Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Interview with Lisa Morton

Lisa Morton is the author of fiction books The Lucid Dreaming, The Castle of Los Angeles, The Samhanach, non-fiction books The Cinema of Tsui Hark, The Halloween Encyclopedia, A Hallowe'en Anthology: Literary and Historical Writings Over the Centuries, Savage Detours: The Life and Work of Ann Savage and is the editor of the anthology Midnight Walk. She won three Bram Stoker Awards for her writing. In 2006, she won the Bram Stoker Award for Short Fiction for her story, Tested. In 2008, she won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Non-Fiction for her book, A Hallowe'en Anthology: Literary and Historical Writings Over the Centuries. And in 2009, she won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Long Fiction for her novella, The Lucid Dreaming. She also won a Black Quill Award for her anthology, Midnight Walk and won the President's Richard Laymon Award from the Horror Writers Association twice. In addition to being an author, Lisa is also a screenwriter. You can visit her website here.

What drew you to the horror genre?

I've always loved horror. As a kid I adored FAMOUS MONSTERS, the Universal horror classics, and Aurora monster models. I was lucky, because my folks loved all those things, too.

What scares you?

I'm asked this a lot, and my answer is boring - there's really nothing that scares me badly. I'm sorry!
Why do you think there are fewer women writing horror than men?

I don't think there are, actually. I just think that what the women are writing tends to get classified more often as "paranormal romance". I have female writer friends who have absolutely written horror novels, but publishers have stuck that "paranormal romance" or "urban fantasy" label on them, frequently to the author's chagrin.
Who are some women horror authors that you admire?

Ann Radcliffe. Shirley Jackson. Nancy Holder. Roberta Lannes. Sarah Langan. Alex Sokoloff...to name a few!

What is your advice to aspiring women horror writers?
I think it depends on the individual writer and what her ultimate goals are. I'd love to see more women enter the small press arena, in which case I'd say you need to write very well but not shy away from rough play. However, if the goal is commercial success...then you need to know that the publishers will probably try to steer you toward paranormal romance, and you need to decide how willing you are to go there (which is, frankly, really tough for me).
What are your favourite horror novels?

Just a few, off the top of my head: Stoker's DRACULA, Radcliffe's THE MYSTERIES OF UDOLPHO, Lewis's THE MONK, Jackson's THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, Sturgeon's SOME OF YOUR BLOOD, Ketchum's THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, King's SALEM'S LOT, Langan's THE MISSING, Braunbeck's PRODIGAL BLUES, Bentley Little's THE IGNORED, John Little's novella MIRANDA.

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

I've only written three novels and only one has thus far been published, so I feel slightly odd answering this. But...for favorite novel, I'd probably say MALEDICTION, my third novel which involves a lot of Los Angeles history and folklore - I'm a Southern California native and I love local history, which is actually very colorful. For my favorite character, I'd say the protagonist of my first novel, Lady Diana Furnaval. She's a 19th century British noblewoman who is sort of a cross between Emma Peel and Van Helsing, and I'm quite fond of her.

You were a screenwriter before becoming an author. How is writing a script different from writing a novel? Which do you prefer?

Writing a screenplay is SO much easier! I still enjoy the screenplay form, but the economic downturn hit the low-budget movie industry pretty hard, so the work's been tough to come by lately. The advantage to a novel is that you know what will be published is essentially what you wrote; I've had my heart broken a few times by finished films that bore no resemblance to my scripts. However, I have to say: Probably my REAL favorite form is the short story (which I also think is the ideal form for horror). I love being able to craft something in just a few days, and have a finished product that I can be proud of.

Your most recent novel, The Castle of Los Angeles, is about a haunted building. Have you ever had a supernatural encounter? Do you believe in the supernatural?

No and no. I'm just about the biggest skeptic in the world – really, my favorite magazine is THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER.

Can you tell us more about The Castle of Los Angeles?

It's a combination of three personal obsessions: 1) My experience doing small theater in L.A.; 2) my love of the traditional Gothic novel; and 3) my fascination with L.A. architecture, chiefly The Brewery, a collection of buildings on the periphery of downtown Los Angeles that now claims to be "the world's largest artists' community". I had friends who had a loft in The Brewery that they converted into a small theater, and seeing a play there was always a strange experience - at intermission you'd adjourn to "the lobby", and realize it was actually this guy's bedroom! That, and I thought the old buildings (one part of The Brewery is an Edison power plant that's over a hundred years old) were strange and a little spooky.

Do you own an e-reader? How do you think e-readers are changing the publishing industry? Do you plan on releasing your work in e-book format?

I do own a Kindle, but I'm not a huge fan of it. I think we're much farther away from e-books replacing traditional books than most articles would lead us to believe; obviously e-books are becoming a more important part of publishing, but it'll be a long time before they completely replace the printed book. At this point I'm in no hurry to release my own work in e-book format.

What do you hope readers get out of your work?

Well, obviously I'd like them to be disturbed in some way, but equally important to me is to make them think. That doesn't have to mean the stories become polemics or rants, but could mean I want them to consider something from the past, or experience life from a point-of-view that they might not have used before...or it could mean I want to make them politically angry. I once wrote a zombie story called "Sparks Fly Upward" that was about abortion, and I wish more genre writers would tackle sociopolitical topics.

What are you currently working on?

An all-new short story collection called MONSTERS OF L.A. The idea is to take 20 of the classic monster tropes and reinvent them in contemporary urban settings. It's been tremendous fun to write - it's my very dark love letter to my city - and will be out from Bad Moon Books for Halloween this year.


MOG said...

Wonderful interview! The Samhanach looks like something that I would be absolutely crazy about. I think I may put that preorder in shortly.

mamungt3 said...

I think architecture in la will probably be good.