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“There’s a Lot of Home in These Stories,” An Interview with D.L. Winchester

Q: What was your inspiration for Shadows of Appalachia? What was the prewriting/research process like?

A: Saying “I looked out the window” seems a little too on the nose, so I’ll try to expand. I’ve grown up in the southern Appalachian foothills around the Great Smoky Mountains. I spent seven years in Texas, then came home. There’s a lot of home in these stories, from moonshiners up in Hancock County (my maternal family’s homeland) to the Kentucky coal fields (my paternal family’s homeland).

This really wasn’t a topic I had to research, because it’s been part of my life for as long as I can remember. At the same time, it’s something I’ve been researching for years before I started writing these stories. I’ve sat outside of snake-handling churches in Jolo, West Virginia and Middlesboro, Kentucky (Remember the snake handling pastor who passed away a few years ago? My dad went to high school with him!). I was in the funeral industry for ten years, and that comes through in a couple of the stories.

Q: How do you balance realism and horror in your stories? In other words, how much is a reflection of the world you know, and how much is escapism?

A: This collection isn’t very escapist in nature. The horrors are very real, and at the same time, not traditional. Horror fans may have to work a little to find the horror in these stories, but it’s there. There’s only one story that stands out as traditional horror, “Heart of the Mine,” and it’s one of my favorites.

Q: Do you have a favorite protagonist in the collection? Who is it and why do they hold that place for you?

Levi Curtis in “Signs Following.” He shares my fear of snakes, which was a big driver for me in getting the story written. 

Q: How does Shadows adhere to your previous work, and how does it depart? What’s in store for your fans who haven’t read this one yet?

A: Shadows is interesting for me because it’s kind of a transition piece as I move toward being more horror-focused. I took my pen name, D.L. Winchester, so I could focus on pushing the limits of horror without worrying about it being tied to the name I publish more mundane works under. Shadows isn’t pure horror, but it will definitely give you an emotional roller coaster of the uncomfortable kind. 

Q: What other projects are you working on? Can we get a sneak peek at any stories in progress?

A: I’ve got a flash fiction collection coming in July, and a short story collection coming in October. Right now, I’m working on editing our first anthology, Stories to Take To Your Grave: Mortuary Edition, which will be published in June. Pretty much as soon as that is over, I’ll start working on an execution-themed anthology. Oh, and I’ve got a call out for a novella to be published in August.

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