Thursday, May 5, 2022

A Graveside Chat with Bridgett Nelson

Bridgett Nelson is a name that, in relatively recent days, has become synonymous with gripping, vivid, gut-wrenching horror. Her recent collection, A Bouquet of Viscera has drawn ever-increasing numbers of readers deep into its fang-filled maw, chewed them up, and turned them into rabid fans. Her fiction gleefully calls to you and then wallops you in the brain — right there, in that sensitive spot just behind the temporal lobe. In this edition of A Graveside Chat, Ms. Nelson shares her thoughts on writing, convention-going, her influences, and the dark lit field in general. I was hoping she might share some of her favorite recipes, but she declined on the grounds that they might incriminate her.

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GC: You have an engaging social media presence, with lots of friends & followers, fun writing news, and photos aplenty. You also tell dynamite stories. How big a role do you think social media plays in keeping interest in your work high? Do you ever find that maintaining your presence on Facebook, Twitter, etc., distracts you to any significant degree from your fiction writing?

BN: Thank you, Mark! Coming from you, that means a lot. My goal is to keep it light. I like having a good time and sharing a few laughs with my author friends and fellow bookworms. In case it isn't clear via my posts, I don't take myself too seriously. I'm just enjoying the hell out of my horror-writing career and the instant family/community it gifted me.

For Indie writers, it's safe to say that social media plays a huge role in how well their books sell. Horror groups on Facebook are incredibly active, with thousands upon thousands of hardcore horror-loving members... and if they get behind you, it makes a huge difference. It's difficult for me though. I hate promoting my own work. I do it because I have to, but ask anyone — I'm more likely to give you a copy of my collection than to make you pay. (A very bad habit I really need to break.) I'm just so grateful to get copies into people's hands. At this point in my career, it's not about the money. I simply want to get my stories in front of readers. 

I'll be honest, I was genuinely shocked when people wanted to buy my book at AuthorCon. A few times, I remember looking these poor people in the eye and asking, "Really?" (I'm sure they thought I was a fruit loop.) When they'd verify they wanted a copy, I'd light up like the frickin' sun. That was a seriously great weekend — I am so loving this whole writing gig!

So, yes. Social media can be distracting, but without it, not a single person who purchased a book from me at the convention (or those I've mailed signed copies to), would have any idea A Bouquet of Viscera even existed. I consider it a very pleasant part of my job. At the end of the day, being an author involves way more than just writing the stories.

GC: Your medical experience shines through in many of your stories. Are you still employed as a registered nurse? At the risk of getting you in trouble, have any of your work experiences directly influenced your horror fiction? (Don't worry — there are still plenty of jobs out there. Haha.) Or do you use your medical expertise more to provide authentic backdrops for the events in your tales? (Or some of both?)

BN: I am still a registered nurse, but I no longer work in the medical field. I'm a full-time writer these days. Well, I also proof audiobook narrations. That pays all my convention expenses.  

Thus far, not a single medical element in any of my stories has been based on actual experiences. That's not to say they'll never show up, but I definitely use my medical knowledge more to provide authenticity in my stories. 

I loved being a nurse. I loved taking care of those very sick people and helping put smiles on their faces despite the, oftentimes, life-threatening health issues they were going through. I loved the relationships I formed with some of the chronic patients we saw frequently. One patient even invited me to his wedding. 

I've held patients' hands as they've taken their final breaths. I've assisted in open heart surgeries and day-long brain surgeries. I've spent an entire night shift sitting and listening to the memories of a young man who was dying from end-stage AIDS. He passed away just before my shift ended. The last words he ever uttered were to me. I've run codes as a charge nurse. I've been held at knife point by a patient suffering from dementia. There are things I've seen which will haunt me for the rest of my life. So, yeah... frankly, it would be weird if that part of my life didn't influence my writing in a very significant way. 

GC: You have established yourself at a few conventions already, and I understand you've got plenty more to attend in the coming days. Do you find any aspects of con-going daunting — such as public speaking or doing book signings? Or do you just dive right in and enjoy the hell out of the whole business?

BN: Conventions are like family reunions... only enjoyable!

