Join us as we peek behind the scenes of our upcoming anthology, ON TIME. Learn more about Madison Estes in her featured interview.
ABOUT THE STORY
What inspired your story?
I was reading “John Dies at the End” and I was really annoyed that (spoiler alert) John didn’t die at the end. Don’t get me wrong, I like John. I just felt the title was misleading. So I decided to write a story about a character based on that title. The original story title was, “Vincent Dies at the End” as an homage to Jason Pargon’s story. Then the story changed from an homage to something very different, so the story title eventually changed, too.
Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist?
Issac is a socially awkward, introverted gamer who is surprisingly chill about being trapped in a time loop. Vincent points out that all Issac ever does is watch people doing things, either in video games or movies/television. Issac is the opposite of adventurous, but he is committed to trying to save Vincent and end the time loop. (Although the guy does take television and video game breaks from time to time, because come on, trying to stop a time loop is exhausting).
What is the most interesting thing about the world you’ve created?
I think the most interesting thing is the casual way the time loop is treated in my story. Issac becomes desensitized to it quickly. Time loops are almost always really dramatic literary devices. The Butterfly Effect, Looper, Source Code, etc. Happy Death Day and Groundhog Day are the only two stories I can think of off the top of my head that have some light-hearted fun with the time loop concept. When Tree strips naked and walks across campus just because she can, it’s fun to imagine the freedom in that.
What genre or mix of genres does your story fit into?
This story is a combination of horror, fantasy, and humor.
How have your personal experiences influenced this story?
There are lots of pop culture references from shows and movies I love, like Game of Thrones, Doctor Strange, and Family Guy. I poke fun at Family Guy in the story, but I actually love it! I’m a huge nerd like Issac. I think there is a lot more of my personality in him than most of my characters.
Also, time manipulation is a really cool idea that I daydream about. Time loops thematically represent a character who feels stuck in some way (i.e. Tree not accepting her mother’s death in Happy Death Day). At the time I wrote this, I was going through a rut. There are times in life where we get into a routine and feel like we are in a time loop. I think an actual time loop appeals to us because when we see characters break out of their loop, it gives us hope that we can escape the rut we’re in.
What would you like readers to take away from your story?
Get out there and live your life. Don’t get stuck in a rut. If you need to, get help from friends, family, mental health services, or uplifting podcasts/books. Life is short, and you need to find something that lights you up.
Also, don’t tie people up with PlayStation controller cords. They make poor restraints.
What was your favorite part of the story to write and why?
I love the jokes and pop culture references sprinkled throughout, but I would say I had the most fun writing the part where the main character speculates about the butterfly effect and the nature of time loops. I also really like the ending. It has a twist that none of my beta readers saw coming.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
When did you write your first story, how old were you, and what was it about?
When I was eleven, I remember writing and illustrating a comic strip about my childhood best friend and I going to Hogwarts. Alex was a witch, and she snuck me into Hogwarts even though I was a muggle because we didn’t want to be separated. It’s kind of bittersweet looking back on it now because we started that comic around the time she was moving. We were both huge geeks who roleplayed and lived in our nerdy Harry Potter world, and the comic was a natural extension of that. It’s like I was subconsciously trying to keep us together when I made that comic.
Although I shouldn’t say I made it alone. It was actually a collaboration because she gave me ideas and I based some of the drawings on our inside jokes. We actually continued the comics for several years, all the way into my late teens. There were crazy storylines. I drew a naked Dumbledore in the prefect bathroom having a bubblebath based on the Harry Potter Puppet Pals video where Dumbledore says, “Naked time.” I was obsessed with Snape, so I brewed a love potion to make him fall in love with me. (Imagine Snape with heart-shaped cartoon eyes. Just imagine it). Then years later we did a Twilight/Harry Potter crossover and brought Jacob Black and Edward Cullen to Hogwarts. Honestly, that comic was a masterpiece in crack fiction. I’m still proud of it to this day.
What is your writing survival checklist? (Aka, what helps your write the best: music, snacks, coffee, complete silence, a stress ball, a cat, or an outline, etc.)
I like to listen to music when brainstorming. Marilyn Manson, Motionless in White, Rammstein, and Combichrist are my muses. I need silence when I’m actually writing. I usually have an outline or some notes before I start. And I need my dogs nearby, mostly so I know they aren’t getting into trouble while I’m busy.
