Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel’s short fiction has appeared in a number of publications over the past decade. Spirits, from Haverhill House Publishing, is her first novel. She lives in the Northeast with her partner, the writer Matt Bechtel; her three children; and an 80-pound lapdog named Nya.
- Paperback: 213 pages
- Publisher: Haverhill House Publishing (12 July 2019)
KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?
I’ve been making up stories since I was seven. I’ve been selling stories for the past decade or so. Spirits is my first novel. I live in the Northeast with my fiancé, Matt Bechtel, who is also a writer; my three kids; and our 70-pound lapdog, Nya.
KR: What do you like to do when not writing?
I fancy myself a gourmet cook. I love to use my creativity in the kitchen. I also love to read, garden, and hike. I live in an area that has so many amazing trails. I enjoy getting lost in the woods, finding my way back out, and going for a nice beer and a wonderful meal.
KR: What is your favourite childhood book?
Charlotte’s Web made a lasting impression on me.
KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?
Music is essential to my writing process! My favourite album changes all the time, but right now, I would say it’s Echo & The Bunnymen’s 1981 album Heaven Up Here. The Bunnymen are hugely influential on my writing. “The Disease” from HUH sums up Spirits very well. I also enjoy Will Sergeant’s solo work. I find myself putting on his Weird As Fish album and becoming entranced and inspired by the sounds. Other artists, of course, influence my work. Muse, Social Distortion, The Distillers, The Interrupters, Dead Kennedys, The Saints, The Astronauts, to name a few.
KR: Do you have a favourite horror movie/director?
My taste in movies is a little offbeat, but I love the classics. John Carpenter’s Halloween remains one of my all-time favourite films. I don’t scare easily, and I’ve seen Halloween more times than I can count, but it still gets under my skin. I used to run in an area that was mostly well-lit, but there was a stretch that abutted a forest. I couldn’t run that stretch without imagining Michael Myers jumping out of the trees. Let’s just say I made excellent time through that portion of my run.
KR: What are you reading now?
I’m reading Temi Oh’s Do You Dream of Terra-Two? It’s amazing!
KR: What was the last great book you read?
I loved Jeffrey Ford’s Ahab’s Return: or, the Last Voyage
KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?
All of the above, but I do prefer having a physical book. My library is comprised of mostly paperbacks, but I do have a few special hardbacks.
KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?
So many! Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, Ray Bradbury, Michael Bishop, Octavia Butler, Elizabeth Massie, Christopher Golden, to name a few.
KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I’m mostly a pantser, but I do like to have some vague idea of where I’m going and how I plan to get there. I guess you could say I outline in my head.
KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
It really depends upon the subject. I did quite a bit of research on alcoholism for Spirits. I’ve certainly known alcoholics and had a few in my family, but I have no personal experience with the disease. It was helpful to read about people’s experiences and recoveries.
KR: How would you describe your writing style?
I like to put my readers in my characters’ shoes. I think it’s incredibly powerful to be able to experience what they experience. I use a lot of imagery. I use all five senses. I want you to feel what these people are going through.
KR: Describe your usual writing day?
Oh, I have three kids, so there is no “usual” writing day. I sit down to write in the morning, I’m interrupted about 10 minutes in, come back, and can’t figure out where I was going with a scene. I get up, make coffee, come back to it, and crank out words before I’m interrupted yet again. I fit in the bulk of my writing after my kids go to bed. Some days, it’s miraculous there are new words on the page.
KR: Do you have a favourite story/short that you’ve written (published or not)?
I have a story called “Revolt” in the forthcoming anthology Dystopian State of America. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever written. It’s cyberpunk with a horror edge.
KR: Do you read your book reviews?
I do. I am so bad about it. So far, they’ve been wonderful, and I’m so grateful, but I have to admit, I’m really dreading the first bad one. It will probably crush me.
KR: How do you think you’ve developed as an author?
