Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Author Interview - Eugie Foster

Award-Winning Short Fiction Author, Columnist for Writing-World.Com, Managing Editor of Tangent Online, and Assistant Managing Editor of The Town Drunk, are just a few of Eugie Foster's many accomplishments. And if that isn't enough, she's just an all-round great person. So getting to interview her is an honor, and one I've been blessed with twice now.

What's the most fun part of writing horror stories?
Fun is probably the wrong word for this, but writing visceral horror gives me the opportunity to dig into the dark crannies of my psyche and drag the squalling, snarling creepy-crawlies out and shove them blinking and wincing into the spotlight. They get to ham it up, and I get to look them over and poke at what I've got cluttering the recesses of my hindbrain. 'Cause, y'know, sometimes, a mind needs some airing to keep the clutter from overwhelming the day-to-day sanity. I know some writers treat horror as a big gross-out fest, a sort of competition to see who can write the goriest, most extreme stories, but I'm not of that school. While some of my horror has gotten quite explicit, the hardcore elements serve a purpose; they're integral to the story and theme, not gratuitous gore for the sake of gore.

I guess that's why I don't write as much horror as, say fantasy. There's a certain headspace I have to be in to create horror, and it's not one I typically seek out or strive to attain. Rather, it's foisted on me, and writing horror is how I cope with it. Therapy, if you will. For every real horror story I've written-not dark fantasy, which is a different animal altogether-I can point to a disturbing issue or event in my life that spurred me to write it.

What do you think marks the difference between Horror and Dark Fantasy?
Genre lines are so arbitrary and, in some regards, subjective. For me, horror is more contemporary in setting, mood, and character than dark fantasy, but at the same time, urban fantasies are essentially defined by their modern settings, and they tend to be quite dark, yet I don't consider them horror. Similarly, there are plenty of stories with historical settings that I would consider horror. So I guess it's a spectrum. Horror is grittier and tends to addresses starker themes of desolation and rage, while dark fantasy is still, at its core, fantasy.

As a writer, I enjoy writing dark fantasy. There's a sensual beauty to baddies and an allure to danger that's exciting to play with. But horror requires me to strip away the glamorous veneer of darkness and confront the reality of it, and there's nothing sexy or attractive about the things that make me want to cry or scream for real.

What do you think are the good qualities regarding the Horror/Dark Fantasy genres?
The monsters, the big bads, are metaphors for that which really scares us. By conquering the personifications of our fears, we're less frightened by them, which makes us better able to deal with them. And sometimes, shining a light on our boogy monsters shows us that they're in actuality timorous, puny nebbishes named Irving.

"My Friend is a Lesbian Zombie" shows that you also have a humor streak when it comes to horror fiction. How in the world did you come up with the idea of a lesbian zombie?
Funny horror is my favorite variety of dark speculative fiction. Humor undercuts the tension, gives you a chance to catch your breath and put things in perspective, while at the same time, it makes you feel it even more intensely when the scary bits ratchet up again. Plus there's always a delicious squirm element, finding yourself giggling during what you'd otherwise run screaming from.

As to what inspired "My Friend is a Lesbian Zombie," zombies scare the shrieking bejeebers out of me, always have. I can't watch zombie films, haven't seen any of the George Romero Living Dead movies. I could go all analytical about which squicks me about zombies-what they represent, why they max out my primal fear o'meter-but that's boring. Basically, I decided to address this lifelong heebie-jeebie by writing a zombie tale, and figured, "What better way than with humor?" A gal's gotta be able to laugh at herself.

What kind of music do you listen to, and how much influence can music have on your writing?
I listen to a pretty broad range of music, and my preference varies from day to day, depending upon what sort of listening experience I'm looking for. I adore Loreena McKennit, Simon & Garfunkel, and Stone Soup (a defunct little band in my old Midwestern stomping grounds with Carrie Newcomer as the lead singer) when I'm in a folksy, mellow/melancholy mindset-often good for writing fantasy and folktales. When I get my goth on, I toss on The Crüxshadows, The Changelings, or Dead Can Dance to take care of my ambient/dark wave/techno fix. And when I'm craving something sophisticated and complex, I turn on the classical-my favorite composers being Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, and Bach. Recently, I've been getting into Opera Babes and Evanescence with some post-Grunge a la The Verve and Matchbox 20 to mix it up.

As far as what influence music has on my writing, I've had a couple stories inspired by songs ("The Goddess Queen's Battlefield," forthcoming in issue #2 of GrendelSong came about from Suzanne Vega's "The Queen and the Soldier," for example), but for the most part, I decide on the mood I'm trying to maintain and select the soundtrack accordingly.

So, what's in Eugie Foster's future, writing-wise?
To quote my favorite diabolical cartoon lab mouse: "Same thing we do every night: Try to conquer the world!" Mwa ha ha haaaa!

Failing that, I've got stories forthcoming in the DAW anthology Heroes in Training, edited by Jim C. Hines and Martin H. Greenberg; a Haworth Press anthology, So Fey, edited by Steve Berman; Best New Fantasy: 2005, edited by Sean Wallace; as well as ones due out in Realms of Fantasy, Cricket, and the new horror podcast 'zine, Pseudopod. And, of course, I've got half a dozen works in progress awaiting my attention: short stories, a YA novel, articles, and the next installment of my monthly column, Writing for Young Readers, at Writing-World.com.


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