Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself? I have lived many lives, both in the physical world and through my novels. Ever since I was a small child, I have always felt that there were “doors” and “tunnels” nearby, and I only had to enter one to escape the mundane world.
One of my first short stories, which I wrote when I was a little girl in primary school, was about traveling on a secret railway every night to a clearing in a forest, where I would spend a night among the wild beasts and faerie people, splashing in a stream and lying down among the bluebells…then returning home in time for dawn. Every time I write fiction, I am entering a secret world.
As a child, I was heavily influenced by stories such as Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce, The Secret Garden and the Enid Blyton stories (even taking on board the criticism of them as viewed through a modern lens, they were brilliant for encouraging children to use their imagination). As I got into my teens I read the great gothic horror stories including Bram Stoker’s Dracula (of course!) the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Sheridan Le Fanu and Henry James.
Which one of your characters would you least like to meet in real life?
It’s a toss-up between wife-beating Sparky and his equally obnoxious uncle in unRIP. Not even death can rid the world of these monsters
Other than the horror genre, what else has been a major influence on your writing?
Thrillers and satirical fiction are my favorite two genres but I read right across the full range of genres.
Re thrillers: I believe the best thrillers cross over into horror. I had that classic light-bulb moment when I was typing the manuscript for Organ Hunters by the author Gordon Thomas (who lived near me in Ireland); his book was about people-trafficking for the illegal organ trade and, while he pitched it to his publishers as a thriller, the story would have worked equally well as horror. Gordon inspired me to write more fiction but I had to put it on hold to make a living… Later, I discovered Peter James, who has written on similar topics and whose books include a few horror-thriller crossovers.
Re satire: I love the works of Margaret Atwood, Fay Weldon and Philippa Gregory (who is best known for historical fiction about the Tudors etc, but whose stories of modern life veer into satire).
The term horror, especially when applied to fiction, always carries such heavy connotations. What’s your feeling on the term “horror” and what do you think we can do to break past these assumptions?
I believe the word “horror”, when applied to works of art, suffers from an association with the kitsch gore-fests of Richard Laymon and the Hollywood “slasher” movies. While there is nothing wrong with a good auld zombie or ghoul story or indeed a camp chiller about devil-worshiping aristocrats, horror has so much more to offer. A good horror story will rip (or, indeed, RIP) us out of our complacency, hold us hostage for a night, and force us to confront the scary fact that, contrary to what we were told as little children, there IS a monster under a bed. There. Is. Such. Thing.
A lot of good horror movements have arisen as a direct result of the socio/political climate, considering the current state of the world where do you see horror going in the next few years?
I believe the tedious polarization of politics into extremes of Left and Right, the breakdown of law and order, and the tyranny of “cancel culture” are so off-putting to the majority of people that they will seek refuge in horror – in a world where everyone is much worse off. Horror also brings clarity of thought; when you are faced with an actual monster, demon or chainsaw-wielding psychopath, you don’t have time to dither – you have to make a quick decision and act now.
Given the dark, violent and at times grotesque nature of the horror genre why do you think so many people enjoy reading it?
It is comforting to read about people who are having a really rotten time – while you are in the safety of your cozy home. This is the same feeling we get when we are in a warm room while the winter rain is pelting against the windows.
What, if anything, is currently missing from the horror genre?
A touch of class. Old-fashioned snobbery has almost been eliminated from the real world (and rightly so) but we need it in horror the way an oyster needs grit. Aristocratic vampires and weird peasant folk may belong back in the days of Hammer, but there are modern equivalents – and I believe they would be a great asset to horror stories.
What new and upcoming authors do you think we should take notice of?
Aneeta Hall (of course). Also Grady Hendrix (I’ve just discovered him), William Sterling (likewise) and Kirsty Logan (I attended her workshop in Dublin last May) .
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
It was enlightening to compare two very different reactions to the main two characters in my book unRIP. A young reviewer, Leigh Kimberly Zoby (Readers Views). She liked the main character – a young pop star – but hated the mother, a domestic violence victim, who she found very selfish and self-pitying.
An older reviewer (male, my mentor at the Irish Writers’ Centre) took the opposite view; he had the utmost sympathy for the mother and even worried about her trusting a certain character who has an affair with her.
What aspects of writing do you find the most difficult?
