A DERANGED 5-Question Quickie with Sarah Cannavo

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DERANGED, a horror/bizarro anthology from 6K Press certain to make your toes curl in unexpected ways, is available for pre-order and drops on December 16, 2019.

But what about the authors included in it? Wouldn’t you like to tear their clothes off and expose the sickos responsible for such vile (yet oddly tantalizing) extreme kink stories?

We thought you would, so drop your drawers and grab your ankles with us. It’s about to get sticky.

DERANGED 5-Question Quickie Interview: Sarah Cannavo

I’m a writer of speculative fiction and poetry from New Jersey, and I feel pretty cheated because I’ve lived here almost my whole life and I have yet to see the damn Jersey Devil. I read a lot, write more, count The X-Files, Supernatural, and The Walking Dead among my influences (but please don’t blame them for what I’ve become), and sleep far less than I should.

DERANGED: “Drippings” by Sarah Cannavo

Editors: If you were a sexual position, which one would you be and why?

Sarah Cannavo: Oh Christ. Well, I guess this is one interview I gotta make sure my family never sees . . . Does “up against a wall” count? Because I’m a girl who tends to change her mind often, so don’t hold me permanently to this, but at the moment that’s the position I’d be. And why? Hmm . . . I guess because it’s just the right mix of primal and fun, depending on your mood.

That’s hawt.

Is the Kama Sutra the ultimate bedroom playbook, or something you would never be interested in perusing?

I think it would definitely be something fun to try out. Of course, I’d have to hunt down some version of it that could be used by people with neuromusculoskeletal disorders, but hey, half the fun’s in experimenting, right?

Definitely—can’t discover a kink without experimenting!

Is this your first time mixing horror and erotica? Do you enjoy blending the two into your stories? Why or why not?

It actually isn’t—my short story “The Playroom,” which is also forthcoming, was, though I wrote both it and “Drippings” in close succession after seeing the two separate anthology calls. (This was definitely an interesting time in my writing life, to say the least.) Before that I often had sexual elements in my stories, but they’d never been as specific a plot point as they are in these two, maybe because most of the submission calls I’ve written for in the past have been so specifically limited in their scope of what they would and wouldn’t accept in the sex-and-gore spectrum. But I definitely enjoy blending the two in my work—I’d suspected I would for a while, but writing these stories helped confirm it. As for why, I could probably psychoanalyze it and give a really long, really smart-sounding answer about how erotica and horror are so perfectly connected because both involve people stripped to their most vulnerable states (whether with their willing participation or against their will) and experiencing extremes of some of our most primal emotions, arousal and fear; and maybe on a subconscious level that’s part of why I enjoy touching on these themes in my stories, making people uncomfortable by taking something intimate and showing how fast and unexpectedly it can turn into a living nightmare . . . But honestly, if I had to pick a reason, I’d say because it’s just really fucking fun. Some people would say that shows there’s something seriously wrong with me, but anyone who knows me knows that’s been perfectly true for a while now.

Most publishers we approached wouldn’t touch the original Deranged open call with Ron Jeremy’s cock, let alone their own, due to wording and desired story content. We said fuck it and rolled with it anyway (and we’re damn glad we did!). What is your stance on censorship in writing?  Do you think any topics are still taboo today?

My stance on censorship in writing is that there’s too damn much of it. That’s why I leapt on the call for Deranged like I did; it was one of the very few times I’d ever seen a submission call that not only was accepting of “taboo” subjects but actively welcoming them. I read submission guidelines for anthologies, websites, magazines, etc. and all I see is a laundry list of forbidden topics repeated from one place to another, which is extremely frustrating and limiting for a writer, especially in fields like horror fiction. People make the argument that if your story depends on an “uncomfortable” subject like sex, rape, violence, childhood trauma, or anything else that might upset a single reader out there, or even includes elements of it without it being the explicit focus, then it can’t be a very good story to start with, and if you were really a good writer you would be able to craft a compelling story without including any of those upsetting elements.

Fuck. That. Shit.

