One last taste of perfection…
Sasha and Brynn descend upon the showplace home of their girlhood friend, Vicki, planning to celebrate her surviving cancer to reach her fortieth birthday. As they gather around Vicki’s perfectly set dinner table, though, her husband shares devastating news. The cancer is back, and she doesn’t have long to live.
Her life is cut even shorter than Sasha and Brynn expect—the next morning, their friend is found dead, her flawless skin slit at the wrists. But a tub full of blood is only the beginning. Before the weekend is through, they are forced to question how far they’re willing to go to fulfill Vicki’s last wish.
A very specific, very detailed recipe that only the truest of friends could stomach…
Gef: What was the impetus behind Vicki Beautiful?
Somer: I actually had this really bonkers, disturbing dream about a fancy dinner party that I attended at my friend’s house. In my dream, my friend was a glamorous woman with a very distinct beauty mark on her cheek, but she was nowhere to be seen. I sat down to dinner and the server placed a plate in front of me that had this pale, jiggly piece of meat and on the meat was that distinctive beauty mark. That dream stayed with me for days, and as I thought about it and chewed over what might have caused such a thing to come about, I got ideas as to why. On about the fourth day of this dream bothering me, I sat down and I wrote Vicki’s final letter to her friends. The rest of the story sort of grew around that.
Gef: The cover reminds me a bit like the original cover for Stephen King's collection, Everything's Eventual, with an idyllic dining setting spattered with blood. And it wound up matching the tone of the titled story. Did you have much input on the cover for Vicki Beautiful, and do you find it matches the tone you offer up in the novella?
Somer: I now no longer need to celebrate Christmas or my birthday because having any piece of my work compared to Stephen King, even if it is the cover art, makes me beyond happy!
I actually had a lot of input into the cover art. Samhain was really great about getting the author’s opinions on how the cover art should look. I attached probably six pictures of these fancy catered dinner settings to the cover art sheet that Samhain provided as well as the specification that it simply must have peonies (Vicki’s favorite flower). When they sent the finished cover, I knew that they had nailed it. I really think that the cover beautifully conveys the feel of the story and I couldn’t be happier with it.
Gef: How much of a balancing act is required when highlighting a very real and prevalent horror like cancer in a story that offers its own sensational forms of horror?
Somer: Those real-life horrors like cancer and pain caused to our loved ones, I think, are something that grounds a story to keep it from being a little too fantastical and “out there.” Things do tend to go off the rails in this story and I wanted to have this anchor to it so that the actual pain of what these characters are feeling could make their actions believable. The most difficult parts of this story for me to write were the realistic horrors, and I think that it’s important to stay in touch with that side of yourself so that you can convince your readers that the pain and hopelessness is real and relatable. It’s very much a balancing act to inject a relatable horror to a kind of horror that surprises and thrills, otherwise it’s just a bizarre yarn and not a story with characters feeling real emotions that cause them to do things that a more cool, rational mind might reject.
Gef: Is novella-length fiction something that you're normally drawn to?
Somer: As a writer, I love the novella-length work. I worry about too much fluff and I do like delivering a story in a direct manner. Novels have their merit, certainly. That’s why they tend to be more standard! There’s a lot of building and backstory and a richness to them that maybe sometimes you can’t convey in a novella, but a novella can be like a great slice of a story that gets the thrill across in an efficient and casual manner. As a reader, I consume novellas by the handful, sort of like how I eat potato chips. I love them.
Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?
Somer: I have to put Stephen King on here first because to me, he is one of those writers who is great at making his readers feel the big emotions like love, hate, anger, fear and even joy. Those big emotions make you so very attached to the characters so that the horror is even deeper, more prevalent, when things start to go wrong. I also love Ruby Jean Jensen. I stole my grandmother’s copy of The Haunting when I was maybe ten-years-old and that book rattled my teeth. Charlaine Harris and Kim Harrison are also phenomenal writers who really inspire me with their incredible characters.
Gef: How much emphasis do you place on setting as character?
Somer: I love setting as a character in my capacity as a reader. Nothing sucks you into a story more than really feeling like you’re there, in a place that has an attitude and a feeling to it. As a writer, I feel like I’m still in my infancy as a fiction writer and although it is something that I would like to include in future works, I’m not quite there yet.
Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?
Somer: There is so much writing advice out there that it really was intimidating to me. It felt like I had to get past these gatekeepers who were glaring down at me, asking me who I thought I was, thinking I could actually get published. A lot of the advice is overly complicated, a lot is overly simplistic. I think that new writers need to see a lot of this advice but they need to understand that it needs to be tailored to their own needs and working style. Saying that All Writers Read might be a piece of advice that touches one person and makes another completely livid. Bad writing advice is this: do exactly what I did. Don’t take that kind of advice, please. I’d actually like to see that go away. Don’t buy books by someone telling you exactly how to do it. This is not a one-size fits all thing. There is no one way to do it, but that’s also one of the things that makes this lifestyle so incredible. I’m still learning and I’m still getting advice, I just hope that I’ve got a good filter.
Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?
Somer: I love biographies of old Hollywood legends. The scandals and horrible treatment by the studios is incredible because so much of it was glossed over. We remember glamour and real movie stars, but that’s a heavily crafted image. It was so screwed up in reality. As for television…oh man I have to admit this to someone so okay, here we go. I have the entire series of Roseanne on DVD and I sit down and marathon watch the entire thing at least twice a year.
Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?
Somer: Well as many know, my publisher Samhain is closing down. I had two other works contracted with them and as of now, their futures are uncertain. Hopefully they will see publication because they are terrific stories. I also just finished and have started submitting a new book about an online journalist who covers gruesome murders for a sensationalistic website and while investigating a pair of truly bizarre murders she crosses the path of an old powerful creature who is not interested in making friends. I’m still working and still trying to get around, so stay tuned!
You can find me on Twitter @SomerM
and on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/SomerCanonAuthor .
I also have a website http://www.somercanon.com . Please look me up!
Somer Canon is a minivan revving suburban mother who avoids her neighbors for fear of being found out as a weirdo. When she’s not peering out of her windows, she’s consuming books, movies, and video games that sate her need for blood, gore, and things that disturb her mother.
Vicki Beautiful is her debut novella.
Find out more about Somer and her upcoming works at her website http://www.somercanon.com. You can also connect with Somer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SomerM.