Naching T. Kassa
Award-winning author Nancy Kilpatrick has published 22 novels, over 220 short stories, seven story collections, and has edited 15 anthologies, plus graphic novels, and one nonfiction book, The Goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined (St. Martin’s Press).
Nancy is an honest and passionate writer. We spoke of inspiration, classic horror, and vampires.
NTK: Welcome, Nancy! Thank you for joining me today.
NK: It’s my pleasure, Naching! Thank you for inviting me.
NTK: How old were you when you first discovered horror?
NK: I was a kid. We had the Saturday Night Chiller-type movies on but they were late, and, although it was Saturday night, I wasn’t allowed to stay up for those except on rare occasions. Horror films were my favorites, and that just continued when I got old enough to watch those films. But before that, when I was in grade school (not sure of my age but likely around six or seven) the school visited the big library in downtown Philadelphia, where I lived, and we were each allowed to take one book out. I choose The Little Witch, which says I lot, I guess. Little did I know how famous that book was, in print for 40 years. So, my love of horror goes way back.
NTK: Who are the authors who’ve influenced you most?
NK: In horror, I tend not to mention living authors. I know way too many writers, and I don’t want to offend anyone or leave anyone out. And frankly, it’s many dead authors that shaped me. Poe, Lovecraft, Carter, Jackson, Kafka, Shelley, Stoker, Byron, Bloch … even then, there are more than I’ve named. I see myself as shaped and influenced by every book I’ve ever read, even the terrible ones, and in every genre, both fiction and nonfiction. I’m kind of a lit vampire, meaning, I drink in experiences, so besides general life experiences, books and film have played a big role in who I am as a writer and likely who I am as a person.
NTK: Do you find inspiration in the books you’ve read? Where do you find inspiration?
NK: Inspiration is everywhere. I can see something, smell something, a twig on a peculiar taste, hear a sound, and so on. I can have a dream and have written two stories from dreams. I daydream a lot. Many avenues lead to a story idea but the ones that lead to actually writing down those ideas in short story or novel form, those are the exceptional ideas. It’s hard to say what inspires them. One avenue for me is that I own and have read thousands of vampire novels and short fiction so I know what has been done and that always leads me to what has not been done before and how that fits into my personal view of the vampire. To a lesser extent, that works with ghosts and zombies for me, werewolves a bit less. If it’s “reality” horror, for example, nothing supernatural, more like a serial killer, there’s plenty of info on those types of killers around and that can inspire a thought. But thoughts have to connect to feeling for me because I’m essentially an emotional writer.
To keep it simple: I’m inspired when a thought or a feeling becomes a spark.
NTK: You’ve written a series called Thrones of Blood. How are your vampires different from others?
NK: Because I’ve read so much vampire material and seen so many movies, and, because I’ve written erotica (mainly a series of seven pastiche novels based on horror classics: Dracula; Frankenstein, Jekyll/Hyde, etc., etc.) and because I’ve seen and read erotic vampire novels and movies and wanted to infuse a series with that but not just that, I started thinking about a new series. I began writing these books about 12 or 13 or more years ago, because the idea churned for a few years before I started writing. One year in the winter I was staying alone in Florida for a month and cranked out book one and some of book two and three. Of course, all that had to be revised. I was just having fun and threw in a lot of genres and the kitchen sink and had to clean up all the mess and stick to the story. There are other books, of course, with warring vampires and humans, but I wanted to show the vampires as somewhat more evolved, while still violent, and that the humans might be even more violent. Ultimately, I wanted to show that because of a long life, the vampires, which are as resistant to change as humans, do have a longer perspective and can alter, at least a little. I wanted all this to come through in each book amidst the violence, the sex, the treachery, betrayals, viciousness, traitorous acts, and even love and kindness where least expected.
I have not seen what I’ve done. And frankly, readers need to be a bit smart to read these books because I work with paradox a lot in my writing. It’s awfully hard to hold two opposites at the same time, and that’s kind of what I hope readers will do. I also like to shift allegiances a lot. That’s kind of real life, too, for thoughtful people.
NTK: Do your characters have free will? Or do you plan their every move?
NK: I usually have a kind of plot overview for novels but rarely do a chapter by chapter outline. At the same time, as I write, I kind of know where I’m going. That doesn’t mean the characters want to go there, and, more times than not, they insist on me paying attention to them. As I said, I’m an emotional writer so I have to respect my feelings and if it feels dull, wrong, just a big NO, then it won’t work for me and I have wait until something comes to me as to how to proceed. And as with all creative endeavors, one can go this way and that, both ways pretty obvious. But waiting often leads to a third way that wasn’t envisioned, and that’s much better and leads to something much better. So no, I plan a bit, but I’m open to change. If I wasn’t, my characters wouldn’t work with me! (Laughs.)
