MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR CHRISTINA BERGLING
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
To date, all of my published works could be classified as horror.
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
My first book, Savages, was a direct result of my time as a contractor in Iraq and a season-long marathon of The Walking Dead. The story follows two apocalypse survivors as they try to find out what has happened to their world. Until they discover a newborn baby. I wanted to really examine what survival would do to people, what it would cost them. My time in Iraq definitely gave me a different perspective on people in general and their savagery.
My second book, The Waning, started as an 11-page short. My publisher at the time was pressing me for another book so I stretched it out into a longer work. The story is about what happens to a woman when she is kidnapped and kept in a cage. I wanted to play with what happens when we are actually confronted by horror versus what we say when we’re watching characters in a movie. I wanted to delve into my character’s psychological breakdown as she descends into Stockholm Syndrome.
My most recent book, The Rest Will Come, is about the horrors of online dating. This book is directly based upon the real lifedating experiences of people close to me. I would listen to their stories and think, “how do you not just kill these guys?” So I wrote a story where the girl does kill all these guys. The book follows the online dating misfortune of Emma until she finally snaps and starts hunting and killing douchebags she meets online.
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre(historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?
I have always been drawn to horror. When I was very young, I was obsessed with Halloween and would spend the season writing Halloween short stories about haunted houses and monsters. Once I was old enough, I turned to reading, watching, and writing more mature horror. Horror has always spoken to me. Nothing is out of bounds; nothing is repressed or held back. The genre allows us to face the worst parts of ourselves and the world.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
For Savages, I did some survival research for the kind of things my characters would need and how much they could realistically carry. For The Waning, I had to account for all logistically realities of captivity. I also did research into Stockholm Syndrome and psychological breakdown. For The Rest Will Come, I researched body disposal.
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
Unfortunately, writing is not my primary source of income. I have a day job as a Solutions Architect for a software company. However, I treat my author time like a job. During the week, I put my children to bed then devote two hours towards author work (writing, editing, social media, promotion) before I go to bed. Generally, if I am spending that time writing, I try to hit 1,000-2,000 words per night. I write on the couch, watching TV with my husband. When I edit a completed work, I generally find a quiet place alone outside of the house.
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
I do currently have a novel in progress. I do not have a title yet. It is about internet stalkers and online safety (or the lack thereof). As a modern author, I spend a lot of time connecting and promoting online. I want to dig into all the ways that could go wrong for someone, all the ways the online life makes us vulnerable.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
Sometimes, my character names have additional meanings. Sometimes, I google popular names and just pick one that fits. In The Rest Will Come, most names are nods or homage to people who influenced or contributed to the book. In my other two books, they are more random.
Where do your ideas come from?
My ideas assault me. They generally come out of nowhere or in a dream then beat on my brain until I listen to them. I am very inspired by popular culture. I see mainstream ideas twisted or spun in a new direction.
Is there a genre that you’ve been wanting to experiment with?
I have always had a talent for non-fiction. I would like to experiment with memoir.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Editing. The writing is easy. It can be difficult to find time or focus to write, but the editing is always harder.
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I have not yet used book trailers, but I would like to try one and see if it’s successful.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
Being published is a huge accomplishment to me. I currently have no works that have been rejected and do not have a home somewhere.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
The best part about being an author is having people connect to your works, to have something from your mind resonate with someone else.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
If I’m lucky, in 10 years, I will have a much larger body of work published and may even be writing full time.
Have you always liked to write?
I have been writing since I can remember. In fourth grade, I knew I wanted to be a published author. I entered every writing contest in school. I constantly wrote short stories that my friends would read in class.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Always keep writing. Keep writing, even when it feels like it might be crap. Do your research and submit your work. Keep writing and submitting even if you get rejected.
If you didn’t like writing books, or weren’t any good at it, what would you like to do for a living?
I suppose I would just have to continue at my day job in IT.
