Meet the Author: Loren Rhoads
I hope all of you out there are doing well and staying safe as we get into those cold months. Get your winter coats ready!
It’s been a while since I’ve hosted an author interview, and I’m happy to welcome Loren Rhoads to the fold!
Loren is a horror, fantasy, and scifi author, and is currently celebrating the recent release of her collection of award-winning short stories Unsafe Words.
Thanks for joining us, Loren!
Alright folks, let’s get this interview started!
Loren Rhoads is the author of In the Wake of the Templars, a space opera trilogy, and co-author of a succubus/angel duology called As Above, So Below. Her latest book is Unsafe Words, a collection of horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction short stories.
Hi Loren, thanks so much for stopping by. To keep things interesting, I like to ask my interviewees a random question to get the blood flowing. Here’s yours!
In a strange twist of fate, you inherit a vast fortune from an unknown relative that has recently passed. What do you do with the money?
Loren: In my other life, I’m a cemetery expert. My last book on the subject was called 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die. If I had an unlimited amount of money — and Covid no longer restricts travel — I would travel the world to visit graveyards. I’d see the pyramids in Egypt, the Taj Mahal, Lenin’s mausoleum in Moscow, the Terracotta Warriors in China, the Pantheon in Mexico City, the mountainside cemeteries of Hong Kong… There’s plenty to see in this country, too. I’ve never been to Poe’s grave in Baltimore or the Custer National Battleground at the Little Bighorn or the Spanish moss-draped graveyards of Georgia. I would just travel and write until the money ran out.
Jonny: Oh wow, how wonderfully macabre! I love the idea of graveyards and spirits that may remain after death, and I think that’s a wonderful way to spend that vast fortune! Personally, I would buy a quaint little house about an hour away from civilization and read and write to my heart’s content. Here’s hoping that Covid lightens up so you can visit more graveyards regardless.
Loren and the Writing Process
For starters, tell us a little bit about your writing.
Loren: In terms of fiction, I write a little bit of everything. My first published novel was Lost Angels, a dark urban fantasy story about the succubus Lorelei and her angel, Azaziel. It’s sort of Romeo and Juliet, set in a Los Angeles crawling with angels and demons. After that was published, I wrote a space opera trilogy about a galaxy where humans are a minority and the time-traveling masters of the galaxy were wiped out in a genetically engineered plague. The novel I’m working on now is about a young witch reclaiming her power in San Francisco. It’s on the horror side of fantasy.
Jonny: I love that you write in multiple genres. It sounds like you enjoy writing things with a dark edge, and I’m all about that too. Writing in different genres can really broaden your reach and horizons to new terrifying heights.
How long have you been writing?
Loren: I went to the Clarion Science Fiction Writing Workshop in 1986, so it’s been a long time. For years and years, I wrote mostly short stories. I also spent 10 years publishing a magazine called Morbid Curiosity, which featured confessional nonfiction. Novels are a relatively new thing for me.
Jonny: Very interesting! I had no idea. I’ve definitely got to take a look at some of your short stories. I’m a big fan of them because they’re so easy to pick up and blaze through. You’re not alone on novels being a new thing. I’ve only published one to date and am rounding up my second one. It is very different from writing short stories, but has it’s own appeal and advantages.
Why do you write?
Loren: I tell stories as a way of understanding people, puzzling out why they do the things they do.
Jonny: That’s intriguing. I think we all have varying reasons for writing, and understanding the human condition is a very noble one. I mainly write to tell fun stories with characters that others can relate to, though I do like to focus on the age-old good vs. evil theme more often than not.
What is your favorite part of writing?
Loren: I love the free-fall sensation of writing a first draft. It feels like magic when you pull the images in your head together and create people and places that have never existed before.
Jonny: Oh, I completely agree! Writing that first draft can be a dream. My favorite part of writing is the plotting out of a new story. The possibilities are endless at that point, and my creativity really thrives at that stage.
What genre is your favorite to write in? Why?
Loren: It varies. I’ve loved science fiction since I saw the “Miri” episode of Star Trek when I was little. I think there are things you can do in science fiction that are difficult to do if you’re writing stories closer to home. I also love the idea that there is more to the real world than we are used to seeing, whether that veers into horror or skews more toward fantasy. Everything I write has a dark sensibility to it, so the genres blur together more for me than they might for another writer.
Jonny: I definitely understand what you’re talking about. I also grew up in a scifi household. My parents are Trekkies and Whovians, and that’s really influenced me since childhood. Each genre has its own perks, and once you’ve written in a number of genres you can think of exciting new ways to spin stories that others may not think of. I also find that all my stories have a tinge of darkness in them. It’s hard not to write it in. Kindred spirits!
If you could give advice to new writers, what would you say?
Loren: Make friends with other writers. They will understand the challenges you face better than anyone else. Besides, highly imaginative people are always entertaining to have around.
