Interview with Melissa Szydlek

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was primarily raised in Philadelphia but spent many summers on my grandparents farm in Kentucky. I tend to write darker fiction, of monsters both literal and those that take human form. I had a very tough childhood and was badly abused. This has no doubt influenced much of this darker writing.
When did you first start writing?
I wrote stories as soon as I learned how to read and form a sentence. I would write stories with crayons and tie the pages together with bits of red yarn.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has been a true gift for me as an indie author. I have been writing for so long and just wanted to share my work - I didn't care about money or fame. I just wanted people to read my work, give me feedback, and, hopefully, enjoy what I had to offer. I've made so many connections around the globe through Smashwords. A fellow indie author, Gary Weston, read some of my work on Smashwords and was kind enough to reach out to me, give me some pointers and feedback, and encouraged me to keep writing and publishing. Gary also introduced me to a really great group of writers who come together to write and collect our work on a given theme. The TOP WRITERS BLOCK group has several collections out on Smashwords and all profits go directly to charity (Sea Shepherd). Being a part of this group keeps me writing, hones my skills, and keeps me connected to people who share this love of all things books, writing, and literature. I'm very thankful to Smashwords for making all of this possible. Having readers from around the world contact me to say they enjoyed something is one of the best feelings.
What do your fans mean to you?
I don't know if I have any "fans" out there, but if I do, I hope they know how truly treasured they are. Any reader, even if they do not like my work, is important to me. I really do want feedback, and even just knowing someone read my work is amazing. I'm thankful to be able to share my work and hear what people think. So, if you are a fan, reach out to me! Let me know what you liked, or didn't, and what you'd like to read more about. I love, love, love hearing from readers. And I really do thank them for taking the time to read, reach out, and support indie authors and publishers.
What are you working on next?
Our TOP WRITERS BLOCK writing group keeps me hopping. We try to get a collection out every month. At the end of the 12 month cycle I collect my contributions into my own e-book, and add a new story or two. I have a short story out there called "Don't Go" that I would really like to explore further and expand into a novel. My novella, "Red World" holds a special place in my heart and I'd like to expand on that one as well.
Who are your favorite authors?
I was an abused child and books were my escape. Even in first grade, I was walking to the Philadelphia Public Library to get away from the horrors at home. Roald Dahl was one of the first authors to really make me feel "safe." I would sit there, this little kid, amongst all these books, for hours and hours, and just read. I don't even think I had a library card yet because that required an "adult" to come along. That took a while. The library was my favorite place. As I grew, Roger Zelazny, Piers Anthony, Stephen King, Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman, and Charlaine Harris kept me reading.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I work full time in marketing, so that allows me keep my creativity flowing if I can't write fiction. I have a wonderful husband and dogs I spend a lot of time with driving around, walking, and exploring. I love to read, when I have the time, and on a rare occasion a movie might hold my attention.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
My number favorite book ever is "A Night in the Lonesome October" by Roger Zelazny. I absolutely adore Halloween and all things "spooky" or horror related and this book is, to me, the quintessential Halloween story. Zelazny brings together so many wonderful elements of horror old and new, turns Jack the Ripper into the good guy, and his writing just flows so organically. I read this book every October, one chapter per day, as the book is laid out in 31 chapters, one for each day of the month of October.

My second favorite book is Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." I related to Charlie Bucket - he wasn't an abused child, the way I was, but he was struggling so mightily to stay positive and rise above his extreme poverty. I envied Charlie in that he could see the positive and envision a future not as bleak as his current existence.

My remaining top 3, in no particular order, are:

"IT" by Stephen King. I understood the Bev character the most and identified with her struggle with an abusive father. These kids were all struggling with something in their lives, something real and tangible. Fighting an evil clown was almost NOT as scary as what they really had to go through. I loved the characters, the friendships, the strength of the characters.

"To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. This novel is amazing on so many levels and I feel the world was robbed of something since Lee never wrote another book. Superb writing and character interactions. My grandparents were wonderful, wonderful people - kind and loving. I wished I could run away from Philadelphia and stay with them on their farm in the South forever. Not ever really having had a dad, Atticus Finch was a man I longed for as my father. A powerful, powerful read.

