Wednesday, January 31, 2024

What I Read in January

 New year, new reading challenge, new chance to break some of last year's reading records!

Kicking off the year with a not so horrible start from a total-books-read perspective, but MAN was it a rough start from a books-I-should-have-DNFd perspective.Things did not start out really great from a rating scale for sure. 

But I clocked in 10 books total (one of which I read for publicity purposes so I won't include it here). 

Check out which ones were flops and which ones were fabs:

The Shining Sea by Koji Suzuki

Why in the world is this thing shelved in the horror section?! It's the farthest thing from horror out there!

It's a story about a pregnant woman who attempts to drown herself in the ocean, ends up in a mental hospital, is unable or unwilling to speak, and has baffled the doctors there. She's an absolute mystery until another patient hears her humming an obscure song he knows, uncovers her identity, and helps the hospital collect information about her so they can figure out (1) why she tried to kill herself and (2) how to make her better before she delivers the baby.

It's not at all what I was expecting because I BOUGHT IT IN THE HORROR SECTION. The only horror here is the true horror I felt when I realized I had bought a book in HARDCOVER thinking it was going to reveal a deliciously weird, dark twist somewhere and there wasn't even the TEENIEST TINIEST fragment of horror in it.

What's HORRIFYING... is the sheer amount of cheating that takes place in this book.

I want my money back.

The Woods All Black by Lee Mandelo

Nope. Nuh-uh. No way. WTF did I just subject myself to?!?!

I was ok with the queerness and with it being set in backwoods Appalachia, but the monster porn? Yeah, no. That was a genre line I was not expecting to cross.

... My 2024 reading year is NOT off to a good start you guys...

The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada

Hello you strange little thing!

Easy to read, yet maddening abstruse, The Factory introduces us to three new employees as they acclimate to their jobs - a document shredder, a proofreader, and one who studies and catalogs the moss that grows around the property. We quickly learn that the Factory is much more than just its offices. It has its own housing sections, cafeterias and restaurants, bus and laundry services, museum, rivers and forests... it even appears to have its very own ecosystem of birds and beavers... and yet no one really seems to know what it is The Factory actually does, or how they contribute to the bigger picture.

We follow our three workers around as they chat with thier co-workers, struggle to get comfortable within the mind numbing limitations of their roles, and explore the property in search of answers they may never receive to questions they may never ask aloud.

Honestly, not much happens, but I'm not complaining.

This one will be a good fit for readers who've enjoyed Helen Phillip's The Beautiful Bureaucrat, Jesse Ball's The Cure For Suicide, and Olga Ravn's The Employees.

Ghost Station by SA Barnes

You guys, I was sooo close to DNFing this around the 30% mark... it was really slow and kinda boring and not meeting my expectations at all. But I had read and loved Dead Silence... so I talked myself into giving it more time to wow me. And I'm glad I did.

Ophelia is a psychologist who travels with space teams that have experienced trauma, with the intent of getting them to open up about their grief, help them process their feelings, and assess them for potential risk of ERS - a space based mental illness that, when left unchecked, could cause the sufferer to inflict severe harm on themselves and others. Ophelia is also running away from a past that continues to haunt her no matter where she goes.

The team to which she is assigned is headed out to a planet that used to belong to Pinnacle, her uncle's company, but has been abandoned for the past six years. All scans showed no sign of life. Their mission is to collect some samples and get the hab back up and running. But once on site, she can't help but feel there is something very 'off' about the place. Bad memories start to resurface, she finds unsettling objects left behind in the debris, and one of the crew members is starting to act strange...

Once the weird stuff starts up, the book really gets rolling, and the last third, gosh, it just flies by at whiplash speed. More psychological terror than actual horror, it'll definitely scratch your claustrophic stuck-in-space itch!!

Carnality by Lina Wolff

I have been waiting to get my hands on this book for quite some time so when it suddenly appeared on the shelf at the bookstore, I wasted no time in snagging it.

