How I Spend My Halloween: Cynthia “Cina” Pelayo

banner reading How I Spend My Halloween

photo of author Cynthia "Cina" Pelayo
Cynthia “Cina” Pelayo

If you know anything about Cemetery Dance, you know that the arrival of October…The Spooky Season…is a very special time of year for us. To celebrate, we’ve invited some of our favorite spinners of spooky tales to share their favorite Halloween traditions and memories with us.

Today we’re joined by Cynthia “Cina” Pelayo, the Chicago-based, award-winning author and poet. Apple cider donuts and The Rocky Horror Picture Show are just some of her Halloween traditions — read on to learn more!

(Interview conducted by Blu Gilliand)

CEMETERY DANCE: When does the Halloween season begin for you?

CYNTHIA “CINA” PELAYO: For me, I need to feel it in the air, so probably around the time it starts to get cool in Chicago. I know most horror authors will say Halloween is all day every day for them, but that’s not really the case for me. I need to feel Autumn in the air, see the leaves changing color and see them on the ground.

What are some Halloween traditions you observe each year?

We do love visiting a nearby farm and doing the traditional Fall fest type activities, visiting haunted houses, a pumpkin patch, a corn maze, getting apple cider donuts. There’s also an arboretum nearby we like to visit to see all of the beautiful color changes in the trees.

Do you decorate your home? A lot or a little?

We don’t really decorate a ton before Halloween because my children and dogs would destroy everything. I do like to decorate a day or two before, and that always involves pumpkins, a few of which we get at a local pumpkin patch. Admittedly, my house doesn’t feel very Halloween-y year round. My house doesn’t even feel as if a horror writer lives in it. I keep things pretty plain in my house mostly because I get distracted with a lot of stuff. So even my office is completely plain, just plain white walls with no decorations up.

Do you dress up each year? If so, what’s your favorite costume you’ve worn?

Yes! We do family costumes. We’ve done Ghostbusters, Universal Monsters, Wizard of Oz, Nightmare Before Christmas and more. I think our favorite one has been Nightmare Before Christmas.

What is your favorite Halloween memory?

I remember when my dad bought me my very first pumpkin. I was born in Puerto Rico, but raised in Chicago. I must have been four years old and we went to our neighborhood grocery story and he handed me this small pumpkin I could hold in my hands. He said “This is what they do here,” and by “here” he meant the mainland U.S. — that here they decorated pumpkins. We took it home and he helped me color a face on it.

Are there any local (or national) haunts/tours/haunted houses you attend or would like to attend during the Halloween season?

Yes! We visit a local farm that has a haunted house for little kids and families. That’s for the kids.

Then with my husband and brother we’ll visit the adult haunted house right outside of Chicago, 13thFloor. There are a few others in the area, but we just always go to that one since it’s closest to us.

What stories, books, and movies best encapsulate Halloween for you?

 The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge

And the movie Halloween.

Do you have stories, books or movies that you watch every year?

It’s the Great PumpkinCharlie Brown. Randomly for me, I watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Halloween for some reason. I just wound up associating it with Halloween because when I first saw it I was like 11 and at a friend’s house around Halloween and ever since I associate it with the holiday.

Since we’re talking about Halloween: what’s your favorite movie in the Halloween franchise?

I like the original, HalloweenHalloween III, and I really enjoyed the ending of Halloween 4 because it just showed how this monstrous identity could continue on with someone else.

Have you written any fiction or nonfiction involving Halloween?

I haven’t, but maybe I need to change that.

What projects are you working on currently, and what are some recent releases of yours you’d like to tell people about?

Crime Scene, my third poetry collection was just released from Raw Dog Screaming Press

In January 2023, the reprint of my short story collection Loteria will be out from Polis / Agora Books.

In February 2023, my next novel, The Shoemaker’s Magician will be out from Polis / Agora Books.

I have a few more things that haven’t been announced but expect more novels and poetry.

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