Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Five Minutes with Cat Hellisen
Many of you will know Cat Hellisen as the author of the fantasy novel When the Sea is Rising Red. If you haven't read that book yet, then shame on you. Add it to your TBR pile NOW. But she's also got a story in the Something Wicked anthology volume #2, and is here today to trade a little banter about her craft. Welcome, Cat!
Tell us a little about your short story for Something Wicked volume 2.
Jack of Spades, Reversed is a weird little thing that happened. I was
originally writing a novel that was Edward Lear meets Lovecraft, but naturally it became its own monster with Cat-like tendencies. Two of the main characters are transmogrifying into animal-human hybrids because of the spore from alien invaders from another dimension, and everyone has gone mad. The two MCs are being used by scientists to pilot a ship into the other dimension to attack the invaders. But everyone has their own agenda. I guess it's mostly about finding salvation in insanity. Mostly.
And about learning what makes us human, which is a pretty huge theme in just about everything I write.
What gets you writing? Tell us a little bit more about your approach.
Dreams and images, play-acting stories in my head. Newspaper reports, books, lyrics, artworks. Everything feeds into my work. Generally I start with a visual of a character in some odd situation, and take it from there. The visual for Jack of Spades. Reversed was of Louise spitting out her teeth as her head reshapes itself.
Carrying on and finishing anything is my big problem. I can start with
all the enthusiasm in the world, but the grind of the middle of stories can get me down. Just have to tell myself to grit my teeth and keep going. And that I can fix all the crap in revisions.
What do you think are particular challenges associated with short stories as a form? As for longer works, do you have anything planned?
Short stories are hard. It might seem like they're going to be easier but short /= easy. I find them a particularly difficult medium and I tend to avoid them. Longer works give me more room to play, to stretch out character and plot and world-building (which I love.)
I'm always working on novels. I currently have one on sub, two in revision, and I'm first-drafting a fourth. They vary in their levels of odd. Some are more straightforward fantasy - like House of Sand and Secrets which is mostly a sequel to my book When the Sea is Rising Red - others are closer to the weirdness of Jack of Spades, Reversed.
What's the one short story or novel you keep going back to (we all have them), and what makes it stand out above all the rest?
Oh man, Clive Barker's Imajica. A beautiful, unfurling bomb of a book.
It's just one of those stories that hits my every kink - godhood, gender-queering, murder, and magic; strange and ugly and fantastical in equal measure. I also have a huge crush on Tanith Lee's Secret Books of Paradys which fuelled my teen-goth sense of drama. I should probably not admit I am reading them again. AGAIN.
My favourite of my own books is the one that's currently on sub. It's about falling in love after you're dead. So it might be a hard sell.
What scares you?
A world without cheese. I love cheese. But mostly I'm scared of being skinned alive and then put in a freezer. Or dying in a car crash (Thanks, J.G. Ballard...)
I am a social monster. I'm on tumblr, twitter, facebook, and my own blog (how weird).