Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of This Morbid Life! What can you tell us about this more intimate collection, and what inspired you to tackle the project?
Loren Rhoads: The inspiration was Lynne Hansen's marvelous artwork! Last October, she was doing an art challenge where she created a new book cover every day. Right after my birthday (which is in October, of course), she made this amazing piece of art with wildflowers and butterflies inside a human ribcage. I wanted it so badly that my hands were shaking! I bought it, even though I didn't have a book in mind to go with it yet. I just knew I would have to put a book together that would do justice to the artwork.
This Morbid Life collects up the death-positive essays I've written about exploring cadavers in an anatomy lab, visiting medical museums around the world, chasing ghosts, experimenting with sensory deprivation tanks, and surviving tornadoes, earthquakes, and fire season in California. The book is meant to be life-affirming. Occasionally, it's funny.
BD: Allowing readers “behind the curtain” to your own experiences, thoughts, and feelings is likely quite divergent from sharing fictional tales. What can you share with us about your approach to navigating the creative process for this endeavor?
LR: In terms of writing about my own life, I try to be as honest and transparent as I can. In addition to that, the best creative nonfiction uses all the tools of fiction to bring the real world into clearer focus. I try to capture dialog as realistically as possible. I love to use description, because I think a lot of time our imaginations just gloss over reality. I aim to put the reader in my shoes, experiencing what I felt. There's so much to be said giving the reader permission to feel schadenfreude and catharsis.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that the essays within this collection may connect with and impact readers?
LR: I worried about that a bit as I assembled this book. We've all lived with so much worry and uncertainty over the last two years...maybe this isn't the best time to release a book that dwells so much on scientifically preserved dead bodies? Then, I thought back to publishing Morbid Curiosity magazine.
All of the stories in the magazine were true confessions. A lot of them were grim, but the overall response, readers told me time and again, was that the magazine made them glad to be alive. They hadn't faced what the authors faced. They hadn't survived such difficult things...but just reading about those adventures made the readers value their own experiences more. Their own lives seemed more precious. That's the goal I'm working toward with This Morbid Life: I want readers to see their own lives in a clearer way, to see what a gift life is. I want them to feel that every day above ground is a good day.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
LR: I've just gotten started on Jet Lag & Other Blessings, a sequel to This Morbid Life. It will be the second book in the No Rest for the Morbid series.
Jet Lag will collect my morbid travel essays, including my visits to Japanese love hotels, drinking all the absinthe I could find in Prague, encountering a rattlesnake in the Mojave, chasing alligators in the Louisiana bayou, watching whales on the continental shelf, and basically stalking my morbid curiosity around the globe.
I've already spoken to Lynne Hansen about making another glorious cover for it.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about This Morbid Life and your other work?
LR: This Morbid Life is available on Amazon and Biblio.com.
I have a monthly newsletter, where I share my morbid adventures and talk about my upcoming fiction projects. For instance, I've got stories coming out soon at The Fabulist, Occult Detective magazine, and the 99 Tiny Terrors anthology.
People can also follow me on social media:
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/LorenRhoadsAuthor/