Tag Archives: ghosts

Author Interview: Jack Massa

Author Jack Massa has studied writing and other forms of magic for many years. He lives in Florida, USA, but wanders in many places. Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.

Author Jack MassaHello! My name is Jack Massa. These days I write fiction, mainly fantasy in different subgenres—heroic, historical, urban, YA paranormal. Over the years, I’ve also published science fiction, poetry, and lots of nonfiction.

I grew up in suburban New Jersey, near New York City. I was raised in a working-class household with three siblings, an Irish mother, an Italian father, an Irish grandmother and her third husband, a Russian Jew. My grandmother also had a parakeet. I’ve been married to the best woman in the world for many years and we have an adult son. We live now in Southwest Florida which, except for overcrowding and the occasional hurricane, is certainly paradise.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve been a writer all my life. (I think I was a writer in other lifetimes too, but let’s focus on this one.) I started telling myself stories when I was three years old, playing with my toy soldiers. I made some of them superheroes and used my stuffed animals as monsters they either fought or made friends with.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I was privileged to attend a small, radical liberal arts college. “Radical” in that the institution largely made students figure things out for themselves. I tried a lot of things and decided writing fiction was for me. I wrote a magical realist novel as my senior thesis. The college validated that I was a writer by giving me my degree.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

I’m presently working on the third of the Abby Renshaw adventures, Ghosts of Lock Tower. It is a fantasy tale involving chaos magic, a Nazi ghost, an ancient Mesopotamian Goddess, and monsters that manifest from Internet memes. (Perhaps you can see why I’m still working on it.) I hope to release it in Summer, 2019.

Meantime, let’s talk about Abby’s first adventure, Ghosts of Bliss Bayou.

Abby is a typical girl from New Jersey with a propensity for the strange. (You might notice similarities to the author.) In Abby’s case, she tries to be a normal high school student, does well in school, runs on the track team, awkwardly tries to have a social life. (I know, I know, just like the author. I can’t help it.)

Abby’s problem in Ghosts of Bliss Bayou is that she is subject to hallucinations—scary ghosts and creatures popping out of her nightmares into waking life. Her quest is to solve the mystery of where these things come from and why they’re threatening her. The story takes her to her roots, in a small town in rural Florida, where she was born and where her grandmother still lives. There, she learns the hallucinations are in fact real and linked to her family’s history.

What inspired you to write this book?

Oh my! Lots of things. I gather inspiration the way a lint brush picks up lint—No wait, there must be a better analogy…

I’ve always been interested in reading about magic and mysticism—Tarot Cards, Kabbalah, spiritualism, you name it. I was especially fascinated by the so-called “occult revival” in the late 19th Century, when mediums became a big thing and educated folks in Europe and the U.S. joined secret societies to study magic. All of this worked its way into the backstory of the book.

Also, my wife and I love visiting places in “old Florida,” especially spots that were tourist destinations when we were little kids, but are now largely bypassed. I had an idea for writing a ghost story set in one of these places. When we visited the town of Micanopy, then took a boat ride on the amazingly beautiful Silver Springs, it all came together.

Do you have a specific writing style?

That really varies with the type of book. The Abby stories are first person, present tense, with lots of focus on what she’s feeling in the moment—as befits YA fiction. My other books are third person, past tense, even with some “omniscient narrator” to give a broad and epic sweep.

In all my work, I try to write with immediacy and vivid visual detail. I think it was D.H. Lawrence who said, “First, I wish to make you see.” I like that.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

The Reality we think we know is only one small piece of a much larger moving picture.

As one of the characters, a retired Anthropology professor, puts it, “the Universe is vast and incomprehensible. To try to understand it, the human mind creates maps. Science is one big set of maps. Magic is just another set. Both kinds of maps are valid in different ways. But the Universe will always be bigger and stranger than any map.”

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

To this I will only say: Like Abby, I’ve always had a propensity for the strange.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Wow. Way too many to name.

Shakespeare first, always.

For delving into the depths of the human soul, classic authors such as Dostoevsky, Conrad, Emily Bronte, and Nikos Kazantzakis (author of Zorba the Greek).

For fantastic adventure and sense of wonder, Tolkien, Roger Zelazny, Jack Vance, Kim Stanly Robinson, Robert E. Howard (author of the original Conan stories).

Among newer writers, I really admire Cassandra Clare, Maggie Stiefvater, and NK Jemison.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Literally, I had a mentor, a writer named George Cuomo. He was a professor in my MFA program in graduate school. He was not at all into fantasy and science fiction, but he made it his business to encourage me and help me build my skill. He also helped me get my first novel published.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Ida Jansson of Amygdala Design. I found her by online searching.

The cover was actually a collaboration between Ida, myself, and my wife (who is an artist). I usually come up with design concepts and sketch them out in PowerPoint, then rework them with my wife. Ida was very flexible in working with us.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Choose your goals. Decide what defines success for you.

As a business, writing is a very tough game. Simply put, there is way more supply than demand. In other words, there are many more capable writers than there are paying readers to support them.

If you want to write for money you’re going to have to work really, really hard. You’re also going to have to learn a lot about the business of publishing (which is changing all the time). Also, you’re most likely going to have to adapt what you want to write to fit a profitable market niche. And again, the market is always changing. Did I mention it’s a tough game?

So choose your goals. You may want to write for your own satisfaction, or just to reach a few readers and say something of value to them. That too is a worthwhile goal. You will have created something and added to the human conversation.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Enjoy yourselves. The Universe is wider and stranger than we can imagine. As a friend of mine who is a bard likes to say, “Live well and in wonder.”

Ghosts of Bliss BayouJack Massa
Sarasota, Florida




Ghosts of Bliss Bayou

Cover artist: Ida Jansson
Publisher:  Triskelion Books 



Author Interview: Chico Kidd

I’d like to extend a warm welcome to Chico for consenting to be interviewed here on No Wasted Ink. As you can see, Chico has quite a catalog of titles to her name with many more to come on the horizon. I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did.

Author Chico KiddI am Chico Kidd, author and artist, whose ghost and dark fantasy tales have been published in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and Europe. Over the last few years I’ve been busy with a sequence of novels and stories featuring Luís da Silva, ship’s captain and reluctant demon-hunter. Demon Weather, the first novel in the series, has recently been published by Booktrope; the Portuguese-language rights have been bought by Lisbon-based Saída de Emergência. The next three novels, The Werewolf of Lisbon, Resurrection, and Sinned Against, are complete; a fifth is in progress. The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 13 and Dark Terrors 6 featured three short stories between them. Others have appeared in Supernatural Tales, Acquainted with the Night, Poe’s Progeny, and elsewhere.

My first novel, The Printer’s Devil, came out in 1996 from Baen and was reprinted last year by Booktrope. It’s a tale in the classic English Ghost Story tradition of M.R. James, as were most of the stories in my first hardback anthology Summoning Knells (2000). I also write in collaboration with Australian author Rick Kennett, and our collection of Carnacki the Ghost-Finder stories No. 472 Cheyne Walk was published in 2002 (both Ash-Tree Press).

When and why did you begin writing?

I have been writing for as long as I can remember— by age 10 I was telling people that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. Luckily everything I wrote prior to 1979 has vanished into the mists of time. Why, is also easy. I loved reading. I devoured books like a starving book-eating creature. I wanted more books like the ones I loved to read, and spent hours thinking up titles and storylines and designing the covers for them. The earliest thing I recall writing was one set in Narnia, and I also worked my apprenticeship by writing stories in imitation of authors as diverse as Dick Francis, P.G. Wodehouse and Tolkien. There are now many, many more influences on my writing!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Since 1979, when my first published story, An Incident in the City, appeared in the first issue of Rosemary Pardoe’s long-running Ghosts & Scholars series. I’ve had writing jobs ever since I graduated, from greeting-card verses to advertising, but don’t really think that counts. For quite a long time, I wrote only ghost stories, mostly in the tradition of M.R. James. They found modest homes in anthologies and in small press, to which I contributed seven collections of my own: Change & Decay, In & Out Of The Belfry, Bell Music, Bells Rung Backwards, Wraiths & Ringers, and Ghosts, Scholars, Campanologists & Others. Nearly all these stories went into Summoning Knells. And then I got writer’s block, which was completely horrible. And it was cured by Captain da Silva, who barged into a story from heaven knows where and took over my writing life.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Although Demon Weather is the first novel to feature the intrepid Captain, chronologically it is the 14th of the Da Silva Tales. The preceding stories do not need to be read to make sense of the novel! (Although I think readers might find it fun to find out more about some of the characters’ backstories.)
Luís da Silva is the captain of a barque, the Isabella, in the days when sail is in its long decline and steamships have more or less taken over the seas. He is rather more well acquainted with the night than he wants to be, but the powers that be have different ideas. (These are not the sort of powers that be that make prophecies and steer people towards destinies, but rather the kind that say to themselves “This fellow would be good at doing certain kinds of stuff, so let’s give him a nudge in the right direction,” or even just “Let’s give him some abilities that will make his life suck”.) As Riley Finn once said to Buffy, “It turns out I suddenly find myself needing to know the plural of apocalypse.” And he also has a rather shady past, which in this case comes back to bite him in the shape of a not-at-all-nice sorcerer out for revenge.

Luckily the Captain has allies in the form of a Scooby Gang which includes a werewolf, a man who can fiddle with time, an English antiquarian, a bad-tempered witch and an almost-corporeal ghost, not to mention his very resourceful wife, Emilia, and a young son and daughter who are sometimes more hindrance than help.

What inspired you to write this book?

Well, as I mentioned, I’d had a bad case of writer’s block, but once the dam broke I found myself writing like crazy. I was averaging around 10,000 words a week for a while. And so I zipped though a ton of stories that were like episodes from a series, before coming face to face with an idea that was a lot more complicated and needed the length of a novel to do it justice. I wrote the thing in three months!

Inspiration covers a lot more than that, however. I am inspired by boats and the sea, by the way Joss Whedon blends horror and comedy, by inventing characters and exploring milieus, by the city of Lisbon, by folklore and legend and the sheer fun of writing.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I do, and Rick Kennett has dubbed it “Weird Noir”. It’s Chandleresque, basically, when the Captain is doing the narration. I use a mixture of tenses in the first-person bits, because it’s a mixture of his memories, his thoughts, his actions, and it all makes it more immediate: he’s telling you the story, but it’s happening now in his mind. But I also tell the story from multiple points of view, and try to get personality across by variations in style. I sometimes make use of a version of José Saramago’s style (not many full stops, bit stream-of-consciousness-y). Harris the werewolf’s thoughts are a big part of his personality. There are a few bits of omniscient-narrator stuff where I need to describe something outside of everyone’s experience. It’s all kind of a mixture, I think it’s quite cinematic, with jump-cuts and voice-overs and zooming out and in.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

That’s kind of interesting. I’m usually good with titles, and they often come before I write the story— sometimes a title actually triggers the story. But it wasn’t till about halfway through Demon Weather that I settled on that title. It was called Hunting Souls up to then.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Whoa, no! I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t count demon-slayers, werewolves or even ship’s captains among my acquaintances. Much of the Captain comes from me, I guess, in terms of philosophy at least. But I don’t agree with that old truism “Write about what you know”. If everyone did that, there would be no fantasy or SF at all!

What authors have most influenced your life?

My life? No. My style, most certainly. But I love certain authors without wanting to use anything of theirs: Terry Pratchett, for instance, Ursula Le Guin, Elizabeth Moon, John Connolly. I suppose I have to say that Joss Whedon is the single most obvious influence on the DaSilvaverse, with my diverse gang of supernatural-evil battlers and the mix of action, horror, humor and characters you care about (I hope!) But I am a magpie, I pick up shiny things from all over the place, books, movies, TV, tradition, history, art, my own travels…

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor?

No, I can’t say that there is. I am terrible at following examples, instructions or rules, I don’t idolize any writers, although I do admire a good many. My real-life heroes are people like Aung San Suu Kyi and the late war correspondent Marie Colvin.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

*coughs modestly* I did it myself. One of the first things I do when I have a character who I know will be with me for a while is draw their face. It’s a shortcut to getting inside their skin, until I get used to them.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write what you enjoy. Get inside the skins of your characters. Never stop writing, and don’t be afraid to run with the story.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Welcome to my world— I hope you enjoy the ride!

Demon Weather Book CoverChico Kidd
London, England

Chico Kidd’s ghost stories have been published in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and continental Europe. Chico was born in Nottingham, England, and now lives, writes and paints near London.

Demon Weather is published by Booktrope.