Talking Scary Stories and the Silver Screen with Quoth the Raven Author Susan McCauley

Susie's Headshot 2015

To celebrate the release of Quoth the Raven, edited by Lyn Worthen and published by Camden Park Press, I’m getting cozy with my fellow anthology contributors to learn more about their stories and what inspires their dark little writers’ hearts.

Next, I’m interviewing Susan McCauley, author of “The Cask” in Quoth the Raven.

Quoth the Raven celebrates the eerie and influential legacy of Edgar Allan Poe. What is it about Edgar Allan Poe’s work that speaks to you (perhaps from the grave)?

There is something haunting about his work. His stories and the way they’re told have a way sticking with you – even years after you’ve read them.

Pick three adjectives to describe the story you wrote for Quoth the Raven.

Dark, twisted, eerie.

Imagine you’re in an old-timey elevator, a rickety one that boasts a well-worn, rusty cage. There’s a man in all black in the elevator with you, and he asks what your story is about. What do you tell him?

Assuming we’re in present day, I’d let him know it’s a modern re-telling of “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe, and that the story is about betrayal and revenge. Unlike Poe’s original story, the reader finds out why Montresor has his revenge on Fortunato.

Okay, I’m continuing with this scenario thing. It’s 1849, and you’re at a gathering of literature lovers, a salon, if you will. Across the room, you spy Edgar Allan Poe, and you simply must go over to him to compliment his work. What is the story or poem of his that you laud to excess? And why?

Of course I would have to talk to him about “The Cask of Amontillado.” I love “The Tell-Tale Heart,” too, but “The Cask of Amontillado” has impacted my life in so many ways in both my teaching and writing – especially due to my re-telling of the story and the subsequent short film that was made based on my story. I’d love to know how Poe was inspired to write “The Cask of Amontillado” and what his process was like with writing it.

As a writer, what do you think are the most important elements of dark fiction?

I think that atmosphere and tension are extremely important elements in dark fiction. Certainly all fiction needs tension to pull in a reader and keep them reading, but I think a combination of atmosphere and tension (along with some unexpected and/or disturbing events and images) are vital.

As a reader, why are you attracted to dark fiction? Why do you think we like to read about the things that terrify us?

I honestly don’t know why I’m so drawn to dark fiction. I can only go so far with it – and I don’t like gore. I prefer psychological and supernatural horror. I think why people like things that terrify us is because of our basic survival instincts. For hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of years humanoids have had to fight or run to survive. In modern life, we’re much safer and our basic needs are met. So, I think that by going to scary movies, reading scary stories, and going on scary rides, that helps fulfill a part of us that isn’t being used very often – at least not in countries where all of our major survival needs are met. So, I think it’s psychological and biological.

What’s a story or poem – by any author – that has truly creeped you out (in the best way possible, of course)? What was it about that particular story that just got to you?

The Haunting of Hill House (1959) by Shirley Jackson creeped me out. I first read it in my early twenties and had to sleep with the lights on for several nights. I don’t remember exactly what about the story got to me, but it was psychologically haunting. I’m going to read it again to see what it is about that book that created so much fear in me.

Who are some of your literary inspirations?

I’d say that William Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, and Shirley Jackson are some favorites. I have several more modern authors I find inspiring, too. Jonathan Stroud and Mary Downing Hahn are two of the authors I find myself returning to over and over again.

What are you currently working on right now?

Well, I’ve got two feature films (I’m also a screenwriter) in development. One, The Murdering Kind, is being directed by Academy Award winning SFX makeup artist, Barney Burman. For the other, The Lost Children of York, I can’t announce the director just yet because we’re still in the negotiation process. I also have a short story, “The Devil’s Tree,” which you can read for free on WattPad. I’ve turned “The Devil’s Tree” into a novel (it’s currently on submission). I’m also planning to adapt that short story into a short film and direct it myself.

Where can we find more of your work or connect with you online?

You can find more of my work and can connect with me online at http://www.sbmccauley.com/ I’d love to hear from you! And, if you’re interested, you can see the short film version of my story of “The Cask” on YouTube: https://youtu.be/55jEBuSdJAg

About Susan:

Susan is a writer / director / producer of horror, supernatural, and fantasy films and fiction for adults, young adults, and middle grade audiences and readers. Susan fell in love with writing, theater, and film when she was eight-years-old. That passion inspired her to receive a B.A. in Radio-Television with a minor in Theater from the University of Houston, a M.F.A. in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California, and a M.A. in Text & Performance from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and King’s College in London. Susan also studied acting at Playhouse West with Robert Carnegie and Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic ParkIndependence Day) in Los Angeles.

While living in Los Angeles, Susan wrote the story for and produced a short film, which later won awards at the Houston International Film Festival and the Seabrook Film Festival. In 2002, Susan moved to London to further explore professional theater. While in London, her stage adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s “The Nose” was performed at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art’s George Bernard Shaw Theatre; and, scenes from her play The Prisoner: Princess Elizabeth were performed at HMS Tower of London. She returned home to the U.S. in 2005. In 2007, she was the line producer of the Emmy Award nominated Civil War short film Now & Forever Yours: Letters to an Old Soldier. In 2016, her short story, “The Cask,” was made into an award winning short film that played at film festivals around the U.S.

Quoth the Raven coverAbout Quoth the Raven:

The works of Poe were dark and often disturbing. From dismembered corpses, rivals bricked behind cellar walls, murders in back alleys, laments for lost loves, obsessions that drive men – and women! – to madness, his stories have had a profound impact on both the horror and mystery genres to this day.

In Quoth the Raven, we invite you to answer the call of the raven and revisit Poe’s work, re-imagined for the twenty-first century. Here, the lover of mystery and goth horror will find familiar themes in contemporary settings, variations on Poe’s tales, and faithful recreations of the author’s signature style.

Purchase your copy of the anthology HERE.

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