Ginger Nuts of Horror
Carmilla Voiez is a proudly bisexual and mildly autistic introvert who finds writing much easier than verbal communication. A life long Goth, living with two kids, two cats and a poet by the sea.
She is passionate about horror, the alt scene, intersectional feminism, art, nature and animals. When not writing, she gets paid to hang out in a stately home and entertain tourists.
Carmilla grew up on a varied diet of horror. Her earliest influences as a teenage reader were Graham Masterton, Brian Lumley and Clive Barker mixed with the romance of Hammer Horror and the visceral violence of the first wave of video nasties. Fascinated by the Goth aesthetic and enchanted by threnodies of eighties Goth and post-punk music she evolved into the creature of darkness we find today.
Her books are both extraordinarily personal and universally challenging. As Jef Withonef of Houston Press once said - "You do not read her books, you survive them."
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I’ve been writing novels since 2007. Wanting to regain my self-identity post motherhood I went back to university and studied creative writing. I ran a Gothic Clothing before and during the early days of writing, called Drac-in-a-Box, which has since closed down. I had a few pieces of poetry published in zines in my late teens, but I don’t consider myself a poet. I do however love the rhythm and beauty of language for its own sake.
I live with a lot of fear and anxiety and I’m drawn to horror stories as a reader and writer as a way of sublimating that. Supernatural terrors are easier to endure than the shadows at every corner.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I read widely. I consume close to eighty books a year without sating my hunger. I enjoy walking. I am privileged to live in a small seaside town skirted by woodland and find it easiest to tap into my creative side while wandering among trees or staring out to sea.
I’m a working mum. I edit for other writers and I work in a museum and art gallery. For the time being writing cannot provide enough income to cover the bills. And when I need to wind down I cuddle my cats. It’s a quiet life, which I find perfect for my mental health.
Other than the horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?
Politics – I’m a leftie and a feminist. Both colour my writing, probably never more obviously than the short story “Eat the Rich” that will be part of the “Zombie Punks Fuck Off” anthology to be released in 2018.
People – as someone on the autism spectrum I have spent a lot of my life watching how these alien creatures known as human beings behave and interact with each other. As a reader and a writer I am drawn to complex characters who are both good and evil, and how that balance plays out within a story. The stories I write and the books I love best tend to be character rather than plot driven.
The term horror, especially when applied to fiction always carries such heavy connotations. What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?
For those who don’t love horror, it seems to suggest a bleakness that they want to avoid. For those who love the genre we find the darkness life-affirming. I believe horror will always be avoided by those who want to keep their eyes and minds shuttered against the reality of violence in the world. Perhaps the only way to break away from that is to mix horror with other genres they find more palatable.
A lot of good horror movements have arisen as a direct result of the socio/political climate, considering the current state of the world where do you see horror going in the next few years?
Absolutely, vampires and zombies being great examples of your point. Either horror will reflect the world and entrench itself in Fascist dystopia or end of the world disasters, or it will look to escape the current climate and deal with smaller monsters.
What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?
I owe a lot to Clive Barker. My writing has a similar mix of violence, magic and sexuality. From a stylistic perspective Iain Banks taught me brevity and helped me cut the purple prose from my manuscripts. Also Zadie Smith taught me about good dialogue and how to write in a way that reflected without copying the way people actually speak. I don’t think I can point to particular books or films though. My voice has developed slowly.
What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice of?
Eden Royce, a fellow horror writer whose stories are immersed in Southern magic. I’d go as far as to say she might be the Lovecraft of our time.
How would you describe your writing style?
Putting the feminine into horror literature and all the rage that entails.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
I’ve had great reviews from Houston Press. On a reader level there have been some very flattering comments that place my work into a pantheon of classical literature and references, although as a working-class lass I am not entirely at ease with such elevation.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Getting started on a new story. Once I’m “in the zone” I dream about my characters, but until I reach that point it can be a lonely and frustrating struggle.
Promoting myself is tricky as well. I wish there was an easier way to point the right people towards your books without feeling as though you are slowly shredding your soul.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
No. But I wouldn’t presume to know anything without researching a subject thoroughly first.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
Sometimes I choose names because of their meanings or because they were used in other work and carry that cultural weight. Mostly I just choose names that sound good to my ears.
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years?
I am more aware of things like info dumping, pace and repetition than I was when I started. I think that’s probably what changed most. I have a great editor who will tell me straight when things don’t work and I’ve learned a lot about style from her.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
My pet peeve is unfinished work being published. I think every writer needs an editor, not just someone who will alter spelling or punctuation, but someone who notices holes in the story or lack of continuity. Someone who is strong enough to tell them their work isn’t good enough to sell. We get to close to our own stories at times to notice whether they have value. I think you realise that when you reread work you wrote years before.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?
One of Stephen King’s words of wisdom from “On Writing” has stuck with me. “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right — as right as you can, anyway — it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize it.”
Getting your work noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?
I agree with your statement and sadly haven’t found a successful method to date. I blog, I share promotional posters and quotes on social media, I advertise with magazines and websites when I can afford to. I attend book signings and conventions, but so far I remain a unknown cult writer.
To many writers, the characters they write become like children, who is your favourite child, and who is your least favourite to write for and why?
I love Freya, from Starblood. She’s the most broken and long suffering of all my children. From the same series of books I am most disappointed by Paul. I tried to write backstory and give justification to his evil, but I feel that I barely scratched the surface of what made him tick before I killed him off.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
The Starblood Trilogy. It’s also the most autobiographical piece I’ve published.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
Yes, but I pretty much have forgotten about them, in any detail anyway. Like those teenage poems.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?
The short story collection “Broken Mirror and Other Morbid Tales” gives a good representation of all the subjects and styles that I delve into deeply in my novels.
Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
“There is no shame in love, only completion.”
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
The last book I released was a short story collection. Works in progress include a dystopian novel “Venus Virus” and Psychonaut the graphic novel – the second graphic novel in the Starblood series.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
Have sex and die.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
The last great horror book I read was “Twenty Days of Turin”, by Georgia de Maria. I don’t want to state which was the last book that disappointed me, but it was a poorly edited one.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
Can I make your Starblood Trilogy into a series of films? The answer would probably be yes, depending on who was asking.