>Sylvia Shults An Interview
Hello folks today we have an interview with the author Sylvia Shults
GNOH – Hi Sylvia, how are you doing?
I’m doing just grand, thanks! It’s spring here, and my garden’s just beginning to stretch and wake up after too long of a winter.
GNOH – Could you give us some background about yourself?
Well, I don’t watch much television, and I hate to be bored. So that means I fill my free time with all sorts of really interesting hobbies. I make wine, I bake, I ride motorcycles, I go camping and canoeing. I make herbal teas and ointments. I play in the dirt. And I read – voraciously and omnivorously. I’d rather read than do just about anything else. I love dogs – my two furry German Shepherd girls are my babies. I’m one of those weirdos who actually likes their job. Truth be told, I like both my jobs. I don’t have much use for kids. As long as they’re someone else’s, I don’t mind. It’s just not for me. I love food, and a good dirty joke. I listen to Classical music mostly, but I do love the 80’s too. I’m lucky enough to be married to my best friend and my True Love. I’m pretty much one of the most interesting people I know. (I know, I’m biased.) I absolutely love my life.
GNOH – A librarian who rides a motor bike to work, pretty cool. What kind of bike do you have?
I’ve got a Ducati Monster 695. It was my present to myself for finishing The Taming of the Werewolf. It’s shiny black with brilliant red highlights along the side, and it’s way fast. I learned to ride on Kawasaki dual-purpose bikes, which are really tall. So it’s a treat to ride something that I can “flat-foot”, something that’s actually the right size for me. The Monster is the smallest bike Ducati makes, and as I mentioned, this one’s black. So I’ve named it “Nibbler”. That ought to please any Futurama fans out there.
GNOH – I see you are also a part time art model for life drawing classes. That must take a lot of courage?
To be honest, it takes more patience than courage. I’ve been doing it for nearly fourteen years, so I’m completely used to it. I’ve had people guess, quite accurately, that I must be Buddhist because I can sit so very still for a really, really long time. I can’t draw for anything, but I do love art. I see that as my contribution to the world of art – being able to sit still so that others can learn to draw better.
GNOH – Has there ever been a time where you wanted to slap the artist for being a bit too cheeky with what they drew?
(Laughs) I can see how people might think that could happen! But no, I’ve never ever had a problem with anyone I’ve sat for. Wait, I take that back. There was one guy, in my second semester of modelling, that invited me outside during the break to have a cigarette and talk. First of all, I’m absolute DEATH on smoking. It’s a yucky habit, and I can’t be around smokers for very long at all while they’re indulging. It just grosses me out – sorry. And second, it’s the beginning of the spring semester, right? So it’s January. It’s like 36 degrees outside, and this guy wants me to stand outside with him while he smokes. And I’m wearing a bathrobe, y’all. I told him no as politely as I could.
GNOH – I see you enjoy ghost hunting, have you any good stories to tell?
Oh, do I ever! My favourite story ever, hands down, is the “Ghost Fart” story. This happened when I was out with RIP (Research in Paranormal). My team and I were doing an investigation at the Lil’ Stitches Sewing Shop in Macomb, Illinois. We were lights-out, and just having a great time going all over the building. We all have our jobs to do on the team; mine’s to run the DVR (digital voice recorder). I was in the back room with Shari, who takes the still pictures. We were about to leave the room when someone said, “Well, hold on, I think I heard some hangers rattling over there on that rack.” Shari pointed the camera over to the rack, and I was waiting for her to take the pictures, when from just to my left, I heard someone fart.
Now, this wasn’t some pants-shredding blast. It was just a quiet, polite little “poot”. On the other hand, I have the sense of humor of an eleven-year-old boy. So my first reaction was “(snigger) Someone farted!!!” I swallowed my giggles, though, and Shari continued to shoot pictures.
