Meghan Douglass – Author Interview
After a bit of a hiatus, I’ve been able to find the time to bring back my popular series of interviews with authors and editors that I’ve featured here on The Scifi and Fantasy Reviewer over the years; and I’m absolutely delighted to continue with this series by interviewing Meghan Douglass, a new author focusing on science-fiction and horror stories. Her debut publication was the scifi/horror novella Humanity Lost which I reviewed in November last year, and found to be both a sterling debut – well-written, atmospheric and quietly disturbing – and also a superb slice of scifi-horror, a subgenre that still doesn’t get much love even these days. She also has an upcoming collection of short stories – Tormented Tales: A Collection of Nightmarish Short Stories – which is due out later this year. She was kind enough to find time in her schedule to agree to answer some questions from me about her background and life experiences, and how those have influenced her writing and goals as an author; the inspirations behind her various stories; how she manages to write stories across different genres; and what her plans are for the future.
Hi there Meghan, and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed on The Scifi and Fantasy Reviewer!
Thank you so much for inviting me.
Perhaps we could start by asking you to tell us a bit about yourself and your background, and how you found yourself becoming an author?
I started my career as a medical research scientist working on childhood neurodegenerative diseases, I did that for years, but life has a way of throwing you curve balls. A couple of years ago I became a mum and for many reasons I decided not to go back to work and became a stay at home mum. A few years before this I started dabbling in writing the odd short story and starting a few books that never went anywhere but since being at home I have found my way to writing more and more and have since started calling myself a writer.
As you began to write, were there any particular authors and settings that inspired you; and perhaps still do?
Absolutely, I think Stephen King has been one of my biggest influences, his book On Writing helped me to realise that I could be a writer if I put my mind to it. I think other authors have inspired me to, Agatha Christie being another.
Turning to your writing specifically, your debut work is Humanity Lost, a blend of the science-fiction and horror genres in which a small crew of spacefarers find themselves potentially abandoned in the depths of space, lightyears from Earth while on a desperate mission crucial to the fate of humanity. How did you come up with the idea for the story? And did it evolve at all as you were writing it?
It’s a funny story, I was approached by someone putting together an anthology and they told me they waned horror stories set in deep space and it kind of just popped into my head. I started writing but as it unfolded and evolved it became bigger than what the anthology wanted, but I loved what I’d created so I decided to throw it out to the universe on my own.
Humanity Lost being set in space is a key element of the novella’s plot and atmosphere. I’ve noted in previous reviews that there are relatively few horror stories set in space, and I wondered if you might be able to talk a little bit about what made you set it in space specifically? And what advantages a futuristic, science-fiction setting offers to the horror author – and reader?
That’s a fantastic question, well I set it in space because of the scope of the anthology to begin with. The whole futuristic setting does allow for an element of freedom that writing in other time periods doesn’t allow. I was able to create a future which I felt wasn’t that big a stretch from where we are now but with the freedom to twist it and turn it to serve the needs of my story.
While I certainly don’t want to spoil the ending to Humanity Lost, it does seem like there could be the potential for a sequel, or indeed further stories set within the same storytelling universe! Is that something that you have considered – expanding the story and exploring other elements of the worldbuilding you established? Or was this a setting that you only intended to use for the one story?
When I initially wrote the story it was never my intention to leave it open for more but I feel like maybe my brain did it subconsciously because it’s definitely open for more. I’ve had a few people ask this question now and it’s definitely made me start thinking about where the story might go next. I have no idea when, but I do believe I will return to the world I created with the novella that has started my career.
I can see from your social media that your next publication will be the upcoming Tormented Tales: A Collection of Nightmarish Short Stories, due to be published later this year. What can you tell us about the collection, and the stories collected within it?
I’m really excited about this collection because I’ve had a number of these stories sitting around for quite some time. It’s a collection of stories I’ve created out of my own nightmares and fears as well as from other peoples. I’m hoping people will enjoy them for what they are, they are all a tad twisted.
I also have a horror novel I’m hoping to release this year as well about a board game you really wouldn’t want to be stuck playing. I don’t have a title for this one yet but hopefully I’ll be able to share more soon.
Turning now to some more general questions, I know every author is unique in terms of their writing process, but I’m curious – how do you write best? Are you one of those authors who go to a coffee shop and sit with a laptop typing away; or are you perhaps more for quiet spaces and solitude? And do you listen to anything while writing?
Being a stay at home mum means I don’t generally have the luxury of time or quiet spaces. Most of my writing is done in small snatches whenever I can and wherever I can set my computer up at that moment. Nap times are useful but are unpredictable in length sadly. I’ve even been known to throw a few hundred words down while I’m trying to cook dinner at the same time, jumping from stirring a pot to my keyboard. It’s far from ideal but it’s all I have right now.
I think each different length of story requires a slightly different style and approach. I know the more I write, the better my writing gets and the better I’m getting at fitting into the scope of what I’m trying to achieve. I think my initial writing was very immature and the more I do, the more evolved it becomes.
Following on from that, would you say that you’ve found your writing style changing as you’ve written more fiction, and moved between short fiction to novelettes?
So far you’ve written stories that focus primarily on the science-fiction and horror genres. Are there any other genres that you’d like to explore and write in, that you haven’t ventured into yet? Anything that takes your fancy – but perhaps isn’t commercially/financially viable, or you haven’t had the time to focus on as yet?
Definitely, I think one day I’d like to consider myself a multi-genre author but I just haven’t had the opportunity yet to write all the stories bouncing around in my head. I have the beginnings of a YA fantasy novel I hope to get back to and I would like to try my hand at romance one day too. I read everything so I’m hoping I can write it all too. Of course that may be a pipe dream and I might crash and burn because of it but we can only wait and see.
And finally – what’s next for you in the writing and publishing world? Do you have anything planned after the publication of your short story collection, or in the process of being published?
So hopefully this year I will get out the collection and the horror novel I mentioned. After that I’m not one hundred percent sure, I have a few books I’ve started writing. Theres a sci-fi book I hope to create a trilogy from I would like to get stuck back into or maybe I’ll dip my toe into the romance waters. I think I’ll have to wait and see where my head is at when the time comes.