Author Interview with P.A. O’Neil

Dragon Soul Press sat down to interview P.A. O’Neil, an author of fantasy and horror.


1. What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve wanted to be a story teller since I was a child. In high school, I had the opportunity to take a Creative Writing class and I knew I was hooked, unfortunately, an experience in college turned me off not only writing but sharing any of my stories with others. Forty-years went by and when I had the time, I wrote a novel based off of a vivid dream. When I woke up, I knew I had to finish the story.

Mostly, I write because I need to give voice the characters in my head that haunt me until they being released on paper.

Actually, both of the above answers are correct, I just find the second one more intriguing.

2. What comes first, the plot or characters?

Unless given a prompt, it most often is the characters. One of my recent stories was written because one day I woke up knowing I had to write a story about “Moses Busbee.” I had no idea what that would be, just a nagging memory. When the opportunity came to write a science-fiction story, I used the opportunity to put Moses’s to rest by using him as the central character.

3. What time of the day do you usually write?

When my husband was working, I used the afternoon to write, but never on the weekends as that what his time. Now that he is retired, I write whenever I can because he considers everyday a weekend! Seriously though, it still is afternoon, just not as many hours anymore. I confess, I do miss it.

4. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

That would have to be inspiration for stories. I mentioned before how dreams were a major influence, but my dedication comes from my Muse. There are times when I have to, not just need to write. The story demands to be written and I chalk that up to my imagined Muse. She is a real task master with a mean spirit, no slacking here—yet there are times when she takes off for short holidays, sometimes up to three months. She returns ready to work, so I should too.

5. Do you research for your books?

Yes, research is necessary for the plausibility of the story. They say you should, “write about what you know,” well you’re not going to know it with some factual research. It doesn’t have to be deep, just enough that if someone familiar with the setting or activity would shake their head in agreement. Even fantasy needs to have something tangible for the reader to relate to.

6. How do you handle literary criticism?

Much better than I did several years ago. When I first started, I received a rejection letter from a submission editor who must’ve had a difficult day, because she really took it out on me. A simple, no thank you it’s not our type of story would’ve sufficed. It put me off writing anything for several weeks. I submitted the story elsewhere several times, each being rejected, so I retooled it, made it sharper, still nothing. Then I remember the first comment by the editor, “I don’t like the title.” So, I changed the title and it got picked up right away.

The lesson I have learned from this experience is professional writing is a small business and should be treated and respected as such. If my story is rejected, I consider it not a put-down of me, or my work, but not making a sale to that customer that day. I always return with a thank you note to the publisher for letting me know of their consideration and I wish them luck, thus leaving on a good note. Also, as evidenced in the above paragraph, if a story keeps being rejected, go back to what these rejections might have in common. It could just mean they were right all along.

7. How do you deal with emotional impact of a book (on yourself) as you are writing the story?

My novel, Finding Jane, has yet to be edited, so I can only speak to my collection of short stories, Witness Testimony and Other Tales. Some of the stories were based on firsthand experiences, some on imagined ones. There are a couple of stories that were heartbreaking to write, but these stories had to be told—not just for my sake, but for the sake of who they were written for.

An example of this was “Letters from Jenni.” I had read an in-depth article about using DNA to identify the perpetrators from years past in deaths of children from my area. In this article, there was a photo of one of the girls, the last ever known to be taken. It was a summer afternoon with children and mothers surrounding a kitchen table at lunch time. Everyone was laughing and smiling, but this girl, was staring at the camera as if she knew it would be of photo of so many lasts. I felt compelled to give voice to this child. That photo still haunts me today.

8. Describe your perfect book hero or heroine.

It’s probably silly, but Dr. John H. Watson, is my favorite hero. I envy his relationship with Sherlock Holmes and his dedication to that friendship. Holmes, by his own admission, was a hard person to live with, but it wasn’t faithfulness he was looking for in a friend and companion (he could’ve had that with a dog) but someone willing to be a brother, a sounding wall, a confessor, and at times a savior. The Watson portrayed in the movies is far from the man in the books. There is no way a military officer, a doctor, and a successful writer could be as incompetent as they made him out to be. Besides, a man of Holmes’s personality would most not likely want to attach himself to someone that incompetent.

9. What was your favorite part, and your least favorite part, of the publishing journey?

The least favorite part is finding the time to devote myself to writing whatever story that needs to be written. For health reasons, I don’t write in the evenings, so that window seems to be getting smaller and smaller each day.

