Q: Welcome Stephanie! I’d like to kick things off, if possible, with you sharing a little bit about yourself and what types of stories you enjoy writing as well as which genres you write in?
A: I now live in Wales with my husband and 3 adult children who are currently at uni boomerang stage. I’ve recently retired from my day job as a librarian and teaching assistant with a literacy specialism at a secondary school to focus on writing full time. I am extremely lucky that my husband is supportive and willing to work to support us both.
I generally write horror and dark fiction with three particular sub-genres that call to me: gothic, folk and post-apocalyptic/dystopian. I am also a poet, this too is dark, but not always. I have been known to twist nursery rhymes! I don’t however, want to be pigeon-holed as a horror writer and I do have an alternative history/murder mystery/humorous novel which I hope to return to at some point soon! I would also love to have a go at a thriller!
Q: I’d love to share a bit about your most recent work ‘The Five Turns of the Wheel’ if you could let my readers know about it?
A: The Five Turns of the Wheel evolved from a short story I sold some years back called ‘The Dance’. In this tale, I created the trio of Tommy, Betty and Fiddler and the ritual of ‘The Dance’ – or at least one of them! I had a huge amount of fun writing these three and I really wanted to go back to them so I developed their world of Umbra which exists alongside the human world in an area called the Weald. The three are a form of mummers troupe with Tommy directing events, Fiddler playing the music and Betty is a man, or a monster of a man, more animal than anything, who dresses as a woman and is supposed to bring in a comedic element.
Everything the three do is supposedly in the name of the Mother (Mother Nature), and human prosperity is linked to the sacrifices they make during the rituals directed by Tommy. The Wheel is really the cycle of life and the Five Turns are five nights of ritual when each village offers up its own. There is a Sixth Turn but that belongs to the Umbrans.
The story focusses on two women in particular, Liza Wheelborn the wife of Simon, who is the landlord of the pub, The Five Turns in the village of Cropsoe and their daughter, Megan. Caused to suffer more than most, they determine to stop the Wheel from turning and so break the Umbran grip on their folk.
Q: I’ve also seen that you have a collection of stories related to it coming out called ‘As The Wheel Turns’, are they expanding on the first release or set in the same world?
A: These are all set in the same world. Yes, you meet Tommy, Betty and Fiddler again but I have visited other villages and introduced different characters as well as rituals and rural traditions which are performed at other times of the year. I have included ‘The Dance’ in the collection to show how this world was born as well as a couple previously published elsewhere but the majority are new. You can read them without having read The Five Turns of the Wheel but I have also included the prologue and first chapter of the novel at the back to give a sneak peek to readers.
Q: Where were you born (and/or are you from) and how has that affected your work?
A: I was born in Worcestershire but from the age of 8-17 lived in a remote country pub, The Cider House, in Shropshire. Those years have remained with me and memories of rural life have come more to the fore in recent years, alongside the desire to move away from the city. This has driven the development of my folk horror and a number of features of life at The Cider House have fed into this. After that time, my parents moved to another pub, this time in a small market town, again very rural.
Q: You’ve been working on Horror Tree and Trembling With Fear for a while now, I love the site! Can you share a bit about what you’ve been working on over there and what we can expect in the future?
A: I started working on Trembling With Fear nearly four years ago. I remember Stuart reaching out for help and I offered as I’d been writing a lot of flash plus I’d had a number of story acceptances via the submission calls hosted by Horror Tree. I regarded it as my way of giving back. In that time, we have moved from just drabbles and short flash to include unholy trinities (3 linked drabbles), serials and special editions, eg Halloween and Christmas. These have been so successful, we put out a call for another editor to come on board to take on the editing of the trinities, serials, and specials so I could focus on the week-in/week-out subs. I’ve had a little bit of a rest lately as we’ve had so many short stories submitted we had to close temporarily until we get them all published. We hope to open to those particular forms later this year. We’ve been working on the anthologies for Trembling With Fear – everyone published on the site is published in print the following year, and these are almost ready to go.
I would love to include dark poetry and develop that aspect but at the moment, time is very restrictive.
Stuart has plans to develop more resources for authors but I cannot go into those. Needless to say, it’ll turn Horror Tree into a one stop shop for writers and if we can’t help then I’m sure we’ll be able to put writers in touch with those who can!
Q: In the last year I’ve been picking up books from your Indie Book Shelf that you’ve also been working on, what inspired you to do that?
A: Ooh, that’s wonderful to hear! I love that it’s helped books find a home! The Indie Bookshelf emerged from the Pandemic Book Launch Facebook group which was started by Jim Mcleod of the wonderful Ginger Nuts of Horror. It was a way for writers whose book launches had collapsed due to covid to get some publicity for their work. I mirrored the title on Horror Tree and would trawl the Facebook page for releases and pop them onto a Friday post to boost further. Eventually, this site stopped but we made the decision to keep the Friday post going, changing its name in the process.
I trawl a couple of Facebook groups – Horror Oasis and Hot off the Indie Presses. When I remember, I dip into the HWA page and I keep an eye out on Twitter. Writers are perfectly welcome to send me a link to their book and I’ll put the cover and hyperlink onto the relevant ‘shelf’. This is a free service and the books can stay on the shelves for quite a while if we get advance notice!
