An Interview with Beverley Lee: Part Two
By Gab Harvey
We’re back with the second half of our interview with the wonderful Beverley Lee. If you missed the first half of this interview, or would like a quick remember of what was said, you can find it here.
Where, among other things, Beverley talks to us about the relationship between horror and religion.
Beverley Lee is a writer of dark fiction (dark fantasy/horror/supernatural suspense). Her first book The Making of Gabriel Davenport picked up three 5 star seals when recently reviewed by Readers’ Favorite. It also won the June Go Indie Now! Excellence in Literature Award for her poetic style, outstanding plot, and complex characters
Which was your first book, and when did you write it?
My first published book was The Making of Gabriel Davenport, although I’d written many other stories in serial form when I dabbled in vampire fan fiction when the internet was new and shiny. I started writing Gabriel in 2014 and penned a few thousand words, then abandoned it until early 2015, when I pulled it from my files and started playing with it again. Originally, Gabriel was a girl, but as soon as I changed the gender of the baby the whole story started to flow. It took me three months to get that first draft down, and six drafts more to get it to a point where I felt confident to let it fly. It was published in April 2016.
Do you have a formal writing instruction (such as a degree in creative writing)? Do you think that a formal instruction helps writing?
I don’t have any formal writing qualifications. And I don’t think it is necessarily a must. Yes, formal instruction can teach you an incredible amount about writing and styles, but I know a few people who have taken such a course and said that it stilted their fledgling confidence as a writer as everything they submitted was picked apart. And I don’t think that it can make a writer out of someone who doesn’t feel the craft in their bones..
Have you ever killed a character you didn’t want to?
Yes. In The Purity of Crimson the story demanded that I killed a character I thought had huge potential. I was very sad to lose him, as in a short time he had wheedled himself into my affections with his thoughts and actions.
How do you choose your characters’ names and how important are the names of the characters in your stories?
They are incredibly important. If I have a character and the name feels wrong they appear very out of kilter. Sometimes I’ll limp along with the wrong name but I’m always on the lookout for something to click. And that’s exactly what happens. I’ll see a name and know immediately that it’s the right one.
I’m quite fortunate that names seem to come quite easily to me. I don’t remember struggling with many for my trilogy. But my new book, The Ruin of Delicate Things, due to be published next year, had a few false starts with names for minor characters. It was a great relief when the right one made itself known and I could use Find and Replace!
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
Although I have a tendency to mentally torture my characters, I don’t think I could ever fictionally torture a child. I have children. I have grandchildren, and it crosses a fine line for me where I’m sure any words would be snared in far too many awful scenarios.
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Was horror a prominent genre on your bookshelf growing up or has it surfaced as an adult?
My love of horror and all things dark didn’t really surface until I was in my early twenties. Although I still remember reading my first Stephen King, Cujo, as an impressionable teen, and being both horrified and fascinated. But my real push into the genre was discovering Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. The way she writes her vampires as emotional and sensual beings really resonated with me. My own vampires carry those characteristics – they experience human feelings, but it’s still the need for blood that drives them and over rules any morose thinking on ‘taking lives’. Savage sensuality, with heightened perceptions and the tortured need for blood. What’s not to like?
Is there anything you find bad for the horror genre? (For example stigmas of being horror writers, people who thinks that horror just means slash & gore…?)
Horror is very much a maligned genre. People do tend to think that it is only slash and gore, and have no idea of the richness and the variety it can offer. They also tend to think that it’s something that will petrify them, and although that can be the case, there’s so much subtlety out there in the horror genre, words which won’t necessarily terrify, but will stay with the reader long after they turn the last page. Some sense of dread, like spider web across their skin when they find themselves in the dark.
And I’ve had so many amazed reactions when I say I write horror. ‘You don’t look like you write horror.’
The horror community has such a large and welcoming heart. There’s a long way to go before we can change long held preconceptions, but it’s up to us to pave the way for the next generation.
A lot of good horror movements have arisen as a direct result of the socio/political climate, considering the current state of the world where do you see horror going in the next few years?
There’s been a wonderful influx of new writers into the horror fold over the last few years. From all walks of life. Diverse, intelligent writers with their own stories to tell, driven by how they view their world and fuelled by their backgrounds and experiences. I think we’ll see a break away from some of what is considered horror, with more emphasis on cosmic horror, body horror and cross overs into noir. And, of course, the horror of a post-apocalyptic world, with the political climate and the environment. It’s a very sobering thought that this last one might be more fact than fiction.
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
You know, I’m not sure I’d want to erase any. Yes, there are so many that are used time and time again; the dead coming back from the grave to gain their revenge, the group of teenagers camping in a dark wood, the old abandoned house with a creepy history.
But any of these clichés can be fresh and exciting. It’s how the writer delivers the story that’s important. What little twists can they add to make a reader gasp? What underlying subtleties can prowl until *that* ending?
There’s always room for brilliantly executed stories, no matter how many times they’ve been done.
Does horror fiction perpetuate its own ghettoization? For example Julia Armfield’s collection Salt Slow has a cover that most horror fans would walk past in a book shop, and is one that probably is not marketed as horror, does the genre’s obsession with horrific covers cause harm than good? And how important is the cover when it comes down to selling the book?
I had to look this one up! And yes, that cover definitely doesn’t say horror. It’s an interesting choice by the publisher because the cover doesn’t define any genre, but maybe that’s what they were going for.
As an indie author, I can absolutely say that the cover is of great importance. Apparently, the attention span of a prospective reader is about 0.7 seconds as they’re scrolling through Amazon, and it’s the cover alone that will make them pause and take a second look.
And that cover has so many fine elements. Font choice. Colour. The actual image and what it portrays. How the text is set on the page so it leads the reader’s eye in the right way.
But there are many covers in the horror genre now that are not particularly horrific. Paul Trembay’s A Head Full of Ghosts (UK edition) being a prime example of a cover that will make you look twice, but isn’t gory in any sense of the word.
There’s been a shift recently from what is considered the norm for horror covers, and this freshness, I hope, will bring new readers into our wonderful, shadowy fold.
That’s the end of our interview(s) with the lovely Beverley Lee. Isn’t she just wonderful?
Hopefully you’ll take something away from Beverley’s insights into the worlds of indie and horror writing, and if you’re a writer yourself who would be interested in being interviewed, please drop us a message.