In “Jacob, A Denouement in One Act,” author K.A. Schultz spun an elegant, dark tale around the Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol.” Her ability to weave silky prose while at the same time cooking up dark, delectable literary bites is on full display with her newest collection of stories, “Anathelogium: Poetry & Prose from the Neither,” available now.
Anathelogium collects prose from the author’s treasure trove of published and unpublished work, including short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. While her readers may be familiar with her alluring yarn, “The Perigean Turn,” included in this new collection, they’ll be delighted to find an all-new sequel included as well. “The Drowning Man Game” returns us to the sea, and those mysterious creatures who live there, in a fresh and surprising way.
Schultz’s refined writing style, to me, blends Lovecraft and Dickens. That combination delivers an intriguing, engaging modern experience in Anathelogium.
I had a chance to chat with Schultz about her new book, and writing in general, which you can read below!
WHITEHURST: What led you to the world of writing?
SCHULTZ: When I was a kid I had my tonsils out and my dad brought me a little ring binder with paper and a pen. He brought that to the hospital. It was always about writing on paper and putting things down. I’ve always done it. I have chronicled just about everything. Writing stories was a natural progression. My parents were immigrants and my first language was German. My mom always said I started speaking English at home when I was in kindergarten. I read and read and read. I like to say that I ate books as a child. My mother would get mad and tell me to go out and play, so I would take my books outside and find places to sit and read. I have old library copies now, as an adult, of books I checked out as a child. I would do things like read Jaqueline Susann, and hide the books in my closet or I would read The Exorcist. I read it to the end and then I went back to page one and read it again. I had to digest it. I was reading adult romances in elementary school. Reading, and the learning and the imprinting and the desire to put words down just manifested in writing. We write because we have to. We can’t help but do it.
WHITEHURST: Your style is very original, as colorful as it is distinct, and reminiscent of Lovecraft and Dickens. Tell me a little about your writing process and if you think the way you write?
SCHULTZ: I love that. The question, to me, is hugely complimentary. I have read just a little bit of Lovecraft. I have some books of his and plan to read a lot more of him, and Dickens. I also write a lot of poetry. I’m very aware of the phonetics and the cadences, the musicality of words and sentences. I distinctly remember reading to my kids – and my sons are much older – Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” It’s one of the best out loud reads. It’s very musical. Musicality, I think, morphs into poetry. Because I write and I draw, I view the words as illustrative. Lovecraft’s style is such a bridge style, especially when you think of Dickens and Poe. They’re from another era and readers have to acclimate to the voice. Whereas with Lovecraft, you can read it as you read modern writing. It has a musicality, however, that bridges back to Poe, for instance. I have written a lot of poetry and I think that is what, perhaps, you are sensing.
WHITEHURST: How do you stay inspired to write and what would you recommend to other writers just starting out?
SCHULTZ: I have a writer account on Instagram, which is separate from my personal account, and I follow writers, literary news, and all bookish things. I see (writing) prompts from publishers, I see what other writers are doing, and I think it’s very inspirational. It’s like a daily magazine that you flip open, scroll through, and get ideas from. Some of these people put a lot of time into their posts and their prompts look gorgeous. It’s doing what it’s supposed to be doing. When I see it, it sparks an idea. I think it’s a good place to start for inspiration. And of course, just reading. Reading other authors. Charles Dickens, obviously, inspires. He’s a working-class guy and did very well. He had humor and wit and then he was able to do good by pointing things out through stories. I also think about somebody like Anne Rice, who was this brilliant woman who wrote very, very well. She was a wife, she was a mother, and loved her homes. She had this fabulous dark outlet. I’d have to really think about it for a while to make a list of all the authors that have inspired me. Kurt Vonnegut is fabulous. I read the Little House books, all of them, many times, and never watched the TV series. Those were pivotal reads for me.
WHITEHURST: Anathelogium: Poetry & Prose just came out. The book is a wonderful mix of whimsy and darkness with stories that are both new and stories that have been published elsewhere. Tell me a bit about the book and the story behind the name?
SCHULTZ: It’s eloquently transgressive short stories and poetry. I explore a lot of the dark side and use dark humor. “Prose and Poetry from the Neither” is the subtitle for the book. The Neither is taken directly from my time travel story. I think, through creative writing, you do step into a different plane. Both of those things play into what the book is about. Anathelogium is built upon the word “anathema.” I love what the word means and I love the phonetics of the word. Also, the word “anthem.” You go from anthem and you add anathema, then tuck in a few little things here and there, and all of a sudden it’s the negative over the opposite of everything. This is a collection of things that have been accepted, things that have been rejected, and I don’t think acceptances or rejections are necessarily valid. They are what they are. The Anathelogium becomes the repository for everything ever discarded, or cast off, or rejected. I popped it over to Urban Dictionary and they published it. I love made-up words and phrases. I think it suits this collection quite well.
WHITEHURST: Are there any stories behind any of the pieces in the collection?
SCHULTZ: When I put this collection together, I realized how incredibly autobiographical it was. I blogged for Huffington Post from 2013 to the beginning of 2018. As a writer you’re in between every word. You’re in between every line that you write. The stories I write are built on bits and pieces of knowledge I picked up and loved, things that have fascinated me, and some firsthand experiences. “Paradise” for instance, was such a blast because I put myself in this scenario and I wrote it. I always joke that if none of this works out I’ve got a Plan B. My Plan B is that I’m going to go to a little beach somewhere and work at a little bar on the beach, hang out, and not do anything but collect seashells. I wrote a horror story based on this fantasy. It was incredibly autobiographical and that was something I did not expect to see as clearly as I did.
WHITEHURST: In “The Drowning Man Game,” your characters play an intriguing and dangerous game, how did the idea for that story come to you?
SCHULTZ: I wrote what became “The Perigean Turn” years ago. The original version was called “Jonah-Blue.” Then there was a call out called Wild Violence. It was a perfect opportunity to recraft that story. The Drowning Man Game is the sequel to Perigean Turn. It finishes that story. I love the story. The story came to me in a flash and it was a blast to write.
WHITEHURST: Many of your stories deal with water. The Drowning Man Game, Sub Marine and The Perigean Turn for instance. Is there a special significance for you?
SCHULTZ: I’m a real believer that things are in our DNA for certain reasons, whether it’s a genetic memory or whatever. Earliest memories, falling back on my love of literature, was always about mermaids. I’m old enough to predate Disney’s Little Mermaid. I was a parent when that came around. I’d sit at the bottom of swimming pools holding my breath, pretending I was a mermaid, and still go to the ocean. I have an Instagram account devoted to the ocean. I’m so drawn to it. Water, mermaids, all of the psychological, intellectual aspects of it.
WHITEHURST: Out of the prose in Anathelogium, do you have a favorite?
SCHULTZ: Different ones are favorites for varied reasons. For instance, Paradise is a favorite because of how much of me is in it. I could pretend I was a character and write it and that made it fun. I’m also fond of my vampire art history story because I’m an art history person. I am art history, and I am art and I am history. I wrote a flash fiction piece, and it was a vampire story with Christmas punch, which was like putting my two favorite things together.
WHITEHURST: With the holidays here, tell me a bit about Jacob. What led to a novella about Jacob Marley rather than Ebenezer Scrooge?
SCHULTZ: It started with the animated 1971 version of A Christmas Carol. You can find it on Youtube. It is a masterpiece. I remember watching it and loving it. That was my introduction to that story. It led me to other versions, but the ’71 animated classic (and it won an Oscar) really embodies a mature version. That also led me to more Charles Dickens. I had a wonderful teacher in high school and he had us read “A Tale of Two Cities.” He and I would end up having discussions in class and everyone else would just listen. He opened my eyes and my love for the book, and its purpose in raising awareness, and in history. Much in the way Charles Dickens wrote Christmas Carol, during a feverish, overwhelming time for him, the story for Jacob came to me years ago while driving home from Christmas shopping. I thought up the story between the mall and my house. I was overwhelmed by it. I literally threw up the words and it was really hard to clean it up. I often wondered about Jacob Marley, because he was so sad and he was so self-aware. He roamed the world in a purgatory. I created a “rest of the story” for him because that’s something I wondered about. Huffington Post was bought and sold by a few people over the years and I sensed that the whole independent blogger platform was going to end. So, in December of 2017, once a week I posted a stave (which of course is how Christmas Carol was originally published) and it gave me a deadline. It forced me to clean up the work and make it legible. That was my final project for them.
WHITEHURST: How do you feel about horror and the holidays?
SCHULTZ: One thing I would say about horror and holidays, and this goes back to illustrating, if you want to illuminate something on a piece of paper, you make the dark darker. I think that goes for horror. It should be as accepted as any other genre. Instagram has been shadow banning the hashtag #horror for a long time now. I think we all start out on the dark side and aspire for the light and I think it’s so important that we express those things, particularly when it comes to things we’re contending with now. We hear so much through new technologies about violence and violent expression. If we can protect these things through the creative art form, and lay it out there, life won’t be lost, but we’ll have shared something that might illuminate. Some of the best horror is the darkest shit I’ve ever seen. It’s so valid when you look at it in that context.
Learn more about K.A. Schultz here!