Friday, February 18, 2011

Interview with Elizabeth Massie

Elizabeth Massie is the author of novels Sineater, Welcome Back to the Night, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Power of Persuasion, Wire Mesh Mothers, Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark (co authored with Stephen Mark Rainey), Twisted Branch (written under the pen name "Chris Blaine"), Homeplace, The Tudors: King Takes Queen, The Tudors: Thy Will Be Done, DD Murphry, Secret Policeman (co authored with Alan M. Clark), Homegrown; several young adult historical novels including the Young Founders series, the Daughters of Liberty trilogy, and The Great Chicago Fire: 1871; comic book Julie Walker is The Phantom in Race Against Death!; and short story collections Southern Discomfort, Shadow Dreams, The Fear Report, A Little Magenta Book of Mean Stories and Afraid. She won Bram Stoker Awards for her novel, Sineater and her novella, Stephen. You can find out more about Elizabeth at her website.

What drew you to the horror genre?

I've always been both intrigued and disturbed by the frightening things in life. As a child I was quite the scairdy-cat, yet I wanted to watch The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and all those great shows. I wanted to read scary stories and novels that then made me cower in my bed at night. I think I hoped that if I looked hard enough and long enough, I would understand it somehow. And in understanding, all would be well. Or at least better. In a way, I still feel that way. When I write, I delve into the darkness to understand what is going on, and to see how my characters will manage. I give them (whether they want it or not!) the chance to rise or fall in the direst of circumstances. I learn from what they go through.

What scares you?

People who have ultimate power over others - be it short term or long term. That is what scares me most. Power has the ability to corrupt in the worst of ways. A number of my stories and novels deal with the wielding of power. I'm also quite claustrophobic. And I don't like heights. Oh, and the thought of having to eat a piece of cheese will make me run for the hills.

Have you ever written something that scared you?

Just about everything I've written that deals with the misuse of power has scared me to some degree. Sineater, Wire Mesh Mothers, Welcome Back to the Night, Homeplace, and Twisted Branch for example, as well as many of my short stories...they are all rooted in misuse of power and the terror that creates, whether from a human or a supernatural source. Speaking of my short fiction, my short story, "Brazo de Dios," still scares me.

Why do you think there are fewer women writing horror than men?

Without meaning to stereotype, I just think on average, less women like horror. If you put men and women along a graph line, I think you'd find many more men on the "loves horror" end than women. Maybe it's a cultural thing but I also think its a sex (or gender) thing, too. Now before I get myself into trouble here let me say that there are lots of women who love horror and plenty of men who don't. You could also look at the question, "why are there fewer men writing heterosexual gothic romances?" (As opposed to gay romance, which tend to be written by men.) For now, in our current times, it just seems to be more of a boy/girl thing. No reason to sweat it. It is what it is. And there are kick-ass, talented female horror authors out there, offering genuine, no-holds-barred terrors.

Who are some women horror authors that you admire?

Flannery O'Connor, Shirley Jackson, Lucy Snyder, Lisa Mannetti, Nancy Holder, Yvonne Navarro, Fran Friel, to name a few.

What is your advice to aspiring women horror writers?

What I would advise anyone writing horror, be they male, female, or intersexed... write what you want to read. Write honestly and openly. Don't write as if your mother is watching over your shoulder.

What are your favourite horror novels?

I have so very many! Here are a few. The Other (Tryon), The Road (McCarthy), Psycho (Bloch), Interview with the Vampire (Rice), The Stand (King), 'Salem's Lot (King), The Haunting of Hill House (Jackson), Afterage (Navarro).

Who are your favourite authors? Who influenced you the most?

I read novels of all kinds. Authors who are favorites and have influenced me include Stephen King, Peter Straub, Shirley Jackson, Flannery O'Connor, Anne Tyler, Haven Kimmel, Thomas Tryon, Dalton Trumbo, Katherine Dunn. I suppose Stephen King influenced me the most. His stories are not only terrifying but are also character-driven and often heart-wrenching.

What is your favourite novel you’ve written and your favourite character you’ve created? Why?

If I had to pick (I still love them all for various reasons), I'd say Sineater is my favorite novel. It deals with isolation, power, religion, superstitions, and, ultimately, courage and hope. There might be a tie for favorite character between Joel Barker, the boy in Sineater, a shunned yet oddly optimistic outcast who comes of age in the story and Sam Ford, the teacher in Twisted Branch (which I wrote under the pseudonym Chris Blaine) who finds himself running headlong into a terrifying, ghost-ridden world while trying to escape his own troubled past.

You have written novelizations of The Tudors and Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series. How are media tie-in novels different to write than fiction?

Well, you're playing in someone else's sandbox and with someone else's toys, so it is quite different. The universe is set, you just have to put yourself into it, figure out the lay of the sand and the function of the toys, and go from there. However, I find it just as challenging creatively. You need to fashion a good story that will draw readers in and make them want to explore that universe with you.

Do you own an e-reader? How do you think e-readers are changing the publishing industry? Do you plan on making your older novels available as e-books?

I don't have an e-book reader. E-books are changing the publishing industry much as self-publishing has in the past few years. Anyone can self-publish. Anyone can create an e-book. At the moment, I see it as a muddy, stirred-up mess, with so many more books now (and some of them poorly written, poorly conceived, poorly edited) in the offering. However, the silt will settle eventually. I can't really predict how it will be in a few years, though, except to say that e-book readers are here to stay. And yes, some of my earlier novels are out as e-books. Sineater is available through Crossroad Press. My massive short story collection, The Fear Report, is available from Necon E-books. Wire Mesh Mothers and Welcome Back to the Night are slated to become e-books. And I put together a new short story collection called Afraid, which just came out as an e-book from Crossroad Press.

What do you hope readers get out of your work?

I write to explore the depths of human emotion and the stripped-bare situations where personas and facades are of no help, where characters come face to face with their greatest fears and have the opportunity to reach for something within themselves they didn't know they had in order to survive. It's my hope readers will relate to this exploration and who knows, maybe project themselves into the story, connect to the universal struggles of the characters, and discover something in themselves, as well.

What are you currently working on?

My first mainstream novel, Homegrown, is newly out as an e-book and should be out as a trade paperback within a month through Crossroad Press and my new collection, Afraid, just came out this week from Crossroad Press. I'm also writing a YA supernatural horror novel called Freezer Burn as well as a new vampire story and new demon story. And a play about hens who must go to rehab at the "Fowl Gone A-Foul" center for troubled chickens but that's a whole 'nother story! :)


Hannah Neurotica said...

Such great posts!!!!!

Fran Friel said...

I adore you, Beth Massie! Marvelous interview, as always.