Cynthia Pelayo is a Bram Stoker Award winning and International Latino Book Award winning author and poet. Pelayo writes fairy tales that blend genre and explore concepts of grief, mourning, and cycles of violence. She is the author of Loteria, Santa Muerte, The Missing, Poems of My Night, Into the Forest and All the Way Through, Children of Chicago, Crime Scene, The Shoemaker’s Magician, as well as dozens of standalone short stories and poems. Loteria, which was her MFA in Writing thesis at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, was re-released to praise with Esquire calling it one of the ‘Best Horror Books of 2023.’ Santa Muerte and The Missing, her young adult horror novels were each nominated for International Latino Book Awards. Poems of My Night was nominated for an Elgin Award. Into the Forest and All the Way Through was nominated for an Elgin Award and was also nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection. Children of Chicago was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award in Superior Achievement in a Novel and won an International Latino Book Award for Best Mystery. Crime Scene won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection. The Shoemaker’s Magician has been released to praise with Library Journal awarding it a starred review. Her forthcoming novel, The Forgotten Sisters, will be released by Thomas and Mercer in 2024 and is an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.” Cesar Toscano As a poet who writes horror and dark poetry, what is the process of writing in this genre? Cynthia Pelayo With writing poetry, the focus for me is to convey as much emotional weight as I can in as few words and as few lines as possible. As opposed to say a longer work, where you have more time, in poetry I have shorter space with which to work and so I aim to convey emotional urgency. CT As a Chicago writer, how does the city influence your writing? CP Chicago is a part of my everything, my poetry, my prose, my idea generation. Chicago is a living, breathing, constantly shifting city. There’s so much here, the people, the food, and the history from which I am always pulling from. CT When writing a story, how do you go about writing a story, is there a focus first on the horror, concepts, stories, or themes? CP It varies. Sometimes I will have an image and I will work with that as a starting point, and expand on that image. Other times I will have a theme and go from there, or sometimes there may be a historical event that I would like to cover. So, it really varies, but I like incorporating multiple themes and elements into my writing, so once I have that initial concept, I research extensively to see what can compliment that original idea. CT As the first Latino winner of Bram Stoker, how do you believe this affects other Latino writers? CP I think it shows others that it’s possible to achieve your dreams. Just because someone has never done something before does not mean that should stop you. You just have to stay focused, keep working and believe in yourself. CT Continuing on, what do you believe the industry has to do better with diverse voices? CP I think the industry needs to be more accommodating to the range of diverse voices, particularly among traditional presses. There are many stories that still need to be told and I’m looking forward to reading more diverse writers. CT What is your favorite subgenre of horror? CP Recently I’ve been enjoying quiet horror more and more. I like work that when you’re moving along, you just have this strange sense that something isn’t quite right with the characters or the environment, there’s this sense of unease. That’s a very impressive skill for any writer, so I have been enjoying that lately.
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