The book kicks off with an unnamed writer who has earned a three month long all-expenses-paid stay in Madrid. She visits the local bar and meets a man with a very strange story to tell. He is running from a ninety year old nun who is part of a shady underground TV talk show he recently appeared on. Instead of being reconciled with his terminally ill wife after admitting, and begging forgiveness for, his extramarital affairs on air, the nun is sending her henchman after him to collect her due. Feeling bad for him, the writer allows the man to crash at her place and finds herself pulled deeper than she could have ever anticipated into his dark and twisted story.

Carnality is chock full of sex, religion, humiliation, and violence. It's a book about how far people might go to receive, and provide, the salvation they think they deserve. And it's quite the little mindfuck! I loved every weird minute of it!

The Wild Dark by Katherine Silva

The Wild Dark is an overwhelming blend of post-apocalyptic, crime thriller, and paranormal fantasy in which 85% of the world's population are suddenly being visited by dead loved ones. The "affected" can only see the ghosts that are attached to them, but even more haunting than that is the knowledge that their ghosts were previously trapped in a forest, a purgatory of sorts, and now they are being hunted by otherwordly wolves who are intent on dragging them back to the other side.

The goverment and medical specialists are baffled, trying to explain away this phenomenom as hallucinations brought on by a highly contagious virus of unknown origins. However Liz, an ex police detective, and her deceased partner Brody, who cannot yet remember the details of his death or the events that led up to it, don't believe for a second that that's the case. They are hell bent on figuring out why this is happening in the midst of the ensuing chaos that erupts as a result of these two worlds - that of the living and of the dead - colliding.

I had a couple qualms with this one. First, random comma placements all throughout the book like whaaaah were a terrible distraction. Second, Liz gets romantically hung up on way too many dudes in this book. And third, there are waaaaay too many blackout scenes. As in Liz herself, PLUS various others that she travels with in this book, get hurt to the point of complete blackout. Over and over and over again. I mean, ok, suspension of belief is a must with this type of novel but c'mon. Once the story got going, it felt like every other chapter ended with a mini cliffhanger where someone passed out, and then the next chapter opened with them waking up in a strange place with new bruises, broken bones, and head injuries. Sigh.

I really really wanted to like this one more than I did. It was just ok for me. Great concept, less than average execution. And it looks to be the first in a series... which I do not anticipate following.

Kosa by John Durgin

Aw man, what is it with me and the horror books I've been reading lately? Either I am becoming totally numb and jaded to the genre or my expectations are just set ridiculously high. Add this one to the #meh pile.

A retelling of Rapunzel but make it horror. Only... it's not that horrorifying. True, there is a witch in the woods and some creepy cat things. There are some kidnapped children. There's some hair eating and some cannibalism. All the ingredients of a really good scary story were there but something about the writing style just fell flat for me.

I felt like I was reading a book geared more towards a YA audience than adults. The gory parts weren't gory enough. The jump scares felt more like peek-a-boo scenes. There was no real dread or tension.

I know I will likely be in the minority here, and I'm ok with that. Looking forward to seeing what you think if you get your hands on this one!

The Blondes by Emily Schultz

A pandemic in which your gender and the color of your hair determines whether you will turn rabid and brutually attack others? Ok, sign me up.

You're going to have to throw basic logic out the window for this one though because the virus only affects blonde females. And not just natural blonde females. It also affects dyed blondes. But if you shave your head and pubes, you might trick the virus into passing you by. Which, what? That makes like zero sense since the virus is supposed to interact with your genes and cutting your hair or dying it won't change your genetic markers but whatever, here we go, we're committed and we're going along for the ride...

So blonde women catch this virus and begin going mad, ragey and bitey, killing people left and right. In no time, the body count is in the hundred thousands A DAY and the world shifts into pandemic mode. Our red headed protagonist Hazel finds out she is pregnant on the day of the inital outbreak and the rest of the book follows her as she decides to find a place willing to terminate the pregnancy while also trying to locate the baby daddy so she can let him know. Of course, neither of those things are going happen without a fight, especially when the government begins to lock things down and segregate anyone who may have been exposed or is at risk for The Blonde Fury.

