Tag Archives: writing

An Interview with Livia Llewellyn

Livia Llewellyn‘s brand-new collection, Furnace, drops this week, and we couldn’t be more excited. The first review of the book hit over at The Conqueror Weird last Thursday. Spoiler alert: It’s a rave one! So we figured we’d bring you something special this week to celebrate. Here’s an exclusive interview with Livia, conducted by our own Sean M. Thompson…

What do you feel the role of genre is in fiction?

I honestly don’t know. It’s really just a device the writer uses to help tell the story. I know, I know, it’s a marketing device used by the publishing and bookselling industries to target customers and create more sales, but it’s also a reflection of the writer. Beyond that, I couldn’t say – it’s not something I think about, because I honestly don’t care.

When you’re putting together a collection, do you view it as like an album, or do you have another analog?

I do see it very much as like putting together an album. Each piece of fiction or song is a story unto itself, but the entire collection or album is also a story, an emotional narrative that you want the listener or reader to experience. You want them to come away thinking that they went through something, that it was a journey with a beginning and an ending, not just a random jumble of art. So your first piece has to be saying something very specific, it has to invite them in, give them a taste of what’s to come but not send them off in the wrong direction altogether; and then as you go through the collection, you put stories together that maybe have similar themes or settings, you have an interlude or two where your reader can catch their breath with a piece that isn’t quite the same as the rest, and then you have a final stretch of your most intense work, ending with the story that you hope (I hope, anyway) encapsulates all of the themes of the entire work and leaves the reader in an emotional place that hopefully isn’t the same as where they were at the beginning. The best albums have that ability to guide listeners through that kind of an artistic and emotional journey, and so do the best collections and anthologies. I can only hope that Furnace can do the same. Time will tell.

Furnace by Livia Llewellyn

Do you have cats that tend to hover around you while you try to write? (asking, uh, for a friend, (get out of here kitty-))

I can’t afford a cat on my salary, but if I ever do get to the point where I can have an animal in my life, it’ll be a dog.

You seem to be pretty up front about the fact you don’t consider yourself a weird fiction writer. Do you think the label of being “weird” is kind of like tacking on that a horror film is a “thriller” when it starts to do well, or do you genuinely think the weird is its own thing?

I think weird fiction is genuinely its own thing – I just don’t think that I write enough of it to be called a weird fiction writer, anymore than I should be called a Lovecraftian writer. My writing branches off into so many areas that I think “dark fiction writer” is a better umbrella for me to stand under.

Your last collection was Engines of Desire, and your new one is Furnace. What is about imagery with machinery that you find yourself drawn to, or does it just make for a cool-sounding story collection?

It didn’t occur to me until this question that I have two collections with machinery in their titles. That’s interesting – I have no idea what it means. Since I was very young, I’ve found engines and machinery fascinating and alien and exciting, but I think I’d need a psychiatrist to tell me why. I don’t really need to know why. Maybe in twenty years I’ll look back at my body of work and the light bulb will go on, but until then, I’m happy to work it out in my writing.

High-Res-EoD-Cover

Do you have a set amount of time you usually can write for before you have to take a break?

I can write for maybe ninety minutes before my mind starts to wander. But in my defense, I’m usually writing in the evening, after an 8-10 hour work day, so I’m already tired and a bit frazzled to start with – ninety minutes on weekdays is my limit because I need at least part of the evening to wind down by reading or working out or just listening to music and staring into space. On weekends, I write maybe three hours at a stretch, and then I have to walk away from the computer screen to recharge my batteries.

Coffee, tea, or the lightning juice?

When I’m writing, I prefer either coffee or tea, depending on the time of day. I really don’t like to drink when I’m writing – alcohol makes me lose my concentration, so I save that for after I’ve finished for the day.

Would you ever write a science fiction novel, fantasy novel, anything like that? Or do you just start a story, and whatever it is, it is?

Do you mean story? I’ve never even managed to finish writing a horror novel, let alone a novel in any other genre – but as for stories, I do tend to just start writing and not worry about what genre it is. I have no interest in writing SF or Game of Thrones-style fantasy, though. It’s just not my thing. I suppose if I ever did, the science fiction would look a lot like Alien or Event Horizon, and the fantasy would look like… Alien vs. Conan, which is not a real movie but absolutely should be.

My cousins live in Long Island. (Oh shit, wait, that wasn’t a question.)

You’re still in NYC, how’s that going? Has anyone at Starbucks really f-ed up your name again?

I’m not a big fan of the big city – I’d really prefer to be in a smaller city somewhere near mountains – the cultural experiences here are amazing, but the housing situation is something of a nightmare (for anyone who’s not quite wealthy, that is), which makes it a constantly depressing and demoralizing situation for me. But the job is here, and my friends are all here, so until I can retire, I cope as best I can. And, I’ve largely stopped going to Starbucks for coffee. I did enjoy the very creative misspellings of my name (Libba, Navan, Lil’diq), but the coffee is way overpriced, and more and more the baristas were getting my orders wrong and then treating me like shit when I complained. We get free lattes and cappuccinos at work, so I just make my own coffee and misspell my own name nowadays. Hello, Liveria!

