FRESH BLOOD: Priscilla Bettis

(Editor’s note: FRESH BLOOD is a column where I interview promising new writers of horror fiction.)

Every dog has its day. Dog Meat is no different, and its day is November 8th. That’s when the new novella by Priscilla Bettis drops on Amazon Kindle.

Bettis hit the horror writing scene in 2020 with her debut short story, “The Sun Sets Nonetheless,” a standout tale in the anthology Todd Sullivan Presents: The Vampire Connoisseur.

However, her first solo effort, The Hay Bale, displayed the limitless talent of an author not afraid to tackle uncomfortable subjects (miscarriages, mental health, isolation) while delivering the creepy folk horror goods in a truly unnerving way.

Now, Bettis is back with Dog Meat, a dystopian novella published by Potter’s Grove Press and set for release next month. Click HERE to order Dog Meat.

An avid reader, Bettis shares her eclectic tastes with an entertaining and broad-ranging “One-Sentence Reviews” column each quarter on her website priscillabettisauthor.com.

The Texas writer agreed to an exclusive Q&A interview via email with lionelraygreen.com where she talks about Dog Meat and what inspires her writing the most.

LIGHTNING ROUND

What has you glued to the TV nowadays?

Confession time: I haven’t been watching anything lately. With all those great books out there, who has time?

What’s the last movie you watched that you’d recommend?

Mrs. Pollifax-Spy. It’s a 1971 film starring the aging but still sexy Rosalind Russell and Darren McGavin from The Night Stalker. The film (an international spy thriller) has held up well. The dialogue subtext during the tense Christmas party scene is a brilliant piece of writing (and acting).

What’s the last book you read that you’d recommend?

Territory, a novella by Dan Howarth. Howarth’s prose drags you deep inside the story, and you experience the cold Finnish winter, the isolation, the darkness, and the fear. It’s a wolf/occult story, so lots of fear!

What’s the last thing you heard or saw that made you laugh?

The inseparable horse and bull in the field behind us. They survived the wildfire that came through here in March, and now they’re pasture buddies who never stray more than spitting distance from one another. Actually, that’s more sweet than funny, but dang, they’re an odd sight!

Do you have any pets?

Four black cats: Wednesday and Pugsley Addams, Thing 1 and Thing 2.

THE INTERVIEW

Priscilla Bettis

You and your husband moved from Virginia to Texas this year. What prompted that move and what’s been the biggest difference or adjustment for you between the two states?

Becoming grandparents prompted the move. Even though moving is a hassle, it’s so worth it to watch the grandkid grow up. As for the biggest adjustment, in rural Virginia I feared running into a copperhead or Bigfoot. In rural Texas I fear running into a rattlesnake or Dogman.

You were hooked on horror as a kid when you read The Exorcist. Was there a specific scene that spooked you into horror fandom. And what did you think about the movie version?

The blasphemous scenes with the crucifixes freaked my young self out. The author went there?! But at the end of the story, there’s still a sense of spiritual peace even if not everyone wins. Life goes on for most characters. The movie version is awesome. I was just sorry to hear there were problems on the set (injuries, a fire, trouble hiring actors, stuff like that). Hunh … maybe the rumors are true, and the film really is cursed!

Your upcoming project, a novella titled Dog Meat, sounds like a Big Brother dystopian tale with something profound to say about society and its institutions. What inspired Dog Meat? And do you think it’s important to “say something” with your stories or is simply entertaining your reader enough?

The real-life dog meat industry inspired Dog Meat. The industry is not limited to one country, so I didn’t want to name a specific place, though the restaurant in Dog Meat might sound familiar. Family friends who were caught up in another country’s revolution inspired the setting; a fictional country named the Colony. So many scenes (the piano, the book burning, the gravel prison, the travel and education and religious restrictions) happened to people I know. It’s disturbing. Hopefully, saying something important with my stories gives them resonance. It’s something to strive for. But heck, isn’t it fun to just read or write a lightweight book for escape, for the “ew” factor, for fun? “The Sun Sets Nonetheless” is more along those lines.

Your other solo work, The Hay Bale, is an outstanding modern Southern Gothic folk tale related to the uncomfortable aftermath of a woman’s miscarriages. I immediately thought of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” when I read it. I wonder if that one was more difficult to write for you with all the raw emotional baggage of the character.

Aw, thanks for the kind words regarding The Hay Bale, and I’m flattered by the comparison to Gilman’s story. Nah, it wasn’t difficult to write. My daughter had just suffered two miscarriages when I wrote it. She has a sweet husband and wonderful friends. I simply wondered what a woman would go through if she didn’t have a good support system. But I did get nervous when the neighbors were baling hay!

Your work so far has been an eclectic mix of subjects and styles, including an upcoming Western Gothic inspired by the wildfires in your area. What influences your writing the most?

Experiences influence my writing the most: my daughter’s miscarriages, standing outside during a perfect-weather day when a gust hits, my friends’ escape from the revolution, the wildfire. It helps that I do the popular Morning Pages exercise and let my mind wander through my experiences.

Besides Dog Meat, what can Priscilla Bettis fans expect in the coming year?

I have an Alaskan vampire novelette coming out soon. (It’s all very hush-hush still.) And yes, it’s inspired by events I experienced (well, not the vampire part, but definitely the grizzly bear and hypothermia parts). The Western Gothic will appear in a yet-to-be named anthology early next year. And I’m editing a novel I expect to query by the end of this year.


RELATED LINK

FRESH BLOOD: Bridgett Nelson

35 thoughts on “FRESH BLOOD: Priscilla Bettis

  1. Pingback: An Interview and My First Dog Meat Review! – Priscilla Bettis

  2. Lovely interview! I’ll admit I’m a little scared to read Dog Meat (big dog lover here) but I’m also very curious. And the horse and bull story is giving me all the feels!😁

  3. D.L. Finn, Author

    Great interview 🙂 The Exorcist had the same effect on me too. It didn’t help we had an earthquake when I was watching it. Congrats on Dogmeat.

      1. D.L. Finn, Author

        Reading it would have been worse, I was watching the movie and was alone at that moment. I wasn’t all that brave in that moment…lol

  4. A fun interview!
    I especially loved hearing about the horse and the bull. Definitely an “odd couple” LOL.

    I thought The Hay Bale was great, so I’m sure Dog Meat will be exceptional. Congrats, Priscilla!

  5. What a lovely interview! I’ll get myself a copy of Dog Meat, but I’ll be honest I may need to psych myself up to read it. I have no doubt you’ve done a great job with it, Priscilla. Now you’ve got my attention on an Alaskan vampire story – such a great concept. I look forward to reading that one. Thanks for the great interview, Lionel. 🙂

  6. What a great interview. I learned a lot about Priscilla that I didn’t know before (she’s so private on her own blog). I also moved a long distance to be near grandchildren and could relate. The inspiration for Dog Meat was riveting, and I can’t wait to get the book. A fun interview, Lionel and Priscilla. Thanks for the morning smile.

  7. A great and fun interview, Priscilla, Lionel.
    I didn’t know you have 4 cats, and wow, Thing 1 and Thing 2 – so creepy.
    I’ll be picking up a copy soon, though I’m not sure how far I’ll read with it being horror, but the blurb is seriously enticing.

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