Feature Interview with Nicole Cushing

October 11, 2016

 
The Sadist’s Bible is a wild ride to say the least. Nicole Cushing is the author and the novella is working toward a secondary life in paperback. The title was released by 01 Publishing earlier in the year in digital formats.
In a way, The Sadist’s Bible is a little bit love, a little bit growth, a little bit carnal release and a whole lot of grand stage, sexual horror fantasy.
 
“When I sit down to write, I don’t willfully set out to push boundaries. That’s not my objective. My objective is to simply be honest about the aspects of life that I need to explore (trauma, mental illness, violence, loss, sexuality, spirituality, etc.). In the process of pursuing that honesty, I often find myself (by necessity) pushing boundaries. But, in my opinion, the boundary pushing isn’t the important thing. The honesty is.
“It’s always been important for me to explore grief, loss, trauma, addiction, violence, mental illness, and related experiences. These are my obsessions. (Although sometimes the darkness is spiked with a shot of gallows humor,)” said Cushing.
 
The recesses explored in The Sadist’s Bible are vast and suggestive of the name, at times feeling like descriptions of Dante or Milton –fire, ash, pain, ugliness.
 
“For me, a story usually starts with an extreme emotion or a visceral image. (Sometimes derived from nightmares or nightmarish daydreams. Sometimes from the persistence of a character who wants to make the leap from my brain to the page,)” said Cushing.
“I didn’t feel the need to censor myself with The Sadist’s Bible (and luckily, 01 Publishing didn’t feel the need to censor me either). That’s one of the reasons I value working with them.”
 
When The Sadist’s Bible came to my attention, it had already met praise and a Kickstarter fund was well underway (and still underway) to reaching $3,000.
 
“At their best, sites like Kickstarter mobilize a committed fan base to fund a project that wouldn’t otherwise happen. It’s a win/win. The publisher gets the funding they need to move forward with the project and the readers get a book they’ll truly love (possibly along with other rewards, too). Kickstarter creates an event and uses that event to build suspense. (Will we make the funding goal?) So in a way it’s telling a thirty-day-long story. Here are our goals. Here are our obstacles. Can we overcome them?
“Even better, it lets the readers become a part of that funding ‘story’. This sense that the readers, the author, and the publisher are all in the same boat can create an increased sense of closeness and commitment among all three,” said Cushing.
 
01 Publishing has a couple more than a handful of titles under its belt. It’s small, but maybe that’s for the better.
 
“In my experience, a strong small press respects the reader, the writer, and the writing in a way that even the best-intentioned big, corporate publishers can’t. I say this because the corporate folks in New York aren’t the masters of their own destinies. They work for their shareholders. As a result, every decision they make has to be filtered through the question: ‘Will this maximize profits?’. From what I understand, this creates an environment saturated with anxiety. No one wants to take on a book that’s only slightly profitable. As a result, the mainstream publishing industry begins to look a lot like the movie industry. They want blockbuster, tent pole projects. Even the mainstream books put forward as the most edgy and intense suffer from a strange emotional detachment and the depiction of stylized pseudo-emotions. Also, anything that’s too difficult or dark is shunned.
“This is a relatively new problem. Before the second half of the twentieth century, publishing was run by smaller companies that understood the need to balance art and commerce. Of course, they paid attention to the bottom line. They were businesspeople who had to be fiscally responsible. But they also felt an equally-important cultural responsibility. They understood that new ideas take a while to catch on, and that poor sales for innovative books could be endured if they were offset by large sales from other titles on their lists. They gave writers a chance to build a following. They took chances.
“That all changed with corporate control of literature. (I hasten to add that you shouldn’t take my word for any of this. Listen to someone who was active in publishing when the big changes happened. The late André Schiffrin’s memoir The Business of Books should be required reading for anyone with even half a notion of working with corporate publishers.)
“We now live in a time when the small press is the only place where you’re going to find untamed fiction. It’s the literary neighborhood that hasn’t been gentrified yet. (And, with any luck, it never will be,) said Cushing.
 
Of course, as the general they say, every coin has two sides.
 
“Probably the biggest negative is that it can be difficult for small press books to end up on actual brick and mortar bookstore shelves. Especially at chain stores like Barnes and Noble or Books a Million. Even if the publisher makes such orders relatively easy to do (for example, offering bookstores the same sort of wholesale deal that any other publisher would), small presses don’t have the money to get the bookstores’ attention. The corporate publishers dispatch salespeople to push their titles. They can also pay the bookstores to put their books in preferred locations, in special displays, etc. It’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a small press to offer the same sort of push.
“In a field like horror, this is less of a problem because so many brick and mortar stores have gone decades without a dedicated horror section anyway. It’s also less of a problem because online retailers like Amazon have created a world where any book is just a click away. But this issue still impacts a book’s visibility (hence, its discoverability). And yeah, people still buy books at bookstores. So if you’re not there you lose sales.
“The other negative is that, unlike the legal or medical professions, anyone can wake up one morning, set up a Wordpress blog, and declare themselves a publisher. So with a small press career you need to do your homework before signing a contract so you can figure out who’s legit and who’s a kook (or a con man, or a loveable-but-ineffectual flake). Blogs like Writer Beware can be helpful with this sort of thing. I encourage any newer writer who’s reading this to visit that site,” said Cushing.
 
Big or small publisher, the work –writing, reading and marketing cannot do itself.
 
“After my breakfast and coffee, I’ll look over the same half-dozen websites I always check out in the morning. Then I do a little reading (either thirty minutes or an hour, depending on how demanding my schedule is at the time). Reading is my daily exercise, my calisthenics. After reading, I write for a few hours. Afternoons tend to be devoted to doing marketing and PR stuff. (Like answering interview questions,)” said Cushing.
“I’ve done readings and signing events all over the place. I still have family back on the East Coast, so I’ll often try to combine my travel plans with a convention or bookstore signing there. I’ve had readings at the World Horror Convention and StokerCon. I also try to do events in my own region around Halloween. Every year I coordinate the Horror Writers Association’s presence at ScareFest (an early-October horror con in Lexington, Kentucky). This year, on Saturday October 29th, I’m doing a reading and signing at Dearly Departed Books (a store in Alliance, Ohio).”
 
“No one deserves to be put on a pedestal,” said Cushing when asked about heroes. There were always influences however.
 
“My parents were pretty uptight, so horror fiction wasn’t allowed in my house when I was growing up. But thankfully, my middle and high school teachers helped to expose me to darker fiction and poetry. In one class we read Poe’s work and Emily Dickinson’s. In another we read the ancient Greek tragedy Medea. In another we read short fiction by Guy de Maupassant and Sartre. I recall being introduced to J.D. Salinger, Joseph Conrad, and Shakespeare as well. At my local newsstand (of all places), I was able to get my hands on a copy of Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney. McInerney, Salinger, and Poe were definite influences on my first novel, Mr. Suicide. (As was Jack Ketchum, who I didn’t read until I was well into my twenties. And Thomas Ligotti, who I didn’t read until my thirties,)” said Cushing.
“I knew from early childhood that I wanted to be a writer, but I’m a late bloomer and only made an earnest go of it about eight years ago (when I hit my mid-thirties). It took me that long to establish the confidence, work ethic, and stability necessary to move forward with this ambition.”
 
Nicole Cushing was contacted by email and we thank her for her time.
 
For more information on The Sadist’s Bible and Nicole Cushing, here are the pertinent links:
Website  01 Publishing  Kickstarter  Twitter  Facebook   Goodreads
 
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Unnerving 
Powell River, British Columbia, Canada
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