The favorite part, it even beats seeing the story in print, is when I type End. It’s done, the demon has been released. Yes, I know there is still rewrites and edits to come but nothing beats the satisfaction of that first completion.

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

On Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Author Interview with Steven Bruce

Dragon Soul Press took a moment to interview Steven Bruce, an author of poetry and horror.


1. What inspired you to start writing?

The inspiration came from needing something to pull me out of a quiet life of desperation. I was between unemployment and warehouse jobs while living in a run-down apartment block.

Steven Bruce
(Photo courtesy of Steven Bruce)

Then one night, I recalled hearing Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart in primary school. And I thought, what if I wrote horror stories. So I got out of bed, switched my old computer on, and, in total ignorance of the craft, spent the night writing. By the time the sun came up, I had written my first horror story.

From there, I never looked back.

2. When did you first consider yourself a writer?

At the very beginning, before I typed the first letter of the first word of the first sentence of my first story.

Before you can convince others of what you are, you have to convince yourself.

3. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

I find perfectionism during the editing process hampers my output. From time to time, I also suffer from procrastination.

4. Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be?

Yes, I write full-time. Although, I also moonlight as an editor and proofreader.

Thankfully, I’ve learned to live a spartan lifestyle, so I don’t need large sums of money to survive. I can be content with a cup of coffee with a good book in the morning and, in the evening, my wife’s tuna pasta with a film.

I think putting an artist in a nine-to-five, dead-end job is comparable to strapping them in a straightjacket. Not to say that I’m an artist, but I’m definitely an artist type.

5. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Creative, diligent, and sexy.

Disclaimer: The three words above are chosen solely by my wife, who may be slightly biased.

6. Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?

At the moment, I’m working on a second poetry collection titled Caffeine. It’s a collection of poems that delves into what keeps us awake at night. It’s an intimate collection which I hope reaches out into the familiar.

It will be available to buy in August of this year.

It’s my departure from poetry. At least for now. I want to focus more on writing fiction.

7. Who is your favorite author and why?

It’s always challenging to pick a single favourite when there are so many authors I admire.

I often return to the works of Raymond Carver, Ernest Hemingway, Anton Chekhov, and Franz Kafka, to name a few.

However, if I had to pick one, it would be Ernest Hemingway for his brevity.

8. What famous author do you wish would be your mentor?

For poetry, Ezra Pound.

For fiction, Gordon Lish.

9. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

When I’m not writing, I like to visit art galleries, museums, parks, and cafés. I also enjoy reading and going on long weekend walks around Barcelona with Gosia (my wife).

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

The best place would be through my website, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Author Interview with D.J. Elton

Dragon Soul Press interviewed D.J. Elton, an author of short stories, microfiction, and poetry.


1. How long have you been writing?

I started writing as a child as it was encouraged at school and held my interest. I kept writing over the years, especially poetry. Recently, in the past 5 or so years I have become more focused in getting my work published. So I’ve been quite prolific with poetry, microfiction and short stories. It was bliss on a stick to return to writing, something was fulfilled inside of me.

2. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

My day usually includes a range of various work-related activities: because other than writing I also teach, promote, liaise, meditate and follow up people and engagements. So I do a lot. Nothing is tricky about the actual writing itself, but finding time to write as much as I would like has been a big challenge. I suppose another difficult thing is getting a heap of rejections all at once; one day I got five and it was so painful. Then you get some acceptances and it balances out.

3. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

Engaging descriptions. Characters and dialogue that are interesting, attention-grabbing, page-turning; people want to keep reading and not get bored. I always attempt to adhere to a plot framework but it sometimes gets hijacked by the characters. Several rounds of editing is usually helpful too. I am a short story writer, not a novelist.

4. How do you come up with the story or poem titles?

Mostly I leave it to the end, when I have written the piece. Then a title often comes to mind which is an added extra to highlight the theme. This I find easy. There will always be some words in the work which stand out and are significant for the title. Recently, I thought I will experiment with just a title and write a poem or story from just that. This can be a fun and challenging exercise, eg: “The Dog that could Fly” or “Green Skin.”

5. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I’m in quite a poetry-writing phase these past few months. I can whip up a poem really quickly – I amaze myself in doing this; just writing it out, free-flow. (Not all are accepted or sent for publication of course!) But the ease of the writing of poetry continues to give me a real high, whereas writing stories and even microfiction is a lot more of a calculated process. (I’m a plotter mostly). I mean I would never plot a poem. No need.

6. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I’ve not written novels although I have my work in around 50 anthologies, which includes short stories, poetry and microfiction. I was the team lead for a group of writers last year to come up with a speculative version of Alice and her adventures with the White Rabbit. The title is The Thirteen Lives of Alice. It’s quite a favorite, and completing it in 2021 was a huge challenge although there was a good team of authors on board and a savvy publisher (can I name Black Hare Press?) There’s a novella called The Merlin Girl which is the first thing I ever had published in the past few years. In retrospect it’s very raw but I love the story behind it; a medieval girl comes to the twenty-first century to repair some karma, stirring up the Camelot story.

7. Where do you draw inspiration from?

Nice question. From my life; what I see and experience. I have a healthy imagination so that works well for fantasy and sci fi. Anything that happens can be teased out into a story – this can be morphed into that and so on. Love rewriting faerie tales, folklore stories and myths. There is some great content available and I love to research.

8. Do you have any new stories planned?

At the moment I have about 6 stories I am rehashing, re-editing. I love how the editing one does today would be different in the next round of reading, or in 3 months’ time. I do have a plan for a book of essays on various themes, and have started writing these with a list of topics that continues to grow!

9. Who is the author you most admire in your genre?

I have to say Neil Gaiman. I just so loved The Graveyard Book when I read it. That is something I would like to write. I’m definitely more of a YA author than a horror author. I also like a good Michael Robotham read; he does crime thrillers and has an investigative journalist background. 

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

Readers can learn more at my website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Author Interview with Jarrett Mazza

Dragon Soul Press took time to interview Author Jarrett Mazza, featured in Reign of Queens, Lethal Impact, and Rogue Tales.


1. When did you first consider yourself a writer?

It was my eighteenth birthday and my parents gave me a laptop as their main gift. Realizing that I now had a tool to create stories, I decided to finally act on my creative impulses and began writing scripts, comic books, and novel synopses. However, it was in my second year of university, and I was a huge fan of comics, superheroes, movies, and literary novels, that I began my very first short stories. I didn’t think anything of it, at first, it was just fun, and exciting. Three years later I had my first story published, one year after that my MFA, and the rest just escalated from there. I consider myself a writer the same way I consider myself to be human. I breathe, I eat, and I live, and I’m a writer because I write. It’s part of who I am now, one of the best parts, something I need, desire, and I’m glad I have it. I can’t imagine a life without writing, and I just continue to do it because I can.

2. What comes first, the plot or characters?

It’s combination of things. I think about the story and then the characters, but most of the time, it just all coalesces on its own. I don’t overthink the process. I just do the work, put in the time, and I create.

3. How do you come up with the titles to your stories?

That’s totally a last-minute thing. Most of my work is untitled while writing, and then when it’s done, I conclude with something, generally, I could not have created prior to its conclusion. It can be aggravating to keep changing, and sometimes, I don’t know what the title is going to be. I like thinking about it, though. The brainstorming can be quite entrancing.

4. Is there lots to do before you drive in and start writing the story?

Absolutely not. I am a fountain of perpetual creativity. I usually do dive in right away, and Dragon Soul Press has actually made that easier. There’s so many submission calls, I don’t have time to think about them all. I just love the content and I want to attack it as soon as possible. It’s great to just jump in, propel the narrative, and see where it ends up. I’m lucky to have been welcomed into DSP. I will be writing stories for them for as long as I am able.

5. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

Nothing. Difficulty in writing is the rejection and the uncertainty, but hey, that’s the game, right? Can’t let it get you down. I just keep my head down and fight, and I like to fight, so I feel like I’m in the right place even when things aren’t going well.

6. What books or authors have most influenced your own writing?

Wow. Tough question. I have so many influences, but my favorite author is Craig Davidson. I love his work so much I could sleep with all his books under my pillow. Also, Michael Chabon, Greg Rucka, Stephen King, Scott Snyder, Lucy Snyder, Andrew F. Sullivan, Zoe Whittall, and Amy Stuart are awesome as well. Books, it’s all about Cromac McCarthy’s collected works, On Writing, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, The Fighter, The Road, Jim The Boy, The Shining, Watchmen, and anything coming out of Wolfpack Publishing right now. I love it all!

