Posts Tagged ‘We Have Always Lived In The Castle’

website-logoHi Folks!  One of today’s WiHM interviews is with the super nice Gwendolyn Kiste. Gwendolyn is primarily a short fiction writer and you’ll find her her work in places like Nightmare Magazine and Lamplight.  I’m super thrilled to have bumped into Gwendolyn recently on  Facebook and honoured to have her stop by my blog for a chat!


Q. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

GK: My background is a bit of a mosaic. Over the last fifteen years, I produced and directed horror films, operated a Goth/punk clothing line, launched a Halloween website, worked in the nonprofit sector, and instructed acting classes for teenagers until my eyes bled. I also have a graduate degree in social psychology and taught university-level courses for a few semesters.

All the while, my love of horror was always there, in the movies I made, the clothes I wore, even the horror-centric research papers I wrote in graduate school. My parents were married on Halloween (back in the early 1980s before it was as trendy as it is now), so I always say the macabre runs in my blood.

Q. What draws you to horror generally, and was there a defining moment where something made you think “Fuck it, I’m writing a horror story!”?  

GK: Everyone in my life is a horror fan, so in my little slice of the world, there’s nothing strange or subversive about it. To me, horror feels like coming home. I’ve been writing weird and creepy stories since I was about five or six, and I really need to excavate my parents’ basement someday to see if I can locate those early and now-yellowed manuscripts. I can’t remember the first horror story, though I’m sure I bundled it up with a terribly hand-drawn cover and sold it to my parents for a dollar. I was always a consummate capitalist when it came to my writing.

In terms of what draws me to horror, there’s something truly transcendent about terror. When you’re watching a horror film or TV show or reading a horror story, you experience something ghastly and unnerving and distressing, but here’s the thing: you always survive. In that way, every horror experience is like a resurrection. You go in as one person, and if the story or show does its job, you come out the other side, a survivor who will never quite be the same.

Q. What is your favourite horror story and what about it specifically rustled your jimmies? 

GK: There are so many good ones that it’s hard to choose. In terms of more literary horror, I love Ray Bradbury’s stories in The October Country, in particular “The Lake.” It’s a coming-of-age tale wrapped in a ghost story wrapped in the best and most horrifying nostalgia I’ve ever read.

Another of the earliest horror stories to get lodged under my skin was “The Professor’s Teddy Bear” by Theodore Sturgeon. I was around ten years old when I read it, probably a few years too young for a blood-drinking, time-bending alien-teddy-bear, but either way, it turned my mind inside out. Since then, I’ve (thankfully) never been the same.

Q. What have you written? And what is your personal favourite of your own work?

GK: All my published work has been short fiction so far, mostly horror with some fantasy and a little bit of science fiction in there as well. My personal favorites at this point are both horror: “Ten Things to Know About the Ten Questions,” published in September at Nightmare Magazine, and “The Clawfoot Requiem,” which appeared last year in LampLight. Both stories deal with devastating personal losses and issues of conformity, and the female protagonists are thorny, difficult characters who were incredibly fun to write.

Q. Do you have a favourite form or media for story telling?  E.g Short story, Novel, Audio drama or podcast, audiobook

GK: Short stories have always been—and probably always will be—my favorite. However, I love all forms of storytelling. In particular, I’ve become a huge fan of horror podcasts. I’ve always loved radio, and growing up, I would lament how the days of great broadcasts, like the stories Orson Welles did in the 1930s, were long gone. But now with podcasts, I feel as though we’re really reclaiming that storytelling medium.

Q. What are you working on at the minute?

GK: Finishing up edits on a few short stories, and also possibly working on a novel. I say “possibly” because it’s still relatively new, so for now, I speak in only hushed tones about it, out of fear of scaring it off. Young projects can be so delicate.

Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?

GK: Shirley Jackson. My beat-up copy of We Have Always Lived in the Castle travels with me almost everywhere I go. I periodically try to analyze the prose and dissect exactly what it is I love about it, but every time, I get so swept up in the story that I forget I’m supposed to be “working.” That’s incredible to me: despite having read the story dozens of time, I can still lose myself in it. Even with the recent resurgence of her work, Shirley Jackson will always be under-appreciated, given what a true genius she was.

Q. Are there any projects involving other women that you’re looking forward to or would like to get on board with?

GK: I have a couple women-centric anthologies on my to-read list, including She Walks in Shadows. I’m also on the lookout for any publications coming out for Women in Horror Month, including the February issue of The Sirens Call, which is always a lot of fun.