When I started out [mumble] years ago, I matriculated at the Ernest Hemingway School of Sparse Writing and Subtle-as-a-Brick-to-the-Forehead Symbolism. What? It’s an accredited university. I didn’t use a lot of flowery language or imagery. I have a journalism background, and letting the facts speak for themselves is a hard habit to break. I have gotten so much better at describing and evoking emotion through my words. I’ve also challenged myself to create characters that have a skewed sense of reality so I can’t rely upon facts to speak for themselves. I really enjoy developing scenarios in which reality must be shown through the lens of other characters.
KR: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding your writing?
Keep doing it! Writing can be a very discouraging business, but if you hone your craft and you’re persistent, it’s rewarding.
KR: What scares you?
Something bad and beyond my control happening to my kids. I’m not easy to scare, but becoming a parent taught me that you’re not always in control, and that’s pretty terrifying.
KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?
Spirits is about a woman who turns to the bottle for comfort after she kills a teenaged girl in an auto accident. The girl’s mother is wracked with grief and decides Tori hasn’t paid enough for taking her daughter’s life, so she exacts a very unusual form of revenge. After her drinking problem costs her everything, Tori runs away to scenic Cape May, New Jersey, where she hopes to dry out and reassemble her life. She meets a kind-hearted inn-owner who allows her to stay for the winter season at a discounted rate but soon finds her boarder is losing her grip on reality. Tori can’t stop drinking, and the more she drinks, the harder it becomes to discern what’s real and what isn’t.
KR: What are you working on now?
I’m working on a vampire novel. It’s quite different from Spirits. It follows Wekesa, an African vampire who roams the Deep South, feeding on racists. Sam Rayburn, who has faced discrimination as the single mother of two mixed-race children, is struggling financially and rents out a room to Wekesa. A rash of brutal murders has been occurring in the small town of Helms, Georgia, and Sam soon discovers her boarder might just be behind them.
KR: You find yourself on a desert island, which three people would you wish to be deserted with you and why?
You can choose…
a) One fictional character from your writing.
This is a tough one! Most of my characters are hopelessly flawed people! I would probably take my chances with Amelia Warren, the lovely innkeeper from Spirits.
b) One fictional character from any other book.
Meryam from Christopher Golden’s Ararat. She is such a strong, capable, fearless woman. I would probably watch my back a lot though!
c) One real-life person that is not a family member or friend.
Another tough question. Celebrity is not an impressive thing to me. I’d much rather spend time with people I know and love. It’s difficult to gauge how I’d get on with someone I don’t personally know. See also: Sheri is neurotic and overthinks these things!
KR: Thank you very much Sheri
Tori is a haunted woman. She accidentally hit and killed a teenaged girl with her car, and her guilt has driven her to the bottle, costing her job.
Tori isn’t the only one who’s haunted. Carla Perez wants Tori to pay for killing her daughter. She stalks Tori relentlessly, eventually cornering and threatening her in a bar.
Horrified by this encounter, Tori decides it’s time to get out of town. She seeks solace in the one place she found happiness as a child – Cape May, N.J. It’s the off-season, but she believes she can dry out and reassemble the tattered remains of her life.
Kind-hearted Amelia Warren, owner of the Seaside House Bed & Breakfast, is happy to take Tori on as the only winter guest at her establishment. Lonely and broke after her husband’s death, she believes she can find friendship with her boarder.
Instead, she is trapped with a woman whose sense of reality is rapidly unraveling, degraded by an unyielding thirst for alcohol.
Chris Silver is a superhero in his own mind. Tortured by his past, he keeps trying to save the damned and endangered in a bid for redemption. He’s desperate to save Tori from herself, but can he do so without putting himself in danger?
As Tori descends into alcoholism and madness, the people she relies on the most find themselves on a collision course with the bottle. Will her spirits, both real and imagined, lead Tori to drink herself to death?
Can she defeat her demons before she destroys herself and everyone around her?