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The Skull Sessions: Nightlight




William

Good evening. This is your loyal host William A. Wellman. In addition to creating Hello From The Hallowoods every week, I write novels, read horror stories and tune in to the work of other podcasters in the horror fiction space today. Sometimes I invite them into my dimly lit parlor for an armchair conversation about horror. In this bonus episode, I sat down with Tonia Ransom to talk about her influential horror anthology show and the trail she is blazing in audio drama today. This is the Skull Sessions: Nightlight.


*theme music plays*


William

We are here today with the wonderful Tonia Ransom of Nightlight and Afflicted, two very different and yet very unique horror projects that have come out in the last couple of years for audio drama. Tonia, what do you want your name to be known for in the horror space?


Tonia

Oh man, that is an excellent question. I would say I want to be known for unexpected twists. That is always my goal with all of the writing that I do is for it to basically be like a Twilight Zone episode. Like, ‘ooh, didn’t see that coming’ kind of thing.


William

We had a horror writers’ panel together that we were invited to do for InvictusCon, which is the yearly event that Harlan Guthrie over at Malevolent runs. And you had mentioned The Twilight Zone during that convo as well! And it definitely was one of those pieces of media that at least like, very early on for me, sort of captured my imagination. And looking back on Rod Serling’s philosophy, he was not subtle about the fact that he had things that he wanted to make society think about, and he saw the show as kind of an avenue to do that.


Tonia

Yes. Yes.


William

I was curious where for you the horror genre first sort of captured your imagination? What brought you into that lifelong interest in this corner of fiction?


Tonia

Yeah, well. I have four older brothers, three of which are older…


William

That would do it!


Tonia

*laughs*

And my dad loved horror, so he’d be watching horror movies. And my oldest brother is almost ten years older than me, so you know, when I was little he was a teenager. And of course once the bigger one starts to do things, then the little ones want to do it to. So my dad’s watching a horror movie, my oldest brother is like ‘well I wanna watch it too’, and it just kind of dominoes down.


And my parents didn’t care what I watched, as long as there wasn’t sex in it. Like, sex was… no. Can’t do that. But people getting decapitated? Awesome. We could totally watch that. So I remember watching Candyman as a kid. And I can’t remember if I watched Halloween or Candyman first, my memory is not that good, but one of them I watched first and I just kind of fell in love with the genre.


Partly because, you know, everybody knows that siblings, especially brothers, are ruthless. So if I had showed any fear at all, I would have never heard the end of it. So I knew that I had to look brave. And the way that I did that in my child’s mind was paying attention to the details of the story. You know at the time, I was kind of dissecting the story in this kind of rudimentary way that kids are capable of. But that was how I kind of detached enough so that I wasn’t afraid and wouldn’t jump and things like that that would get me made fun of.


And I don’t know, something about it really spoke to me. You know, I didn’t have the best environment in my childhood, and horror helped me make sense of a lot of things. Like, how could God—I was raised in a Baptist household too, so it was like—how can God allow all these horrible things to happen to innocent people and to kids, and why, why does my dad do the things that he does? I couldn’t make sense of that as a kid. But seeing horror and these monsters, and then people being the monsters sometimes, helped me in a weird way make sense of why the world is so shitty sometimes.


William

Yeah, that is so interesting. And I would ask what ended up bringing you not only to take in these stories and kind of find something in them, but also to begin writing them yourself and create your own work… but I believe you mentioned in our last convo that you had an early piece of Michael Myers fiction that was, maybe kind of that on-ramp?


Tonia

Yeah, yeah it was. So I had a class project in second grade where we had to write and illustrate and actually create a book, so we had to get cardboard and bind the book ourselves, like everything from start to finish. Essentially being the publisher. It was the greatest assignment ever. And my story was Michael Myers fanfiction, complete with bloody illustrations, him wielding a knife, you know, there’s corpses…


*laughs*


And at the time, I felt like you know, I feel like I did a really good job of telling a good story here. And I was a really good kid in school, and the teacher called my mom. And I just assumed that she called my mom because she was impressed with my writing.


