Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. Those of you who are not a member won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit it is via membership or an invite to the tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation with all sorts of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers. Over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, I shall be chatting with my guest about their work in progress, or latest book release.
Today, I’m chatting to the horror writer, Amira Krista Calvo. Amira Krista, like myself, is one of the writers featured in the Women of Horror Anthology, Vol 3 The One that Got Away published by Kandisha Press
Welcome to the tearoom, Amira Krista . My first question to all my guests is what would you like to drink?
Thank you for the invite to your tearoom, Paula. Please could I have a Michelada, extra spicy, thank you.
I hope I have found just the drink you have requested as I’ve never hear of it before. Now our refreshments have arrived, let me ask you, when you first begun your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
I started writing when I was a teenager, mostly poetry and a little prose. I took a long break between my first two years of university and my last two years, roughly a decade. When I went back to school, I was studying forensic anthropology, a field I have since departed after about five years. Working in this realm is what inspired me to write horror. I was doing research on migrant death at the U.S. Mexico border, studying body decomposition to contribute to research on identifying the bodies of missing migrants. The work I was doing was so terrifying, it began to seep into all of my creative writing, and I realised that the most horrifying things out there are centered around the truth. Although I switched paths and I am currently undertaking a PhD focused on horror cinema, my time working in forensic anthropology gave me my voice, as it drove into me the importance of representing my community and telling our stories to those who may not know them, no matter how difficult they may be to tell.
Tell us a little about latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
My last writing project was a short story for Kandisha Press’ upcoming anthology The One That Got Away called Heavy Metal Coffin. On the surface, the story is about a woman who is losing the love of her life to a cursed guitar, yet it has a far deeper meaning than that. I hadn’t planned to write the story. In fact, it sort of just poured out of me one day, on a day I wasn’t even planning to sit and write. The story is loosely inspired by some difficult things that I had to navigate during the first part of national lockdown in the UK. I feel like the story emerged as I was healing from that trauma – I never would have been able to even begin to consider writing something like this before, so it took me by surprise. As grim as the story was, I found it to be a good omen, a sign that things were getting better. It was almost like a bloodletting of everything dark that had swallowed us at the beginning of the pandemic. Since then, I have started working on the foundations for what I hope to be my first full-length novel. This one is definitely going to be in the works for some time!
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
I honestly don’t have that many – I would say maybe two or three shorts, not counting the novel? This is not to say that I finish everything I write; I just tend to jot down ideas for stories and stow them away as opposed to starting them all. I am really easily overwhelmed and having too many works in progress will make it harder to finish any one of them. The two unfinished shorts I have open are actually nagging at me! I’d love to get the time to sit with them and give them love and then start something new.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter? If you only write short stories, do you plan your story, or let the characters lead you?
Normally I write a few bullet points before I hit the ground running. I really enjoy rounding out my characters and getting to know them before I let them lead me anywhere. I guess you could say I have some trust issues haha. I’ll write up a very brief synopsis and flesh it out in an outline. This guides me and helps me fill in the blanks. I do like some structure when I write – if I don’t set up a framework, I get carried away and can completely lose the plot. I do allow things to flow and change, though, but if I have markers, I can recentre myself if things get out of hand. I like to leave a few breadcrumbs in the woods.
When reading your work through do you ever find that your daily mood swings are reflected in your writing?
I’ve never had this experience within a single story, but I have noticed that work I produce during darker times is indeed much grimmer than work I produce when my moods are not so low. I have started pieces during low periods that I couldn’t finish when I had come out of it because I couldn’t really relate to what I was writing about at the time, and vis-a-versa. I also tend to write work that focuses on social commentary or mental health when I’m in a bit of a darker place, and everything I write when things are on the up and up plays a bit more with humour and can probably pass for YA fiction.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
Heavy Metal Coffin wasn’t necessarily inspired by real people, but rather a real experience. During lockdown, my partner was diagnosed with CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder). Miguel, the main character’s partner in the story, is meant to embody one facet of the disorder – he represented the exhaustion that is a result of living with CPTSD and how vulnerable it can make the person who is struggling. It’s easy to then assume that Tatiana is based on me, but she isn’t. She was inspired purely by the strength that a woman must muster in the face of danger.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
Balancing my projects, my writing and university has always been quite difficult for me if I don’t set a very rigorous schedule, which is also difficult to do when things are overwhelming, so…. always haha. Normally I try to prioritise things that I have a deadline for, and as I write mostly for me and not just work inspired by calls for short stories and the like, creative writing tends to fall to the backburner when university starts to swallow me whole. However, I have started to find a balance so that I can nurture both my academic work and my personal work – I really need to give it more attention as the ideas are starting to pile up; I’m afraid they’ll begin to topple!
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I’ve never considered this! I quite like my name, as its reflective of my heritage and that is a large part of what I pour into my work, so I haven’t really come up on a project that would make me feel inclined to erase that. I don’t think this is something I see myself doing at any point, but there is a first time for plenty of things.
How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
As I mentioned before, I really like to get to know my characters first. I think that if we are friends, so to speak, I will trust them to lead me in the right direction as I write. I tend to name them right away, and the names are often inspired by what they are meant to embody or are plays on the names of emotions they experience, things like that. I love rounding them out and will write about everything from their favourite genres of music, their favourite pair of shoes and most beloved snacks. I am a bit of an isolated person by choice, and at the risk of sounding a bit strange, which I probably am, I tend to give each story I write at least one character I would like to hang out with as I am stuck with them for the duration of the creative process.
What was your hardest scene to write?
The hardest scene in my story for the anthology to write was the scene where my main character, Tatiana, sees her partner Miguel for the first time after his possession. I had to draw on some very dark experiences from my past for it to translate to the audience how painful encounters like this can be with people you love. I remember having to take breaks from that portion of the story and saving it for last during the editing process. I actually only edited that part once as I didn’t really want to read it again at the time.
Thank you for joining me in the tearoom. If you would like to know more about Amira Krista’s books and writing check out the links below:
Link: Instagram: @horror_chromatic
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Members’ Books, don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops, too.