I love that Schultz wrote a book in which a virus specifically targets the hollywood standard for beauty, the C'mon Barbie let's go party people of the world. What was once coveted is now feared.

And while it's dark due to the subject matter - pandemic times, unwanted pregnancy, maritial affairs - it's also darkly humorous and at times a little cheeky. Hazel has the most hilarious nicknames for her unborn baby and ends up spending some incredibly uncomfortable time in close quarters with her baby daddy's wife. It gently balances hope and compassion and optimism while also showcasing the horror and fears of the unknown.

Withered by AGA Wilmot

AGA Wilmot puts an interesting spin on the haunted house genre in their forthcoming novel Withered. Be prepared, this one might pull on your... (ahem) ... heart strings!

Eighteen year old Ellis and their mother Robyn are moving back to her old hometown on the tail of their father's untimely passing. The house came cheap and the local teens waste no time explaining to Ellis that it's because the place is haunted. Their mother doesn't believe it, chalking it up to small town chatter. But as Ellis grows closer to Quinn, a pretty girl they quickly develop feelings for, who has also recently lost a family member, they discover there might be more to the rumors than just... rumours.

Neighbors begin to show up, begging Robyn to let their sick and elderly rest on the lawn, claiming "she" will care for them. Others claim to see their dead loved ones hanging around the property. And Ellis begins to notice odd bumps behind the wallpaper that, when pressed, appear to give off heat and throb beneath their fingers. And what of the strange voice they hear claiming "I am not what I seem"...

Withered does a nice job layering in topics of grief, eating disorders, fat shaming, queerness, and mental health, which do not necessarily tie directly into the creepy, haunted housey stuff but does help us invest more deeply into the characters and root for them more loudly as the battle between the living and the dead is brought, literally, to their front porch.

This one is best for readers who are in the mood for something with less scares and more heart.

Monday, January 29, 2024

The 40 But 10 Interview Series: Jon Chaiim McConnell


I had decided to retire the literary Would You Rather series, but didn't want to stop interviews on the site all together. Instead, I've pulled together 40ish questions - some bookish, some silly - and have asked authors to limit themselves to answering only 10 of them. That way, it keeps the interviews fresh and connectable for all of us!

Say hi to Jon Chaiim McConnell. Jon lives in Delaware. He is the author of thrum (2021, Eye Cult Attic), and his short fiction can be found in Heavy Feather Review, Yemassee, and Blackbird, among others. He is the former Fiction Editor of Split Lip Magazine, Redivider, and a former Associate Editor of Whole Beast Rag.

Why do you write?

I have a mechanical compulsion to write, and it comes out of a need to 1) articulate myself in ways that I never get a chance to in the course of normal life and 2) to problem solve (like as an activity; solving the puzzle of how a piece of writing can be successfully expressed is my favorite thing to do). I go back and forth on the idea about whether this is “enough” of a reason or not. Today I think it is.

What’s your kryptonite as a writer?

Characters – I feel like there is a spectrum of types of writers, and I am not on that side of it.

If I’m collaborating with someone I’ll do everything I can to end up with effective characters on the page, but in my own work it’s when I finally focused on emphasizing my strengths as a writer rather than trying to balance things out that my work started being published, receiving good feedback, etc. Sharpening the edges instead of rounding them out.

What’s the best money you’ve ever spent as a writer?

I’ve only done it twice, but getting an AirBnb for a few days and turning it into my own personal writers retreat. One of them was at a pool house in Northridge CA during the summer with just enough room for the bed, the desk, and about six feet to pace across back and forth.

I’d recommend it to anyone.

What are some of your favorite books and/or authors?

