Today my guest is Lydia Peever, an Ottawa (Canada) native and writer of things dark and horror related. Let’s take a quick moment and delve into who Lydia is…
With too many hobbies and diverse interests, you may find her researching genealogy in a dusty library, profiling artists for OttawaHorror.com, or taking photos at a punk show. By day, she haunts trendy cafés, tends poison flowerbeds, and photographs roadkill.
After writing a novel and a dozen short stories as a hobby during college in the mid 90s, She began a professional writing career upon enrolling in college for the second time in 2010. By April 2011, she had sold Nightface and within the next year, sold her first short story. Thicker Than, which appears in the West Pigeon Press anthology, For When the Veil Drops.
After graduating an intense Journalism course, she returned to her Alma Mater as a teaching assistant. When not at her separate full-time job she is a regular contributor to Xalt Magazine. When not writing, she does what she can at Hora Morior Productions – a horror collective based out of Vancouver, British Columbia. From script-writing for the screen and radio, to layout and pre-press she fairly revels in anything with a horror-media edge.
Welcome Lydia, tell us about your writing process?
It evolves. Two years ago, I would have answered that I write mainly in the morning for a few hours, then edit in the evening. At that time, I was in school so that suited my schedule. It was good to have a regular time, place and space for writing even if it was my bedroom. Since then, my schedule has become far more schizophrenic though I do have an office. I can write nearly anytime and anywhere but do tend to continue the trend of editing in the evening. Lately I have been writing after midnight, which I used to do as a teenager and in my early twenties.
Ideas strike anytime. Most of my favorite stories I tend to mull over in my mind for a few weeks or longer. It takes a long time for the characters and paranormal to entwine just so. Then, I tell someone – usually with little warning! Before I know it, the story just spills out and I have to write it. Not that it will get away on me. Luckily, I don’t forget my lines. I just want to get it out while the thread is fresh. My memory is very good when I like an idea I tend to replay it over and over so if I don’t have a chance to write immediately, I don’t stress over it.
That’s a useful skill. There are times that my memory behaves like a sieve and ideas trickle out before I can get them on paper; it’s frustrating but I’ve learned to live with it. Is there a genre, other than the one you currently write in, that you wish you could break into?
Not a genre, per-se, as I am pretty much betrothed to horror. I would certainly like to branch into other media. I have had the opportunity through college to work at CBC Radio in 2011 and help produce a music video recently. I love audiovisual technology and hope to do more of that sort of work. I am slowly working on a screenplay as well. It is non-fiction and maybe not horror but does have horrific elements.
From time to time, people ask if I could write something nice. Perhaps I should try romance, they say. Try some literary erotica maybe. The answer is no. I have a few dark weird tales and a story with a science fiction element but at the end of the day, it all comes out of me as horror. No other genre relates to me, and I can’t produce something I don’t honestly adore. That said, Nightface does have a dark mystery element as well as a warped romantic glow at one point. That happens when you write long-form fiction with substance.
What are the 5 books that have influenced you the most, and why?
Starting with the most recent, Goth by Otsuichi is a phenomenal book. The plot is so deceptively simple and the writing style so clear. His words are so comfortable and prose so familiar that I felt I had read him forever after the first chapter. I collect his work now. Kathe Koja gave the same feeling when I first read Kink and Skin. There is something to be said for the simple style and relying on the reader to paint a picture in their mind. Otsuichi does a beautiful job of this.
Faust by Robert Nye was an oddball book I picked up at a used market. Haunting used bookstores is an addiction of mine, and with a satanic looking cover, a title like Faust and the fact that I had never heard of it made it an easy sell. Once I read it, I felt I had found a precious gem. So dark, so terrible and so well written. The main character is so vile, creepy and rude you get shivers just thinking of his horrid stench, greasy flesh and rotting clothing. Ugh! Every page has some point of disgust or profanity that my mind was reeling within a few pages. This is not an easy task for an author, so I fell in love with the book. Also, my cat was named Mephisto, so there’s that.
Later still, on another bookstore jaunt I found Ushers Passing by Robert R. McCammon. Those who have read it may see faint parallel in the Black River House to the House of Usher as imagined by McCammon. This is another author who can create stark characters with simple words. I was entranced by the secret dynasty going on in the house as I was by his style of describing the particularly fantastic with plain language.