I also include services writers, reviewers and artists offer if I hear of any who are seeking extra work. So many have been impacted financially that I try to help where I can and give them a bit of publicity. I’m not sure how much it works but I hope it helps.
We can also add online events, Kickstarter projects, and the like.
Q: I know that you’ve also recently started a press, what can you tell me about Black Angel Press?
A: This is a project collaboration between me and writer Alyson Faye. We have felt that in the industry there is a degree of invisibility for older women or those who write quiet horror, or we’ve seen them around for a while, love their work and wonder why they aren’t being published more widely. We want to give an extra platform to such writers and give them a boost. Our own careers have moved us up a little in terms of visibility and experience and we think we can use that to bring others along.
In our press, women includes those who identify as such as well.
Q: I believe that your first collection was ‘Daughters of Darkness’, what can you tell me about it?
A: The first Daughters collection involved me and Aly, plus writers Ruschelle Dillon and Theresa Derwin. The latter is someone who has been around in the community a long time and was instrumental in bringing me into the genre. I’ve long felt she hasn’t had the recognition she deserves, a feeling I’ve had about the weirdly wonderful Ruschelle. Both are terrific writers and you can’t go wrong picking up their individual work.
The format of Daughters is such that you get a strong flavour of a particular author. We choose four writers and give them about 20,000 words which they can use in whatever way they like. This seems to have gone down well with readers and is a refreshing change to searching out one author amongst a large group of writers in an anthology.
Note that some writers might seem more well known but we asked them because we love their work! Our next four are T.C. Parker, Catherine McCarthy, Lynn Love and Beverley Lee.
Q: You’re so amazingly busy with the writing community, I know that you’ve also done a lot of work on The Infernal Clock. How have those been going?
A: Those have been ticking over (pardon the pun) for a few years now. Every now and then David Shakes – who came up with the brand and co-edited the early ones – and I will mull bringing out another. We recently produced Inferno under the Infernal Clock umbrella but because of real-life pressures, Shakes could not be involved in the editing, though he did write a story! This was when Aly stepped in to help and then we discussed working together again and that led to Black Angel. Inferno includes terrific writers from the community and we were incredibly lucky to get those of the calibre of V. Castro, Kev Harrison, CC Adams and T.C. Parker, amongst others, to write for us. Each of these stories are set in a particular circle of Hell, as created by Dante.
Q: To top it all off, you’re a member of the Horror Writers Association. What does that entail and how has that helped out so far?
A: I joined the HWA as an affiliate member a couple years back after talking to Theresa Derwin who really recommended it. She explained about the networking, promotional opportunities and all sorts of things which she felt were worth joining for. She was actually the recipient of the Mary Shelley Scholarship award in 2019.
So I joined. The first thing I did after that was sign up for Moaner Lawrence’s Fright Club which was the online writing group. Ten weeks of writing and critiquing really tightened up my writing as well as introducing me to some great people. I was also able to submit to things only open to HWA members, for example their poetry showcases, and I’ve been accepted in both volumes VI and VII. I am able to publicise my work in their newsletters and on the group page on Facebook on Saturdays. I would recommend it to anyone.
After achieving the requisite professional sales, I have become an Active Member this year – another big step forward.
I have now signed up to their mentorship programme as a mentor and will be working with a writer shortly as soon as my internet stabilises! Another bit of me giving back to a community which has helped my own career.
The HWA treats writers as professionals, it takes your writing career seriously and does a lot of work to help others.
Finally, if there is anything else you would love to share with our readers, please do so here!
Apart from As the Wheel Turns – More Tales from the Weald which is due out in June, I’d like to mention Were Tales – A Shapeshifter Anthology which will be published in the autumn by Brigids Gate Press. The editor, Steve Vassallo, has pulled together a wonderful collection of writers and I’m delighted to appear in its pages alongside the likes of Jonathan Maberry, Stephanie Wytovich, Cindy O’Quinn and so many others – a dream come true for me. My story, ‘Snowbound, Bloodbound’ is a take on the were-bear/berserker myth.
I am also delighted to be part of two other anthologies – What One Wouldn’t Do, ed. Scott J. Moses with my story, Cry Me a River and Silver Shamrock Publishing’s Midnight Beyond the Stars which includes my tale ‘Unravelling’. Both books contain amazing TOCs and I have to keep pinching myself I’m appearing in them!
I have been incredibly lucky with the support I have got from so many in the community, particularly Ken McKinley of Silver Shamrock, with whom I have recently signed a contract to publish more books with them.
And finally poetry hasn’t been left out. I am collaborating with Shane D. Keene on a poetry project which is bubbling along in the background but in the meantime, I really urge you to check out his work, a wonderful poet and writer.
And a finally, finally! Alyson Faye of Black Angel Press is putting out her novella, Silent Scream this summer – I’m about to start work on the cover. I would strongly recommend her writing to everyone.
You can follow Stephanie Ellis online at any of the following locations!