By Garrett Witt
Dead Head Reviews (DHR): Hello, S.H. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today. We are excited to have you here.
S.H. Cooper (SHC): Thank you! I’m frankly shocked anyone would want to take the time to interview me, but very happy to be here!
DHR: We’re so happy to have you! Congratulations on your release of The Festering Ones. Can you tell us how the response has been so far?
SHC: It’s been really positive so far! The reviews have started to come in and it’s getting some really great feedback. People seem to be digging some Lovecraftian vibes and the mostly female cast of characters. It’s actually been a huge relief because this is my first long form fiction release and I was very worried it might not hold up against my short stories, which is what I’ve built my little horror corner on online.
DHR: I also enjoyed those elements. We need more stories with mainly female characters. Can you tell us what was the process of creating the story? What was your inspiration behind it?
SHC: It wasn’t initially meant to be anything more than a one off short, which was the story Passit, Florida that I uploaded to Reddit under my username, Pippinacious. After I finished it, though, all of these ideas of what exactly happened in the town of Passit started swirling in my head, which led to a spin off story and then the first chapter of The Festering Ones. Passit itself came about as a coping mechanism after my sister, who I’m very close to, moved away. I dealt with feelings of distance and loss through the characters. Once that was established, the idea of throwing eldritch beings and a cult into the mix just kind of fell into place. I’d wanted to do something along those lines for a while, but had never quite known where to go with it until The Festering Ones developed. Obvious influences would be Lovecraft (who I’ve never actually read, but because my best friend is a huge fan, I’ve done a lot of research into the lore), games like Bloodborne and Silent Hill, and Stephen King.
DHR: It’s amazing how writing can be used as a coping mechanism. I’m always wondering if a story is personal to the author or just imagination. Do you think there could someday be a sequel to The Festering Ones?
SHC: Oh definitely! I plan to do a series of books set in the same universe, some of which will include Faith, others that will act as standalones.
DHR: The cover art is by Elderlemon Design. What was it like working with Kealan and finding the perfect cover art for you story?
SHC: Kealan was amazing to work with. I had about 50 artists contact me after I posted a request for cover artists on Twitter, but his work really stood out. There’s this quality about it that instantly reads “Horror” and that’s what I wanted. I’m very happy I went with him. He was very receptive to suggestions, quick with communication, and put up with me hemming and hawing over the title font for literal days. We went through a couple of ideas in writing, then he developed the first cover, then came revisions, and after a few tweaks, the actual cover came to life! I think, all told, it took about three weeks to get it just right and as soon as I had the final design, I was shoving it in people’s faces, shrieking about how much I loved it.
DHR: It definitely fits the story perfectly. It’s one of my favorite covers to date. Do you prefer absolute silence when writing? Or do you like having background noise?
SHC: Silence. I need to hear the narrator in my head in order to get anything done.
DHR: I’m the same way when reading. The slightest noise can cause me to lose my attention to the story, sadly haha. Are you currently working on anything at the moment?
SHC: Haha. Hahaha. Ha. Oh god, I am currently working on TOO MANY things at the moment. I have two longer form horror stories that I plan to start on, I’ve just put out a casting call with my friend and co-writer, Elijah Gabriel, for a new fairytale retelling audio drama series we’re planning, I have the second season of the horror comedy podcast, Calling Darkness, gearing up soon, and I’m querying agents with a YA fantasy novel. In addition to writing, I also voice act for podcasts like the aforementioned Calling Darkness, The Glass Appeal, Copperheart, and Radioverse.
DHR: You sure seem to have a full plate. All of these sound very cool. Could you tell us more about your podcast, Calling Darkness?
SHC: Calling Darkness is a horror comedy that follows six women who come together for an acting seminar, only to accidentally summon a demon. We like to say it started a joke that we accidentally on purpose took too far. I co-wrote the series with Gemma Amor and we were lucky enough to have Kate Siegel from Haunting Of Hill House perform as our narrator. The focus, first and foremost, is on the various women and their relationship with each other. It was important for Gemma and myself to create a variety of realistic, flawed characters while still playing with all the most fun tropes horror has to offer. A point of pride is that it is a strongly female-led endeavor. Written by women, produced by women, with a majority female cast. I find that there is still some resistance to women in horror, so to have had a hand in creating a well received, female-led podcast is pretty amazing. I’m extremely proud of our show and everyone involved.
DHR: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
SHC: I’ve been writing since I was very young. It’s really something I’ve always done. The novel I’m shopping around now is one I first wrote when I was eleven. Twenty years later, I was finally able to rewrite it so that I’m happy with it and hope to have it traditionally published.
DHR: Eleven?! Wow, that’s impressive. Could you possibly tell us anything about this secret novel?
SHC: Well, it’s not really so secret! I’ve always been a huge fantasy fan, having grown up on Tolkien, games like Baulder’s Gate, and in the Underdark with Drizzt Do’Urden. My novel is a young adult medieval fantasy told from the perspective of 14 year old Mary McThomas, a girl with the impossible dream of becoming a knight, like her father. After he’s critically wounded in an ambush, Mary and her brothers set out to find a cure. At its heart, it’s a tale of family, love, and perseverance. Really not so unexpected since I’m known for my wholesome horror stories.
DHR: I’ve noticed you talk a lot about your parents on twitter, is it safe to say they have a big influence on your writing?
SHC: Oh yeah. Not only are they my biggest support system, they’re also my biggest fans and first beta readers (and as much as I’d love to say they only ever have glowing reviews for me, they can be some of my most constructive critics, which is probably preferable). They’ve both directly inspired stories, such as The Ringing In My Ear and Bad Feeling, and indirectly inspired them from life lessons, family history, and just being a constant positive presence in my life. They receive the first dedication in all of my books. My siblings, husband, and pets also feature prominently in my work as they have had just a big an impact on me becoming who I am as a person and a writer. Most of my stories have some element of my life included in them, and it’s often in the form of a character based on a loved one or a memory.
DHR: Is there anyone you’d like to shoutout or any last thing you’d like to say?
SHC: Lots of people! I’ll try to keep it condensed, otherwise it’d be a long list: The casts and crews of Calling Darkness, The NoSleep Podcast, and Thrown Together Productions, the Ladies of Horror Fiction, and all the folks behind Dead Head Reviews.
DHR: Sarah, Thank you so much for your time. We can’t wait to see what you come out with in the near future!