20 Questions with... NJ Gallegos
NJ Gallegos is an Emergency Medicine Physician who rather enjoys horror, thrillers, and wicked women. She lives in Illinois with her wife and two cats. In her spare time, she enjoys binging reality trash tv, brewing beer, and dabbling with art. Her novella, “Just Desserts” with Black Hare Press came out last month. She has a chapbook, "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires" out with Alien Buddha Press, as well as short works in The Alien Buddha's House of Horrors 5, and The Alien Buddha Skips the Party 2. In 2022, she was first place in ABP's Horror Showdown with her short story about another murderous woman. She also has publications in Medusa Tales, Drabble Dark II: An Anthology of Dark Drabbles, Siren Call Publications, and Gore 2: A Halloween Anthology. She has upcoming publications with Archer Publishing. She received an Honorable Mention from Allegory e-zine. This year, her debut novel, “The Broken Heart” will be released.
Follow her on Twitter @DrSpooky_ER
Read free stories on https://vocal.media/authors/nj-gallegos
Sign up for her newsletter on https://njgallegos.com for news. The Broken Heart follows a woman who receives a serial killer’s heart and leading up to release, related short stories will be dropped pertaining to other… evil organs.
Please introduce yourself. Where are you from? What was your life like growing up?
Gallegos. NJ Gallegos. I hail from a small town in Colorado, Alamosa. Grew up on a cattle ranch and spent a lot of time outside. Minimal adult supervision which was perfect! Played basketball (not very well, I’m short as hell and double dribble like a fiend) and ran cross country and track! Did an obscene amount of reading (anything from Stephen King to the Jackie Collins), sketching (mostly monsters) and watching horror movies at a very young age.
Did you always want to be a writer? If you also work, what do you do / did you do?
Yes, to an extent. I kept a journal all through my adolescence (cringeworthy to read now, especially since I was such a repressed little lesbian) and would dabble with writing here and there. During school, I didn’t enjoy writing much because I felt grading was so subjective. Thus, I gravitated more towards the sciences where answers are very black and white. Medical school and residency didn’t give me much time to do anything other than study, sleep, or work.
I currently work as an Emergency Medicine Physician in a community ER. During the COVID pandemic, I really turned to writing as an outlet and figured I must as well go for it. Life is too short!
Tell us about your most recently published work in a sentence.
A bullied underdog exacts sweet revenge at her 20-year high school reunion.
What are you working on right now?
Currently in the throes of editing my debut novel, “The Broken Heart” which is set to come out later this year! It follows Casey Philips, a disillusioned housewife, who receives a heart transplant from a serial killer, and she gets a bit murdery. They had it coming though.
Do you have a writing routine, and if so what is it?
I do the bulk of my writing before working a stretch of night shifts. Wake up around 2 PM, write till 5 PM with my cat Theodore snuggled on the couch next to me. Coffee or tea is required. I’ll also write on days off for a few hours or while my wife is at work. Must have trance music blaring for maximum concentration.
Where do you write – always in the same space, or different places? Can you write ‘on the move’?
Typically, I write on the couch or at the dining room table. Rarely during a slow night shift at work, I’ll be able to squeeze an hour of writing in. I take my laptop on vacation with me and write on the plane. Read over my shoulder at your own risk… there’s always a good chance of a severed body part on the page.
What advice do you have for other authors who are starting out? What is the best advice you’ve heard?
Just write! Don’t worry about it being perfect; all first drafts suck and that’s okay! Getting your idea of paper is all that matters.
Best advice? Get on Twitter. I secured my book deal on a pitch event, #PitDark, have met many amazing writers, and have learned a great deal about the industry from the bird app.
Do you enjoy doing live readings or are they a necessary evil – or somewhere in between?
I’ve never done an in-person live reading, although I’m open to it. I have done a few streamed live reads with Alien Buddha Press and enjoyed it! It was a bit anxiety provoking but once I got over my nervousness, it flowed nicely.
Are there recurring themes in your work? Where do you feel these emanate from if so?
