I've been tagged by Ramsey Campbell on the Creative Process Blog Tour (or Facebook if you are blog-less), in which each participating writer answers the same 4 questions and passes the baton to two more writers. So - Anna Taborska and Allison Littlewood, that's you! :-)
What am I working on?
Any number of things at once. Right now I'm writing a novel called The Needing. It's a haunted house story about a young couple who don't want children. But their strange new house has other plans, rooted in its gruesome Victorian history. The story is a manifestation of my own personal Cronenbergian body horror, as well as a bit of self-indulgence of pet themes. One character proved so problematic for such a long time that I thought I might have to either kill him or scrap him and start over. But he's finally starting to reveal himself and the writing is much easier now.
I've also been writing short stories at the same time, including a Lovecraftian novella (Not to Touch the Earth), which will hopefully be out later this year. I'm also trying to do something with the stew of ideas I have for a story based on John C Lilly's kooky 1970s research with dolphins (giving them LSD, trying to communicate with them to facilitate contact with aliens, etc.). It's like being lost in the woods and not knowing which path to take. Each one leads somewhere interesting but which one leads where I'm going?
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I like to think it differs from other work in the same way I differ from other people. No two writers are the same; therefore how could any two stories be the same? I hope my work is uniquely "me", exploring as it does the things that frighten and intrigue me specifically. I think my writing is distinctly female and probably very revealing of my personal neuroses and quirks (a kind person might say "eccentricities"). My stuff probably wears its influences on its sleeve but so far no one's accused me of trying to BE anyone else, so I must be getting the balance right.
Why do I write what I do?
I just write what comes out - who knows why that is? I don't necessarily try to write something scary or horrifying; I just write what scares or horrifies ME and hope it will resonate with others. I love exploring things on the page I could or would never want to experience in real life and I suppose I'm a bit psychologically masochistic in that what I enjoy most of all is poking around in the dark, cobwebby corners of my subconscious. We all play the obsessive "What if?" game and horror writers play the darkest possible version of it. Dreams and nightmares are also a major influence and inspiration.
How does my writing process work?
It's pretty chaotic and undisciplined! I'm at my best early in the morning but brainstorming obviously happens any and everywhere. Usually I write at my computer, with film soundtracks as accompaniment. (Christopher Young is my favourite composer, followed by Howard Shore - they're my muses.) I've never been able to write in public, so the coffee shop setting doesn't work for me. I need to be isolated and feel secure in my surroundings and I'm just not comfortable opening myself up in public the way I have to do to write. That's not to say I'm a bleed-on-the-page type, but I'm too introverted to let go "out there" the way I can when I'm alone. (I did however write my first short story, "From Hell to Eternity", on a transatlantic flight to see my parents, but then I'm nothing if not inconsistent.) Some of the most productive writing I've ever done was at a mini writing retreat with my husband (John Llewellyn Probert for those who don't know). I filled a sketchpad with three different stories that weekend!
Like most writers I'm constantly observing and taking notes. I always called my mental junk room of ideas the "Bradbury box" because I envisioned it like the toy dinosaur-cluttered study on Ray Bradbury Theatre. Then last year I got a REAL Bradbury box for my birthday, so now lots of ideas get physically scribbled on scraps of paper and buried in there for later excavation. I especially love coming across some old note I have no memory of writing or even any clue what it means. It's as though those thoughts came from some other me. It often happens that I'll read a story of mine and not remember where the idea came from or even how I wrote it. (I keep a separate journal of story notes now so I don't forget!)