Tuesday, July 20, 2021

An interview with author Sandy Bernstein

Sandy Bernstein is a fellow writer, a member of the Stoneham Writers Group

(of which I am also a member despite not living in Stoneham), and a friend.

Sandy is a writer of diverse styles and genres. Poetry, prose, horror,

science fiction, humor, history, are all the playthings of her imagination.

Sandy has that rare talent to balance her vivid ideas with precise writing.

I decided to interview an author instead of a musician this time out.

So here we are, an interview conducted with author Sandy Bernstein via email.

Who would you say are your biggest literary influences?

Early on I was inspired by Edgar Allen Poe, H.G. Wells, Robert Frost, and J. R. R. Tolkien,

to name a few. Liking the dark side, I've always been a fan of Stephen King. Others, who may

have influenced me are; Anne Rice, Darcy Coates, J. R. Rain, and Deborah LeBlanc.

Recently, I've been reading a variety of historical fiction and mysteries, some by local authors.

They also inspire my writing. As always, anything paranormal gets my creative juices flowing. 

While I like straight up horror, it isn't the nucleus of my work. I like ghost stories, often with 

a deeper meaning. Over the years many authors have inspired me in one way or another.

Perhaps through them I discovered my own voice.

What parts of them do you see in your own work?

Certainly the throat grabbing openings of King and the slow torturous grind of Poe.

I'm capable of that to a degree. But they are masters of the craft. I'm better at slow

tension and building a story. It depends on the genre. In the end,

it's about good storytelling.

What style/genre do you most like writing and why?

Ah, finally an easy question. Anything spooky, dark, fantastical, or edgy.

In a word, paranormal. I like mysteries and crime drama too, but there has to be a dark element.

Anything outside the norm. There are so many things going on around us we don't see,

or we don't want to see. I like to shed a little light on things that go bump in the night.

I would say the same for poetry. Only, it's the inner world we're afraid of, another form of

darkness. Sometimes you don't know how you feel about something until you write it down.

In this case, there is no hiding from yourself. 

How would you describe your writing process?

Basically, I get an idea, sketch it out in my head or start a draft just to get it down.

Most of the time, it's an image, a scene. That scene will play out and turn into a story

or a poem. Other times it's a character. It all comes together with a basic idea and 

works its way into something more tangible. I hope. I like to think of it as a ghost

slowly taking shape into something more solid and real. Everything has a story.

You just need to find it.

You've published two stories on Amazon; Creepies, and the Shuddering.

What would you like people to know about them?

Read them and find out.

If a movie ever gets made of either one, who do envision being cast as the leads?

I've never given it any thought. That said, maybe the girl in Creepies could have been played

by a young Dakota Fanning. But she's older now so I guess she couldn't play a six year old.

You have been published in many different physical publications and websites. Which ones are you the most proud of?

Wow, only recently I looked at some of my past accomplishments when I redid my website. I had links to older works in magazines and webzines. I'd forgotten about most of them. A couple stand out: An article on poetry was published in the Writer Magazine 2003. Another article on NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) appeared in the Jan 2010 issue of the Writer's Journal. Also my poem, Temperate Moon was published in a magazine called Flashquake in 2005. It was the editor's pick of the month.

And, Sour Grapes, the newsletter for rejected writers and other tormented souls. We had articles on writing and rejection, a column for editors, and poetry. SG was written up in the Boston Globe in 1997. It was a fun project with artist/writer Sheila Foley. SG ran for nine years, both in print form and as a webzine. It was a great experience on so many levels and taught me a lot as an editor.

Which one of all your published works is your favorite, and why so? 

Only one? I'd like to say two poems. Temperate Moon, for it's sensual imagery and Guardians of the Keep. A fantasy narrative piece for which Sheila Foley did a pen and ink illustration. They do great at readings and I kind of think of them as classics. Wish I could produce like that all the time, but that's not how things work. For a story, I'd have to say the Shuddering. It has stood the test of time as far as storytelling goes with multiple layers and believable characters. I still really like the story.

Which character that you've created is your favorite? Please explain why that character is your favorite.

A tough one. Some stand out more than others. I like Brooke Howell, the protagonist in my Reluctant Medium series. She is a young medium who continually ignores her family traits and often finds herself in trouble because she has denied so many things. As time goes on her gifts develop and she becomes more intuitive. Her family's past haunts her, literally. Some people call her crazy because she sees ghosts. But more than that her inquisitive nature takes over and she is compelled to help people, sometimes the wrong people, in order to solve a mystery. She's multi layered with a quirky sense of humor and those around her often throw her off track. She's complex and I'm having fun getting to know her. Because it's an ongoing project I'm still learning about her.

What are you presently working on?

Ah, The Reluctant Medium, among other things. I've completed book one and two in draft form. They still need work before I can start book three. That's all I have planned for the RM series. But it may spawn a novella or two. Who knows? Other than that, I'm always writing new shorts and poetry. My plan is to continue submitting the more marketable stories. I'm hopeful for their eventual publication. If not, I may put out a compilation of stories. Also I'd like to go back to an earlier novel, when time permits.