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
I read every review of my writing I find. Generally, they are on Amazon or Goodreads, so there’s not much opportunity to reply. I don’t think I would ever reply with more than a thank you for taking the time to read and review. I accept that there will always be bad reviews. I try to just take what I can from the criticism to grow and evolve and let the rest go, but they do sting sometimes. The Waning, in particular, received some brutal reviews, but I knew when I released it that it would be a book people either loved or hated.
What is your least favourite part of the writing / publishing process?
Editing. Always the editing. It’s the work part of the art.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a novel about internet stalkers and online privacy (or the lack thereof).
Can you give us a few tasty morsels from your work-in-progress?
Here is chapter 1 of my current work in progress:
“Can you arch your back a little more, honey?” Brady said, peering around the barrel of his lens. “I’m getting a bulge in that position.”
Sidney strategically pinned herself in the base of the large, empty bathtub. She rolled her hips forward to obscure her pubic hair with her thigh and draped her forearm across her nipples. Without unraveling the meticulous pose, she attempted to turn her gaze toward Brady. She heard the rip as she felt it pulling on her skin.
“Uh, no, I can’t,” Sidney replied. “I’m stuck.”
“Damn it,” Brady huffed, placing his camera gently down on the bathroom counter beside him. “Is that blood dry again?”
Sidney’s bare flesh glistened in a liberal coating of fake blood. The thick, red liquid drew patterns over her naked skin in drips and spatters. Stark, crimson smears tainted the garish white tub, evidence of every movement Sidney had made in the basin.
Brady snatched the small spray bottle from beside his camera and bent over his model.
“This stuff looks so good, so real, but it dries so fast,” he said as he began spraying.
The water droplets bit at Sidney’s skin through the blood. She contracted against the cold yet flexed her muscles to maintain the position. She did not want to endure Brady’s exasperation at having to align her again, and she did not want to bruise her skin as it peeled away from the dried blood, like last time. She hissed through pursed lips and lay frozen until the water began to loosen her syrup bondage.
“At least we learned about the water last time,” she laughed, shifting liberally in her constrained freedom.
Brady replaced the water bottle and gathered his camera back into his hands, climbing back up on the edge of the tub platform. He straddled the basin and leaned forward over her.
“Do not fall on me,” she said, still giggling.
“Oh honey, I don’t know if that would be more traumatic for you or me.”
“You. You would be stuck to a naked woman.”
“Plus, I would probably break my camera.”
“Which you love more than your husband.”
“Yes, absolutely.” Brady sent his eye through the view finder. “OK, there. Now arch. Little more. Little more. Yes, right there. Bulge gone.”
Sidney went rigid again in the awkward position. The blood began to tighten as it already dried on her skin. The unforgiving curve of the tub pressed aggressively into her hips, her knees, her elbows. She craned her neck unnaturally until a light burn stretched along her tendons. Then she stopped breathing as she heard the camera’s shutter snapping furiously.
“I think we got that one,” Brady said, dismounting the bathtub platform. “It’s some creepy shit for sure.”
“That’s what we’re after!” Sidney remained immobile, splayed on the bottom of the tub. “Can we turn on the water now?”
“You want to go full blood bath?”
“Sure, why not?”
“You just want to wash off the blood,” he laughed, placing down his camera again.
“We could add some blood to the water. Really make it red. Brace yourself for all the period comments online!”
“We get those every time we do blood. No matter where the blood is. Blood plus woman equals menstruation. Apparently.” She rolled her eyes without moving her head.
“I blame straight men.”
“You blame straight men for everything.”
“Am I wrong, honey?” Brady’s light laugh danced against the tile. He popped out a hip and raised his eyebrow high at his model. “We can do blood bath, but I want to get some shots of you kind of gripping the edge or climbing out of the tub first. Bloody like you are.”
“Um, you’re going to have to spray me again.”
Brady emptied his lungs dramatically, allowing his hands to fly up then slap into his pants. He rolled his eyes with his entire face before his smile betrayed him. He snickered to himself as he brandished the spray bottle again.
“You enjoy this too much,” she said, slowly unhinging her limbs like the Tin Man.
“Taking bloody pictures? Of course I do. I love our twisted little art.”
