As a female author of Horror, you quickly come to realize the genre is very much dominated by male writers. I find that odd as women have been in the business of writing Gothic Horror since the 18th century and that a woman, Mary Shelley, penned one of the great masterpieces of horror with her novel Frankenstein.
With that in mind, I am always thrilled to land an interview with a fellow female writer of the genre and this month that woman is Isobel Blackthorn!
- Setting a mood for a story is one of the most important parts of writing, but what about setting the mood for yourself as you sit down to write? Do you have a special time and place, or maybe some music you like to put on to get your creative juices flowing for a good session?
For years I thought I needed to set the mood for myself in order to write. When all I really needed was to have pen and paper, my sofa and solitude. I have to be alone. Living alone means I am always in the mood for writing and I dip in and out all day long from the moment I wake up until I stop to make dinner. I write at a leisurely pace. I try not to care about output and I don’t mind occasional interruptions. I cannot write anywhere other than my home, which means wherever I happen to be living as I move a lot. Two things put me off writing. Music and barking dogs. Silence is king.
- Every writer started somewhere. Can you tell us a little bit about what prompted you to become a writer? Was it childhood dream or something you fell into more recently? Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I have always wanted to be a writer but it was a secret desire, even secret from me for many decades. In my late-teens I toyed with song lyrics. Then it was little bits of poetry. Friends and others encouraged me, told me I had talent but I didn’t believe them. In my mid-twenties something reared up in me, an urge, a surge of creative impulse. It was the 1980s and I was living in Oxford surrounded by literature. I began to talk to my friends about wanting to write fiction and I did make a half-hearted attempt at a novel. I had no idea what I was doing or how to go about it. None at all. Back then, there were no creative writing degrees. If there had been, I would have been the first to enroll. Lacking a mentor or any sort of guidance, I gave up. Life took me in other directions.
A few years later, I was living in the Canary Islands, Spain. I was living in the grand old house of my boyfriend, and he was the first to really believe in me as a writer. He was about to travel to Indonesia to buy an old wooden boat and sail it back to Spain to sell for a fortune. He wanted me to travel with him and write the memoir. What an adventure! What an opportunity! Only, I still had no idea how to write creatively. Even though I yearned to do it, I had no confidence, no self belief. I did go with my beau to Bali, but finding myself in an awfully dangerous situation there, I fled to Australia. The next time I felt an impulse to write was in the mid-1990s. Again, I had a go at writing a novel. Three chapters in, I gave up. Every now and then the impulse would rise up in me, only to die back down deflated.
Finally, in 2007, I was employed by a literary agent as her PA. My luck had changed. Suddenly I had someone who truly believed I could write. By then I had a PhD so damn straight I could write! But there is an ocean of difference between academic and creative writing. Another stroke of luck, the best, was I made friends with an author who agreed to be my mentor. His belief in my writing was transformational. It was incredibly affirming and validating and by then I was in my late forties and oh so hungry to learn. Now, I feel I am making up for lost time.
- Taking breaks from the intensity of work is important to everyone. What sorts of activities do you enjoy doing that aren’t related to writing. Hobbies? Travel? Maybe jumping out of airplanes?
I knit. I have my cat for company. I go for walks and have coffee with friends. I visit family, friends, sometimes travel. You can imagine from my answer to your last question that I don’t have a big desire to do anything other than write, but people are important to me.
- As a Horror writer myself I am often asked how I can write such things and doesn’t it keep me up at night. (It doesn’t.) What sorts of things scare you?
Tons of things scare me. I cannot watch most horror movies. Even the music puts me on edge. Although I love Tarantino. I am not so easily spooked as I used to be. I used to be terrified of the dark and being alone in a house at night. I’ve lived in haunted houses and managed to eliminate the ghosts through my own force of will, but it was unnerving having things switch themselves on right beside you. I come from a long line of occultists, Spiritualists, healers. I stay away from horror because I do not want to invite that sort of energy into my life. Which might make anyone reading this ask what kind of self-respecting horror writer am I? I write dark psychological thrillers and satire. I like the line between horror and comedy. The British movie, Sightseers, for example. I like my horror twisted. I don’t want to be terrified. I want my mind bent out of shape a little, the way it is when you find yourself siding with the killer. I’m going to plug Gerri Gray’s Amnesia Girl, as a great example of the horror I like. And I love gothic horror of the No Rest for the Wicked kind, too! HellBound Books is a comfortable place for me to be because they publish a diverse range of quality horror and there is something for all horror tastes.
- I’ve always got a work in progress. Do you have anything in the works that you can give us a hint about and where can people find out more about your already published works and about you?
I have another two works of dark fiction in the pipeline. One is a gothic mystery set in the Canary Islands. The other is a Noir thriller, erotic romance style. I am very excited about this one. I don’t want to spoil the surprise but it sizzles! I am always pushing the boundaries, exploring new styles and genres. To date, I have five novels published by small presses, along with a short-story collection and my memoir.
They are all on Amazon and you can read excerpts, reviews and more on my website. https://isobelblackthorn.com/ All my fiction packs a punch and most contains occult themes. I can be found on: