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The Guardian

Q&A with Elizabeth Massie

Evie M. Warner, Contributing Writer

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While here for the Visiting Writer’s Series, horror storywriter and two-time Bram Stoker Award winner, Elizabeth Massie, talked about her writing and her anti-bullying efforts.

Evie M. Warner: I was reading that you won the Bram Stoker award. Can you tell me more about that?

Elizabeth Massie: Actually, I won it twice. It has been around for maybe twenty some year. It is an international award for horror fiction. It is decided on by people who read things they really like; they send recommendations in to the Horror Writers Association. They collect all the recommendations and then ones who get the most recommendations make the first cut. And then the members vote for the winner from that cut.

Warner: So how big of a deal was it to win that?

Massie: Oh it was really great. The first time I won it was for my novella “Stephen.” And actually beat out Stephen King. That was in 1992. It’s a nice little feather in the hat.

Warner: When did you start writing?

Massie: Like most writers, I started writing when I was really, really little. You know, I was four-years-old and I was always driving my parents crazy, “Oh what if we do this? What if that dog over there gets in the car and won’t get out?” My parents were always like, “Stop saying what if!” But that’s what writers do. They are always thinking what if? So I have always written. My first short story that was published was called “Whittler.” I’ve been publishing since 1983.

Warner: You’re most well known for your horror stories. Why horror stories?

Massie: Because when I was a kid I was scared about a lot of things. I was very, very shy. I was just very hypersensitive about a lot of things. It was my way of dealing with it. If I could look at and write about it, then I was dealing with the emotion. And honestly, ever since starting to write horror fiction, I haven’t had a single nightmare.

Warner: So what would you say is your biggest inspiration? The things that you’re afraid of?

Massie: My biggest inspiration? Yes. The things that frighten me. And people! I mean, I can meet somebody and be inspired to wonder. You know, what if I took this person and I put them in this situation? So human nature, human spirit, human courage, people trying to deal with terrible situations. People inspire me. Because a lot of people deal with a lot of terrible things. And they come out okay or they come out and they may be banged up, but they’ve learned something and they’ve grown. And I’m really inspired by people who do that. There are things that terrify me and definitely things I keep coming back too.

Warner: What would you say your weaknesses and strengths are as a writer?

Massie: I think my biggest strength is dealing with character. I’ve been complimented wonderfully so on my characters. Weakness? Probably insecurity of my writing. I have other friends who are writers that say the same thing. You get stymied. It’s the insecurity of, “Oh I thought this was going to be great. And now it’s a piece of crap!”

Warner: What is the biggest change you’ve seen in the publishing world and how has that impacted you personally?

Massie: Definitely eBook. I have some books out now that are only in eBook form. And I don’t even have an eBook reader. I don’t think that will ever go away. We are moving on to whatever. In a way, it’s been frustrating because I love going to Barnes and Nobles and seeing my books on the shelves. But now some of them are not on the shelves. They are only being sold as eBooks. So I don’t see that anymore. But on the other hand, some of my old books and some of my old stories that are out of print have been repackaged and sold as eBooks. I’m not use to it. I’m an old dog and I haven’t learned this new trick yet. But I’ll get there!

Warner: What are you currently working on and when do you expect it to be released?

Massie: A couple of months ago I turned in a novel that will be out in April. It’s called “Desperate Hollow.” It’s a zombie novel that’s set in western Virginia. And right now I’m working on a novel called “Hellgate.” It’s set in Coney Island in 1911 because that’s a very fascinating, creepy place and creepy time. I mean, they had rides that were so dangerous that people were dying and they had no real good food inspection. So you never know what you were eating when you bought a hotdog. So it was a fascinating time. I’m going to finish that in December and that should be out probably in the fall of 2013. I always work on several things at time. It keeps me from getting writers block.

Warner: What is your number one tip for inspiring writers?

Massie: That’s a good question. That there is no wrong story. Everyone has a story to write. Any story is right, but maybe not well done. Here’s another tip: Not to write like your mother’s watching over your shoulder. Tell the story that you need to tell. Just make sure you tell it well.

Warner: Now with the bullying, why is that so close to your heart?

Massie: Well, I think any human being has been bullied or knows someone who has been. And what really struck me was last year was when I started hearing about the kids who started committed suicide because they have been bullied. That just broke my heart. I just wanted to speak out and do something to make people aware of that. And that is why I came up with the Circle of Caring bracelets. The bracelet is called the circle of caring. The yellow bead represents the person who is being bullied. It represents their innate value. Each bead represents someone who stands up and speaks up for someone being bullied. It’s visible statement that number one: I wont tolerate someone being bullied and someone who is being bullied sees and knows that I will be a guardian of their protection. It’s just a visible statement saying we are not going to put up with it.

Warner: Why do you think bulling has become such a problem?

Massie: I think people are becoming less and less in touch with each other. You see friends walking around and they’re texting other friends when they are with their friends. People have become really disconnected from each other. And I think because of that, they lose the ability to read body clues. Like if somebody bullies somebody online, you don’t see the pain on their face. You don’t see them crying. When I was little people were being bullied, but not to the extent they are now. They aren’t encouraged to just get rid of all your technology and sit down face to face with people and just talk. Because once you start learning about people, then you find your connection to them. And you realize we’re all just one big human family.

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Q&A with Elizabeth Massie