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This interview was originally published in E-GENREWEEKLY #26, August 24, 2001. Posted here with permission.



E-GENRE WEEKLY: Do you see yourself, primarily, as a horror writer? Poet? Artist

S. C. VIRTES: I'd hate to get stuck writing just one thing. I think that's prescription for writer's block. If I get stuck on a horror tale, I can write a sci-fi poem, or draw something, or play guitar. There's always something waiting to come out.

I got moved around alot as a kid, spent most of my time reading. Niven, Zelazny, Poe and Lovecraft were my main inspiration. I was well versed in Math & Sciences at a very early age, so school bored the heck out of me -- I spent most of that time writing and doodling. I started college as a Linguistics major, changed to pure Math (the one language where nobody makes fun of how you pronounce things). My personal studies went deeply into Astronomy, Folklore and world religions. And I ended up as a programmer, web and database guru by trade -- again, languages and logic skills.

Now, with a head crammed full of all that stuff, my short stories are mostly horror, and my longer works are mostly sci-fi, because building worlds and future histories just takes so much more work. I've been writing a lot more humor than I used to. This year I've been studying my poems and learning how to sharpen them.

EGW: You write both poetry and fiction and do artwork. How do you decide what is a poem, story or art idea? Do you illustrate your own work?

SCV: Almost all ideas are written as poems first. Then, when I sit down to write a short story, I can mine my poems for ideas -- seeds and visions -- a seed plus some interesting characters is enough to get most stories going. Recently some poems have gone up to 700 lines, but they're not short stories in disguise. A recent surprise a lot of my old doodles are actually concrete poems. It all runs together.

I used to do illustrations for small press magazines. I've also done a lot of graphics for games, web sites and software projects. But I'm trying to ease up on art and music and do more fiction and poetry right now. I have illustrated many of my works (including my chapbooks), which is always enjoyable. My drawings fall into four styles detailed, doodle, glyph, and utility; I can't describe them any better than that. Maybe I'll solidify them some day.

EGW: You have a collection at iUniverse (YEAR OF THE TWIST) and two poetry chapbooks (THE OTHER SECRET HOUSE and INSOMNIA F/X). Are there any threads that interlace your work? Do you write series or do you prefer everything to be separate?

SCV: There are recurring themes. I have a pretty solid dreamland I can return to. I have three future timelines that have each spawned many tales. I have some characters that just keep having new adventures. For poems, there are themes like insomnia, madness, astronomy, nature, folklore, and crumbling cities that I revisit regularly. The nice thing with publishing collections of my work is choosing a theme and then finding how much of my writing fits the theme. For "Twist" the theme was "different flavors of creepy". For poetry collections, I find pieces that have a common theme, then tie them together with some new work. I doubt I'll ever do a collection of work without a theme; I think the focused theme can make the whole more than just a bunch of pieces.

My novels almost all run in series of 3 or 4, in my mind. I don't think I could discard the characters after spending a whole book with them. I'd like to throw them into other tanks of piranhas and see how they do.

EGW: In 1997, you wrote your 200th piece, over half a million words by 1999. How has the Net affected you as a "prolific" writer?

SCV: The best things about the Net are (in random order)

a. Finding out about new markets quickly. Knowing that there are markets for almost everything is encouraging. My personal market list has almost 200 targets right now.

b. There are some excellent message boards, and even a few good chats where I can hear about other writers' successes, problem markets, tips and challenges.

c. Doing research, getting ideas.

d. Collaborating with other creative people by email. We can get into a project, bounce it back and forth in just a few hours, and be done. Snail mail just can't compare.

EGW: What's coming up for S. C. Virtes?

I finished the first draft of my 4th novel recently. The older novels felt finished at the time, but I've improved a lot since then. So, I will revamp them all and get them circulating again. I have a week-long writing class in September, taught by Ben Bova. I'm hoping he can get me over the edge -- I've just never had any luck with "pro" markets.

I have 7 other poetry chapbooks looking for publishers. If no one wants them (this market is really in a slump) I'll print a few myself, or combine them all into one big mind-boggler of a book. Writing for magazines gets weird after a while, since a few years later the stories are effectively gone, impossible to get copies of. A huge benefit of the Net with POD self-publishing, I can collect my tales myself. Authors finally have the power to keep their work in print.

WHERE TO FIND S. C. VIRTES ON THE NET: He regularly contributes to (and recommends) His homepage has other links
TWO POEMS by s. c. virtes


kingdoms have folded
vaults torn open and drained dry
all for a miracle spray
to one day stop the bugs from biting
the infection from spreading;

but the creatures are infernal
thriving in every puddle,
they come in clouds
and leave empty villages behind.

metabirds (from "insomnia f/x")

the size of houses
flap the wind
crying out for attention

damn you light sleepers
join us in the glory
of nature!

you pound the windows
until the infernal
fly away insulted.