*William cracks up in background*


And you know, it turns out—my mom never told me this, it wasn’t until much later that I pieced together that conversation was that teacher was scared in a completely different way than I intended. But I still caught that bug of like, scaring someone with my words. Just, I didn’t quite scare her the way that I wanted to, but I still got that feeling, kind of got hooked on it.


But I also told myself bedtime stories at night. I always had a hard time falling asleep as a kid, could never just lay down and pass out. And I’d lay there and I would just make up stories every night, that’s how I put myself to sleep. So I’ve always told stories; that was just the first time that I put one down on paper and scared someone and got hooked on that feeling.


William

You know, that’s the kind of thing that sticks with you for life, really. Did you know from then on that you were aiming to get into horror writing, to kind of work in that space, or was there a different period that led up to when you began Nightlight?


Tonia

Yeah, I mean. The place that I grew up in, they were actually like… they made national news for the amount of books they wanted to ban while I was in school there. So I was not exposed to a lot of classic literature that other kids were. We actually had an assignment to read the first five books of the Bible one year for AP English. We read like, ‘The Raven’ by Poe and that was like, all the… we might have actually read ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ too as well, I can’t remember exactly.


But it was basically just a bunch of old white dudes. There was very little horror. If I wanted to read horror, I had to go buy it in the store, and my parents were poor, so most of what I read just came from garage sales and it was whatever I could find at garage sales that had an interesting cover.


You know, I never considered I guess because of the environment that I grew up in that people could get paid to do it for a living? Like, I just never made that connection. Especially somebody that looked like me and somebody that was writing horror, like I just didn’t think that it was a thing that was possible, that it was a hobby thing.


And so in my head it was always just something that I did because it helped me feel better about things, and it made me happy. And all through school, I would try to write horror for assignments and I would stick to the letter of what the assignment was, but there would be horror themes in it. And I would always get chastised for sneaking vampires into the story, or things like that.


By the time that I graduated high school, it was very much ‘it’s not okay to write about this stuff, this isn’t like real art’, quote unquote. And I just kind of gave up on it, for a while? You know, every once in a while a story would come to my head and I would have to write it down because I just, I couldn’t get it out of my head otherwise.


But it wasn’t until I decided to go back to school to get my degree—I originally dropped out because my dad got sick, and I decided to go to work full-time so that I could help support him. So I went back to school after he passed away, a few years after he passed away, and I had to take some electives. And I was like, might as well take a writing class, that will be fun.


So I took a writing class, and my professor was amazing. And she kept telling me like, you need to do this. You need to put your work out there. You need to submit it places. This is something that you can make a career out of. And I was like, wait, what?


William

*laughs in background*


Tonia

It’s funny, to have so much imagination as a writer, I didn’t have enough imagination to say ‘oh, this is something that people get paid to do for a living, and I can also get paid to do this for a living’. Like, I had to have someone tell me that. Which in hindsight it’s like, wow, how dumb am I? But I’m really thankful for that professor, because she’s the reason that I ended up where I am now, honestly.


William

Totally. It doesn’t always come naturally, the idea that you can do the thing that you like and take that seriously and make that a full-time thing. There are so many podcasters that are like, yeah, this is my hobby, I put a full-time’s job of hours into this, but it’s all just for fun…


Tonia

*laughs*


William

So from that period, where did you start? Was that just in submitting stories to magazines or anthologies?


Tonia

So that same professor gave us, not necessarily an assignment, it wasn’t for a grade, but she did tell us, I want you to do this, consider it an assignment. To submit our work to some magazine that was, that matched whatever work that we had. And I found this outlet called Creepy Campfire Magazine, and I submitted my story to them and it got accepted. So the very first time I sent out my story it got accepted and I got paid for it too! It was a paying publication.


So I was like, holy shit man, this doesn’t happy to anybody, you know? Everybody always talks about this long list of rejections that they have and their first acceptance is one where they don’t get paid… and I was like, wow, this is great. And I kept submitting my work and then I started getting all the rejections.


