There are some horror writers who write about the scariest things imaginable and still fail to raise the hair on our arms. Then, there is Lily Childs. She could write about an apple tree in a field of Lupine and still manage to frighten, shock, and chill your blood cold. I’m dead serious.
In that, I am honored to host this up close and personal chat with Spinetingler nominee, Lily Childs.
Today she’s here to talk about her writing, her goals, and how she nurtures her darkness. At the end, she’ll treat you to a brand, new horror titled, Wraiths and Stays.
As if that’s not enough, there is also a surprise peek at the cover of her new novella, Magenta Shaman. So please have a seat for the next ten minutes and indulge yourself in the world of one of the best horror writers on and off the web today.
[EC] What brought you into writing: a specific book, movie, life event, or your own untold story?
[LC] Nothing in particular sparked it; I guess I’m easily inspired – or fooled. I’ve always loved writing – from childhood rambles to poetic teenage woes through to half-finished novels and a myriad of short stories. But it’s only in the last couple of years I’ve felt I needed to start taking my writing more seriously – or risk imploding.
I’ve always been a dreamer; lying on my back in the playing-field at school making dragons out of clouds. Staring hard at faces and trees and night-time and spaces until they change before my eyes – and their truth is revealed. Little trances really – I’ve always had little trances. Still do. What I didn’t realise until I was quite ‘grown-up’ is that most people don’t do this.
It’s a feeling of not being accepted or fitting in that probably dictates where, and who I am. The irony is that this is where I am most comfortable. I am not a lover of rules or of dictate, and at the constant risk of speaking or behaving inappropriately don’t see why the hell I should conform because that’s what polite society with its coiffed and highlighted hair, its RV on the school-run and its besuited business man expects. I don’t do uniform; I don’t do convention – it’s claustrophobic, makes me feel as though I am being strangled. All this no doubt feeds my pen.
[EC] A rigid world is definitely hell on Earth. I think standing outside the box is where most writers congregate…and then we write about all that is occurring inside that box, be it horror or poetry. How popular is horror in the United Kingdom, and as a horror writer yourself, how do you see yourself as a part of this media?
[LC] When I was growing up and until my mid-twenties I immersed myself in horror books, films and TV series but either that interest dropped away as I became too involved with real life, or horror went out of fashion. However, there has certainly been a resurge of interest here, post-Twilight.
With TV series such as True Blood and the UK’s new Bedlam, Marchlands and Being Human I’d say there has been a rapid rise in horror intrigue here this last year. That’s what happens when economies fall apart and the real people are left to pay.
I’m glad to say London-based Hammer Horror is back, Brit Stephen Jones continues to inform horror fans of new works by every last twitching pen, media such as audio cast is bringing a new voice to the field; Brighton-based Barry Northern’s Cast Macabre being an excellent example. There’s a lot happening in the UK horror-wise at the moment – and whether I’m invited to be play a part in it, we’ll have to see. I’m keeping an eye on it.
[EC] The resurgence of horror is very exciting for writers of the genre—kind of like we’re arriving at a party at just the perfect time. What writers/books have inspired you?
[LC] I could go on forever, but will pick just three authors.
My bible is Clive Barker’s Imajica, closely followed by his Weaveworld. His words are so prosaic, so absolutely dripping with beauty. Although it’s classed as horror to me his writing is a beaded dreamworld – passionate and intricately crafted. You can tell he’s also a visual and fine-artist – the exquisite brushwork of his mind is painted across every page.
Also, anything my Joanne Harris has me reeling. The wickedness she dares to assign her characters is so dangerous. She perfectly understands evil and isn’t afraid to share that with the reader. Most people will be familiar with Chocolat, and may have found the beautiful film to be whimsical. But Harris’s books are another matter – menacing and dark, poetic dances that twist and crawl, glistening all the while with teasing treasures and lures. Holy Fools, Sleep Pale Sister, Gentlemen and Players, Blue Eyed Boy – glorious.
Not horror, but a book of first-class writing I am in awe of is Sarah Waters’ Fingersmith. Dark, delectable and gasp-out-loud twists.
[EC] The importance for horror writers to read outside of their genre cannot be stressed enough, for horror has its tentacles on every shelf of the library. I think your passion for the ‘craft of writing’, regardless of genre, is absolutely embodied in your own writing, which gives it such depth, originality, and distinctive character. You must know this… What writes are you proud of, why, and can you tell us anything about your future writing goals?
[LC] To cover future writing goals first, of course I dream of selling a novel and getting a decent book deal – but I have no illusions. It’s incredibly hard work, and even when the book is polished and edited to perfection, there’s no guarantee an agent will want you or a publisher will think you fit. All I know is I must continue to write, write, edit, edit to the very best of my ability. And keep hoping. In the meantime, I’m addicted to short story writing!
I’ll never forget the first time I had anything published online. I sent Fashion Victim to Col Bury at Thrillers Killers ‘n’ Chillers but was worried it was too gory. Col thought I was joking – then read it! The positive feedback I got from that first foray was enough to give me the confidence to keep going. Now I have no choice! Col, Matt Hilton and fellow horror writer Lee Hughes are the editors at TK’n’C; you couldn’t ask for better support and these days I’m proud to count them as good mates.
