Featured Author: Allie Marini Batts
Story: First, Make a Roux
State of Horror: Louisiana Volume I
Allie Marini Batts holds degrees from Antioch University of Los Angeles & New College of Florida, meaning she can explain deconstructionism, but cannot perform simple math. Her work has been a finalist for Best of the Net & nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is managing editor for the NonBinary Review, Unbound Octavo, & Zoetic Press, & has previously served on the masthead for Lunch Ticket, Spry Literary Journal, The Weekenders Magazine, Mojave River Review & Press, & The Bookshelf Bombshells. Allie is the author of Unmade & Other Poems, (Beautysleep Press, 2013) & You Might Curse Before You Bless (ELJ Publications, 2013). She has 5 collections forthcoming in 2015: wingless, scorched & beautiful, (Imaginary Friend Press), Before Fire, (ELJ Publications), This Is How We End (Bitterzoet), Pictures From The Center Of The Universe (Paper Nautilus, winner of the Vella Prize) & Southern Cryptozoology: A Field Guide To Beasts Of The Southern Wild (Hyacinth Girl Press.) Allie rarely sleeps, and her mother has hypothesized that she is actually a robot fueled by Diet Coke & Sri Racha. Find her on the web: facebook.com/AllieMariniBatts or @kiddeternity
Synopsis: “First, Make a Roux” from State of Horror: Louisiana Volume I
Blanche is recently divorced and trying to make her way on her own. Cooking was always a big part of her time with her Grandmother—who taught her to cook and life lessons at the same time. Blanche is basically depressed and having a hard time—kind of floundering. She decides to go to an estate sale to replace some of the items she lost in the divorce. She ends up at a quaint little Victorian house. The sale is being run by an elderly woman—the sister of Marigy who was the owner of the house. As Blanche wanders through the rooms she is drawn to an old crock-pot, and asks the sister to hold it for her. Then Blanche wanders through the house and gets to know Marigy through her things. Marigy had had three husbands and traveled a great deal and cooked along the same lines as Blanche’s grandmother had. Blanche picked up small meaningful items to buy from some of the rooms—items which called to her. After spending a great deal of time there, Blanche goes to pay for her purchases and talks to the sister. The sister senses Blanche’s difficulties and gives her a special recipe to make in the slow-cooker which she claims is magic and will heal Blanche’s heart. How far will someone go to heal a broken heart?
“This recipe, it is only one to make in the slow cooker. It is special, you understand?”
Perhaps Marigny’s sister was right, the cooker was magic, and it would heal her heart. She could use a good meal.
Time to Allie Marini Batts
Charon Coin Press: What inspired your story in State of Horror?
Allie Marini Batts: “First, Make a Roux” is a story that I originally wrote for Post Mortem Press’ The Ghost IS The Machine anthology—the idea was to write about a machine or piece of technology that was in some way haunted. I thought, why not a Crock Pot that can take on the intentions of its owner & exert its will onto the physical world? I didn’t make the deadline for Post Mortem, but the idea for the story was sound. So I spent about a year editing & revising it to get it into the state it’s in now.
CCP: Is there a reason this particular state appealed to you?
AMB: For 15 years, I lived in North Florida, within a day’s drive of Louisiana. As a self-identified goth, it’s practically mandatory to have a love of New Orleans. And with so much witchy stuff associated with the state, it seemed an ideal setting for this story, and one that would be easier for me to research & get the details right, since so much of it was practically in my backyard.
CCP: What do you look for in a horror story as a reader?
AMB: I look for the psychological aspect of horror more than the physical—I guess if you make the distinction of horror being a severed head & terror being the trail of blood that leads you to the severed head, I prefer (as a reader & as a writer) to focus more on the terror, the unspoken fear, the unknown element that propels the story forward. I’m also very character-driven as a writer & as a reader. One of my mentors in the MFA pogram at Antioch, Tananarive Due, gives students writing genre fiction this rule: What happens in your story is not necessarily what your story is about. Once you know what your story is actually about, you can create compelling, believable characters who act authentically in whatever situation you place them.
CCP: What is your favorite writing snack food?
