Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine a spotlight on our friend and author Kristi Petersen Schoonover. Kristi was here for our Ghost Hunting event a few weeks ago; now you can get to know her and her work even better!
Kristi Petersen Schoonover has been writing and placing her stories in magazines since she was 13, and her life’s work as a writer was inspired by the creepy legends surrounding the man-made lake on which she grew up. Her short fiction has been featured in several magazines and anthologies, and Dark Alley Press published her novel, Bad Apple, in 2012, and a novelette, “This Poisoned Ground,” in 2014. She holds an MFA from Goddard College, is the recipient of three Norman Mailer Writers Colony residencies, and is a co-host on the Dark Discussions podcast, which covers speculative films. Recently named Guest of Awesome for 2017’s Ro-Con 3, she also serves as co-editor of Read Short Fiction and creates the This Writing Life YouTube series. In her spare time she enjoys swimming, ballroom dancing, stage managing for a local theatre, and volunteering at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk. She lives in the Connecticut woods with her husband, occult specialist, and co-host of The Ghostman & Demon Hunter Show, Nathan Schoonover, and still sleeps with the lights on.
Thank you for joining us, Kristi! For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from your work?
Even though Bad Apple is a novel, “short dark fiction” is the best descriptor for my work, because I don’t write exclusively in one genre. I just go where the muse takes me, and the only thing the entire cannon has in common is tone. I also tend to deal with darker themes: loss, grief, perception, obsession, death. I have some that are soft science fiction (“To Chance Tomorrow” in the Wicked Seasons anthology), some that are horror (“A Bone to Pick” in Toasted Cheese), and many that would classify as magical realism (“Our Lips Are Sealed” in Sediments Literary-Arts Journal).
Bad Apple is about a girl, Scree, who suffers a trauma at a young age, and then is forced to grow up rather quickly. Her skewed vision of the world will have dire consequences…and that’s what I was trying to say, I think, with this book: Our perceptions are greatly affected by our experiences, sometimes in very terrifying ways. People who enjoyed the subject matter of Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone might enjoy this book.
What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story?
In Bad Apple, Scree lives on a working apple orchard (at least for the first half of the book). This required a lot of visiting real orchards to see how things are done, reading up on what’s involved in running an orchard, and devouring more than my fair share of information about apples, how they’re grown, how they’re crossbred and all their different characteristics. I’ve spent every October my entire life picking apples at our local orchards, and I had no idea it was so involved! I also had to do a great deal of research in wedding cake baking and wedding planning. I had to research the old Borscht Belt hotels and what it might have been like to be a guest there; what types of activities went on and what the culture would have been like if someone were an outsider. My favorite part, though, was studying thousands of urban explorers’ photos of one abandoned resort in particular (and this was back in the days of MySpace; I had to reach out to people personally, as there wasn’t a whole lot out there as far as blogs and websites on the subject back in 2005). I actually went and visited The Pines, where some of the story is set. I didn’t have to go anywhere near it—the smell of mold and God knows what else wafted across the road. That was an experience that made me step into Scree’s shoes for sure.
What has been your favorite adventure during your writing career?
I’ve had so many wonderful adventures, and it just seems like every day there’s a new exciting project to work on, get involved in, apply for, or create; there’s a new place in the world to visit (or a new glass of wine to drink!). Honestly, every day is enthralling. But because my father was an English teacher, I grew up with a stress on education, so by far, the experiences that have involved learning have been the most exhilarating adventures of all. I got so much out of the residencies at the Norman Mailer Writer’s Colony and even more out of writer’s conferences that put the focus on practical workshops (I highly recommend The Writer’s Institute at Miami Dade College, but there are so many more!). Working on the MFA in Creative Writing was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I learned so much about the craft, and if I had one piece of advice to give to writers it’d be study your whole life; never stop studying. I just feel as though I’ll never be done with learning, and there will always be room for improvement.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
I’ve been putting together a second collection for awhile now, tentatively titled The Sound of Sorrow and Other Stories. Many of the stories are pieces that appeared in publications which are now out of print, and none of them are available online (most of these date back to when print was, in addition to being the only thing going, the only recognized way to be published—new writers are always shocked to find out that prior to about 2004, online publications weren’t considered “legitimate” places to have your work published – look how times have changed!). The reason it’s taking a while is that there are a few stories which need a grand amount of revision, and in order to do that, I have to go back to that place. If I can’t get there, then I’ll just have to wait and come up with new work. But right now the goal is to get it completed and submitted to publishers by next summer, which means we’re probably looking at 2018. I do have a piece coming out—“7 Creepy Tales of Candlewood Lake,” which examines the urban legends surrounding the man-made lake on which I grew up—in the next couple of weeks (hopefully) on the New England Horror Writers blog. I also have five short stories which are due out in various anthologies over the next nine months.
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!) And how can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
My short works are featured in several magazines; anybody interested can visit https://kristipetersenschoonover.com/where-to-read-me/ to get links to the (still available) online journals I was published in. I also have a store page for links to anthologies at https://kristipetersenschoonover.com/store/. My novel Bad Apple and novelette “This Poisoned Ground” are available both through Amazon and through the publisher Dark Alley Press’ website at http://www.darkalleypress.com/. Your local bookstore can also order them! Here’s where people can stalk me:
Thank you again for joining us, Kristi, for our Ghost Hunting event as well as part of our Author Spotlight blog!