You seem to write pretty prolifically, do you have any tips or tricks you can share with us on how to turn over stories so quickly?
Writing is half creativity, half discipline. In order to do it regularly, you have to turn it into a habit. Sometimes that means forcing yourself when you don’t want to, sometimes it means setting aside specific time specifically to write, sometimes it means churning out stuff that will never ever see the true light of day. The point is just to write. You’ll develop your voice and find your flow, both things that are important when it comes to being able to regularly create work.
How do you come up with your characters for your stories?
It depends how how I’ve come up with the story. If I’m basing it off of an actual person, it’s relatively easy to write them out. If I’ve come up with a story based off of inspiration around an item or a phrase, I tend to build the setting first and the characters fall into place as I go based on how they fit into that setting. For example, one of my story ideas came from a charm bracelet I wear. I knew I wanted to create a creepy atmosphere that incorporated the tinkling of a bracelet, which led me to wonder about what kind of person would wear it, which, in turn, made me think about why this particular person would wear this bracelet, and boom! Auntie Bells was born.
What is your favourite thing to write about when it comes to horror?
I love wholesome horror; creepy, tense storylines that lead to a feel good end. I try to keep more traditional horror and my wholesome stuff balanced, but I still think it’s pretty obvious how fond I am of that type of story. I think it comes from an enjoyment of subverting expectations, but also just a love of good overcoming evil.
Also, who doesn’t like stuffed animals saving the day?
Where do you get your influences from? Anything you can recommend to our readers?
Everywhere. Inspiration can literally be found in anything. I find it in the people in my life, in objects around me, in random daydreaming. I’ll find myself looking at my husband, a wonderful (and handsome) man, thinking, “How can I make you creepy?”
My best advice would be to be open minded, try to look at everyday items and ask yourself, “What if?” about them. What if crows started bringing someone items? What if spiders were hanging around to keep us safe? What if a boy hangs out in an unfinished housing development and starts seeing strange girls?
Writing horror is all about taking the most normal, mundane things and trying to turn them on their heads and make them an unsettling other.
Do you have any projects coming out that we should be aware of?
I am (slowly) assembling my second anthology, which I plan to release sometime this year. Not concrete details just yet!
I am also working on outlining a few of novel(la)s; two horror and one YA fantasy. Fingers crossed that I’ll actually manage to finish at least one!
Are there any superstitions you have when you write? Chair has to face a certain direction? Certain music needs to be playing? Cat needs to be on lap?
It’s not really a superstition, but I do 99% of my writing on my phone. Why? Probably because I hate myself.
Your stories often contain a lot of dialogue, how do you go about keeping it sounding natural? This is something I personally struggle with.
I talk to myself. A lot. I say almost all of my dialogue aloud as I’m writing it to hear how it actually sounds when spoken. If the flow is awkward or the word choice sounds odd, I scrap what I had and try again. I also ask myself if this character, who I’ve given particular attributes to, would really use this vocabulary or colloquialism. When writing dialog, you really need to know your characters in order to make their voice natural.
What’s it like working with the NoSleep people? Seeing your stories come to life in that way must be pretty exciting.
The NoSleep Podcast is an amazing production! I’ve been very lucky to have some of my stories included since Season 7 and, every time, it’s like magic. David Cummings, the showrunner, has assembled an amazing team of talent, including a number of voice actors, producers, artists, and a composer, all of whom pour themselves into making the podcast the very best horror has to offer. On top of being incredible at what they do, they’re some of the nicest people I’ve ever met! If given the chance, I would highly recommend working with them because it’s an all-around awesome experience.
I am super excited to see the NoSleep Podcast Live in March!
Any advice you’d like to give for people just starting out with their writing or to people who feel like they can’t do it?
Like I said before, it’s half creativity and half discipline. Like any other skill, writing requires practice if you ever want to get good. I’ve been writing for about 20 years, but it wasn’t until a year and a half ago that I started really sharing my work. It’s daunting and can be disheartening if people don’t immediately respond well to you work, but that’s ok! Every piece is a learning experience. If you keep at it, you’ll develop a voice and a style and learn what works and what doesn’t.
S.H. Cooper can be found on twitter here
S.H. Cooper has a book of short stories that you can buy here