Four on the Floor with Mary SanGiovanni
Four on the Floor with Mary SanGiovanni
Mary SanGiovanni is an award-winning American horror and thriller writer of over a dozen novels, including the Hollower trilogy, Thrall, Chaos, the Kathy Ryan series, and others, as well as numerous novellas, short stories, and nonfiction.
Mary is a member of the Authors Guild, the International Thriller Writers, and Pennwriters. She is a cohost on the popular podcast The Horror Show with Brian Keene and hosts her own podcast on cosmic horror, Cosmic Shenanigans. Born and raised in New Jersey, she currently resides in Pennsylvania.
James Gallagher: Genres such as Western and crime fiction spring to mind as blending well with horror, and it could be argued that horror is the most accommodating and adaptive genre. Outside of horror, what genres do you gravitate toward most, and are there any writers in those genres who have had a particular influence on your work?
Mary SanGiovanni: I tend to gravitate toward fantasy, actually. I’m a sucker for high fantasy, epic fantasy, science fantasy, and anything just a little surreal. I also used to read a lot of science fiction as a child — probably not what people would consider “hard sf” or “military sf” — I don’t think I would have understood the science very much — but the kind of stuff that dealt with aliens and alien worlds, alien cultures, that sort of thing.
The classic fantasy authors I read as a child had a huge influence on me, on my desire to build worlds around the monsters in my horror, and in fantasy stories I write on the side. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, L. Frank Baum, Lloyd Alexander, William Sleator, Isaac Asimov — they were all great world builders.
JG: Fans can now experience your voice both through your fiction and through the podcasts Cosmic Shenanigans and The Horror Show with Brian Keene. What’s the experience of podcasting been like, and has it changed your view of your audience?
MS: It was a little daunting doing podcasts at first. Sometimes you talk into a microphone and forget that anyone is even listening, and in essence you’re just having a conversation with your friends. Sometimes it’s more like being in a dark room filled with people you can’t see, watching and listening to you as a single spotlight shines down on you, and you’re aware of the responsibility of what you’re saying and how people might react to it.
It’s definitely had an impact on my career, though, in terms of visibility. It’s raised awareness of my presence and my books to a wider audience. What I’ve found most satisfying, though, is the feedback I get from listeners who say the show helps them get through tough times or entertains them at work, or even teaches them something they didn’t know or realize before. I’ve come to enjoy podcasting very much.
JG: It’s hard to put your work in someone else’s hands. In what ways has the editing process (both editing your own work and putting your work in front of an editor) helped to shape your writing? Have there been frustrations?
MS: I’ve been (knock on wood) incredibly lucky to have been paired primarily with editors who understand and appreciate my style and can anticipate my goals in writing and help me better reach them. I tend to edit as I write, bits at a time, paragraph by paragraph, so I like to think the manuscripts are mostly formed the way I want them by the time they’re submitted, but I’m always grateful to editors who catch my typos, my awkward phrases, my continuity issues, etc.
Where it may seem intimidating at first to hand over one’s manuscript to editors, it’s important to remember that they aren’t rewriting your book, but rather helping you fine-tune it and make it as perfect as possible. It’s an invaluable service, and I’d feel very vulnerable, almost naked, sending a book out into the world that hasn’t been edited by someone else.
JG: Readers love to know what the writers they admire are reading and viewing. What recent books, TV series, or movies are going to stick with you for years to come?
MS: As far as movies go, I recently saw The Endless and Hereditary. I loved those. I love movies that can still surprise me, creep me out, or genuinely unnerve me. I’ve also watched The Haunting of Hill House (the series), and while I had a few issues with the last episode, I found the series had some genuinely horrifying and heartbreaking moments.
As far as books go, I’m reading T.E.D. Klein’s The Ceremonies now. I tend to have a TBR pile that threatens to topple over and bury the cats, as I’m not as quick a reader as I used to be, and so I’m behind in reading new stuff, but it’s there. I’m looking forward to several books that have recently come out from Paul Tremblay, Victor LaValle, Stephen Kozeniewski, and others. It’s an exciting time to be reading horror.