Writer Mo Moshaty isn’t the first person to write about sin, and she won’t be the last. But her collection of sin-related short stories, Love The Sin (paperback, Kindle), does have the distinction of being the first one (as far as I can tell) to collect stories of psychological horror written by a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist. In the following email interview, Moshaty discusses what inspired and influenced this collection.
To start, is there a theme that connects the stories in Love The Sinner?
The theme to Love The Sinner is based on the seven deadly sins and one mortal sin, and my goal with the collection was to take the notion of the devil completely out of it to show the fact that man is actually the scariest monster when we’re talking about something like sin. We’re capable of justifying whatever type of acts we need to in order to make ourselves feel better or to make ourselves feel more realized as a human being.
Did you start out with this theme and then pick stories that fit it, or did the theme emerge as you were putting this together?
The theme was there from the very start.
Why did you want to put together a collection of your stories around this theme?
What’s always fascinated me about sin is that it’s really the facets of our personalities. And I say that, because my other hat is in behavioral science, I’m a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, so I’m always looking at something from a mental and an emotional angle, which is why I really love how these stories bend and flex underneath these sins. And I also needed to get it out of my system.
This collection originally started off as a scripted television series with an overarching storyline based on other anthology series like The Twilight Zone, Tales From The Dark Side, or Creepshow. And that series was titled — or should I say, is titled because I like it to be produced someday — The Chasm And The Caveat. The first three episodes that I wrote for the series included two stories from the collection: “Free Weight,” which was the pilot to the series, and another story in the book called “In The Interest Of Time.”
And did you have to write any new stories to flesh the book out?
Yes, I had to write six additional stories for this, though really only five, as one I had that was pre-existing that was to belong in another collection, but I felt fit so lovely under the umbrella of Lust I couldn’t leave it out.
Is there something else that connects these stories? Genre? Timeframe of when they were written?
The genre of psychological horror is really the glue outside of sin, which joins these stories. There’s nothing more horrific than being faced with our own limitations, our own fixations and our own illogical manifestations. And I think that there’s something completely relatable about all of these characters no matter how nefarious they may be, or unlikable they may be because I feel that every human has the capacity to do the heinous things that these characters are doing.
The stories also needed to be completely contained and self-existing. What I mean to say about that is you could hop in through this book at any point and feel that you are reading something that exists solely on its own even if we took the banner of sin completely away from it.
As for influences, are there stories in Love The Sinner that were strongly influenced by a writer or writers, or specific story?
I think there’s such a beautiful trope of the low bubbling jealousy and envy between two people doing the same craft period to directors, to authors, to actresses or actors. It’s such a fascinating character study to see how people manage someone doing as well if not just a teeny bit better than they are within that scope. But also I love the fantasy of being fanatical about an author and idealizing who they are and projecting who you want them or wish they would be either to you or for you I mean Stephen King had two really great examples in Misery with Paul Sheldon and in Lisey’s story with Scott Landon. The place fans felt they had within these authors lives pushed incredible boundaries and I’ve always been fascinated by that type of devotion to someone you’ve barely met.
How about non-literary influences? Were any of the stories in Love The Sinner influenced by any movies, shows, or games?
Ha! Yes, there’s a small bit in one of the stories titled “Things Are Tough All Over” where you have this very meek civil servant, very nondescript, very unassuming, completely enthralled with Kelly Lebrock’s character from Weird Science, and I picked Weird Science because you have these two nerds per se in control and in creation of this woman who can make or break their image, and it’s such an echo for what the main character in “Things Are Tough All Over” experiences throughout the story, and I hope people appreciate the parallel I was trying to make there.
By the way, were any of the stories in Love The Sinner previously published in any journals or anthologies?
Yes, the shortest story in the collection, “Maddalena,” clocking in at only 206 words, was featured in an anthology called Bag Of Bones: 206 Word Stories: A Horror Anthology.
And is the version of “Maddalena” the same as in that anthology?
I made absolutely zero changes to “Maddalena.”
Now, along with Love The Sinner, you have a second collection of stories coming out next year called Clairviolence: Tales Of Tarot And Torment. How will Clairviolence be different from Love The Sinner?
I’m very excited for Clairviolence, it’s such a fun collection, and a two volume collection at that. Each story shares a value and definition with each card of the major arcana in a tarot deck. And what I love about this collection is that it’s so expensive and we’re not just doing psychological horror with this collection we’re also doing sci-fi horror, and new weird horror and folk horror and romance horror. It’s a really fun project and I’m very, very excited to have been supported by Spooky House Press, who loved the work from the very first read.
And is there a reason it’s not called Hate The Sin?
Because I think no matter what type of odious act we perform, we still want to be understood, respected and loved in the end. And as I said the characters in this collection may not be likable but they sure as hell are relatable.
Going back to Love The Sinner, Hollywood loves making movies out of short stories. Are there any stories in Love The Sinner that you think could work really as a movie?
I would absolutely love to see “Free Weight” made into a film.
So, is there anything else you think people need to know about Love The Sinner?
I would say if you are sensitive to horror, or if horror is not your first pick, I really think you will still enjoy this collection if you enjoy thrillers. Also there are content warnings in the back of the book for self-harm, deeply explained horror sequences, and mutilation.
Finally, if someone enjoys Love The Sinner, what short story collection of someone else’s would you suggest they check out?
I would absolutely recommend that you pick up the Bram Stoker nominated collection We Are Here To Hurt Each Other by Paula D. Ashe. It’s such a viscerally beautiful book, and the stories are so got guttural and raw. I finished it very quickly and fell in love with it.