interview with caitlin marceau & M regan
There are days when I slightly lose my faith in horror. It’s rare, but it can happen. It’s normally after someone lectures me about the wonders of the Saw franchise or tries to tell me the later Hellraiser movies put the originals to shame. When I go through one of these moments, I am always thankful that I know some truly talented horror writers. People whose work can remind me that horror can be so much more than the zombie clown at the abandoned slaughterhouse window.
Caitlin Marceau and M. Regan are two such writers. Their work has always left me both hugely inspired and a little jealous. They tell stories that are grounded in the real world, but that can creep under your skin and slowly hook onto your nerve endings.
I was so happy to hear Marceau and Regan were releasing a collection together. It’s called Read-Only: A Collection of Digital Horror and I was lucky enough to get to review it last week. (Spoiler alert, it’s pretty damn fantastic.) I was also lucky enough to have both writers spare some time to answer a few questions for me regarding the collection and the process of writing it.
CL: I apologise for starting with the obvious question, but how did this collection come about exactly?
CM: So WatchMojo Publishing currently prints nonfiction magazines, but they were looking to expand their publication offerings. As a horror author and a lover of ghost stories, the idea of testing the waters with a collection of short fiction seemed like the natural thing to do for me. So they gave me the creative freedom to put the project together.
MR: Caitlin messaged me and a few others with invitations to be part of the project—it was just a “horror collection” then, no guidelines or themes— and as it was the first time my fiction had ever been solicited, I was only too happy to say yes. I was also the only one to say yes, haha.
CM: Yeah, for a moment I honestly thought it was just going to be me writing everything and I think my impending breakdown is the only reason she agreed.
MR: Maybe not the only reason. Seriously though, when expectations went from 1 to 2 stories to 6 to 7, I panicked a little. But I’d worked with Caitlin before, and knew her to be a joy—super encouraging and open to crazy ideas—, and after a brief discussion we mutually agreed that being co-authors would be a fun challenge. So the project went on ahead.
CM: It was nice though, because it was our first time co-authoring a collection and I think our writing balances each other out. But admittedly the sudden flip from a few stories to half a book was a bit daunting at first.
MR: Just a bit!
CL: A while ago someone told me the ghost story would die in the modern age because of the amount of technology in our lives. I think you’ve managed to totally disprove that theory. What made you decide to go with the theme of digital horror?
CM: Part of it was definitely because the collection was being published by WatchMojo. They produce Top 10 videos for YouTube and have over 17 million total subscribers, which is a lot of people who use technology every single day. We thought it could be a cool twist to take this modern tech that viewers engage with on a daily basis and make it something sinister.
MR: Yeah, given that WatchMojo’s primary focus is digital entertainment, it seemed the perfect choice.
CM: I also think there was this drive to bring old school ghost stories into 2017. I find a lot of modern tales still depend pretty heavily on ancient curses, books, land, etc. So we thought it could be a cool idea to explore these old ideas in a modern setting. Instead of a cursed ancient book, what about a cursed chain email, you know?
CL: Did you help each other with the stories during the process of writing the collection or did you wait until you were happy with a story before sharing it?
MR: More the latter than the former, since I’m a bit weird about people seeing my drafts. Sorry Caitlin!
CM: As you should be.
MR: Ha. Thinking back, we didn’t really read each other’s work until the official editing stages began. Though, we did always pitch general ideas to one another before starting on anything. Purportedly to ensure we both liked an idea before spending time on it, but more than once those conversations dissolved into, “No, no, I swear it’s gonna be good, trust me, I’m just not explaining it right!”
CM: Oh man, yeah. I’m like Regan in the sense that I haaaate when people read something I’m working on. Not because I’m embarrassed my first draft will be horrible — all first drafts are horrible by nature — but it makes me feel like the energy has been sucked from the piece, which makes me want to abandon the story. So there was a lot of discussion about possible ideas and making sure we didn’t overlap too much, but we waited until the very end to show each other what we’d written.
CL: What’s your favourite of each other’s stories in the collection and why?
MR: That’s such a hard question! All of Caitlin’s work is brilliant — there were so many details that followed me off the page — but if pressed, I would say “Meat Cute.” And not just because of the title-pun, haha. Without spoiling anything, I’ll say it’s because I really loved the opening scene. I was surprised by its setting.
CM: Awww! Thanks! I loved everything she wrote, honestly. I think she has a way of playing with formats that not only keeps you in suspense but totally flips your expectations. It’s brilliant honestly. So I think I’d have to go with “Kinda Stuck.” It was the first story I read when I was going through her things, and it set this really unnerving tone for the rest of her work. It’s actually why I pushed for it to be the first piece you read in the collection.