The Road is probably my single favorite if I had to pick, and then Obscene Bird of Night by Jose Donoso has inserted itself in every book conversation I’ve had over the past few years, so that goes on top of my list now. I recommended MEM by Bethany Morrow to everyone I know and it’s become one of my totems while I write, alongside Crystal Eaters by Shane Jones. The Pulp vs The Throne by Carrie Lorig changed how I think about books entirely.

What is your favorite book from childhood?

Probably either the Asian Saga books from James Clavell, LOTR, or The Belgariad series. Sabriel and The Abhorsen series by Garth Nix stuck with me a lot actually, and I think I used the name of the “cat” (spoilers) from those books as a username for just about everything online when I was in high school.

What are you currently reading?

Comics/graphic novels – I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do. Alan Moore’s Promethea. Anything that looks the slightest bit twee or fantastical from Image (Arclight by Brandon Graham and Marian Churchland, Angelic by Simon Spurrier and Caspar Wijngaard), and then my wife just got me Sandman so I’ve finally started reading that.

Do you read the reviews of your books or do you stay far far away from them, and why?

Oh I read them, I’m desperate for the attention implied in them – especially if someone starts extrapolating something from the book that I hadn’t thought of, didn’t mean, or don’t agree with. I’m (usually) fairly good about shutting off and getting to more important things, so I’ll let myself indulge. If I’m writing to articulate myself, then I gotta know if it’s worked.

It’s at least healthier than indulging on social media as the third party to someone else’s back and forth, right?

Do you DNF books?

I do now, with fiction at least. Non-fiction and poetry I’ll tend to stick it through no matter what because of my unfamiliarity with the writing process for them, but with fiction it feels (arrogantly) like I can see behind the curtain. And unless I find that things back there are being impressively, expertly, put together OR are a nearly incomprehensible gambit that I need to see if they can pull off, I can tend to get a little bored.

What are your bookish pet peeves?

That thing where book covers have yearly fashion trends – when several books a year come out with essentially the same cover, from a design perspective, it feels almost disrespectful to the author? In an impersonal “let’s move some product” kind of way.

I know why it happens, I just don’t like that it does.

Also, the thing where the most grounded, realistic, sober examination of a domestic conflict will have the most cryptic, abstract and fantastical title you’ve ever seen. Editors should impose a weirdness tax on an author’s revisions if the title of a book is anything more than 50% more mystical than the plot.


Are you a book hoarder or a book unhauler?

I hoard. I’ll discover something, like an author’s favorite author, and go down the rabbit hole. I’ll sometimes do a thing where I want the project I’m working on to be the product of certain books, as in “this is the type of book that would have been written by someone who’s read x, y, and z.”

Sometimes I’ll get distracted though and it becomes more like “this is the type of book that would have been written by someone who owns x, y, and z, but then read these other three books instead.”

And then they all remain on my shelves for years, on the off chance I’ll live up to that original promise.

Sometimes I do.


“The tenuous infrastructure of a society fueled by liquid electricity is on the verge of collapsing. thrum is the story of a city in a state of aneurysm, told by a man who believes he's fortunate enough to have escaped to the countryside, a woman without the means to, and the long history of obsessive excavation that, for centuries, has invited ruin.”


Buy a copy

Monday, January 22, 2024

the 40 but 10 Interview Series: Kerry Langan

I had decided to retire the literary Would You Rather series, but didn't want to stop interviews on the site all together. Instead, I've pulled together 40ish questions - some bookish, some silly - and have asked authors to limit themselves to answering only 10 of them. That way, it keeps the interviews fresh and connectable for all of us!

Say hi to Kerry Langan. Kerry has published three collections of short stories, My Name Is Your Name & Other Stories, the most recent. Her fiction has appeared in more than 50 literary magazines published in North America, the U.K. and Asia, including The Saturday Evening Post, Persimmon Tree, StoryQuarterly, West Branch, Cimarron ReviewOther VoicesThe Seattle ReviewLiterary MamaRosebud, The Blue Mountain Review, The Fictional Café, JMWWReflex Fiction, Fictive Dream, Capsule Stories, and others. Her stories have been anthologized in XX Eccentric: Stories About the Eccentricities of Women and in Solace in So Many Words. She was a recently featured author on the podcast, Short Story Today. Her work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions 2023. Her nonfiction has appeared in Working Mother and Shifting Balance Sheets: Women’s Stories of Naturalized Citizenship & Cultural Attachment.

