Write a Ghost Story With Me

This October I’ll be leading a 90-minute workshop on gothic fiction at the Mystic and Noank Library in Mystic, Connecticut.

The gothic is the past returning to haunt us in the present. Yet like vampires and werewolves, gothic stories can assume different shapes and forms: Bram Stoker’s Dracula involves a supernatural evil unleashed in contemporary England, while the narrator of Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” is haunted simply by his own guilt. In this workshop, join author and freelance writer Jackson Kuhl for an evening investigating the dark art of gothic fiction writing. We’ll look at some examples of classic gothic literature to inspire us, then brainstorm ideas, sketch a brief outline, and craft a piece of gothic flash fiction to take home.

Interested in attending? You can register at the library’s website. There’s no charge but it’s expected to fill up fast.

Kickstart My Heart

Love Letters to Poe Volume 2: Houses of Usher

Editor extraordinaire Sara Crocoll Smith is preparing a third volume of her anthology series, Love Letter to Poe, this one themed around Poe’s story, “The Tell-Tale Heart.” For this entry she’s using Kickstarter to fund its production. It hasn’t launched yet but you can follow the Kickstarter to be notified when it does.

In related news, the previous volume, Love Letters to Poe, Volume II: Houses of Usher, which includes my story “The Last Stand of Sassacus House,” has been nominated for a 2023 Saturday Visiter Award. Winners will be announced in October.

The initial book in the series (which also included a story of mine) won the 2022 Saturday Visiter Award in the category of “Original Works Inspired by E.A. Poe’s Life and Writing.”

You can purchase copies of Volume I here and Volume II here.

First Contact

Recently I reinstituted a Contact form on the site after someone expressed difficulty getting in touch with me. Since then the site has been bombarded by brute-force hacking attempts, which is why I removed the original Contact page back in 2021. I don’t know what is about web forms but they’re blood in the water for attracting bots. I’ve now taken it down a second time.

If you want to contact me, the best way is through social media. Links to my profiles are available at the bottom of every page on this site and I’ve added a second set at the top of the sidebar that appears on blog pages (if you’re reading this on a desktop).

• Instagram and Threads are the best way to reach me. I’m often on Insta spending too much time watching videos about dogs, chimpanzees, and chimps petting dogs; and while Threads is a little chaotic during its salad days and I don’t check it often, I will receive notifications.

• I have a Facebook profile but I rarely check it. Facebook’s interface is like a child’s toy, full of buttons meant to keep you distracted while the grown-ups eat dinner but it’s cumbersome to use for practical purposes. You can reach out to me there but I may not notice for a couple of weeks.

• The less said about the website-formerly-known-as-Twitter, the better. If you tweet or DM me there, I will lock my car doors and stare straight ahead through the windshield while pretending I didn’t see it.

Branford Book Festival

Ransack the sofa and bring your spare change to downtown Branford, Connecticut this Saturday, May 6, where me and about 40 other authors will be hawking our wares as part of the first annual Branford Book Festival.

We’ll be posted outside local stores along Main Street selling, signing, and talking to readers. I will be at the corner of Main and Ivy outside Elements Massage, at the northern end of the festival. Drop by, buy a book, and then buy a gift card for that special someone. Remember — Mother’s Day is only a week away.

Many of the merchants have donated prizes for the raffle to be held at the Blackstone Memorial Library from 3 pm to 5 pm. The process to enter the raffle is a lot of fun: you need to acquire 20 signatures from authors in your festival passport, which you can pick up at any of the authors’ tables.

However, to encourage foot traffic throughout the downtown area, four signatures are mandatory for the passport — and because my table is at the northern periphery, I’m one of them. In order for you to enter the raffle, I’m a boss battle.

Don’t worry, just hit left-right-O-X and I’ll jot my name down. I will also be happy to sign a copy of Samuel Smedley, Connecticut Privateer or A Season of Whispers for you.

The Branford Book Festival is Saturday, May 6 from 10 am to 3 pm, with the raffle to follow.

Hear Me on Woodbury Writes

Recently I had the honor of being interviewed by Sandy Carlson, host of the Woodbury Writes podcast. We talked about Samuel Smedley, transcendentalist utopias, and the real-life inspiration behind my gothic (or is it eco-gothic?) novel, A Season of Whispers.

I’ve been interviewed before but this was the first time for a podcast. Sandy asked great questions and, being a history enthusiast herself, clearly enjoyed discussing the particulars of privateering during the American Revolution and the tenets of the transcendentalist movement. It wound up being a recorded conversation rather than an examination, which to my ear always makes for the best podcasts.

Around the same time when I recorded the podcast, I was interviewed separately by another person for a different venue. That interview didn’t go as well. The interviewer was disinterested in my work and instead asked me a number of personal questions which made me uncomfortable, questions about my wife and sons and other census tabulations — I was surprised she didn’t ask me for my social-security number and mother’s maiden name. I stayed polite but it was irritating at best, icky at worst. I don’t think the interview has run publicly and fingers crossed it never does.

Yet the contrast of the two experiences gave me insight. I’ve conducted hundreds of interviews throughout my career and I’d never before realized what constitutes a good interview. It’s simply this: professionals — artists and creatives in particular — will wax rhapsodic for hours about their work, but they hate to talk about themselves. They want to talk about what they do, not about who they are.

I had, unknowingly, been practicing this methodology for years. It never occurred to me while interviewing any of the dozens of archaeologists I’ve spoken to, to ask them about their home lives or frankly anything not germane to their research. What business is it of mine to nose around, asking questions about their spouses or partners or how they spend their downtime? Nobody cares, or at least they shouldn’t. What matters is what they’ve discovered or learned, what their theories and ideas are.

Being on the other end of the microphone made me realize that, as an author, I crave to be asked questions about the stories and inspirations, both historical and personal, that go into my books. That’s what excites me and that’s what made the Woodbury Writes podcast so great. What I don’t want is to be interrogated about how old my kids are or what time I wake up in the morning.

Suddenly I feel sympathy toward celebrities who always seem a bit disgruntled or surly in interviews. Now I understand how eagerly they want to discuss their latest performance yet instead they’re bombarded with questions about who they’re schtupping and what kind of sandwich they ate after the schtupping. I get it.

My half-hour interview with Sandy about my work and what goes into it is available on Spotify, Anchor.fm, and Google Podcasts.

The Island of Small Misfortunes

My latest gothic novel, The Island of Small Misfortunes, has been accepted for publication by Regal House Publishing.

In the summer of 1898, Sequoia Owen accepts an invitation from his estranged uncle to visit the family summer house on Todeket, a private island off the Connecticut coast. Yet his unwell aunt Geneve believes he is accompanied by the shadowy ghost of her dead son Jacob, and over the course of a weekend Sequoia must contend with menacing relatives, threats against his life, and conflicting stories about the house’s history to unravel Todeket’s strange secret.

The Island of Small Misfortunes will be published in 2025.