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Author Interview - MJ Mars

If you're into horror, then go no further than MJ Mars. Her debut novel, The Suffering has been published in a number of horror anthologies, including Dark Peninsula Press's Negative Space and the upcoming Negative Space 2 - A Return to Survival Horror, Colors in Darkness' Deadly Bargains, and Silver Empire's Secret Stairs, which was number 1 in the Amazon Horror Chart.

She has also featured on the No Sleep Podcast and gave a virtual reading of my work at the Horrorgasm convention. Her horror short, In Bocca Al Lupo, was published as an exclusive on The Dread Machine,

She has also appeared in 2 charity anthologies raising money for animal welfare - something I am also passionate about.

MJ Lives in Lancaster, UK, where the city's dark history of witches, ghosts, and monsters gives her plenty of inspiration!

Here is her interview:

Q1. Tell us a little about why and how you started writing.

Reading was always a priority in my house, and I loved afternoons spent poring over a book with my mum and sister, or trips to the library to find something new. That must have sparked a joy of words and creating characters, as I made comic strips and wrote stories from as early as I can remember. There was a magic in books, and I was determined to learn how to build a world of characters and scenarios that other people might enjoy, too.

Q2. Are you traditionally published or an Indie author and why did you choose this way to publish?

I am published by an indie horror publishing house, so I guess it's a little of both! Traditional publishing felt like the best route for me because I always feel as though I need validation before I can believe my work is good. Self-doubt and imposter syndrome have held me back in the past, and I know I would have stood in my own way if I tried to self publish. I have so much admiration and respect for indie authors who self publish, self promote, and build everything from scratch. It takes an extraordinary amount of tenacity and drive. Thankfully, Wicked House Publishing has set me off down a great path to where I'm feeling more comfortable with promotion, and I'm getting more resilient every day.

Q3. What genre do you write and why did you choose this?

I discovered horror books when I was about 9. I was hooked from there! It soon became clear to me that following in my favourite authors' footsteps was the only career I wanted. I'd always been obsessed with monsters and ghosts, and they gave me the same excitement that I got from thinking about Santa as a small kid. I wanted to try and create something that gave others that same feeling. It took me a long time to be able to write effective horror, and I went through phases of trying out YA, crime, and even romance, but I never felt like I was being true to myself in those genres. The horror world is definitely the one that feels most true, and I love the fact that there are no boundaries. You can literally do anything when it comes to horror, and that makes it exciting for me.

Q4. What are you currently working on and when do you intend it to be published?

I have a few projects on the go at the moment. Creating a trilogy of The Suffering books is definitely on the goals list, and I'm also working on another novel idea I'd started before getting the publishing deal. That one is based around an Urban Legend that was born of a student psychology experiment, and I'm having a lot of fun mapping out the chapters for it. There are no specific release dates in mind at the moment, but ideally I hope to have news of a second publication by the end of 2023.

Q5. Tell us a little about how you go about the writing process.

Ideas usually pop into my head when I least expect it. I was walking my dog in the woods listening to music when the story for The Suffering came about. Another place where ideas crop up is usually the bath - it seems to be when I'm trying to relax that inspiration strikes, so the relaxation goes out the window! Once I've jotted down those ideas, I tend to mull them over for a while, seeing scenes that pop into my head. I never really know where a story is going at first, and it will play out like a movie. Sometimes it's as much of a surprise to me as it is to a reader! I do tend to write frenzied and fast for a couple of months, getting everything down. Then the editing process begins, which can be pretty arduous. I checked my document properties when I was due to submit The Suffering, and I'd spent 2,700 hours on it. Which seems absolutely insane! But it's all worth it in the end.


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