How long have you been writing for?
That’s a question with several different answers. If we’re talking about writing in general, I started writing a horribly derivative fantasy epic when I was around 11 year old. It was about a barbarian and his sorcerer friend (Conan anyone?) but it never really went anywhere. Later, when I was considerably older, I started a novella set in a pre-iron-age fantasy world, loosely based on New Zealand – and that felt like the point where I started to go from someone just messing about in MSWord to something a bit more serious.
In around 2013 I began frequenting the Writing Prompts area of Reddit – and quickly became hooked – which in turn led to the discovery of the NoSleep subreddit.
I’ve been writing regularly ever since, and don’t ever plan to stop.
What is it about horror that made you think ‘This is the genre for me’?
Fantasy and Sci Fi are my ‘home’ genres, but I guess familiarity breeds contempt, because they don’t seem very exotic to me anymore. Being a complete newbie to the horror genre gave it a bit of a shine that I guess still hasn’t worn off.
Horror is a very challenging genre to write in; I don’t feel I’m a natural horror writer at all, so each story is like a complicated puzzle that needs solving – and I’m a huge fan of puzzles!
You mix a lot of fantasy in with your writing. What I’ve always loved about your stories is you’re true to the fantasy aspect of it. How are you able to seamlessly marry the two genres?
I think the origins of Fantasy are rooted firmly in folklore and fairy tales, and what many people don’t realise is that fairy tales are the original works of horror, long before Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker put quill to paper. Fairy tales were designed to frighten and warn people away from dangerous places, or to scare children into doing what they were told. Anyone reading the works of The Brothers Grimm will immediately identify all the common roots of modern horror stories, from bone-chewing witches, to evil relatives willing to sell you into tortured slavery.
So I guess I’m less blending two genres than I am returning a genre to its origins
Any tips for combatting writer’s block?
Inspiration comes from experience; so if you’re not out and about experiencing things, inspiration will come slowly. If you find yourself at a loss, ride a bus or a train somewhere new while checking out the passengers and the view. Alternatively, go for a long walk through a neighbourhood you’ve never been to before, or visit a friend you haven’t seen for a while.
And if none of those are an option, just pick up a book and read something. All the greatest writers I know have or had ferocious appetites for books!
You’ve had your stories featured on audio podcasts before, what’s it like listening to somebody else bring your work to life?
Utterly magical, especially when they’re a good fit. While I’m terrible at script writing and screenplays, I do appreciate hearing or seeing my work in another medium. If a story holds up well in all formats, you know you’ve created something special.
Any rituals you have before starting a new story?
I usually go through a week-long process of brainstorming before I start typing anything, so I suppose that’s almost a ritual? Other than that, my only real requirement is that I get up early and have a cup of tea before I get to work on my latest manuscript.
Music is also a must most of the time. I generally don’t enjoy writing in silence.
How do you handle character creation? I find using Dungeons and Dragons character sheets helpful but it’s fun to see the many ways other people go about this.
That’s something I couldn’t honestly tell you. This is a process that happens entirely in my head and I think there is a big component of intuition here, so I’m very fortunate that it just ‘works’, however it might actually be happening. Having lived a very interesting life and having met an incredibly diverse array of people, I think there is just a lot of ‘personality paint’ in my head with which to create new characters.
Any projects coming up (or currently out) you’d like to share with us?
Currently I’m in the middle of editing my novel, which is a YA Sci Fi story. It’s no longer in the creative phase, so it’s not a particularly exciting project at the moment, but it will be when it’s finished!
Other than that, I’ve recently finished the sequel to A Seaside British Pub, which is hopefully even better than the original story.
And for those who keep asking after it, The Red Sword will be completed this year sometime, though my novel takes precedence over everything else.
How can we support your work?
I guess by spreading the good word if you like my stuff!
Otherwise, if people feel inclined, my short story collection The Silver Path is available on Lulu.com if they’d like to purchase it.
Any advice to people just starting out in their writing careers?
Try not to be ‘like’ someone else. I see many people striving to be like Stephen King or Peter Straub, but often all these people are doing is trying to cram their talent into a particular cookie-cutter shape. When you do that you can end up cutting off vital parts of what makes you unique as a writer – and if you do that you’ll never find your true voice.
Explore! Experiment! Find out what your strengths are from reader feedback. Challenge yourself with things you think are too hard for you to write, and try writing well outside your genre comfort zones.
Writing should be fun. Writing should be therapy. The creative process of writing should never be drudgery or hard slog and if it always feels like it is, then go and do something else that you enjoy instead. Not everyone is destined to be a writer and that’s OK 🙂
Caitlin can be found on twitter here
You can purchase a copy of her bestselling short story collection The Silver Path here