A young woman with the ability to see ghosts discovers that her little sister is also in tune with the supernatural in Beulah, the new novel by author Christi Nogle. With Beulah now available in paperback and eBook from Cemetery Gates Media, we had the pleasure of catching up with Christi in a new Indie Horror Month Q&A feature to discuss her debut novel, working with Joe Sullivan at Cemetery Gates Media, and she also talks about her upcoming collection The Best of Our Past, the Worst of Our Future.
You can read the full Q&A with Christi Nogle below, and to learn more about Beulah, visit Cemetery Gates Media!
Thanks for taking the time to answer questions for us, Christi, and congratulations on the recent publication of your new novel, Beulah, now available from Cemetery Gates Media! When did you first come up with the idea for Beulah?
Christi Nogle: Thanks for reaching out!
I suppose the first inklings of Beulah came back in college when I tried to write fiction for the first time. I wrote difficult characters similar to Georgie in Beulah, and I always wanted to give them more time to grow and develop, but at the time I barely understood how to approach a short story and didn’t yet trust myself to start a novel
Approximately how long did it take you to write Beulah, and how many drafts did you go through before it was sent to the printers?
Christi Nogle: The book took about four years, but that might be a little misleading to say since I was also writing a great deal of short fiction over that time. It took just two full drafts. In late 2017 for NaNoWriMo, I wrote a draft of a book called Beulah, but it was very different from the current novel. Over 2019 and 2020, I rewrote the book entirely, one chapter a month, alongside my writing group members who were more accomplished novelists. I finally submitted it for publication in early 2021.
Beulah is now available in paperback and eBook via Cemetery Gates Media. What has it been like working with Cemetery Gates Media to bring Beulah into the world?
Christi Nogle: I’m grateful for the smooth process of working with Joe Sullivan at Cemetery Gates Media. I submitted to their first open call for debut horror novels (which should be opening again soon), received an offer, went over the contract and signed, went over Joe’s edits, offered ideas for the cover, approved the cover, and that was about the extent of the process. They made it easy for me to manage as a first-time novelist, and I would recommend others check out CGM. They’re also doing a range of anthologies, collections from folks such as J.A.W. McCarthy and C.W. Briar, and novels from more established novelists such as Gemma Amor.
The awesome cover art for Beulah was created by Luke Spooner at Carrion House. What was your reaction the first time you saw Luke’s artwork for Beulah?
Christi Nogle: I’ve long admired Luke Spooner’s covers and illustrations, and so when Joe mentioned him among a few other artists who might do the cover, I was enthusiastic—and absolutely delighted—with the finished cover. Beulah is set in an old stone schoolhouse in a small Idaho town, and there is a lot of emphasis on the setting. The vibrant colors and craggy textures perfectly capture the region. I love the paranoid feel of the image—Georgie hovering, set off from everyone and everything, and then the menacing ghosts (or are they judgmental townsfolk?) watching her. I also love how distinctive it is—I never have trouble picking it out from a collage of other covers.
Beulah is your first published novel (in addition to writing many short stories in your career). What did you learn throughout the process of writing Beulah that you might apply to future projects?
Christi Nogle: It’s all right to start over. The standard advice is to write a rough draft and then keep working to refine and edit that draft. That is solid advice most of the time, but with this book as well as a few short stories, I’ve written a draft or partial draft and then set it aside and rewritten the piece entirely. It sounds daunting, but it’s also very freeing to realize that a work can be re-envisioned and not just polished.
While writing Beulah, were you influenced or inspired by any other books, movies, TV shows, comic books, or video games?
Christi Nogle: I revisited old favorites while writing Beulah. I think it was a matter of asking myself, Wait, what is a novel again? What makes a novel work? These questions led me to reread Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Stephen King’s Pet Sematary and The Shining, and many other older favorites that had something of the mood or atmosphere I was working toward. Even when I didn’t reread certain novels in full, I was often browsing through them trying to remember what I had liked about them.
During the time I worked on Beulah, I was also reading new books coming out from authors such as Stephen Graham Jones, Silvia Moreno Garcia, Gwendolyn Kiste, Grady Hendrix, and S.P Miskowski and trying to keep up with all the excellent short fiction coming out from places like Grimscribe Press, Undertow Press, Nightmare Magazine, and Black Static. I’m sure all of that reading also inspired me in subtler ways.
Your new collection, The Best of Our Past, the Worst of Our Future, will come out in 2023 from Flame Tree Press. What types of stories can readers expect to see in your upcoming collection?
Christi Nogle: The Best of Our Past, the Worst of Our Future is a full-length collection of my best horror and weird stories. They’re all contemporary, though many of them have a gothic feel. They focus on my main preoccupations such as haunted places and ghosts, psychological horror, unreliable narrators, existential dread, unsettling places, the uncanny, and the surreal. I’m excited to be working on this book with the editor Don D’Auria! A couple of the stories have already appeared in Flame Tree anthologies, so it feels like the work is a good fit with what the press does.
What is your writing routine like? Do you set out to write a certain number of words or hours per day, or do you just write whenever you can?
Christi Nogle: It works best for me to draft in the evenings, usually on the couch in the living room with the television going and my giant dogs sleeping on either side of me. I try to write a thousand words or more a day, but it doesn’t always work out that way. If I’m really involved in a story, I can write in the mornings too, but I usually reserve morning time for activities that don’t require quite as much concentration, such as revising, doing critiques, and submitting stories to magazines. Of course, if I get ideas while I’m out and about, I’ll try to take note of them, usually on my phone.
What advice would you give to writers who are just getting started?
Christi Nogle: As a longtime teacher and an HWA mentor, I like giving loads of advice (check out the extensive for newer writers on the “Getting Started” area of my website), but if I can offer just one suggestion: try to make meaningful connections with other writers. You can socialize with them, give and receive support and advice, read each other’s work, and so on. It’s so motivating to watch their careers progress alongside your own.
Are there any other projects you’re currently working on that you can tease for our readers? Also, where can our readers go online to keep up to date on your work?
Christi Nogle: I have quite a few new stories forthcoming and am drafting a new novel—a kind of psychedelic cult novel focused on a middle-aged friend group—called All My Really Good Friends.
I’m also working as an Associate Editor at the horror fiction podcast PseudoPod and as co-editor with Willow Dawn Becker for the Weird Little Worlds anthology Mother: Tales of Love and Terror, which will be taking submissions April 15-May 15, 2022, details on the submissions page.
I’m active on Twitter @christinogle and love to follow readers, writers, and artists. You can lean more about Beulah and read a lot of my short fiction, or listen to the podcasted stories, at http://christinogle.com
Thank you so much for your time, Christi!
Christi Nogle: Thanks for the opportunity! I really appreciate it.
Beulah synopsis: "Beulah is the story of Georgie, an eighteen-year-old with a talent (or affliction) for seeing ghosts. Georgie and her family have had a hard time since her father died, but she and her mother Gina and sisters Tommy and Stevie are making a new start in the small town of Beulah, Idaho where Gina’s wealthy friend Ellen has set them up to help renovate an old stone schoolhouse. Georgie experiences a variety of disturbances—the town is familiar from dreams and she seems to be experiencing her mother’s memory of the place, not to mention the creepy ghost in the schoolhouse basement—but she is able to maintain, in her own laconic way, until she notices that her little sister Stevie also has the gift. Stevie is in danger from a malevolent ghost, and Georgie tries to help, but soon Georgie is the one in danger."