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, R. A. Busby. R. A, like myself, is one of the writers featured in the Women of Horror Anthology, Vol 3 The One that Got Away published by Kandisha Press
Welcome to the tearoom R. A. My first question to all my guests is what would you like to drink?
Thank you for your invite to the tearoom. It was exciting arriving here. Could I have a coffee, please. My story in, The One that Got Away, is the “Kiss”. I’m looking forward to seeing it published.
Me too. It’s a very exciting time. Right now we have our refreshments, can you tell us a little about your latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
I first conceived the basic premise of “Kiss” when I saw a painting by the Italian artist Pietro Longhi (see below). Although the picture is sometimes called “The Rhinoceros,” what caught my eye was not the rhino, but the woman in the back looking at the exotic spectacle. She’s in a dark mask that covers just her eyes, nose, and mouth, and seems oddly to have no laces or ties, and I later found that this type of mask is held between the teeth by a button. Her face seemed swallowed in darkness, and I thought how unsettling it was, and then thought, “What if that were her actual face?”
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
I have about two, a story that I’m not completely happy with–it’s a cool concept, but somehow I don’t have the necessary pieces to make it work yet–and many drafts of a novel that needs to sit on the back burner and simmer for awhile.
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?
For short stories, which is most of what I’ve written (so far), I need to find the climax of the story first, the ultimate place where things will come to a head–and of course, I need to know how they’re going to turn out. From there, I can plan more or less backward for how they got there. For short stories, I’ll have a very rough synopsis–beats I need to hit, ideas I need to include. Then I’ll try to hit them. Sometimes, the story moves in a different direction than I’d anticipated, but that’s fine.
Choosing only five of your favourite authors, (Poet, Playwright, or Screen writer). Can you list them in order 1 begin the top of your list and say how have they influenced your writing?
You realize this is like asking to choose one’s favorite child? Okay, for horror specifically, I love the works of Shirley Jackson. Along with other writers such as Amparo Dávila (WHOM EVERYONE SHOULD READ, JUST SAYING) and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Jackson is brilliant at depicting an internal emotional state. From the outside, her books don’t look traditionally scary. Think about Hill House: A bunch of folks go to a house, there are some weird sounds and writing on the wall, and then the main character leaves (or tries to). It’s the opposite of splatterpunk. I’m not against splatterpunk per se, but I find myself drawn to horror that’s more internal and psychological.
For film directors/screenwriters, I’m blown away by the work of Jordan Peele, Ari Aster and Robert Eggers, all of whom have completely rewritten what modern horror films look like and have given them an internality and a resonance and depth that the genre absolutely needed.
Finally, an unequalled author whose work I find humbling and profoundly life-changing is Toni Morrison. Not only did Morrison write the greatest American horror novel, but the greatest American novel, period. In Beloved, Morrison’s fluid sense of time, the permeability of the present by the past, and above all, her very true and horrifying literalization of the fact that America is a society haunted by slavery make Beloved a novel I will never fully grasp but must come back to again and again. I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity to read her work.
When reading your work through do you ever find that your daily mood swings are reflected in your writing?
No; as a matter of fact, I go to my writing (often) to change my daily mood swings, particularly since the beginning of the pandemic. I realize it might sound absurd, but writing about eating someone else’s foot or giving birth to a baby with cholla thorns for teeth is better than worrying about the virus. Like, “Hell, yeah, sign me up for that.”
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
I think like all authors, I write characters who are an amalgam–a bit of this, a bit of that. Some have traits or elements in common with folks I know, but no single character is a straight 1:1 version of an actual person.
What did you learn when writing your book or story? In writing it, how much research did you do?
For “Kiss,” I ended up doing a bit of research on both the Italian mask I saw in the Longhi painting, but also on New Bedford, a city I love (unlike Dr. Eliot, the main character in my story.) I wanted to find some photographs from around the early 1900s, which is when the story is set, so that I could have that sense of verisimilitude in writing the story. I’ve visited New Bedford many times, and as a child of the Southwest, I’m always amazed at the age and solidity of the buildings there. The photographs I found looked very similar in many respects to the city I knew, but it’s also where I learned that the cobblestones are called “setts,” so I included that detail.
How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
I try to give my characters names which reflect some aspect of the story’s theme or their own essential personality. One of my favorite character’s names was for Nadie Denneby, the main character of my story “Bits,” (Short Sharp Shocks! #43 about a woman whose body parts start inexplicably start falling off. The name “nadie” is a Spanish pronoun meaning “nobody,” and “Denneby” is a slight corruption of the Gaelic phrase duine ar bith, which means the same thing. I meant it in two senses, both as “nobody,” which is how Nadie feels most of the time, and literally, “no+body,” since that’s a literal version of what’s happening to her.
What was your hardest scene to write?
You know, thinking back, a scene is never hard to write, at least for me. What’s hard is writing the scene I haven’t written. I know that sounds odd, but it’s like this: Once I have an idea for a scene, it’s not hard for me to plunge into it and be there in my head. What’s hard is knowing what comes next, which is why I absolutely need to have that pivotal moment in mind first before I start to write, or else I lose my way. I need that compass to work through the dark woods, if you know what I mean.
For “Kiss,” I’d say the hardest scene to write was the one after Dr. Eliot is about to have the kiss of a lifetime. I knew what his reaction would be, but what then? How was this event going to shape and change him thereafter? What kind of a person was he going to be to himself and to others after that moment?
How long on average does it take you to write a book or story?
For stories, which I’ve written the most of, I’d say about two to three weeks. I’m envious of folks who sit down and blast out a complete story in one sitting. They’re amazing superhumans, and I am absolutely not that way.
Thank you for joining me in the tearoom, R.A.Busby. If you would like to know more about R. A. Busby writing and books click on the links below:
Twitter: @RABusby1Instagram: R.A. Busby
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Members’ Books, don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops, too.