The following is an interview with Loren Rhoads regarding the release of the short story collection, Unsafe Words. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Rhoads about her creative process in collecting the various short stories included, how the stories will connect with and impact readers, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of your new short story collection, Unsafe Words! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you share with us about the collection’s premise, and what inspired the genesis of this project?
Loren Rhoads: Thank you so much for your kind words. Unsafe Words collects my horror, dark fantasy, science fiction, and literary stories published over the years. They’ve appeared in the magazines Cemetery Dance and Space & Time, as well as in the books Sins of the Sirens, Demon Lovers, The Haunted Mansion Project, and Tales for the Camp Fire, among others.
In the spring, I was struck by inspiration during the online presentation of the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Awards. I realized I’d never had a full-length collection of my short stories published. Since I needed a project to keep me busy during the pandemic lockdown, I decided to put this book together. Assembling it helped the time fly.
BD: How would you describe your creative process in determining which short stories would best fit this collection, and what (or who) have been some of your creative inspirations?
LR: I wanted to approach Lynne Hansen for a cover image. She’s best known for her horror artwork, so that colored the stories I chose; even the literary stories, the ones without genre elements, are dark and uncomfortable. I wanted to include one story inspired by the succubus novels I’ve written with Brian Thomas, one science fiction story spun out of my space opera trilogy, and one of the series of Alondra stories that I’ve written about a monster-hunting witch. The other Unsafe Words stories are simply my favorites of the pieces I’ve had published.
For this project, my main role model was Ray Bradbury. I discovered his short story collections at the library when I was a kid. He could effortlessly slide from chilling science fiction to humor to dark horror, but each of his stories is clearly born from the same imagination.
To be honest, though, I simply love short stories. I see reflections of Angela Carter, Brian Hodge, Gemma Files, and Martha J. Allard in this collection, too.
BD: As we approach Halloween, what makes Unsafe Words the perfect book for readers who want to get into the frightfully festive spirit of the season?
LR: All kinds of creatures populate these stories: ghosts, a vampire, the Wild Hunt, succubi and their demon lord, a witch, aliens from space, and a killer or two. As we know, however, sometimes the worst monsters are merely human.
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 Unsafe Words’ stories will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that these stories were important for you to bring to life?
LR: I started my writing career as the editor of a magazine called Morbid Curiosity. The stories in that zine were all confessional nonfiction, but the subject matter got incredibly dark at times. Even the darkest essays often had a glimmer of humor in them. My goal in publishing the magazine was to give readers the experience of catharsis — and probably also schadenfreude: a sense that however bad their lives may have seemed, at least they weren’t living through the stories in the magazine. The collection of pieces gathered from the magazine after it ended was called Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues.
That same spirit inspired these stories, as well. They’re dark, but hopefully readers will feel catharsis when they’ve survived them. As I often say, every day above ground is a good day. We should celebrate that more often.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
LR: I’m looking forward to National Novel Writing Month next week. I’m going to use Nanowrimo to completely rewrite The Death of Memory, my never-published first novel.
The main character in The Death of Memory is the young witch, Alondra DeCourval — I’ve written stories about her for years, one of which appears in Unsafe Words. In the novel, Alondra comes home for her older brother’s funeral, meets the hellhound that killed him, and sets about cleaning up the mess. I’m so looking forward to finishing the story at last.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Unsafe Words and your other work?
LR: Unsafe Words is sold by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop.org, and Indie Bound. I’ve collected all the links here.
Interested parties can join my monthly newsletter, where I’m always off on some morbid adventure and often there are contests.