Award-winning author Nancy Kilpatrick has published 18 novels, over 200 short stories, and has edited 13 anthologies, most in the horror/dark fantasy field. She also published the non-fiction book The Goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined (St. Martin’s Press) and has written many articles and reviews. Her two most recent award-winning titles are (as editor) the anthology Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper, and her sixth collection of short stories, Vampyric Variations (both from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing). She lives in Montréal with her calico cat Fedex, but travels frequently searching out crypts, ossuaries, mummies, and original Danse Macabre artwork. Check her Website for updates: nancykilpatrick.com. But join her on Facebook for the latest news. And support the nEvermore crowdfunding at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/nevermore-a-new-kind-of-anthology
Interview by Christel Bodenbender
Could you tell us more about the anthology?
nEvermore! Murder, Mystery and the Macabre is a collaborative effort in two ways. First, my co-editor, Caro Soles, and I are responsible for the idea and for the crowdfunding. We have acquired writers who write in the realm of this anthology and will be covering all the usual editorial aspects of the job. Then we hand off the manuscript to our publishing partner, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy and they produce the print and ebook and handle distribution.
This anthology came from a spa visit. When I'm in her city, sometimes Caro and I hit the spa for a couple of hours, our too-rare luxury visits. We've been friends for many years and know one another's lives and work very well. We're both writers and we're both editors and we also both teach writing courses for the same college, she in the classroom, me, online. At one point we were in the pool, not so much swimming as wading back and forth, talking, and it came up that we've never done a project together. Somehow, Poe's name was mentioned--likely because we are both Poe fanatics--and Caro croaked out the word 'Nevermore!' Everything escalated from there.
On Indiegogo you mentioned this anthology is different from others. How?
nEvermore! is different because we want to blend the types of writing Poe is famous for but not try to emulate his writing style. He was Poe, everyone else trying to write like Poe is a poor imitation.
EAP wrote mysteries and is considered the father of the modern detective story, for example, with his short stories "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and "The Perloined Letter". He also wrote scads of supernatural fiction, some of it straight up dark fantasy/horror, and some involving murders, like The "Black Cat," and "A Cask of Amontillado" with a preternatural element. His writing is dark, but what's amazing about it is that he manages to create a mood that reaches inside readers and touches on our fears, our despair, our niggling belief that humanity might not be the high life form we view ourselves to be. That there are other elements, including fate, which play a part in existence and which we give very short shift.
We all know that Poe did not have a wonderful life. He was orphaned early. Being a creative type, he clashed with his foster father and ultimately left and also was abandoned. His natural father also abandoned him. He lost both his mother and the love of his life, his wife Virginia, to tuberculosis, and it appears that he was in a state of perpetual mourning. His career also did not go smoothly and he rarely made enough money through his writing to sustain himself and, when she was alive, his wife. To cope, he drank excessively, and although there's no real information that he was addicted to other substances like laudanum, his characters were, so he knew about these pain relievers which were at the time legal. He died as tragically as he lived, passed out in the gutter, a deeply unhappy man, impoverished, alone, and even now, there is some question as to who is buried in Poe's grave--he might be in another part of the cemetery. All in all a man who lived and died in virtual obscurity yet who thereafter became world famous for his marvelous fiction, poetry, articles and essays. How could we not want to honor this man by asking some of today's top writers to emulate the types of blended stories Poe wrote. Our homage to a literary genius.
How are you going to distribute/publish the anthology?
Distribution will be through the publisher, who has a good network. The book will be in the chains in the US and Canada, and in specialty stores in both countries. And ebooks of course in the usual places. Caro and I will try very hard to sell foreign rights to what we believe will be an extraordinary book.
When did you first encounter the writings of Poe?
At a very early age. I recall being interested in spooky stories as a child and seeing Poe stories on television. The "Cask of Amontillado" was one I recall vividly. As I grew older, I began reading more adult books and going to the movies more often. I remember having a book of Poe's collected works from the library and devouring it! I loved that someone put all this darkness of the human spirit into fiction in a very readable character-driven and plot-oriented way. Poe's writing was not as dense as some of the later writers of Gothic supernaturals, like M. R. James and, later, H.P. Lovecraft. Poe's work has always been highly accessible to the masses, particularly in the United States, and that's why he is still read today by just about every school child in that country and in many other countries around the world. I could not have NOT encountered Poe. But, I'm extremely happy that I did.
What is your favorite Poe story and why?
