Karen Heard lives in London (UK) and writes dark fiction in a range of genres, including gothic, ghost and mystery stories. Whatever genre she writes in, all her stories have one thing in common: they are all dark. Don't expect many happy endings or pleasant characters from her, for there is something dark lurking in the shadows of her imagination that makes itself known in each tale that escapes her mind.
Karen had a degree in Creative Writing and has worked for the past ten years in the magazine publishing industry.
Check out her website or follow her on Twitter @misheardfiction
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in Yorkshire, though now live in London. I have a day job working in magazine publishing, and spend my time editing web copy, thinking about how to please Google, or messing about on Twitter. I write almost obsessively in my spare time, and actually read how-to-write books for pleasure.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
I prefer the term ‘dark fiction’ for my own writing, as many of my stories wouldn’t be classed as conventional horror. It was only when adding my book to places like Amazon that I ended up getting categoried as a horror writer. Many people, when you tell them you’re a horror writer, seem a bit embarrassed for you, as if they think you must write about vampire sex or something. Unfortunately, I think genre fiction still doesn’t have the same respect that many ‘literary’ genres enjoy, which is a shame as there’s some fantastically creative work out there.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I have very eclectic tastes – from gothic authors, such as Poe, Shelley and Susan Hill, to more modern crime writing such as Ian Rankin and Colin Dexter. The books that I read again and again are: ‘Frankenstein’, ‘The Fig Eater’ by Jody Shields, ‘Pride and Prejudice’, the Rebus collection, and the Harry Potter books.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading ‘Devil Let Me Go’ by Nathan Robinson, a fellow ‘horror’ author who recently was kind enough to review my book. We’ve been chatting since on email, and I’m doing some reviews for the website he writes for, so thought I’d check out what his work was like. So far, it’s gripping.
I’m also reading ‘Sherlock Holmes’. I’d love to write an episode of ‘Sherlock’, but don’t think they take submissions.
How would you describe your writing style?
My stories tend to vary in genre, but no matter if I’m writing fantasy, crime or children’s stories they end up terribly dark, they usually have very flawed characters, and generally end very tragically. My favourite review of my work said: “either the author has a very vivid imagination, or we’re dealing with a crazed psychopath.” I think that about sums up my style :o)
Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?
When I have a story in my head, I will become obsessed with it and want to do nothing but keep writing until it’s all down – which isn’t always possible when you have work to go to and want to keep some friends. I tend to write my first drafts very fast – as much as 10K words in one sitting. I then spend a ridiculous amount of time editing. It’s not unknown for a short story to go through over 100 drafts – though many of those will only be tweaking words for atmosphere or theme etc.
What’s your favourite food?
Bacon and French toast covered in tomato sauce! Or if I’m on a diet, then take-out sushi.
What’s your favourite album?
It depends on what day you ask me.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned about writing?
You need to have the confidence to just sit down and write, without worrying about whether it will be any good. And then, paradoxically, when you’ve written your first draft, you need to realise your writing is not as good as you think it is, and get lots of feedback and edit until you’re sure that every single word is in there for a reason.
Fame and fortune, or respect?
More than anything, it’s important to me that people think my work is good and enjoy reading it. Though it would also be fantastic to be able to earn enough money writing to do it full time. I would love for my books to be famous, though would hate to be famous myself.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
The published piece I’m most proud of has to be: ‘The Lighthouse’ - a short story about a girl stuck in a flooding lighthouse. It’s the most literary of all my work and one of the stories people keep telling me they loved the most. The story is available free at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/270678 as a teaser to my book of short stories.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
My last book: ‘It’s Dark Inside’, is a collection of dark short stories. It has been compared most often to the style of Poe or Lovecraft. Though I can’t claim to be as good as they are, it is similar in focus to the work of Poe – dark and sinister, rather than explicit.
I’m currently working on a dark gothic mystery in the style of Anne Radcliffe or Mary Shelley. The format will be quite unusual, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to pull it off. If you want to hear more about it when it’s out, or be one of my valued beta readers, you can join my mailing list by emailing: email@example.com.
These six tales span the genres of ghost story, mystery, horror, and suspense. Some look back on dark times, others look forward to an apocalyptic future, and still others dwell on a terrible present – but they have one thing in common: they are all dark. Don’t expect happy endings or pleasant characters here, for there is something dark lurking in the shadows of each tale waiting to get out.
A young girl trapped in a flooding Lighthouse begins to wonder why her parents left...
How do you photograph the last moments of a dying species?
A dead man’s home is haunted by the living and the memories they disturb...
Out of Order (Originally published in 'Scared: Ten Tales of Horror')
What do you do when the lights go out and the screaming starts?
The Promise (Won an Honorary mention in the 'Little House Creative Workshops writing competition'.)
Never make a promise you can’t keep...
Something scratching behind the walls is dying to get out...
It’s Dark Inside is available in print or digital on Amazon US (http://www.amazon.com/Inside-collection-short-stories-ebook/dp/B009N0FXSC) and UK (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Inside-collection-short-stories-ebook/dp/B009N0FXSC)
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