. She never saw anything but she said she could sometimes smell a sweaty smell. It was probably just the drains, or our unwashed socks. I wrote a lot of stories when I was in primary school. I particularly remember writing an alternate version of ‘The Snow Queen’, which had some ideas and characters that I intend to reuse at some point. Then in secondary school I got put off writing fiction by my English teacher, who thought writing stories was kids stuff. How he got the job I don’t know.

I went to drama school and worked as an actor for a few years until I realised I wasn’t great at it and liked having an overview of a story rather than being responsible for just one character. So then I started writing plays.

I’ve written some odd stuff for theatre: a one man version of Twelfth Night, a play designed to be performed during a medieval banquet, an adaptation of the film ‘Onibaba’, a puppet show, street theatre, plays for young people to watch, plays for young people to perform and a version of Rumpelstiltskin that was rather too influenced by ‘Beetlejuice’. I also adapted M.R. James’s story ‘Lost Hearts’ for the stage and then as a short film. Writing for theatre has given me some useful skills: creating dialogue, developing dramatic tension and an awareness of structure but it’s very different from writing prose. A play is probably closer to sheet music than it is to a novel: it’s a set of instructions for actors, designer and director and an audience experience it collectively rather than in a one to one fashion.

I came to writing fiction quite late. I’d always wanted to do it, but I wasn’t sure whether I had the basic skills. Eventually I did an MA in Creative Writing which I completed in 2012. My fiction tutor was the greatly missed author Graham Joyce, who was really enthusiastic about the stuff I was writing. I came out of the course thinking, “Yes, I can do this after all!” It taught me a lot and gave me a big confidence boost. Since then I’ve completed a novel and I’ve been submitting short pieces to various publications.

Gray Matter Press has released an anthology, Death’s Realm, featuring your work, “March Hays.” Give us a preview of your short story without giving away too much.
Sam Meacham is injured during WW2 and sent to March Hays, a stately home requisitioned as a hospital for servicemen. One of the nurses Lily, is the daughter of the house who Sam met when he was a child. As Sam recuperates he experiences some strange and disturbing events in the library of the house, but isn’t sure if they are real or just a side effect of his injuries. He also becomes increasingly attached to Lily and determined to protect her from her monstrous husband Edward, who seems to be a threat to her life.

The premise behind Death’s Realm is what happens after death. If there is a great beyond, what do you imagine it to be?

I’ll be very surprised if there is anything, but then I like surprises! I suspect if there is anything it will be beyond the power of our imaginations to comprehend. Or it might be a bit like Milton Keynes.

We thank Matthew Pegg for coming by to share his thoughts. You can keep up with him at his website, here.

Death’s Realm Mini-Interview: Matthew Pegg

Death’s Realm Mini-Interview: J.G. Faherty

Everyone, welcome J.G. Faherty to the blog. I’m featuring fellow contributors to Death’s Realm, of Grey Matter Press, with a short mini-interview to learn more about the talent involved, a preview of what we can expect from their story, and speculate on what lies ahead in the great beyond.
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Tell us about your background, who you are, and how you came to the writing life.

I tend to think I was always meant to be a writer, but I never really believed that, or made the conscious decision to try being one, until I was 38 years old. As a child, my father (an English teacher) would tell me stories before bed, and often they were ones he made up himself. In grade school, I excelled in English, wrote stories that made my teachers spout about my talent, and drew comics that made my classmates laugh. But somewhere along the way in high school, all of that gave way to sports, girls, and music, and writing fell by the wayside, although I was always an avid reader. Several books a week. I tried my hand at a horror novel in college, but after the first couple of chapters I thought “This sucks compared to Stephen King and Peter Straub.” (My two favorite writers at the time.) “I guess I just don’t have the talent.”

I had no one to tell me that writing was hard work, it didn’t just flow out ready for publication. My college was big on business and science, poor in creative writing. I went on to hold a variety of jobs – marketing, laboratory sciences, photography – and never thought about writing until one day, after the company I was working for closed, I took on a gig writing elementary standardized test preparation books for the Princeton Review. It was fun, it was easy, and I enjoyed the creative writing passages the best. One day, I stumbled onto an internet ad for an anthology seeking submissions for horror stories. On a whim, I wrote one and submitted. No beta readers, no edits other than proofreading.


I was the last story rejected, and the editor sent me a note saying A) I had real talent and B) I should start meeting other writers and editors and learn more about the industry. That’s when I joined the HWA. And decided to start writing.

Gray Matter Press has released an anthology, Death’s Realm, featuring your work, “Foxhole.” Give us a preview of your short story without giving away too much.

My story, “Foxhole,” is the tale of two soldiers caught behind enemy lines. Best friends since childhood, they have to sneak and fight their way through more than 20 miles of enemy-infested jungle. One of them is wounded, and sometimes delirious. By the time they reach safety, he has learned new things about friendship, death, and what lies beyond.

The premise behind Death’s Realm is what happens after death. If there is a great beyond, what do you imagine it to be?

I’m sure this is something that not only every horror writer but every person on earth wonders about, especially as they get older. I’m a lapsed Catholic, but I’ve never believed in the traditional Heaven and Hell, although it would be great to think there’s a wonderful place in the beyond, where all you family, friends, and pets are waiting to see you again. Perhaps because of my background as a scientist, or because I’ve learned not to believe things that are too good to be true, that’s always struck me as a fairy tale. I think there is something to the idea of reincarnation, but that’s a story for another day. What I do believe is that there’s more than just a final blackness, that life doesn’t just end when you die.


