Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. Those of you who are not a member won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit it is via membership or an invite to the tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation with all sorts of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers. Over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, I shall be chatting with my guest about their work in progress, or latest book release.
Today, I’m chatting to the horror writer, Rebecca Rowland like myself is one of the writers featured in the third volume of Women of Horror Anthology, The One that Got Away published by Kandisha Press
Please may I welcome you, Rebecca to the tearoom. As always my first question to my guests is what would you like to drink?
Thank you so much for inviting me for a chat. I promise you: I’m not driving (I’m a terrible driver sober, never mind under the influence), so I appreciate the beverage of vodka and Amaretto on the rocks.
Of course, you can have a Godmother as our driver will run you home after our chat. Now we have our drinks, I’ll start by asking you what writing element do you think is your strongest point, and what would you like to do better?
I think my dialogue rings true; at least, it rings true to me. When I write, I have to “hear” the sentences in my head. It wasn’t until I started befriending other writers that I realized it isn’t like that for many others, and I don’t think it’s an advantage except when it comes to crafting conversations. I wish I could create and describe supernatural creatures and occurrences better. I write psychological horror grounded in reality because that’s the kind of fiction I myself like to read, but that’s not always what a publisher wants. Sometimes I read my speculative pieces and think, What are you doing, you fool? It takes a real gift to pull off scenes like those well.
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
To be fair, I only have three active Scrivener files of stories unfinished. I do have a bunch of pieces in Notepad, though: story ideas that I flushed out a scene for or even a few paragraphs of dialogue, but I can’t count those, can I? Please say no: my Type A-ness can’t take it.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter? If you only write short stories, do you plan your story, or let the characters lead you?
I am a planner. I generally start with just a concept or a scene, and then I expand outward from there, but after I’ve written a few paragraphs, I tend to sketch an outline of where I want the story to go. Sometimes I even write the beginning, the ending, and then fill in the middle last.
Choosing only five of your favourite authors. Can you list them in order 1 begin the top of your list and say how have they influenced your writing?
(most influential first) A.M. Homes: I find that when I read Homes’ stories, I am pushed to put down her book and begin writing something new. I’m not certain what it is, but there’s something about the music of her syntax that just hypnotizes and inspires me. I also love that she takes chances. The End of Alice is grotesque and offensive, but it’s also mesmerizing and transgressive in the best way possible.
Joyce Carol Oates: Like Homes, Oates is a writer who I can read a story from and feel inspired by its cadence. I also appreciate that Oates writes what I consider to be “quiet horror,” that kind of dark fiction that gets under your skin and creeps you out without terrifying you. I aspire to do that kind of work.
Flannery O’Connor: O’Connor didn’t set out to write gothic horror, per se. She wanted to show people the salvation of goodness by contrasting it with the horrors of society. I love that. Her characters are terribly flawed, and that’s what makes them relatable. I try to craft my characters to be the same.
Chuck Palahniuk: The thing I admire most about his writing is his wit. I’m nowhere near the kind of humorist he is, but I do hope that I knock a few witty phrases out now and then.
Stephen King: Yes, it’s trite, but I read many of his novels when I was just old enough to read them (maybe not old enough, to be honest); he was my first introduction to horror, and so he can’t help but be an influence. Now, as an adult, what I appreciate most about his work is his ability to craft the Everyman character. Like O’Connor’s, his characters are people like you and me.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
I’d say about half of the characters I grow begin as seeds of people I know, but I am very careful not to be libelous or to rely too much on the personality and physical traits of specific individuals. I think it comes off as vindictive when a writer does that. Although I have certainly channeled my irritations in personal relationships into fictional accounts, I try not to base a story around them.
What did you learn when writing your book or story? In writing it, how much research did you do?
For this particular story, my only research was interviewing (more like, interrogating) a friend of mine who is a serial cheater. He gave me a lot of frank, interesting insight. Normally, however, I do quite a bit of formal research before writing a story, whether it be using maps (of a setting I want to use) or perusing medical journals. If I am going to maim, torture, or kill a character, I want it to be as realistic as possible!
Is there anything about you your readers might be surprised to find out?
Despite the innumerable ways I have killed off characters, I am a pacifist at heart. I am a vegetarian, can’t watch movies where animals are harmed, and feel such incredible guilt at killing even a spider that I often just escort it outside.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
It’s tough to write when I am juggling my day job and my moonlighting work as an editor, so if I am going to write, it’s usually a marathon-type session on a weekend or holiday. I get up, workout, shower, and sit right in front of the computer all day with my phone ringer turned off. I don’t have children, so I have the luxury of being able to do that when a lot of women can’t.
Do you set yourself a daily word count?
I try to. With short stories, I shoot for a minimum of 2000 words a session, but if I’m planning to be at the screen all day, I tweak that to 5000.
What was your hardest scene to write?
Years ago, I wrote a story about a sexual sadist. I performed hours and hours of research ahead of time and had most of the story done except for the scenes featuring torture. I wasn’t avoiding them because of a trigger or not knowing what I wanted to write: I knew where I wanted the story to go, and I also believed the scenes were essential to the plot. What scared me was writing something that might make people think less of me, especially other women. What finally got me to sit down and write the scenes was realizing that I can’t write for other people. I have to write for me. If something leaves a bad taste in a reader’s mouth, or a reader flat-out hates a story, that’s unfortunate, but it’s what I wanted to create. I know that not all of what I write will or should be published. Anyone who believes that about their writing is delusional. Even Stephen King has discards. But that doesn’t mean those stories should never be written. Dancers don’t dance only when someone is watching, and writers should write even if no one is reading.
Rebecca Rowland wrote the title story: “The One That Got Away”
Thank you so much for joining me in the tearoom, Rebecca.
If you would like to know more about about Rebecca’s books and writings please check out the links below.
Links: RowlandBooks.com, follow her on Instagram @Rebecca_Rowland_books
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Members’ Books, don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops, too.