Well, we got done in that room, and decided to rejoin the rest of the group. We were still lights-out at that point, remember. So I clicked my flashlight on so Shari and I could find our way back to the front room of the shop, and just out of morbid curiosity, I swung the beam of the flashlight to my left, so I could see who it was that had cut the cheese. That’s when I realized that not only had no-one been standing next to me, I was standing next to a solid wall.
I said to myself, “Hmm. I KNOW I heard something weird. I think this is something people need to know about.” ‘Cause that’s what you do, you know, during an investigation. If you hear or feel or see something weird, you tell your fellow investigators. So we get back into the front room, and I say, “Okay, I know everyone’s going to laugh at me, but this is what I heard.” And I told everyone about the fart.
Well, of course I was right – everyone was just splitting their sides laughing at me. I stuck with my story, though. At the end of the evening, I gave the DVR over to Gail, whose job it is to go over the recordings and flag any odd noises that might be voices.
Gail messaged me the next morning, saying “I found your ghost fart on the tape!” I messaged back, “I TOLD you I heard something!” We had a good laugh over that, of course. But later on, she sent me an email. And this time, she wasn’t laughing.
“You have to hear this,” the email said. Gail had sent me two sound files. I played the first file.
“Poot.” The same sound I’d heard at the shop. I played the second file.
A wave of creep sizzled up my arms, making my hair stand on end. Gail had slowed the first sound file down three hundred percent. That tiny snippet of sound I’d heard was actually a draggy, metallic-sounding, female-sounding voice, saying Hello, with a little lift at the end, like she was asking a question. (Note: If you visit the website www.ripillinois.org, and go to the section on EVPs, you can hear both sound files for yourself.)
At first I was just creeped out, big-time. I thought to myself, wow, I can’t ever go back to that shop again, I’ll be too freaked out! But then I realized that here was someone who wanted to communicate with us so badly that she (or he, or it) made a noise that not only could we hear on the tape, but also, that I could hear with my naked ear. That made me feel … a little more sympathetic.
GNOH – You seem to be a bit of a Good Lifer, with all the gardening, canning, wine making and I see even cheese making. How do you find the time to do all that?
You know, I’m not sure! (laughs) I guess I just make the time for the things that are important to me. I love being self-sufficient, I love getting out in the garden and helping things grow, and I love getting out in the woods and gathering wild foods out there too. There are so many wonderful wild flavors out there that you just can’t get at the grocery store. I’m just a fiend for mulberries, and I adore elderberry wine. Nettle lasagne rocks too.
GNOF – What kind of cheese do you make? At the risk of sounding ignorant, I thought Americans only ate Monterey Jack and Cheese in a can.
Oh no, we eat sliced American cheese too. (snerk) I’ve made all kinds of cheese. I’ve made Muenster, mozzarella, Swiss, weinkase (which is sort of like a ricotta that you press in a mold to firm it up, then soak it in white wine and rosemary), custard cheese (which is almost sweet – it’s a recipe from the eighteen-hundreds I found in a historical cookbook) … the most memorable cheese I ever made was a variant of Swiss. I inoculated it with a mold I took from a commercial cheese I really liked, and let it age. When I opened the aging bag, the smell that came out was… it was really quite indescribable. It smelled like Satan’s dirty socks after a rugby game. But me being my father’s daughter, I cut a slice and tried it. Oh. My. God. It was AMAZING. You know the Japanese have this fifth taste they call “umami”? This cheese was loaded with it. Imagine a cheese that tastes like rich beefy bacon, and you’ll have sort of an idea. But God help you if you inhaled before taking that bite!
GNOF – I also see you like hunting, what do you hunt?
I hunt deer. I don’t think I could hunt rabbit, they’re far too cute. I might could take a squirrel though. And if I don’t have any luck out in the woods, or if I don’t have TIME to go out in the woods, I’m not too proud to rescue a roadkill. One of my funniest stories involves a Halloween book signing, a dead deer, a state trooper, and a sheriff’s deputy. (If you’re interested, visit my website, www.sylviashults.com, and go to Blatherings. The post is called “I Got A Deer Today!, or, Why the Grocery Store Meat Department Can Suck It For Another Year”.)