We thank J.G. Faherty for coming by to share his thoughts. You can keep up with him at his website, here.
Death’s Realm Mini-Interview: J.G. Faherty

Interview: Ben Eads of Cracked Sky

Everyone, welcome Ben Eads to the blog. His novella Cracked Sky launches this month. From the synopsis:

Reeling from the loss of their only child, Stephen and Shelley Morrison learn that her killer has been found dead. What they don’t know is that his agenda goes far deeper than the grave. Beyond the storm, beyond the crack in the sky—where their daughter lies trapped with The Lost Ones—something is using Stephen and Shelley’s agony to fulfill its goals: Terrorize. Consume. Destroy.

I’ve known Ben awhile through the horror community, and when I heard he was venturing into publication with a novella, Cracked Sky, I couldn’t resist reading the story and then finding out more about Ben and his writing process.

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Omnium Gatherum is releasing your novella, Cracked Sky. Congratulations! Tell us a little about the story without giving too much away.

BE: Thanks! I’m really excited about the release, and working with Kate Jonez was an absolute blast. Cracked Sky is a horror novella about a couple trying to cope with the loss of their only child, Allyson. Once they learn her murderer has been found dead, and that Allyson’s in a very bad place, they have to summon the courage, the hope, to heal themselves, as well as save their daughter from a nightmare-world, birthed from somewhere between the stars.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers, either about writing in general or what’s involved in submitting to a publisher and making a sale?

BE: I’ll just say what other writers like Joe R. Lansdale, Stephen King, etc… have said: Read a lot and write a lot. It’s always worked for me. You have to be well read so that you can develop something unique. After all, it’s all about the story. Find beta-readers that are capable of constructive criticism. They’re worth their weight in gold. Trust that. It took me a few years to find only three individuals who are absolutely indispensable. Never stop growing; take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously. Inspiration is bullshit—it’s everywhere and around you, always.

I’ve helped a few presses with submissions—still am!—and I find it always comes down to the story itself. What happens? What does it accomplish? Unless your work re-kindles the magic you felt from other magicians, then step it up! Use those as litmus tests. Oh! And emotions…especially horror. King advised in his book On Writing, you shouldn’t come to the blank page lightly. Submit your A+ work. Be professional. Be patient. Know the press you’re submitting to. Do they publish the kind of fiction you’ve written? You wouldn’t believe how many times I would read a story from the queue only to find another with the exact same premise. Be fast! If something news-worthy occurs that you could mine something from, write it as soon as possible and be the first to submit it. You must keep your finger on the pulse. Despite the hits the publishing industry has taken due to economic woes—turn a negative into a positive.

How did the idea for Cracked Sky come to you?

BE: I’m still trying to figure that one out. Ha! I noticed that the theme of loss kept cropping up in my short fiction. And when the concept, the “movie-trailer” of Cracked Sky played in my mind, I realized I needed a bigger canvas. That’s how it began. And, my oh, my, was it big!

One of the things that struck me, as a reader, was the realism of your characters. I wasn’t left with the impression they were cardboard cutouts, and I thought your handling of Stephen and Shelley’s troubled marriage was very genuine. Was that something you intended to come across for your characters or just a natural by-product of the story?

BE: Thanks for the kind words! I’m happy to say the advance praise and support has reflected this. It was both, actually. The strength these characters had in my imagination were easy to draw from, and take over the story. They really started writing themselves and showing me where they were going. However, it was very depressing getting into Stephen, Shelley and, especially Darrell’s head-space. So I developed a routine to keep a balance. Making each one’s speech unique, real. I recommend that aspiring writers read their character’s dialogue aloud.

The foundations of Stephen and Shelley’s relationship came about through trusting my characters. What’s their body language say? These were “tells” to me. I was still refining their relationship during the final edits, just to make sure the perfectionist inside me covered every base.

How long have you been writing, to get to this stage in your writing path?

BE: I wrote my first short story when I was ten. I wrote through high-school, and would write short fiction from time to time. I even submitted work I felt was great, at the time. Ha! But I wasn’t taking it seriously. In 2008, after I was laid off due to the economic disaster, I took it seriously. By seriously, I mean actually submitting my work and seeking help from others who could tear my work to shreds, so I could grow. So…about 6 years.

Do you draw from your experiences in real life at all?

BE: Sure. I think everyone does, to a certain extent. At this stage in my life, I don’t have any children. However, the loss of my career, my house, loved ones, etc… were anchors. There were a lot of emotions to pull from. Millions of Americans were affected by this crisis they had no part in. Many of whom are still affected, sadly. It was palpable. I recall neighbors trading services to fix their homes. One family needed a new tile floor, another needed a roof, so they bartered. It truly was inspiring to see everyone come together and find hope amidst great adversity. I also lost a dear friend due to suicide.

Are there writers who inspire you?

Oh, yeah! Too many to list, but I’ll indulge myself: Karen Russell—especially her novel, Swamplandia!—Lovecraft, Maugham, Barker, Kealan Patrick Burke, Gene O’Neill, Rena Mason, Fran Friel, Lucy Snyder, Lansdale, Philip K. Dick, Bradbury, Maupassant, Machen, Trumbo, Jorge Luis Borges, Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Charles L. Grant, Theodore Sturgeon, O’Henry, etc…

How can interested readers connect and keep up with you?

BE: Thanks for asking! The Cracked Sky Newsletter is your one-stop-shop for everything Cracked Sky and, well, me. You can subscribe by going to my website www.beneadsfiction.com and entering your email address. I’m also heavily active on Facebook and Twitter. And you can always drop me a line: ben@beneadsfiction.com

Ben Eads has also recently become the marketing consultant at Crystal Lake Publishing, and we wish him success in this as well as his new novella.

You can find Cracked Sky through Amazon.

Interview: Ben Eads of Cracked Sky