I understand that everybody has their own opinions, and they’re entitled to them, and that the audience has to be taken into consideration by publishers and editors—nobody’s saying you have to include grimdark or splatterpunk stories in publications that aim specifically for Victorian-style chillers, for example. But when I see places that say they’re open to all kinds of stories, only to go on to list a million things that they’re actually not open to, it pisses me off because the publishers and readers might be losing out on a chance to experience a great story just because it contains gore and profanity, or deals with a character’s rape, or anything along those lines, and it also means writers out there lose a chance to get their work into print, seeing as venues that accept such works are still far fewer than those that don’t. If you want to publish “explicit” works but are worried some readers might get upset by the content, put a warning on it, but don’t ban or bury it outright. If you pick up a book like Deranged and then are still somehow shocked or outraged by the content, well, we warned you what was in it, and you’re the one who chose to keep going. Does that mean the book should never have been published? Hell no. Yet that’s the attitude far too many publishers and editors take today—censor the content and avoid controversy. But when you do that, you also lose chances for other great content.

There are plenty of topics that are still taboo today, at least among the mainstream channels. Sexual content is a big one; characters better not do it, and if they absolutely have to, then by God it better be the most generic, vanilla, routine sex possible. One hint of spanking and suddenly it’s “We’re sorry, but your story does not fit our needs at this time.” And as for violence, oh Lord. The bloody, the grotesque, the, well, deranged—whether the actions of a maniacal werewolf or an all-too-human mass shooter—all have a hard time finding homes anywhere. And of course topics like rape, child or animal abuse, racism, etc., are also discouraged, in large part because they touch on parts of real life that we see all too often whenever we turn on the news. But that’s the thing. They are real. And just because an author writes a story with a racist character, or a sexual deviant, or child abuse, doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how they feel, or that they’re promoting such behavior, which all too often is how people perceive it. It’s a story. These things happen. And the author includes them because these elements add realism to the story they’re writing. Unfortunate? Sure. But real. And not publishing works with this content doesn’t keep it from happening in our world, nor will it ever.   

And as for language? To me, that’s one of the worst taboos out there now. You can make an argument that we’re making some progress in regards to the other ones I’ve mentioned, but language is a taboo that’s actually growing. Every day it seems there are more words we can’t say, more names we better not use, more history we better not mention because our society is becoming ever-increasingly sensitive to the offensive. But again, it’s a story. Just because a character puts forth off-color views or uses words the FCC would shit their pants to if said on TV, or describes another character in terms that send people out into the streets to cry and protest as “insensitive”  or “hurtful,” that doesn’t mean the author or publication is promoting those views, and taking those words away from writers won’t stop people from thinking that way or using those words in real life. Censorship isn’t progressive, it’s devolution, especially when you live in a world where you never know from one day to the next what words or ideas will be off-limits next.

Are we better off than we were? In some ways, yeah. Nowadays there are more outlets that are willing to take “questionable” or “upsetting” content, and a growing industry for writers to put that work out there themselves, as well as anthologies like Deranged, which offer chances to subvert traditional publishing’s constraints. So it’s not like we’re still completely trying to please our Puritan overlords with clean, safe, “sensitive” content. But censorship is still a major presence, in my opinion. Not that I’m going to let that stop me. They can have my profane splatterpunk horror erotica when they pry it from my cold dead hands.

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Tell us in 1-2 sentences what your story in Deranged is about, and why we should read it.

My story in Deranged is about a couple whose waxplay kink causes more trouble than they could ever have expected when they inadvertently create a vicious creature in the course of their sexual exploits. I always feel like a bit of an egotistical asshole when I try to tell people why they should read something I wrote, but here goes: You should read it because it’s creepy, and sexy, and it turned out a lot funnier (if darkly so) than I initially thought it would when I envisioned the story, so hopefully it’ll turn you on, freak you out, and give you a bit of a chuckle to lighten your day, if only when you stop to thank God it isn’t happening to you.

Wax on, whack off!

Thanks for opening up to us, Sarah! (Next time, we won’t break out the stirrups, okay? That was a bit much, our bad.)

You can pre-order Sarah’s story “Drippings” and more in Deranged by clicking here. Go ahead. Discover a new kink.

      Catch a whiff 
      on December 16.

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