Interview with M.J. Orz

*How long have you been writing for?*
I started writing for fun in high school, but stopped for some time once I went to college. I didn’t pick up into writing until I was teaching Middle School in Baltimore City when I got much more into the local theatre scene. I had written plays before and produced a few with a local company I started in 2011, but didn’t take writing seriously until around 2013. I never even touched horror until about 2015 when some of my short stories started doing well on NoSleep (reddit). With positive reviews came more opportunity and here I am!

*How many rejections did you receive before you first became published
and how did you stay motivated?*
I am literally still getting rejections today from my now-published book. Motivation is tough to find though after receiving enough rejection. I self published my first novel after I received the few two dozen agent rejections. After I saw minimal success with that and with the push from, of all unlikely places, the contemporary romance writer Toni Cross (who I actually work with in my day job, believe it or not!) I stuck it out with my second book, ANDREW, until I received that long awaited “alright, we’ll give you a shot, kid” letter.

*Favorite Author and book when you were a child?*
As a child, like many, my favorite was R.L. Stine. I’ve always loved horror. My brother (Gregor) and I used to sit outside of my grandmothers house listening to cassette tapes from the local library on my grandmother’s old radio of narrated horror tales. I also have vivid memories of my mother reading us The Beast From The East (Goosebumps) one night when the power went out. Because of that moment, I can say that might be my favorite childhood book.

*What music do you listen to when you write?*
I love music in all of it’s forms. If you have ever seen me or know my history with music (I’m a long-time “hardcore” – or whatever you want to call it – drummer) then you’d understand why people get confused when I tell them my favorite music comes from Broadway musicals, Puccini operas, and most recently bluegrass (Chris Thile is a personal favorite). Beyond that, I’m a big podcast listener, which fuels ideas for stories or just “gets me in a creepy mood”. I even added a very talented young man, Anthony Luciano and his podcast “IRRATIONAL FEARS” to my personal website (horrorfictionblog.com). The kid is a natural talent is brilliant beyond his years. I recommend giving his narrations and stories a listen if you’re looking for something to have rolling while trying to get your spooky story juices flowing!

*Any superstitious rituals that you go through when beginning a new
story?*
I have to be in a place where I “can’t write”. My best ideas come when I am at work or driving downtown, or anywhere like that. If I say “I’m gonna write a story now” and sit down to do it, it simply won’t happen. I also have a bad habit of writing in small parts and saving documents on multiple devices. I’ve, on many occasions, had to put the pieces together like a puzzle from laptop, to desktop, to phone, etc. Not very productive, but it works for me.

*Favorite book released in the last year?*
As far as horror, I am currently reading an Advanced Reader Copy of Ania Ahlborn’s “The Devil Crept In” and I can say that it has really turned into something great. I can’t wait for her to release it in the next few months so I can talk to people about it. Seriously good stuff! Outside of horror, I’m actually a fan of mathematics and one of my coworkers pointed me to Martin Gardner’s “The Unexpected Hanging and Other Mathematical Diversions”, which have been a constant conversation starter for me this year. If you like strange math or just really interesting plays-on-numbers, I highly recommend it!

*Favorite book released in general?*
Oh, the dreaded “favorite book” question. I wish I could give a long list every time. I am a big reader and have a hard time remembering half of the stuff I read. I feel like a lot of it is such a “in the moment” type of thing. I would have to say the one that stuck with me the most however, as cheesy and out-of-my-genre as it is would either be Perks of Being a Wallflower or possibly Catcher In The Rye. I read them both over and over again while in high school and they really helped me feel like I wasn’t alone in a lot of tight spots. Holden and Charlie both really allowed you to understand that the teenage mind is a dangerous place and that we all have our own demons. It was inspirational to me at the time and, for that, holds a strange spot in my heart as far as favorites go.

*Favorite quote from a book that is not your own?*
Possibly Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” quote: “We are what we always were, but naked now. Aye, and the wind. God’s icy wind will blow!” It is this amazing scene that speaks so truly on human judgement and cruelty. All things come to light and Miller was able to use this line to express that right in the middle of such an insanely powerful script.

*Favorite quote from one of your own works?*
There is an opening line to a story in ANDREW that starts with: “I walked towards Mr. Samuels’ room with a syringe of calorie mush that I intended to squeeze directly into his stomach.” I laugh at that line every time I read it.

*Do you play any table top RPGS?
Ha! Absolutely! I am in the middle of writing my first horror-themed D&D adventure now (it’ll be my first time as a DM too!). I also played a LOT of Magic: The Gathering (not quite table top RPG, but still relevant). I’m a nerd and I embrace. I will always jump as the chance to play a fun RPG.

*If so, tell us about your favorite character that you’ve used.
“I would say my favorite table top character I’ve made in the past is Newgylio, a half orc barbarian. He was big and dumb and perfect. Newgylio just smashed everything. Such a fun character to play!”

*Advice for new writers who are struggling with character creation?*
Step outside of the box! Don’t feel limited. Go beyond your comfort zone and pull yourself back. It’s always easier to trim a character down than to build one up!

*E-Reader or Physical copy?
Physical copy. Always. I used to obsessively keep every book I read, which lead to a lot of money being spent and lots of boxes taking space in my basement. My wife eventually talked me into donating them all to a local book charity here in Baltimore, which unfortunately burned down only two weeks after I donated them – along with all of my books. I had never been quite so salty. (disclaimer: it was not my wife’s doing. She was right in making me get rid of them. They were taking up SO much space in the basement and I never touched them after reading them)

*Favorite genre to read?
Probably horror at the moment. Anything that really puzzles me or makes me think, honestly.

*What first inspired you to become a writer?
A love of theatre and a want to create something bigger than myself. I wanted to make something for people to see and to understand and to feel. There is no better place to do that than in the theatre.

*Tell us your favorite joke.*
This is kind of an adult joke, but I can assume your readers are mostly 16+ or so, so here you go: “There was once a man named Earl. He loved to drive really fast. I mean REALLY fast. One day he was driving his pick up truck across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at about 100 mph, laughing his head off. At the end of the bridge he saw lights going off and was immediately pulled over by the police. The cop says to him “Son, do you know how fast you were going?” Earl looks at him and silently nods. The officer then asks, “You work around here?”. Earl nods again. The officer asks “And what is it that you do?” Earl replies “You see, sir, I’m and asshole stretcher.” The cop, absolutely appalled, asks him “what in the world is that?” Earl says to the officer “Well, officer, I go into work and I start stretching and pulling assholes until they are about six feet across. Then I go home for the day.” The officer looks at him, even more confused and asks “What the hell does one do with a six foot asshole?” Earl smiles and replies “You stick him at the end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge with a radar gun.”

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