Stephanie M. Wytovich is my sister from another mister; another hometown Pennsylvania kid and, even better, a helluva writer. To top it all off, we both have books coming out from Dark Regions Press next month, her debut novel The Eighth and my debut collection Bones Are Made to be Broken, both up for pre-order right now.
A few weeks ago, Stephanie interviewed me over at her website, The Madhouse, and I wanted to open up the doors of The Nothing-Space. Whatever she wanted, provided it was awesome, and, in true Stephanie fashion, she brought the awesome.
So, I’m going to get out of her way, okay? See you at the other end and enjoy!
The Top 5 Paintings That Helped Me Write The Eighth
When I was an undergraduate at Seton Hill University, I majored in Art History in addition to my studies in English Literature, and while I’ve been blessed in having an absolute rock star writing mentor, I, too, had/have an exceptionally kick ass mentor in Art History, Maureen Vissat, who helped hone my skills as a historian to benefit my career as a horror writer (yeah, what’s up, liberal arts education?!). Maureen opened my eyes to the intricate world of surrealism, expressionism, and Dadaism and spoke with me at conferences about feminism and mainstream marketing. One of my favorite memories with us to date though is our trip to Italy where I studied Renaissance art in an intense two-week study abroad trip that took me to Rome, Florence, and Venice.
While I was in Rome, I got to see my first Francis Bacon panting—one of the screaming popes, no less—and in Venice, I stood amazed at the slew of surrealism and automatism that was stored in the Guggenheim from Dali to Carrington to Ernst. But even with a pit stop to see the Porcellino statue in Florence (see: Hannibal), and visits to the death (and almost-death) scenes of all of the cardinals in The DaVinci Code, the most memorable moment of the trip for me was seeing the house and gravesite of Dante Alighieri, the Italian poet whose vision of Hell in his work, The Inferno, inspired me to write the The Eighth in the first place.
But what happened after Italy, and after the nights spent cramming for tests on The Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost? The answer, of course, is more art! So take a moment and scope out the top five paintings that I studied to help build my version of the underworld and therefore shape the plot of my debut novel:
- The Garden of Earthly Delights, c. 1495–1505, Hieronymus
Not only did I fall in love with this painting for its celebration and punishment of the seven deadly sins, but I actually wrote a graphic novel about it in my Philosophy of Art I’m such a huge fan of Bosch, that I actually named one of my demons after him!
- Carceri d’invenzioneor Imaginary Prisons series1750 by Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Piranesi’s claustrophobic and nightmarish prints highly influenced my decision to build the bridges in Hell as a chess game-like obstacle for my main character, Paimon, to overcome early on in the novel.
- Henry Ford Hospital, 1932 by Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo is one of my favorite painters, and her innate ability to inwardly reflect and sift through her trauma and demons not only relates to me on a personal level as a poet, but inspired how I dealt with Rhea’s character, particularly in the hospital scene where she wakes up and hears someone in the room with her.
- The Nightmare, 1781 by Henry Fuseli.
In this iconic piece, Fuseli shows the dramatic and romantic portrayal of an incubus preying on a young female while she sleeps thus commenting on both the male gaze and the stereotype of the female as victim. This painting served as inspiration for the first time that Paimon sees Rhea in person in Caden’s bedroom.
- Saturn Devouring His Son, 1823 by Francisco Goya
One of my favorite paintings, and the print that hangs next to my writing desk at all times, Saturn Devouring His Son sets the mood and tone behind the concept of the Feeding Hall and the cannibalistic and necrophagic nature of the demons.
With flesh and blood,
Stephanie M. Wytovich
Hey! Me, again. So, did that whet your appetite for The Eighth? (I’ve read Wytovich’s poetry, so I’m dying to read the novel; this recent review by Shane Douglas Keene over at This Is Horror just increases that need.) Check this out:
After Paimon, Lucifer’s top soul collector, falls in love with a mortal girl whose soul he is supposed to claim, he desperately tries everything in his power to save her from the Devil’s grasp. But what happens when a demon has to confront his demons, when he has to turn to something darker, something more sinister for help? Can Paimon survive the consequences of working with the Seven Deadly Sins-sins who have their own agenda with the Devil—or will he fall into a deeper, darker kind of hell?
Stephanie M. Wytovich is an instructor by day and a horror writer by night. She is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, and a book reviewer for Nameless Magazine. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction. Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated poetry collections, Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and Brothel can be found at Raw Dog Screaming Press, and her debut novel, The Eighth, is to be published through Dark Regions Press. Follow Wytovich at stephaniewytovich.com and on twitter @JustAfterSunset