Your prose hits like a lead pipe to the teeth. Do you ever write anything, and go “oh, whoa, I should probably tone this down a bit.”?

Yes, I’ve thought that a couple of times. Whenever I have that reaction, it’s not because I think I’ve gone over the line, but because I think I’ve gone over the line for the intended market. I do have to take into consideration the anthology or magazine, and what kind of audience the editor is targeting with my and the other contributors’ stories. A number of stories in Furnace are quite sexually explicit or graphic in their depictions of the female body, and I thought perhaps they might be rejected. Amazingly, they weren’t. The editors probably knew readers would just skip over my story, so it didn’t matter that they weren’t appropriate – most people pick up anthologies for the much bigger names! But if asked, I would certainly work with the editor to change the story, if I felt some of the content wasn’t the right fit for the market and if I felt I could make the changes without turning the story into something I wasn’t happy with. I’ve had to completely tear apart stories before, and it’s always a bit painful, but the end results have so far resulted in much better stories.

Thanks for taking part in the interview. Please, tell our fine readers what they have to look forward to from you, in this, the dawning of the age of Word Hordius.

I have a number of short stories that will be coming out later this year and in 2017. I’m also in the middle of putting together a collection of extremely fantastical and dark erotic stories over on Patreon, called Tales of the Dark Century – that should be finished this year, but I honestly don’t know if I’ll find a publisher for it, as it’s definitely not the kind of erotica that currently popular. Maybe Chuck Tingle can give me some self-publishing tips…

An Interview with Michael Cisco

For our latest Word Horde interview, Sean M. Thompson tracked the legendary Weird Fiction author and whiskey aficionado Michael Cisco to his lair, and asked him the following questions…

What do you think the role of genre is in regards to fiction?

Genre is a memory image that gathers together a local micro-canon around a given piece of writing. Reading just about anything, you will see how it repeats settings, phrasings, movement through plot points, and so on, from other writings. This isn’t necessarily copying, though. Where there’s just copying, there really isn’t any new writing there, just another older story poorly recollected. The writing is new not just in what influences it combines, but in that it connects with ideas and impulses from earlier works and extends them. So genre is the landscape a piece of writing uses, but it’s also an orientation.

cisco

Your story from The Children of Old Leech contains a pretty brutal scene with someone breaking their neck after slipping on frozen urine. How did you come up with such a terrible way to die?

It just occurred to me, the right amount of disdain, with a dim echo of Roald Dahl when it came to the melting evidence. It had to be something that could not be attributed to the main character, so that I wouldn’t have to take us on a sidelight through a prison term. Then again, that might have turned out better than what I did.

The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron

Do you find yourself gravitating to any theme over and over again in your fictional output?

Decay, delirium, some kind of altered monasticism, self-conscious writing and a sort of paranoid universe. Generally I’m looking for ways to invert what seem to me to be common sense notions about things, so I would be looking for a way to make decay or delirium affirmative. That’s difficult to the extent that so much horror fiction valorizes what’s normal.

Do you get up to a lot of stuff of Halloween?

Not really, not any more. I would like to, but all I really manage to do is carve a pumpkin and watch a few movies, read a few stories.

What’s the scariest thing you can remember happening to you this year?

Air turbulence. I don’t fear crashing, but I do fear sudden plunges.

Do you have any writing rituals?

All of writing is a ritual for me. Generally, I listen to music before writing, taking notes if anything occurs to me. I don’t write on days when I have to go to work, because I don’t want to write with any distractions or fatigue. I wear earplugs when I write, but then I live in New York City. And I don’t sit there waiting to find something to say. I write what I have to write, then quit.

Do you believe in the supernatural?

I don’t believe that there is anything beyond or external to nature. I do believe that nature itself is in a continual state of change, and not a body of fixed rules. I don’t like to see anything impinge on the imagination or the reason, so rather than take a censorious view of the supernatural, I would rather think about it. This has been the thrust of what academic work I’ve been able to do.

If you could impart any advice on aspiring writers, what would it be?

Your problems are worth more than your answers. When a compositional or conceptual problem arises as you write, you’ve just found what you were really writing about. Include the problem in the writing. The problem is the motor.

CiscoAnimalMoney

Michael Cisco’s latest is Animal Money, out now from Lazy Fascist Press.

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An Interview with Anya Martin

Word Horde’s resident social media maniac, Sean M. Thompson, recently chatted with one of our favorite authors, Anya Martin, whose work has appeared in Giallo Fantastique and Cthulhu Fhtagn! Here’s what Anya had to say…

What do you think the role of genre is in fiction?

That’s a tough one in that like most writers I both hate being placed in a genre box, and yet I am a fierce defender of the claim that spec-lit in all its forms (SF/F/H, etc.) has every bit of legitimacy as literary fiction. I tend to prefer “mode” to “genre” and see the different forms of spec-lit as freeing me to approach realistic topics more, rather than less directly through a fantastic lens. For example in “The Prince of Lyghes,” my story in Cthulhu Fhtagn!, I consciously tackled the destructive impact of alcoholism on a relationship through the mode of Weird horror. The story begins monotonously because the daily life in such a relationship tends towards a constant, creeping dread, but the mode of the Weird allows me to push further into the emotional horror of that daily Hell by giving it a physical manifestation.

