What drew you to the horror genre?
Hi Melissa. It's a pleasure to be here with you and your kind readers.
The horror genre and I found each other purely by accident, if there really is such a thing. I was a big sci-fi fan and only a light horror reader, mostly biggies like King, Rice, Koontz and Gaiman, but when I started writing seriously, a friend of mine mentioned The Horror Library (an online group--part of the Zoetrope.com writing community). They said that THL was doing a story competition, and the winner would be published with their regular contributors. Well, I was hungry for publication, so I submitted a story called, "Wings with Hot Sauce" about the devil and his favorite pub food (er, angel wings). The story won first place in the competition, The Horror Library published my very first story, and I suppose you could say, I found a welcoming home in the horror community. They're some of the nicest people I know in the world!
What scares you?
Spiders creep me out. Just today on Mark Rainey's facebook page, I saw a picture of a gigantic wolf spider with tiny babies crowded on her back. Gah! Spiders can't help they look the way they do, but good grief, really?
Have you ever written something that scared you?
I've never written anything that scared me, but I've written some nasty things that made me giggle. Kind of like, "I can't believe you just wrote that, Fran. Yikes! But dang, that's wicked." So, I guess I've scared myself, wondering how I could be so self-entertainingly twisted.
Why do you think there are fewer women writing horror than men?
There are likely a number of factors at work there, but I suspect most of us are raised to be good girls, and good girls certainly don't write nasty things, do we? Or do we? *big grin*
Your flash fiction story, "Close Shave," is one of the most gruesome stories I’ve read. Are people surprised that, as a woman, you would write something so gory? Is there a misconception that women aren’t comfortable with gore?
I'm glad you "enjoyed" that little piece. It was a 50 word Gross Out Contest winner (3rd place--1st place was fabulously gross!), hence the intense terse language. And heaven knows where that stuff comes from, Melissa. I'm really not a big fan of gore myself, but I just get inspired. What can I say?
I actually think a lot of people aren't comfortable with gore, but again, I suppose the good girl thing comes into play for women. We're suppose to scream and say, "Eww..." when the gross stuff comes along. But in real life, I think women deal with gore better than many men. We frequently contend with blood, barfing kids, poopy diapers, toxic (hair) chemicals, science projects in the fridge and animal carcasses for dinner. Heck, have you ever pulled the giblets out of a turkey? Now that's gross!
And yes, people are surprised that stories like "Mama's Boy" and "Under the Dryer" come from my mild mannered self, but horror is in all of us. Some of us are just more willing to go there, to take a look and see what's in the shadows. I was a holistic therapist for many years, and the dark side tends to come up in that business. If you can't go there personally, you can't go there as a therapist or as a writer, for that matter.
Like I said earlier, horror writers are some of the nicest people I've ever met. I suspect purging those dark places in the act of storytelling helps us clear the way to seeing the lighter side of life. Conversely, I hear that comedians can be a pretty melancholy lot. So go figure.
Who are some women horror authors that you admire?
These questions always make me nervous. After the interview is published, I inevitably realize that I have forgotten someone wonderful. So ahead of time, I apologize to anyone I've missed. You know who you are!
Let's see, I read a lot Anne Rice before becoming a writer, so I guess some of her wicked ways seeped into my psyche. I'm a big Julian May fan. She's SF/Fantasy, but she writes great gore and suspense! Cat Valente, Jennifer Pelland, Justine Musk, Lucy Snyder, Elizabeth Massie, Lisa Morton, Alethea Kontis, Lisa Mannetti, Deborah LeBlanc, Louise Bohmer, Sara M. Harvey and so many others--they all inspire the heck out of me!
What is your advice to aspiring women horror writers?
My advice is the same for all writers: be brave. Write the story that inspires YOU and write the truth of your characters, even when it's not comfortable, perhaps especially when it's not comfortable. I personally think all writers should write horror for a time. I believe it fosters the ability to go deeper, where a lot of writers fear to tread. The truth is the truth even when it's ugly, and if you can't go there, your characters won't go there, and your work will likely be flat or fluffy.
What are your favourite horror novels?
Stephen King's, It, disturbed the hell out of me. I read it when I had chicken pox in my thirties. I suppose being delirious with fever had something to do with it, but that one really got to me. More recently, I loved King's, Duma Key. It got mixed reviews, but I swam in the velvety pacing and was in awe the expert handling of his characters. Made me envious, to tell you the truth. I wondered if I could ever handle a work of that length with such seamless control and fluidity.