7. Who is your favorite character you’ve written?

Too many to count, and too hard to determine. I love them all. Depending on the day, I gravitate to each. I’m just glad I have all of them.

8. Which of your stories were the most enjoyable to write?

So long as I’m writing, I’m happy.

9. What does success mean to you? What is the definition of success?

Success, to me, means fulfillment and progress. Do I feel fulfilled and am I progressing? If so, then to a certain degree, I see myself as successful. I have many visions of a future with writing a part of it, but I prefer not to structure what lies too rigidly. It’s not that kind of job, unfortunately. I just want to be able to do it, and if I can, and if it’s about something, for something…then I’m a success. Also, I need to be surrounded by people I care about. I can’t enjoy any success if I don’t have people who care about me. I’m lucky to have them too.

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

I am on all social media and if you Google me, you’ll see links to my website as well as my published work.

Author Interview with Chad A. B. Wilson

Dragon Soul Press sat down for an interview with Author Chad A. B. Wilson, featured in the Dragons and Heroines anthology.


1. What inspired you to start writing?

When I was in second grade, I would write narratives out of the movies I watched. The first thing I ever wrote was a retelling of Charlotte’s Web, complete with dialogue and everything. I even got the punctuation right. In sixth grade, I wrote a zany time travel novel inspired by The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Later in middle school, I began writing horror stories inspired by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Peter Benchley. So I’ve always been inspired by what I’m reading. When I read a good horror story, I want to write a good horror story. I’m not in competition with the greats, but I want to try to do what I enjoy and make something that other people will enjoy. That’s really the motivation: inspire enjoyment in others. Some people, they just feel compelled to write, and their art comes first, but for me, it’s always outward focused. When I was in a punk band in college, I wrote a song called “I wanna be a sellout.” I’ve always wanted people to enjoy what I do. It’s not about art or the idea that people don’t understand my work because it’s great art. I want to write what people enjoy. I spent 10 years working on a PhD in Victorian literature. Once I finished that, I went back to reading the fun stuff I always loved—fantasy and science fiction. So then I was inspired again! I started writing again about two years ago.

2. What comes first, the plot or characters?

Definitely the plot. I know that may sound weird, and maybe it’s because I’m a novice and not that great at it, but the real world is full of boring people. What makes things exciting are external events. I’m not writing stories about the internal struggles of real people, after all. No, what I need are exciting events; then I figure out how a person will deal with those events, and the character is fleshed out along the way.

3. How much ‘world building’ takes place before you start writing?

I’ve read enough about writing science fiction and fantasy that I’m aware of the trap of world building. Basically, I don’t do much. I let the plots drive the world building, and then I go back and revise. I’ve written two novels (unpublished) and a dozen short stories that take place in Grenmir’s world of Searithia and the city Falsea, so the world has become fleshed out over time.

4. Describe your writing space.

We built a shed behind our house and decked it out as a “studio” after the pandemic hit and the entire family was working and studying from home. My wife works in there during the day, and then I go write in there after most of the house is down for the night. It’s just a simple desk but it’s cozy with few distractions.

5. What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

I find satisfying conclusions to be the hardest. Ideas come easily, but shaping them into problems that can be solved is difficult. I used to love the heist genre, for example, because of the way the protagonists would solve the problems (that they always anticipated beforehand). I’ve tried to write my own heist stories, and they always come up flat. It’s the interesting solution that eludes me. I imagine audiences can see my conclusions from a mile away.

6. What does success mean to you? What is the definition of success?

Like I said, I want people to read and like my work. That’s really it.

7. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I have three unpublished novels. My favorite is my latest: a bizarro, supernatural tour of Texas led by a middle-aged alcoholic gunslinger who must save the world. It’s called “Grit Versus the Necromantic Society.” Its absolutely bonkers. One chapter is told by an armadillo. In another, Grit is saved by an army of squirrels. He meets a bunch of famous ghosts, too. It was so fun to write.

8. Where do you get your inspiration?

I am often inspired by travel. Atlas Obscura (a travel website of the odd and bizarre) has inspired some of my current work. I know I have a story when I pull off the interstate and find something so weird or creepy that it sticks with me. Or sometimes I just get images in my head that I must write a story around it.

9. Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?

I just finished another story about the rogue Grenmir, and I’m working on revising my Grit novel. I may seek out a publisher or may self-publish. I haven’t decided.

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

I can be found on Facebook and Twitter.