Why do you write?


I recently described my writing to someone as “an addiction”. Being seated at my computer several hours a day is a must rather than a choice. I don’t know how not to write, and I’m happy about that, very happy.


What do you do when you’re not writing?


I’m an editor and spend time reading and editing other authors’ works. Reading is like breathing to me. There’s always a stack of books, mostly fiction, and literary journals on my desk and nightstand. I love films, seeing narrative on a screen, and listening to many genres of music. Music motivates me to get up from my desk and take exercise breaks throughout the day. I live near a beautiful arboretum and walk there when done with writing for the day. Nothing beats the time I spend with family and friends and, since the start of the pandemic, I don’t take a moment of it for granted.


What’s your kryptonite as a writer?


Child narrators. As a reader I love them, and I have written many stories with young protagonists. Most children have no guile; they experience the world purely, honestly. As such, they’re very reliable narrators though they’re often unaware when the adults in their world are being dishonest. Readers are sometimes aware of things the child narrator is not, and that makes for a very interesting reading experience.


If you could have a superpower, what would it be?


Flight, definitely flight. I love aerial views of landscapes, and how enthralling would it be to soar over them? Although my fiction tends to deal with micro situations, something intense going on between a few characters, I appreciate the macro view some writers have, epic fictions that require a bird’s-eye-view.


Describe your book in three words:


Fiction, females, aging.


If you could cast your characters in a movie, which actresses would play them?


This is an interesting question because My Name Is Your Name is a collection of stories that begins with a very young girl and concludes with an elderly woman. The interim stories are sequenced with gradually aging female characters, so a cast would include a wide range of actresses. I’d have to rely on the advice of casting agents for the youngest characters, budding actresses, but I’d have such fun considering favorite actresses to star in the other stories.  Possibilities would include Jenna Marie Ortega, Mckenna Grace, Julia Garner, Samira Wiley, Hailee Steinfeld, Rooney Mara, Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett, Elisabeth Moss, Sandra Oh, Viola Davis and Helen Mirren.   


Would you and your main characters get along?  


Yes, I believe so. Those in my last book are my literary daughters, sisters and mothers. I admire each of them in various ways, even those making errors, perhaps especially those making errors. I feel the same about the male and female characters in my first two books.


What is your favorite book from childhood?


When I was eleven, I read Betty Smith’s coming of age novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and would go on to read it so often the spine of the book cracked. Her protagonist, Francie Nolan, is a young girl when we first meet her and a young woman when we say good-bye to her. She is a first-generation American navigating an impoverished childhood with the help of the neighborhood library and a determination to get the best education she can. It’s not surprising that a girl who so loved this book grew up to become an academic librarian and a writer. I was delighted when one of my daughters read the novel and responded to it as strongly as I had.


What genres won’t you read?


While I largely read literary fiction, especially short stories, I’m open to reading almost anything but I steer clear of romance. Just not my cup of tea, but it’s certainly a genre that draws many.  


What’s on your literary bucket list?


I’m a fan of so many writers of short stories, I almost don’t want to single any one author out, but during high school, I discovered John Updike’s early stories and read them, along with his later fiction, over decades. I’ve long considered visiting his birthplace, Shillington, Pennsylvania, and walking the streets and driving through the surrounding countryside. I’ll do it one of these days.




