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AUTHOR SNAPSHOT: RAE KNOWLES 

Welcome to NightTide's Author Snapshot! Snapshots are quick, engaging, bite-sized interviews with writers that we love! This week, we chat with the incomparable Rae Knowles!

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1. Give us your best elevator pitch on your work.

I am a purveyor of literary horror with a sapphic bent, startlingly preoccupied with dysfunctional relationships and revenge.

2. What was your first published work?

My very first acceptance was for a short story called Common Oleander. It followed a sapphic couple as they prepared for their isolated town’s annual oleander competition. It was published in Moonflowers and Nightshade, an anthology edited by Samantha Kolesnik. I remain really proud of this story and have an oleander tattoo on my shoulder in celebration of this early win.

3. Is there a story inside that you have seeds of but can't seem to connect that's dying to get out? 

I have an unannounced project that I am really excited to continue working through. While I can’t say too much, I’ll tease that it plays with the idea of a person as a black hole. Not metaphorically.

4. How do you handle a rejected story?

Their loss! LOL, that is a joke, but truly, it does not bother me. So much in publishing, especially in the short story game, is about editor preference. Having sat on the editor’s side of the table, I know style, voice, and a personal fondness for certain themes play a major role in whether a piece is accepted. I’ve had stories rejected by a token pay market just to be accepted at the pro pay level. It’s trite to say, but this industry is so subjective. I’m happy to have built up enough confidence in my writing that I don’t interpret rejection as an indication of my ability, just a lack of fit with a particular editor/magazine/anthology.

5. What does literary success look like to you?

I feel so honored to have experienced several major successes in this industry. My philosophy is that it’s vitally important for each author to determine their own measurement for success. Is the goal to get stories out into the world? Is it to be published in a certain venue? Be nominated for awards? Get an agent? Get a book deal? Is there a financial component? I feel best when I set intermediate goals, and I’m over the moon that I crossed off some major ones (publishing my debut novel & getting a literary agent) this year. The ultimate success for me would be to make enough income from publishing to write full-time.

 

6. Do you read your book reviews and if so, how do you deal with bad or good ones?

I do! I fully acknowledge the wisdom that reviews are for readers, not for authors. However, I simply can’t help myself. When I put work into the world, I am HUNGRY to know what readers think. To be honest, I anticipated feeling a lot more heartache at negative reviews than I actually have. It’s wonderful when someone really connects with my work, but when they don’t, I don’t take that personally. Some of my reviews have touched on areas I can grow as an author, things I suspected on my own. It’s validating to hear when I’ve been right in my suspicions, and it’s exciting to identify the places where I can get better. I want to be continually evolving as an author, and I can’t do that without developing my skills and building new ones. Again, reviews are not FOR this purpose. Readers should not consider the author when they leave a review, and reviewers are very much NOT beta-readers or critique partners. Those would be unfair expectations to place on them. I am simply saying that for me, reading reviews (whether positive or negative) has been a net gain. I appreciate every single one. Reviewers are the unsung heroes of this industry. Fellow authors: I beg you to leave our precious reviewers alone unless they invite you into the conversation!! If a negative review is going to bum you out, don’t read them!

7. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

I always laugh at this question. The entirety of the artist process is bone-achingly difficult. It is hard to draft, harder to revise, harder still to get published, and arguably even harder to market that work. Occasionally someone will mention to me that they have an “idea” for a book but have never gotten around to writing it. I am not shy about letting those people know how challenging the entire process is. I write because I have to. I love it even its most devastating moments, even when I question my abilities or whether any of this is going anywhere. I am sure other authors can relate to that feeling of WHAT AM I EVEN DOING? But I am in love with storytelling. If I could quit, I would. But I can’t so, “once more unto the breach”.

8. The truth is often stranger than fiction. What has been the hardest scene or chapter you've had to write if you were channeling personal experience?

 I haven’t been secretive that The Stradivarius was partially inspired by my own experience with gaslighting. I wrote a nonfiction piece about it for Nightmare Magazine for anyone who might be interested. That said, the most difficult writing I’ve done thus far was probably the early chapters of The Stradivarius. I had to channel a naivety that I am ashamed to have once had in order to get into Mae’s headspace. It was tough, but I got through and readers have reached out since, letting me know they had similar experiences, and thanked me for putting it into fiction.

9. What inspired your latest work? 

My current work in progress started as a shorter work based on the concept: What if BDSM could save a town? Since then it grew into a novel, which I have since rewritten from scratch and written out the BDSM elements entirely (LOL). Best laid plans, and all that.

10. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would ti be? 

Read, read, read! I am not saying anything novel here, but reading widely and studying the work of authors you admire is essential.

11. What's the best advice you've received from a fellow writer?

Relax. Slow down. When you’re sitting in the chair, you have to believe that you’re the best living writer working today. C.S. Humble is a wondrously skilled author who has been incredibly generous in mentoring me. The advice comes from him, and if you want more of his wisdom, I recommend checking out the interview he did on the Talking Scared podcast.

12. What is your go-to comfort horror/Sci-Fi book? 

This is How You Lose the Time War is my all-time favorite book. I’ve read it four times this year. Each time I get something new and gain even more respect for the authors, Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar. It’s perfect, and I’ll die on that hill.

13. If you were to genre-hop, which genres would you most like to try writing? 

I am a literary horror girl through and through, and I can’t imagine writing anything else.

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Order Rae's latest novella, MERCIELSS WATERS, here.

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