Midnight Abyss: Interview with Jennifer M. Zeiger

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Halloween just got a little…scarier.

On October 31st the fascinatingly terrifying anthology Midnight Abyss by nine talented authors will be available. It was my immense pleasure to catch an interview with one of the authors, Jennifer M. Zeiger, who writes some fantastic short stories and awesome choose your adventure stories at Adventure Awaits You. I was also fortunate enough to get a sneak peek at some of the stories and I can tell you they had my scalp tingling and my heart racing!

Excerpt:
Strange Stars by Shaun Adams
A column of figures approached along Main Street from the southwest, bathed in moonlight. They looked like men, but they were not. Ruby was sure of it. She looked at Dominic to check if he was seeing what she was seeing. His terrified expression told her he was.
They came up Main Street like an invading army, creatures that looked like men. They were impossibly tall; some wore long black cloaks from head to foot while others were virtually naked apart from strange trinkets dangling from their necks, wrists and ankles. At the head of the procession, two of these creatures supported an enormous pole from which hung a ragged cloth banner covered in blood red symbols she did not recognize. The figures not wearing cloaks had short, muscular torsos and long, pale limbs. There was no hair on any part of their bodies, but perhaps worst of all, in their faces they had vertical slits for eyes and no discernible mouths.

Tell us a little about yourself and the other authors.
We’re all crazy=) Well, maybe not 100% crazy but we all share the writing bug that makes us excited about working with eight other people we’ve never met to produce a book. There are nine of us all told.
To start, there’s Anisa A. Claire and Kelleigh who masterminded the project. Without these two, we probably never would have had to idea to attempt this.
Then there’s Doug Langille who, thank God, knows the techie stuff or we might have been lost right from the start.
Next is Gregory K Shipman in Alaska. He’s great with both written and spoken humor. Keeps us all laughing when we start taking things too seriously, which at times, we definitely need.
Shaun Adams charms us all with his English accent since he’s from the Isle of Wight in England.
Raymond Tabaygo’s a hero of mine. He’s eighty something years old and still writing, which is an amazing encouragement to me.
Matthew X. Gomez is our editing guru. Although we’ve all helped with the editing, he’s definitely the one willing to cut your writing to pieces. It’s great.
Then, to finish this all off, there’s Theresa Briscoe Tschetter and I in the old west. She’s in Wyoming and I’m in Colorado.
Theresa, even though she’s had some trouble with internet since we’ve started working on this, has made a massive effort to stay involved and up beat. As for myself, I feel like I’m along for the ride and it’s a great adventure=)

Why horror/dark fantasy?
Horror and dark fantasy is what most of us tend to write. For me, Jennifer, I lean toward writing fantasy, so adding a bit of the dark was a wonderful challenge. Plus, we plan to release the book on Halloween, so those genres fit the spookiness of the season=)

What was the inspiration for this collection of stories/your story?
The inspiration for me? Was the offer to join 8 other amazing writers. Sometimes the story comes first but not always. Sometimes the motivation to write or achieve a dream comes first and the story is pulled out as a result.
The inspiration for the book? Well, that was Anisa and Kelleigh’s brainchild, I believe. Those two ladies are ambitious as all get out in a good way.

Excerpt:
The Orbs by Jennifer M. Zeiger
She cracked her thumbs apart to gaze at the orb as its glow touched her face. It fit easily in her hands and swirled blue and white, unconcerned that it’d been removed from its place in the Heaven’s Chamber.
Her father said they couldn’t be moved, that the orb would burn out within seconds, leaving the world darker and colder. But she’d stolen it more than an hour ago. Checking, Shira confirmed it glowed just as powerfully now as when it hung against the ceiling.
Mayel was right. The Eyrie was hoarding the orbs.

If you could describe the anthology in one sentence, what would it be?
Now that’s a difficult one. We’ve talked a lot about a slogan for the book. My favorite is “It’s Midnight in the Abyss. Do you know where your darklings are?” So I’ll run off of that.
Midnight Abyss is a collection of dark, fantastical stories that’ll keep you awake, reading of course, and make you wonder where your darklings are.

How did you come to be involved with the other authors and what was it like collaborating with them?
Most of us met on Writer’s Carnival, which is a workshop site for writers. We became familiar with each other’s work there and liked what we saw.
As for collaborating with everyone, it’s been a blast. Personally, I never considered self-publishing because I never thought I could handle all the aspects by myself. But with nine of us, we’re all gifted in different ways. Plus we all want to produce the best book possible, so we’ve worked really hard to help each other out. Considering the possibility for disagreements, it’s worked out really well. We discuss, we have our agreements and debates, but in the end, we somehow come to decisions with a minimum of chaos. It’s awesome.