Jonny: I couldn’t agree with you more! There are so many great avenues to meet other authors, and it’s wonderful to have similar-minded people who understand how hard it can be and can offer some great advice if it’s needed. I wouldn’t have been able to self-publish my first book without my author friends helping guide the way.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
Loren: I’ve had 14 books published so far, including books I’ve edited. Five of the others are novels, three are essay collections, 199 Cemeteries is a straight travel guide, and Unsafe Words is a collection of short stories. I’m not sure I can choose a favorite, but Unsafe Words is closest to what I originally imagined it would be. I didn’t compromise on anything in it. I’m very proud of how it turned out.
Jonny: Holy moly, congratulations! That’s quite a feat. I’m glad you’re happy with the results of your latest release, and I hope it’s very successful.
Fun Facts About Loren
What’s your favorite place that you’ve travelled to?
Loren: Maybe the most magical place I’ve ever been — that isn’t a cemetery, at least — is the ruins of Delphi in Greece. My mom and I went on a package tour, which meant we didn’t have long to explore, but that place spoke to my soul! It’s high up on Mount Parnassus, overlooking a valley full of vineyards and olive groves. The temples are only partially reconstructed. All the stone is a beautiful golden color from being buried for centuries. I’ve never written anything about visiting there, but I should. It was incredible.
Jonny: Aw man, I am so jealous! I’ve never travelled outside the states, so I live vicariously through others that have. All that history sounds like it was pretty breathtaking. I’d love to read a story about it. To date, I’d say that Denver and Seattle were my favorite big cities to visit, but in recent years I’ve focused on travelling to smaller, quaint towns like Herman, MO to get away from it all. Next year I’m hoping to have a New England trip in the fall when the seasons change.
If you could choose to be any supernatural creature, what would you be and why?
Loren: I would definitely choose to be a ghost, so I could watch over my family. I’d leave messages written in fogged-up mirrors.
Jonny: Oh, that would be so much fun! Can I steal your answer? I’ve told my friends numerous times I don’t intend on going anywhere after death. Nope, staying right here so I can bug and spook people, haha!
If you could meet anyone who ever lived, past or present, who would that be?
Loren: If I could meet David Bowie and tell him what his music meant to me, that would be wonderful.
Jonny: I love your answer. David Bowie was so talented. Picking his brain would be a dream. Today I’d pick Mama Cass. I’d love to hear her sing in person and tell me all about the Mama’s and the Papa’s. She was so gifted.
What are you reading now?
Loren: I’m reading Grimoires: A History of Magic Books by Owen Davies. It’s not so much about the contents of the books as it is about censorship and the spread of literacy. Not exactly what I thought I was getting in to, but fascinating nonetheless. I’ve just started reading Polly Schattel’s The Occultists, which is really good.
Jonny: Oh, interesting. Sometimes books can surprise you in a good way. I hope you enjoy the rest of Grimoires. I’ll definitely look into The Occultists. That seems more my style. Right now I’m reading After the Change by Michael J. Moore (zombie read). It’s good so far, but I’m not completely blown away at this point. I guess we’ll see how things end up!
What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
Loren: Martha J. Allard’s Black Light is amazing. It’s about a rock-n-roll band in the 1980s, with ghosts and psychic vampires. It’s so beautifully written, really heartbreaking. There’s a prequel out now. I hope someday there will be a third book.
Jonny: Hmm, I’ve never heard of that. So glad I have GoodReads up right now! Thanks for sharing that. I could really be vague and say that any indie author’s works are under-appreciated, but currently I’d say anything by Travis Liebert. He’s got a lot of talent with his works in the horror genre, and I hope he rises to great heights.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be?
Loren: Strangely enough, I’ve been thinking about putting together a book of my confessional essays. I was inspired because Lynne Hansen, the amazing cover designer, was creating a cover a day in October. One of the pieces she made — a human ribcage filled with butterflies — really spoke to me, so I bought it. I’m still playing with a title to go with the artwork, but I’m thinking of something that includes the word “morbid.” This Morbid Life? Morbid is as Morbid Does?
Jonny: That’s amazing that you were so inspired by the cover art. I’d love to check out some of your essays. Both of those titles sound really unique. I simply can’t decide! I’m sure you’ll go with something that’s perfect for you.
What has been your most bizarre life experience?
Loren: One of my stories in Unsafe Words was inspired by wishing that someone would teach an anatomy class for writers. A friend’s brother was teaching gross anatomy at the time, so she asked if he’d give me a private lesson. Over the course of two days, he talked me through three of his teaching cadavers. In the end, we were talking about cardiology. He picked up one woman’s heart and was showing me how the blood vessels encircle it. Then he reached out and placed the heart in my hand.
To be honest, it was a religious experience. My dad has had heart problems my entire adult life. Both my grandfathers died of heart disease. I was just blown away by how small a heart is, but how dense and heavy.
