Mitzi Szereto is an author and anthology editor of multi-genre fiction and non-fiction, has a blog called Errant Ramblings: Mitzi Szereto’s Weblog, and is creator/presenter of the Web TV channel Mitzi TV, which covers “quirky” London.
Her books include Red Velvet and Absinthe: Paranormal Erotic Romance; Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts; In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales; Getting Even: Revenge Stories; Dying for It: Tales of Sex and Death; the M. S. Valentine erotic novels; and the upcoming release Thrones of Desire: Erotic Tales of Swords, Mist and Fire (Sept. 2012).
Mitzi has pioneered erotic writing workshops in the UK and Europe, teaching them from the Cheltenham Festival of Literature to the Greek islands. She’s also lectured in creative writing at several British universities. She’s been featured in publications such as the Sunday Telegraph, Independent, Times, Observer, Toronto Star, Guardian, The London Paper, Company Magazine, Dare Magazine, Family Circle, and Writing Magazine, and on BBC Radio, Bravo UK Television, Telecinco TV 5 (Spain), Newstalk Ireland, Talk Radio Europe, and FM4 ORF (Austria).
Her anthology Erotic Travel Tales 2 is the first anthology of erotica to feature a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Bill Ectric: What’s the best part and worst part of publishing an anthology?
Mitzi Szereto: The best part is when it all finally comes together and just jells, and you know you’ve got something really good. This takes a long time, I should add, and it doesn’t happen without a lot of hair pulling. Then there’s this massive sigh of relief when it’s over and you can get on with your life until it starts all over again!
The worst part of doing an anthology is when you get in a ton of completely inappropriate submissions that just won’t work, editing or no editing. You start panicking and wondering if you’ll ever pull the book together. Out of fairness to the authors, I should clarify that some stories are rejected because they just don’t tick the right boxes – and this can be for any number of reasons. However, there are also a lot of writers out there who don’t seem to read or comprehend the detailed specs I disseminate and insist on sending material that incorporates everything I don’t want. I can only shake my head in astonishment and wonder if perhaps I’ve accidentally written my submission specs in Sumerian. With the anthology I just finished (Thrones of Desire: Erotic Tales of Swords, Mist and Fire), I became so annoyed over this issue that I wrote a rant about it at my blog . Alas, I’m sure the word to the wise has not been sufficient!
Bill: I like the Woody Allen quote at the beginning of your sex and death anthology, Dying For It: Tales of Sex and Death. He says, “The difference between sex and death is that with death you can do it alone and no one is going to make fun of you.” Alfred Hitchcock often used humor in conjunction with murder and sex. Do you think there is some magic formula there?
Mitzi: I think there is, yes. Death is an uncomfortable and unpleasant subject. We’re all going to die, and we’ve all been affected by death. Incorporating an element of dark humor into the subject matter is a survival technique of sorts, especially when death is ratcheted up several notches to murder. We’re helpless in the face of death, so why not try to find a bit of humor in it? When it comes to sex and death, the danger buttons get pushed even harder. Some of the stories in Dying For It do have black humor in them. I’m a sucker for dark humor, always have been, even as a child. I wonder what that says about me?
Bill: I know you were living in England, then I saw some pictures on Facebook of you in Savannah, Georgia. Where DO you lives?
Mitzi: I’ve been living in England for the past decade and am a British citizen (God save the Queen!). I will, however, be spending more time in the USA, which seems to have made my American fans happy! It’s always a bit weird for me being in the States – no one gets my references. I was in Savannah recently and ran into some people from the UK and it was such a relief to be able to mention Del Boy and actually have someone know what in hell I’m on about! Oh, leave it out, Rodney!
Bill: Where were you born?
Mitzi: I was born in the United States, but emigrated to the United Kingdom about 11 years ago. I’ve pretty much lived all over the USA, so I don’t really consider myself a native of any particular area or beholden to one place. Well, other than Britain, that is.