Kerry Langan's warm and generous third short story collection, My Name Is Your Name, includes stories of women at all ages—from little girls to old women whose long lives are now only fleeting memories. A six-year old girl wanders an amusement park alone; a teenager tries to balance the loyalty and shame she feels toward her schizophrenic sister; a young woman stubbornly makes a home for herself in an insular fishing village for reasons that elude her and those around her; a newlywed touring houses with her husband doesn't see an exciting future, rather unsettling glimpses of her own mortality. Finding unsuspected reservoirs of strength and purpose, girls and women negotiate young love, their first jobs, single motherhood, the death of friends, infidelity, the illness of spouses, the indignities, anguishes, and gifts of age and aging in ways that are sharp, funny, poignant, and often quirky. Langan draws us into a world in which the very young blunder but also face truths that sometimes elude adults and the middle-aged and elderly turn to their younger selves to guide them in an ambiguous, challenging present. We come away encouraged and replenished—more ready to face many of the same issues ourselves.

"Once again, short story writer Kerry Langan knocks it out of the park. Her newest collection is a kaleidoscope of beautifully rendered stories illuminating, with tremendous verisimilitude, great insight, and lyrical and precise prose, the complex nature of the female heart and mind. Janice Eidus, author of The Last Jewish Virgin and The War of the Rosens

"Kerry Langan’s collection offers a lovely new literary voice and a quiet, sharp, perceptive mind. These stories are intimate, surprising and graceful, a pleasure to read."  Roxana Robinson, author of Sparta, Cost, and A Perfect Stranger & Other Stories

"Kerry Langan's My Name is Your Name, an impressive and readable collection, is a sort of primer on the ages of women. Her female protagonists take on issues and problems that are familiar to us, struggling with identity, finding autonomy, dealing with and fighting against expectations in a wonderfully detailed world, where desire and choice are fraught with consequence. This suspension between the ordinary and the arrival of the unexpected permeates the collection, highlighting the darkness behind the bright scrim of daily life." Mary Grimm, author of Left to Themselves and Stealing Time

Buy a copy here:

Monday, January 15, 2024

The 40 But 10 Interview Series: Lynne Schmidt


I had decided to retire the literary Would You Rather series, but didn't want to stop interviews on the site all together. Instead, I've pulled together 40ish questions - some bookish, some silly - and have asked authors to limit themselves to answering only 10 of them. That way, it keeps the interviews fresh and connectable for all of us!

Lynne Schmidt is the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor. They were a semi-finalist for the 2022 Button Poetry Chapbook Contest, and the winner of the 2021 The Poetry Question Chapbook Contest, and 2020 New Women's Voices Contest. Lynne is the author of the chapbooks, SexyTime (TPQ 2022), Dead Dog Poems (Finishing Line Press, 2021), Gravity (Nightingale and Sparrow Press, 2019), and On Becoming a Role Model (Thirty West, 2020). In 2012 they started the project, AbortionChat, which aims to lessen the stigma around abortion. When given the choice, Lynne prefers her pack of dogs and one cat to humans.

What’s the most useless skill you possess?

I can juggle! Sometimes I can even do some tricks (but they’re a little more unreliable)


What’s something that’s true about you but no one believes?

I’m not sure if no one believes it, but I got to meet Michelle Obama once, when she was First Lady!

What’s the best money you’ve ever spent as a writer?

Workshops. Hands down. The things I learned in workshops with Andrea Gibson and Megan Falley was invaluable. Generally – I recommend to “invest in yourself” – submission fees, conferences, and workshops.

What is your favorite book from childhood?

Omg – I grew up on Pony Pals. I remember BEGGING my mom to take me to the bookstore whenever a new book dropped.

Do you read the reviews of your books or do you stay far far away from them, and why?

I tend to read reviews – so far they’ve been mostly positive. The ones that aren’t I try to take with a grain of salt.

If you were on death row, what would your last meal be?

As morbid as this sounds, I’ve thought about this A LOT. In so far as I have a deep appreciation for the time we have on this earth, and how genuinely, the last thing we eat MIGHT be our last meal. To that end, I try really hard to not eat things I don’t enjoy. If it’s going to be my last meal – I want it to bring me some happiness, you know?

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve given/received as a gift?

I once gave a guy a spoon. For folks who don’t get it, it’s weird.