On the personal side of things, I’ve been talking with two of my writer friends, Brooke Warra and Scarlett R. Algee, about launching a shared world project that would focus on a girls school that tries, and often fails, to reform adolescent witches. However, that’s down the road, and probably won’t launch until 2018 at the earliest.

Q. What book/s are you reading at present and what is in your TBR pile?

GK: Typhon: A Monster Anthology from Pantheon Magazine is at the top of the list right now. After that, I’ll be reading Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove. There’s so much great fiction out there, and never nearly enough time for it all.

Q. What challenges have you encountered that are unique to being a woman in the horror genre, or can you describe some of the challenges you have faced that are complicated by your gender?

GK: In some ways, as a writer, I live in a cocoon, which keeps me a bit inoculated. That said, I am always careful about the people I add to social media, and that’s something women are often more cognizant about than men. As in, “is this person okay? will he (or sometimes she) harass me or start leaving inflammatory comments on my page?” I don’t know that men think about those questions as often as women do, though screening potential associates is certainly a concern for everyone.

In publishing in general, there are still editors who expect all female characters to be traditionally “sympathetic,” and fit that nurturing stereotype about what a woman “should” be. It’s strange to me that male characters can be complex and complicated, but female characters are still at times expected to behave like “good girls.”

Fortunately, that expectation is changing, and overall, I’ve found the horror industry to be incredibly welcoming.

Q. Why is Women in Horror month important? 

GK: Every February, Women in Horror Month brings new female writers and artists into my orbit. Throughout the rest of the year, I try to learn as much as I can about women in the industry, but with daily spotlights and blogs through the Women in Horror Month website and interviews like the ones on this site, I always discover a few more authors, artists, and podcasters. Just yesterday, I discovered The Girls in the Back Row podcast, which spotlights different obscure and offbeat horror films each week. How could I not know that such a podcast existed? But I didn’t, and thanks to Women in Horror Month, now I do know. So that process of discovery in the month of February is such a thrilling one for me.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

GK: Keep going. Keep writing, keep submitting, keeping honing your craft, and keep networking. There will be tons of rejection. It will hurt. Some rejections will hurt worse than others, especially if you really want to crack a certain market. Just keep going. It’s worth it in the end.

Gwendolyn Kiste Links: 





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The second Woman in Horror that will grace(storm?) my blog today is Lisa L. Hannett.  Lisa is a Dr. of Old Norse Literature—that’s right, another ma’fkn Dr up in my blog—and a super talented and highly awarded author. I’m delighted to have her stop by and answer a few questions. Thanks Lisa.

Ladies and germs, meet Lisa L. Hannett.

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Q. Tell us a little about yourself and your background

LH: Born and raised in Canada, I now live in Adelaide, South Australia — city of churches, bizarre murders and pie floaters. I’ve got a PhD in Old Norse literature, an Honours degree in medieval lit and fantasy fiction, and a Fine Arts degree in painting and photography — all of which mashes together in my mind and spills out into some pretty weird stories. I spend half my time lecturing in English and Creative Writing, the other half writing strange (and often dark) tales, another half researching and writing about Viking Age Iceland and Norway, and another half indulging my addiction to the gym. The rest of the time, I’m thinking about or taking pictures of food. And when it comes to calculating time I am clearly a word person, not a mathematician.

Q. What draws you to horror generally, and was there a defining moment where you something made you think “Fuck it, I’m writing a horror story!”?

LH: I stumbled into writing horror, not really knowing that’s what I was doing until it was done — mostly because I initially had a pretty narrow concept of what “horror” was or could be. So if the definition of horror includes direct references to Stephen King or Clive Barker, for instance, then I suppose I’m not much of a horror writer. But if it is broad enough to encompass weird, unsettling, uncomfortable stories that put characters into bleak or horrific situations without promising to get them back out again (which, of course, it does) then I’m your gal. I have always appreciated stories that swerve away from what’s expected, that explore the hideous side of humanity, that don’t promise to leave readers feeling happy or hopeful at the end — so I keep coming back to this genre. More than scary or gory horror, though, I love reading and writing stories that punch you right in the gut.

Q. What is your favourite horror story and what about it specifically rustled your jimmies?

LH: In terms of classics, I can’t go past ‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson because I read it when I was about twelve, and it completely rewired my brain. (That is if we’re talking short fiction — if we’re talking longer works, I’ll still stick with Jackson: both We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House are incredible). In terms of newer short stories, ‘Ponies’ by Kij Johnson and ‘Apotropaics’ by Norman Partridge are two I return to repeatedly because they are just so brilliant and chilling.

