A couple of weeks ago, we reviewed The Eighth and found it to be an innovative tale of horror and politics in Hell. Today, we close out the month interviewing author Stephanie M. Wytovich about her debut novel and her influences in the horror genre. 

Professional image of Stephanie M. Wytovich.

So let’s kick off with a wide question. Who are the most important influences on your work? What novels or movies would you consider essential viewing for fans of horror?

For The Eighth, I was highly influenced by Clive Barker’s Mister B. Gone, in addition to his artwork. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t include Dante Alighieri’s Inferno (La Divina Commedia #1) and Paradise Lost by John Milton. I tend to be a very visual person, so the romantic quality of the classics are huge game pieces for me, and as I spent some time studying Renaissance Art in Italy, being around Dante’s grave and home was very inspirational for me.

As to essential viewing for horror fans, when I was writing the novel, I watched Hellraiser a lot. Same with Se7en. Pain and pleasure, sex and death, the seven deadly sins… it’s hard to go wrong with that!

The usual view is that authors put some of themselves into their characters. How personal would you say The Eighth was? 

The Eighth is personal to me for a lot of reasons. All of the characters go through some pretty severe heartbreak that transforms them into something different… and I think that’s a very relatable process that most people can sympathize with. I also tend to be the type of person who doesn’t see the world in black and white, so I think the gray area of right and wrong, true and false, is something that is similar to my thought process, so I wanted to heighten that and reflect it in the decision-making processes throughout the novel.

Who was your favorite character to write throughout this process?

Arazel was easily my favorite character to write, and if truth be told, she’s my favorite character in the series. I like and admire her strength, both physically and emotionally, and the fact that she always follows her heart is inspiring, even if it tends to lead her to pain. To me, she’s a representation of fire, lust, and all things that burn, so her personality is sassy, sultry, and very in-your-face. 

Readers will be seeing more of her for sure, but the road to get to her will definitely not be easy, and I can’t promise that she’ll be the same person once we get there.

Did you listen to any particular music groups while you wrote it? And if you could pick a composer to write the score for The Eighth, who would it be?

I always listen to music when I write because I get distracted easily so if there is chaos around me, it forces me to focus on the story more. I actually have a play list for the novel on Spotify, and if I had to pick a specific song to encompass the novel, it would be “Baptize Me” by The Exies.

The ending hints at a sequel. Do you have any hints as to the direction the conflict between the Devil and the Seven will go? Will we see other religions examined, or will it all remain intra-Hell and Earth?

Oh, yes. I have two more books planned (Deadly Sin and Blessed Dark), and I’m working on the sequel as we speak. Paimon has quite the journey ahead of him. He will see more of the underworld and undergo feats and trials that will make The Pit look like child’s play… plus, he’ll be doing it in new skin, as it were.

As to the religious influences, I can’t give too much away, but yes, other religions will be examined as he moves through the underworld. After all, everyone’s version of Hell is different, so I intend to play with that and hopefully do it justice.

A final question before we call it a night. You mentioned you enjoyed Hellraiser a fair bit. Have you ever entertained the thought of designing your own cenobite before? Any particular themes you’d see in him/her?

I’ve actually never thought of that before, but now it’s pretty much all I can think about because I love the cenobites— Chatter probably being my favorite. If I had to create my own, there would definitely be a BDSM theme going on, and it would probably center around sex in some fashion with lots of form-fitting leather, whips, and long, fingernails that looked like knives. I think it would also be pretty cool to have her (of course it’s a her) pull something along the lines of the vagina dentata in her look, because that plays with the whole sexual punishment theme that Clive Barker wrote to. 

Thanks for your time Stephanie! If you enjoyed works of horror, follow her on Twitter at @JustAfterSunset.