Author Interview – CM Toolson

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Anthology: More Than a Monster
Release Date: Sept 8th, 2023
Preorders: Paperback
About the Author: CM Toolson grew up surrounded by sprawling wheat fields in the small city of Pullman, WA. Home to the National Lentil Festival, she still lives there with her husband and their ferocious tabby cat named Mudballs. She's had a penchant for horror ever since her father let her watch the movie "Candyman" with him at the age of seven.
Q & A

How does it feel to have this story published for the first time?

On the one hand, it feels absolutely wonderful. “SWIPE” will be my first original short story I’ve ever had published anywhere. On the other hand, my anxiety disorder has me convinced everyone’s gonna hate it.

What inspired the idea for your story?

I wish I had a more meaningful answer to this, but I was mainly inspired by MTV’s "Catfish" and my deep love for cryptids.

We know that writing can be a tumultuous journey with a lot of obstacles, what is your kryptonite as a writer?

My own crippling self-doubt. I’ve spent a far greater percentage of my life thinking about what a terrible writer I am than I’ve spent actually working on improving my craft.

Clearly, you’ve succeeded at writing a captivating story for GrendelPress, but we all start somewhere. What advice would you give yourself as a young writer?

I’d tell the teenage version of myself not to take advice from the adults in my life and instead follow my passions. I was discouraged by family and teachers from going after my creative interests, like writing fiction, and told I should aim for more achievable goals. So, most of my time and focus was devoted toward “practical” subjects that didn’t excite me, like math and the sciences. Even though I enjoyed crafting stories, I never tried to seriously improve as a writer, whether in school or through self-study, because it wasn’t a discipline I was naturally gifted at and no one in my life was motivating me to pursue it.
I’d tell myself in my 20’s to not settle into complacency. I spent a long time not writing at all because I was convinced that nothing would ever come of it, so what was the point?

And I'd also like to tell both of those versions of me to drink more water and eat less sugar.

We’d like to argue that every good story makes both the author and the readers feel something. What perspectives or beliefs have you challenged with your story?

We’re all inclined to present ourselves as more-likeable, more-witty, more-intelligent, and more-attractive than we truly are in online spaces, especially when it comes to social media and dating apps. Very few willingly display their flaws and baggage and mediocrity up-front. When everyone else is using beauty filters and inflating their achievements, it’s difficult to be, what can often feel like, the one honest person in a sea of liars.
While displaying this “best version” of ourselves in order to stand-out from the crowd and intrigue others into wanting to get to know us better, where should the line be drawn between what’s fake and what’s true?

What do you love most about your story’s genre?

The thing I love most about the horror genre is the strong nostalgic connection I have with it. As a kid, I was obsessed with getting my hands on anything deemed scary, which included a plethora of age-inappropriate books from the library and R-rated VHS tapes from the local video rental shop. There was something so enthralling and freeing about the sensation of being terrified that I couldn’t get enough of.
It's hard to get scared by books or movies now that I’m a jaded adult, but I think I’ll always be chasing those highs from my childhood.

Tell us about your favorite author. What about their book(s) call to you and how do they inspire your own writing?

Alvin Schwartz’s "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" series, R.L. Stine’s "Fear Street" series, and Christopher Pike were all partially responsible for shaping my adolescence and first inspiring my love of reading and storytelling. Even now as an adult, there is something I will always admire about the way horror is told in children’s books and folktales. The stripped-down, minimalistic writing style lends itself well to this genre, leaving behind only the unsettling and nitty-gritty bits of the story without a lot of purple prose getting in the way and diluting the narrative.
I’d also like to give a shout-out to my ladies Mary Shelley and Shirley Jackson.

What are some other genres you’d like to break into and why?

Most of what I write tends to be contemporary fantasy and/or romance, so I’d love to explore more with writing in the horror genre since I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface with “SWIPE.” That, or sci-fi. Sci-fi sounds fun.

If you had to pick another story of yours to share with your readers, what would it be?

I have a YA contemporary fantasy manuscript that I wrote an initial draft of back in 2020. I’m working on revising it for approximately the tenth time now. If I ever manage to stop futzing around with this manuscript and get it out into the world, I’d love for people to read it!
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