But that first experience of selling my work, and then you know, when it got published—because it was also a physical copy that I got, as part of my payment as well. Hold that anthology in my hands with my story in it was an amazing feeling, just a really great feeling. And I decided at that point that I wanted to try to at least make some money off it. I worked in tech at the time so I was making quite a bit of money, and I knew it was going to take a long time to replace the money that you make in tech with writing…


*both laugh*


So I just decided that it was going to be a side project thing, and then maybe one day I would make it a full-time thing. So once that story got published… I’d wanted to start a podcast for forever, really since before podcasts were a thing I wanted to bring back old-time radio. And then podcasts happened, and I was like okay, that’s so much easier than trying to convince a radio station to write me a big fat check to do a show that probably nobody’s going to listen to, because nobody listens to the radio like that anymore.


I decided to raise money for the first season of Nightlight, just to see if people would be interested. Because I didn’t want to do it and lose money. I didn’t want it to be one of those hobbies that costs you lots of money. So I decided I’m not gonna do this unless I can at least break even. And so I set up an Indiegogo campaign for the first season. I didn’t have an audience; like, nobody knew who I was at that time. Everybody that followed me anywhere was like a coworker or a friend or someone that I’d met along the way.


But I did the fundraiser for Nightlight and I raised, I think it was almost two thousand dollars, with like zero platform. Which was amazing. And it was enough to start the first season, and then people immediately started signing up to be patrons to help me fund the next season. And I was like, wow you know, people are really interested in this, this is really cool, it’s not really my work but I’m helping these authors find their audience and this audience find new authors.


That was such a great feeling, and I had so many people reaching out to me saying you know, thank you for starting this podcast, bla bla bla. And then Nightlight started winning awards and getting nominated for awards, and I was like okay, this is what I could be doing.


And then 2020 hit. And I was unemployed, and I needed to make some money, and I said well, I guess this is my chance to make this writing thing a full-time gig. And kind of decided to put all my eggs in that basket—because nobody was hiring, it wasn’t like I had other options? I mean I could have gone to work at a hospital, but my son has asthma and I was like, I don’t wanna be exposed and expose him, so that’s not an option. If I want to make money and keep myself and my child safe, this is my best bet.


And so I finished writing a novella that I’d had in my drawer for probably a decade at that point, that it had just been like languishing and not going anywhere. So I finished that novella and kept producing Nightlight episodes and I started thinking about what eventually became Afflicted. Like, how can I get this going, what do I need to make this happen kind of thing.


William

One of the things I think people are often confronted with when it comes to like, making a podcast for the first time is, I’m interested in writing, I have stories I wanna tell, I listen to a lot of podcasts and I think that would be a good medium for that story, but I have no idea where to begin when it comes to making that viable.


Where did you start when it came to taking a concept for a show and then with no existing industry cred, so to speak, making a fundraiser for it?


Tonia

I kind of treated the fundraiser as a proof of concept to see if people would be interested in a podcast that published work written solely by black horror writers and voiced by black voice actors. You know, once I kind of proved I guess that people were interested, because a lot of people started talking about it and they were sharing it and all that, I was like okay, people seem to be interested. I just need to get the word out to more people.


And I used to work in marketing, was my former career, so of course I leveraged that background and said okay, well I’m going to create a free resource. That will be a way to get my name out there and kind of attached to that free resource is ‘oh by the way, I’m also doing this other thing’. And so that free resource was a database of black writers, regardless of what genre they wrote, whether it was nonfiction, whether they pitched things to magazines or did that type of writing, or if it was more like genre type writing.


So I created that database and had you know, several employers reach out to me and say hey, I have this job, can you send some people my way that might fit the bill for this? And I don’t know if anybody ever actually landed a job out of it, you know, my job was just kind of connecting and if somebody did land a job they never told me.


But that was how I got a lot of eyeballs on me, when nobody knew me. And I think that’s what made the fundraiser successful.


William

Yeah! In marketing terms, this is what they would call a Lead Magnet?


Tonia

Yes exactly.


William

For our listener, a Lead Magnet in a marketing funnel is essentially a free piece of high-value content that brings people to you, and then from there you can say ‘hey, if you enjoyed this thing that I’ve created as a free offer, I’m crowdfunding for a bigger project as well’, or whatever your ask is.


Tonia

Yeah. And honestly also, I got really lucky, because the folks over at Pseudopod, another horror podcast that has been in existence for… I think they did their fifteen year anniversary or something? They’ve been like, forever. Alex over at Pseudopod DM’ed me and he was like, hey I really like the idea of what you’re doing, how can we help? And they put it in their newsletter, I think they had a newsletter at the time.


