Ginger Nuts of Horror
Lydia Peever is a Canadian horror author, designer and journalist. She is a big fan of horror music, books and film–so anywhere there is blood, you will probably find her lurking somewhere in the corner.
Her short stories have appeared in Postscripts To Darkness, Dark Moon Digest, For When The Veil Drops and her small collection, Pray Lied Eve and it’s sequel Pray Lied Eve 2. The follow up to her first novel Nightface has also been written.
In her spare time, she helps update the new releases section of the Horror Writers Association website, photographs zombie walks or bloody punk rock bands, and records a few podcasts. You can find her books, links to other media, and contact her at http://nightface.ca.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
Sure. I grew up in Northern Ontario, being read Poe and Grimm’s before bed, so became the cold weird horror author I am today quite naturally. With an education in journalism and graphic design I currently work laying out TV guide magazines and newspaper supplements for a living.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Aside from working full time and domestic chores, I do read a lot. Most writers do, or should. Co-hosting the Dead Air podcast for splatterpictures.net means I do indeed watch a lot of horror films too - and not all for the show as I do watch a lot anyway. Sometimes I do a little photography or design work, but most free time is spent doing something related to horror
Other than the horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?
Growing up in a family of dark fiction readers in the countryside. That is the biggest influence. The quiet, the rain, the fog. Small things like that. Other writers too, of course.
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?
The genre is continuously in flux. If an alien landed and said ‘take me to your horror’, there is no telling where they would end up. That’s really kind of unfair for the genre, and no wonder the horror section is disappearing from bookstores. It’s at times impossible to define, which leads to sub-genres - like apocalyptic, weird, quiet, extreme, splatter - and the rise of cross-genre with mystery, dark urban, crime, fantasy, and even romance. As much as I’d like to say I simply write horror with a capital ‘H’ it’s really subjective and up to the reader to be brave and find what they like in among all the confusing taxonomy. All writers can do is write, and be true to the genre they want to see.
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?
With social media allowing people to both expand interests and drill down into niche obscure pockets, that is really hard to say. There is an element of chaos and a stranger-than-fiction feel to the global political climate and far too many extremes. While one nation fights to have feminine paper products paid for another is fighting to end the lynching deaths of accused witches. That’s surreal. Perhaps the rise of bizarro and more extreme horror entering the mainstream is the result. Hopefully, that trend will continue. On the other hand, there is a marked rise in quiet horror and strange tales. This is most interesting to me as I prefer to write this way. That could be a retreat from the chaos or a result of technology making classic and Gothic horror more accessible than ever, so I hope this yin-yang expansion of the genre continues so we get even more extreme work and at the same time, darker and more quiet.
What are the books and films that helped to define you as an author?
Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of the Supernatural is a collection I have paged through since I was old enough to read. Before then, his poems were read to me so Poe is a definite influence. Stephen King’s Pet Semetery was a first favourite and as I aged, I read into authors that he cites like Jackson and Lovecraft. Goth by Otsuichi has been a later and much greater influence. One of my favourite films, Farinelli, is not exactly horror but is incredibly inspiring. Darkness and insanity in Halloween 2, vile haunting in The Entity and Hell House, and hillbilly horror like Wrong Turn 2 really arrest my imagination since they speak to things that truly scare me and in turn spur me to write those things down. A lot of my darling horror films began as classic horror literature, like Psycho, so the books and films sometimes blend.
What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice of?
Nicole Cushing and Barbie Wilde have really been hitting hard these days. While not unheard of, I’d hate to see their work passed by! There is a mad buzz list of authors in my head, and most are represented on podcasts like This Is Horror and The Horror Show with Brian Keene and the HWA member’s books page I curate so it’s tough for me to pick since again, horror is so subjective. Cushing and Wilde though, really not to be missed.
How would you describe your writing style?
Dark, quiet horror for dark, quiet people. It’s a tag line I used with the first Pray Lied Eve and it persists. No better way to describe my stuff than quiet.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
The most negative comment on Nightface was a critique of the main character. He doesn’t fit into the archetypes readers tend to need, and while my writing has improved greatly with age since then, I still second guess my education since I’m not an english literature graduate. Every positive review stifles that quite quickly! They far outweigh the few poor reviews, so I count myself very lucky for every kind word. Derek Newman-Stille wrote a great review of Pray Lied Eve that had me beaming with ‘He gets it! He really gets it!’ which is a feeling I had again when Tobin Elliot reviewed Pray Lied Eve 2. Eternally thankful for such thoughtful articles they both wrote about my work.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
The flux between first draft and the polished final that is ready to submit. A crummy first draft is a thing of beauty since there lay all the babies with their necks stuck out on so many chopping blocks. I tend to have a few of those mewling about, but approach subsequent drafts one at a time like engrossing surgery. I don’t like it. It’s stressful. It can take a lot of time, hand-wringing like that. The final draft is all fun to me though, so it’s necessary to go through the dark woods of drafting to get to the straightaway where I can outrun all those awkward sentences I deleted, the headless babies, and watch burning piles of discarded punctuation smoulder in the rear-view mirror.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
Pregnancy and motherhood. It’s something that makes my eyes roll and a subject I have no proper experience with. Biologically and objectively, I could easily write about these things… with a gun to my head. It would bore me to tears for certain and there are enough people writing about that so they can gladly continue.
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 from my past, names that are underused or just sounded good. Once in a while I follow the idea that a name makes the man, like Willy Loman as a name choice in Death of a Salesman. Or Max Power, to be silly about it. A quiet, charming man is named Julian, and a loud abrasive woman in named Blaire. It’s fun to choose names like that. Sometimes a character comes with a name, straight out of the eather and you have to go with it. Lucas Winters in my story ‘The Ringer’ was like that. It was just luck that his name had a great anagram too.