What I mean by “this way and that” is that in every story, based on the conflict, there are usually two obvious resolutions of that conflict. If you go to either, the reader (who is as smart as the writer) feels bored and cheated because both resolutions are too obvious. This is where a creative solution has to make an appearance.
NTK: What makes good erotica?
NK: I was on an erotic-horror panel once with about eight or nine women, and they ranged in age from youngest to oldest. At the oldest end were Nancy Holder and me. Someone asked if we writers were aroused when we wrote erotic-horror. Invariably from the younger end, there were definite and resounding “NO’s” all along, and, when it got to Nancy Holder, she said, kind of, maybe a little, yes. Then me, who said, “Of course, I am aroused! If I can’t feel it, I can’t write it!” (Nancy H., by the way, thought I was so brave to say that, but I didn’t see myself as brave, more just honest because if I can feel the emotion of what I’m writing, I can make it believable for the reader—and that goes for the unsavory emotions too. There’s a huge difference in feeling murderous, which almost everyone has felt at some point, and committing murder. Knowing and feeling the difference is what keeps us all from acting horrifically in a spontaneous, or even a thought-out, moment.)
My seven erotic novels are The Darker Passions: Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Fall of the House of Usher, Carmilla, and The Pit and the Pendulum.
NTK: What advice do you have for up-and-coming writers?
NK: The only way to write is to write. There’s no other way. Writing gets better the more you do it, and it’s only later when you look back at what you thought was your genius that you recognize that you’re a much better writer now. If you keep writing, you will get better at writing. And equally important, if you keep living life to the fullest and exploring and experimenting, you will bring that to your work. Carl Jung felt that creativity is a human need, and I think that is right because if we can’t be creative in whatever way creative means to us, then we aren’t really living. Writing is a combination of mental, physical, emotional, and, yes, even soul or spiritual. As the old saying goes: plumb the depths. Go inside yourself as far as you can and you can pull out whatever you find and work with it. It’s not rocket science, but in a way, it kind of is.
NTK: What do you look for as an editor?
NK: A good story idea. A well-written story. A story that fits the theme or idea of the anthology. You’d be surprised at how many people send a werewolf story for a vampire anthology! (Laughs.) The sad part of editing is that a story might be wonderfully written and the idea great and yet it doesn’t fit the antho. As stories come in and are magnificent, the editor accepts those and that starts to give the antho a shape and form, and it might diverge a bit from what was intended but the editor then has to make sure whatever else is accepted fits so the antho as a whole work. That means sometimes an incredible story doesn’t get it.
NTK: What’s your favorite horror novel?
NK: Again, I can’t name books by living authors so I’ll have to go with early works. And in fact, there’s little horror I’ve read or seen that I haven’t liked, even the bad stuff, because I can see merit in just about everything, sometimes just a drop of merit, but still. So that would be Dracula by Stoker, Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, The Picture of Dorian Gray, all of Poe‘s work, Robert Louis Stevenson‘s work, even the ponderous Varney the Vampire or, The Feast of Blood which predates Dracula by a few decades. There are all sorts of wonderful novels out there, and I encourage people to find and read some of what has been done in the past because, for example, the vampire did not start with Anne Rice‘s books or BUFFY. You’d be surprised by some of the beautiful and intense work that came before.
NTK: Nancy, what does the future hold for you? What works do we have to look forward to?
NK: At the moment, I’m working on book five in the Thrones of Blood series: Anguish of the Sapiens Queen. Book six is next up and that should be the end of the series, published in 2020. I also have a science fiction novel just about finished. The former will be out later this year and that latter … no date yet. I’m likely reissuing my horror (non-vampire) collection Cold Comfort. And I am in discussion for a new antho I’ll co-edit. This year I’ll be traveling to a few summer/fall events: Fan Expo in Toronto, and Word on the Street. Possibly Frightmare in the Falls. Early next year I’ll be at StokerCon in England.
By the way, if anyone wants to join my newsletter, which is short and once a month via E-mail, they can go to my Web site: nancykilpatrick.com. The form to join is at the top.
NTK: Thank you so much for joining me today. You’re a great guest! It was an honor to interview you
NK: Thank you, Naching, for having me.
Portions of this interview appeared on the HorrorAddicts.net blog and are used with the kind permission of publisher Emerian Rich.
Naching T. Kassa is a wife, mother, and horror writer. She is head of publishing for HorrorAddicts.net, an assistant at Crystal Lake Publishing, and an Affiliate HWA member.