On the other hand, my first foray into horror began with Stephen King. Long form dark fiction at its best and I was likely too young to be reading it! My teachers found Pet Semetary on my desk in grade four and that certainly raised a few eyebrows. From it, I learned a lot about dialogue at an early age. King’s The Shining followed in grade five. After re-reading these books later in life and again later still, I see that not a lot was lost on my tiny elementary school brain. Some may think it would warp me, but rest assured I was closely monitored by my parents and grandmother. They were on hand to answer the endless stream of questions raised by those novels and discuss anything particularly terrifying. During this time, I had also asked for a typewriter. So, in that most direct sense, The Shining had a massive influence that spurred me to write in earnest.
Great choices Lydia. If you could cast one of your works, who would you choose to play your main characters?
Well, I am sure that most authors think of this in the shower every day. Those that say they don’t are likely lying. My main character, Gunnar, is impossible to wrap around a living person. Other people would have to do that for me. This is something I thought about while editing and it is just impossible for me to assign an existing face to this person I have known so long in my own head. He does look a lot like Dana Ashbrook who could certainly pull it off… he certainly has the right style. For Solomon, his counterpart, I have one clear option. Werner Daehn. Certainly, in the big black book of casting there are loads of actors who have the right look, sound and attitude, but this is who is in my mind. Sinthia is a tough one. She is a little Helena Bonham-Carter and a little Anna Paquin. It is tough to put her in a mold. When I discussed this with an artist friend who created concept art for each main character, I basically left it to him. I had reams of notes and discussion for all the others, but for her I wanted a ridiculously fuckable zombie. She has dark hair and scars all over. That is about all I got for Sinthia. Someday I will stumble across an actress who ‘is’ her but so far none have really fit perfectly.
We all know the best way to get our works produced into the major blockbuster we see playing endlessly in our heads is to get it onto one of those coveted bestsellers lists. So tell us, what is the first thing you would do if you woke up one morning to find one of your books on the NY Times Bestsellers List?
Get a lawyer who doubles as a bookkeeper since I am thrifty that way. I would also take an immediate break and consult a stylist since skinny jeans and hermit hoodies are really not great eye candy. Then I would change my phone number.
Oh, and celebrate. Certainly.
Do you have any vices that you turn to while you are writing?
Music is not something most would think of as a vice, but that is the constant one. It creates ambiance or enhances moods. It can be a subtle sound in the background or a loud stark wall to throw words at. Writing keeps me from my vices! I enjoy beer and gin, as well as cigarettes, coffee and chocolate like anyone. Though, I tend to slip into a near coma and not snack, drink, smoke or talk while I am in the process of writing. If sex is a vice, then writing keeps me from that too. All of these I treat as just average things humans enjoy since I don’t have an addictive personality. I can go without, and survive. Imagination is the only vice that I turn to when writing. I am a daydreamer and a storyteller. I think and I talk and I write. Imagination is one thing I can’t go without. I would rather be sitting quietly and lost in that place I go with stories than be doing any of the unhealthy or fattening things listed above.
Well said Lydia, well said! What do you do when you’re not writing?
Typical things. Often I complain that I don’t have time to read or watch horror movies; both things I love to do. Working a nearly full-time job and acting as teaching assistant takes up a lot of my time. Blogging falls by the wayside when I am writing fiction as I write for Ottawa Horror and my own blogs as well. Journalism is another passion, so the world technically stops when I am on assignment. On top of all that, I am a bit of a neat-freak so cleaning fills up the rest of my time. Nothing clears the mind or helps a mangled passage like washing dishes or mopping hardwood!
Oddly, I just realized that most of the things I do when not writing are actually writing. So, I guess I could add that I rented a cello once for a month. Does that count?
Please share with us the first nine lines of your current work-in-progress.
It is a toss-up here as I have three works on the go. Nightface II, an untitled short about hair that is in first draft, and a half-written short about the zombie apocalypse are all on the slab. As these opening lines may change, here are the first nine lines of the upcoming novel.
Car headlights flicked across the end of the turnaround, splashing light across the massive house. The abandoned mansion looked even bigger in the dark.
Finch had driven up here with her before, but that time she had her period. It was a lot easier for him to keep his hands on his side of the gearshift that day. He was into Liz, for sure, but not into getting blood all over.
They had talked about her ex that time. Well, she had talked non-stop while he listened and feigned concern. It had been daylight that time too, before meeting with friends to swim nearby where the river swelled and the current relaxed.
This time, it was getting dark.
Gunnar could not remember a thing. Who he was or where he came from. Flashes come, like distant lightening. A song, an abandoned house of isolated opulence, visions of the undead…
Then he meets Sinthia – the only person who recognizes him – her body marked with hundreds of scars.
Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Don’t forget that clicking on the title will take you straight to Amazon!
Don’t forget to join me next week for another exciting interview!