Possibly my very favourite short story is Dressing Up Box, which won the New Flesh Magazine’s Inaugural TNF Flash Fiction War last year. I wrote it very quickly and laughed the whole way through. Demons and dancing and tutus and slicing and boudoirs of flesh.
Birthright, which recently featured on February Femmes Fatales was a morbid joy to write – myth, goddesses, syphilis, prostitution and anti-establishment. Yup, love that blend.
Also I wrote a story The Infanta Triptych especially for Red Skies Press’s Their Dark Masters; Tales of Extreme Vampire Horror which is now out on Amazon. Bloody and wicked, I met some blissful characters there that I might want to revisit.
Probably closest to my heart, though less horror than urban fantasy is Magenta Shaman, the story of natural born visionary and traveller between realms, Magenta Sweeney. The first tale in the series introduces us to Magenta’s unique trance journeys and near-death battles with toxic demons; it tackles her delicate relationship with husband Tom and exposes an anonymous group ‘The Protegians’ who have taken it upon themselves to protect this earth and her parallel domains – but at what cost?
And you’re hearing it here first – episode 1 will soon be available to download as a Kindle single. More details on The Feardom as the date looms. And yes, I’m biting my nails in trepidation!
[EC] You are not alone in anticipation of a Lily Child’s novel or novella or anthology, or hell, even a children’s story. Dressing Up Box is one story I will never forget, along with The Infanta Triptych, another work of art, literally. Your work is exceptionally detailed, raw, and visceral. What fuels this originality and how do you nurture it?
[LC] I have no idea! It’s those little trances again – I seem to drift off at the slightest prompt and can visualise bloody scenarios in seconds. I’m sure other people do this – don’t they? No? Ah – maybe I’m missing a filter somewhere.
Mostly I do nothing to nurture what spills from my head to the paper or screen – it just happens. But occasionally I’ll pump Placebo out of the iPod, drown in a Nag Champa mist and take a dribble of red wine. It helps – whether I need it or not.
[EC] Need is too fine of a line to see most of the time anyway. You mentioned Magenta Shaman. Do you have another longer work in progress that you could you give us a quick low-down on, the background from which it developed, or where you are at in its development?
[LC] The novel in question wasn’t going where I wanted it to and I felt it was a little too light-hearted; not very Lily Childs. I made the decision to put it to one side, and immediately had an idea for something new – based on a dream my husband had. This is completely different and is still at the planning and research stage – though I have written a prologue, first chapter and an overview. I won’t reveal what it’s about, let’s just say if I belonged to the church, I’d be excommunicated.
[EC] I say congrats to that! Speaking of congrats, a well-deserved applause to you for your Spinetingler Award Nomination on Carpaccio, and for your popular, Lily’s Friday Prediction. How did this challenge fruit and what are your means for choosing the three words?
[LC] My little family has been playing with bibliomancy for years – each of us blindly opening a book and seeing where our finger lands, as a kind of predictive tool. It’s never worked – which is good considering some of the apocalyptic words we’ve picked out! But it’s good fun – and because we use a massive encyclopaedic dictionary we all learn lots of new words each week. It occurred to me one Friday that it would be fun to pull out three words and see what other people might make of them – and so the weekly Friday Prediction was born.
The Prediction has turned into an incredible community with contributions by astonishingly talented writers, most of whom come back week after week, or drop in on occasion, selflessly commenting on others’ work. I am really proud that this has become such a focus and welcome challenge for authors. It’s even brought some non-horror/mystery writers over to the dark side (in the nicest possible way, of course.)
[EC] February Femme Fatales…who is your favorite kick-ass woman (star/writer/character/real life person) and does she have anything in common with your muse?
[LC] This is a hard one to answer. There are many people I admire but their gender is irrelevant.
Having said that I am still reeling from the writings of Emma Restall Orr. Her latest book Kissing The Hag explores the necessary darkness of being a woman and how to embrace those aspects rather than shy away from the frowns of a judgemental society. I would wholeheartedly recommend it to every woman (and man); she is extraordinary and I guarantee you will find empathy, solace and strength in this book.
And then there are writers such as R.S. Bohn, Jodi MacArthur, Erin Cole, A.J. Humpage, Virginia Woolf, the afore-mentioned Joanne Harris…
And Kate Bush.
My muse, I believe, is my own reflection – the kind that won’t appear if you look in a witch-mirror.
[EC] I must crank Babooshka tonight! And witch mirrors…I have to admit, this interview is inspiring my muse already, who, for the record looks nothing like me. I hope. So, speaking of muses, which writers have been known to talk, yell, and fantasize with, I find that many writers believe in unusual things, be it prophecies, religious beliefs, or certain myths, etc. Do you believe in anything out of the ordinary?
