Friday, 27 February 2015

Women in Horror: LILY CHILDS

Lily Childs is a writer of dark fiction, horror and chilling mysteries.

*New! WITHIN WET WALLS, is a short, gothic ghost story which undulates through time within the wet walls of Wealdstone House. Slip into Eliza Lundy's Victorian sub-existence of servitude and debauchery, laced with opium and absinthe. Taste the terror. Embrace life... while you can.

Eliza's wandering spirit will take you by the hand, by the throat, by the lips. Enter her darkness to discover the beautiful horrors that reside there. She's waiting. She's always waiting. For you. Out in chapbook and ebook formats. (30 pages)

Lily Childs
Thank you for inviting me to take part in the Women Writers in Horror Month interviews. It’s an honour to be amongst such stellar dark voices.

1. When did you start writing horror?
I think there’s always been an element of horror to my writing even from my school days (a very long time ago). I was fascinated by ghosts, psychic phenomena and anything supernatural from a very young age. I discovered tarot and the occult as a teenager which affected my outlook (and output, I guess) on everything. I loved the thrill of the unknown, the tease of terror. I recall an English Lit./Lang school report that praised my grammar and writing style but was concerned about the perpetual dark subject matter of any fiction project I worked on. It was the same with artwork.
I’ve dabbled with fiction throughout my life. But writing horror seriously? Around 2004 I reached that stage where ideas, concepts and opening lines – you know them; the entities that have lives and voices of their own – wouldn’t leave me alone. The number of notebooks and laptop folders I was filling grew rapidly, then in late 2008 I finally made the decision to start submitting work. I was first published in 2009.

2. Have you written in any other genre?
Crime and psychological thrillers – which aren’t too far removed from horror where human behaviour is concerned. I rather enjoy the crossover, even though some publishers and bookshops struggle with cross-genre because such works don’t fit easily on their limited category shelves.
I won a comp in one of the big UK Sunday magazine’s in 2009 with a ‘love story’, Summer Breeze – set in the mod revival days of the late 70s/early 80s. But of course it was a bitter sweet tragedy. I’ve since written a follow-up, Girl Don’t Come, which is a far more sinister crime thriller.
I have written several stories for children but never sent them out. Maybe one day, under a different name.

3. What makes you uncomfortable?
What a wide-reaching question! Speaking in public, particularly to a room full of suits has me gibbering, shaking and dwelling on my inadequacies forever after the event. I also hate confrontation of any kind in real life, although I’m quite happy to stick it into fiction. Oh, and hen nights (bachelorette parties) full of screeching women. The very thought makes me want to curl up and die of embarrassment.
If we’re talking horror, then it’s zombies. It’s not because they eat your brains and are relentless, or how they still manage to catch you even when they’re shuffling in that slow stagger of theirs. No, what completely unnerves me about them is that there’s nothing behind their eyes. No emotion. They’re in a place you simply can’t reach – like heroin addicts, but with no hope of ever turning back. That said, I’m still a massive Walking Dead fan.

4. Does your family read your work?
Some of my immediate family do, and they’re very supportive even if the content is a bit much for their tastes. More distant cousins have surprised me by letting me know they have bought and read my stories and books; I find that really touching. My husband reads as much as he can; he’s an esoteric artist and we’re hoping he can illustrate some tales I’m working on in the next 18 months or so. My daughter is only eleven; I’ve never actively shown her my words but she knows where all the books are and tells me how proud she is that I’m a writer (such a sweetums). She’s as excited as I am when there’s a new launch or I get a good review.

5. Does your writing make you uneasy?
Nope! Mostly it exhilarates me, the darker the better.  I do have some (human) characters whose heads I can only stay inside for short periods of time. I’m working on two characters in a novel at the moment that fill me with dread and disgust; they fascinate me with their attitudes and behaviour but I can only sip at them, rather than drink them down in one go. 
Demons are a different matter; poor darlings, they’re so misunderstood.

6. Who would you say you write like?
I’m not sure I can answer that. I’ve been told I write like Clive Barker, Le Fanu, M.R. James and even “the impossible lovechild of Barker/Poppy Z. Brite”! I don’t try to emulate anyone’s style – it just comes as it comes.

7. Who are your favourite authors?
Top three: Joanne Harris, Clive Barker, Sarah Waters
Current faves: Gary McMahon, Adam Neville, Angela Slatter, Mark West, James Everington and Luca Veste.
To watch (because I love their writing and the world needs to): Anthony Cowin, Phil Sloman, Magenta Nero and Erin Cole.

8. Who influences you as a writer?
The collective effort of many genre authors, rather than one individual influences me to write and keep writing. Most are hard-working and committed, often offering support to fellow writers by way of beta-reading, guidance, encouragement and promotion. I hope I do the same in return.
But as for influence by way of inspiration, I’d refer back to my short list of favourite authors; these are writers that truly evoke awe and wonder with their words. They make me shout out loud at their expression of beauty, the delivery of twists and their way of needling into your senses, your very core. What can be more inspiring than wanting to move readers in the same way?
And the Women Writers in Horror, of course. Badass.

9. Do you remember what your first horror book was that you read?
I think it was Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, followed by Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby. But I was also reading Grimm, Perrault and other fairy tales in their original form; now that’s what I call horror.

10. How old were you?
For the Bradbury and Levin novels, eleven or so. They were on my mother’s bookshelf at home; I picked them up – and everything changed.

11. Is there any subject you will not touch as an author?
Sexual abuse of a child (I really, really struggled to even write that.)  I can manage to refer to how characters have been affected by abuse but the acts themselves – no, no, no.
War; I’m a pacifist. I don’t like it. I don’t agree with it. Politics, power, religion, oil, territory, ignorance – a human sickness. That’s not to say I’m not supportive of those that defend their countries. I’m just never going to write about it.

12. What was the best advice you were given as a writer?
Can I have three?
Write for yourself. 
Don’t worry about style or editing as you write – just let it pour onto the page and edit/review afterwards. Then edit again. And again.
Never submit anything that isn’t the best you can possibly make it.

13. If you had to start all over again, what would you do different?
If I could go back in time I’d start writing seriously from a much younger age – probably my 20s, taking the confidence and lessons I’ve learned with me. I’m 50 now – that’s a long journey, but hey – I’m no sci-fi writer; the whole time-machine concept scrambles my brains!

14. How many books do you read a year?
Not nearly enough. Probably no more than two dozen. These will be mostly horror – novels and anthologies – but British crime too, maybe one Katie Fford romance (yup!) and a pile of research books.
I’m currently reading Kim Newman’s ‘An English Ghost Story’, which the author signed for me at a mass signing organised by the mighty horror editor Stephen Jones at London’s Forbidden Planet last year. The novel is a true masterpiece in storytelling, a sparkling tale that grows slowly darker with each page, dragging you in with insidious suggestion of what is to come until everything twists and warps and you wonder whose reality you’re really a part of.

15. Do you write every day?
I try to. I do a lot of writing and editing in my day job in digital content management so I sometimes get a bit tired of typing and staring at a screen all day, but of course writing fiction is a completely different matter, not to mention the perfect escape from churning out dry corporate copy. 
I’m more of a morning writer these days and can get anything from a few sentences to a thousand words done before the school-run or starting work. I mostly write on Saturday and Sunday
mornings from about 8am into early afternoon – most unsociable; I’m sure my family would agree.

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Twitter: @LilyChilds

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