Author Interview


How did you become a writer?

The first short story I wrote was in 6th grade. It was an adaptation of Lover’s Vow, the final segment in 1990’s Tales From the Darkside: The Movie – a horror anthology film. I knew then I wanted to write horror.

Before that, I had been watching horror movies pretty exclusively and my parents were worried. The first horror movie I saw was A Nightmare on Elm Street. I was 5-years-old and my brother was babysitting me and that’s how I began to love the horror genre.

In high school, I started writing articles for the school magazine and newspaper. I won several city-wide essay contests for my high school, but when I told my counselor I wanted to major in fiction writing he steered me away from it citing that it was not a lucrative move.

I majored in journalism and worked as a community journalist while working on a Masters in Marketing and started working in research, but fiction writing – specifically horror - always tugged at me. After some years, I stopped freelancing as a journalist since covering crime became too traumatic for me.

After wanting to go to school for writing for so many years, I finally completed a Master of Fine Arts in Writing at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

I’ve since published two YA horror novels and a horror poetry collection as well as several short stories and poems.

What inspires you to write?

I was formally trained as a journalist. The news was very important in my house growing up. There were always newspapers scattered across the kitchen or living room table. 60 Minutes and Dateline were always on, as well as the evening news. I became a journalist so I could tell people’s stories. So, telling people’s stories is very important to my writing.

While I’m a fiction writer, I do heavily incorporate research into each of my stories and I hope that I’m able to comment on the constant push and pull between good and evil.

While a lot of people cringe when they hear horror, I think horror connects to one of our most basic emotions – fear. It’s how we have confronted our fears, worked through our fears and fought our fears that we have become stronger.

So what inspires me to write are people and their stories. I hope that I’m doing justice to the things I love to write, which often include Chicago – who is very much a character in each and every one of my stories, and in folklore, legend and myth – which are very much key to the stories I tell.

Tell me about your protagonist. What's your favorite trait and/or weakness?

Lauren Medina is a young Chicago detective, and many of the victims she’s exposed to are just a few years younger than her. Sometimes the violence in the city overwhelms her and sometimes she just has to be numb to it in order to function.

People may think that she’s cold, but she needs to disconnect in order to survive.

My favorite trait of hers is her determination, and her almost martyr-like stance to protect her city. Her greatest weakness is that no matter how hard she tries to fight the city’s evils, she can be consumed by it.

How does your antagonist create conflict?

If I say who the antagonist is that may spoil a few things. There is a supernatural element to this story very much grounded in folklore.

What are your current/future projects?

I have three projects I’m prioritizing right now.

1. CHILDREN OF CHICAGO – is a mystery/horror hybrid that I’m in heavy rewrites and edits for at the moment.

2. SHOCK THEATER – this isn’t the final title, just a working title for a YA horror novel set in Chicago.

3. DON’T FORGET ME – again, just a working title. This is an adult contemporary haunted house story – again, based in Chicago.

If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?

Organize better. I have historically been a pantser – writing by the seat of my pants. That worked fine for my first novel, and even my second novel. For CHILDREN OF CHICAGO, writing it by pantsing has cost me many sleepless nights. After my second draft or so, I had to tear the book apart and rewrite it several more times to connect all of the characters and subplots. I’ve rewritten this book so many times I’ve lost count, and I am rewriting it and editing it again to smooth out points.

I certainly would have told myself to plot and outline better. I’m doing that now moving forward because if I want to finish all of these projects in my head plotting, outlining, and being very organized are going to be crucial.

What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you?

Follow me on Twitter and visit my website where I occasionally blog.

Twitter: @cinapelayo

Web: cinapelayo.com

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