(Richard Meldrum has two stories in Uncommon Pet Tales, a Read on the Run anthology)
Q: What is the one thing about you that would most surprise readers?
A: I suspect the one thing that surprises most people is that my wife and I have a kennel of nineteen sled dogs. Every year we participate in a number of races and events in Ontario, including the famous invitation-only Seguin Mail Run, where the mail is carried by dog team for 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) between two towns in Ontario. People are amazed that I manage to run a kennel, write fiction and hold down a full-time position as an Associate Professor at a university in downtown Toronto. Sometimes, I’m not sure how I find the time!
Q: How do you combine dog sledding with writing?
A: It’s not too difficult. Training the dogs starts in fall and ends in early spring. Sled dogs can’t be run in harness during the summer months because the temperatures are too high. That leaves the summer free for me to concentrate on writing. This is also the time when teaching at the university is over, so I definitely have more time to write. In the fall and winter months, when I’m busy with the dogs and teaching, my writing output tends to decline, but I try to keep writing as much as possible.
Q: What genres do you write in?
A: I write in the supernatural genre. My stories include ghosts, vampires and other supernatural entities. I don’t define myself as a horror writer, even if some of my stories do have gruesome elements. My influences include MR James and Basil Copper, authors who wrote classic ghost stories where the emphasis was on atmosphere and character. I try to emulate this style of writing.
Q: What is your favorite genre — – to read, to write?
A: My bookshelves are groaning with way too many books. I read all sorts, from history to science fiction. Of course, my favorite genre for both reading and writing is the supernatural. I also collect rare, antiquarian and autographed books. I love the idea that the authors actually held the book I now own. I also have a fondness for vintage children’s books and have quite a few from the 40’s and 50’s.
Q: How long have you been writing?
A: I started writing short stories in my early twenties, about 25 years ago. At the time, I tried to get some of my stories published, but in those far off days of the 1990’s I found it much harder. There just didn’t seem to be as many small presses around and there certainly wasn’t the easy access provided by the internet. After a number of discouraging responses from publishers and agents, I shelved my stories and stopped writing fiction for over fifteen years. It wasn’t until 2015 that I rediscovered my old stories. Re-reading them encouraged me to both submit them for publication and start writing again. I got my first professional publication accepted in the fall of 2015 and have just had my 65 th story published. I guess I’m an example of ‘it’s never too late’!
Q: How and where do you write?
A: I always write in the same place, our kitchen. I use a laptop and Microsoft Word, it’s good software for spelling and grammar checking. It also allows me to check language, since I submit to US, UK and Canadian publishers. I usually write in the mornings and try to work every day. If I’m not moved to write something, I edit instead. Sometimes I write in silence, sometimes with the radio in the background. I don’t have a rule about background noise, it makes no difference to my concentration.
Q: How did you first hear about Smoking Pen Press?
A: I submitted two stories to the ‘Uncommon Pet Tales’ anthology and was lucky enough to get them both accepted. Cathy and Laurie were great to work with; they were so enthusiastic and so helpful. The communication they had with the authors was fantastic. I loved the book itself, the cover art was amazing. Everyone I know who bought the book commented on both the quality of the artwork and the range and quality of the stories. When I advertised it on social media last year, I was overwhelmed by the number of orders I received. I’m a huge supporter of independent publishers, and I think Smoking Pen Press are doing a fantastic job. I always keep an eye on their open submissions!