Q. What have you written? And what is your personal favourite of your own work?


LH: I’ve had over 60 short stories published, and one novel. My first book, Bluegrass Symphony, won the 2011 Aurealis Award for ‘Best Collection’ and it was also nominated for a World Fantasy Award, so it continues to hold a pretty special place in my heart. Angela Slatter and I collaborated on two collections together: Midnight and Moonshine (2012) and The Female Factory (2014), the second of which also got a gong for ‘Best Collection’ at last year’s Aurealis Awards. Lament for the Afterlife is my first novel, which CZP published toward the end of 2015. Lament is a dark fantasy / horror / lit war story that follows the life and decline of one battle-scarred soldier as he tries to escape his past — while avoiding the omnipresent and unbeatable enemy. Think Pan’s Labyrinth meets Platoon, make those films even darker, and that’s where Lament is situated.

Q. Do you have a favourite form or media for story telling?  E.g Short story, Novel, Audio drama or podcast, audiobook

LH: As a writer, I prefer short stories to other forms because they are beautiful, concise, sharp little gems of fiction that don’t waste words. I get a buzz out of writing novel-length works for different reasons (having the space to expand on world-building, for example, and for including more elaborate details, more complicated plots, more characters, etc) but the precision of short fiction is something I’ll always favour. As a reader, I am a glutton for everything: sweeping multi-volume sagas, mosaic novels, long or tiny novels, short stories, poems, plays. Every genre, every style — I’ll gobble it all.

Q. What are you working on at the minute?

LH: I’ve got two big projects on the go at the moment. I’m about halfway into my next collection of weird short stories, The Homesteaders, and aim to have that finished soon. I’m also revising my next novel — it’s the first in a two book series, called The Invisible Woman. Set in Viking Age Norway, this book tells the early story of Unn the Deep-Minded — wife of one king, mother to a second, and in time a famous Viking herself — as she struggles to find her own fame and fate in this warrior world, all while her shape-shifting time-travelling fylgja (a kind of spirit guide) keeps butting in to mess things up for her… The second book in the series will follow Unn out of Norway into medieval Ireland, Scotland, and finally Iceland. She was quite the world-traveller! But before I can get to that book, I’ve got a couple of short story commissions to finish up.

Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?

LH: If I have to narrow it down to only one (so mean!) then it’s Margaret Atwood. Her novels, her short stories, her poems, her essays and reviews — I won’t say I love them all equally or blindly, but the ones I love (most of them, really) I LOVE.

Q. Are there any projects involving other women that you’re looking forward to or would like to get on board with? 

LH: I loved the ‘Women Destroy’ series of anthologies / special issues and if there were reprises of any of them (SF, Fantasy, Horror) I’d be keen to get on board. I was delighted to have a piece in FableCroft’s Cranky Ladies of History anthology — helping to write books about women are as interesting to me as being on ToCs with other women, so it would be great to be involved in more of those, too.

Q. What book/s are you reading at present and what is in your TBR pile?

LH: I’m a polygamist when it comes to reading: I can never commit to just one. So I’ve got several on the go at the moment: I’m about a third of the way through Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt; halfway through One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey; I’ve just started The Last English King by Julian Rathbone; just finished A Daughter of No Nation by A.M. Dellamonica; dipping in and out of Helen Marshall’s Gifts for the One Who Comes After; and I’m re-reading Sabriel by Garth Nix for the first time in years.

Next up on the TBR list: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders; Three Moments of an Explosion by China Miéville; The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood; H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.

Q. What challenges have you encountered that are unique to being a woman in the horror genre, or why is Women in Horror month important/important to you? 

LH: Visibilty — or lack thereof — is a persistent problem. It’s so disappointing seeing list after list of “best” or “notable” or “up and coming” horror writers being published with so few women included on them. I realise this complaint is like pointing to a tall flower and saying the petals are wilting; the problem isn’t in the lists themselves — which are the ends of long-stemmed productions — but instead the issue originates down at ground level. If fewer women’s stories are being published, fewer are being reviewed, then of course fewer will appear on lists like these. But my gut feeling is that, in recent years, more and more women are having stories published in horror anthologies and magazines — and yet the go-to names when referring to or thinking of ‘horror writer’ lists are predominantly men. (Hell, I’ve even demonstrated this here, by rattling off Stephen King and Clive Barker’s names as examples of “H”orror.) So in terms of shining light on accomplished and emerging female writers, Women in Horror month is one great step in the right direction.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

LH: Read. A lot. Read for fun and read critically. Then read more.

Lisa L  Hannett Links: 


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