You know, they announced it on their podcast, I just happened to capture some really good eyeballs with that lead magnet. And it doesn’t always happen that way. You don’t always get lucky enough to get someone who can kind of influence things with your lead magnet, but I did, so that definitely contributed to my success.


William

I think it is not too delicate to say that there are not a lot of black showrunners within the horror fiction space right now?


Tonia

Oh yeah, a hundred percent.


William

Looking at like the twenty-five horror shows that are in Rusty Quill’s network, or at least in the horror genre of the network, and even probably the top thirty in the space, there are arguably two or three black showrunners in that space. So I was curious, when you began Nightlight and began crowdfunding, and raising awareness for that, were there any other shows that you could look to for that representation? Or was it purely like, I’ve gotta make this myself because it doesn’t exist?


Tonia

Yeah. It was exactly that. You know, it didn’t exist. I did try to find other black horror podcasts that maybe I could say you know, hey can you announce my crowdfunding on your podcast? And I wasn’t successful in finding anyone that was a black horror creator at the time. So you know, it was very much okay, I guess I’m carving out a space here.


And Fiyah magazine had you know, they have a black speculative fiction magazine, there’s no audio component. But they were kind of doing this in a more literary space, so to speak, so I kind of modeled a little bit after them. Very very loosely, the types of stories that they publish in their magazine and the types of stories that are in Nightlight are very similar you know. I wanted to go for more of a Twilight Zone vibe with Nightlight, but knowing that they were achieving some success in that space made me really hopeful that I could do that same thing in the audio space.


William

It is interesting to me that when shows like Pseudopod have been running for 15 years, when Welcome to Night Vale has been running for 13 or so, that it’s taken until 2018 for a show with that focus to show up in the space. Has the landscape changed at all today versus back in 2018?


Tonia

Yeah, I would say there’s a lot more diversity. Especially if you look at the charts. It’s no longer dominated by white men. I mean, there are still plenty of white men there, don’t get me wrong. But you see a lot of shows with a diverse cast, lead characters who are people of color, or otherwise from some marginalized background. So I definitely see the landscape changing, and I think that’s wonderful. I think it’s great that we’re achieving a little more balance in the stories that are being told.


William

For audience information as well, Nightlight is not all the Tonia show? Like, your fiction does feature often in it, and I’ve enjoyed listening to some of your work…


Tonia

Thank you.


William

But on top of that, I’d say a good body of the episodes showcase stories from many different authors and often many different narrators delivering that work. How did you begin finding those people? Or like, digging up that work to include in the show? Do you have any internal scruples or themes that you look for?


Tonia

Yeah, yeah. I would say as far as how I found voice actors and authors, voice actors I just posted on Twitter. I was like, look, I’m paying, and I’ve been paying people since day one. I said I’m paying, I’m looking for black voice actors. And of course people are going to respond when you’re like, I have money to give you. So it was pretty easy. I just created like a Google Form and they submitted this form and dropped some links to their reels and I would listen and say, okay, they’re a good fit for this particular story.


Of course, I narrated the first few stories just because I didn’t have anyone. But I found Cherrae [Stuart] pretty quickly and you know, she’s been pretty much a staple in Nightlight since the beginning. And I found a male narrator who you know, no longer is doing voice acting work, but I needed a male voice for sure for some of the stories that I had.


But other than that you know, again I just posted on Twitter like ‘hey I’m looking for black horror stories, if you’re a black writer submit your story here’, so I got some stuff in slush. Like, Lamar Giles submitted something and I had no idea who this guy was when he first submitted. But I was like wow this is a really great story, and then I looked him up and I was like holy shit, this guy’s awesome! Like, he’s a bestselling author. How is he in my inbox? You know? Submitting work to me?


And then from there it was like, going to conferences. And anytime I was at a conference and I knew somebody was a black horror writer I walked up to them and said hey, I have this podcast, I would love for you to submit some of your work to see if we can get it published on the podcast. I gave them my card, and it was just networking essentially.


And you know, black people talk. We talk to each other about opportunities that are for us. So once you have a few people in the black community who you’ve worked with and they can vouch for you, it’s pretty easy at that point to get connected to other people because the black community is just so good at helping each other out.


