Updated: Sep 1, 2021
For our twelfth entry of our Beneath the Needle Q&A series, we (metaphorically) take a seat with V. Astor Solomon, a Short Fiction contributor responsible for the enthralling and important Bare Your Neck, Show Your Teeth, featured in The Needle Drops... Volume One. We talk about this visceral entry, alongside growing up with horror and fiction -- often both intertwined -- tarot, art and short short stories.
tw/cw: passing reference to trauma
V. Astor Solomon is a non-binary, queer, mixed-race, disabled author residing in Kentucky. They are often found writing about dead beings, things that should not be sentient but are, and other strange and possibly deadly creatures. They are also one of those people who can’t pick between cats and dogs, will drink tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and the occasional alcoholic beverage, and is generally a curious magpie more than a person.
They have been published in such outlets as Cast of Wonders and Lamplight, and you can find their full list of credits here.
So, V. Astor - Bare Your Neck, Show Your Teeth is built upon the ‘Final Girl’, which was established by many slasher genre flicks that are beloved by the horror community -- what was your first experience with the trope?
I honestly don’t recall my first experience.
I grew up with horror, my mother and I bonded over horror movies when I was small, so honestly, while the monsters feel like home, the Final Girls were the people I wanted to grow up to be - in certain regards.
Handling such an emotive narrative, would you mind sharing some insight into the origins of Bare Your Neck, Show Your Teeth, and what it means to you?
Between growing up with horror as a comfort medium and growing up with trauma, I feel like survival stories come naturally to me. Bare Your Neck came from a place of feeling feral, feeling changed after you’ve survived something exceptionally difficult but knowing that you aren’t the only one who’s been through some kind of hell and came out on the other side.
How did you get your start writing fiction? Has it been an element of your life for as long as you can remember, or is it something you discovered later down the line?
I was an early reader, and with that came a love of story in all its forms and flavors. I always wanted to tell stories, be it through writing, drawing, or even acting.
I’m enamoured with narrative so typing away kind of came naturally to me, even if it was through fanfiction, which also sometimes still acts as a comfort to me when I’m feeling strung out on original fiction.
"I’m enamoured with narrative so typing away kind of came naturally to me"
Which of your many previously published works was particularly memorable for you, to highlight to our readers? Is there a specific story you often revisit?
This Was Never A Vigil is one of the pieces of work that I call a ‘heart story’.
Death motifs, underworlds, and birds all mean a lot in one way or another and I still think of that story fondly and with pride.
You often write shorter stories -- tiny stories here -- is this something you’ve always done, and what is it you enjoy about the format?
I’ve always been drawn to short fiction, it sunk its claws into me more than novels ever have.
I don’t read much of anything over a novella length, and while I love lush language, concise and intriguing are also a big draw for me.
I love leaving someone who reads my stories with a bit of curiosity and wonder, or maybe a pinch of fear. That short, sharp, shock of emotion has always been what I like to elicit.
Beyond crafting fiction, you practice tarot and dabble in art. Could you highlight some aspects of your passion for these? Do you find they complement your writing?
I took up art in a semi-serious fashion when I realized writing was no longer a hobby; I needed something to be able to turn off my brain and not think in words. It gave me a creative outlet to be able to help me process and relax in equal measure.
Tarot, and divination in general, are things I’ve been doing since I was pretty young. My mother gave me a tarot deck when I was a teenager and while I had my fits and starts of not working with them, I always came back. The cards are a great way to help me look at stories in a different way, freeing up my brain to examine different possibilities for a story to develop. When I can’t bounce ideas off another person, I’m happy to talk it through with one of my decks.
"The cards are a great way to help me look at stories in a different way, freeing up my brain to examine different possibilities for a story to develop."
Can we ask the origins of “how sweet the words”?
Oh boy, okay.
So ‘how sweet the words’ is a play off of ‘how sweet the sound’ which while some people may think of Amazing Grace, for me is associated with Vienna Teng’s Recessional. The whole line is ‘words like rain, how sweet the sound’.
I’ve loved the song since I heard it and I liked the narrative structure it takes on.
In three words or less - what can our readers expect from Bare Your Neck, Show Your Teeth?
Three words? Okay, let me try this...
Recover and arise.