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Mothers of the Roundtable Author Spotlight: Steve Toase

May 8, 2023

R. Leigh Hennig gathered many of the amazing authors from Mother: Tales of Love and Terror for a council at the roundtable about writing, mothers, and horror. Join us as we pop in for a brief spotlight on how the stories of Mother, and their makers, worked their horrible magic to create this book.

 

Author Spotlight: Steve Toase author of  “720

 

Q: What inspired your story?

A: There were a few inspirations, to be honest. The blind roadbuilder is based on a real person – Blind Jack of Knaresborough, who was responsible for building turnpike roads across the north of England in the 18th century. He was blind from the age of six, and as well as being a civil engineer, was also an accomplished swimmer, was involved in fighting during the Jacobite Rebellion, and imported Aberdeen stockings to England. He is definitely a character. The building is a turnpike tollhouse. These survive across England with a very distinct shape, and it got me thinking of buildings that have different dimensions on the inside than the outside.

The relationship with the mother in the story is important and drew on many different inspirations, but mainly the idea that mothers aren’t always positive influences, and can have their own obsessions that can override family relationships and responsibilities.

 

Q: Do you ever see yourself revisiting the topic or theme or your story?

A: I’ve explored this theme several times in my work, particularly in the project Haunt, and will almost certainly return to it again. The subject of family relationships lies at the heart of much of my work.

 

Q: Did you know what you wanted to do with this story from the start, or did it surprise you?

A: I was pretty sure on where I was going, and the way the story would end. I knew it would be transformative, and I knew the changes would be permanent, but how those would exactly manifest wasn’t clear at the start.

 

Q: What was your process for writing this, and did that at all differ from your usual approach?

A: I didn’t write the story specifically for the anthology, so it was very much the same as my usual process. I tend to discovery write around a couple of ideas (in this case the road builder, the turnpike tollhouse, and the relationship between the protagonist and the mother. I then start write and work on it over several days until I have a pretty solid first draft.

 

Q: If there were ever a FATHER anthology put together as a sequel, would you follow that up, or write something totally new?

A: Funnily enough, I’ve just had a story, called Flowstone, published at Three Lobed Burning Eye which deals with father-son relationships. Also a couple of my other stories deal with fatherhood. Clipped Wings published in Nightscript 7, and the story Beneath the Forest’s Wilting Leaves in my collection To Drown In Dark Water centre around father and son relationships. Flowstone is told from the son’s perspective, while the other two from the father’s. I think as a stay at home dad these are very much exploring all the ways I could fail as a father, again in that sealed-off environment of story.

 

Q: Do you have any thoughts on turning this story into something longer, or do you feel the tale has been told?

A: I think this story is nicely wrapped up, though I could see the story sitting in a wider world with the same cosmology.

 

Q: Have you explored these themes before, and if so, to what depth?

A: I was the lead writer on a project called Haunt, which was about homelessness in my hometown. The inspiration was my experience of being kicked out of home at 16, and during that process I confronted a lot of the emotional themes that are dealt with here.

 

Q: What would you like readers to take away from your story?

A: I think an important aspect of the story is the reaction of the protagonist to the situation. It seems cold and emotionless, but this is, for me, a very valid and lived experience of dealing with trauma. The coldness is a way to distance himself and cope with what has happened. Not necessarily the healthiest, but definitely one that can manifest.

Also at the heart of the story is that mothers can be extremely flawed, and while the terminology around birth mothers is often centred on nurturing (with the darker aspects placed on stepmothers), they can also be destructive, cruel and self-centred.

Q: If your own mother could read this story, would you send it to her? Why or why not?

A: No.

 

Q: Why did you decide to submit to this anthology? Was there something particular that called to you?

A: Was there something particular that called to you? I was invited to submit and thought this story would be a good fit, then I saw the quality of the rest of the TOC and knew I’d made the right decision. 😊

 

Steve Toase was born in England, and lives in the Frankenwald, Germany. His fiction has appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Shadows & Ta! Trees 8, Analog, Three Lobed Burning Eye, Shimmer, and Lackington’s amongst others. Three of his stories have been reprinted in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year series. He also likes old motorbikes and vintage cocktails. From 2014 he worked with Becky Cherriman and Imove on Haunt, inspired by his own teenage experiences, about Harrogate’s haunting presence in the lives of people experiencing homelessness. His debut short story collection To Drown in Dark Water is now out from Undertow Publications.
Fracture by Mercedes M. Yardley - Mother: Tales of Love and Terror

Fracture, by Mercedes M. Yardley

Read the full story that is on the Bram Stoker Awards® Preliminary Ballot right here!

Vote for MOTHER!

Mother: Tales of Love and Terror has been included on the preliminary ballot for the 2022 Bram Stoker Awards® for Superior Achievement in an Anthology. If you are a voting member of the HWA, we would love to have you consider our anthology, as well as Mercedes M. Yardley’s story, “Fracture,” which is also on the ballot in the Short Fiction category. 

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