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WHC 2015 Exclusive interview: Lisa Tuttle


Lisa Gracia Tuttle (born September 16, 1952, in HoustonTexas)is an American-born science fiction,fantasy,and horror author. She has published more than a dozen novels, seven short story collections,and severalnon-fiction titles including a reference book on feminism. She has also edited several anthologies and reviewed books for various publications.

She has been living in the United Kingdom since 1981. In 1990 she moved to the Scottish Highlands, where she lives with her husband, also a novelist,and her daughter.

Her first novel, Windhaven, was written in collaboration with George R. R. Martin.
Other novels include Familiar Spirit, Gabriel, Lost Futures(short-listed for the Arthur C.Clarke Award),The Pillow Friend (described by Neil Gaiman as “a nightmarish distaff monkey’s paw of a book that its impossible to forget”), The Mysteries (praised by Michael Moorcock as “her best novel to-date”),and, most recently, The Silver Bough. She has written a dozen books for children and several non-fiction books,most notably the Encyclopedia of Feminism published in 1986.
Ghost stories were her first love, and short fiction of the strange and supernatural
variety continues to be her favorite form. Many of her stories have appeared in various
best of the year collections, and Closet Dreams won the 2007 International Horror Guild Award. Her first collection, A Nest of Nightmares, published in 1986,was included as one of Stephen Jones’ and Kim Newman’s Horror: 100 Best Books.
Lisa writes books reviews and occasional articles, has taught creative writing classes,
and works part-time for her local library at home in Scotland, which became
for her novel The Silver Bough. Most of her work has been translated, and much of it has
been adapted for television.

Lisa, thank you for taking the time to speak with us at Dead, Buried, and Back!
DB&B : Lisa, I see that George RR Martin is a close friend of yours and an influence in your SF/ Fantasy writing.Who were some other fantasy writers you admired?
Lisa. The earliest influences were books and stories I read as a child. E. Nesbit stands out in my mind — her books are classic British fantasies for children such as “The Five Children and It”, “The Phoenix and the Carpet” and”The Story of the Amulet” — the last may be my favourite, since it includes time travel. They were about children who encountered some magical object or creature able to grant their wishes — but in the usual way of fairy tales,these wishes did not usually work out the way they had hoped, so they got into trouble and had to figure out ways to make things right. The fact that they were written long ago, back before the first World War meant that the author’s ordinary, modern children seemed quaint and old-fashioned and their London setting was exotic to a child growing up in Texas, but that only made them more appealing. Other fantasy writers who were important to me are James Thurber (“The Thirteen Clocks” especially), Peter S. Beagle, Allison Uttley(“A Traveller in Time”), Edward Eager, C.S. Lewis.
When I first met George RR Martin(this was in the early 1970s) I didn’t think of him as a fantasy writer he was a science fiction writer so was I so were most of the writers I knew, read, and admired….that was how we were defined then science fiction was the term that covered a very wide range of literature.
DB&B: Lisa, since this is the 25th Anniversary of the World Horror Convention can you tell us a little about the conventions you have attended and some of your favorites?
Lisa: Oh, dear, I’m afraid they do kind of blur together in my mind! I have been to a lot over the years, but not as many as I would like, especially since I moved to a remote area of Scotland. The very first convention I ever went to was a comic convention in Houston — not because I was a comic collector, but because there were no SF conventions close enough for me to attend (I was still at school, living with my parents in Houston), and I knew some comic fans were also SF fans….and they showed old serials,like “Flash Gordon” and movies like”Forbidden Planet” — in those days before videos or DVDs, you took any chance you could get to see old movies like that. When I went away to college (Syracuse University), my first convention was attended with a group of friends we drove down to Philadelphia for a regional convention called Philcon. I met Dean Koontz,among others, for the first time there. I enjoyed some of the old Aggiecons (at Texas A&M) and twice went to Wiscon, a wonderful convention. My first Worldcon was either in Toronto or Boston 1971, 1972 both being close enough to get to from Syracuse, travelling and sharing expenses with other fans. I’ve enjoyed other Worldcons over the years, the 1979 Worldcon in Brighton, England, was directly responsible for my moving to England a couple of years later, so I could hardly forget that! and also have had a good time at various World Fantasy Conventions (New Orleans, London, Austin, Saratoga Springs, Brighton) — this will be my first ever World Horror Convention, so I hope (and confidently expect) to have a great time. Even when the conventions are held in the same country where I live, travelling is expensive; I have to consider the time spent away from home (not working) and all the expenses, and so I can’t afford to go to too many, alas.
DB&B: Lisa, I’m an old school SF/Fantasy fan dating back to the days of Lost in Space and Space 1999. Were there any particular Science Fiction TV or movies that inspired you to delve into the world of SF/Fantasy writing?And do you consider yourself a Star Trek, Star Wars or both fan?
 Lisa: I was a big, big fan of Star Trek the old, original Star Trek, that is. I think that may be the only SF series on TV that I really got excited about….unless you count The Prisoner. I watched both of those in my teens,and loved them. (I also watched Lost in Space but thought it was pretty silly….and I don’t remember anything about Space 1999, although I’m sure I must have seen it.) But — even though I had a brief career as a TV critic(I was on the staff of a daily newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman, circa 1974-1979), television didn’t have the same sort of influence or impact on me as books did. Movies, maybe a bit more. I loved the first Star Wars movie, back when it came out but I very soon lost interest in the sequels, and I haven’t watched even the first one in many, many years. As for all the myriad sequels to Star Trek — I’ve seen almost none of the later TV series; I have seen most of the movies,and liked them — especially the recent ones returning to the original characters with younger actors playing Kirk and Spock. I thought they were a lot of fun, and captured something of the appeal of the first series.
DB&B: Let’s talk about horror fiction for a moment. What intrigues you about horror? Your novel The Pillow Friend was an exceptional read and I’m currently reading Ghosts and Other Lovers. Have you written many horror themed short stories or is another horror novel in the works?
 Lisa: I was drawn to horror stories — or, as I would have said in that earlier time, ghost stories — even before I knew there was anything called science fiction. I don’t know why; but (like a lot of children) I loved to be scared (in a safe way!) and so I loved scary stories — hearing them, reading them, and telling them. The very first piece of fiction I ever sold was a horror story — “Stranger in the House” — and although I was identified as a science fiction writer — that was the field, in those days — more often than not, what I wrote would be better identified as “weird” fiction, or had an element of horror, either supernatural or psychological. I can remember getting stories rejected because they weren’t science fiction….and my natural market, especially before the recognition or creation of a specific horror genre in the 1980s, tended to be The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I still write horror stories, but I really prefer horror in shorter lengths. My novels are more likely to be somewhat cross-genre, or to be fantasies with some horror elements, rather than fitting into a strict classification of horror. Sometimes, they are hard to classify. I think The Pillow Friend is a good example of a book that does not fall into any one obvious genre. Another of my novels,Lost Futures , was published in the UK as science fiction — it even made the short list for the Arthur C. Clarke Award — but in America it was published in the horror list Abyss and given a dark, spooky cover, with a blurb that concentrated on the psychological horror rather than the SF idea that underpinned it. The novel I’m just finishing up now is set in the 1890s, and the narrator & main character is a detective; there are elements of the supernatural, but it is a mystery. It is a bit different from any novel I’ve written before, and it grew out of a short story I wrote for a cross-genre anthology — the short story was called “The Curious Affair of the Deodand” (and can be found in Down These Strange Streets edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, or in the Mammoth Book of Best British Crime Fiction) and I knew as I was writing it that I had more to say about the two main characters, and the novel that resulted is The Curious Affair of the Somnambulist & the Psychic Thief — to be published next year by Jo Fletcher Books.
DB&B: Your horror stories are loaded with emotion and psychological fear verses shock or gore. Do you believe this helps bind the relationship between your readers and the story’s characters?
 Lisa: Hmmm, I can’t say I’ve ever really given much thought to the relationship between my fictional characters and the reader….I don’t know what to say. I write stories about emotions and fears because they are what interest me. Just providing a cheap thrill, or writing at gloating, detailed length about blood and gore, is not what I find attractive either as a reader or writer. I like to surprise, unsettle and sometimes to shock the reader, sure, and sometimes it is necessary to write about violence, gore, disgusting things — but none of that, to me, is the point.
DB&B: You have an interview coming out in Speaking Of Horror II Interviews with 18 Masters of Horror. How does it feel to be considered a master of Horror?
 Lisa: I’m laughing. Is this a serious question, John? Really….who considers me a “master of horror” and what does it even mean? I suppose it is marginally better than being called a “Mistress of Horror” but…in a sense, I feel that as a writer I am still learning, and have not yet entirely mastered my chosen field.
DB&B: Balancing family life and writing is always a challenge. Do you have a particular time of the day you prefer to write?
 Lisa: I prefer to write in the mornings. When I was younger, I often wrote late at night, and I think about going back to that sometimes, but I think my brain works better in the morning. It is nice to be able to have a routine, especially when working on a book, but it’s good to be flexible, so if a morning’s work is interrupted by something unexpected, it doesn’t mean nothing gets done that day. It is very easy to do very little when you have all the time in the world….sometimes having other demands — not to mention a deadline — can really be a good thing, and you find out just how much you can get done when you really have to concentrate. Turning off the internet can also do wonders for productivity.
DB&B: Can you tell us what you’re currently working on?
 Lisa: Well, as I explained above, it’s the new novel. I finished a draft at the end of the year and I am just about to plunge into reading it through and starting on the rewrites/editing. At this point,I don’t know how much rewriting I will want to do but I usually enjoy this stage of writing the most. All the hard work of actually creating something has been done, and now I get to fine tune it, changing words, adding bits of description, maybe a new scene or two, cutting the pages that just  ramble on (while I was trying to figure out some plot point) and whatever needs to be done to make it more vivid and exciting….or so I hope!

I hope to deliver the finished manuscript by the end of February. Then I should have time to write a short story I’ve promised, before thinking hard about the next novel.

DB&B: Real Quick. What advice would you give to students who aspire to write professionally?
 Lisa: Read. Read a lot, and learn to read critically.And I shouldn’t have to say it, but there are some people who talk about wanting to be writers without doing this most important thing of all- write. Write,rewrite, and finish what you are writing whether short story or novel or essay or poem and then, when you have written,the best thing you can do your best to get it out there to be read by others.

Lisa, thanks again for taking the time to speak to our readers. We look forward to seeing you at the 25th anniversary of The World Horror Convention.


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