"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou hits very, very close to home. As a woman who was abused, ridiculed, and is a survivor of childhood rape, this book was both terrifying and comforting. I was comforted because I knew, reading this as a young girl, that what was happening to me was not my fault, and that I was not the only one going through this. It probably saved my life reading this book.
What do you read for pleasure?
I really enjoy a great work of fiction in any genre. I lean toward the horror genre and generally stay away from romance novels. I enjoy reading indie authors and enjoy the eclectic work out there.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I am an Apple user through and through. The iPad and iPhone are my go-to devices.
Published 2014-03-27.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Here You Enter: 10 Stories of Horror
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 39,180. Language: English. Published: August 1, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Horror » General, Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - single author
"And here you enter my darkness. Are you ready?" These 10 short horror stories highlight the moments people entered into darkness - voluntarily or not. Fans of dark fiction and horrors both real and imagined will find something to occupy your time in your own darkness.
I Am the Who - 10 Short Horror Stories
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 38,770. Language: English. Published: September 4, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Horror
10 short horror tales offer up plenty of chills, some comedy, and surely something for those chilly autumn nights when being scared will keep you warm.
Sharp Edges
Price: $1.50 USD. Words: 18,030. Language: English. Published: May 15, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - multi-author
Top Writers Block has written a collection of short stories full of sharp edges and cutting wit. Knives cut deep, but so do words. Enjoy this collection of fiction full of fun, fantasy, mystery, and horror. Eight stories include authors Cleve Sylcox, Barnaby Wilde, Suzy Stewart Dubot, Tracey Howard, Melissa A. Szydlek, and Elizabeth Rowan Keith.
Theme Park
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 23,320. Language: English. Published: April 14, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Anthologies » Short stories - multi-author
Six exciting worlds of adventure, mystery, drama, suspense, and horror await you. Climb aboard as Top Writers Block takes you on a ride celebrating the talent of independent authors. Come explore these unique worlds. Delight in classic writing styles, whimsical humor, and cold corridors of spine-tingling mayhem. This collection is sure to delight. Enter our Theme Park. You are Welcome Here.
The Things We Secretly Fear
Price: $1.50 USD. Words: 32,290. Language: American English. Published: May 18, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Horror » General
What are your secret fears? Dig deep into those who are afraid of aliens...your mother...the dead...clowns...the back roads...cemeteries...cannibals..or the old gods.
More Wicked Things: 12 More Tales of Horror
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 43,630. Language: English. Published: February 27, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Horror » General, Fiction » Anthologies » Horror
More Wicked Things is a collection of 12 stories of horror, the bizarre, and the strange. The stories traverse the gamut of personal pain and internal demons to literal creatures such as ghosts, the devil, demons, and local legends roaming the human landscape.
Tales of the Killer: Two Stories
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 13,730. Language: English. Published: December 5, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Occult, Fiction » Horror » Crime
Story 1: Discordant - a woman seeks the help of a demon to fight a serial killer. Story 2: Night Secretary - The Night Secretary directs the thoughts and actions of serial killers. She wants to create a truly horrific human monster whose deeds will be remembered forever.
Snow: Two Winter Stories
Price: Free! Words: 2,360. Language: English. Published: December 4, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Horror » General, Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
Snow: Two Winter Stories: The Good Death: Arthur is tired, old, and sick. He and his dog, Ashe, are dying. Arthur decides that they won't suffer anymore and seeks the solace of The Good Death. Krampusnacht: The demon, Krampus, eagerly awaits his annual December 5th offering from a small town. The townspeople can choose the offering, or Krampus will choose for them.
The Dead Are Cold: Two Stories of the Exsanguinous
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 11,450. Language: American English. Published: October 3, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Undead, Fiction » Horror » General
Zombies aren't just zombies anymore. Two tales of the Exsanguinous, beings who have risen from the grave, are offered here. The Ex-Sangs, as the world calls them, are integrating into society, hiding what they are with makeup and latex.
Mother's Voice
Price: Free! Words: 6,400. Language: English. Published: April 18, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Ghost
Katie and Sissy lost their mother to cancer 20 years ago. Since her death, Katie has been endowed with a special gift to help earth bound ghosts pass on to the next life. Katie hear's strange screams when the ghosts pass on - is it the sounds of the dead or is she hearing her mother's voice?
Stories From The Pumpkin Woods
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 29,810. Language: English. Published: April 9, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
(4.67 from 3 reviews)
This paranormal fantasy introduces readers to Bazu, who doesn't believe in the fanciful creatures her family says roams the Pumpkin Woods. Bazu's entire world changes when she meets a demon in the woods. The demon takes something from Bazu, and as she struggles to find what was hers she leaves her home in Ghostshadow and travels to other towns within the Pumpkin Woods, including Autumn Hollow.
In The Shadow of Peter
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 8,210. Language: English. Published: March 14, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Horror » General
(4.00 from 2 reviews)
What if everything you ever thought about Peter Pan and Captain Hook was wrong?
Wicked Things: Five Tales of Horror
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 9,560. Language: English. Published: March 12, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Horror » General
(5.00 from 1 review)
In this collection of short horror tales you will encounter things that bite: cancer, darkness, witches, demons, and the unknown.
Red World
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 15,760. Language: English. Published: March 8, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Horror » General, Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
Prisoners have a choice in the future: extermination or space. In space they are scouts, searching new planets and sending data back to Earth. One prisoner has a terrible feeling about the newest planet found, dubbed SQ1453 by scientists. He dreams of grotesque creatures that scream. He dreams of blood and death. The monsters beckon him to give them what they want: A red world.