Author Interview – Rajiv Mote

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Story Art Sneak Peek

Amazing Artwork By Daniela Rivera

"First I Was Afraid, I Was Petrified"

Anthology: The Devil Who Loves Me
Release Date: June 23rd, 2023
Preorders: Paperback | Kindle
About the Author: Rajiv Mote is a writer and software professional living in Chicago with his wife, daughter, and a tiny dog. His stories appear in Cosmic Horror Monthly, Diabolical Plots, Year's Best Hardcore Horror vol 5, and other publications.
Q & A

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

Thrilling and terrifying. This story was written for an anthology that accepted and held it for 5 years before canceling publication. I couldn't find a good fit for submitting again until seeing the call for The Devil Who Loves Me. So I'm thrilled to see this story going out into the world. I'm also a little terrified. This is my first story with "romance" and sex at the center. It’s not what I usually write--the most action my characters usually get is behind a fade-to-black. I wanted to push myself into new territory. I’ll cop to feeling bashful.

What inspired the idea for your story?

The original call for submissions that prompted this story was about magical (sapient) creatures, and the humans who get freaky with them. The 14-year-old boy in my brain couldn't get past a vague joke about Sexy Medusa who only turns a part of you to stone, but I tried to run with it with complete earnestness. The more I researched Medusa, the more my heart went out to her, and that sympathy is ultimately where this story came from. It's an oasis of joy and healing (of the Marvin Gaye variety) for Medusa in the gods' unjust punishment.

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

Stephen King, writing about his own craft, said that your work space needs only one thing: “a door which you are willing to shut. The closed door is your way of telling the world and yourself that you mean business; you have made a serious commitment to write and intend to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.” I have a hard time closing the door and making that space. But I’m a husband, a parent, and I have a full-time day job as a technology director, so I may not be in a place where it’s ethical to close the door for very long. Not yet.

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?

The best writing advice I’ve ever heard is to finish your stories. There’s more to be learned from interesting failures than brilliant fragments. And the really interesting stuff--like figuring out if the opening sets up the ending and whether the middle builds to it--can only be done with a completed draft. Finish your stories, young me. Even if the first draft sucks.

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?

I know Grendel Press is all about challenging the roles of hero and monster, and this story works that angle. But I am amazed at how sympathetic a figure Medusa appears, and how cruel the actions of the Olympian gods are, even straight from the sources. Writing this story has thoroughly debunked the notion, for me, that Medusa was a monster.

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

This is my first time in “Dark Romance,” and the interplay among horror, dread, horniness, and tenderness was great fun. I spent a lot of time course-correcting the plot and the emotional arcs. This was hard. But I love having tried it.

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

In short fiction, I adore Ted Chiang for his big ideas through an empathetically human lens. He writes science and philosophy, both intellectual and emotional. But I’m also a long-standing fan of Robert Jordan’s epic fantasy The Wheel of Time. I even write a column for the fan site Both authors feature good people trying hard to do the right thing against the backdrop of extraordinary worlds. That nourishes me.

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

Someday, I want to write a Ted Chiang-style science fiction story: erudite, intellectual, emotional, and ethical, all in turns. He’s patient in his process, which is something I have to learn. Someday, I want to write an epic fantasy where you can pay off the long arcs of its characters and their accumulated history. Someday, I want to write the X-Men. All for the same reason: I want to write what I love reading.

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

If Dark Fantasy is what Grendel Press readers like, my story “Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear?” ( published in the Honey and Sulfur anthology by Carrion Blue 555 and reprinted in Year’s Best Hardcore Horror volume 5 (the audiobook is beautifully narrated by Cheryl May) may fit the bill. (Hey, what’s it with me and song lyric titles?) It’s an ekphrastic story jumping off of Hieronymus Bosch’s painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights. It’s essentially a doomed romance in Hell.
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