Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Five minutes with Anna Reith, 2012 Bloody Parchment runner-up

I must admit I become a bit of a fangrrrl whenever I see anything with Anna Reith's name on it. She really is that good, and I just about faint when I see her submissions in my inbox. So it came to no surprise when she turned out to be a runner-up in last year's Bloody Parchment short story competition. So, a big welcome to Anna on my blog.

What planted the seed for your story?

Courting Seraphs is loosely inspired by the concepts found in On the Origin of the World, one of the Nag Hammadi scriptures, which presents a very different version of the creation story to that found in the Bible. I wanted to take some of those ideas and explore what happened if, not only were they true, but one person was caught up in them, holding secrets that can never be shared. So… a bit like a spy thriller, but with Gnostic philosophy instead of sensitive government information.

What are some of the themes you treated in your tale? 

There is plenty of material out there in fantasy, horror, and weird fiction in terms of immortality and timelessness. I wanted to touch on those things in Courting Seraphs, but from a slightly different angle. Today, we’re bombarded with a ridiculously huge volume of information, images, and experiences. Through technology, we have access to more information than we could assimilate in a lifetime, and I think that’s something that’s fundamentally overlooked in stories that deal with immortality. As human beings, do we have a finite limit for how much we can experience, and how much we can hold in our heads? And, if we cross that limit, how long will it be until we come apart at the seams?

What are the hallmarks of a great horror/dark fantasy author and story? 

What I love about horror and dark fantasy is the breadth of possibilities. We are very complex creatures and—in the right light—we’re capable of making almost anything macabre, just by the way we think about it. The shadows around the campfire, the knotted, finger-like twigs of trees against the window… these are all creations of the human mind. I think my favourite creepy tales are the ones that explore that potential within us, and let the strange and the unseen leach into the everyday. After all, what’s scarier than suddenly realising the malign in something mundane?

How do you approach your creative process? 

With coffee. No… well, yes. Ideas are a permanent swirl, and I am forever scribbling notes down on the backs of things, but as soon as I have the basic shape of a story—or at least a firm grasp on one scene that the rest of it will grow from—I like to sit down and beat it into shape. As I suffer from CFS/M.E., that can be quite laborious, but I think there’s no substitute for applying proverbial glue to the seat of the pants and getting on with it. I really only use outlines occasionally, preferring to let tales grow organically and, because so much of my work tends to involve strong characterisation, I often find that it’s the way people spark off each other that drives my stories forward.

What are you working on now? 

Right now, I’m working on a handful of very interesting projects, including a dark fantasy novel titled Making the Days, which—a little like Courting Seraphs—deals a lot with what’s real, what’s not real, and the places people fall in between. I’m also working on the first in a sci-fi series set in a large and complex universe; something of a labour of love, as the original unfinished manuscripts were left to me by my late cousin, who had been working on them for several years. I will have a poetry collection out later this year and, though it’s probably a bit early to really announce it, I have just started preliminary work on a sequel to my genre-bending glam-rock-paranormal-murder-mystery, Dead in Time, which is currently available to read for free on Wattpad, where I’ve been a featured author recently.

As ever, further details on what I’m up to can be found on my website, www.annareith.co.uk, where I have some further free reads available. Both Dead in Time and Black Ice: collected stories, a compendium of dark short fiction, are currently available in digital and print formats.

You can also find me on tumblr and Wattpad.

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