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I Love Twist Endings

Julie L. Kusma Author Interview

The Many Worlds of Mr. A. Skouandy follows a psychiatrist as he evaluates a patient that was dropped off and, in the process, learns the history of the patients in the sanatorium. What was the inspiration for this collection of short stories?

As my thesis for my MA.E.CW, Fic (Master of Art, English, Creative Writing, Fiction), I selected a collection of short stories instead of submitting a novel. I love to write short stories, and I love twist endings, so pulling a collection together was in my wheelhouse. I wanted and needed a theme to connect each story together. My answer was to bookend the story of Dr. Blanchard on both sides of the collection and connect the stories through the character of Aaron Skouandy and the sanatorium. Of course, the ending has a twist, which hopefully brings the reader full circle about the subject matter of each story and why it was included in my short story cycle.

I really enjoyed the short story “Silence So Deafening.” Do you have a favorite story in this collection, and why?

Silence so Deafening is a favorite of mine too, and it was placed in a contest and received publication, which was beautiful. But my favorite has to be Inseparable because my sister and I really stayed in the cabin this story is based on. I let her be the main character and kill me off. This delighted her to no end. Neither one of us has any plans to ever revisit the cabin. Ever.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

The stories were centered around assignments mainly. For example, Baby Makes Three started off as a memory required for the first part of a project. My memory was about the adoption of my eldest son. The second part of this same project was to flip that memory on its head. I did just that and turned my characters into aliens and developed a plot around their baby. My professor immensely enjoyed it and commented that Science Fiction may just be my genre. I’m not sure about that. I haven’t written another Sci-Fi piece since.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I have two books in the final revision stage. The first is a collection of shorts (several previously published online). The majority unseen by the public and written after peers in the writing community asked me to please turn them into full-length stories and make them into a novel. The title is The Crooked Crone and Other Mystifications and is slated for publication this fall. The second novel, We Three: The Ipswich Chronicles, is based on the main character from the book previously mentioned, the Crone, and her sisters. The story is about how they learned they were witches and their journey to find the source of magic, and my Beta readers loved it. So excited to publish this novel, targeted for spring 2023.

Additionally, I have a couple of collaborations with my writing partner, Derek R. King, slated for this summer. First, the second volume, Amore, of our new The Lighter Half Series, which launched in February with volume one, Abracadabra. These are delightful and magical collections of poetry. Second, we have a wonderful poetry collection for children themed around faeries titled The Enchanted Faerie Realm. This children’s book is slated for publication in May of this year.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Summoned to Oakwood Sanatorium, Dr. Blanchard struggles with the strange occurrences linked to a man abandoned in the hospital’s lobby. The bizarre situation he’s been called to evaluate triggers an internal conflict between science and spirituality and leads to decisions that shake his beliefs and calls his own sanity into question. In the end, no choice remains but the acceptance of the cruel reality of his life.

This short story cycle is a blend of psychological suspense, horror, soft science-fiction, alternate universe, and alternate history, thematically tied together by outcomes that are unanticipated, unintentional, and always unexpected.

The Many Worlds of Mr. A. Skouandy, the title story that bookends nine tales in between, is presented in the postmodern collage style, including admission forms and patient sketches before each piece and doctor’s notes after each. The stories can be read separately, but when read sequentially, a much larger story is revealed, generating this unique psychological horror novella.

The Many Worlds of Mr. A. Skouandy

The Many Worlds of Mr. A. Skouandy & Other Stories from Oakwood Sanatorium is an assorted collection of short stories ranging from heartbreaking to horrifying. Author Julie Kusma explores loss, loneliness, grief, and a host of other mental afflictions in these winding, interconnected tales from the titular mental hospital. We follow Dr. Shepard Blanchard as he investigates the curious case of a newly admitted patient, one Mr. A. Skouandy and his mysterious knowledge of other patients in the ward. Dr. Blanchard becomes transfixed with Mr. Skouandy’s claims, and his investigation leads him on a journey through the origins of how the inhabitants of Oakwood Sanatorium came to reside there.

The main narrative takes place in the Oakwood sanatorium in the 1940s. We are not privy to Dr. Blanchard’s interviews with the patients; instead, we are treated to events in their lives that cause them to end up in Oakwood Sanatorium. The patient’s stories of loss or trauma and the resulting mental illness or psychotic break offer an interesting reflection on how the diverse characters deal with grief in their lives.

