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Our SPFBOX interviews continue with Sam Weiss,  author of The Afterlife Experiment.

SPFBO (the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off) is a free online contest run by author Mark Lawrence. 300 authors compete across ten judging teams to see who will be the winner! You can read more about the contest here.


Cover for Sam Weiss's The Afterlife Experiment. A lone figure walks off across a snow (or perhaps moon) scape. The auror borealis cover the night sky and a slash of glowing magenta plasma is intertwined with the title. The figure in the snow has their back to the audience. They have long, white or grey hair, and they're wearing a long jacket (though no short skirt, that we can see). The magenta from the plasma casts a purple glow onto the snow.



Tell us a little about yourself and let our readers know which blog you’ve been assigned to for SPFBOX!

My true form is what is best described as “swamp cryptid” but for the sake of brevity, let’s just say I’m an indie editor by day and an indie author by night. I’m in the group Covers with Cassidy (at least I think that’s what it’s called. I have not had my coffee yet so anything I say could be false).

What inspired you to write this book?

When I was 14 or 15 (which feels like about 12 centuries ago now) I wanted to write some kind of monster story. There was a building complex being constructed in my town, and I remember walking past it and it was just the chain link fence around the site and then one lone elevator shaft built in the middle. It was so weird and liminal to see, and somehow that kicked off my imagination and I decided to write about a wrongfully-committed psych patient with a tie to the afterlife. That whole story was a 200k+ word MESS, but the characters and concept stuck in my head. One day, when I doing housekeeping at an old job, I was cleaning a shower when the idea struck me about a group of scientists who accidentally open a portal to the afterlife, and that was the idea I needed to jumpstart rewrites and sort of tie the mess I’d written when I was 15 to an actual plot. So, tl;dr, an elevator shaft, and a stranger’s shower served as inspiration.



I handwrite my first drafts, sometimes my outlines end up being longer than the actual chapter, and if I was racing against a sloth to see who finished a book first, the sloth would win.


Can you tell us a little bit about your writing or editing process? What’s most exciting to you about writing or editing?

It’s chaos. I handwrite my first drafts, sometimes my outlines end up being longer than the actual chapter, and if I was racing against a sloth to see who finished a book first, the sloth would win. Twice over. My favourite part is brainstorming, and everything that comes before the actual act of writing. My least favourite part is probably editing, which is ironic, since I do that as my day-job. But it’s fun editing someone else’s work and pure torture editing your own.

Who or what have been your major literary influences?
Sooooo cliche, but Stephen King. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman has also been a huge influence as well as the book Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon. They made me want to write huge, complicated, sprawling novels.

What makes your SPFBOX book unique?
I don’t know if it belongs here? 😂 My book straddles a lot of genres, and *I* thought it was primarily fantasy, but reviewers have been calling it a lot of other things. There’s no swords, no dragons, no typical fantasy entities, and there’s no tropes that are popular in fantasy right now. And there’s no romance, which seems to be another huge thing right now.


I was cleaning a shower when the idea struck me about a group of scientists who accidentally open a portal to the afterlife, and that was the idea I needed.

How does your work fit into (or challenge) its genre?
There’s a lot going on. I guess it’s primarily science fantasy, but it’s not typical sci-fi or fantasy. And there’s some horror and psychological thriller aspects as well. So if you like stuff that’s just a mess of genres, this might be for you!

What do you hope readers take away from your SPFBOX entry?

Mmmkay, so I suck at coherently saying anything like this, so I’m going to steal an excerpt from a reviewer that summed it up better than I ever could: “It’s like real-life curiosity mixed with a dash of the supernatural and served it up in a story that’s as much about human connection as it is about the great beyond. It’s a mirror reflecting our deepest fears and hopes about what comes after.”

What are you currently working on?

Book 2. I fear I will fossilize before it’s complete.


The Afterlife Experiment

Atra Hart has spent the last seven years locked away in Vanishing Plains Psychiatric Hospital. In that time, her shadow has transformed into its own entity and is growing stronger by the day, threatening to devour her mind. She calls that shadow Dread, and only her missing father knows what it is.

When a fire breaks out at the asylum, Atra makes her way to freedom just in time to see an electric-purple rift sunder the sky. Like Dread, the rift is only visible to her.

Atra’s already loose grip on reality unravels when she learns the rift is a gateway to the world of the dead. And the Queen, an ancient evil lurking on its fringes, wants Dread for her own. Even worse, Atra can’t tell if any of this is really happening. She might have escaped one asylum, but the closer she gets to unearthing answers about Dread, why her father knows it’s there, and its role in the Queen’s plans, the more she risks getting trapped inside her own mind forever. Maybe some truths are meant to stay buried.


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Purchase The Afterlife Experiment on Amazon.


Sam WeissSam was named after a dog, a fact her mother disputes to this day.

While she’s terrible at writing “About Me”s about her, she’s been told she’s great at writing about what fictional people do. The more miserable she can make them, the better.

Her love of horror films from the 80s, sci-fi shows from the 90s, and alternative music from the 00s have inspired her to write what she’s calling “Dark Science Fantasy” although she’s kind of making that up as she goes along.

When she’s not ready to pull her hair out after discovering another plot hole she’s created, she goes camping with her husband as far away from society as possible. So far, this tactic has been mostly successful and she’s only had to physically converse with a grand total of nine people this year. Next year, she hopes to get that number down to six.

Steve Hugh Westenra

Steve is a trans author of fantasy, science fiction, and horror (basically, if it’s weird he writes it). He grew up on the eldritch shores of Newfoundland, Canada, and currently lives and works in (the slightly less eldritch) Montreal. He holds advanced degrees in Russian Literature, Medieval Studies, and Religious Studies. As a reader, Steve’s tastes are eclectic. He enjoys anything that could be called speculative, including fantasy, sci-fi, and horror, but has been known to enjoy a good mystery as well as literary fiction. He’s always excited to try something new or that pushes boundaries, particularly from marginalized authors. Steve is passionate about queer representation, Late Antiquity, and spiders.

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