Who are your favourite authors? Who influenced you the most?
Dr. Seuss was my first inspiration as a young writer. I was completely obsessed with Green Eggs and Ham. Nearly drove my mother mad with reading and re-reading it, memorizing it and trying my own hand at the a little Seussery. Oh, that Sam I Am. My first Seuss-esque poem was published in a community newsletter when I was six. I was bitten by the bug quite early.
My more current inspirations:
Gary Braunbeck and John R. Little for their tender humanity and poignant touch. Gaiman for his whimsy and care of the child within us. Tom Piccirilli and Lucy Snyder for lyrical word painting. Peter K. Hamilton for precision and control of complex plot lines. Philip K. Dick for bending my imagination. Asimov, May, Bradbury, Vance and Ellison for storytelling that makes my mind soar. And AJ Brown for sheer perseverance and love of writing!
I credit Neil Gaiman for pushing me over the edge to finally choose to write professionally. My endlessly encouraging husband (my greatest influence, in truth) gave me a copy of Gaiman's collection, Smoke and Mirrors. Something in that lot of story brilliance just sparked the final blaze for me. I will be forever grateful to him (or curse him, depending on the day).
What is your favourite character you’ve created? Why?
Dang, that's a hard one. I truly love them all, even the twisted ones. I suppose Goliath, the Bull Mastiff from "Under the Dryer" is a contender. He's noble and deeply loyal. I would like to sit with him by the fire, stroke his fur, and feed him biscuits. And there's young Will Pennycock from "The Sea Orphan." He was a very brave boy, who remained kind and good hearted even in the face of terrible tragedy and danger.
Yup, too many to mention, but I do love them...and often miss them.
Do you own an e-reader? How do you think e-readers are changing the publishing industry?
I own a first-gen Kindle, a new Kindle (a gift from my husband), and an iPad with Kindle, Nook and iBook apps. The Nook looks beautiful, but considering my cadre of readers, I can't exactly justify buying another. Right? I use my iPad every day for reading, and my Kindle a few times a week. I've slowly moved to reading more on the e-readers than physical books. It's just a matter of convenience for me.
I think e-readers are good for the business. Perhaps an equalizer, in some ways, making more titles available than the large publishing houses are able or willing to produce. Ultimately, I hope it makes reading more affordable. Traditionally published books are so darn expensive to produce, transport and market, that the average writer isn't making their fair share of a book's profits. Plus, our faithful readers are shelling out serious cash, which may limit how much they get to read.
If e-readers and e-books become affordable (I think many are overpriced at the moment), it seems to reason that more books will be available to everyone. I love seeing that libraries are getting into the game, as well. Plus, perhaps we'll see a broader range of books to choose from if the gate keepers (often the marketing folks, not the editors) have a little more competition in the publishing world.
Also, I believe hardcopy books will be more treasured, as the very beautiful and special things that they are. Many of us have taken them for granted for a long time.
What do you hope readers get out of your work?
Escape. Few things give me the special pleasure that a great book offers--that magical escape from my norm to someplace fascinating with a cast of characters who are there just to entertain me. That's my goal as a writer, to give my readers that same gift I hold so precious.
What are you currently working on?
I've been on a long hiatus due to illness. A series of stressful life events hit me with a one-two punch, followed by a good kick in the arse, and I fell into the deep well of clinical depression. It was hellish and seemed like I would never come to the surface again, but I did, and it was ultimately a good thing. As I recover, I'm learning to mitigate stress (a brain killer and depression trigger for me), which has freed-up my writing dramatically. It's actually a pleasure to write again. For a long time, it felt like pushing my brain through a grinder every time I sat down to write. I had endless ideas, but getting the words on the page was a form of self-torture. Ugh. It was untenable for me to write in that state. I can't tell you what a relief it is, and on so many levels, to have moved out of that horror show.
So, to actually answer your question, I'm working on whatever tickles my fancy. I'm enjoying writing again, which is such a blessing. For now, I have a short story coming out in April with Necrotic Tissue, and I'm working on a novella project for Michael Knost. I also have two novels in progress. One is stewing away on the back burner, and the other is waiting for my attention in early Spring. If you're mad enough to follow my antics, I'll keep you posted on the progress at facebook.com/franfriel and @franfriel at twitter.com.