As far as what I look for in a story, you know, first and foremost I think it’s gotta have a really good hook pretty early on. Because people are just not as patient as they are with audio as they are with books. You know, people read like a whole chapter of a book where nothing big is happening, the inciting incident hasn’t really happened in that first chapter, they give books more time. Listeners especially if it’s a new podcast they haven’t listened to before, you’ve really got like maybe two minutes to get their attention and get them listening and make them not stop, essentially.


So a great hook that comes up early, especially like an interesting premise, an interesting twist on a trope. Always looking at stuff like that. And you know, the twist endings. I love a good twist ending that you don’t see coming. So that’s always ope, okay, I see you. I even… if a story has a really good premise and a really good twist ending but it’s not necessarily well-written, I will work directly.


And I’ll tell the author look, I love this premise, I love this story, but the writing needs some work. Are you willing to work with me on a pretty substantial edit? And in most cases they say yes, and I’ll go through and I’ll make comments on okay, this isn’t working and this is why and that sort of thing. You know, if the story’s good enough, I’ll put that work into developing it into something that is good enough to be produced for audio.


And the other thing too is that I’ve got a lot of eyes on me right now. So there’s a lot of pressure there too. You know, I signed with a literary agent last year, I told a viral Twitter story last year and it got me a literary agent, it got me a whole bunch of new followers, and it got me a TV and a film agent as well. And then I won a World Fantasy Award in October, November, something like that. So there were a lot of eyes on me as Afflicted was coming out you know, a lot of people were eagerly anticipating it.


Mike Flanagan is a supporter of Nightlight and Afflicted? So of course I’m like, I don’t know if he actually listened or if he’s just like, supporting me? Like, I’m thankful for his money, I hope that he listens too. But I try to pretend that he doesn’t listen because otherwise I’m just like, I can’t be Mike Flanagan. I can’t be that guy. I mean… maybe one day.


*William cracks up in background*


I’m not that good right now, I should say. And it’s almost like, I hope he doesn’t listen because I’m terrified that he’s gonna be like, wow this is utter shit. And like, what is she doing? So yeah, I try to pretend that no one listens because that is the only way that I’m not like, crippled by anxiety.


William

And yet, you know, I think often we are our own harshest critics when it comes to the nature of our work. In some ways, it is a bit of a blank canvas where it’s like, the things that I want to explore I can in this story. It is a way that you can showcase work that I think is very close to heart.


Tonia

Oh yeah. And Afflicted is so close to my heart. It’s a story about hoodoo, which is something my family like kind of low-key practiced. They weren’t super into it, but I didn’t know. I thought it was just like, old black people superstitious stuff, I didn’t know that it had a name. And I started writing my novella and I was doing some research and I was like, holy crap, all this stuff that my dad and my grandma used to talk about, it has a name. It’s called hoodoo. And so I wanted to write a story that honored my family.


Like, there’s been a lot of death in my family. I have a very big family, and of course you have more death when there’s a bigger family. But we’ve had a lot of tragedies, a lot of untimely death in my family. And so the vast majority of the characters in Afflicted are based on people in my family that I’ve loved and lost. Like the main character, Mama Cherrie, is a combination between my Aunt Cherrie and my Aunt Ethel. My Aunt Cherrie was a firecracker, like, didn’t take any shit from anybody.


My Aunt Ethel, she was actually my great-aunt, and she was the first black nurse I think in Texas or California? I can’t remember exactly. But she retired and she started a floral shop so you know, the fact that Mama Cherrie’s character in afflicted is a retired nurse who has a floral shop, comes from my Aunt Ethel. You know, Caldwell is my family’s name, so you know that’s the name of the family in Afflicted.


So it’s just, it’s extremely close to my heart because it’s like bringing my family back alive which is super cool. And then you know, just sharing our folklore with the world, I think, is pretty cool too.


William

What is your favorite thing to hear back from the audience?


Tonia

Yeah, I mean and it’s different for both shows. Like for Nightlight, again, I don’t write the vast majority of the episodes. It’s usually one or two episodes a season that are my stories. So the feedback that keeps me going for there is, I’ve just found this great new author, thank you so much. Or I’ve found my people, oh my gosh I can’t believe that there’s one place I can go and I can just listen to stories.


