Talking to Shirley Jackson Award Finalists S.P. Miskowski and Ennis Drake

Today, we welcome authors S.P. Miskowski and Ennis Drake to Preternatura. Both of these authors, published by dark fantasy publisher Omnium Gatherum Media, are shortlisted for the Shirley Jackson Awards. The winner of this year’s award, named after author Shirley Jackson in to recognize the year’s best fiction in psychological suspense, horror, and the dark fantastic, will be announced on July 14 at Readercon 24 in Burlington, Mass. Read on for a chance to win one of their works, or a mystery book or two from my Dark Tower of TBR.
Rated by Black Static book critic Peter Tennant as “one of the most interesting and original writers to emerge in recent years,” S.P. Miskowski has written short stories published in Supernatural Tales, Horror Bound Magazine, Identity Theory, The Absent Willow Review, New Times, Fine Madness, Other Voices, and the anthology Detritus. Miskowski’s work has received two Swarthout fiction prizes and two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships. Her debut novel, Knock Knock, a 2012 finalist for a Shirley Jackson Award, is the central book in The Skillute Cycle, which includes a trio of novellas set in the same area in Southwest Washington. The first novella in the cycle, Delphine Dodd, is a finalist for a Shirley Jackson Award in 2013. 
Ennis Drake‘s short fiction has appeared in various publications online and in print, including: “Love: The Breath of Eagleray” at Underland Press; “The Dark That Keeps Her,” published in Twisted Legends, an anthology from Pill Hill Press; and “The Fishing of Dahlia,” published in the Bram Stoker-nominated and Black Quill Award-winning +Horror Library+ Volume 4. His debut novel, “Twenty-Eight Teeth of Rage”, was released May 31st, 2012, from Omnium Gatherum Media, and is a finalist for The Shirley Jackson Award.  Most recently, his collected novelettes, “The Day and the Hour” and “Drone,” were released by Omnium Gatherum Media (Feb. 2013).
And now, let’s hear from S.P. and Ennis… 
S.P. Miskowski, author of Delphine Dodd

Delphine Dodd is a novella about two sisters abandoned to the care of their maternal grandmother in a small town in Washington State in 1912. The girls have to adjust to new circumstances after a chaotic childhood following their mother’s romantic whims. They’re surprised to learn that their grandmother is a healer who specializes in herbal remedies for women.

I tried to capture a sense of isolation and the need for self-reliance in an era before technology popularized travel and long-distance communication. I drew from stories my mother and grandmother told me about growing up poor during the Depression. I married those memories, of the insecurities inherent in that life, to my reading and research.

The physical details of the place were important. The story’s magic developed from the history of the setting. Mount Coffin, Washington is a ghost town in the truest sense. There are no ruins to admire because each generation has rebuilt the area. There are no relics to discover. The landmark known as Mount Coffin was for centuries a burial site for Chinook-speaking people of the area, including Skillute families. Over the course of the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was obliterated, the basalt rock used to build roads and lay foundations for the modern city of Longview. So the place itself haunts Delphine and informs her nightmares.

When you write a book you care about the last thing you want to do is hand it off to someone else to read and evaluate. Fortunately my editor is Kate Jonez at Omnium Gatherum Media. She’s a fiercely talented writer and a brilliant editor. She hears the tone of the narrative and finds innumerable ways to enhance it. Her suggestions are practical and wise. Knowing she’s there gives me freedom to explore. And I know Kate will have insights to push the story to a new level.

I’ve been a writer all of my life, and I can’t emphasize enough the importance of working closely with a good editor. There are a million tiny assumptions we make when writing. An editor bridges the gap between what we take for granted and what the reader requires to follow the story. These books–together my novel Knock Knock and a trio of novellas form The Skillute Cycle–are from my imagination and my research, but they would not exist in this form without Kate.

I’m delighted about the Shirley Jackson Award nomination. The book is keeping company in the novella category with work by Kaaron Warren, Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee, Satoshi Itō, and my friend and OG fellow, Ennis Drake. To be nominated for an award named for Shirley Jackson is a thrill. I love Jackson’s work. For many years I’ve been reading her fiction and learning from its subtlety and deep understanding of human nature.

These are wonderful writers I admire very much. So I feel that the book has earned its place in the world, and that’s gratifying. 
Ennis Drake, author of 28 Teeth of Rage

First, I’d like to tell you what “Twenty-Eight Teeth of Rage” is NOT:

It is NOT splatterpunk.

It is NOT a cheap attempt to “go for the gross out.”

It is NOT noir.

And, last, but not least: had I known better, it would NOT have been my debut. It may, in  fact, never have been written in its current incarnation if not for the faith and interest of Kate Jonez at Omnium Gatherum Media, whose insights and hard work as both editor and publisher have been incomparable. 

What this book IS, very simply, is an unflinching love letter to Horror. It is an attempt to take trope and make it something more, to showcase experimentation with (and hard-won mastery of) form, to push the concept of horror as “literature”. It was written at a time when I embraced the genre and looked to join those writers who lead its edge, those whom I admire, those who recognize dark fiction as “a timeless art that has been with us before we had written language” (to paraphrase Simon Strantzas); to add my own unique voice to the collective that has carried down through the years “telling of nightmares”; to write modern (or postmodern, or post-postmodern) fiction that comments on the nature of humanity, doing so both overtly and through metaphor. There is very little in the way of “horror” that this book does NOT contain, and this is by design.

All of this said, to receive the nomination for the Shirley Jackson Award is an unexpected honor. Particularly to have a work that I feel was so greatly mis-received by the genre community–noticed by the jurors, the board of directors, and the advisory board (Laird Barron, Ellen Datlow, Chesya Burke, Jack Haringa, Graham Sleight, S.T. Joshi, Ann VanderMeer, Liz Hand, Stewart O’Nan, Peter Straub, Mike O’Driscoll, Bill Congreve, Stefen Dziemianowicz, John Langan, Sara Langan, F. Brett Cox, JoAnn Cox, and Paul Tremblay), and to be noticed alongside my fellow Omnium Gatherum alum S.P. Miskowski, who I consider a mentor and who I am lucky enough to call friend, is a high point in my career that will be hard to duplicate.     
Thanks for dropping by today and best of luck on the awards!!
And now for your chance to help me dig out from under my TBR mountains, or win one of the works here nominated for the Shirley Jackson Awards. Let’s just talk about short fiction in general (I’m sure we all had to read Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” or “The Haunting of Hill House” in school.) Do you read short fiction or novellas? Do you have a favorite? Leave a comment for your chance to win!!

9 thoughts on “Talking to Shirley Jackson Award Finalists S.P. Miskowski and Ennis Drake

  1. I do read some short fiction, usually if it’s a story by an author I like or a story based on a series I enjoy. I guess my favorite would be Dance Band on the Titanic which is a book of short stories by Jack L Chalker.

  2. A novella in my Big Fat Supernatural Wedding introduced me to Harry Dresden and Jim Butcher. What a great surprise! So novellas for me a wonderful way to discover new author.

  3. I love short stories and novellas. I like being able to read the entire thing in one sitting but still have time left in the day to get things done. I think some of my favorite short stories are by Stephen King, he is a master storyteller. I am always on the hunt for new short stories, they give me new authors to obsess over 🙂

  4. I don’t recall reading those in school. I don’t tend to read many short stories or novellas unless they are part of a series I am reading. They don’t have enough pages for me and sometimes I feel like the story needs more or I don’t get a good grasp of the characters in the shorter books. That’s the case most of the time, but I have come across a few novellas or short stories that I really loved

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