AMB: Popcorn and/or apples, preferably Honeycrisp or Envy.
CCP: What other works do you have out there?
AMB: Lord, I have a lot of work out there. One of these days I’ll update my website to include everything. I publish primarily in poetry, and I have 6 poetry collections either in print or forthcoming this year, as well as a collection of creative non-fiction, which was one of the Vella Prize winners. These titles are: Unmade & Other Poems, (Beautysleep Press, 2013), You Might Curse Before You Bless (ELJ Publications, 2013), wingless, scorched & beautiful, (Imaginary Friend Press, 2015), Before Fire, (ELJ Publications, 2015), This Is How We End (Bitterzoet, 2015), Pictures From The Center Of The Universe (Paper Nautilus, winner of the Vella Prize, 2015) & Southern Cryptozoology: A Field Guide To Beasts Of The Southern Wild (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2015). Last year, my short story, “Summer of the Cicada” (also a Southern Gothic/ horror story) won the Psychopomp contest in fiction.
CCP: What is one important thing the readers need to know about you?
AMB: That I don’t actually think they need to know anything about me to appreciate my story—ideally, I disappear and the only people they need to concern themselves with are Blanche & Marigny’s sister.
CCP: Who are your favorite authors?
AMB: Wow, loaded question. Most of the time it depends on the day you ask & what I’m reading. I’m a pretty voracious reader & I appreciate work across all genres. So, are we talking poetry? CNF? Fiction? Horror? Comic books? Short list where I will leave out a lot of favorites: Stephen Chbosky, Tiffanie DeBartolo, V.C. Andrews, Gunter Grass, Lawrence Durrell, Nicole Blackman, Amanda Palmer, Terry Moore, Neil Gaiman, Ann Nocenti, Alan Moore, Erica Jong, Elizabeth Hand, Kelly Link, Aimee Bender, Judy Budnitz, Anne Rice.
CCP: What drew you to State of Horror?
AMB: I saw the call for horror stories set in Louisiana & thought “First, Make a Roux” would be a good fit. I hoped that the fact that much of the story is psychological horror wouldn’t count it out, and luckily, my restrained approach to the horror element of the story seemed to resonate with the editors.
CCP: Do you have a favorite state or state you are waiting to open?
AMB: Florida, because it’s my heart & my home, even though I moved to the West Coast this year.
CCP: Music or no music when writing? (and if yes on music, what are you listening to?)
AMB: Depends. If I do, it’s generally either Cocteau Twins’ Heaven or Las Vegas or Golden Palominos’ Dead Inside.
CCP: If you could go anywhere in the world right now where would you go and why?
AMB: Gdansk, Poland, because that’s where the author Gunter Grass lives. I’ve been working on translations and critical essays pertaining to his 1977 novel The Flounder for 20 years, and I would love to meet him & show him my work while I still can.
CCP: What was the hardest part about writing your story?
AMB: The research. I’m very detail-oriented & I know that one wrong detail can completely blow the suspension of disbelief that’s necessary to keep a reader engaged. So for this story, because I’ve only visited New Orleans, but not lived there, I had to do a lot of research on the streets, how they run, what they look like & the architecture of the area. Next, I wanted to make sure that it was clear that I was writing Blanche as a Cajun, not Creole, character, because the difference is profound & can make the difference between writing outside of what you know & cultural appropriation. So learning the names, expressions, diction, & recipes associated with New Orleans Cajun culture took up a significant amount of time, to ensure I wasn’t just assuming that all New Orleans French cultures are the same, as well as the correct handling of the spiritual & occult beliefs of each distinct culture.
CCP: Do you have any writing rituals?
AMB: Not really anything specific, just the general ritual that I think is true of most writers: Way too much coffee, late nights and/or sleepless nights, and a general disregard for the outside world & personal hygiene until the project is done.
Do you want to learn more about Allie Marini Batts? It is as easy as following her on Twitter (@kiddeternity) or visiting her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AllieMariniBatts. We would like to thank Batts for taking the time to spend with us and allowing you, the reader, to peek behind the curtain. Pick up any of the stories listed above and fall into the worlds created by Allie Marini Batts.