For WIHM (Women in Horror Month) I have had the great fortune to interview another fantastic author: Rena Mason. Rena is an up-and-coming author of dark fiction and is creating lots of ripples in the horror pond. Definitely an author to watch and without further ado, here she is:
Rena Mason graduated from college with a SUNY nursing license, started her career in oncology, did some home healthcare work for Visiting Nurses, and then went on to work in the operating room for over twelve years in Denver, Colorado.
A longtime fan of horror, sci-fi, science, history, historical fiction, mysteries, and thrillers, she began writing to mash up those genres in stories revolving around everyday life.
She is a member of the Horror Writer's Association, Pacific Northwest Writer's Association, and International Thriller Writers. She writes a column for the HWA Monthly Newsletter, "Recently Born of Horrific Minds" and writes occasional articles. She also does volunteer work for the Horror Writer's Association, KillerCon convention, and The Vegas Valley Book Festival.
An avid SCUBA diver since 1988, she has traveled the world and enjoys incorporating the experiences into her stories.
Currently, she resides in Las Vegas, Nevada with her family.
Interview with Rena Mason
Q: When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer and how did you go about realizing your dream?
A: About six years ago, I read ANGELS & DEMONS by Dan Brown and was completely disappointed the book had nothing to do with any angels and demons. Then I went on vacation with an armful of books that had won “awards.” They were some of the most boring books I’d ever read. I kept waiting for something to happen and it never did.
When I got back, I turned on my new laptop, opened up Notepad, and started writing. Ha! Yeah, I still have that original, too. But writing wasn’t enough. I researched everything. Then when I thought it was ready, I started submitting it to agents.
The rejections came one after the other. I bit the bullet and sent it to one of those “review” places and wasted money for nothing. (Money I later discovered, could have been put to better use by hiring an editor.)
I attended a writers’ convention and a friend of a friend who’s a writer convinced me to pitch my novel. I did. Thought I might have a heart attack and drop dead after I left the room. It was set up like an American Idol audition, but there were only two people behind the table—the owner and editor of the company.
A few weeks later, I received another rejection, but this time, the editor took the time to tell me that my dialogue was very stiff. Thank you! Since the story I’d written was a personal one, I put it on the backburner but knew I’d get back to it when I felt ready.
I got to work on something else, focused on creating more natural dialogue, and then hired an editor after submitting to a couple agents and receiving rejections. Getting a professional editor made all the difference for me. Not only did it improve my MS, but the positive feedback built up my confidence, and I learned that if I really wanted to publish my stories, I was going to have to put myself out there. So, with the help of my editor, I did just that, by joining the HWA, “friending” other writers on Facebook, attending more conventions where I actually introduced myself and talked to people. It was a learning process, but I made fast friends, and soon my work caught the attention of an up and coming new publishing company and that’s how my work finally began to get published.
Q: Your work to date has mainly been in the Dark Fiction/Horror genre – is this a genre you prefer to write in and if so, why?
A: Yes. I prefer to write Dark Fiction/Horror, because that’s what I enjoy reading the most. None of the other genres give me the roller coaster of emotions I crave the way darker works do.
Q: Have you always been a fan of horror literature? Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
A: WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE was the first book I’d ever read in Kindergarten. I thought the little boy was a brat and wished the monsters would eat him. I was sad that the monsters were sad when the boy left. I’d always hoped that the monsters would find a way to sail off their island and find the boy. I read that book at least once a week and was disappointed there was never a sequel about the monsters’ revenge.
When I was younger I read a lot of Edgar Allan Poe and Shirley Jackson. Their stories never got old for me. Nowadays, I’m all over the board when I read. There are so many authors out there, I don’t usually read more than one work by that author. But as of late, I’ve found a few authors whose works offer a variety. I’m horribly lazy and the mere sight of a thick book makes me cringe, so I tend to stay away from those. I’ve read a lot of Lisa’s Morton’s works, Benjamin Kane Ethridge, and have recently been reading Mercedes Murdock Yardley’s works. Lisa Mannetti is another author I enjoy reading, but in my heart I prefer Gothic works, and she’s great at writing them.
Q: What are your writing goals and where do you see yourself five years from now in terms of your writing/publishing?
A: If I could write and publish a novel a year, or five short stories in that same amount of time, I’d be happy. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m lazy, so my minimal aspirations are purely my own. But what I do publish, I want to be good and ready. It will have been edited professionally, proofread, etc. and that’s before submitting. This would give me five novels in five years, or 25 short stories. I’d be okay with half and half.
Q: What are your thoughts on self-publishing? Is it something you hope to do with your own work? If so/not, why?
A: I have nothing against self-publishing. I’ll never self-publish my own though, because like I mentioned above, I’m lazy. Really. That’s the only reason.
Q: As a nurse and author do you draw upon your experience as fodder for your stories? Do you catch yourself eying up situations and people in the workplace as potential candidates for your stories?
A: Absolutely. I’m a firm believer that truth will always be more horrifying than fiction. Oh, the stories I could tell! And will. Eventually.
Q: How do you approach your writing? I.e. do you outline plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
A: If I get a story idea I’ll think about it and try to see it through in my head. If I can do that, and it doesn’t go away, but stays on my mind, I’ll write down how I’ve imagined the story plays out. If I keep thinking about it, then I’ll take the time to write it, because obviously it needs to get out of my head. So far, more stories get written than die out, which is a good thing.
Q: How do you promote your work and how important do you think social media is as a platform for marketing your books and building your profile as an author?
A: I’ve advertised in magazines, online magazines, do the Goodreads giveaways, Facebook posts, (just getting into Twitter now,) and word of mouth through friends and at conventions. I think all the social media is important, but I wish it wasn’t, because it’s hard to stay on top of everything and try to write. There are too many places where you can lose yourself for hours, and in the end, I wonder if it really makes any difference.
Q: What do you hope to achieve with your writing? Do you have a ‘magnum opus’ in mind or in progress that you would like to unleash upon the world one day?
A: I just hope to keep writing. Besides being lazy, I’m one of those people that does a thing, and when it’s done, I move on and find something else to do. I’m fighting a little bit of that now, actually, but the new horror family that I’ve gained keeps me in the train of thought to keep writing. I have so many more stories to tell.
And yes, remember that first story I’d written on Notepad? Well, that’s become a series of at least six books. If I dwell on it too much it starts to weigh me down, but it’s a story that must be told, and it’s personal, so if I write nothing else, it has to be that.
Q: Which one of your works stands out as the best example of your style and ability? Do you have any future projects that you would like to tell the readers about?
A: I wrote a short story about six months ago that’s in a slush pile that I love. I’m considering turning it into a novella or novel. It could even be a series. Yikes! Why must everything be a series? But really, it’s got that potential. And it’s not that I don’t like series, it’s the thought of writing one that intimidates me.
All my future projects are secret. I know, I know. Sorry. I’m working on something with a co-writer and then the other things floating around aren’t quite a done deal yet, so I shouldn’t say anything. But it does seem I’ve become a committee girl and am working on promoting the Horror genre in Las Vegas, which I’m proud of, is fun, but keeps me busy.
Visit Rena at the following places