# Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
Oh hey. My name is Robert P. Ottone and I’m an author and teacher from New York.
I started writing as a kiddo, drawing and writing my own comic books, mostly original stuff, but I did a run of Batman & Robin that was particularly choice. I drew nipples on the batsuit because that’s what made sense to me at the time.
These days, I write horror. I dabble in science fiction, too, but mostly horror. Spookin’ folks is altogether too much fun.
My first collection, People: A Horror Anthology About Love, Loss, Life & Things That Go Bump in the Night was essentially me dealing with of the trauma centered around losing my father in the winter of 2019. The stories in that collection emerged from that, so it’s very raw, and is really focused on emotion and emotional connection.
My second collection, Her Infernal Name & Other Nightmares, is all about my fears. I distilled what it was about certain subjects and exorcised them through the written word. It was very cathartic. The only fear I didn’t touch on was my fear of flying, which my shrink says can only be conquered through exposure therapy.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to be featured in a variety of anthologies and online, as well.
# What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
There’s a story in my second collection, Her Infernal Name & Other Nightmares called “The Monitors,” and that’s based on a true story I heard about in the seas of southeast Asia. I won’t spoil anything, but it’s a survival-horror story about a group of backpackers on a tiny island inhabited by exceedingly hungry creatures.
Other than that, I find myself inspired by the painful boredom of everyday life. There’s no magic in the world, so it’s up to the creatives to make it. Every day we go to work, we get a few minutes or, if we’re lucky, hours, to write, paint, sing, whatever. Our lives are all pretty boring, so, I think finding the inspiration in the everyday is key.
It’s training yourself to look at the world in a weird way. For example, you see a bush. What’s under that bush? Is it a doorway to a subterranean nightmare? Is it home to a family of elves? What is it? What’s going on there? That’s how my mind works.
# What inspires/inspired your creativity?
I’m inspired by everything, all the time. Music in a big way. Music has always conjured images in my mind. I have incredibly vivid concepts of images paired with certain songs that I don’t know where they came from. Sometimes my stories come from there.
As mentioned previously, I’m inspired by everything. Someone could say something. I might see a particular striking-looking individual and invent an entire narrative behind them. Sometimes people I know inform my writing, but not always. I’ve written about my close friend James once or twice. I’ve used parts of my fiance’s (soon: wife) personality, too. Every character is me, though. Every one. Different parts of me. Schizophrenia through writing, I suppose?
# How do you deal with creative block?
This is a rarity for me, but when I hit a block, I get new eyes on something. I find different perspectives will inform my writing in a terrific way. Critique groups are dynamite for that.
# What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
Not hiring an editor. Not really pouring over your material. There are some kernels in my first two collections I’m happy with, other parts, not so much. I think every author is like that. If you’re 100% happy with everything you write, then that’s weird.
# Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
Research. Usually my titles come to me when I least expect it. I’ll be driving and a string of words will come into my head and boom, there it is.
Covers, they always say look at the market and see what other people are doing, but in my opinion, most book covers are pretty weak. I’ve drawn sketches of my two covers and had my artist put them together digitally. I may go a different way with my next collection, but if I see another cover with a quirky font and a cartoon of the lead character, or a purchased fantasy cover with an attractive elf woman holding a knife, sword or bow, I’m going to scream.
# How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
Everyone’s entitled to a reaction, I guess. I’m just glad you had one to my work, whether it’s positive or negative. Thanks for reading, regardless. Please leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads.
# How has your creation process improved over time?
I find myself exploring the endings of my stories more. So, for example, I think about what will happen to my characters once that last period goes into place. Sometimes I like the idea of revisiting characters. I’ve done that a couple times now. So, I often think about ways to work characters back into the mix.
# What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
The most surprising thing was an author I admire giving me praise on a podcast I love and listen to, then including my second collection, Her Infernal Name & Other Nightmares in an article he wrote for Locus about some of the best books he read that year. That meant the world to me, as he’s one of the two authors that made me want to even try writing horror in the first place.
# Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
I try to balance both. I’ve noticed that I like putting my characters through the ringer in a big way that might make some readers uncomfortable, but I do it in service of the story, so I hope readers dig it.
# What role do emotions play in creativity?
If I’m angry or depressed, I can’t write. I maintain a just-under-the-surface level of depression at all times, I think, but I’m rarely angry. Annoyed, maybe. Annoyance is helpful, though. I write best in the morning, with my iced coffee. I sound like an Instagram author or whatever, “I need my coffee and my Smith-Corona typewriter!” or some nonsense.
I try not to get emotionally compromised, but it happens. When it does, I’m useless when it comes to writing, but I’m always creative and will probably be jotting down notes about a story at that time, to take my mind off how I’m feeling, or, indulging in how I’m feeling to fuel my creativity further.
# Do you have any creativity tricks?
Yeah, read. Read a lot. Read outside your genre. And get off social media, that will mess you up and distract you. Not a day goes by that I don’t see a writer on Twitter heralding their lack of creativity that day or their inability to write as some kind of badge of honor. Get to work. Do the work. Shut up and do the work.
# What are your plans for future books?
I’ve got a YA horror/science fiction thing that’s out on submission right now. I’m also working on my first full-length horror novel, which I’m loving writing, but know that it’ll need to be chopped down significantly, because it’s massive at the moment.
# Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
- I have multiple master’s degrees and certificates.
- My favorite food is cold noodles in peanut sauce.
- My future wife is the best baker I’ve ever known and all other baked goods are inferior to hers. I won’t even eat them. Don’t get at me with that stuff, I won’t touch it, I’ve got the good-good at home, thank you very much.
- I love superheroes. Not a Marvel guy, though.
- I’m a terribly slow reader, so I’m sorry about that.
- I have my own publishing company, called Spooky House Press, and we’ve been fortunate enough to publish an award-winning collection of horror called Boarded Windows, Dead Leaves by Michael Jess Alexander, who’s so brilliant, he makes my heart ache.
- We are currently in development of a holiday release of hysterically brilliant comic-strip style art from an amazing author and artist, Alexis Macaluso. She’s so funny and again, makes my heart ache with how awesome she is.