Editor’s note: StokerCon is the annual convention of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) when, among other things, they honor the Bram Stoker Award winners. This year, the 4 day event was held at the historic and very haunted Queen Mary. We sent our own intrepid Mackenzie Kiera into the mouth of the beast to look around, and haven’t heard from her since. Luckily, she dashed off a few reports before… no idea. Murdered? Eaten? Fell overboard? Anyway, she ain’t come back.
Mackenzie Kiera – Hi, Dino! So, since my readers at The Last Bookstore are readers, what can you tell them to pick up?
Dino Parenti – Well, two days ago I finished the Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead which just won the Pulitzer and the National Book award in the same year. The book is amazing, it’s beautifully written, wonderful prose, but it is a brutal, brutal book, subject matter-wise, but it’s amazing. Just started reading today The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch. I’m only in chapter one but the book, it’s just awesome. I’m already hooked. She wrote The Small Backs of Children. Lidia Yuknavitch is an amazing writer and that’s pretty much it right now, and really whatever short stories I can get my hands on.
MK -And what is it you do for the industry?
DP – Right now I’m a writer and I’m also one of the fiction editors for Gamut. We’re in hiatus right now because we just fulfilled our slots for 2017.
MK – I know! That’s incredible. Congratulations.
DP – We were getting slammed with submissions. The first time we opened for submissions we closed in twenty-four hours. The second month we closed within twelve hours.
MK – Twelve?
DP – We cap at three hundred submissions. They just rolled in, which we are thankful for. We’ve had some great work come in. I don’t know when we’ll open up for 2018, I mean, assuming we’ll still be up and running at that point.
MK – I’m sure you will, if you’ve had this much traction in just the first part of the year.
DP – Yeah, but we are subscription based, so go to the website and subscribe. You’ll benefit from some wonderful and awesome fiction you can really sink your teeth into.
MK – Go to Gamut! Keep them alive! Now, you, Dino Parenti, are one of the sponsors here at StokerCon.
DP – Gamut is a sponsor. Our names are on the gift bags and we’re here and we have this purple tag on our name tag so, we’re fortunate enough to listen to all of the wonderful panels and so far it’s been fun.
MK – Have you been to other StokerCons?
DP – No! No, this is my first ‘con’ ever. And this is my first interview ever.
MK – It’s a pleasure. Tell me, would you encourage writers to come to StokerCon? I realize it’s only the second day but…
DP – If you really want to meet the writers, you’re not going to find a more open and accepting bunch of people and I mean, people think ‘horror writer’ and assume we’re weird but really…
MK – They think we’re scary.
DP – Right? And we’re teddy bears. Teddy bears with issues but still, teddy bears.
MK – I’ve heard too that horror writers are more empathetic, because if you write horror, you tend to want to connect with what makes people tick, what makes them scared.
DP – Yes! And I’ve been to the literary functions and there are some incredibly stuffy people hanging around so, it’s hard to find down to earth people. The great thing about this field is, it was known as “genre”, but it’s becoming so much richer than that. There’s incredible literary merit in everything you’ll find here, for sure.
MK – Indeed. I did a study last year where I read the most beautiful horror I could find. BirdBox, When we Were Animals, Mongrels (review), The Fisherman (review). So, I have this theory that the horror authors are making a breakthrough that other writers in other genres aren’t. I have read some beautiful fantasy and sci-fi but it seems to be the horror writers that are making the most drastic leaps. Could you give me a comment on that idea?
DP – Good craft is good craft, whatever genre you are writing on. Gamut is doing a series of “craft videos”—you can buy them online—and mine was how genre and literary actually make perfect bedfellows. The rules still apply, regardless of if you’re writing a straight literary piece or a “genre” you still have to delve into character arc and motivation. How you employ language, point of view, setting and atmosphere and how they all work together to tell the story. Horror writers get the worst rap because I think it’s hard for people to think that the horrific can also be beautiful or, vice versa.
MK – Totally. We all need to respect each other as writers.
DP – Exactly. We’re all in the same boat. [He says this, arms extended, aboard the Queen Mary] Literally! It’s a disservice to pit writers against each other, to say that what someone does in the New Yorker is any different than what someone in Cemetery Dance does. If you could lay them out on a cutting board, all the same stuff is coursing through their system.
MK – Anything you want to add?
DP – Read more horror! Read reviews and get your hands dirty. Be brave. Read horror. It may be scary but it’s stuff we all deal with.
When not scribbling twisted musings into spiral notebooks, photographing the odd puddle or junk pile, or building classy furniture, Dino Parenti earns a little scratch drawing buildings. He’s also one of the fiction editors at Gamut Magazine. When not plowing through slush, he writes. His work can be found in a several anthologies, as well as the following journals: Pantheon Magazine, Cease-Cows, Pithead Chapel, Menacing Hedge, and the Lascaux Review, where he won their first annual flash fiction contest. His short-story collection, Dead Reckoning and other stories, has been recently accepted for publication and slated for an early 2018 release with Crystal Lake Publishing.