28th January 2023 sees the release of Priscilla Bettis’ two-story collection entitled Vampire Of The Midnight Sun (cover by Adrian Baldwin) on all the Amazons. Just before Christmas Dean and Priscilla sat down and talked about it…
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Hello Priscilla. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you. As it’s worked out your book will be the first release of the year so well done and of course welcome to DEMAIN. Let’s ease ourselves into it, can you tell us all a bit about yourself and why you became a writer.
PRISCILLA BETTIS: Hello and thank you. Sure - I was an engineering physicist, and I coached youth swimming for years, but I never lost that itch I got when I was ten years old to become a writer. I had borrowed (sneaked) Blatty’s The Exorcist from my parents’ den. I never knew a book could give the reader such an emotional reaction! That was when I said, “I want to be a novelist when I grow up.”
DP: Love that book. So, your two stories…
PB: ‘Vampire of the Midnight Sun’ is set in Alaska where I grew up. [The second story included is] ‘The Fire Witch & The Cowboy”, that’s set in the Northern Plains of Texas where I now live. I took real-life experiences and turned them into stories. Haha, I don’t mean I’ve encountered a vampire in the Alaskan wilderness, but I have encountered grizzlies, miles of endless tundra, and water so cold it’s like an electrical shock when you touch it. In Texas, sadly, a wildfire marched through our small town in the spring of 2022, and that event plays a part in my fire witch story.
DP: Oh Lordy, I bet that was scary. I was going to ask actually in writing the stories whether you had to do much research but maybe not if you were actually living it…
PB: Mining real-life events means I don’t have to research a lot, but I do like to look up and accurately name science-related things, like the term for overgrown canine teeth in humans and the names of indigenous plants in Texas. Google is my friend. Seriously, what did authors do before there was Google?
DP: That’s true and I love Google (and other search engines haha) but I also love sitting in libraries going through books, documents, primary sources…yeah, I miss that actually. Anyway, anyway – did you find the stories hard to write?
PB: ‘Vampire of the Midnight Sun’ has some humour in it, and I actually laughed out loud while typing. It definitely wasn’t difficult to write. In ‘The Fire Witch & the Cowboy,’ several characters die, but the death of one particular character… oh, I cried while writing that scene. It was truly difficult to write.
DP: I won’t give anything away but yeah, know what you mean. Okay, let’s take a step back for a quick moment – what would you say is your biggest creative success to date?
PB: The Hay Bale, a little novelette about a woman of science visiting a rural area in Virginia. I was trying to combine folk horror with weird horror, and I think it works! It’s gotten good reviews. Apparently it works for readers, too.
DP: Some very good reviews, well done! What kind of books do you read by the way and would you say they’re an influence on you?
PB: When I find a book I love, I end up studying it to learn what makes it tick. For example: Zoltan Komor’s The Radiator Boy and the Holly Country taught me about the genius of subtle satire, and how very old texts (like the Bible) can still provide relevant allusions. Andy Davidson’s books demonstrate luscious prose even in gruesome scenes. From K.P. Kulski’s House of Pungsu, I learned that an entire story can be narrated as if in a dream and yet make perfect sense. Margaret Atwood taught me that slow pacing can still provide a gripping read. Gus Moreno’s This Thing Between Us shows how to skilfully reveal the big picture tiny bits at a time over the course of the story. Christa Wojciechowski’s Popsicle is the perfect example of how ordinary aspects of modern life can be expanded into horror. I could go on. There are SO many great authors and books out there!
DP: You should have gone on, there are some great titles/authors there – a couple I’ve noted to check out. What would you say draws readers to our genre…
PB: I think readers seek dark fantasy and horror for two reasons. The first is the fun, roller-coaster fright readers experience when they allow themselves to feel scared, but they know in the back of their mind they’re buckled in safely. The second reason is for validation of anxieties and terrors readers feel in real life. There is comfort in having company when life is tough.
DP: Like it and think you’re right – and yes, live is tough right now all around the world…anyway, let’s not get too dark about that right now [and here’s hoping 2023 is a lot better for everyone]…is there a new writer (or even film director) that interests you…
PB: I loved, LOVED Gus Moreno’s October 2021 debut novel, This Thing Between Us. It’s domestic suspense meshed with cosmic horror, brilliant. Moreno is a bit of a social media hermit, so it’s hard to tell if he has another novel in the works, but I hope so!
DP: Nice (and yes lets hope he does). Thinking about your career now-
PB: I’ve noticed the older I get the more creative I get. My mind makes connections it wouldn’t have thought to make when I was younger. (Full disclosure: I didn’t know the difference between my head and arse when I was younger, so there’s that.) So, yeah, a long term career it is!
DP: Good for you and oh, to be young again right hahaha. Okay, final question: can you tell us something surprising about you…
PB: Like the main character in ‘Vampire of the Midnight Sun’, I have experienced hypothermia. My legs wouldn’t work right. I could hear fine, but I couldn’t communicate. Words I reached for eluded me, and simple words I could remember came out as unintelligible slush. Thankfully, a couple of EMTs spotted me, and I got treatment immediately.
DP: Oh wow…bet that was scary!
Priscilla thanks for your time today, really enjoyed chatting. All the best with Vampire Of The Midnight Sun.
If you would like to connect with Priscilla direct:
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Priscilla-Bettis/author/B08R97Z63M
Dean M. Drinkel