GNOH – I see you have a short story collection Ghosts of The Illinois River is that part of the same series as Ghosts of the Illinois Canal System? I just received a copy of that from D.M. Youngquist the other day.
It IS a part of the same series. Funny story, that … David had invited me to be the guest of honor at a book signing in Bishop Hill a few years ago (that’s actually how we met). I requested one of his books through the library where I work – I think it was Ghosts of the Illinois Canal System, come to think of it. (I figured if he was nice enough to invite me to this book signing, I should definitely read one of his books beforehand.)
The DAY BEFORE I was to go to this book signing, I got a phone call, totally out of the blue, from a publisher who wanted me to write a book of ghost stories set along the Illinois River. He spent some time describing what he wanted the book to be like, and what reading level to write for, and things like that. As he talked, I kept thinking, “Man, this sounds…this sounds JUST like David’s book!” When I got to Bishop Hill the next day, one of the first things I asked David was, “Say, who’s your publisher?” He told me, and darned if it wasn’t the same guy! Talk about a small, small world.
GNOH – Wow is that your own personal library? If it is that is pretty awesome.
Heh! Nope, that’s the library where I work. Been there for going on fourteen years. I love it! It’s funny, you’ve gotten ahold of an old picture of me. I’ve cut my hair since then, and that’s the old cover for Price of Admission. The new cover is much, much sexier.
GNOH – What first drew you to writing? And in particular the horror and romance genres?
Well, my father says I taught myself to read when I was two years old. I really can’t remember being pre-literate. I guess wanting to tell my own stories was just a logical outgrowth of my love for reading. I never could get into literary fiction, though. I wanted so badly to write, and to tell stories that other people would find interesting. I even tried to buy into the whole “Great American Novel” thing for a while, but I was terrified to start, because I found “Literature” to be, quite frankly, boring. Then I realized that I could write genre fiction, and my imagination was just free to soar. It was like being given … oh I dunno, the keys to a really fast bike. I love telling a story, I love entertaining people, I love the look they get on their face when I’m reading aloud and they just get lost in the words. And I love the feeling of control I have over the ending of a story. For me, the story I tell has GOT to have a sense of redemption at the end. I don’t care if it’s romance or horror, there’s gotta be a good, solid resolution at the end of it. (Of course, if I’m doing a horror short story, it’s all about the twist ending. The heck with the redemption then, I just wanna getcha.)
GNOH – How would you describe your horror? Is it a full blown gorefest, or a more restrained quiet horror style?
I cut my teeth on stuff like Stephen King and Dean Koontz, so I tend to concentrate more on the story. I don’t have much patience for “quiet horror” – I want stuff to happen, by god. I want action. Of course, I also read a whole lot of Brothers Grimm and other fairy tales while growing up, so I have no problem going for the grossout. I’m not proud. If it’s part of the story, I can do gross. I like gross.
GNOH – Do you find it easier to write one or the other?
Hmm. It depends on what kind of mood I’m in. Once I get involved in the writing, and it’s just flowing, it doesn’t matter whether I’m working in horror or romance. It’s all just lovely words and images. And sometimes, like in The Taming of the Werewolf, I even lose track of what I’m writing, of whether it’s romance or horror….
GNOH – What do you say to those who blame supernatural romance for the systematic dilution of the horror genre?
Oh, nononononono! The way I see it, reading is such a delightful, joyous thing to do, it makes no sense at all to denigrate any kind of book. There are so many eager readers in this world, and if some of them like supernatural romance and some of them like splatterpunk, well then that’s great! There’s plenty enough horror to go around! Plenty enough romance too. Don’t yuck someone else’s yum.
GNOH – How happy are you with your books, by the time they are published?
