Today we welcome Rowan Hill, horror author, an expert on the creeping unease, and an all-round good egg.
Firstly, could you tell the readers a little about yourself?
Good Morning! Oh well, where to start!? I am an author of horror and sci-fi with a deep love of the 80s. though am a product of the ’90s/00s. I grew up in Australia and America and have lived a little bit of everywhere since college. If I have time (and energy), I love art museums, hiking mountains, and (of course) writing!
Your published novella, In the Arctic Sun, was particularly telling. It was one of my favourite reads of last year. Its strength I believe is in its atmosphere. You’ve used the Alaskan landscape to the story’s advantage. In horror, do you believe that atmosphere is just as important to the overall story arc as is characterisation?
Thank you so much for the kind words, Yvonne. I have often said that kind words are soul food for authors, and you have given me plenty! I actually approach all my stories with the idea that the setting is a character in itself. In fact, the first thing I place in a story is where it is set and most times, that is my propulsion. I think the ‘setting importance’ has become much more apparent in the last few years as the ideas such as ‘liminal spaces’ enter the zeitgeist and ‘isolation horror’ are much more frequent. With cities and crowded suburbs, it is also a little fantastical and out of many readers’ elements to be totally alone.
I have to say that you’ve got a way with titles. Your work often has a relatively tame title, but it ends up being a beast in sheep’s clothing. Is it intentional and do you have a strategy? They all seem to carry a sinister weight.
Ha! Oh man, I will admit, I am not great with titles. I always thought brevity in a title delivered more punch since it is one of the five tenets drilled into writers. Think of Stephen King’s IT. But that has been disproven (thank you very much Eric LaRocca). I don’t have any motive with titles, in honesty, it is whatever fits the story.
What are your influences when writing horror? The genre means something different to everyone, what does it mean to you?
I grew up in the time of Scream and Jeepers Creepers and loved every second of them. But there are very few ways you can reinvent the wheel, even such a fantastic wheel. I am constantly trying to bring my experience with travelling and living abroad with me when I write a story. Many of my characters and stories are set in locations that are not typically Western. Something unknown. And I think that is a root of horror, the unknown or thinking about a very common place situation differently, or a confrontation over something unexpected.
In the Arctic Sun to me feels like the start of a transformation in terms of your writing career. What does 2023 have in store?
Does it? From your lips to God’s ears! I have a few shorts coming out and a novel on sub to a few places, but my gut tells me it might have been too ambitious for most indie publishers. Who knows? When something happens, I’m sure I’ll scream it everywhere to everyone.
I think my favourite quote of all time came from the pages of In the Arctic Sun – “Light only had meaning with dark to punctuate it.” It resonated deeply with me in regard to extremely dark times in my past. What was your thinking behind this quote?
Yes, that line seemed to hit a lot of people in their reviews. I think this metaphor could be held for so many issues of life. I believe I was thinking of how our appreciation of wonderful things lessen with exposure. You only appreciate a good husband when you see a bad one, etc. I love the summertime and the endless heat, but what if it was summer all year around? I am sure too much of a good thing would hit me pretty hard and fast.
Horror is extremely personal; it can mean different things to different people. Do you have a targeted audience, and do you bare this in mind when you’re in the midst of the writing process?
I have no target audience, every reader is welcome and wonderful to me and I’m sure many authors would say the same. I would amend it with why, or rather ‘what’ I find myself writing lately. I haven’t reached the stage of my writing where I am delving into poignant, emotionally draining issues. I would say I write ‘fun’ horror. Sure, maybe there is an exploding marriage somewhere, but you’re not going to find the meaning of life or the answer to an existential crisis in my work. I want readers to come away and think, ‘Yeah, that was a good time.’
What aspect of writing do you find the most difficult and which is the easiest? Is there any themes that you just won’t touch?
Like all aspects of my life, the time given to the activity is the hardest to obtain. My total, undivided attention is a rare thing these days, and carving out energy and time is even harder. If there is an easy part to writing, I haven’t discovered it yet. The apocalypse and the deterioration of society are something I have icky feelings about and haven’t tried them yet.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer and what advice would you give to an aspiring one?
I am still looking for my wise mentor figure, but I did receive some advice from a literary agent long ago and many people have echoed it since. Publishing is not a sprint, it is a marathon.
How was it moving onto longer pieces of work? Was it a leap of faith moving from short fiction to novella-length work?
I actually started with longer pieces, as in 120K sci-fi noir detective novels. I have a few trunk novels to prove I’ve been writing since 2016, but like so many things, they never made it to readers. Writing short and poignant is much harder!
Thank you for reading our interview with Rowan Hill, If you are interested in reading her work In the Arctic Sun can be bought from the link below.