Last but certainly not least in this recent batch of Short Sharp Shocks! is Hailey Piper with her novella An Invitation To Darkness which is out today, 27th September. Dean and Hailey sat down a couple of days before publication to talk about it.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Brilliant to meet and talk to you today Hailey. Let’s hit the ground running. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how (and perhaps why) you became a writer in the first place.
HAILEY PIPER: Hi. Like most kids, I made up stories all the time, and once I learned to write, I put them to paper. It felt natural. Bigfoot, haunted snowmen, werewolf weddings—it was always horror of a kind. Even when I tried writing fantasy or sci-fi, I couldn’t help throwing in strange experiments or monsters. These days I copy-edit for my day job, but my love of writing persists. I was lucky as a kid to have my family’s encouragement, and these days I’m lucky to have my wife’s.
DP: Yes, encouragement is important isn’t it. Writing (and creating generally) can be a solitary profession so it’s great when friends, families, husbands, wives, children etc etc keep that encouragement coming. It’s appreciated. Okay, so your story – what is it about?
HP: Sea captain Jamie Thames meets wealthy heiress Elizabeth Leavenworth and the two women quickly fall in love. Of course, it’s never that simple in a Gothic story. Leavenworth Manor is haunted, but ghosts are the least of the lovers’ troubles.
DP: Yes, it was a story very much up my street. Particularly the Gothic setting. And Jamie – tell me about her.
HP: I love Jamie Thames. She’s confident, caring, and entirely in the wrong genre. She’s just come off a life of adventure on high seas, pretending to be a man, and thinks she’s now settling into a romance. When it’s clear something’s wrong at Leavenworth Manor, she takes to it as if she’s still in the adventure stories of her old life. There’s something charming about that level of headstrong bravado.
DP: Great – I would love to read about her sea adventures because I bet she had a few! Did you find any of the scenes difficult to write?
HP: There’s a scene late in the story, right after probably the biggest reveal. It’s hardly a page, but I approached it carefully. I didn’t want it to feel too expository or too mechanically succinct, because it’s a sensitive moment for the characters. There was a lot to balance in those four or five paragraphs.
DP: You nailed that scene don’t worry (and well done!). Creatively what would you say is your biggest success to date?
HP: I’m immensely proud of my flash fic Feast for Small Pieces that was published on Bronzeville Bee back in June 2019. It insisted on its own existence, I wasn’t sure anyone would even like it, but it had an overwhelming positive response and has become the foundation for a project I’m working on.
DP: Cool, I’ll see if I can check that out. I’ve been asking writers recently what ‘horror’ means to them...
HP: I’m going to beat this drum to the end of time: horror is honesty. On a character level, they reveal who they really are when they’re afraid. On a story/thematic level, horror reveals how we feel about ourselves, our society, the people we know. There’s no getting away from it, which can be horrifying in-of itself, but it’s why I love horror.
DP: I like that answer. Is there a horror book or film not yet released which you’re looking forward to?
HP: The Invention of Ghosts by Gwendolyn Kiste, Claire Holland’s next horror poetry collection focused on mothers in horror film, and for movies I’m most curious about the Candyman remake.
DP: Ha – another writer mentioning Kiste. I definitely need to check her out now. Is there anything that scares you?
HP: Being a disappointment. But I’m getting over it, little by little. The first step is to actually disappoint someone and then realize you can survive that. I recommend starting with family; their expectations usually start too high anyway.
DP: There’s no harsher critics than family hey? Creatively is there anything you haven’t achieved yet?
HP: I have this weird hang-up on wanting to write an Arthurian-based horror story, but I’m not sure how approach that and it’s probably best left to one of many talented British horror writers.
DP: I’d read that for definite. Finally, can you tell us something surprising about you?
HP: I’m a big softy! Maybe that shines through in the stories, too—I can never tell—but at the brief moments when I’m not devouring horror, I love sweet stories, Studio Ghibli films, and odds are I will cry at the end of video games, TV shows, and every 12 minutes of the last The Lord of the Rings movie.
Hailey – it was a pleasure talking to you. All the best with your Short Sharp Shocks!
If you would like to connect directly with Hailey: