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

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

Imagine if Spielberg had seen some sh*t.

2. What was your first published work?

My first published book, in terms of my small press, was my first collection, People. My first professionally-published book was my Bram Stoker Award-winning Young Adult novel, The Triangle.

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 idea that's taking a ton of research, and it's slowly crawling its way to the surface. Some feedback has been troubling, while others have told me the idea is brilliant, so I'm on the fence about it, but I need it out of me. It's truly been strange, because I've waffled between impossible excitement for it, then to almost no excitement for it after a conversation with an agent. It's been hills and valleys, but I love the idea, and I love the subject matter, so I need to get it out of my brain. Whether it's ever published or not, I need it out of me.

4. How do you handle a rejected story?

In all honesty, I completely forget about the outlet once I submit the story. Rejection means nothing to me because I understand that everything is rooted in whether or not an editor or publisher is vibing with your work on a given day. So truly, rejection means nothing to me because once I hit "send" or "submit," I've completely forgotten about whatever outlet it is until I get an eventual rejection or a miracle acceptance.

5. What does literary success look like to you?

Literary success is seeing my books on shelves, and getting positive  (or negative) responses from readers. I'm pretty simple with this stuff. I'll never live off my books. I just won't. My real job is too good to ever say goodbye to. I love writing. I love what it gives me. But success is such a malleable concept, at the end of the day, for me, it means publication and reader response.


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

Sure. Good ones, I smile and thank the reviewer if it's on social media or whatever, for bad ones, I read carefully, consider the writer's take, and appreciate them giving the book a chance. At the end of the day, if you don't enjoy the work, it's fine, I truly do appreciate you giving the work a shot.

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

I'm a teacher, so my most creative time is completely lost during the school year. Mornings are my best time, but I lose that when I'm in the classroom. That said, when I do get an opportunity to sit and write, I'm good for around 2,000+ words per day, so the work comes fast, but it doesn't come with regularity. That said, I love my students and I love my work. I recognize that my impact in the classroom to these kids from other parts of the world in the end means more than pumping out another book or short story. So yeah, I love being a writer, I appreciate accolades, awards, whatever, but the way I measure myself as a person is by the impact I can have on my students, who I am fiercely protective of.

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 don't have personal experience with childbirth. Still, the birthing sequence in The Vile Thing We Created was remarkably difficult to write, because I wanted to ensure I was respectful to the women whose experiences I studied and synthesized were accurate. Still, I also wanted to paint a vivid picture of the more esoteric aspects of what was happening.


I have a scene in something that's hopefully coming soon that was difficult to write, but for different reasons. It was so dark and so ugly and gnarly that I worried it might be too far, but then I realized that there is no height to how far one can go, and if people react negatively, then perhaps they're still sane.

9. What inspired your latest work? 

There's a true crime element to my latest piece that inspired it a great deal, but there's also a huge influence from the movie Kairo, which is called Pulse here in the States. I was also heavily inspired by The Tale of the Tailor and Three Dead Kings, which I've been chipping away at for a minute.

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

Get to work. Don't stress about rejection and nonsense. Work on your craft. And email that author whose email you've had for two years before he dies.

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

I think it was Jack Ketchum who said that they write like everyone they know is dead. I do that, too. I can't worry about what my family or friends think of my work because, at the end of the day, the story is the story, and the sequence is the sequence. If I worried about what anyone thought, I wouldn't be writing what I wanted and thus, I wouldn't write at all.

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

I've re-read John Langan's The Fisherman multiple times. I find something new and emotional in it every single time I read it. Paul Tremblay's Cabin at the End of the World is another one that I get something new out of every time I read it. I don't often read for comfort, I read to learn or to get motivated.

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

I'd love to play around in science fiction, but really I think I could write a great coming-of-age, honest, comedic teen story. I find those years so interesting, I find the interactions and nonsense of my students to be hysterical. I especially appreciate the silliness of some of my seventh graders. They're still little kids, but they think they're adults. I'd like to write a non-genre work for that age group, featuring kids of that age group.


Preprder Robert's latest YA novella, THE SLEEPY HOLLOW GANG, here.

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