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, Hadassah Shiradski. Hadassah ,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, Hadassah. My first question to all my guests is what would you like to drink?
Thank you very much for the invite, Paula. Please could I have a glass of lemonade, Thank you
Now we have our refreshment. let’s start by asking you when you first begun your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
I’d been interested in horror for a long time, although my first engagement with the genre was when my parents showed me The Addams Family (1991) as a child/preteen — before that, I was more invested in fantasy and adventure. That fantasy element is still strong to me, but it ends up being written with a darker twist. Around the age of fourteen, I started watching horror films such as The Ring and Let The Right One In, and I began reading horror. I quickly went from horror films to games, and by the time I decided to start writing, I far preferred games and stories that relied on atmosphere and background storytelling over ‘in-your-face’ horror or gore. I found myself inclined to try to create the same sense of unease with my writing — not aiming to terrify readers, but merely to unsettle.
Which writing elements do you think are your strongest points, and what would you like to do better?
My strongest points are definitely my descriptions and characterisation, and I’d say that I would like to be better at dialogue, as for me, that is the hardest part of writing.
Tell us a little about your latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
My latest project is a gothic horror-adjacent novella that I have been working on for quite a while. Nothing’s confirmed yet; I’m still redrafting. Similarly to ‘Piano Keys And Sugar’, the main characters are children, but unlike in ‘Piano Keys And Sugar’, they are obsessed with playing a make-believe game that escalates rapidly. Also, the respective narrators couldn’t be more different!
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
At the last count, I have seven unfinished projects, if I’m including stories that are technically ‘finished’ but I’m not completely happy with yet.
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 mostly write short stories, and I tend to come up with a vague plan before anything else, really just a few scenes that have been playing in my head and a potential end point or future plot point, and then I write the first chapter or section. If I write a synopsis at all, I do so after the entire story is complete, and I very much let the characters guide the story. In ‘Piano Keys And Sugar’, I knew vaguely how the story would end, but I didn’t know the details until just before the characters made their intentions clear. I would be more specific, but I don’t want to spoil!
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
Not to my knowledge! If any of them are influenced or inspired by real people, it’s very much subconscious — I might pull an element from someone I knew or encountered, but this doesn’t happen often, and I try to avoid this to the point that in the majority of my writing, I do not name characters after people I know in real life. Jacob from ‘Piano Keys And Sugar’ is a rare exception to this; growing up, I knew so many people called ‘Jacob’ that his character wasn’t at risk of being influenced.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I am not a morning person at all, so much so that I often won’t even consider writing until the late evening. On days that I do write, I normally start reading my current project or looking for inspiration at some point around 11PM, and I’ll write until I get tired or the inspiration leaves me. I wrote ‘Piano Keys And Sugar’ whilst I was attending university, so during that time, I would stop writing once I reached either the end of a scene or 500-800 words, normally around 1 or 2AM. I graduated in April 2020, so now I write in the dead of night, between midnight and roughly 4AM.
Do you set yourself a daily word count?
No, but if I’m writing a short story, I try to write at least one entire scene each time I sit down to write, which usually turns out to be between 500 and 1000 words. ‘Piano Keys And Sugar’ was written in chunks like this, with each ‘part’ being written roughly a week apart.
How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
It’s quite strange for me, I either won’t know a character’s name until I’m a few drafts in, or it will be one of the first things I know about them. I make a point of avoiding names of people I know in real life — as a horror writer, I don’t want to accidentally have the character influenced by my memories of their namesake. I also try to come up with the type of name that I think fits them and the mood of the story, such as ‘ending in ‘a” or having three syllables, and I just wait to see what comes to mind and fits the criteria. I have to know at least a decent amount about a character before I start writing their story, but that knowledge doesn’t have to be complete, so I let a character sit in my mind for at least a week before I even attempt to write them. Sometimes, I’ll know the exact cadence of their voice but not their eye colour, or I’ll know how their words run together when they’re really excited, but not what their go-to insult is… Details about them will inevitably develop as I write them, and that’s part of the fun.
How long on average does it take you to write a book or story?
On average, it takes me a few months to write a short story, and about a week to write a flash fiction. ‘Piano Keys And Sugar’ took me three months to write, and although it was my first story, it seems to have set the precedent for how long these things take me.
Thank you for joining me in the tearoom Hadassah.
Links: Twitter: https://twitter.com/DassaWrites
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Members’ Books, don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops, too.