What has influenced you most as a writer?
Shows like The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Crypt have influenced me. I love the twists and moral lessons. They are like morbid Aesop fables. Readers have said my work reminds them of The Twilight Zone, like my story “Deadwood” about the CEO of a construction company who is haunted by the ghost of a tree his company cut down, and the story I published in Transcendant about the girl who gets lost in a house of mirrors and has to face both her vanity and mortality.
Stephen King, V. C. Andrews, and Christopher Pike influence my writing style and subject matter. I write a lot of ghost stories and gothic horror. Edgar Allan Poe also influences me. A few years ago, I wrote modernizations of “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “Ligeia.” The unreliable narrator trope is something I come back to a lot, which I learned from Poe.
What font do you prefer to write in?
Times New Roman. Most publishers accept it, and I’m too lazy to change it. It’s just my default.
Do you have any writing blogs/vlogs/podcasts, etc. that you would recommend?
I highly recommend Drew Chial’s blog for horror satire and writing advice. Kristen Martin’s podcast and You Tube channel inspire me to be creative and focused, and to keep trying to achieve my goals despite setbacks.
What is your favorite and least favorite word, and why?
I really like the word mayhem, so much that I named my Chihuahua that. Of course now I love the word even more thanks to my dog! I dislike the word moist unless it’s describing cake.
What projects do you have going on this year?
The Writing Barn invited me to teach a six-week, online horror writing course. I’ve always wanted to teach creative writing, and getting to focus on horror is a bonus. My class includes an analysis of horror movies, books, shows, and video games. It also goes over the horror subgenres, tropes, trends, and archetypes. There are two workshops, plus various writing exercises. If the turnout is good, I hope to teach the class more than once this year.
As a result of promoting this horror class, I’ve started making tutorial videos aimed at horror writers. I’m planning to start a YouTube channel devoted to helping horror and fantasy writers.
I’m currently working with six other writers on The Complete Guide to Writing Horror Vol. 1, commissioned by Dragon Moon Press. I’m in charge of five chapters, which cover horror subgenres, horror basics, the history of horror, business etiquette, and market resources.
In the basics chapter, I’m covering character struggles, decisions, consequences, and other related topics. One subject of special interest to me is character agency. I feel that in horror stories, character agency is often lacking. It’s tempting to write a passive, reactive character in a genre where the villain is often the star, but characters should have some control over their lives, or at least the appearance of control, even if by the end of the story you’re going to pull the rug from under the reader and reveal the characters had little to no chance at all. Think about the movies In the Mouth of Madness, Knowing, or Cabin in the Woods. The main characters in these stories are active. They fight back, but more than that, they ask questions and investigate. Even if they fail, they make efforts to take control of their lives. It makes stronger characters and a more entertaining story than a character that only runs from the maniac with the knife.
In the business etiquette chapter, I cover topics such as communication, conflict management, and how to write cover letters, query letters, author bios, and more. Market resources covers topics such as networking opportunities, horror conventions, critique groups, and where to find submission calls. The history chapter mostly focuses on the last hundred years, and it covers horror literature, movies, television, video games and even a few tabletop games.
I’ve very excited about this project. I can’t wait to share my knowledge and help aspiring horror writers.
Also, I’ve decided to slow down with short stories for awhile and focus on longer works. I want to write both a screenplay and a novel before the end of the year. I’m turning a milestone age this year. (Don’t ask me what it is, I’ll never tell). It triggered a mini-existential crisis. I procrastinate pretty much everything, but I think I might be early for my mid-life crisis lol. I’m also going to try to film at least one short film before the year is over.
Madison Estes has had work featured in anthologies by HellBound Books, Twisted Wing Productions, Transmundane Press, Soteira Press, TANSTAAFL Press, and Abomination Media. She is a recipient of the Mystery Writers of America Helen McCloy scholarship. She received an Honorable Mention from the Ron L. Hubbard Writers of the Future contest. Her work is forthcoming in Unexpected Heroines (Grimbold Books) and Tales From Gehenna (Gehenna and Hinnom). She is currently working with six other writers on The Complete Guide to Writing Horror Vol 1. commissioned by Dragon Moon Press.
She lives in southeast Texas and has three dogs. She enjoys reading, drawing, painting, and swimming in her spare time.
ON TIME is coming in Summer 2020. Be sure to follow us on Amazon.