What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

Omg – I wish for the sake of undergrad debt, I had really understood what student loans meant and how to better manage my money. And also to advocate for higher wages. Ugh.

What scares you the most?

Any time my pets get sick I become a neurotic, sobby, catastrophic thinking mess.

Are you a book hoarder or a book unhauler?

I currently have a storage unit which is 90% books. ::eek::


Dead Dog Poems is a collection about pet love and pet loss. It is the small joys each pet parent goes through - from naptime, to walks around the block, to the horrific moment of being at the emergency vet and hearing that your beloved companion may have cancer. This collection brings you front and center for a terminal diagnosis, and the aftermath of such a substantial loss. If you have ever loved a pet, this collection is for you. The poem, Baxter, was awarded the Editor's Choice Award from Frost Meadow Review, and was nominated for a 2019 Best of the Net, while Road Maps was nominated for Best of the Net, and Blood Pleas and Library Books was a finalist for the Pacific Northwest Writer's Association (PNWA) Poetry Contest.

buy a copy

Dead Dog Poems: Winner of the 2020 New Women's Voices Prize in Poetry by Lynne Schmidt, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (

Monday, January 8, 2024

The 40 But 10 Interview Series: Daniel Skentelbery


I had decided to retire the literary Would You Rather series, but didn't want to stop interviews on the site all together. Instead, I've pulled together 40ish questions - some bookish, some silly - and have asked authors to limit themselves to answering only 10 of them. That way, it keeps the interviews fresh and connectable for all of us!

Say hi to Daniel Skentelbery. Daniel (he/him) is a writer, artist, and PhD graduate (Keele University). He is currently living in South Wales, but eager to move back to North England.He writes experimental poetry and prose with a fondness for the spooky and strange. Daniel likes: the paintings of Edward Hopper, the music of dodie, and quiet environments. Daniel is currently writing an interactive game book. His debuted Poetry Chapbook, ‘Miss Peacock and the Actress’ was published by independent ethical press Bent Key Publishing at the end of 2022. The book is a unique soap-opera that explores the intricately-woven tapestry of human life presented by the Monmouth Film Re-enactment Society. 

Why do you write?

Writing is a powerful compulsion. I need to write to express myself and exorcize the frenzy of ideas that inhabit me. Of course, writing can be a frequently laborious vice, but I don’t ever plan to stop writing or to stop experimenting with new forms. Writing and creating art is one of the most valuable things in my life.     


Describe your book in three words.

Surreal Sexy Soap-opera.


Would you and your main character(s) get along?

Miss Peacock and the Actress takes the form of a soap-opera TV pilot and therefore the chapbook has quite a big cast of characters. There are lots of characters in the chapbook which I know I wouldn’t get on with, many of them are self-interested, violent, awful upper middle-class Tories, or just grim unpleasant people.

But I suspect that I would get on with a couple of the main characters. The titular Miss Peacock for example, is loosely based off several people I know and hold dearly in real life, so I know that I would get along with Miss Peacock. The Actress on the other hand is based off me. Hopefully we would get along, me and the Actress, but even if we didn’t get on, at least we would understand one another.     


If you could cast your characters in a movie, which actors would play them and why?

I love this question. Given the chapbook plays with the television soap-opera, and sells itself as a TV pilot awaiting commission, it is appropriate that I ought to give some thought as to who should be playing each character. Whilst the soap-opera features a primarily young adult cast, my favourite actor is Toby Jones, so we’d have to find a role for him somewhere. Playing the actress (so the person I’d pick to play myself) is Amelia Gething a fantastic comedy writer and actress best known for her CBBC show The Amelia Gething Complex. Playing the role of Tory Fuck Boy one of the main antagonists I would cast Louis Oliver, they gave an intense performance in BBC’s Inside Man, and I reckon that they’d give a fantastic performance in this role. Taylor Russell’s performance in Bones and All was incredible another intense performance, I think she’d be good as either the Rock Star or Penelope. For the role of Miss Peacock, I would cast lots of unknown performers and the role would be played by a new person in every scene.


