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 Damascus Mincemeyer

Dragon Soul Press sat down to interview Damascus Mincemeyer, an author in the History anthology.


1. Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I took to writing immediately in Kindergarten when I was five. As soon as I could read and write I was creating little stories and books. My Grandmother encouraged me, too, and always bought me markers, pens, paper, books, comics–anything to feed my buzzing brain. A lot of my childhood tales ranged the gamut from adventure to science fiction to what I now know is called ‘bizzaro’ (Some were very, very strange). An oft-told anecdote of mine is that the very first thing I ever created (also at age five) was a horror story about a man coming back from the dead. I wrote it at the babysitter’s house, and enlisted the babysitter’s daughter into providing illustrations for it. When the babysitter read it, however, she was so repulsed by what we’d made that she ripped up the story and threw it away! It was my auspicious debut and I’ve been freaking people out ever since.

2. How do you handle writer’s block?

Well, in addition to being a writer, I’m also a professional artist and whenever I get stuck on a story I switch to doing a visual art project. It whets my appetite for being constructive and creative, but allows my mind a break from the sometimes draining effects of the written word. For a looooong time my main goal in life was actually to be a comic book creator. I never quite succeeded, though I did manage to get published several times in Heavy Metal magazine. I started doing horror art in earnest for Deadman’s Tome publishing in 2018, initially for the covers to anthologies such as Bikers Vs The Undead, Psycho Holiday, Monsters Vs Nazis, Mr. Deadman Made Me Do It, Satan Is Your Friend, Monster Party, Wolfwinter and Hollywood Holocaust. I’ve also done the cover for Ryan Woods’ debut novel The Journal of Cinnamon Paige: Un-Death By Chocolate. And all that has helped me to keep the creative juices flowing when a literary barrier rises in my mind.

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

I’ve written two book thus far: the short fiction collection Where the Last Light Dies and my forthcoming horror novel By Invitation Only, but I’ve had roughly thirty stories published in various anthologies, magazines and websites in the past four years. But pick just one as my favorite??? Arrrrgggh!!! I can’t!

There are a few short stories I’ve done that I’m really proud of, though: ‘A Night At Satan’s Palace’ is about two old guys in their seventies who stop by a Las Vegas strip club where the strippers are demons in disguise and intent on opening a portal to Hell. I like its mix of comedy and horror, and it’s the story I’d share with someone unfamiliar with me to showcase my work. I’m also enormously pleased with two alternate-history tales I’ve written: ‘The Spirit of St. George’, about U.S. ace Eddie Rickenbacker leading a biplane squadron against awakened dragons in an alternate 1922, and ‘Ad Majorem Satanae Gloriam’ from the Hell’s Empire anthology, which focuses on a demonic invasion upon Victorian Britain.

The problem is that all my work has something special in it to me. They’re all my babies in a way, and I think any writer can relate to being unable to choose just one.

4. Where do you get your inspiration?

Several years ago I subscribed to an email newsletter from Tampa, Florida, called ‘Salsa Ray’s Ideas 4U’. Every week they send ready-made concepts to my in-box, and while half are junk, some are surprisingly effective. No, I’m messing with you. I literally get my inspiration from everywhere. The strangest things will give me ideas–sometimes its a news story, an anecdote, something that happened in my life. Sometimes its an odd observation I’ve had or just something I wish I could see in a movie or read in a book but can’t find. A surprising amount of my inspiration comes when I’m doing something completely unrelated to writing, like when I’m washing the dishes or mowing the lawn. A lot of my ideas also derive from my sick sense of humor. 

5. What do you hope your readers take away from your work?

Any storytelling journey is a silent covenant between the writer and reader; each brings their own experiences and viewpoints to the tale, and I as a writer can only control my end of the bargain. I don’t really have any preconceived notion of what a reader will take from my work because I’m not able to fill in their own individual reference points. I just try to write what I find amusing and entertaining to me, and the fact that it appeals to others at all is a very blessed coincidence in my eyes.

6. Who is your favorite author and why?

James Joyce…oh, crap, I don’t have to lie to pass English Lit 101 anymore. Never mind.

The real hands- down answer to me is H.P. Lovecraft. The man himself was just as strange and fascinating as the fiction he produced, and I always conjure the vision of someone desperate to describe the worlds he’s visualizing in his head. Until I discovered him at age sixteen I had only been exposed to Western Folklore-Judeo-Christian concepts of horror–vampires, werewolves, slashers, demons, angels, etc.–and the idea of Cosmic Horror was a notion that upturned every notion of what I thought fiction was or could be capable of doing. My own writing style doesn’t reflect his influence, but his voice lurks in my mind while I create, particularly in his concept that an upheaval of chaos and disorder is just waiting to tear the veneer of safe civilization apart.

Clive Barker is a very, very close second. His Books of Blood is a collection of such raw, visceral intensity that I don’t think any work of short horror fiction has ever surpassed it, by any author, even by Barker himself. The extent that those tales impacted my seventeen-year-old mind cannot be understated. I’ll round out my list with Neil Gaiman, Harry Turtledove and Colin Wilson.

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

Draw. Cook. Chitter-chat with my online peeps. And I LOVE music–punk and post-punk, metal (black/death/thrash/metalcore), gothic rock, electronic music, ‘80’s New Wave…the list just goes on and on. I usually create a ‘soundtrack’ of songs for a specific story I’m working on to listen to when I’m not writing. I helps set the mental mood, so to speak, for when I sit down for the real work. 

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

Odd. Creative. Misfit.

9. If you could only have one season, what would it be?

My bliss would be a world of perpetual autumn. Chilly, crisp, clear-sky days, bright colors on the leaves, that smell in the air. If there is a Heaven, I would want it to be autumn. 

10. Where can readers learn more about you?

Any reader thus inclined to follow my peculiar vision of the world can learn more about me on both my Amazon Author Page and Instagram accounts.