Meet author Kirsty Logan @kirstylogan #horrorlounge
Tell us about your latest book
A Portable Shelter (Vintage, 2016) is a collection of linked short stories about circuses and stargazing, selkie fishermen and domestic werewolves, child-eating witches and broken-toothed dragons.
My next novel, The Gloaming, is out in April 2018 from Harvill Secker, and it's a queer mermaid love story set on a remote island that slowly turns its inhabitants to stone.
I'm also currently writing a collection of horror stories called The Night Tender.
For readers new to horror which 3 books would you recommend they start with?
I'll ease in with something deceptively creepy: Deep Dark Fears by Fran Krause, which started on Tumblr with cartoonist Krause illustrating fears that people sent to him. Let me tell you, these fears are creepier and more sleep-affecting than anything I've read in a long time. People are weird (in the best way).
Although not everyone would class it as horror, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn is utterly horrifying and wonderful. It follows the fortunes of Art and Lily Binewski, a carnival couple who attempt to create their own family freak show. Not surprisingly, things do not go well (or perhaps they go exactly to plan, depending on how you look at it…)
And I'll end on a classic writer who deserves far more attention: Joan Aiken. She published many story collections (my favourite is A Whisper in the Night) which are all sadly out of print now, but Small Beer Press recently published a collection of her stories, The People in the Castle, in a beautiful new edition. Aiken's The Wolves of Willoughby Chase was one of my favourite books as a child, and as an adult I’ve yet to read anything as sinister as that stalled train in the middle of a snowy English countryside overrun by wolves. Her short stories are similarly surreal and uncomfortable, with beautiful language and memorable imagery. I love them and I've never read anything quite like them.
Do you have a favourite horror sub-genre, and why?
I love folk and fairytale horror. I'd say that Andrew David Hurley's The Loney and Sarah Perry's The Essex Serpent would be in this category. Three other examples I'd highly recommend are Daniel Morden's Dark Tales from the Woods, retellings of Welsh gypsy folktales; Emily Carroll's Through the Woods, a macabre and folk-esque graphic novel; and Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels, a dark fairytale about three women trying to survive in a world of wild bears and dangerous men.
New horror authors you’d recommend.
I've been reading a lot of horror-ish short story collections lately, and there are some amazing ones out there. Recent favourites are Karin Tidbeck's Jagannath, Camilla Grudova's The Doll's Alphabet, Amelia Gray's Gutshot and Stephen Graham Jones's After the People Lights Have Gone Off.
I've also been pleasantly surprised by a few books discovered while browsing Kindle ebook deals. I'd never heard of the authors, but the books were free (or cheap) so I gave them a go, and it turns out they were every bit as strange, addictive and lovely as I like my horror. I recommend Graeme Keeton's If I Were You and Joel Farrelly's gloriously-titled From the Obscenely Strange Case Files of Dead Things Mikey.
Your favourite horror film (adapted from a book) & why?
Silence of the Lambs, from Thomas Harris's book. I re-watched it recently and was reminded what an utterly perfect film it is. No line or image is wasted, and it lingers in such a brilliant and disturbing way. I think it's influenced my writing in more ways than I can identify.
Horror book that you’d like to see adapted to film & why?
Laura Purcell's The Silent Companions would be a great, spooky TV miniseries. I'd love to see those painted wooden figures brought to life.
Best horror TV?
The X-Files, forever and ever. The episode 'Ice' terrified me as a child, and I have yet to see anything as scary as the episode 'Home'. Its myriad horrors have seeped into my life in so many ways: I used to have a cat, and every time it was windy he'd meow up the chimney, and even though I knew it was just soot falling or a trapped bird, a part of me still thought it was Tooms coming to get me.
Did you write in other genres or straight to horror?
My writing is usually classed as literary fiction, but it could just as easily be called fantasy or horror, or erotica at times. One story, 'Underskirts', was published in my debut collection The Rental Heart, where it won literary fiction awards; it was later reprinted in a Best Lesbian Erotica anthology. So it is literary fiction, or erotica? It's both, or either, or neither.
Stories from the horror book I'm working on have already been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and included in literary magazines – so they're literary, but they're also horror, I guess for no other reason than I think they're scary so I say they're horror. I think this book is the logical next step along from my previous books, as I often write about things I fear. It's just that I'm consciously making the choice to explore my fears in fiction, and to take a whole book to do it, whereas before I did it unconsciously and mixed it in with other elements.
Horror doesn’t seem to be as well respected as other genres of fiction. Why do you think that is?
Is there a genre that is well respected, in the way of literary fiction? Crime, romance, fantasy, science fiction – all of them are unfairly minimised.
The problem is that as soon as something is classed as 'good quality', the horror label is often removed and the literary fiction label is given instead. But a huge amount of literary fiction uses genre tropes. Some of my favourite horror books are by authors not usually found in the horror section: Hilary Mantel's Beyond Black, Jeanette Winterson's The Daylight Gate, Tom McCarthy's Remainder, Rob Magnuson Smith's Scorper. All wonderful and all utterly horrifying. And why aren't they classed as horror? Because they're good? Stephen King and Victorian ghost stories are great, but modern horror is so much more.
Do you think horror is ready for a renaissance?
I think it's already having one, certainly in film and TV. I don't know if it's just that I seek out horror books, but it seems to me that they're everywhere. I hope there are lots of writers out there working on thoughtful, bold, bizarre, imaginative, far-reaching horror, because I want to continue to read it.
What scares you?
I've loved reading and watching horror for many years, so it might seem that I'm not easily scared, but actually a lot of things scare me. It's just that I don't shy away from that feeling; I try to lean in to it, to examine it. That's one reason why I decided to write a book of horror stories: to explore my fears, to share them, and – in a magical thinking sort of way – to write them down in the hope that that means they won't happen to me.
In the process of writing the book I've been collecting my fears, and here are some of them:
I am afraid of waking in the night and finding a stranger in my home.
I am afraid of being buried alive.
I am afraid of damaging my eyes.
I am afraid of my teeth falling out.
I am afraid of crowded places with tiny exits.
I am afraid of regular patterns of irregular holes, which might sound strange to you until you Google ‘trypophobia’ and then want to vomit.
I am afraid of floating on the surface of very deep, very dark water.
I am afraid of having insects tangled in my hair, or crawling inside my ears, or flying in my mouth.
I am afraid of anything that looks human but isn’t: ventriloquist dolls, mannequins, life-size figures in museums.
So I write stories about all of these things, in the hope that I can exorcise them and lessen their power. I'm not sure it's working, but I will keep writing, and keep hoping, and keep creeping myself right the hell out.