sábado, 4 de abril de 2020

Interview with Sarah Read: "The verses that whisper the bones"

Por José R. Montejano
(You can read the interview in Spanish here)

Sarah Read is an obscure and lysergic fiction writer based in icy northern Wisconsin. A prolific author, her stories can be found in many speculative fiction magazines such as Gamut or Black Static and in several anthologies (Suspended in Dusk, Oddities Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders, or The Best Horror of the Year Vols 10 and 12). Her novel The Bone Weaver's Orchard was a finalist in the Bram Stoker Awards 2019, and her first collection of stories (Out of Water) was published in late 2019 and is also a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award. In addition, she is the editor of Pantheon magazine, where she delves into the reinterpretation of Greco-Latin myths from a fantasy perspective and, especially, from the perspective of terror. 

J. R. M. (José R. Montejano) - The first thing to say is that you have a striking and dazzling career, with a large number of works distributed in various magazines. In addition, your style is characterized by the retrograde halo that surrounds the work of writers such as M. R. James, Arthur Machen, Vladimir Nabokov or H. P. Lovecraft. However, it is still retro-futuristic, approaching the perspective of the most current terror. How did you come to shape such a unique and particular style? 

S. R. (Sarah Read) - Thank you! I think my style of horror might be different because my influences are different from a lot of writers I know. As a young reader, I was more interested in the Gothic than in the cosmic side of horror. I have always found subtle horror more unnerving. I didn’t start reading cosmic horror until late in my teens, and even then I preferred my horrors to be more earthly. My characters are les concerned with unknown philosophical horrors and more concerned with the horror that’s right there in the room with them. 

J. R. M. - On the other hand, what's your view of the weird? And of the Cosmic Horror? 

S. R. - I adore weird fiction. As I said, I lean more Gothic than cosmic. I enjoy Algernon Blackwood more than H. P. Lovecraft. While my writing is more horror than weird, I love to add a dash of weird to it, like a fine spice. I think weird and cosmic horror are in a golden age right now. There are so many fantastic writers working in those genres—ones who are better than the past writers who influenced them. 

J. R. M. - Next October, Dilatando Mentes Editorial will publish in Spanish its novel The Bone Weaver's Orchard, in which it is immersed in a gothic and poetic terror that is sometimes heartbreaking and vesanic. What could you tell us about your novel (without revealing its plot epicentre)? 

S. R. - The book takes place in a British boarding school in 1926. Charley Winslow is a young boy who has just come to the school. When students begin to go missing, he investigates, and begins to learn the dark secrets that the school has been protecting for generations. There are bugs, secret passages, bullies, untrustworthy adults, and unnecessary surgeries. It is sometimes spooky, with a bit of gore, and a lot of mystery. 

  Illustration by Dean Samed

J. R. M. - When developing a story, do you put the atmosphere (gloomy, claustrophobic space) before the characters, or do you try to find a balance between these two essential literary foundations? 

S. R. - I think it’s definitely a balance. I love to write settings that are almost a charácter, themselves. I like to créate an atmosphere that feels sentient. But horror isn’t effective without strong characters. I want the reader to feel for the characters and care about them. I think that empathy is necessary—so that when the bad things start to happen, the reader really feels it. 

J. R. M. - Do you think that Spanish horror women writers have the same recognition (I'll ask you internationally) as other foreign writers (called Ladies of Horror)? 

S. R. - While the horror genre is popular in English, I don’t think publishers have done enough to translate international horror between countries. I would love to see more of it reach bookstores around the world. Perhaps as digital translation services become more accesible, we’ll see more of our horror books shared globally! Women in horror tend to be underepresented, universally. I think there are Ladies of Horror everywhere. It’s an international cohort. I’m very appreciative of publishers like Dilatando Mentes Editorial who are sharing diverse horror stories. 

Illustration by Dean Samed

J. R. M. - You are the editor of Pantheon magazine. How was your immersion in editing and how has it influenced your writing? Likewise, what advice would you give to writers who are beginning (at this moment) to incur in this our beloved genre (horror)? 

S. R. - I edited Pantheon Magazine for six years, and for several years before that, I was an editor for a nonfiction magazine. It taught me a lot about the editorial process and the decisions that editors face. For one, rejections are never personal, and everyone gets them. Most of the rejections I sent were because the tone of the piece didn’t fit what we were looking for. When submitting, be sure you’ve read the magazine before and that you’re submitting the right kid of story for that submission call. And keep trying! 

J. R. M. - And finally, Sarah, one last question: would you give us a preview of future projects (just an outline)?

S. R. - I’m currently working on edits for my next novel, The Atropine Tree. After that, I’ll finish a prequel to Bone Weaver, and then a sequel. Lots of books! I’m definitely staying busy. 

J. R. M. - On a personal note, Sarah, it has been a wonderful pleasure to be able to interview you, and remind you that at "Círculo de Lovecraft" you will always find a home for whatever you like. A pleasure and an honour. 

S. R. - Thank you so much! It’s been a pleasure talking with you! 

  Excerpt from the cover of The Bone Weaver's Orchard

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