“No, my suffering while we take bloody pictures.”
“Well, that’s just a lovely bonus,” he smirked.
“Sadist,” she returned.
Brady mimed a gasp and pressed his fingertips to his chest.
“What has Jordan been telling you?” he laughed.
“Only all your secrets.”
“That man is a slut for a bottle of wine.”
“He’s a slut for more than that!”
Brady stopped spraying and pursed his lips sideways at her. Finely misted, Sidney released her pose, peeling her limbs from their suggestive positioning. Slick with the mingling of fake blood and water, she slid and skidded over the porcelain as she struggled to pull herself out of bowl of the tub. She slipped and groped, wrapping her fingers around the edge of the tub.
“Shit!” Brady exclaimed. “Right there. Don’t move!”
“You are just the worst.” Sidney shook her head.
Brady hastily tossed the spray bottle and replaced it with his camera once more. He dropped expertly to his knees and leveled the lens with her fingertips.
“Oh, it’s dripping perfectly,” he mused, clicking away. “Now, move closer. Get your eyes up behind your knuckles.”
Sidney submitted to his guidance, as she always did. As she brought her nose close to her hands, the chocolate in the smell of the blood moved to her tongue, spreading a phantom taste through her mouth. Her throat flexed against it, closing against the idea of ever ingesting the vile substance again.
“Yes, right there,” he continued. “Now, give me creepy eyes. One, two, three!”
Sidney snapped her eyes open to the limit of their lids and tugged her lips tightly across her teeth. Brady gasped quietly before the sound of the ravenous shutter drown it out.
“Yes!” he laughed, staring at the back of the camera to review the shots. “Shit, you are creepy! I love it.”
He turned the screen to her. She barely recognized her own face so contorted and blood-stained. Her forehead creased gravely to accommodate the exposure of the whites of her eyes. Her grimace drew awful lines in the blood trailing her chin. She looked maniacal, frantic, possessed.
“It’s perfect,” she smiled.
Brady managed to snatch the camera to his eye and capture the honest grin before it faded back into the blood on her face.
“Now, you can have the water,” he said from behind the lens.
Sidney peeled herself carelessly from the tub and cranked on the faucet. She captured the spray in her hands and spread it over her skin. The blood swelled and spread at the contact.
“Don’t go washing it all off,” Brady scolded. “I don’t want to have to completely reapply. It’s bad enough I have to pour the blood on you myself. We really need an assistant for this.”
“Aw, you poor baby,” Sidney mocked. “Yes, please come pour fake chocolate blood on some naked girl while she whines and the photographer yells at her.”
Brady gasped again. “I do not yell at you.” Sidney puckered her lips and furrowed her brow. “OK, I don’t yell at you that much,” he laughed.
Sidney pressed back from the faucet and lounged in the accumulating water. The smooth warmth swelled around her and felt glorious in comparison to her dry contortions stuck to herself. She basked in the contrast, swishing her fingertips through the surface of the water. Brady popped to his feet and gently placed his camera on the cabinet again. As he lifted the Tupperware stained red, Sidney cringed.
“Don’t give me that face,” Brady said, slowly stirring the fake blood with a large spoon. “This is always your idea.”
Sidney let out a little whimper. “I know,” she said, pouting.
Smiling broadly, Brady scooped the red liquid and began drizzling the spoon over the tub. The thick and lazy droplets slithered through the air and splattered over Sidney, bleeding from her skin to turn the water crimson. As the spoon emptied, Brady cocked his head to evaluate the scene. Then he heaped on two more spoonfuls.
“So, what are you planning to do with these blood bath pictures?” Brady said through the lens as he hovered over her.
“I’m writing an article about the best bathroom death scenes in horror,” she replied, between poses. “So, the pictures will go into the article. Then I’ll use them when I post the article on social media. You know, the usual.”
“Luring people like a siren with your bloody nakedness.”
The shutter snapped again.
“It gets people’s attention. If I can get their attention, they might click. If they click, they might read. If they read, I might not have to work my horrible, soul-crushing day job for the rest of my life.”