The author explores many genres: science fiction, fantasy, and horror are all represented here, while most of the stories are steeped in reality, as unsettling as it may be. The novel itself is a vehicle for some of Kusma’s works that have appeared previously. Dr. Blanchard’s prologues and handwritten notes offer a connecting thread to the stories, and it works to varying degrees. I feel some of the stories mesh well together in the setting, but others feel forced at times. “Free of Bees “and “The Writing Room” fit nicely. “Silence So Deafening” and “Baby Makes Three” have a very Twilight Zone-vibe, which works for this collection.

The Many Worlds of Mr. A. Skouandy & Other Stories from Oakwood Sanatorium is a collection of short stories collected from patients in a sanatorium, making it easy to combine elements from multiple genres. Readers who like the unusual, strange, and horrifying aspects of life will find this eclectic book a great escape from the day-to-day realities.

Pages: 172 | ASIN : B09FKCYN44

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My Story Was Born

Author Interview
Julie Kusma Author Interview

Stuck That Way and Other Quandaries is a collection of eerie short stories that tell some fantastic paranormal tales. What was the inspiration for the titular story in this collection?

The title story was inspired by a conversation I had with a former yoga teacher. We were discussing frequencies and elevating oneself to higher vibrational quality. The question, did I think ascension was the raising of one’s frequency, was asked. Fascinating question and it made me wonder if the lowering of the frequency sends one to this plane. My story was born.

My favorite story from the collection is “By Induction.” Do you have a favorite story in this book?

Something Lurking is my favorite in this collection. It is loosely based on my dog Finn and the dark woods behind my house. Sometimes he stares, frozen, out into the woods. Scary.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in your stories?

I am always finding ways to expose and explain the shadow aspect of our personality. That and perspective are always themes in my writing.

What is the next book that you are working on, and when will it be available?

Since publishing Stuck That Way and Other Quandaries, I have had two children’s books published: A Perfect Place for Scary Monsters to Hide with author Jill Yoder and Pigglety Pigglety Poo, illustrated by Jane Jago. In addition to these two books, I also have The Many Worlds of Mr. A. Skouandy and Other Stories from Oakwood Sanatorium, a postmodern collage-style short story cycle featuring sketches by Tanweer Dar, and the first volume in a new series of gothic poetry with poet and author Derek R. King entitled The Darker Half, Volume 13

November 12 is the release of a beautiful inspirational book based on the Japanese art of Kintsugi, written with Derek R. King entitled Honey; Words to Heal & Mend. And on November 26, the release of Volume 12 in The Darker Half Series of gothic poetry, entitled Santa’s Claws. Another two books might squeak in as well: Our Christmas: Traditions, Memories, & More, with Derek R. King and maybe, just maybe, the release of That’s Creepy, Santa! The Trilogy, which includes part one from Stuck That Way. More to come in 2021.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

A collection of spine-tingling paranormal horror short stories including:

STUCK THAT WAY where a boy in a parallel universe plays a forbidden game and finds himself stuck in an unfamiliar place. Link to FREE audio version provided in eBook version.

Stuck That Way and Other Quandaries

Stuck That Way and Other Quandaries by [Julie Kusma]

Stuck That Way and Other Quandaries by Julie Kusma is a collection of short stories that are delightfully unnerving. Ranging topics like beastly transformations, death curses, and demon hunters are all masterfully crafted to create raw emotion. Quick warming: These stories do have violent and disturbing scenes that I don’t think are appropriate for children.

My favorite story of the bunch is probably “By Induction”, a story about a woman who fully believes that she can curse people to their deaths by putting their name in a jar and putting that jar in her freezer. When her curse strikes again, she has a change of heart and decides to curse another. No spoilers, but it is a great short story.

Another great one is the titular story, “Stuck That Way.” A father is showing his young boy how to create a corporeal form in parts, but the mother warns against it, because she does not want him to become trapped inside a body and disappear from their plane of existence. It’s quick, unsettling, and a commentary on human life. Fantastic work.

The writing is very strong overall, and Kusma does well to develop setting and motivation for her characters before twisting the reader’s expectations and toying with the seemingly inevitable ends. She also does well by making the characters think and act very logically. It’s pretty easy to understand why the characters make their choices, even if the results are not positive. If there was a weakness in the writing, I would say that the rare moments of action are sometimes not clearly described, but these clear up quickly and efficiently.

I’ll be looking forward to more work from Kusma, and I hope that the next set of stories are just as chilling and unsettling.

Pages: 83 | ASIN: B088JT34CT

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