Revenge mostly. My favorite characters are morally grey. I will always root for someone who does horrible things to bad people for great reasons. Women getting even… that’s my kink. In my job, I often see the nasty underside of humanity: child abuse, sexual assault, etc and there is nothing more poignant to me than someone shitty getting their comeuppance.
Should writers have a moral purpose? What is the purpose of a writer in today’s society?
I don’t feel moral purpose is necessarily mandatory but if one’s writing makes the world a worse place, you’re not doing it right. My main purpose is entertainment, but if I can provoke thought and make impactful work, I feel pretty darn fulfilled.
Do you write between genres or not?
Mostly I write horror, it’s how my dark, twisty brain works. I’ve dabbled with some sci-fi in short stories and have an idea for a thriller novel percolating in the old brain. Writing romance would be difficult for me… they’d be making out and then someone would end up murdered and/or poisoned.
Which living writers do you most admire?
Stephen King is my ultimate dude. Reading his “On Writing” was one of the catalysts for getting serious about writing and putting myself out there. Margaret Atwood is another, I adore her brand of dystopia and political commentary. There are plenty of writers on Twitter but Laurel Hightower, Sarah Jane Huntington, and Ai Jiang are absolute bad asses that I look up to!
Which dead writers do you most admire?
Peter Straub although I admit, I need to read more of his work. Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson, H.G. Wells.
What’s the book you wish you’d written?
Stephen King’s “The Stand”. It’s my absolute favorite book. Post-apocalyptic/dystopian is my jam, add in a devastating plague, and a fight between good and evil? The breakdown of society fascinates me (not that I want to experience it first-hand) and the doctor in me enjoys all the super flu scenes.
What other external influences do you have: nature/place, music etc?
Whenever I write, I listen to lots of EDM. Certain artists: Above and Beyond, BT, Tiesto, ATB evoke strong emotions with their lyrics and melodies, and I feel that I channel some of that onto the page. Growing up in Colorado, I feel a deep connection to mountains, and I often do my best thinking while trail running. One of my novellas, “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires” is a love letter to so many of the things I love: Colorado, music, tomfoolery, and the like.
Do you suffer from ‘writer’s block’ and how do you overcome it if so?
Not to jinx anything, but I typically don’t. If I sit down and don’t feel like writing on my main work-in-progress, I can turn my attention to another story or edit something else. It helps that I don’t write every single day though. By the time I sit down to write, I’m usually raring to go.
What’s been your favourite reaction to your writing?
“What is wrong with you?” to which I answer with a maniacal laugh.
How do your family and friends feel about your writing?
My wife, Ashley is incredibly supportive. Once I “came out” about my writing aspirations, she purchased me this beautiful notebook inscribed with a Stephen King quote that I write my ideas in. I bounce ideas off her and she also comes up with story ideas that I’ll run away with and make morbid and weird. Friends and co-workers are amazing too, reading my stories and buying their own copies. My family also rock. My in-laws are some of my biggest fans and my grandmother-in-law especially adores my brand of debauchery. My mom got me started in the horror genre young and reads the fruits of her labour.
Do you have a favourite bookshop?
As a kid, I spent many hours in my hometown bookshop, Narrow Gauge Book Cooperative. They had a popcorn machine in the corner and even now, smelling popcorn takes me back to that time of my life. I’d stand in the aisle for eons, reading Garfield comics and consuming rated R material. Bless them for never kicking me out. Another favorite is TAiLS of a Bookworm. Not only do they have a massive variety of books, but they also have a cute bookstore cat (my dream job), and they cooperate with local shelters to get kittens and cats adopted by booklovers.
How do you see the future of writing? Will we become more or less dependent on Amazon?
I feel hopeful. Small presses are the lifeblood of writers and I’ve found that reading lesser-known authors is just as if not more enjoyable than reading the work of heavy hitters. Of course… most books are sold on Amazon, and they make it so easy so… they’ll be around for the long haul. At least, until someone comes up with a better or comparable platform.