I found Stephanie M. Wytovich’s work in a way that I often do, just by surfing around searching for something I haven’t read. I’ve been writing poetry since I was about twelve and reading it daily since college. It’s a passion that burns strong in me and one of the reasons I’m so involved in the horror community today. But good dark verse is difficult to find. Lots of good poetry to be found, lots of dark poetry to be found, but the marriage of the two is rare. So Wytovich is, to my thinking, a rare and fortunate discovery. She brings the two together masterfully. I will be talking at greater length about her dark, often brutally honest, and beautiful poetry soon. For today, I’m happy to feature this very candid and revealing conversation I had with an extraordinary young poet and author.
Thank you for being here today, Stephanie. For those of us who aren’t familiar with you, please tell us a little about yourself.
Alrighty—well my name is Stephanie; my friends call me Wyto. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and my first completed story in middle school was about a gang of rogue vampires that got me yelled at and sent to the guidance counselor’s office. Since then, it’s always been horror—with a little bit of erotica and fantasy thrown in for good measure.
I did my undergraduate work at Seton Hill University where I studied English Literature and Art History. The day after I graduated, I went to study Renaissance art in Italy (Rome, Florence, and Venice) for a few weeks before coming home and immediately starting my graduate work in Seton Hill’s MFA Program for Writing Popular Fiction. I found my tribe there—a championship group of people who were likeminded, supportive, and who have ended up being some of my closest and most best friends. While I was working on my thesis there, I signed with Raw Dog Screaming Press for my poetry collection Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, which went on to become nominated for the Bram Stoker Award. I graduated in January of 2014 with a completed thesis titled The Eighth, which will be released later this year from Dark Regions Press, along with two other poetry collections, Mourning Jewelry, and most recently, An Exorcism of Angels.
Currently, I work at Carlow University in Pittsburgh, Pa, were I work as the graduate admission counselor and MFA assistant to their international MFA Program for Creative Writing. I also work as an adjunct instructor at Carlow, and previously at Seton Hill, where I’ve taught poetry, fiction, and composition.
Do you have any favorite books that have influenced or stayed with you over the years?
My favorite book is Frankenstein, and it continually shapes my writing every time I read or teach it. The Shelley’s have had an amazing influence on my work, but aside from them, especially in relation to my novel, my biggest influences were Dante Alighieri’s The Inferno, William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, and Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby.
Who are your biggest influences as a writer and poet?
Growing up, I fell in love with Sylvia Plath and Edgar Allan Poe. I read them voraciously and fostered a true love of their words, madness, heartbreaks, and fragility. I wanted to bring that same torment to my writing.
Who’s your favorite author?
Edgar Allan Poe. Without doubt.
Who are your favorite poets and which poems do you find particularly moving?
Oh, my favorite poets. This list could go on for days, but I’ll try to keep it short: Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath, Charles Bukowski, Nick Flynn, Charles Simic, Anne Sexton, Emily Dickinson, Jim Morrison, Ted Hughes, Ellen Hopkins… and on and on….
Poems that have stayed with me:
Bluebird by Charles Bukowski
The Moon and the Yew Tree by Sylvia Plath
The Sleeper by Edgar Allan Poe
When did you first start writing poetry?
I battled my first war with depression when I was younger, probably around middle-school. I’ve never been good at communicating before, mostly because it hurts too much to admit what I feel most of the time, so I started writing poetry as an outlet, as a way to purge my emotions. It worked so well when I was 12 that I just never stopped, and to me, it’s beautiful that something gorgeous can come out of the darkness.
You write some extremely dark poetry. Where does that darkness come from?
Pain. I’ve collected plenty of it over the years.
But it’s funny you ask that because I was drinking coffee this morning, and I usually start my day with a poem, and today I read something by Bukowski that hit me hard. It’s the perfect quote to describe where a lot of inspiration comes from without me actually saying it.
Bukowski wrote: “I will remember the kisses and how you gave me everything you had and how I offered you what was left of me.”
Your poems are often very personal and always brutally honest. Do you ever find writing with that level of candor to be daunting?
I do. It was/is hard for me to be honest with myself, and with my readers, but that honesty, that vulnerability and nakedness, is where the healing starts. If writing my madness and pain can help me or give someone else hope, then I’ll bleed…time and time again.
There’s a lot of darkness in this world, and I’ve felt it wrap its arms around me more than once. The only way for me as poet to combat that is to share my experiences, to craft my stories, and hope that by exposing the dark side of humanity, that we, as people, can embrace each other a little stronger with love.
