Horror Writers Association Blog

Interview with Horror University instructor Nicole Cushing


In today’s interview with a StokerCon 2017 Horror University instructor, Nicole Cushing tells us about her workshop on “How to Give a Great Interview”!

Nicole Cushing: How to Give a Great interview

Author interviews can be a powerful tool to let readers know about your book, your personality and your unique take on your genre. They can also be difficult to do well. How much energy should you spend on an interview for a blog? How long should you make your answers? How comfortable are you with appearing on recorded interviews (whether they’re done by audio or video)? Would you ever do an interview that was broadcast live? How does a small press or self-published author get interviewed by venues with large audiences? How can you face your fears of public speaking and give a great interview even if you’re scared? Once your interview is complete, how do you promote it so it has the greatest possible impact? Are there ever any interview requests that you should turn down? This workshop will help you answer these questions. It will also include actual practice sessions in simulated blog and in-front-of-a-camera interviews.

Workshop instructor (and Bram Stoker Award winner) Nicole Cushing has been interviewed by Rue Morgue, LitReactor, Black Static, the Lovecraft eZine video chat, Zombiepalooza Radio Live, and more blogs and podcasts than you can shake a stick at. Over her eight years in the field she’s developed a successful strategy for interviews that she’s more than glad to share with those who attend this workshop.

Nicole Cushing is the Bram Stoker Award® winning author of Mr. Suicide. She has also written the Stoker-nominated short story collection The Mirrors and three stand-alone novellas (including her Shirley Jackson Award nominated book Children of No One).  Her work is noted for its use of horrific, surreal, transgressive and absurd content to explore themes of alienation and loss. Readers and reviewers sometimes liken her books to the early work of Clive Barker. They are not for the easily disturbed. She has garnered praise from various sources in the literary and genre publishing communities, including Jack Ketchum, Famous Monsters of Filmland, Thomas Ligotti, John Skipp, S.T. Joshi, Poppy Z. Brite, Ray Garton and Ain’t It Cool News. Nicole has previously taught writing workshops at Context (Columbus, Ohio) and the Indianapolis Speculative Fiction Guild’s annual retreat. For more information, visit her website: www.nicolecushing.com

Tell us something about your Horror University workshop that is not in the original description.

We’re going to have fun. My goal is to create a learning environment where everyone feels relaxed but, at the same time, we’re sufficiently on-topic to cover all the material. Another quick spoiler: this workshop will include a few hands-on interview practice exercises that should be quite helpful.

What skills or achievements make you ideally suited to lead this workshop?

Let me first address the five hundred pound gorilla in the room. My workshop is called How to Give a Great Interview, and here I am being interviewed about the workshop. So I suppose the best way potential students can assess if I’m up to snuff is to read this interview and decide, for themselves, if there’s any evidence I’m capable of pulling off the trick I’m promising to teach them! (No pressure, eh?)

Or, they could look at my interview resume. I’ve been interviewed by Rue Morgue, Black Static, FM radio stations, alternative newsweeklies in different parts of the country, live streaming video channels on Youtube, and gobs and gobs of genre websites and podcasts.

The other bit of experience that helps is that I’ve been on the other side of the table, so to speak, conducting interviews as a horror journalist for places like Cemetery Dance Online and Scream magazine. (I’ve sold interviews with The Walking Dead’s Greg Nicotero, Hellraiser’s Doug Bradley and Reggie Bannister of the Phantasm series, to name a few.) So I understand something of the chemistry of the interview: what a journalist is really looking for in an interview and how the interviewee can best provide it.

Why do you feel that your workshop subject is especially important?

Blogs and podcasts have created an explosion in the number of venues that interview authors. But too often, writers aren’t prepared to make the most of these opportunities. Their responses are too bland or too sprawling or too humorless.

Take the written interview, for example. I see it as its own literary form. It’s a chance to give the reading public a free demonstration of your writing skills, and also insight into your personality. Building a readership is about building mind-to-mind and/or heart-to-heart connections. Interviews are an accessible tool for doing that, but if your responses aren’t polished (and genuine), it’s a missed opportunity.

If you could participate in one other Horror University workshop, which one would you choose and why?

Linda Addison’s The World of Structured Poetry for All Writers looks pretty sweet. I’m a novelist, but I appreciate any musical use of words on the page and would be interested in hearing what Linda had to say about that.

Do you approach the craft of writing horror differently from other genres?

I can’t really answer that question, because I don’t write in other genres. I’ve been married to horror for several years now and remain happily faithful to it. Every once in a while I contemplate straying over to literary fiction. I’m reading more literary fiction than horror fiction these days. But I think that, even if I consciously tried to make the switch, my themes (trauma, mental illness, addiction, sadism, loss, grief, alienation, etc.) would remain horrific in nature and–as such–unfit for the gentrified neighborhood that is the present day literary scene.

Apart from teaching your workshop, what are you most looking forward to at StokerCon?

I love meeting readers, and StokerCon usually offers plenty of opportunities for that. I’ll be reading and signing late on Saturday afternoon. That should be a good time.

What do you most hope that those attending your workshop take away from it?

I want people to leave feeling much more confident about their ability to give a great interview. I want everyone to leave with a better idea of what interviews can accomplish, and also with a number of specific, concrete strategies to maximize their value for book promotion.

StokerCon 2017 is happening from April 27th to April 30th aboard the historic Queen Mary in Long Beach, California. To purchase tickets or get more information, please visit http://www.stokercon2017.org .

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