Spotlight on Andrew Robertson

With the recent release – and quick success – of Group Hex. Vol. 1, Bloody Bookish is excited to shine the spotlight on some of the authors with works in the book.

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Released this past month, Group Hex contains stories by members of the Ontario Chapter of the HWA (Horror Writers Association).

Before you pick up your copy, this is your chance to get to know the authors behind the stories, and the inspiration behind their tales.

Our first spotlight shines squarely on author Andrew Robertson. So sit back and enjoy!

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Can you start off by telling everyone about your background – when you first started writing and what you write

I started writing in grade three. We were asked to keep a journal every day and our teacher encouraged creative writing, DIY comics, and illustrated entries along with writing Dear Diary entries about our thrilling little lives. ‘This weekend I went to the zoo. I love pandas now. I want panda everything.’.

 

It was a few years later, between grades six and seven that I wrote my first ‘book’, Messy Mutations, about a chemical attack that leaves some humans merged with animals, and both share control of the body. I left it in a common area and another student wrote ‘Andrew, you are so full of shit’ on the final page. When I found it I was embarrassed and angry. I knew they were wrong in my heart, but I didn’t write anything creative for years after that.

 

Later on in high school, I became a super goth and made up for those lost years with a deluge of poetry, soul crushing shorts, zines and chapbooks. One of them won me the Toronto Centre for Lesbian and Gay Studies Young Writers Award, and the following year, The Dionne Brand Award for Young Writers, so who’s full of shit now? ;)These days, I write speculative fiction leaning heavily in the horror camp, and the odd article.

Tell readers about your story in Group Hex Vol. 1

My story, Miira, is about a young woman who loses her boyfriend, and whose mother is constantly nagging her about her appearance. She knows she hasn’t been trying very hard, but then one day in class, her professor discusses the Sokushinbutsu, a sect of Shingon Buddhism. These monks practiced extreme asceticism to the point that some became self-preserved mummies through a rigid diet of nuts, bark and toxic tea, a practice that was eventually banned…but the tea has other uses, and this young woman is desperate for a quick fix to get her man and her life back on track.

What inspired you to write the story?

I had read about Sokushinbutsu in university and the practice was so horrifying that I never forgot it. I wondered who would want to do this to themselves, and then thought, well, if I’m horrified by it, let’s scar some new minds with this. I knew I would revisit it at some point, and Miira is what fell out of my brain. Most readers rush to the internet to see if what I wrote about was true…and it is.

What stories/books are you working on next?

I’m currently working on collecting stories for Group Hex Vol. 2, again, featuring writers from the Horror Writer’s Association Ontario Chapter and a great group of artists. I love illustrated books.

 

It’s an insane amount of work but I think for a group like ours’ there’s a great benefit to having a ‘sampler’ anthology out there to attract new readers, and new members. Group Hex Vol. 2 will be out in the New Year.

 

We are thrilled with the reception to Group Hex Vol. 1. In its first two weeks, the collection hit #1 on the Amazon.ca bestselling horror anthologies category, as well as top ten in the sci-fi anthologies category.

 

I’m also working on a vampire novel set in early 80s New York, a few horror shorts which I won’t share the details of because I’m mean like that, and some writing-related research.

If there was a decidedly Canadian ‘voice’ in horror fiction, how would you describe it?

I think that Margaret Atwood has created some of the most chilling scenarios in her body of work, and I consider her the Grande Dame of Canadian lit.

 

Kelley Armstrong is definitely a great talent, and inspiring in how prolific she is. I was in a bookstore where there were three shelves of her work, a feat only comparable to Stephen King. She is also a great person and wonderful to work with.

 

In terms of ‘ Canadian ‘voice’, I would find that difficult to define, but I do find Canadian writers have far more layered and diverse themes in their work. Michael Rowe is a great example of this, bringing queer culture into his horror, and mining Northern Ontario for his backdrops.

Do you have any parting words to share ?

Being around a group of like-minded writers is the best thing you can do for yourself. I started a writer’s group years ago, and at the first meeting, half the people showed up and none brought work but me. It was discouraging, but I’ve found the need to actively search out writers with your drive, that want to be published rather than just talking about writing that book one day.

 

In fact, I met Sephera Giron, the HWA Ontario president, as a result of attending a Ten-In-One sideshow in Toronto. It must have been fate, because meeting another horror writer at a freak show can’t get much closer to the perfect first date. Our eyes met over the severed human finger necklace and the two headed duckling. The next day I stalked her online, found out about the HWA and was immediately gagging to join. I had no writing published in the genre, so instead I contributed to the Chapter by starting the Great Lakes Horror Company podcast on iTunes and helping out at conventions.

 

On the podcast we have round-table discussions about the genre and the industry with HWA members, interviews with writers and editors, readings and even the odd horror comedy segment. It’s grown a lot since then and we have a great subscriber-base. I’m telling this story because you don’t need to be published to meet and be supported by a great group of sympatico creative renegades. You just need to work at it, find a way to offer your support back, and never lose your focus or drive.

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Thank you, Andrew, for this fantastic interview! I totally agree that finding your “tribe” and striving for your goals together is such an important & inspiring thing.

For those of you looking for more author interviews, I’ll be posting another interview with author Stephen B. Pearl later today!

GROUP HEX VOL. 1

You can pick up a copy of the ebook or paperback at Amazon.

If you are in the Toronto area, there will be a book launch & signing this January. Be sure to visit the HWA Ontario Facebook page or find them at their website to stay up-to-date on all their latest horror shenanigans!

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