Kristi Petersen Schoonover will join other contributors to Tricks and Treats: A Collection of Spooky Tales by Connecticut Authors for a reading at the Whiton Branch of the Manchester Library (100 N. Main St.) this evening, Monday, October 24th, at 6:30 p.m. This event is free and open to the public; copies of the book will be available for purchase/signing. Contributors to the anthology will also read/sign at Bank Square Books (53 W. Main St., Mystic) this Wednesday, October 26th, at 6:00 p.m. and the BOOK CLUB Bookstore & More (100 Main St., Broad Brook) this Saturday morning, October 29th, at 11:00 a.m.
Today, I’m joined by the bewitching Kristi Petersen Schoonover.
Kristi is a contributor to the recently released anthology Tricks and Treats: A Collection of Spooky Tales by Connecticut Authors (Books & Boos Press). Her previous short fiction has appeared in Carpe Articulum, The Adirondack Review, Barbaric Yawp, The Illuminata, Morpheus Tales, New Witch Magazine, Toasted Cheese, The Smoking Poet, and The Battered Suitcase, among others. Kristi holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College, is the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Winter Residencies, and is an editor for Read Short Fiction (www.readshortfiction.com). She makes her home in the Connecticut woods with her husband and their two cats.
Praise for Tricks and Treats:
“This collection brings with it all the trappings of the season, from pumpkins and spooky decorations, to that chill coursing over your skin in the night, and the lingering sense that death has come to claim many things, possibly the reader as well.”—Michelle Garza, This Is Horror (UK)
“The short stories in this collection were brain stimulating, twisted, and wonderful quick pick-me-ups. I would certainly look to read anything written by any of these authors again.”—Wendy Carofano, Amazon Review
From the publisher:
Some of Connecticut’s finest authors—from the eighteen hundreds through today—showcase their spookiest tales in this collection. Discover some lesser-known works from literary greats Twain, Gilman, Stowe, and Brainard, and chilling stories from contemporary authors Crandall, Foley, Longo, Munson, Schoonover, Strong, and Valeri. This collection will make you proud to be a Nutmegger. “Connecticut authors, you scare the hell out of me, but I grow to love you—more and more, with every creepy tale.” ~ From the foreword by Rob Watts, author of AMERICANA and THE CROOKED ROADS THROUGH CEDAR GROVE
Now, Kristi shares some scares …
John Valeri: What inspired your contribution(s) to Tricks and Treats?
Kristi Petersen Schoonover: I was actually watching an episode of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery called “The Cemetery” (which is probably one of the most well-known segments of that show thanks to Roddy McDowall’s starring role). A painting on the wall, which is of the burial ground outside the home, changes to show a vengeful ghost getting closer and closer to the front door. The simplicity of the concept made so much sense. I thought, “what if an innocent object could do that?” I didn’t do anything with the idea for a few years. Then my brother purchased a house in nearby Easton that dates to 1780, and he had his first child. The story just came together from there.
JV: To what do you credit your interest in dark fiction – and what purpose do such stories serve?
KPS: I think fiction of any genre is an art form, and it’s an art that helps us interpret ourselves and the world around us. In the case of dark fiction, it helps us understand the scary things that can happen to us in this world: loss of a loved one, guilt over something done or not done, injustice, terminal illness, addiction, death. Dark fiction helps us confront the fear of bad things from a safe distance. I didn’t have an easy childhood, and I think dark fiction helped me to not only escape, but to heal, because the trauma-plagued characters in the stories helped me feel as though I wasn’t alone.
JV: Tell us about your ties to Connecticut. How have these influenced your work, if at all?
I grew up in New Milford—a town already rife with urban lore—on the shores of Candlewood Lake, which was created in the 1920s for the purposes of generating electricity. Unfortunately, in doing that, they flooded five or six towns in the valley. The unsettling legends surrounding that event, and the lake itself, were a heavy influence on my writing. I always felt there was something unseen and mysterious putting pressure on my surrounding landscape, and I credit the fascination with dark tales to my struggle to understand, interpret, and live with it.
JV: This anthology is Halloween-themed. Why does this particular holiday make for a good backdrop?
KPS: The history of Halloween is too long to go into here, but its origins are rooted in the belief that ghosts roamed the earth the night before the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain; therefore, the night itself is just fertile ground. In our modern tradition, we dress up in costumes. “Guising,” as it was once called, allows us to pretend to be someone or something else—and likewise, it provides a certain sort of anonymity, giving us permission to do things we might not on an everyday basis. I think these elements combine to create a powerful mystery, a sense of foreboding. Anything can happen on a night when there is so much unknown.
JV: For those looking for recommended reading in the genre, who/what would you recommend (and why)?
KPS: I’d highly recommend the collection Dark Water by Koji Suzuki – the story “The Hold” is incredibly terrifying. I also recommend Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales, by Yoko Okagawa, which is more disturbing than scary. Here are some other top-notch chillers and where you can find them: “The Highboy” and “The Pool People,” both in Alison Lurie’s collection Women & Ghosts; “What Say the Frogs Now, Jenny?” by Hugh B. Cave, in the collection Haunted Dixie; and “The Day Ghost,” by David Huddle, in the collection Ghost Writing, edited by Richard Weingarten.
JV: Leave us with a teaser: What comes next?
KPS: Just around the corner, my short story “Mujina” will be appearing in the collection Dark Passages II: The Black Highway from Skinwalker Press. Next year, my novella “Splendid Chyna” will be in a collection from Books & Boos Press, and the short story “Blood on the Snow” will be in Insanity Tales III from Dark Alley Press. I’m working on two more short stories for specific collections to which I was invited, which will also be released next year, and once those are done, I hope to spend the year just writing, writing, writing. I have a collection of short stories I’d like to put together—two collections, actually. It takes me a long time to hone a story and make it the best it can be.
With thanks to Kristi Petersen Schoonover for her generosity of time and thought.