I love the aforementioned "The Cask of Amontillado." But others that affected me particularly are "The Black Cat," the "Masque of the Red Death," "The Tell-Tale Heart, The Pit and the Pendulum," "The Fall of the House of Usher," and of course the poems "The Raven" and "Annabelle Lee." These are the most popular Poe pieces. But I also love many of his less-read works like "Eldorado," a beautiful and touching poetic quest. In truth, I don't think I have a favorite, just a sentimental attachment to what I first read. His work has a slow, churning quality to the life he presents. Sometimes the characters are angry or jealous and commit unspeakable acts from that state. Other times they are depleted, sad and grief-stricken. But they all feel wronged in some way, as if life has cheated them, and there's a certain bitterness that I believe most people have felt. We are often told as children that life is one way, be that good or ill, but as we get older, the reality of the world and how it works seeps in and there definitely is a feeling of being in some ways cheated of the promise. Especially when life was supposed to hold so much promise and turns out to be more routine, mundane, and limited than we were led to believe. Yes, I know, there are some Class A optimists jumping around right now yelling 'But, but, I was promised a wonderful, magical life and it's all magic for me!' That, I postulate, is not the bulk of the population on this planet. Most people seem to be rather unhappy and bitter (not all the time but generally). They were told life would be tough, and it has proven to be more than tough. Or they were told there were possibilities that have not materialized, sometimes through their own actions, sometimes because circumstances beyond their control, sometimes because of fate. Intelligent psychiatrists will assure us that happiness is not the goal, it's an emotion we feel sometimes. Poe captures this in his writing. There's a bleakness that speaks to humanity and says, yes, I understand. I've been there too. I've suffered loss, failure, being cheated and abused. And in Poe's case, the bleakness in his life was extreme, his tragedies deep and relentless.
You have written an impressive amount of stories in the dark realm. What draws you to the nether realms of speculative fiction?
I guess my childhood plays a part. And my genes. There, I've covered both heredity and environment! I do recall the first book I took out of the library when our class made a trip there and I was allowed to take a book home. The Little Witch. That, plus all the TV shows I had to beg to stay up to watch. Horror was my favorite subject matter, but any sort of noir story. I also liked science fiction, the happier cousin of horror.
Perhaps the biggest theme in horror fiction is death, and it's not sugar coated. Death is one of our two major events that completely alter us. We don't usually recall Birth, but are all aware of impending Death. And there's a desire to find out something about it, to know What Happens Next, and if there IS a Next. People have always held a fascination with and terror about death, hence the large and powerful religions that have formed over many centuries. The truly horrified need something to cling to. The rest of us vacillate between curiosity and fear. This is an event that WILL occur. Avoiding death is not an option. Writing about the big D and the smaller d's (which the French thought of as steps to prepare us), that's a big interest of mine and that falls into the dark realm of fiction. One can say that mysteries also deal with death, since there's usually a murder. I've read a lot of mysteries and have written about eight mystery stories and won an award for one, so I have a sense of that realm. But mysteries can often be 'soft', the horror of the murder seen through gauze by the reader. In the horror realm, it's in your face. Sometimes visceral, sometimes supernatural as in thrills and chills, but you're going to 'see' something, and more importantly, feel it. I like directness in most things so it's not unusual that my writing exhibits that despite the fact that I really enjoy tight-roping a line that borders two worlds with my fiction.
Tell us what writing means to you?
My life. My survival. Not so much financially because I think most writers find ways of surviving to support their writing, unless they have a spouse or family to support them, or the handful that are on the level where they receive large grants. There have been times I could live off my writing and other times not. It's feast and famine land. But more importantly, writing is survival of my soul. This is a pretty controlled and predictable world we live in, and getting more so. At a certain point, you tend to know what's coming next, just because you've lived long enough and the repetition is clear. But writing opens up a different world. The work can go anywhere and the job of the writer is to tell a good story without it being predictable. That's always my goal. This is an exciting world to live in that mitigates the dull-normal reality. A world where we are free--and I know this applies to all artists. When one gets published and has a readership, it's like icing on the cake. That others read my work and tell me what it means to them, this is a deep form of communication. It tells me I've tapped into something universal. And frankly, I'm always awed by that. Whatever 'pride' I feel is usually short-lived because I end up feeling humbled by the sense that there's something more, beyond me, that's been involved. I have no idea what that is but I trust it, knowing it's there, and I rely on this source; I'm grateful that this pipeline exists and that it never fails me.
Could you tell us about some future projects?
Besides nEvermore!, which will be out the fall of 2015, I have another anthology I've edited, this one solo. Expiration Date is coming spring of 2015, from the same publisher.
I write a lot of short stories and recent ones have appeared in the magazine Dark Discoveries, and the anthologies Dark Fusion: Where Monsters Lurk; Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre; Searchers After Horror; Stamps, Vamps, and Tramps. Also recent non-fiction articles in Beware the Dark Magazine (where I write a column and reviews); Nightmare Magazine, guest writer for The H Word.
Upcoming are stories in: The Madness of Cthulhu; A Darke Phantastique; Zombie Apocolypse #3 Endgame; Blood Sisters: Vampire Stories by Women. And a non-fiction essay on vampires in Stone Skin Bestiary.
In addition, I've got one novel out with my agent and another I'm still working on which a publisher is waiting for. I just need time! But, who doesn't?