|Illustration by Luke Spooner, © LVP Publications|
Welcome to The Pulp Horror Author Interview Series. Today's interview is with Colleen Anderson who explores the fear of hair in her short story "Entwined" in The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias.
LVP PUBLICATIONS: What draws you to horror, both as a writer and as a reader? Who is your favorite horror creator? Who are your inspirations or influences?
COLLEEN ANDERSON: It’s weird to say I’m not really sure. I’ve always been fascinated by the strange, the different and the unseen—mysteries and thinking of other ways of seeing the world. My favorite horror creator changes at times. China Mieville for his intensely strange worlds, Gemma Files for some super crazy existences… this list changes as I read, and I am woefully far behind on reading. I recently read Strange Bird by Jeff Vandermeer, and read Josh Malerman’s Bird Box. These two were strange and very edge of the seat with Malerman’s. I keep them in mind when writing. My inspirations and influences include classic writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson and Ray Bradbury, not to mention some early horror films and TV shows such as The Fall of the House of Usher, House of Seven Gables, the Twilight Zone, and Outer Limits. And a mother that didn’t seem to censor what we watched. I’m inspired often by what I’m reading too, and fairy tales and myths were also great influences.
LVP: What were your biggest fears as a child? Do you have any current phobias or fears now as an adult?
ANDERSON: When I was very little I used to evoke the devil under the bed, just to psych myself out. I would then be daring myself to look under the bed and I would hope I wasn’t pulled under. Perhaps someday I need to write this story. As a kid, I developed arachnophobia after a very specific infestation dream. It grew worse when I moved to the West Coast and the spiders grew bigger. But I spent a year working on hiking trails and it seems inadvertent aversion therapy cured me. There were also fears of the bombs dropping, and 9/11 terrified me. These days the only phobia I have is Trumpophobia—and living in what has become one of the most expensive cities on Earth has given me the very real fear of not being able to keep a roof over my head.
LVP: Horror has a million sub-genres, from psychological to splatterpunk. Which sub-genres have you written in? What's your favorite flavor of horror?
ANDERSON: I had to look up the sub-genres just to make sure I know what they all are. And it seems I have written in pretty much all of them from splatterpunk (only a little bit I think), to body horror, psychological, supernatural, gothic, erotic, vampire, weird, etc. I’d say my favourite is psychological and I often write morality tales where disturbing moral dilemmas are presented that can greatly unsettle people. The sociopath (psychopath) intellect disturbs and fascinates me. I’m about to start writing a werewolf story, which I haven’t done before, though I have written werewolf poems, and I think I’d like to explore Gothic fiction a bit more as well.
LVP: Is there any sub-genre or area of horror that you won’t go anywhere near? Any one area that is completely off-limits?
ANDERSON: Never say never. While I did write one piece that was splatterpunk—and back when I was doing Clarion West (writers workshop) I was nicknamed the Splatterqueen—I’m not big on gore-fests and really won’t and can’t watch movies that go down Slasher Lane, so I’d say I don’t really go there as it’s somewhat gratuitous. But it’s often in the eye of the beholder and since I used to submit what I thought were fantasy stories and get rejections saying, “We don’t do horror,” it could be I have more splatter than I’m aware of. I also think Burroughs’ The White Lunch was a form of erotic snuff horror that I could only read half of as it was self-indulgent, didn’t move forward and seemed too gratuitous, so snuff horror isn’t something I feel I need to explore.
LVP: In your opinion, what is the scariest or most terrifying thing you’ve ever written?
ANDERSON: I would say it’s “Exegesis of the Insecta Apocrypha,” which could probably make a very disturbing show. Not only was it unsettling to research in terms of finding out just how many insects there are in the world (a total that is greater than all other animals put together) and what happens during decomposition, but I had to go deep into the psychopath’s behaviour, involving death and torture of animals and children. My mind kept veering away from writing it but my first draft was a bit too graphic in areas, so I had to pull back. That one still creeps me out, though some of the others stories I’ve written in that callous use of, and disregard for, living beings is a terrifying concept.
LVP: Have you ever had an idea for a story so scary or disturbing that you couldn't bring yourself to write it down? Tell us about it.
ANDERSON: Well, if I told you about it, it wouldn’t be too scary to write down, now would it? But at this point, I would say no, I’ve gone there and several reviewers have said I’m bold and unafraid.
LVP: Are there any ways that your interest in horror bleeds over (so to speak) into other areas of your life? Do you throw legendary Halloween parties, do you dress like Alice Cooper when you go grocery shopping, do you have a pet albino snake named Nosferatu?
ANDERSON: I was once accused of eating babies by a twenty-something because I look far younger than my years. If people comment on this factor I do continue to say I eat babies, which disturbs a few people for some odd reason. I also have a bone collection, skulls of different animals, a large urn-like glass container of bones, a cat skeleton, etc. I was called goth before I knew what it was, but I tend to like bright colors far more than black. A couple of years ago Nancy Kilpatrick and I did a tour of bone chapels and mummies in the Czech Republic, and she’s certainly an aficionado of the macabre. I’d like to see more ancient cemeteries and funereal art through the ages is quite interesting.
LVP: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to try dabbling in horror writing for the first time?
ANDERSON: Don’t get stuck in the tropes, though they are good fodder. I mean, do go there, but then go farther. Think outside the box. Watch and read the classics and then pick up some new stuff and read that. It’s amazing to see how many people are influenced by authors from fifty to a hundred plus years ago.
LVP: What would you like your legacy to be? Or alternatively, what should your survivors engrave on your tombstone?
ANDERSON: My mother always called me strange so perhaps “Embracing the Weird” would make a good epitaph. I want my legacy of writing to be mind boggling and awesome, of course.
LVP: Anything else you'd like to say or add? Any final thoughts?
ANDERSON: I’m currently trying to write a mosaic collection of apocalyptic SF, of sorts. It’s a bit different from what I usually write so I’m challenging myself. I’m keeping Strange Bird, and Alessandro Manzetti’s “The Massacre of the Mermaids” in mind as I write these stories. Black Shuck Books also published A Body of Work in late 2018, which collects my more recent dark fiction tales together.
~ Colleen Anderson is a Canadian editor and writer of fiction and poetry whose work has appeared in over 200 publications. Her collection A Body of Work was published in 2018. She recently edited the anthology Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, co-edited two other anthologies, and was long-listed for a Stoker in short fiction. www.colleenanderson.wordpress.com
Pre-order The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias (paperback or hardcover) from your local indie bookstore through IndieBound, from Barnes & Noble or Amazon now... or come see us at Crypticon in Seattle, WA and StokerCon in Grand Rapids, MI to read this story along with all the other madness contained in The Pulp Horror Book of Phobias (including limited edition autographed phobia card sets, available at conventions only)!