Erica Schaef - Atmospheric Story Set in a Sprawling Mansion
Erica Schaef is a fan of all things horror and loves to write her own stories in that genre. She is an Affiliate Writer member of the Horror Writers Association. Her work has been featured in a variety of journals, magazines, audio productions, and anthologies. She lives in rural Tennessee with her husband and two wild children. As our Author of the Day she tells us all about her book, This Cold Night.
Please give us a short introduction to what This Cold Night is about.
“This Cold Night” is a story about a young women who visits a large familial estate after the death of a loved one. Unexpected horrors , both psychological and tangible, await her over the course of one cold, terrifying night.
What inspired you to write this story? Was there anything in particular that made you want to tackle this?
I love atmospheric stories set in sprawling, romantic mansions. I also really enjoy the “haunted house” trope. I like coming up with the story behind the haunting, and exploring the different ways in which a place, or a person, can be “haunted”. I came up with an idea for “This Cold Night,” which I thought was unique, but still contained elements of a classic haunted house story.
Tell us more about Rachelle Collins. What makes her tick?
I think what I most wanted to get across about Rachelle, the protagonist of the story, is that she is flawed and complex. Some of the horrors she faces will, I think, be relatable to many readers. I wanted her to face these challenges in a realistic way, meaning that she no better equipped to deal with the terrifying things that happen to her than the average person would be. I wanted her to be relatable.
Why did you pick an expansive country mansion as the backdrop for your story?
Gothic, country mansions have to be my favorite settings for horror stories. From The Turn of the Screw to The Red House Mystery, there is something ominous, yet enigmatically romantic, about large country mansions. There are infinite possibilities of what might happen inside.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I don’t have any interesting, mysterious skills, unfortunately, but I do enjoy gardening and baking with my kids.
Interesting cover. Please tell us more about it.
The cover was created by artist Elizabeth Leggett. I’m in love with it!
Readers say your scenes are really detailed. How do you pull this off?
I try to do my best to make the reader feel as though they are experiencing the scenes I describe. I have a very clear picture in my head of what the scenes look like, and I want to convey that while still allowing for the readers to use imagination.
Why horror? What draws you to the genre?
My grandma used to read scary stories to my sister and I when we were kids, and, even then, I was fascinated by the genre. I like that horror can explore uncomfortable themes in a way that entertains us, and makes us think.
What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?
I wanted to write a story that truly frightened readers. This can be very challenging, because something that might feel terrifying in my imagination could come out as anticlimactic, or campy, on the page. I used beta-readers and re-wrote several parts of the story multiple times to try to achieve exactly the effect I wanted.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you plan out the entire story before you start writing, or does some of it just "happen" along the way?
A little of both. I plan out the main characters and plot for a story before I ever start writing it. Inevitably, though, a character or event springs up in my mind in the middle of a chapter, so things have to be adaptable.
When starting on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
Usually, I start with either a character, or a setting, and a rough idea of what the plot is going to be. Ideas come to be at the most inconvenient times, like in the middle of the night, and I write them down or mentally hold onto them until I’m ready to write.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
On a typical writing day, I usually sit down at one hour intervals, or less as my schedule allows, listen to music, and write. I usually write about two thousand words per day, but sometimes it’s much less than that.
What are you working on right now?
I have ideas for new projects I would like to start on soon, but for now, I am just excited about “This Cold Night” coming out.