November 9, 2009

The Inspiration to Write: Author Christin Haws

The Writer

Christin Haws is a writer without a day job currently living in a small town in the middle of a cornfield. Her short story "Such a Pretty Face" won 10th place in the genre category of Writer Digest's 77th Annual Story Contest. Two more of her short stories are currently available. "My Winter with Stanley" can be found on and "Hillibilly Hunt" is featured in the Pill Hill Press anthology Middle of Nowhere: Horror in Rural America. Her short story "Customer Service" will be available in an upcoming issue of Ruthless Peoples Magazine. She's currently working on several more short stories, is in the process of writing her fifth novel, and looks forward to the day she finally gets her first one published. Christin is easily stalkable via Livejournal [link] and Twitter [link].


What inspires you to write?

I've never really thought about what inspires me to write because I've just always done it. I wrote my first word at three and my first story at six and have yet to stop. It's just what I do. Growing up, I wrote dozens of plays, notebooks full of stories that were never finished, and pages of poetry. Writing has always been my preferred outlet and method of communication. I've always liked putting pen to paper. Even if I hadn't recently decided to try to make a career of writing, even if my life had taken a completely different path, I know I'd still be writing. I guess I'm not so much inspired to write as I'm wired to write.

Where do you find inspiration to create your stories?

You always hear about people getting their brilliant ideas in the shower. Mine come to me while I'm doing laundry. Our washer is in the basement and we don't have a dryer, so that means the clothes are either hung on the outside line if it's nice or, in the winter, slung over the line that's strung up downstairs. I've gotten several story ideas while pulling wet clothes out of a washer that was made sometime before I was born. I not only got the original idea for "Such a Pretty Face" while doing laundry, but it was also while I was doing that chore that I got the idea that saved the story from the trash can after more than a year of revisions and rewrites on it. I don't know what about doing laundry in that chilly, concrete room that inspires my creative process. Maybe it's because my short stories are all horror stories and my basement looks like it could easily be a set in a horror film.

I'm not only inspired by domestic tasks, but also by life in general. "Customer Service" started out as a retail revenge fantasy, an inevitability as far as I was concerned after spending several years in the business dealing with every kind of rudeness available (don't get me wrong, there were good ones, too, but it's the rude ones that still haunt me); an inevitability that best occurred fictionally. However, as it sometimes goes with revising and rewriting, it turned into something with a little more body and heart and a little less vengeance, but still very satisfying to a former retailer with a few rude ghosts lingering around.

"Hillbilly Hunt" was the product of several different little sparks of inspiration being put together to create a whole story. That happens to me quite a bit. I keep a little notebook just for those little sparks. Scenes, snippets of conversation, a line of dialogue, a comeback, an insult, odd thoughts, striking details, random facts. Sometimes these little sparks are enough to start and sustain a whole story. Sometimes, like with "Hillbilly Hunt", it takes two or three. "Hillbilly Hunt" started as my desire to do a different take on a common horror trope. The opening scene of the story and the twist I needed both came from my notebook.

Any little thing can be the catalyst for the creative process so I try to keep my eyes open. I don't want to miss an opportunity, even if I don't know how I'm going to use it or when I'm going to use it. Inspiration really is everywhere, I think.

Even in the laundry.


From My Winter with Stanley

My name is Maisie Day and people will tell me anything.

My mother calls it "the gift of openness". Anyone, whether I know them or not, will tell me any truth about themselves, whether I ask them or not. And I rarely ask. This sort of thing is fine with family and close friends, awkward and uncomfortable with acquaintances and coworkers, and down right terrifying and boggling with strangers. It’s a bus, not a confessional.

My mother calls it a gift; I call it a pain in the ass. Mom has repeatedly lectured me on using my power for good. I think she meant that I should become a therapist or a journalist or an interrogator. Expose the truth, catch bad guys, help people.

I don’t think she meant for me to become a writer and use what people freely tell me as fodder for stories. I think she’d call that exploitation. I call it my fee, the price someone pays for assaulting me with their life against my will. It’s not like I’m getting rich off of it; just making a living.

Some people may argue that it’s not very creative, that it’s lazy writing. Believe me, it takes a lot of creativity and work to make reality believable enough for fiction.

There’s a place I go when the idea pit is running dry or I’m in need of some stimulation. It’s an out of the way, yet busy café buried in LA, not too far from my apartment. I take a notebook, get a tea, grab a table, and just soak myself in the human experience.

One particularly busy day, I found myself setting my tea down on the last available table, one outside with a green and white umbrella to shield me from the winter glare. I doodled and scribbled, catching bits of conversation, interesting fashion choices, appalling social rituals.

I was just finishing an amazingly childish drawing of an ice cream cone when someone cleared their throat to my left. I looked up at the most eye piercing Hawaiian shirt I’d ever seen, bright green with big red parrots everywhere. I looked up to the owner of the monstrosity and found a stick figure with a vulture’s nose, Buddy Holly glasses, and black straw that was supposed to be hair.

"Can I help you?" I asked, knowing he was really beyond my help.

A plastic surgeon and a fashion guru couldn’t fix that mess.

"Would you mind if I sat with you?" the stickman asked. "There’s no tables left. I promise, I won’t bother you."

He held up a book and an iced coffee.

I shrugged. "Sure."

Stickman sat down across from me, setting his drink on the glorified patio table.

"My name’s Stanley," he said. "Stanley Ivanov. There, I’ve identified myself. No worries that I’ll be attacking you later."

I snorted. "Thanks for that.

Read the rest of "My Winter with Stanley" at

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