What other types of literature do you write?
I write fiction and poetry, but I’m also starting to dabble in creative non-fiction as well. Having said that, all of my material is dark, whether it’s literary or speculative fiction. I’m drawn to horror and dark fantasy, and the idea of psychological and erotic terror fascinates me. My next poetry collection, BROTHEL, will play with all of that, but in a way that my readers haven’t seen me tackle previously. Look for it this May from Raw Dog Screaming Press.
How do you feel you’ve matured as an author between your first collection, HYSTERIA, and your most recent one, AN EXORCISM OF ANGELS?
Drastically. I was just telling some friends the other day that when I read HYSTERIA, I almost don’t recognize the poet anymore because my style has changed so much. I love HYSTERIA; it was my first collection, my most favorite muse, and the poems that are in there are brutal, and dark, and dripping with asylum-blood. But having said that, I’ve become a lot more honest in my work since then, and I think that the emotion I’m pouring into my poems now, elevates my art to a wider audience and makes it more accessible, and in some ways, more horrifying.
Talk a bit about your writing process. Do you have a set routine, location, etc.?
I’ll brainstorm and take notes anywhere and everywhere, but when I’m going to seriously write, I have to be at home and on my laptop. I work best in chaos, so I usually have music blaring (I create playlists for each project I work on), and then I also have the TV or a movie on—mind you, not something that’s new, but something that I’ve seen a million times that I can use as white noise.
I do always write at night, though. When I was in graduate school, I wrote from 11 p.m.- 3 a.m. every day, but now it’s more like 8 p.m.-12:30 a.m. when it’s possible. Work keeps me busy, but I always, always find time to read and write.
What has your personal experience with being a woman in the horror industry been like? Any major obstacles?
I’ve had my share of bad experiences, but I’m blessed to have such a supportive group of friends and colleagues around me. Working with Raw Dog Screaming Press for the past four years has been truly wonderful, and they, too, are really passionate about bringing diversity and gender equality to the horror genre, and last year, we did some really wonderful work for #WomenInHorrorMonth. I’ll include some links below:
RAW DOG SCREAMING PRESS #WIHM
MY 2015 #WIHM BLOG/PHOTOGRAPHY SERIES:
- This Is Not a Female Horror Writer
- I Am Not a Victim: http://stephaniewytovich.blogspot.com/2015/02/i-am-not-victim.html
- Take the Whore out of Horror:http://stephaniewytovich.blogspot.com/2015/02/take-whore-out-of-horror.html
- Tell Me I Can’t: http://stephaniewytovich.blogspot.com/2015/02/tell-me-i-cant.html
Talk about your current work a little bit (or a lot). Any new projects or books you’re particularly excited about?
My erotic horror poetry collection Brothel will be out this May from Raw Dog Screaming Press. It’s a collection of approximately 155 poems about the day-to-day trials and tribulations of working as a prostitute—mind you, that part is strictly fictional.. My main character is THE MADAM and she tells the stories—which sometimes get quite bloody—of her girls and the men/women they have bedded…and buried.
My horror novel, The Eighth, will be out this year from Dark Regions Press. Here’s a short synopsis: After Paimon, Lucifer’s top soul collector, falls in love with a mortal girl whose soul he is supposed to claim, he desperately tries everything in his power to save her from the Devil’s grasp. But what happens when a demon has to confront his demons, when he has to turn to something darker, something more sinister for help? Can Paimon survive the consequences of working with the Seven Deadly Sins-sins who have their own—or will he fall into a deeper, darker kind of hell?
If you could name one question that you never get asked but wish you would, what would it be? And what would the answer be?
Hmm… I’m always surprised that I haven’t been asked what I would be doing with my life if I wasn’t writing. I have a lot of interests and passions, so it really could have gone a lot of ways, but if I didn’t choose writing, I’m confident I would be working in museum education or art preservation.
Thank you to Stephanie M. Wytovich for talking with us today. Make sure you watch for her forthcoming work and follow those links below to purchase her current work and learn more about her.
About Stephanie M. Wytovich:
Stephanie M. Wytovich is an Instructor of English by day and a horror writer by night. She is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, a book reviewer for Nameless Magazine, and the assistant to Carlow University’s international MFA Program for Creative Writing. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction. Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated poetry collections, Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, and An Exorcism of Angels can be found at www.rawdogscreaming.com, and her debut novel, The Eighth, will be out in 2016 from Dark Regions Press. Follow Wytovich at stephaniewytovich.blogspot.com and on twitter @JustAfterSunset