I was born in the Midwest, raised in the South, and have traveled the world. I am a correctional officer by trade and will reach my 20th year of service to the United States Army in October 2021. I started my writing career in late 2017 with microfiction, drabbles, and short stories. I used social media to network and connected with many wonderful authors, publishers, editors, and podcasters. I am a recurring author for the online horror magazine Horrortree.com and a multi-season writer (Seasons 1, 3, & 4) for the Grey Rooms Podcast. I’ve written short stories for several anthologies with topics ranging from romance to sci-fi to horror. I also write poetry featured mainly on my Twitter account. Lastly, I am the host and general organizer of the #vss365 writing hashtag that averages over 26 million views per week worldwide as of the last time I checked.
I’d love it if you could talk a bit more about your most recent work? I’d love to find out more about it!
Currently, I am involved in a few projects. My debut novella, Tabula Rasa, is almost complete. I am undergoing final edits and talks with the lead writer for the Grey Rooms for my Season 4 Halloween special, and I am setting up an LLC to start a mini publishing company.
Tabula Rasa is an urban fantasy following the journey of a mage named Elijah Edwards and his partner Agent Jamie Hendricks. In this first story, the pair have to escort a dangerous criminal from a holding facility south of New Orleans to an interrogation site in Colorado. It’s a fast paced ride that introduces the reader to an alternate version of our own reality where magic is real, and the world is always one step away from destruction.
I am beginning my own LLC to do minor publishing and offer cheap editing/critiquing for short stories, scripts, and other various writings. This way, I’ll be able to take better care of the business side of being a professional author. I currently offer my services for free, but in reality, I’m training my own skills and building a portfolio. If you’re good at doing something and you love it, why do it for free?
The Grey Rooms holds a near and dear place in my writing schedule. It is a fully produced podcast that entertains as well as frightens. I am involved with their production team and very active in the Discord channel. I have been associated with the project since early 2018, and it has an unlimited ceiling at this point. They have top-tier talent in all areas (voice acting, music, SFX) that make this podcast a true sleeper waiting for its chance to go big. This year, I am honored to be picked for the Halloween Special before the new season fully kicks off. It is a story full of fun surprises and a twist that shows nothing is ever as it seems.
You’ve had quite a few short stories, and drabble released as well as micro-fiction online. What can you tell us about the different styles that you write in?
Writing smaller pieces or writing stories for anthologies with a restricted word count reminds me that word choice is important. I am constantly editing my stories to have the most impact in the fewest words possible. Having a few years of practice writing smaller pieces helped me with the process of creating my novella. I’m not a fan of anything written in “purple prose”. I don’t need extra words or descriptions if they don’t serve to push the plot forward or build a character.
The pandemic hit many creatives hard. What kind of an effect, if any, did 2020 have on your writing?
The pandemic didn’t impact my regular life in a significant way. I worked an essential job and was able to adjust well as the world fell apart. If anything, I carved out more time to write and crafted some great stories. I spent the majority of the time honing my craft, helping others with theirs, and increased my production compared to the previous year. I took every opportunity to do better with less. I believe that the pandemic year helped me focus on what’s important and redefine what I want my writing legacy to be.
Where were you born (and/or are you from), and how has that affected your writing?
As I stated previously, I was born in the Midwest, raised in the South, and am a world traveler. I gather my experiences and often translate them into stories. Exposure to multiple cultures helped me see things from different points of view. For instance, my Season 1, Episode 6 story from The Grey Rooms, Ice Station Bravo, was written while literally freezing on a military post inside a tent. One of the main characters from my novella, Jamie Hendricks, is modeled off a close personal friend and the cities featured I had either visited or lived in for a time.
What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
The most important elements of good writing, in my opinion, are developed characters that drive the plot, free of grammar/syntax errors, realistic conversations for the characters, and no purple prose.
There are a ton of great websites to help authors out. Which are your three favorite and why?
This is the best free editor on the internet. It will tell you information about your writing that you never knew existed. Readability statistics, word count, phrase count, tone, grammar/spelling check, and many other helpful editing tools are at your disposal all in one place. If you can’t afford Grammarly and don’t trust MS Word, this is a must for anything written.
This is the website dedicated to the writing podcast Dead Robots Society. It’s been active for over 500+ episodes and double-digit years. The information I’ve learned about the craft of being a writer mostly comes from the conversations on these episodes. The hosts are crass and to the point but effective with their topic presentation. After episode, 200ish they really get into everything about writing. The most recent episodes are what I consider a must listen for anyone who wants to submit anything for paid work.
A collection of writing advice from all over the world. I often find myself drawn to this website for good to know information from already established authors. The information is presented in such a way that it is easy to understand and apply. It can get a little ad heavy, but I find myself returning quite regularly.
Outside of directly writing, you are also the Host Organizer of #VSS365! Can you let everyone know a bit more about what that is for those who aren’t on Twitter or who haven’t stumbled across it quite yet?
#VSS365 stands for Very Short Story 365 days a year. The premise is a host chooses a word of the day to inspire the writing muse. From that point, its sky’s the limit. I was unofficially appointed the lead moderator for the community and host organizer at the beginning of 2019. I run a team of 7 ambassadors that help me moderate a hashtag game that literally reaches millions of people each week. The official account of #VSS365 to follow for all the updates is on Twitter @vss365official or my account @ArthurUnkTweets.
Another Twitter project that you are involved in is #IWrite2Music. What can you tell me about that?
The #IWrite2Music prompt was born out of my love of putting a soundtrack to my own stories. Once a week, I’ll post a song under the hashtag that you can use to inspire your own writing. I typically choose songs that have impacted me personally or have a deep meaning to get the wheels turning. All genres have been covered, from rap to country to pop to heavy metal. It has a small but dedicated fan base at the moment. I often advertise it as a way to supplement other hashtag games.
Do you have any characters that you’ve written to who you plan on returning to?
The only returning characters in my stories are the ones from my novella. Elijah Edwards is a young mage with a power he can sometimes barely control, and Agent Jamie Hendricks is an older, mentor-type character that helps Elijah make better choices. Most of the characters in my stories are snapshots or slice-of-life put in stressful situations. I’m sure many of them carry similar traits, but so far, only two main characters will be making a return trip through my head.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
When I’m not writing, I am part of a 3-mile run club that meets up 3 times a week. I’m also a Dungeon Master for a 5th Edition D&D group that has been together for 4 years. I play various video games on the Nintendo Switch, PC, and Playstation and love to watch old horror movies. I absolutely love listening to stories on Audible and am a huge fan of the LitRPG/GameLit genres (shoutout to Drew Hayes [NPCs series], Aleron Kong [The Land series], and Eric Ugland [Good Guys and Bad Guys series]).