Hello Ghouls and Boils,
Today we have a special treat – a republished interview with Simon Strantzas. If you stumbled onto this and would like to know why we republished it here, refer to The Not-So-Savvy Reader. Thanks again to Simon for giving us his time. I hope you all find this as interesting as I did. Enjoy, my fiends!
Sarah L. Covert
About the Author: Simon Strantzas is the author of the critically-acclaimed COLD TO THE TOUCH (Tartarus Press, 2009), a collection of thirteen tales of the strange and supernatural. His first collection, BENEATH THE SURFACE (Humdrumming, 2008) was called “possibly the most important debut short story collection in the genre [in years]. . .” by multiple award-winning editor Stephen Jones. Strantzas’s stories have appeared or are due soon in THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST NEW HORROR, CEMETERY DANCE, POSTSCRIPTS, and elsewhere. In 2009, his work was nominated for the British Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction.
Sarah L. Covert: Welcome to Savvy Readers – this is a different sort of place for She Never Slept and our readers. So please make yourself at home and thanks for joining us. Perhaps we will surprise the normal readership or they will surprise us… Time will tell. J
Simon Strantzas : Thanks for having me.
Sarah L. Covert: My love for genre fiction (horror, strange tales and science fiction) was born at Drive-In Double Features when I was about 7 years old. Your writing is mainly science fiction and strange tale oriented. What was it that sparked your interest in the unusual?
Simon Strantzas : I don’t think there was any one defining moment or thing from which my love of the weird began. Unlike many writers, I don’t have any significant childhood trauma to which I line might be drawn. I’ve simply always enjoyed genre fiction, regardless of type. My interest or focus on Horror above the rest no doubt can be drawn to the sort of metaphorical imagery of which it is capable — a sort to which none of the other genres seem able to compare. There’s inherent beauty in the darkness, a cross between nightmare and reality that stirs something in my soul, awakens my mind, and opens my eyes to bizarre possibilities like nothing else in my finite life. Rather than my love for horror growing from a seed, instead it was more like a lost love since found. Horror and I ran in slow motion across a field of flowers in order that we might embrace forever.
I should probably take a moment here to state that my use of the term “horror” is an umbrella for any tale that concerns itself with the strange, weird, terrible, and/or frightening. I see the genre with its arms spread, inclusive of all who would have it … regardless of how many or how few vampires and possessed children line its pages.
Sarah L. Covert: Some of your stories have a sentimental nature to them. I find this happens a lot in these genres, however not often very obviously. Do you think there is a place for love and romance in these darker genres?
Simon Strantzas : Certainly. They are elements of humanity, and as such they have a place in all fiction. Horror that does not touch on themes such as these reads as shallow and without interest. By its very nature, horror is designed to explore our ability to love, even at its most excessive. I truly believe horror is the key that fits many locks — there is no door it cannot open, granting us entrance so we might explore. As for sentimentality, there is almost a subgenre in horror that encompasses adults returning to the places of their youth and seeing the past through different, though not always wiser, eyes. Sentiment and nostalgia play a big part in this, and I find the two are helpful tools for by-passing the readers’ innate defense’s and letting them connect with the fiction. All readers want to be moved in some way by what they read, and the path of sentimentality is simply a short-cut. If it’s a well-worn one, it’s simply because it continues to yield results.
Sarah L. Covert: Your collection, Cold to the Touch, was brilliant. We enjoyed it a good deal at She Never Slept. It is a collection of short stories. What is it about the short story that appeals to you as a writer?
Simon Strantzas: The short story: what doesn’t appeal to me about the short story? People often make the mistake of thinking of prose as a single beast — regardless of length, it’s all the same — and because of their shorter nature short fiction is thought of as a stepping stone to a novel. They see writing fiction as a progression, but I assure you, when done well, a short story is not simply a short novel. If anything, the short story shares more in common with the poem. There is a sense of economy in the short story, the notion that every word, ever moment, every scene is there in service of the tale’s plot and theme. It’s trying to distill one perfect idea with words. Novels, on the other hand, do well when they express the briar patch that it human emotion. Their form allows for multiple themes and meanings to swirl and coalesce in different ways over time. A short story is a still pond, the novel a churning sea. My interests have always been in the minutiae of experience, in how we react in instants, not over time. Thus, the short story is better suited to me. I simply find it more interesting to explore what happens to a person on immediate confrontation with the weird than exploring how that exposure might change him or her over time.
Sarah L. Covert: If you had all the money and all the time in the world and you could write on any subject of your fancy – what would it be?
Simon Strantzas: Frankly, I am doing that now. Why wouldn’t I be? Writing is such a painful endeavor sometimes, so gut-wrenching, that to shed blood on a subject I wasn’t even interested in would only serve to destroy me. My subject matter is not limited to time and money, only my prolificacy.
Sarah L. Covert: Do you have any upcoming projects, news or sarcastic comments to share with our readers?
Simon Strantzas: Currently, I am shopping around a new collection of tales that I hope finds as warm a reception with readers as my last. While that happens in the fringes, I have turned my attention at the moment to writing a short novel, if only to prove it is something I can do. I must admit, though, that I don’t believe I have many of these in me, and that the bulk of my work will remain in the short story mould going forward. This will keep me from the eyes of many genre readers as the short story form is not a popular one but I’ve made my peace with that. The sort of opaque mode I work in doesn’t translate well to mass-market anyway. I’d much rather hew close to my muse than betray her and try to write something my heart isn’t in.