Saturday, February 21, 2015

Grimm Mistresses: Allison M. Dickson

Today we have Allison M. Dickson and she joins us to talk about her story in the incredible Grimm Mistresses anthology. This story was amazing and I was hooked at the very beginning!

1. What inspired your story?
When I was invited to join this anthology, I wanted to do a story inspired by Hansel & Gretel, because it’s already a bit of a horror story, and it always scared me when I heard it as a kid. Except I wanted to take the concept to a really weird and abstract level.
2. As a woman in horror, do you find any added pressure?
Sometimes. Occasionally, I’ll receive reviews from people who are either disturbed by what I write because I’m a woman (apparently think I should be writing “softer” things), or they’re pleasantly surprised a woman would write such dark stuff (because I guess women only write “softer” things). And that’s provided they even give my stuff a chance due to whatever preconceived notions they might have about a writer’s gender. That being said, I’m seeing this old bias starting to evaporate, and I don’t let it get me down. I proudly stamp my name on everything I write, and I think the more women put themselves out there, the better things will become for women in speculative genres.
3. Name three things on your desk right now.
My cat. My Sigmund Freud action figure. A pile of books.
4. What are some writers that have influenced your work?
Stephen King, Gillian Flynn, Robert Heinlein, Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy, Joe Hill, Kelly Braffet
5. Tell us what your future plans are? Any novels in the works?
I just finished revisions on a dark suspense novel currently with my agent, and it’s about to go on submission. Fingers crossed! I also have the next volume in my sci-fi pulp Colt Coltrane series coming out on March 17th. COLT COLTRANE AND THE STOLEN SKY. I have so much fun working on this series, and I urge anyone who likes robots mixed in with their noir detective stories to give it a shot.
6. If I were your favorite dessert what would I be?
I was trying to decide between cheesecake and key lime pie, but then I thought why not a key lime cheesecake?!
7. What would you tell writers new to the horror genre?
It’s more than just shocking blood and guts. It’s character. It’s atmosphere. It’s digging deep and finding there is always more than one conflict at work. People who try to write horror and fill it with cheap thrills are really not getting at the heart of what truly scares people.
8. Plotter or pantster?
A little bit of both. I will often write the first act with little more than a general concept in mind, but once I start getting deeper, that’s when I start plotting out the rest of the story so I can make sure I get to the end in one piece. It’s hard to pants something all the way through.

Allison M. Dickson is the author of two published novels: horror-thriller STRINGS, and the dystopian epic, THE LAST SUPPER, which received a starred review in Publishers weekly. She also has published nearly two dozen short stories covering speculative and realistic realms, both independently and in various anthologies and magazines like Apex. Her independently-produced Colt Coltrane series, featuring a detective and his robot sidekick in 1940s Los Angeles, has become a regular fixture at local comic conventions. When she isn't writing, she's usually hanging with her family, gaming, or wandering the urban sprawl of Dayton, OH, in search of great coffee and microbrew.


Excerpt from “Nectar”

I follow her sweet scent into her apartment on the west side, feeling like a dog being enticed by fresh meat. My tongue is swimming in a river of saliva. I wonder if her skin feels as soft as it looks, and how energetic and flexible she must be with few miles on her sturdy chassis. Crude images pile up in my head like a train wreck, and I wonder what else might have been in all the scotch I drank.
The inside of her place is dark, and like most apartments on this side of town, roughly the size of a walk-in closet. In addition to the cotton candy, I smell baking cookies, caramelized vanilla, earthy ginger, rich chocolate. It reminds me of the Christmases spent at my grandmother’s house growing up, and all the delicious sweets she produced, seemingly out of thin air like a confectionary sorceress. When she died, she passed down an ancient tome of recipes she and other family members had devised and collected over the years, and eventually the book made it to me. Then Heather got her mitts on it, and I never saw it again. I realized such a thing was not so much a family heirloom as it was a possession of the woman of the house. As far as I know, it’s somewhere out in California, and the idea that I’ll never get to enjoy another recipe from my grandmother’s collection fills me with an immeasurable sadness not even the promise of wild sex with a gorgeous woman half my age can completely ease.
She turns on a lamp and my eyes immediately land on a mural taking up almost the entirety of a living room wall. It’s a wooded scene, striking in its dimension and fecundity. The detail is almost photorealistic. I can see the ribs and veins on all the leaves, infinite shades of green with splashes of reds and pinks and yellows from flower blossoms unlike any I’ve ever seen. But I can even see a fine mist of dew on their petals, highlighted in painstaking detail.
The plants even look like they’re swaying gently in a breeze. A breeze I can feel on my forehead. It’s probably coming from the ceiling fan over my head, but when I look up, I see no fan.
A window must be open somewhere. It has to be, because I’m hearing crickets, an uncommon feature in a Manhattan apartment. Maybe she has one of those ambient sound machines. Forest sounds, bladder-stimulating burbling brooks.
“What an interesting painting,” I say, because I have to say something. Spoken words cut through the unreality a little.
She looks at it for a moment and she smiles, but she comes off looking a little sad. “It’s home to me.”
“You lived in a jungle? Were you raised by tigers?” I’m feeling a little goofy. Definitely the scotch kicking in, but my other senses are going completely haywire. Beneath the sugary cotton candy and cookie smells is something undeniably green and earthy. Damp peat. It reminds me of when Heather and I vacationed in Panama many years ago.
“Oh, you’ll get to hear all about my family soon enough. But right now, I think we have more important matters at hand.” She pushes me gently down onto the couch and straddles me, her skirt riding high enough so I can see the black lace edges of her panties. An hour ago, I was looking for any excuse to bail on this date. A voice, now muffled by my mounting arousal, still insists on it, but I like the comfortable weight of her, and it’s been years since I’ve let myself feel any kind of simple, uninhibited human attraction, even in its basest form. So many dates cut short at the door of a taxi over some perceived flaw I insisted I couldn’t ignore. Her politics were wrong, her religion too heavy, her kids too young, her voice reminiscent of an un-oiled hinge. My fault for not being ready to risk breaking what little of myself I have left.

But none of those concerns are hovering nearby now as I pull her closer, desperate to taste the invisible sweetness on her skin, certain she’ll melt beneath me like spun sugar.

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