[LC] The word Belief always suggests an element of doubt to me, but I think doubt is healthier than blind faith or dogma. I am certainly pagan in my overall outlook, am fascinated by mythology (Cretan particularly) and the diverse yet connected pantheons, but am also interested in theology as a whole. I do, however struggle with some of the neo-religions – seems to be a lot of profit out there waiting to be gained from vulnerable and gullible followers.
I find it difficult to discuss what I know to be true to me, but which might mean nothing to another. I can lie in the grass and feel the energy around me – that’s a solid truth. I can sit against trees and witness all those who have walked the forests for centuries. But do I believe in ghosts? I don’t know. I’ve seen and heard things I cannot explain, had visions all my life, moved keys with an angry shout, been touched by invisible fingers. I’ve read tarot and runes for over 30 years but I am the biggest cynic. What do I believe in? Genus loci definitely – everything else, it depends.
As for reincarnation, I’m not ready to talk about that yet.
[EC] Read The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, by Max Ehrlich, and then we can chat about it over a cyber brew! Okay, just for fun…your protagonist has just discovered a dead body in his or her home. What happens next?
[LC] Orla cursed herself. It wasn’t there when she left the house; the body had been safely hidden in the cellar, the heavy door locked and bolted. Now the thing sat on her sofa, dripping from a multitude of orifices. It raised a rotten hand; skin slipped from the fingers to expose gnarled bone. Orla stared at her husband’s pitiful expression, the hang-dog eyes burst from their respective sockets as he blinked.
“Well?” Orla asked. Her jaw ticked, this was really inconvenient.
Dave struggled to speak. His mouth tore into pocked cheeks as he raised wilting brows in question.
“M I dudd?”
[EC] I love it. Thank you so much for sharing your world, Lily. And now for Lily Childs’s new story, Wraiths and Stays. It is another gem.
Wraiths and Stays
by Lily Childs
We didn’t speak of it, for how could we? A blessing bell, the priests said but we knew the clanging peel sounded the death knell in our midst, announcing the journey to hell for the fairest and most sweet. Not even the healthy amongst them were saved from the buboids, eruptions and pox. And now, with them fallen like God-forsaken flies – daughters of Beelzebub – I tried to forget what my own looked like. Mother, frail but proud. My girls – a beguiling trilogy – unwed, unbetrothed. Even my wife, traitor that she was and bringer of plague to this island; she played still in my mind, a rotting wretch. Here we wallow, barely buoyant in the floods of death she has left in her wake, in this place that once drowned in roses and where trees dripped with pungent medlars and cider apples. All gone.
Out of high windows we stared at the seething, spiralling mass of living decay. They ruptured below us, then flew to our rooftops to snatch with sharp teeth at our desperate gazes. With every attack we fell to the floor, eyes closed in fear as our only protection.
It is days now; weeks. Food is on ration. Unseasonal snow hardens the ground making crops, seeds and grain inaccessible. Taunting voices steal through stone walls making whispers of love and a promise of more. Around me the weak seek solace in each others’ arms and between the hard legs of fighters and labourers. I don’t want to give in… Can I resist temptation? An intimacy only hinted at amongst the dandiest of types now seems so warmly and wantonly inviting. I try to long instead for the affection and caring embrace of my woman – the mother of my children, mere memories. Even recalling the lust shared over years with a dozen mistresses or more can’t touch the unbidden desire that arises inside me, growing visibly. It pulses and pulls at me, rabidly wiping my mind of its senses. I sweat, think of her, and of she and of them. What’s a world without cherish, the soft bloom of a maiden’s fair cheek? What are we, alone with no notion of how to survive if the purest of love has been snatched from us, cruelly and without warning? With sword and with force we can fight these foul demons – mirror images of the women we loved – but attack as we may we cannot live without them. The bravado no longer matters to me; even now all I desire is to lie against the flesh of beautiful desmoiselles of long ago, entwined in emaciated but once-plump limbs that would wrap around horses to ride in the sea. Clutching myself I watch them fly by and want to suck at the place where their lips used to be; plunge myself deep, deep and deeper into cold, wide and empty chasms.
Some here are dying. Some here are dead. Some have escaped into the blizzard, devoured within moments by spectral fiends. Me, I’m still inside the tower, still pure as I peer through thick curtains to search the hoards, head cocked in defence, aware of the salacious grunts at my back. Time is short. Soon man will turn on man for more nourishing needs than his base lusts. I do not wish to be meat to my comrades, and so, though I know I will die before daylight – though sun-up has failed since the moon cast her veil – I choose to be master, not victim of my fate.
I venture out into the wail-ridden wilderness where I wait to be mauled by the wraiths of the women that stay, not quite dead. My head is bent in supplication as I pray they’ll be swift. And I fall to my knees, lay on my back, raise up my arms ever willing to be guided by hands and mouths and breasts. I lie here, ready on ice-painted moss to give in to their kiss.
© 2011 Lily Childs
And now for a sneak peek at Lily’s new novella cover, Magenta Shaman.
It is beeeautiful! Now available on Kindle
Cheers and thanks again, Mrs. Childs!
You can reach Lily at her website, Lily Childs Feardom.