Bill: As you may have noticed, I’m a bit of an Anglophile, myself, but I’ve only been to London one time, years ago when I was in the Navy. I want to go back. Why did you move to England? And you say that you became a British citizen? Interesting! Would you consider yourself an expat?
Mitzi: Yes, I do consider myself an expat, and probably always will, even if I remained permanently in America. Mind you, I might then need to be called a British expat as well as an American expat! I must’ve been British in a previous life, because I always felt British even as a child growing up in America. I think it was my destiny to move there, and I finally decided to put things into place to make it happen, essentially going over on my own, with no relatives or friends to fall back on. Being a resourceful individual, I made it work. I was given a lot of opportunities that I truly do not believe would have happened had I remained in America, such as becoming a university lecturer in creative writing and also pioneering erotic writing workshops, teaching them at literature festivals and on residential courses in places such as the Greek islands. I should add that I’ve gained a far wider international public profile living in Britain, finding myself in demand by the European and Irish media as well as the UK media, including television. As for my citizenship, I have fond memories of my swearing-in ceremony; Essex County Council (where it took place) did a lovely job and made it very special occasion. I had my naturalization certificate presented to me by Lord Peter dressed in his regal best!
Bill: In your introduction to Red Velvet and Absinthe, you say you’ve enjoyed Gothic novels since childhood. Do you remember the first novel you read that could be considered Gothic? What are some of the Gothic novels that stand out in your mind?
Mitzi: That’s a tough one. I used to consume these novels as some people consume sweets, so I can’t remember which novel was my introduction to the genre. I would read whatever came out that looked good, generally novels by contemporary authors writing along the lines of say, Jane Eyre – novels featuring handsome brooding gentlemen living in isolated houses filled with secrets and ghosts. Is it any wonder why I like the moors so much?
Bill: Your books have such great covers. You choose the covers yourself? Where do you get them?
Mitzi: I’m afraid I can’t take credit for the art, but I’ve generally been pleased with the final product. I think it’s a good sign that when a new book comes out and I love the cover and think this is it, it can’t possibly get any better, the next book surprises me with an even more amazing cover. My last three titles were like that, first with In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed: Erotic Fairy Tales, then Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts (with the demure lass featured on the cover), and finally Red Velvet and Absinthe with its harlequin-masked woman. Now I’ve just seen the cover of my new anthology Thrones of Desire: Erotic Tales of Swords, Mist and Fire – and bang, it’s brilliant! It evokes the sexy epic-fantasy feel of the book in a way that is immediate and dramatic. I should mention that I come from a fine art background, so it’s a real treat to actually be happy with what the designers have come up with for me.
Bill: When you went to Savannah, did you see where they filmed Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil, or go on the Ghost Tour?
Mitzi: I recall they shot a lot of scenes for the film at Forsyth Square, which is a lovely area surrounded by some beautiful old homes, so yes, I was definitely there as well as pretty much everywhere in the historical district. As for the ghosts, funny you should mention it, but I did go on a ghost tour. I should add that there are plenty of ghost tours in Savannah, and I opted for the lazy one on the trolley. Just about every local you meet in Savannah lays claim to a ghost story of some sort. I admit I’m a skeptic, but I have to tell you about something very peculiar that happened in two different locations, one of which was the Moon River Brewing Company (reported to be haunted). You remember in The Omen whenever a photo was taken of someone who’d later die by some horrible means something weird always showed up in the image? Well, several photos we took in the pub had these weird squiggly lines in them. We were also down on River Street one evening when it was still light and my friend was taking photos of me with my famous bear Teddy Tedaloo and a Savannah police officer, and some of the shots came out with this ghostly fading thing happening by our heads. I should tell you there’s nothing wrong with the cameras that were used, and there wasn’t any bizarre lighting issues going on either. I actually set my paranormal short story “The Blood Moon Kiss” in my Red Velvet and Absinthe anthology in Savannah. I’m thinking this Southern Gothic thing might be a literary avenue for me to pay a return visit to.
Bill: Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to me, Mitzi. I’ll end the interview with a list of links where people can learn more about you and your ambitious work: