Horror Writers Association

World of Horror: Interview with Paolo Di Orazio



Paolo Di Orazio has authored horror novels and comic books in Italian since 1987, and in English since 2015. He appeared in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year 2015.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

I was hopelessly fascinated by horror during my childhood. Movies on TV during the early ’70s captured my heart forever. I love monsters, I love drama since I can remember. I was just a little child, so I really didn’t know what has drew me inside of it and why. I only believed that monsters were real. “If they are on tv”, I thought, “they exist”. It was pure instinct, I wanted to dominate those chilling sensations and hold them inside of me. I felt great empathy for the monsters. I simply wanted to be just like them. I immediately felt that I was able to manage great emotions that others couldn’t, watching horror tv movies, and reading comic books (both Marvel and Warren). This made me feel special. The fascination of the unexpected. Until that fascination became my job. It’s primitive. It’s spiritual.

Is there a horror tradition in your country, in your culture? A taste for horror, a market? Not necessarily literature; perhaps oral tradition too.

In Italy, there is not a real horror tradition, in terms of official culture. Yes, we have a good taste for horror fiction but for a little market, a little audience. Most Italian people still reject horror culture – if we talk about books, cinema, streaming, and comic books. Maybe, something that we can read like a true horror tradition is inside our catholic cult: San Gennaro’s blood miracle, religious ossuaries, catacombs, and saints’ relics or bodies exposure. All of this seems just like a depressed and darkish dead cult, but we must say that “it’s only our religion”. From oral tradition, we’ve never knew of particular places where satanic rites were performed–still performed (amongst the ruins of ancient Romans’ Appia venue). But nobody has verified with his own eyes; me neither, of course.

Who are some of your favorite characters in horror, internationally and/or in your own culture?

Some of my favorite horror characters ever: Mamoulian (The Damnation Game, by Clive Barker), Christine (I mean just the Plymouth Fury, by Stephen King), Licantropus (Stan Lee-Mike Ploog), The Thing (I mean the creature from John Carpenter’s movie), Michael Myers, Samara Morgan, Igor (Young Frankenstein, by Mel Brooks), Uncle Creepy. 

Do you make a conscious effort to include characters and settings from your country in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray? 

To be honest, I make no effort in including characters and setting places of my country in my stories. I think that I cannot write about places I’ve never seen. Because I want to portray real sensations, real vibes from places and spaces and rooms in which I lived and where I went through. Otherwise, I can create my own fake town, but “stealing pieces” from a place that I know well. 

If you are not a native English speaker, but write in English, do you first think of horror in your native language or English? How do you draft them in your mind, in English or your mother tongue?

I have two ways, about this. One: I translate from Italian to English something I’ve already published myself, and then I send it to some English author friend of mine for an edit. Two: If I have to write something new for English readers (just like the last short “Oh, Mother”, at kalliopex.com), I draft a story in my mind – then some lines on paper – in Italian, and then I write it down directly thinking in (my simple) English. Before giving the work to a mother tongue editor, however, I compare my writings with English online dictionaries.  

What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?

My career in professional writing and publishing horror stories has two periods: from 1989 to 2009, my novels and short stories lacked irony; later, I discover a different mood, mixing drama and thin humour in my writing horror. In general, horror has taught me that the world of dark entertainment and creativity (works) is like a precious mirror of our times. As a serious metaphor or an acid satire, I unleash all those monsters and demons I would like to be in front of the worst face of our world.

How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve, both in the US and in your country?

As a visceral lover of horror since 1970, I saw it change thanks to Clive Barker’s Books of Blood and body-horror Cronenberg’s cinema first. Then, we’ve had the vampire’s renaissance towards goth imagination, and after that, The Walking Dead series for a brand new zombie horror trend, with less fear and a more introspective focus on human relationships. I guess the new wave of zombie movies gave the start for hardcore horror, more in the world’s literature than in Italy, of course. In my country, readers love blood and gruesome stories, but even classic horror. I don’t know which way an evolution in worldwide horror culture <may go>, maybe a turnover to gothic and atmosphere (Michael McDowell’s Blackwater). Up to now, great attention is around what we call “weird” (in Italy): a type of surrealist literature, decadent and next to science fiction.  

How do you feel the International horror writing community has been represented thus far in the market and what hopes do you have for representation going forward?

I see across social media that the International community is doing good work. In the future, I hope for growing collaborations among authors. I guess I should do more than ever… 

Who are some international horror authors you would recommend? 

I love and recommend Lansdale, Jack Ketchum, Edward Lee, and Poppy Z Brite.

What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?

I just say: Keep on feeding our appetite. Carry on the horror tradition, regardless of TV trends.

And to the writers from your country out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?

Read and learn from the classic masters (Poe, HPL, Bierce) and use their keys to imagine the future of horror. Express yourself and don’t care (too much) about what readers want.

2 comments on “World of Horror: Interview with Paolo Di Orazio

  1. A fine interview! I enjoyed the questions and relished Paolo’s answers, for he has a very keen mind, and is a sensitive man — he doesn’t mention his younger days as a successful musician, too!

    • Thank you so much, master Marge! Your kind words are so precious to me. I’ve actually forgot to mention my activity as a musician… Maybe next time for sure…

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