How did you decide what to write for this collection?
Great question. Not easily answered. I was approached by Anisa and Kelleigh in July about joining them and the others in writing the short story collection. Writing’s been my dream for years, so this was a dream come true. I sat down to write the long story (we each wrote two. One long story and one short), and I stared at the page. I think my long story took three weeks to write. For those who know me, that’s a long time for a story under 7,500 words. It was like pulling teeth but finally I got this picture of a winged girl who had to choose between her own people or those who were dying on the ground. Doing the right thing might mean loosing her wings…
As for the short story, my dad actually gave me the idea. I commented to him about the genres of the book, particularly horror, which I don’t usually write, and he said, “It’s a genre that allows for a lot of spiritual stuff.” So I ran with the idea of a man dealing with a demon possessing him.
I know for some of the other authors, it worked differently. Theresa said about her story Vessels that “I literally woke up at 3 am with the story sketched out in my head. I had a fantastic skeleton, and I simply needed to flesh out the details. When I was asked to join the group to do the anthology, I was terrified, but I felt so honored that I had to take the story and give it life.”

Excerpt:
Double Vision by Anisa A. Claire
The dog had four toys: the duck, the ball, the rope, and the rubber bone—exactly in that order. Duck, ball, rope and bone. There’s no way she’d forget to put the duck away if she put the other three in the basket on the shelf above the dog crate. It just wasn’t possible.
Arriving at the kennel, Sarah discovered the ball, the rope and the rubber bone exactly where she’d left them the night before, in the basket. Glancing over her shoulder, panic set in. How could this have happened? No, no, no. This can’t happen. Not again. She stopped, took ten deep breaths, and then continued to the stairs, on the verge of losing control.

Did each author work independently or was there did everyone contribute in some way to everyone else’s story in terms of helping with developing ideas, editing, etc.?
There was very little discussion in the beginning about what we should write other then the length of the stories. We all knew the genres and went for it on our own.
Once the initial stories were written, however, we dug in to help each other out. For those who aren’t familiar with self-publishing, one of the major costs is getting the writing professionally edited. We decided, with nine of us, we could edit on our own.
If you’re an editor, don’t take that the wrong way. We were only comfortable doing this because there are nine of us. So it took nine of us to equal one paid editor.
We’ve all edited each other’s stories. Those edits were everything from spelling and punctuation to story arches to sentence structures to character development.
Through all of this, I’ve come to really respect the other authors. It’s not uncommon for a writer to get defensive about his/her work. While working on Midnight Abyss, I haven’t seen once, even though we ripped each other’s writing to pieces, where a person got defensive.

Do you have any advice for other writers who are considering collaborating with others?
Wow, that’s a difficult question but I’ll narrow down my observations/advice to just a few things.
1. You have to trust each other. Especially if you’re collaborating with people you’ve never met beyond the internet. Without trust, we never would have gotten very far with this. You have to believe the other people have the same goal, so if they’re tearing your writing apart, it’s not because they hate you, it’s because they want to create a great book and they’re helping you present the best writing possible.
2. Dedication. There’s a lot of work that goes into not only creating the book but also in getting the word out about it. At the moment, it’s like having a second job for me and I know the others are doing as much, if not more than I. If you’re collaborating with other people and they don’t pull their weight, you won’t get very far. I’m not sure, since I’ve never done this before, how Midnight Abyss will do. But if it flops, I can honestly say it wasn’t for a lack of trying on the part of everyone involved.
3. And the last one, communication. I come home from work some nights to 90 plus messages. When you self-publish, you have to decide everything from what format you’re using to cover design to marketing message, and don’t forget the internal part, the editing. That’s the great part about this group of writers. If one of us doesn’t know something, one of the others probably does or can figure it out. But the communication’s got to be there for the details to come out right. If you’re going to collaborate with others, don’t be afraid to communicate. Ask questions, throw out ideas…It’s an amazing journey.

Excerpt:
Deal with a Devil by Matthew X. Gomez
“Easy there, Silas,” the guitar player said. “He ain’t here to do more than talk, ain’t that right, Warren Jacobs? You obviously know who I am, what I am, and you knew where to find me. So you’ve got some smarts. And you stopped to ask my name, even though you know what I am, so you’re polite. You’ve got two things going for you right there. So, the question is, what is it you want from me?” The thing in the chair leaned forward, setting the guitar to one side. “What can old Jeb do for you?”
“I want revenge,” Warren replied.

I know where I will be on Halloween! Do you? (Hint: curled up with a blanket thrown over your head and Midnight Abyss clutched in your hands)

Jennifer M. Zeiger lives in the beautiful state of Colorado with her husband, dog and two cats. She graduated with her Bachelors in English in 2008 with minors in Accounting and Recreation. She loves writing fantasy in particular but will read just about anything. On Oct. 31st of this year, her first publication, Midnight Abyss, will become available on Amazon.
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