1. Finding the time (it is so, so difficult with all the distractions of real life); 2. Explaining to people that, yes, this is my career and, yes, I am making a living at it (for now, at least); 3. Choosing between all the stories I want to write – there are so many in my head, and in the notes I keep scribbling…
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
No topic is off-limits, but there are some subjects I would not want to focus on in fiction because they are too boring – eg, addictions. (Apologies to anyone who has an addiction). I have certainly written about these topics in journalism, and might also include a person with alcoholism, anorexia, etc, in a horror story but the addiction would not be a major feature of a fictional story. I have friends who are addicted to alcohol and they find their own addictions so boring and frustrating that they, too, would find these topics a turn-off in a book intended for entertainment.
Writing is not a static process, how have you developed as a writer over the years?
I have developed two strands: journalism and fiction. I cannot do both simultaneously and have to take a break from journalism to write the fiction, but each helps the other; I approach the fiction as I would a news story, checking facts, asking myself if I believe the characters are “telling the truth”, writing the story with a readership in mind.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received with regards to your writing?
“Just write it.” A newspaper editor told me this when I was a teenage trainee; he saw me laboriously typing up notes from a notebook, and told me this would slow me down; I needed to write the story quickly as I would have to get used to deadlines. He said I should not overthink it; I had a story to tell. He ended this piece of advice by saying: “Just write it.” I have never suffered from “writers’ block” and I believe it’s because that editor gave me the right mindset (or even the “write” mindset).
Which of your characters is your favorite?
Angie in unRIP. She’s a former “golden child”, now a disappointment to her conservative parents, in a dead-end job, having a lesbian affair with her awful boss… She’s a bit snarky but a decent person, fiercely protective of her sister – and well up for a bit of ghostbusting!
Which of your books best represents you?
Floozies: Femmes Fatales are Fighting Back (written under my real name). While all the characters are entirely fictional, I identify with some of feisty Frida’s traits (mostly her sense of anarchy).
Do you have a favorite line or passage from your work, and would you like to share it with us?
[From unRIP:]As the bier careened into the aisle across from me (where my late husband’s people were sitting – they will probably make a claim), Mum clutched the coffin; she fell backwards, landing in my lap, clutching the coffin-lid in her claws(black gel nails; not a good look at sixty-plus). Karina was lying in the aisle, right in front of the altar, her wounds opened, embalming fluid oozing over the blood-red carpet.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
Before unRIP, I wrote a children’s book, Battle of the Birds, about Korg, a very cool crow who leads an army of garden birds against a flock of marauding seagulls and by accident becomes a rock star.
If you could erase one horror cliché, what would be your choice?
Stupid young women who always seem to lose their clothes in a crisis.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
Great book: Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan. Disappointing book: The Irish Witch by Dennis Wheatley.
What’s the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
“Do any of your fictional characters ever show up in real life?” “Yes. Weeks, months or (more often) years later.”
unRIP by Aneeta Hall
The last critic to drive a knife into Karina Stark gave her the fame she craved – and she’s not ready to RIP!
When a pseudo-goth popstar and animal rights activist is found viciously murdered, she becomes a cult icon – and her mother a monster. For Karina Stark left a diary in which she accused Gloria of being ‘the Mum from Hell’. Envious of her daughter’s growing success, bitter about her own broken dreams, Gloria wanted Karina dead – or so the girl claimed.
As her morbid young fans turn to Witchtok, the real Karina emerges, wreaking havoc from beyond the grave.
* Aneeta Hall is a pseudonym for the journalist Geraldine Comiskey
Geraldine Comiskey (who writes horror under the pseudonym Aneeta Hall) spent more than 30 years as a roving freelance journalist. She has also worked as a ghostwriter, supermarket check-out operator, gym receptionist, English language teacher, translator and interpreter, and has traveled the world, settling in Italy, Amsterdam (Netherlands) and her home city of Dublin (Ireland).
She has won awards for journalism, creative writing and painting, and holds qualifications in a diverse range of fields including psychology, scuba-diving, elder care, ceramics, piano and pulling a pint of Guinness.
Her passions include animal rights and civil liberties, and her hobbies include arts and crafts, reading random books on all kinds of topics (she prefers fiction), listening to music (eclectic tastes – everything from Bowie to Britney!), shopping for bargains and lounging around the house watching trashy TV.
She is single and accidental foster mother to a flock of crows and a large extended family of foxes.
www.GhostWriterConfidential.com (currently under construction)
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/~/e/B0C7BK9YV8
Social media links:Twitter: http://twitter.com/gercomiskey