I’m extremely lucky to have several very talented first readers, who act as informal editors for me. I mean, yes, my books do go to an editor, but there are also a couple of people who read them and say, “Well, I think you should have more action here,” or, “I’d like to see more of what the hero’s thinking there”. So by the time I get through several drafts, and work in their comments, and play with things that the editor has suggested, yeah, I’m pretty happy with the work. With all those eyes looking at it, and all those comments, I feel like I’ve got a meaty story that will entertain more than just one or two people.
GNOH – Do you have any favourite words?
Heh. My grandmother was a brilliantly wordy woman, and she passed her love of words on to me, for which I thank her nearly every day. She’s the one who taught me words like obstreperous, and perspicacity, all those lovely mouthfuls. I remember one time she told me firmly, “Don’t feed the dog chicken bones – they’ll perforate her gut.” Isn’t that great? I was, like, five years old, and I could tell what she was talking about. I love big words that have very specific meanings, like fractious, or pestilential, or belligerent.
GNOH – If you could take another authors character and write your own story around them, who and why would you choose?
Actually, I’ve already done that. When I decided to write a mashup, I settled on working with The Taming of the Shrew. I had always wondered what went on “backstage” in that particular play. Why did Katharina loathe Bianca so thoroughly? What had happened to turn her into a shrew in the first place? And where, in the play, did Katharina and Petruchio ever consummate their marriage? They seemed to be getting along pretty well by the end of the play. So many unanswered questions. I hope I’ve managed to answer a few of them in my own style.
GNOF – Can you tell us how you came to be involved in Dark Continents Publishing?
It was his idea (pointing to David Youngquist). As I said, we discovered we both worked for the same publisher, and David’s never been shy about his discontent with the way most publishing companies are run these days. He invited me to write some entries in the Dark Fiction Underground series, run by our Lil’ Red Dragon, Serenity J. Banks. That’s where I met Serenity, and Ade Chamberlin & John Prescott and Tracie McBride. I knew they were all stunningly great writers, and I was thrilled that they were going to let me play in their sandbox. So when David told me that he was putting together a publishing company, and that all these authors were going to be involved, and would I like to be a part of it, I said, well yes! And then they made me the Publicity Director. But that’s what’s so very rewarding to be a part of this group. We all have our strengths, see, and we all have our jobs to do. David knows I’m a demon for “shameless self-promotion”, as an author friend of mine calls it. So hey presto, I get to be the Publicity Director. I get to do something I know how to do, and that I’m good at. I get to contribute to the well-being of the entire company in the way that suits me best.
GNOF – You must be busy with the official launch at World Horror Con.
Oh yeah, I’m putting together some great stuff. I’m designing bookmarks for us – bookmarks with a twist. They’ll be collector’s items by the end of the convention, just you wait and see. I’ve been busy setting up some other promotional materials. And we’ve all had a hand in pulling our launch party together. It’s gonna be epic.
GNOF – Are there any authors you are particularly looking forward to
meeting at the Con?
I can’t wait to meet Joe Hill. He blew me away with Heart Shaped Box, and then rocked my world with Horns. (Also, one of my patrons at the library has asked me to deliver a message for her to him. Okay, fine, it’s a marriage proposal.)
GNOF – So what does the future hold for you?
Well, DCP is planning another wave of releases in the fall. We’re going to be rolling out several ghost-themed books. I have two projects planned, and I’m not sure yet which one I’ll actually end up doing. Following the success of Ghosts of the Illinois River, I had the idea of putting together a collection of ghost stories that I’ve collected from returning veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, called Ghosts of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. I also have a romance novel planned, in which one of the characters is a ghost. The main characters are a practicing Wiccan and the producer of a ghost-hunting TV show. It’s set in Salem, and it’s called Double, Double, Love and Trouble. Should be a blast. So whichever project I choose to work on next, it will be
published by Dark Continents, it will be about ghosts, and it will be interesting!
GNOH Thank you Sylvia for taking the time and for giving such a great interview
Sylvia has put together a purchasing portal page on here blog. Where you can buy all of her books it can be found here