Writing, is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years?
Very true, and I’d say I’m still developing. Gone are the days when I had to have wine, candles, a certain time of day, ambient music and all that put-on author costuming I had grown into while writing as a teenager. While I have preferences, I can write a little easier now even if the time is not as plentiful. I also stress less over that crummy first draft, so more ideas make it to paper. That’s the most valuable improvement.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Pencils, pens, paper. Any keyboard will do, too. Before all that I tend to agree with so many authors before me and say every writer should read widely. Read non-fiction and news as well as getting deep into the classics of all genres. Your imagination is the toolbox and it really ought to be overflowing.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?
To just write. I’ve heard others say a writer should just pound out the crummy first draft over and over because it’s true. Also just writing for the sake of it, even a diary or blog to keep the wheels greased and the time scheduled. Also, Ray Bradbury jotted down every story idea no matter how larval or vague and I’d say that guy knew what he was doing.
Getting your work noticed is one of the hardest things for a writer to achieve, how have you tried to approach this subject?
It’s worse year by year too! I’ve partially given up since that climate is fast paced and fickle. All I can do is hope for organic and helpful reviews and that my writing itself will interest readers. Flashy ads and never-ending campaigns take up far too much time and are really best left to advertising agents and publishers. My job is truly to write so while I participate in some necessary advertising and querying for reviews, I try to not let that become my third part-time job. Besides, it’s so biased and transparent to tout my own wares. That’s why good reviews are so precious to me! I’d much rather talk about writing on a podcast or in an interview like this than take time crafting ads and social media blurbs. My elevator pitch may be weak, but I’ve always been more of a fireside chat kind of girl so it depends on how long you could stand being in an elevator with me.
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?
The thorn in my side is Gunnar of Nightface. Everyone around him is exciting and interesting to write for, but he is so cold. It always leaves me a little more morose and chilled to write him since he is so dead and aloof. Even more than me. My darling is Sinthia of Nightface, since she thinks in a slow poetry that I could not get away with otherwise.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
Right now, I’d have to say Widow’s Wake since it was written in a torrential few hours before being performed aloud at the Rue Morgue Dark Carnival Sic Fic competition. It was a story on my mind for a decade, so it felt good to get it out. Surely, I am proud of the two Nightface novels too, since they are marathon projects for me as a short story writer.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
Not yet! Even stories lost to time and middle school I would rework if I could.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, which of your books do you think best represents your work and why?
Pray Lied Eve 2, for the most part. It’s a more rich collection - with madness, revenge, sadness and haunting - than the first, and being the most recent, represents the state of my skill to date. If one likes vampire fiction and novels however, Nightface is really the place to start.
Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
“I build cities of dust in sunlight, raise the dead with a drop of my spit, and you choose to get in my way?’ which is a gem Solomon dropped in the first Nightface novel. There are better, more poetic lines in short stories like ‘As Is, Where Is’ about a house full of dead people’s things and ‘Tapestry’ about a woman having trouble with her possessed fortune-telling hair, but I’ve always liked the tone Solomon takes there. So cocky.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
Next, there is a serial killer novel I’ve been dying to write, so that outline is in bits and pieces. After a recent trip to Pennsylvania I have a few seeds of short stories planted there too. My recent collection, Pray Lied Eve 2, is getting wonderful reviews so I am very proud of it. That certainly helps me feel more confident in polishing and shopping Nightface 2 around!
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
Since the ‘gay best friend’ has evolved into far better fleshed out and true characters, the next mistake I’d like to see removed is the brooding goth girl and edgy square jawed rocker chick. Too often, these girls are written from limerence, and very poorly. It’s insulting.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
It’s been a few years but I was really disappointed with N0S4A2. It had it’s moments for sure since Hill is a new master storyteller, but for the length I found it a real chore and when reading feels like a chore it rubs me the wrong way. I’ve read one hell of a lot of great books in the last year, but the stand-out for me was Mr. Suicide by Nicole Cushing. Deserved every ounce of praise, that one.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
No one has asked about music and visual art. There are tremendous amounts of horror inspiration to be found in audio and visual forms that I’m sure many authors surround themselves with similar things. My mother used to spin ‘Tubular Bells’ as often as she could, and I grew up with Alice Cooper, Meatloaf, Kind Diamond, Pink Floyd and scores of other weird bands in my little ears growing up. That evolved into so much metal, classical and industrial that if I had the time I’d be a crazed audiophile. Going to a nice gallery full of Renaissance, Baroque and Romantic art always fills me with wonder. I’m a huge fan of Caravaggio, Goya, Bosch, and My walls have a few nice pieces by contemporary artists like Angelina Wrona, Adam Tupper, and many pieces by ‘Ghoulish’ Gary Pullin, let alone a few random pieces featuring cenobites and plague doctors that truly colour my world… darkly.
Short tales of confusion, fear, and hopelessness.
Horror, weird tales, quiet stories of the supernatural... call them what you will, these six stories serve as a following to the first three dark offerings of Pray Lied Eve. This second installment is longer and delves more deeply into realms perhaps best left undisturbed. Sadness, thoughts of revenge, scenes of torture; many people find themselves exploring these things alone so Pray Lied Eve will offer to be your guide.
Have your mirror image ruined, and all sense of safety in your home with The Ringer. Explore the madness of the carnival after dark with Jack and the Box. Halloween Hopscotch sounds fun, but when everyone knows what you've done... or simply ignore the atrocities of the past and visit Midway Park. Witness nightmares come alive during the Widow’s Wake, and then leave it all As Is, Where Is.