The shutter snapped again.
“Lift your chin, honey,” he said, crouching closer.
Sidney could see her reflection in the open mouth of the lens. Her eyes looked wide and lost, searching. She tugged her face to exaggerate the expression. She stared into the black hole until the camera went out of focus in her vision.
“They do catch people’s attention,” he echoed, continually turning the focus on the lens. “I’m going to use these and the ones from our butcher shoot at the next convention I go to. Might see about getting into a gallery around Halloween. You know, when people are in the bloody mindset. You could bring your mother. I know they are her favorite.”
“I don’t know why that woman bothers to follow me on social media. Everything I post just upsets her.” Sidney splashed defiantly in the water.
“You’re like a train wreck. She can’t look away.”
“Hey now!” she laughed. “People do have the strangest reactions to our pictures. Every time you release one, there are the comments, of course.”
“Straight guys making jokes about periods.”
“Right. But then there is also a rash of messages.”
“Honey, I told you to just forward those dick pictures off to me.”
“And face Jordan’s wrath? I don’t think so.”
The shutter continued to snap.
“OK, sink lower into the water,” he said. “Yeah, get some of your face in there. I know it’s gross. You do this to yourself.”
Sidney pursed her lips and sunk into the sticky water. She let the horror on her face tell the story Brady wanted to capture.
“I think we got it,” he finally said, after another flurry of shutter snaps. “Let me help you out of there.”
Brady extended his hands and gripped both of Sidney’s tightly. His fingertips pressed into her skin through the slickness of the blood. As she stood in the tub, a strange mingling of water and blood droplets rained back down around her. Once she was upright, naked and dripping, Brady released her and gathered a towel around her. He gripped her shoulders through the towel and steadied her until she stepped out onto solid ground.
“Get showered off,” he said. “And we’ll see how terrifying you were today. Then you’ll help me clean up this disaster.”
“Maybe we do need an assistant.”
Why did you choose to write in your genre? If you write in more than one, how do you balance them?
I think horror chose me. It always resonated with me. It is what my mind produces. Writing in the genre just gives me an outlet for what is already inside me.
Where did your love of books come from?
My parents fostered a love of reading. I come from a family of avid readers and some educators. Reading was a part of my life since I was a baby, and that stemmed into adulthood. Plus, my family supported me in both reading and writing. There were always books and empty journals as gifts. They were always anxious to read my works.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
Seven Types of Ambiguity by Eliot Perlman is my favorite book. I also love Gerald’s Game and Different Seasons by Stephen King, Fight Club by Chuck Palahnuik, Venus in Furs by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum to name a few.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favouriteand why?
My favorite characters are Emma and Ronnie from The Rest Will Come because they are based on myself and someone close to me. Recreating that relationship and all the idiosyncrasies was fun.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
If the words are flowing easily and the idea is crackling, writing energizes me. If I am having to actually work at it or struggle through a portion of a story, writing will exhaust me instead. It all depends on how I feel the writing is going.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Dialog and sex scenes used to be my writing Kryptonite, but I think I have gotten ahold of both of those. Now, it is beginnings. The beginnings of my stories are always the roughest, need the most work. Once I get going, it all smooths out and begins to flow, but the beginning is the weakest.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
When I was in college, in Creative Non-fiction, I wrote a short entitled “How to Kill Yourself Slowly.” The piece was a raw and aggressive satire about self-destructive behavior. It was quite controversial during class critiques. The teacher and my classmates wanted some sort of hope infused at the end; they wanted me to lighten it up. I rewrote the ending to make my grade, and I hated it. Since then, I haven’t censored and conformed to what an audience might want, even if it means the piece is not as well received.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I became friends with my “class” at Assent Publishing. They have always been supportive, including when the house discontinued publishing. I also have befriended Kevin J. Kennedy after contributing to several of his anthologies. We are currently collaborating on a post-apocalyptic piece.
If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
Awful Life Choices and Where They Lead
Where can your fans find you and follow??