Not many people can say they’ve held a human heart in their hand.
Jonny: Whoa, that’s a crazy story! I’ve never held a human heart personally, and I think I would’ve freaked out. Blood and gore on paper is great, but seeing real anatomy is another thing entirely. I have seen pictures of real organs and even that was a bit much for me.
As far as my bizarre happenings, I’ve had several strange occurrences involving spirits when I was younger, and it’s stuck with me for life. I’m definitely a hardcore believer in the paranormal, though I will admit that a great number of things can be explained with science.
Loren and Her Works
Tell us about your new book.
Loren: Unsafe Words is a collection of my horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction stories. They wander back and forth between the boundaries of the genres. There are vampires, plenty of ghosts, the Wild Hunt, a succubus…and some quieter stories about people with morbid predilections.
The stories were published previously in Cemetery Dance, Space & Time, and other magazines, and in books like Demon Lovers, The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two, and Tales for the Camp Fire. One story, the last one, is original to the collection.
Jonny: Congrats on your achievement! This anthology sounds right up my alley, as anything supernatural immediately draws my attention. It sounds like your book has plenty of balance and varying themes to satisfy insatiable readers like myself. Best of luck!
How did you come up with the title for this book?
Loren: A friend who has several story collections of her own suggested I title the book after one of the stories inside. I thought about “Here There Be Monsters,” the first story in the book, but there are so many books with that title! So I considered what themes were common between these stories. Some of them are sexy, which got me thinking about safe words. The stories were all written to push boundaries, so Unsafe Words seemed to fit.
Jonny: That’s awesome how you came up with such an original title. I think you did the right thing, as I’ve always shied away from having a duplicate title as someone else if at all possible. Major brownie points on originality!
What inspired you to write this book in particular? Is it part of a series?
Loren: To be honest, I was inspired by Covid and being quarantined. I have some friends who got sick — really sick, frighteningly sick — early in the year. They couldn’t get tested for Covid at the time because they didn’t know anyone who had been to China, but that was clearly what they had. Luckily, they pulled through without any long-term problems. (Touch wood!)
Their brushes with death made me consider what I want to accomplish before I die. I didn’t have a full-length story collection, so I put one together. It was really helpful for me to have a project I could concentrate on this year.
Jonny: I’m very sorry that your friends went through that, but am so happy that they pulled through. These are unfortunate times we live in, and I think it shows your inner strength that you found inspiration in an unlikely way and created something unique despite the craziness of the world around us.
Do you have a favorite character in your new book? Why are they your favorite?
Loren: Lorelei, the succubus in the story “Never Bargained for You,” is one of my favorite characters. She’s the main character (At least, according to me! My co-author might dispute it.) of the As Above, So Below books, Lost Angels and Angelus Rose.
Lorelei is so much fun to write. She loves her life. She honestly likes people, in all their messy complexity. She’s a gameplayer, but occasionally she out-plays herself. I don’t expect there will be any more novels about her, but I hope to write more short stories with her in them.
Jonny: That’s great that you have a favorite and aren’t afraid to say it. With a character that loves their life, it’s hard not to appreciate that, even if they are a succubus. Looking forward to getting to know Lorelei better through your works!
What criteria did you use when selecting the cover for your book?
Loren: I knew Lynne Hansen from the World Horror Conventions and I’d been seeing her artwork around for years. When I committed to putting this book together, I never considered working with anyone else. Luckily, Lynne had space on her calendar for me. She asked for some covers I liked, so she could get a sense of my taste. I told her how much I love Ray Bradbury’s short stories. Also, I’d been saving an image of a skeleton tree for years and years. Lynne distilled all of that and gave me something really perfect. You can check out her other covers here: https://lynnehansen.zenfolio.com/
Jonny: I have to say, your cover is amazing. After checking out the link, I can see why you went with Lynne. She has a very diverse portfolio, and so many of those covers are visually striking. Glad you found a cover artist you love!
Was there a message in your book that you were trying to convey?
Loren: No matter what horror you face, love is the way to survive.
Jonny: Aw, I love that message. Although you write darker fiction, it’s good to know that in the end there is a positive message behind it all.
Alright Loren, it looks like our time here is up. Before we go, do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events, and special offers?
Loren: Yes! My blog is at https://lorenrhoads.com/blog/. I talk a lot about my inspirations there, along with where readers can find my work for free.
Jonny: Awesome! Thanks for sharing that with us, as well as taking the time to humor my endless questions, haha! Best of luck with your writing journeys!
That’s a Wrap!
All righty book worms, that wraps up my interview with Loren Rhoads. I had a great time chatting it up with her, and I hope you enjoyed the experience too!
If you’d like to learn more about Loren and her work, she can be reached at the social media links provided below.
Thank you for stopping by, and have a great day!
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