Kristi DeMeester is the author of Beneath, a novel published by Word Horde, and the author of Everything That’s Underneath, a short fiction collection published by Apex Publications. Kristi DeMeester’s short fiction has appeared in publications such as Ellen Datlow’s The Best Horror of the Year Volume 9, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volumes 1 and 3, Black Static, The Dark, Apex Magazine, and several others. Known for creating unforgettably creepy tales of heartbreak, pain, and loss, Kristi DeMeester is making a mark on the horror genre and forcing readers to take notice. I am pleased to have interviewed such an up and coming author; please enjoy my interview with the wonderful Kristi DeMeester.
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
During the day, I teach high school students how to form coherent thoughts. At night, I have a staring competition with my laptop. Sometimes stories come out of it.
What’s your earliest memory of reading?
I grew up in an incredibly strict fundamentalist religion, so reading was the only opportunity I had for entertainment and escape. My first real memories of reading are filled with library book dust. The first true books I remember reading were books like Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder and then the Mandie series by Lois Gladys Leppard. From there I graduated to the American Girl books, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, and then began an absolute obsession with the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maude Montgomery. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle singlehandedly got me through the sixth grade. The Ramona series by Judy Blume. I read every Nancy Drew book. Every Babysitter’s Club book. Every Sweet Valley High book. Goosebumps by R.L. Stine and then his Fear Street by R.L. Stine. I read everything I could by Christopher Pike. I was a voracious reader and devoured whatever I could get my hands on. I got in trouble at school for reading. I’d read between stoplights in the back of our dark car. I read at meal even though I got in trouble. Those books I read as a child are my richest memories.
If you could encourage young people to read one book in particular, what would it be and why?
Before I give my suggestion, I do feel that young people should read whatever they like without the fear of being shamed for what they are reading or told it’s beneath them or too smutty or too silly. But I do think all young people should experience a book that moves them deeply and teaches them something about the world that exists outside of themselves. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor, or Monster by Walter Dean Myers, or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon, or A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.
Can you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first real, full story I ever wrote was not when I was a kid. I was always more of a reader than a writer until I got older. When I was in high school, I wrote terrible, besotted poetry about a guy I had an eternal crush on who wore a puka shell necklace and vintage t-shirts. My first story was when I was twenty-one and student teaching. During lunches, I started scrawling out a story about a woman who wanted to perform liposuction on herself. It was a gruesome, terribly executed story.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
Waiting tables at Chili’s. I still have nightmares about pouring endless glasses of sweet tea, my skin stinking of fajita smoke and ribs.
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring writer?
Commit. If you are going to write, do it. Every day or almost every day. And rejection is going to hurt. No matter how many times it happens. But you have to keep going.
Do you read as much as you’d like to?
On Writing by Stephen King. There are bits of advice in there I don’t wholeheartedly agree with, but I still feel that it’s a definitive touchstone on craft and practice. On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner because sometimes you need someone to give you a stern talking to and not paint writing as rainbow-filled glitter time.
Is there a book that you’ve read more than once? What is it and why did you revisit it?
Beach Music by Pat Conroy because for all of its heft, it’s still such a haunting tale of how a damaged family can still find love for each other. And no one captures the Carolinas like Conroy.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
Who would you say are the three writers that continue to inspire you?
Joyce Carol Oates, Shirley Jackson, and Flannery O’Connor.
What’s your favourite genre of book?
Literary Horror that dabbles in Fabulism.
What do you think a world without books would be like?
Horridly boring with even more bovine-esque chatter than there is now.
Is there an author whose writing you’re such a fan of, that you’ll read everything they release?
Joe Hill and Joyce Carol Oates (I’m trying any way!).
Do you think digital books will ever completely replace real books?
No. There are still too many of us who like to take our books in the bath or to the beach.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe as a reminder of the results of hubris.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life? What impact did it have?
I go back to the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maude Montgomery. I was able to lose myself in those books when I was a young girl in a very, very bad family.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
I have so many books on my reading list right now that it makes my headache. I’m looking forward to The Grin of the Dark by Ramsey Campbell (read Ramsey Campbell’s reading list), which is next up for me.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I hope to expand outward beyond horror into novels that are more Fabulist in nature.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
Child of Dirt.