And also hearing from authors, like there was one author who had a story published and they created an audio version of it for the magazine, you know, it was just like a narrator, but the narrator wasn’t black. And so a lot of the aspects of the story they just didn’t voice it correctly. And typically I won’t do a story that’s already been published in audio, but this one had been published like five years before. And you know, he wasn’t super happy with it either. And I was like, it’s a really good story, I’ll do it.


And we did it and he was so happy, and he was like this is how I was envisioning it. Thank you so much. So hearing that feedback from the authors saying, thank you for bringing my work to life, you know, it just it does something for them and makes them feel really excited and inspires them too so it sort of creates this feedback loop which is just wonderful.


And for Afflicted, of course, since I’m writing and I’m more sensitive about everything, but hearing things like ‘oh my god I can’t wait until the next episode’ and shock and surprise and ahhh I didn’t see that coming, because of course I love the unexpected twists.


So hearing feedback like that, or people who are like chomping at the bit for the next episode, and they’re really excited about this weird thing that they didn’t see coming, that stuff makes me really happy.


William

Has podcast[ing] changed the way that you write? Because you are one of the few people here that both write in a literary sense, and then also write for audio drama specifically. And in a book, you get that first chapter or two to hook them. In podcasting you get the first thirty seconds…


Tonia

You know, my sense of pacing has gotten a lot better because pacing is so important when it comes to audio fiction. I think the other thing too is that my writing, the prose writing, has become more diverse in the senses that I’m exploring. Thinking of things like smells and sounds that are happening, and not just thinking about what a character is seeing.


So I incorporate a lot more sensory information I guess into my writing. And it’s also informed writing for screenplays. I’ve put a lot of auditory stuff in the screenplays that I think most screenwriters wouldn’t necessarily think of, because they’re not approaching it from the space of sound telling a story. Their visuals are telling the story. I think it’s made my writing more well-rounded.


William

Running a show where you get to curate and go through so much other content, and like, seeing how dozens of other authors do their work, I have to imagine that would give some additional insights as well…


Tonia

A hundred percent. Even the ones that are, quote unquote, bad… I mean, some of them really are bad. There’s no denying it. You know, I can’t say every story that I get is actually good. There are some that are just really bad.


But you know, one of the things that I would say and I’ve heard this from people who have done work as a first reader for me for Nightlight is they get a lot out of it because it helps them see the mistakes that people are making over and over again. So they’re not making the same mistakes that kind of get you chucked out of the slush pile.


Also, getting a sense of what rises to the top and what kind of, stays in the middle because like, it’s good but it’s not quite as good as this. And like really figuring out the distinction between yes, we’re accepting this story, and we’re on the fence, we like it, we just don’t know if we have enough room for it. And so, you know, it gets either cut or accepted based on how many other great stories there are.


William

Looking around, at least here in 2023, I don’t necessarily see the marginalized creators that I would like to see running as many of the shows around me as would be ideal.


Tonia

Yeah. Yes.


William

Definitely casting has improved quite a bit, representation in shows has improved quite a bit. It’s now I think pretty normal for shows to have a cast that is quite diverse…


Tonia

Right.


William

But when it comes to the people who are doing the writing for these shows, I do not see a lot of them that aren’t white.


Tonia

Yeah. Or the directing, showrunners, yeah it’s still very much not uh. Not a very colorful, you know, place.


William

For the marginalized creators who are thinking about starting a show and sometime down the line contributing to this landscape, is there anything you would want to tell those people?


Tonia

I would say first of all, make what you wanna make. Make it your own. Be authentic. I think the first thing you have to do is you have to stay true to yourself, and do something you’re passionate about. Especially for your first project, where you’re not making a lot of money, because passion is the only thing that’s going to get you through when you’re not making any money. You need that passion, because otherwise you’re just going to be like, nope, I’m done. I’m not. This is a lot of work.


The other thing that I would say is that, it’s really important as a marginalized creator, and I think it’s always been this way not just in podcasting, but it’s really important to sort of create your own path. Because we don’t have the path that most other folks do. We just don’t. So we have to kind of come at it through the back door, so to speak. So create your own stuff, market the hell out of it, try to get important eyeballs on it. And it will get you somewhere eventually.