What are some of your favourite books and/or authors?

I like a lot of genre fiction, such as the Fighting Fantasy books by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, or the science fiction works of Timothy Zahn and S.D. Perry. These genre writers write such bold visuals, there is a cinematic quality to their writing which I take a lot of inspiration from.

There are many poets I’m inspired by, Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, I frequently credit as what got me into writing poetry. Other writers such as Luke Kennard, Sarah Wallis, Jen Campbell, Eddie Jones, and Isabelle P. Byrne are all exciting artists who capture my imagination. Eddie Jones’ The Dead and I was my favourite poetry collection of 2022, he is an incredibly talented writer.

My favourite writers and favourite people are Mel Piper and Tom Evans, we frequently read and edit each other’s work. They are both incredibly talented and it is always such a joy to work with them.


What do you do when you’re not writing?

If I’m not writing, I’ll probably be reading or researching (this could be for a creative or academic project). Perhaps, you’d find me painting, I’ve been making lots of water colour paintings of different birds and rabbits recently. Though realistically I’m more than likely playing Pokémon. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been playing through all the games, and I’ve just started playing Pokémon White 2 for the first time.    


What’s on your literary bucket list?

For years and years, I have wanted to write an adventure game book, in the vein of books like “Choose Your Own Adventure” or “Fighting Fantasy”. I’ve written my fair share of short stories with multiple possible paths and outcomes, but never a full novel length adventure. This is my dream, and my current project. It’s in its early stages, but I am passionate to see it through. I will have this adventure game book written by hook or by crook!  


What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Leone Ross’ This One Sky Day, and I am enjoying it very much. Set on an odd magical island, this book has something of a dreamlike quality, it’s a haunting and sensual read. There have been more than a few times I’ve felt my body tingle with excitement at the odd erotica of this book. Alongside this, I am reading Jen Campbell’s poetry collection The Girl Aquarium which I am finding a compelling read. I am adoring Campbell’s voice, there are so many clever phrases and descriptions within her poems. Campbell has such mastery over words and seems to come up with endlessly captivating oddities.  

            Next on my reading list is Mizuki Tsujimura’s Lonely Castle in the Mirror (English translation by Philip Gabriel), alongside which I will be reading Caitlin McKenna’s poetry chapbook Now Say It Back.   


What songs would be on the soundtrack of your life?

For the last three or four years dodie has always been at the top of my Spotify Wrapped, so dodie would be on there. I listened to her endlessly when I was writing Miss Peacock and the Actress. Dodies song “Guiltless” is one I frequently have on repeat, again the same goes for “Monster” and “In the Middle”. On her album Build A Problem there are four consecutive tracks: “?”, “Four Tequilas Down”, “.” and “Sorry”. I feel that these four songs should always be listened to one after the other, it’s an incredibly sad listen, but also incredibly beautiful.

            In addition to dodie’s discography, I’d also have: Kate Bush’s “Cloudbusting”, The Divine Comedy’s “At The Indie Disco”, Tessa Violet’s “Bad Ideas”, and in tribute to my love of musicals I’d have “When He Sees Me” from the Waitress soundtrack too.     


What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

I wish sex education at school had gone beyond “This is what puberty is…” and “This is what STD’s are…”. It would have been productive if we had been taught sexual and romantic intimacy, different types of attraction and desire, consent, and respect, how to communicate both vocally and physically with a partner. All the stuff that films say, “it comes naturally”, when these things really ought to be taught.

            It has taken me too long to understand myself.  



In this one-of-a-kind collection of poetry, Daniel Skentelbery and The Monmouth Film Re-enactment Society present Miss Peacock and the Actress - a unique soap-opera that explores the intricately-woven tapestry of human life. From chance meetings to unrequited love, sexual attraction to missed connections, this is a sometimes confusing, always endearing examination of the fragility of life post-pandemic.


Sadly, this is the one and only episode. Enjoy.

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