I'll be heading to StokerCon in just a couple weeks. I can't wait! I was invited to be on three panels: one regarding impostor syndrome, one about common medical mistakes in books and movies, and an extreme horror/splatterpunk panel, which I'm really looking forward to. They'll be my first-ever panels at my very first in-person StokerCon. I'll also be doing a reading with two amazing writers, Sara Tantlinger and Kathleen Scheiner. I'll be honest... readings are the bane of my existence. So many eyes staring at me while I read a story I put my heart and soul into. It's tough... for me, anyway. I don't enjoy public speaking but, like social media, I feel it's yet another part of the job. And I will say this... each time I push myself into doing something I really don't want to do, it gets a little easier. Not once have I regretted it afterward.

Mostly, I totally enjoy the hell out of the whole business! Conventions, to me, feel like coming home. 

This summer, I'll also be at Imaginarium, Necon, Scares That Care, KillerCon, and Multiverse, to name a few.

GC: Your recent collection, A Bouquet of Viscera, has drawn considerable attention, with lots of positive reviews. What's next for you? Where do you see yourself five years from now? A decade from now? Is there anyone you want to give a shout out to for providing inspiration — creatively, motivationally, etc.?

BN: I'm so very proud of A Bouquet of Viscera, yet this is my truth — being a no-name author, I had very, very low expectations about how this collection would do. The horror genre is saturated with talented, creative, energetic writers, and I simply wasn't sure Bouquet could make even a tiny splash in such a big pond.

But then, suddenly, I had this really cool title, thanks to one of my best friends, author Richard Dansky. Upon hearing the title, the uber-talented artist, Lynne Hansen, wanted to design the cover. Splatterpunk and extreme horror author, Christine Morgan, offered to help me with the editing. The ever-amazing Todd Keisling agreed to do the interior design and formatting. Ronald Kelly, who is one of my favorite people in the entire world, enthusiastically agreed to do the foreword (and what he wrote had me happily sobbing into my pillow). And then... my all-time favorite author, Jeff Strand, offered to blurb this little collection of mine. And while his blurb was phenomenal, he later stated during a podcast that my story, "Jinx," was a "Jack Ketchum–level punch to the gut." Which... wow. Everything sort of blew up in the best possible way, and I'm so incredibly grateful to all these people for helping me make this book a beautiful reality.

Thankfully, readers seem to be loving the stories too. Not going to lie, after the cover reveal went viral on Twitter, I was a little worried the stories wouldn't live up to the exterior of my collection! I'm especially happy that in so many of the reviews, the readers are naming different stories as their favorites. No one story is getting all the love. "Jinx" is definitely getting the most attention, for obvious reasons, but it's been fun reading everyone's stand-outs.

As for what comes next for me, I've begun work on my first novel. I'll still be writing and submitting short stories to anthologies. And yes, I did sign a contract this weekend... a really, really good one. But I'm not sure I'm allowed to talk about it yet, so that will have to remain a secret for now.

Ten years from now, I hope I'm an active member of the Horror Writers Association (because not being able to vote for the Stoker nominees stinks), I'm hoping the Bridgett library includes many well-received novels and collections, I hope I'm getting anthology invites and pro-rates for my stories, I hope I'm still attending conventions and that I'm a winner of the Gross-Out contest at KillerCon — but mostly — mostly, I hope to still be as happy as I am at this very moment. Or happier! Happier works.

GC: Insert your own question here. Whatever topic, have your say. Anything you want — or have wanted — to share, go for it!

Oooh! Fun! (FYI... I'm going off the wall here.) 

My granddad was a farmer, and I used to help him castrate his hogs (poor piggy dudes). I went to Woodstock '94. My great-uncle traced our ancestry and discovered we're related to William Shakespeare, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and... Marilyn Monroe (Voila! With that DNA combination, Bridgett, the schmexy writer, is born. Also, that's a joke.) I have four doggies: three elderly pugs and a St. Bernard. And I cannot stand people feet! Keep your toes to yourself!

Mostly, though, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the readers for their overwhelming support. You guys have purchased my book, written reviews, shared pictures, included me in interviews and podcasts, ordered signed copies, and made A Bouquiet of Viscera an unexpected success. Clearly, we now need to have a huge party and celebrate. Who's with me?

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Vist Bridgett Nelson’s website at bridgettnelson.com

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