MR: Hey, thanks!
CL: Which story was easiest for you to write and which did you find the hardest?
MR: “Kinda Stuck” was easiest for me, actually. It was the first idea I had for the collection, was one of the stories I was most excited about, and half of it was copy-pasting, haha. As for the hardest story, maybe “Backwards.” Since it was set in Japan and dealt with youkai, it required more explanation than the other stories in the collection. I had to be conscientious about not over or under explaining things, as doing either would ruin a reader’s ability to enjoy the haunting.
CM: I think the easiest for me was “#NoFilter” because, kind of like Regan, it was the first idea I had for the book and probably the one I was most excited to write because I wasn’t sure how the ending was going to go when I was in the planning phase of the story. There was an excitement I had about figuring that out. The hardest was by far “Don’t Break the Chain.” It’s not written like my usual stories, which I find are more grounded in reality with a definitive conclusion. This one felt more… uncertain and open, I suppose.
MR: And that’s what I liked about it, if I may say.
CL: Are there any gadgets, devices or software you’d still want to use for a digital horror story?
MR: Something about a tomogachi, maybe. That has potential.
CM: We actually spoke about writing something involving spambots, so probably those.
CM: Maybe streaming services too.
CL: How did you choose your illustrators and did they select the images for each story?
CM: So Thu Khuu works as an illustrator and graphic designer, and she’s worked with me previously on some of the nonfiction publications, so she was a natural fit. Jessica Leng is our Office Manager, and she always has these amazing doodles that she leaves at her desk to let us know she’s away from it. So it was just a great opportunity to showcase her talent, plus we all felt her style would lend itself well to the tone of the stories. We’re both really grateful those two talented women were able to collaborate with us on this.
CL: If you could invite any famous authors, alive or dead, to join this collection who you would go for?
MR: Mary Shelley. I mean, Frankenstein was, in a way, a digital horror — technology is what brought his monster to life. Given the “miracles” that man is capable of these days, imagine what sort of stories she might come up with now.
CM: Hands down it would be Stephen King for me. I mean, just pick up a copy of Christine and it’s not hard to see why he might be a good fit.
MR: But then we’d have to set the entire collection in Maine. Kidding, kidding!
CL: If this collection ever became a TV series, are there any particular directors that you’d love to see tackle your stories?
MR: Honestly, I’d love it if anyone tackled these stories. Someone could make an amateur YouTube video inspired by Read-Only and I’d be over the moon about it.
CM: Same though. I’d be ecstatic about anyone reading this book and liking it so much that they’re inspired to adapt the stories for television. If I had to choose, then maybe Phil Sgriccia. He directed some of my favourite early episodes of Supernatural back in the day.
CL: Have you kept any digital horror stories back ready for a second volume or are we getting something completely different next time?
MR: I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say, so I think I’m going to let Caitlin answer this one, haha.
CM: Ummmm, well, the next fiction quarterly from WatchMojo Publishing is an anthology of science fiction from a group of really talented authors, all with really diverse approaches to what sci-fi is. As for Regan and I, I’m not sure what I’m really at liberty to say. We do have a few digital horror ideas that we we’ve been talking about since the release of this collection, so there’s definitely room for a second volume if it’s something readers would be interested in. I know it’s definitely something I hope we get the chance to produce. As for other collaborative literary projects in the future, you’ll just have to wait and see!
I would like to thank both authors for their time and for their brilliant answers. Below you’ll find some links to their work and their author bios.
Take my advice, buy their book and read it as soon as possible. These two are heading for the tip top if you ask me and every story in the collection is proof of that. If you need a bit more convincing, why not check out the review on the blog?
Bio: M. Regan has been writing in various capacities for over a decade, with credits ranging from localization work to scholarly reviews, advice columns to short stories. Particularly fascinated by those fears and maladies personified by monsters, she enjoys composing dark fiction and studying supernatural creatures.
Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/M.-Regan
Bio: Caitlin Marceau is an author and professional editor living and working in Montreal. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing, is a member of the Horror Writers Association, and spends most of her time writing for an array of publications. She prefers to focus her time on publishing works of horror and experimental fiction, and if she’s not covered in ink or wading through stacks of paper then you can find her ranting about issues in pop culture or needing out over a good book. For more information, or just to say hi, you can reach her through firstname.lastname@example.org
FB Link: https://www.facebook.com/CAMarceau/
Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Caitlin-Marceau/e/B01BPPMVRS