And that’s what’s happened with me, it ended up being a viral Twitter story that did it for me. Which was super, it was a great experience, super cool, but it brought a lot of people to my podcasts… so it’s all like this ecosystem that feeds. So you know, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.


We were talking before the call and talking about how I overextend myself and sign myself up for too much. Part of the reason I do that is because I know that there isn’t just one path to be able to make a living doing this. And I’m also one of those people that I get bored. If I’m only doing podcasts, I’m going to get bored. You know? I need to have other avenues of writing.


And so figure out which medium that you wanna tell your story in, you know, do you want to tell your story in two different kinds of media? Are you wanting to work in two different genres? Really think about where you can have the biggest impact, where there are very few of us, and very few of the stories that you want to tell in that space. And then tell your story in that space, because it’ll be much easier for you to get noticed I think.


William

*spookily*

A young man, in the middle of the night, stalks down to the shore of a forbidden lake. Moonlight glancing on the black water, discreetly looking around to make sure nobody’s watching, drops a drop of his blood into the surface. Waits for a couple of tranquil moments, and then shuddering up from beneath the water to hover over the surface of the lake are the bones of Tonia Ransom. What whispered words of advice does she give?


Tonia

*chuckles*


My advice would be, you are your own worst enemy. Don’t hold yourself back. I didn’t start Nightlight for a really long time because I kept telling myself, this isn’t the right time, I don’t have this piece, I don’t have that piece, and just you know putting it off. Making excuses. You know, I could be so much further in my career right now if I had just done it. And gotten out of my head and stopped telling myself that it was the wrong time and it wasn’t the right time.


There is no ‘right time’ to do it. You just have to do it, and hope that it works out. There’s nothing you can do to predict the future to say, oh if I do it on this date, then it’s going to be really successful… you just gotta do it now.


That, and I really struggle with mental illness a lot. And I don’t want to necessarily say that mental illness forces me to get in my own way, because it’s an illness, right? Like, it would be like ‘oh flu got in my way and I couldn’t work’. It’s kind of like that. But you have to take some responsibility for healing, regardless of whether you’re healing from something physical or something mental. And for a long time I wanted to blame other people for the trauma that I had experienced. And yes, that trauma is not my fault, but it is my responsibility to fix the issues that it caused within me.


And you know, part of those issues kills self-confidence and things like that. Like, I have to resolve those issues so that I do have the confidence to keep doing this, and when someone writes a bad review, it’s not like ‘oh my god I shouldn’t be doing this anymore’, kind of thing. It’s my responsibility to do what I can to overcome the limitations that I have.


Because everybody has some set of limitations, some far more than others, but that does not mean that you can’t do it. You just have to be more creative about how you get it done. So you have to put in more work, but you can do it. You just have to get out of your own way and stop thinking about all the reasons that you can’t, and focus on all the reasons that you can.


William

I think that’s a wonderful note to leave off on. Thank you so much for coming on the show today.


Tonia

Of course.


William

For anyone who’s tuning in, where should people go find you? What should they go check out?


Tonia

You can go to pod.link/afflicted to listen to the whole first season of Afflicted, as for Nightlight you can go to pod.link/nightlightpod to listen to that. You can find me on pretty much any social media as @missdefying, but you can also find Afflicted at @afflictedaudio and Nightlight is @nightlightpod on social media.


William

Thank you so much for coming on today, it’s been an absolute treasure.


Tonia

Yes this was great, thank you so much for having me!


*credit music plays*


Credits:

Tonia Ransom produces the podcast Nightlight, a fiction anthology podcast showcasing black perspectives and voices in horror. She also writes and creates the full-cast audio drama Afflicted. Go find Nightlight at nightlightpod.com, or wherever you get your podcasts, and help drive weekly stories at patreon.com/nightlightpod, or keep up with her latest projects at @missdefying on social media.


Hello From The Hallowoods is produced by William A. Wellman. That’s me. For first access to new Skull Sessions with other voices in the horror podcasting space, look to the Hallowoods patreon at patreon.com/hallowoods.


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