I’ll add that I never set out to be a Weird fiction writer per se, but since the recent ascent of the Weird, I have had an easier time selling my work. Before that, I was often told that it didn’t fit. It’d be nice to dream of a day when all books are shelved together and genres don’t matter, but genre classification is also a marketing reality that writers have to live with if they want to be published. Right now, I am fortunate in that editors and publishers seem to be more open to the type of whatever genre I write, whether Weird, horror, dark fantasy, or magic realism. I haven’t written a story I consider explicitly science fiction since “Courage of the Lion Tamer” (Daybreak, 2009), but I grew up loving science fiction and “Sensoria” in Giallo Fantastique actually started as a science fiction story. But that’s another story.

Cthulhu Fhtagn! edited by Ross E. Lockhart

Your story from Giallo Fantastique, “Sensoria,” contained a drug primarily taken at a rock and roll show. What kind of influence does music have on your writing, and have you been to a lot of concerts in your life?

I listen to music constantly, though I stick to instrumental when I am actually writing. A lot of experimental jazz, funk, Krautrock recently filling in gaps because I was such a punk rock girl. My punk/post-punk roots are still on my daily playlist–Patti Smith, the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, John Cale, Bowie, Eno, Iggy, Ramones, Robyn Hitchcock, Pere Ubu, Wire, The Cramps, to name just a few. And yes, I have been to a fair amount of concerts from local bands to international acts, though not so many stadium-sized shows as I tend to prefer more obscure music. I was also a college radio DJ and music director. I named my show Dangerous Visions.

Music is more of a subliminal than a direct influence in most of my work, though my characters are often listening to music. However, as chance would have it through anthology invitations, I had two stories come out this year in which rock music was integral–”Sensoria” and “Resonator Superstar!” in Scott R. Jones’ Resonator anthology which explores a possible occult side to Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable light/film shows accompanying early Velvet Underground gigs. The latter took a considerable amount of research and came out of attending a re-creation of that experience by a local avant garde film group in Atlanta. I actually wrote the first draft of what would become “Sensoria” around 1990, but its final form was heavily influenced by Goblin and Fabio Frizzi concerts–the latter in a London church on Halloween in 2014. So, OK, yes, my concert experiences, I guess, do bleed directly into my writing. I’m not working on any explicitly music scene stories right now, or wait, I just remembered the novel I am probably writing as my first might have something to do with a dead rock star.

Giallo Fantastique edited by Ross E. Lockhart

Do you have any writing rituals?

Well, as aforementioned, I do listen to music either before and/or while writing. Otherwise they fluctuate. In the winter, I’ll often drink green or camomile tea depending on whether I need a caffeine lift. I do coffee in the morning but that’s my nonfiction journalism day job time. For “Sensoria,” “Resonator Superstar!” and other stories that I need to tap into a more intense trance state especially as I get near the climax, I have drunk Kava. Some stories come together better in bed with my laptop with scented candles lit, and others sitting at my computer desk–I’m not sure why other than needing a change of scenery. I do usually prefer writing alone rather than in a public place like a coffee shop.

Would you ever eat a bug?

I have eaten bugs! Dried seasoned grasshoppers and still not sure whether those were caterpillars in the soup in China. Also more recently at a natural history museum insect-tasting event, but I can’t remember what kind of insects they were now.

Have you ever written a novel?

I have started novels but have not finished one yet. One in particular keeps knocking around in my brain. It seems manageable in length, I haven’t read anything else like it and fortunately the concept seems saleable. I hope to pick it up again sometime soon, but not until after a novella and I finish up at least three more short stories for anthology invitations.

How do you deal with fear of failure?

I just try not to think about it and keep working. Get the story done and move on to the next one. My brain may be a little too good at compartmentalizing, which is something I may tackle in a future story. On the other hand, right now I also try to keep my fiction goals modest. Get a few more stories completed and sold, see how my work is received, and then hopefully someone will want to collect them. And in due time, hopefully this winter, novel.

Would you consider yourself a fast writer, or a slow writer, in terms of your output.

Haha! Both. I tend to write very rapidly once a story gets going and have been known to complete a story in a day to a week. But I’ll start other stories and there could be long gaps of time as the parts come together in my head. “Resonator Superstar!” and “Old Tsah-Hov” in Cassilda’s Song (edited by Joe Pulver, Chaosium) were both written in two weeks or less, but “The Prince of Lyghes” evolved over three years and even when I thought it was done, I made more changes after a beta reader hit upon something simple and missing that should have been obvious to me.

Thanks for taking part. Anything to plug?

You’re welcome. I do have two more works slated to come out this year–making it a total of six in 2015. My short story, “A Girl in Her Dog,” will be in Issue #2 of Xynobis from Dunhams Manor Press. And Dunhams Manor is also publishing a one-act Weird play called “Passage to the Dreamtime” in its chapbook series. It’ll be the first time a work of fiction by me will be published in a freestanding format, i.e. not in an anthology or magazine, so I’m pretty excited.